Saturday, April 28, 2012

Womb Wars

Surely, surely, GOP-ers, it's past time to call all in free and stop the game. From the big ol' Johns, McCain and Boehner, and beyond, the silly sounding, somber looking, rostrum pounding old men of the party have pretended — with drama and vigor — that there is no Republican War on Women.

If we step away from the childish theater of these aged boys, we risk paying attention to Rachel Maddow. She has had a terrific time running fully contextual clips and analysis of the inanity of GOP Senators, Representatives, Governors and state legislatures. In a real sense, that's not even fair to mention. She has likely 30 to 50 IQ points on on the no-war-on-women officials.

So,  isn't it time to stop the game and come home?

The most recent wrist cutting by the Goofy Old Party was finally acquiescing to President Obama's winning position that student-loan costs should not double, particularly not now. That should have made sense and put Republicans back in the realm of sanity...until the funding details of the GOP House came to light. They'd pay for this, not with trimming tax loopholes for rich folk. Instead, they'd empty a preventative-health fund that pays for diagnostics and treatment for (wait for it) women.

That's right. They just can't help themselves.

Hearing and reading about their long, long list of attacks on women's rights, health and choices, one conclusion forces itself on me. As a group, GOP pols figure women are weak and that they can assault and abuse them with impunity.

Of course, with no real hyperbole, we can draw the analogies to historical attacks. There were the Chinese laborers, and the freed black slaves, and women before they could vote, and homosexuals. Time and again, wingers and unaffiliated bigots jump up and down on groups they figure they can attack without reprisal.

The other of course is that this time, they've utterly blown it. The majority of living humans are female. The majority of U.S. voters are women. It's also likely that the majority of those majorities are not so stupid as to miss what's happening.

Soothing lies from smarmy liars in suits and ties won't gloss this rust over. Forced invasive exams? Eliminating breast-cancer screening? Removing abortion choice for incest and rape victims?

Sorry, old, white men, women care and care a lot about their health, about cancer, about reproductive choices, about abortion options, about preventative care.

We can note there are a small minority of Congress members who are women or some other racial groups, but there's no denying that wealthy older white men are Congress, in both houses. They watch out for older white men in tax code as well as health care and other laws.

I predict again that the GOP'ers will lose it big on this one. They have totally misjudged the majority of American voters. There is not enough time, not enough lies, not enough subterfuge to repair the lost trust.

So the necessary corollary question is whether Republicans will learn the abundant lessons from this widespread, prolonged set of blunders in attacking women. I suspect only in small part.

Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski may have said it best after returning from a trip home. The guys back in D.C. were swearing there was no war on women, just coincidence that all those state legislatures took the lead of Congress in crushing their rights. Her constituents made it very clear to her that any man, elected official or otherwise, who does not think there is a Republican war on women underway need only ask his wife or daughter what they think.

In the end, this may make things marginally better for women After the GOP loses big this November, the party will huddle for strategy. Their old white guys in Congress will get the message that women as a group are not safe targets.

How are they so stupid that they don't understand this up front?

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Brick Houses for Rights

A lot of vigorous, alarming huffing and puffing comes from the bad guys on civil-right issues. In the half of the states that allow ballot referenda or initiative petitions, the wolves try to blow away the protections for groups of the other.

We're in that half with the vestige of the Progressive Era. As I type, good-hearted and smart-headed efforts to ensure citizen liberty struggle. Specifically, Senate 12 and House 1830 languish in the Joint Judiciary Committee instead of implementing sensible refinements.

In case you missed that civics lesson, at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th centuries, progressive sorts, true populists, had the best of intentions with these plebiscites. In reaction to corrupt legislators who passed bad laws for their bribers and cronies, citizens' privilege to overturn those appeared. Likewise, citizens' in many of these states can propose laws themselves.

I've long referred to such ballot abuses as the flamethrower of populism. The wielders don't care who or how many get burned, so long they can do the burning.

Perverted safeguards

Unfortunately but predictably, these options in half our states are now themselves corrupt. The bad guys in some states like California can put unfunded mandates on the ballot, can pass property-tax limits that bankrupt the whole state economy, and move to strip groups of their legal rights, as they did in Prop. 8 overturning legislated marriage equality.

The hoots of Let the people vote! are sad and vicious when the intent is stripping liberties and protections from fellow citizens, because, well, because it's possible.

