Sunday, May 27, 2012

The Cynics and Naïfs

Let's not even pretend that Elizabeth Warren's repeating family anecdotes about having Cherokee ancestors is important, substantive in the race for US Senate. What it does illustrate includes:
  • First the Boston Herald, dogged closely by the Globe, have been shamelessly puerile in sensationalism over reason and perspective.
  • Incumbent Sen. Scott Brown delights in screaming about moot trivialities to shift ears from his terrible record at both state and federal levels.
  • Warren's camp seems naive, depending on her successes at the federal level in financial policy and practice, while allowing others to smear her.
  • Even fellow Dem candidate Marisa DeFranco got on the bozo bus, apparently loaded with desperation, with such stupid comments as you have to look like a minority to be one.
 Long before this latest media-catalyzed smokescreen and disgrace, we knew the disingenuous, manipulative nature of Brown and his winger wingmen. The first came when they pounced on the "elite hick" humorous comment.

Alas, that has set the tone. Occasionally from DeFranco, and generally from Brown, Pulitzer-hungry papers, and Brown's surrogates (think MA GOP, winger super PACS, highly partisan righty bloggers) present distractions as substance and real issues as invisible.

Every once and awhile, an article has some insight such as in today's NYT. While it does contain a lie from DeFranco about how she hasn't gone  after the Cherokee jive, the Times also has such fair, smart comments in a blog as:

“It says to me that they’re not good on defense, they’re not good in panic mode and they lack a clear, consistent message,” Ms. DeFranco said of Ms. Warren’s campaign.
 Plainly, DeFranco is beside herself in her flurry to get  15% of Dem delegates next week at the convention to advance to the September party primary. She seems to have a bit carried away by joining in the Native American junk.

For her part, Warren's big blunder has been in trying to sidestep democracy by marginalizing other Dem candidates for the office by refusing joint public appearances. That level of cynicism is far below Brown's, but not in keeping with her straight-talking image.

Regardless of whether there's a Dem primary, it's time for substance.  The local papers have sunk so low, they may remained mired. Brown and his surrogates are serious muckers. It'll be up to Warren to be the smart, honest, ethical person on the dais. 

Note: I started this before my recent bike crash. It's less detailed and documented than I'd prefer. You'll have to search for sources.

Light Posting Ahead

I won't be putting up much here or at Harrumph, maybe for a couple of weeks. Friday, I had a serious bike wreck. I'm limited to one hand and may need some surgery. Typing and sitting among other acts are big, painful deals.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Too Quick Anti-Gay Mythology

The LGBT gold rush was lost to the Dark Side as surely as the good guys the marriage-equality struggle. Sure, it's plenty galling to hear those who live to limit marriage, adoption and related family issues hide behind a veil of false pro-family rhetoric. Yet, they got there first.

Those of us who actually want kids in healthy homes, loving couples in stable marriages, and, well if you pardon the cliché, stereotypical Christian ideals, are too late. Those who want to limit marriage, with all its responsibilities, obligations and privileges to one man and one woman, got the figurative trademark on pro-marriage. Those who want to see children in orphanages or bounced to often debilitating foster homes just so long as they are not with homosexual couples or singles were early to the game of self-describing as pro-family. Those who deny the lurid and abusive biblical scripture and history of polygamy, slavery, rape, incest, adultery, and murder for sexual ends to pretend that one-man/one-woman marriage is a millennia-long heritage, well, they're simply to ignorant, stupid, or dishonest to be believed.

Yet, these dishonorable sorts were cleverly quick to claim the memes. Pro-family and pro-marriage in particular for the very ones who are anti-family and anti-marriage is bittersweet.

Much like the homosexual evangelicals who squirm in pews of black churches that preach bigotry of "their kind," how hard it must be for the millions of Protestants who hear their alleged ministers of the gospel rail at them. Marriage is only for a man and a woman together. Sex is only for procreation. Adoption is failure of God's commands. IVF is sacrilegious.