MA is better than some states. Our amended constitution's Article XLVIII does have a few limits on rushing emotionally laden issues to election. For example, matters for vote that are excluded are among others:
  • Religion, and religious practices and institutions
  • Anything to do with judges and courts
  • Overturning judicial decisions
  • Right to be compensated for private property appropriated to public use
  • Access to the judicial system and trial by jury
  • Freedom from unreasonable search
  • Freedom of press and speech
  • Right of peaceable assembly
It was wise if a little sad that these had to be excluded.

For those two bills that would act to correct plebiscite abusers, they sure look reasonable to me. I was hoping to have bookend shows with the sponsors. We did get Rep. Denise Provost on Left Ahead to discuss H1830, which would increase the number of signatures required to advance an initiative. Her proposal would bring us into line with the percentage of voters involved when the initiative process started here, as well as move us up from among the easiest to the middle of the pack.

Unfortunately, I've struck out so far with S12 sponsor Sen. Cynthia Stone Creem. Her office says she's really too busy with other bills under discussion. They agreed with my suggestion that I go to Sen. Jamie Eldridge. He is a cosponsor as well as previous Left Ahead guest.

He agrees with Sen. Creem's effort to add a paragraph to Article XLVIII reading:
No initiative petition shall propose a constitutional amendment that would restrict the rights set forth in this constitution to freedom and equality, or the right of each individual to be protected by society in the enjoyment of life, liberty and property, according to standing laws.
In other words, do not go thinking you can vote on the rights of others.

Alas, good progressive Jamie says he's no expert on the bill and couldn't do it adequate service in a show. I trust in his sincerity.


Meanwhile, both S12 and H1830 fester in committee — no traction this year, as the expression goes.

The take on these from a frequent abuser of the ballot, the Mass. Family Institute is very different. In their calls to action, the wording is like this one:
  • Senate Bill 12 – This amendment, in plain English, would essentially eliminate the citizen initiative process because there are very few subjects that do not deal with freedom, equality, life, liberty and property, areas that would become off limits. 
  • House Bill 1830 – This amendment would more than double the required number of signatures for an initiative petition to amend the constitution, as well as those required for a referendum to repeal a law, from 3% of the votes cast in the last gubernatorial election to 7%. Again, this is a demonstration of the raw abuse of power exhibited by certain legislators to further limit the people’s right to petition.
Of course the anti-gay/anti-marriage equality sorts have long made it plain they have no respect for people' liberties any more than they do for government. If they don't get to harm, hamper and hinder homosexuals through legislation, they go for the courts, and if they lose in both places, they turn to plebiscites. The disingenuous call is that their freedom is lost if they can't take away rights from others.

Cut me a very thin slice of that.

Coast to coast, we've seen what these plug nasties will do in perverting the old Progressive Era. The slightly modulating refinements of S12 and H1830 are overdue. It appears that as sensible and rights-minded as they are, they'll take multiple introductions to advance. Once they pass, they'd have to go through the Constitutional Convention process.

Unlike the down-and-dirty ballot votes the bad guys favor, this would go through the whole process. We do have protections built into amending the constitution.

I have no question these two are well worth the trouble. Let's cork the huffing, puffing wolves.


Sunday, April 15, 2012

Lively Counterdemo to Lively's Gang

We kinda caught the alleged mega-Tea Party thingummy in the Common today. It turned out to be a mini-rally, marked by delays, tedium and as third as may counter-demonstrators as mostly old white people...and dozens of varied flags.

In fact, come the eventual, predictable pledge of allegiance, the giggle was which standard people would face. Like peaceniks of the 60s had our flowers, this group of maybe 100 around the old bandshell used cloth on sticks.

Of course, there were several variations of Revolutionary-War era flags, several versions of don't-tread-on-me-snake art, some old colony flags, some modern Tea-Party regional banners, and more. One 20ish guy waved a stars-and-bars Confederate battle flag, with that snake in the middle of the cross and DON'T TREAD ON ME along the bottom. I had to ask about that. He said the only Southern/Confederate link was that he grew up in Florida. He said he bought it at Amazon for $3.