Of course, these are the same clerics who are quick to forgive the sins of the Gingriches, the Clintons, the Palins, the millions of others who confess their shortcomings. Adultery? Fornication? Virtually the whole set of commandments? You're forgiven long as you're not a queer or you don't approve of abortion.

It makes one weary.

As well as being fast to claim ownership of illogical terms, like pro-family and pro-marriage when you are the opposite, these same bozos like to pretend they are American and little-d democratic, when they are certainly not. Nowhere is this more obvious than in the let-the-people-vote/referendum/ballot-initiative shames.

Plainest here is that the referendum/initiative process that half the states have is a relic of the Progressive Era of the late 19th and early 20th Centuries. Then citizens in various states wanted ways to correct the abuses of corrupt legislators. Recently, these have become tools for well-financed special-interest groups and hate mongers to play on the emotions of voters. Lackaday.

The let-the-people-vote-on-the-rights-of-the-other mentality elides over quite a bit. There's that huge issue of our national tradition of not voting to hamper, harm and hinder the rights of any one group. More procedurally, there's that messy business of representative democracy; legislatures are charged with voting for us when a town-meeting style is too cumbersome and, well, ignorant to settle complex issues.

We as a state and together as a nation should stand and scream, "No!" whenever some hateful fools call to let the people vote on any group's rights.

The next post will be on the craziness of pretending that we don't have to stay on the inexorable path toward marriage equality because so many states have amended their constitutions to forbid it..


Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Godzilla, Job Creator

Surely you know that job-creator is largely, viciously, dishonestly mythology...don't you? Oh, likely not.

The Dems are fools in not pounding this absurd set of lies masked as "common sense." They only have a few more months to scream, hold up placards and sound the alarm.

As I am wont to note, whenever you hear some say either, "It's only common sense," or "Let's not reinvent the wheel," know that the real message is, "I have nothing and am about to make baseless assertions."

As surely as the NRA has successfully justified semi-automatic handguns in every home, winger pols have perpetuated the craziness that rich individuals and obscenely profitable companies make jobs that we lowly slobs should be endlessly grateful to have. Tell you what, search for some string like "job creator myth" and stun yourself with facts and knowledge.

Honestly though, no one has done quick, accurate, honest justice to the concept as super-rich dude Nick Hanauer. There are reams of data that show what he reveals in a scant six-minute vid (click below), but he has the salient issues and facts.

  • The economy perks and jobs appear when the middle class has decent income, a.k.a. becomes consumers with disposable income
  • When the rich people and companies get huge tax breaks, they don't spend them on expanding, but take money from potential consumers
  • Giving the top folk the bucks cripples the economy short, mid and long term
You have to lie to say otherwise and you have to be stupid, ignorant or both to believe otherwise.

This is the crux of the pending fall election and the economic future of this nation. The Dems and that Obama fellow have to say it loud, smart and straight at every turn.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

These Are Not the Scott Browns You Seek

Pardon my incredulity, but the look-over-there game by the Scott Brown camp, plus the Boston Herald, is alternately puerile and insulting.

Perhaps to folk who either did not spend years, as I did, the segregated South, or who like to delude themselves into pretending that Massachusetts was free of racial bigotry, the Cherokee card is safe to play. Not to me.

By the bye, a good recap for those unaware of the manufactured controversy appears here.

What we have is a fill-in U.S. Senator, Brown, running for a full term against a Dem challenger. That's almost certainly Elizabeth Warren, but Marisa DeFranco is not about to cede the party primary. Regardless, Brown's camp figures it's Warren and has slandered the crap out of her, apparently hoping to avoid real issues.

Truth be told, Brown was a mediocre to lousy state legislator and has been no better as freshman Senator. He's voted the wrong way for Massachusetts almost every time. When he does appear to be, as he loves to say, independent, it has only been against the arch-conservative Republican (his party) position when his vote made no difference in the result.