The noon rally turned into a 1:15 opener. The amazing list of windbags really didn't get started before we had to go a few blocks away. We had tickets for Café Variations at Emerson's Cutler's 2 PM show. Among the 14 scheduled speakers, not including previously scheduled before he tucked tail Rick Santorum, the two most infamous had not stepped up before we left. That would be MassResistance's Brian Camenker and Scott Lively.

Among the myriad and varied flags, one group had three different ones on a pole, while others were rising, plus banners and five flags on the bandstand itself. 

Camenker took much video and many stills, sure to be on his website, proving this or that. 
Pioneer Valley Tea Party head Rich Howell liked the theater of it all.words
 Scott Lively somehow didn't seem to rouse anyone except the chanting counter-demonstrators.
$3 statement.

Pix Note: All are Creative Commons. Give a single credit to Mike Ball if you use and do what you want with them. 

Camenker, of course, is the notoriously anti-gay hysteric given to hyperbole and outright lies. His abiding image though is from The Daily Show. Lively is equally rabid in homophobia, to the point where his involvement in Uganda has brought a suit alleging involvement in inciting persecution of homosexuals in there (yes, in Africa). Lively describes himself as a preacher of gospel and minister, using the honorific Reverend. His degree is a J.D. from Trinity Law School (no relation to the respected Trinity College either in CT or the UK). His law school is not American Bar Association accredited but does have California accreditation. It's hard to tell from his résumé how he got to be a minister.

He is noted for pseudo-history/pseudo-research aimed at discrediting homosexuals. Those are listed on his résumé.

However, by the time we saw our show and returned, doings were still underway. Texas U.S. Congressman Louie Gohmert was still holding forth. He's pretty wacky (think caribou sex enabling) and a real blowhard.

We had chatted up lefties politely holding up placards on the sidewalk ringing the bandshell. They had a permit to be there. Before we left, they were agreeing among themselves to be polite and not give the TPers reason to play the they're-hypocrites, they-rob-us-of-our-right-to-free-speech cards.

Sure, I've been to demonstrations where wingers shout down lefties. Then on sites like MassResistance the report is how brave the anti-gay and anti-marriage equality people were to confront the horrible pinkos. In fact, I have seen right wingers slap and slug left wingers, claiming they just couldn't help themselves. God forbid though if lefties exercise their First Amendment rights to out-chant right wingers exercising theirs.

Apparently that happened and a little worse while we were hearing Gershwin variations down the street. The   hearsay I got was that some Occupy folk skipped down the hill from the golden dome and subsequently charged the stage. They were arrested. I didn't see any of that and it was all over by the time I got back to Gohmert's clichéd diatribe. The last 10 minutes of his was dreadful and packed with attempts that barely got a rise from what should have been his people.

Lively came on at the very end to give a benediction. Of course, given his self-righteous bent, it wasn't a blessing at all. It was the eternal-damnation version of Deuteronomy 30. His went beyond the "I have set before you live and death; therefore choose life." It was if you warn someone what they have to believe and they don't do it, they're going to hell. So there.

Some benediction, Scotto.

During his time, the counter-demonstrators kept up their yelling, calling him a murderer, in allusions to his Ugandan politicking. They did shout him down.

Oddly though, despite promises of a huge crowd electrified by speakers, maybe 100 of them showed, if you didn't count the speakers and support staff. Perhaps 40 counter-demonstrators milled about. Once those ditched their signs, they were free to join the audience. You'd think that at over 2:1, the TPers would have been able to out-enthuse the pinkos. Not so.

At the end, main event organizer Saugus' Carlos Armando Hernandez (founder of the Saugus TP and the North Short TP) said they had expected a lot more folk, but were still pleased. He promised more at the next, yet unscheduled, rally.

He made the most intriguing and unamplified comment of the afternoon, as far as I was concerned. Before showtime, I was next to him up front. Speaking to another TPer in his stentorian manner, he said that he was convinced that the other, older local Tea Party groups had sabotaged the event. In fact, I had also heard that various TP groups disliked the anti-gay/social-issues orientation of today's rally, as here. Hernandez said that when he returned to Saugus, "My gloves are coming off." I'll be intrigued to see if that means anything beyond he was pissed to have such a wee turnout.

There was that overlay of various self-identified/self-named Tea Party groups claiming the others are brothers or pretenders or fakes or such. Meh.

However, a few of the TPers came in decent drag. Rich Howell of the Pioneer Valley Tea Party spoke briefly a few times. He was in a light brown Revolutionary War re-enactor type of uniform. He was really into the moment, at the end exhorting the dozens of TPers to "take your shoes off, because the Boston Common is sacred ground."

In the main though, the crowd (really too strong a word for the small gathering; it was more like a church coffee hour) was fragmented. One table in front of the bandshell had lots of literature about the immorality and other evils of the United Nations. The main organizer there kept saying,  "The biggest threat right ow to America is the UN. We gotta get out."

Perhaps 8 or 10 individuals had signs decrying all government expenditures. On the other hand, a young man and a middle-aged woman were respectively making balloon animals and painting faces (no slogans, but primary colors, Old Glory style). Hernandez told one person that those efforts were to "make this a family event."

The counter-demonstrators did chant the obvious a few times. That included that it was an all-white affair. There was a black participant, one. She was Concetta Gordon, who was the hired larynx for the national anthem. She was fine, although she had no political interest in the day.

Perhaps if Santorum had spent a few more weeks in the POTUS-nomination race, he would have showed. The gathering might have been a few hundred instead of, to quote Terry Malloy from On the Waterfront, "instead of a bum, which is what I am, let's face it."

We can face it, even if Hernandez and his cohorts quibble, that this was a bust.

Monday Update: A pretty good piece in the Globe elaborates on the conflicts and tensions among the TP group rallying in Worcester and the one here. It portends more posturing.


Friday, April 13, 2012

Once More Into the Well of Spite?


Instead of location, timing may be the crux of whether this year's GOP can use LGBT support against Pres. Obama and his crew. I predict that they have seriously blown this one through atavism. Their candidates and strategists seem to believe they can shake some gays at voters and profit from it.

Lackaday for Mitt Romney and Republicans, the nation is at ebb tide on anti-homosexual sentiment. Rachel Maddow is been best on this. For a taste, try her short with NYT writer Bill Keller, below. Her sites have much more detail and analysis.

Coming at it from a marriage-equality perspective, I also am a big supporter of enabling and encouraging stable couples to adopt kids who would otherwise be in foster care or institutions. Other than the likes of no-chance candidates like Ron Paul and John Huntsman, the GOP would-be POTUS folk have made the terrific blunder of opposing adoption by homosexual couples or singles. They may feign religiosity and particularistic morality, but I bet to the vast majority of us, they are being anti-child as well as anti-gay.

For me, the intriguing question is whether the obvious and inexorable waves bringing acceptance of same-sex marriage and equal adoptions are timed correctly. The GOP sorts clearly believe they can go into the anti-gay well at least one more time and come up with a bucket full of votes. They seem to forget how long it's been and how much has changed since this last worked.

I say it's too late. In poll after poll, as well as more and more elections, the public makes it plain. They no longer favor punishing homosexuals just because. They also don't want orphaned and abandoned children to languish in bad circumstances, merely to punish gay would-be adopters. They aren't even buying plainly and repeated discredited fake research saying kids suffer in households with gay parents.

Their well of spite has been covered over.



Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Scott Brown Should Read His Own Stuff

Fill-in U.S. Sen. Scott Brown wants a full term, faces a challenge from a Ted Kennedy-worthy progressive, and isn't about to let logic or numbers hinder him. For the latest of his campaign spoor, check this excellent analysis at BlueMassGroup (ht to David Kravitz).

Sure, the big out-of-area PAC and superPAC bucks have not kicked in for Brown. They certainly will for him and nemesis Elizabeth Warren, even with their shaky pledge for no-negative ads, or else forced donations to charity. Both sides will have plenty of media buys to befuddle us here.

Amusingly though, Brown started with, what, $11 million in the bank or so to her nought? He seems to have assumed his incumbency, ever-wrinkling good looks, and low-brow humor would ensure he had almost all the resources.

Meanwhile though, Warren clicked with our wishy-washy liberals who dominate the electorate here, not to mention us pinkos and serious progressives. In the past quarter she outraised his contributions by over 2:1 or reported $3.4:$6.9 millions.

Again, both will have plenty under their control as well as from shadowy the other. This is not going to be a Mitt Romney I-bought-the-nomination deal.

What Brown's dishonest and even unmanly whining, per David's depiction, has produced is the evidence of obliviousness on the Senator's part. It brings clearly to mind another political set that doesn't seem to pay attention to its own blathering.

Every year, anti-LGBT ranter Brian Camenker at MassResistance gets the vapors over the ever increasing corporate and non-profit support for Boston's Gay Pride week and parade. Here's a typical post on it.

What he seems to miss here is what is obvious to folks not blinded by his prejudice. Those lists of stores, banks, manufacturers and so forth present and represent America. Those are the mainstream, accepted businesses that employ us and from whom we buy. They are us. The more his tiny group screams about and identifies the sponsors — calling for boycotts of much of American business — the more obvious it is who has won.

Who Loves Ya?

Likewise, Brown's oral, written and advertising comments point out who is cool and favored. He, who won the special election for his office with large contributions from out-of-state conservatives, financial industry machers, special-interest groups and PACs, has tried from Warren's first fund-raising report to paint her as the out-of-Massachusetts funded candidate. Not only does he still receive distant contributions, much of his campaign account is from such allegedly disgraceful sources.

Moreover, she has received considerably more in-commonwealth contributions, both in amount and number, than he. Plainly put, more MA residents like her message enough to support it over his. She is the favorite in money both inside and outside.

His drawing attention to that is like a spoiled kid claiming Mommy treats his sister better.

Here, the unenrolled, a.k.a. independent, voters are up for grabs. About a sixth of voters here are registered Republicans, but less than a third are Democrats, and over half are in the electoral ether, just waiting to be wooed to write checks and smear the ovals.

Brown still has the big club of incumbency. He also benefits from running in a state that seems loath to send a woman to Congress and has never, not once, elected a woman to the U.S. Senate. With those advantages, Warren getting more money from more local potential voters certainly does not ensure her victory.

She's still going to have to convince people who didn't know of her role in D.C. before this, those who are wary of putting a woman in the Senate, those who like Brown's aw-shucks persona, and of course the balance-the-lefties-we-elect types. That's a daunting challenge.

Fortunately for her, Brown is willing to help by repeatedly drawing attention to how much support she's already gotten, even before the Democratic convention in June. Both inside and outside MA, folks like her. He's made that very obvious. She might thank him.


Monday, April 09, 2012

Kick Me, Beat Me, Wiretap Me

Far worse than FourSquare, which I deride as the rob-me-now app, work is well underway, starting in the UK, to give spook agencies total access to "private" communication. There's a great piece by author and activist Evgeny Morozov in the April 4th Financial Times on it.

(FT note: You may need a sub or free registration to read it online.)

Of course, our intelligence and police here are right behind the English counterparts. In fact, Justice, CIA, FBI, DHS and groups we don't even know about may be ahead of the Brits here. We've learned about their abuses for decades; we don't have to be paranoid to fear them.

Giving cops and spooks clandestine access to cell and Skype calls as well as email seems perfectly justifiable to UK Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg. Morozov quotes him as saying, "All we are doing is updating the rules which currently apply to mobile telephone calls to allow the police and security services to go after terrorists and serious criminals and updating that to apply to technology like Skype."

What the Brits want permission for is first requiring all those services we consider private communication to provide cops and spooks with back doors. Then when they say it's necessary, they'd have real-time access to phone calls and emails.

For the moment, the UK government claims such totalitarian surveillance would only occur with a warrant, after a judge's approval. Alas, there is a damning record in England, the U.S. and beyond of government and even private abuse of such back doors.

Think a real-life version of the bandits in The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, where Gold Hat says with disdain, "Badges? We ain't got no badges. We don't need no badges. I don't have to show you any stinking badges."

Morozov laments the pending convergence of state and internet-related companies' data gathering. Already companies like Google make money by serving us advertising based on sites visited, searches requested and more. Where we are, what we write, websites we view, whom we know are available. Are you willing to let the state and national government, plus the intelligence community, know all about you and perhaps manufacture allegations and charges?

As he concludes, "It is only by anticipating the consequences of this coming unholy alliance between internet companies and intelligence agencies that our freedoms can be defended."

Already, the United States has fallen into crazy passivity. Particularly following the 9/11 attacks, Americans as a people largely bought into the lunacy of better-safe-than-sorry. It's meant a huge, intrusive, expensive government, an expanded infrastructure that abuses our freedoms from our Bill of Rights and centuries of case law. This is no time and no place to yield even more to a power mad surveillance community.

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