His record is the issue.

Instead, the Herald columnists and news, highly partisan blogs like RedMassGroup, and such have made a stink in a brown, if you pardon, paper bag. I use that term with bitter recollection.

I am old enough to have lived in times and an era where the brown-paper-bag test was real. That is for African-Americans who wanted acceptance in white society or even to pass as white, for those who differentiated themselves by level of skin tone from blue-black (a.k.a. inferior) to au lait (welcome), colorism was real and nasty.

In Warren's case, it appears that as an Okie, she does have Cherokee ancestry. She's neither proud or ashamed of that. Speaking with her directly and on our Left Ahead show, I'm convinced that she and I share more than a birth state. Unlike Brown, she's honest...about herself, about her politics, about her background, about everything.

What Warren has mentioned, in passing, is that her family says she has a great grandparent who was Cherokee, making her 1/32nd Native American. As Rachel Maddow analyzed so well, that's it and that was enough for the elected head of the Cherokee Nation (click below).

Wingers apparently would much rather pretend that she was dishonest, which she certainly was not, or that being only part Native American is the issue here, which it is not.

To my history, I sigh and moan when I hear these distinctions. There was a time before I was born when the stereotype was that a single drop of "Negro" blood was enough to taint you. Now, we have apparently come full circle to where Brown's camp wants to say that if Warren is not full-blooded Cherokee, somehow she is unworthy to run against an Anglo for Senate. Huh?

To us former Southerners, this assault reeks of racism, of atavistic colorism, or irrational hatred. Stop it, Brown! The woman has some Cherokee heritage. So what? She never made a deal out of it nor profited from it. You need to be explaining, spinning your non-performance on the state level and lousy votes on the national one.

Mom/Granny/GLAD Know Best

A long, often emotionally wracking struggle finishes with this school year. In September, Jen will attend a new public school. She'll no longer be ostracized or isolated or punished or sent hither and yon to use a toilet.

Almost all of us are wont to say this or that is "only common sense." Likewise, many of us see respect for each other and our shared humanity as right and necessary. Jen finally will have those baselines.

Background: The original post on her schooling and the bizarre, hostile behavior of school officials is here.

In the case of this smart, loving transgender child, only a family support system, augmented with the straight-ahead savvy and attitude of a GLAD lawyer brought respect and kindness. Jen's mother and grandmother did battle as necessary school officials, while buoying Jen at home to compensate for the daily angst. They lavish praise on the GLAD attorney who helped them, or as they put it, "the most wonderful, caring, thoughtful, selfless man, My Attorney Janson!!!! He gave us more than we could ever ask for."

And there you have it. Yes, he negotiated with school officials. He educated them (and Jen's family) on the requirements and limits of the law. (The national Americans with Disability Act, for example, excludes transgender, relying on state statutes and public officials to be savvy and humane.) Certainly having legal oomph behind you never hurts.

The solution of switching schools would seem less than ideal. The other elementary school students were fine with Jen's transition. It was only a parent or two and the administrators who were crazed over her closing the bathroom stall door once or twice a day. They should have been the ones to change and mature and humanize.

However, The key here is that Jen gets to be a student and a child and a girl in school. That really shouldn't have been so hard.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Da Mare Loves This Stuff

Ah, it's the annual series of Boston neighborhood coffees. Mayor Tom Menino truly loves these. He knows many in the crowds by both name and face. He gets to hand out pots of flowers to all comers. Dunkin' provides coffee and Munchkins too.

Each neighborhood has a session in a park. You get the glad hand, a big smile, and this year a pot of salvia from da Mare. Oh, there are handouts about summer activities, his health challenge and such as well. Plus, there's a chance to ask about things you care about, as I did.

Today's in his Hyde Park was maybe cozier than some. It's his Readville area and he knows even more locals than in some spots, calling out many by name even before he gets to the plant-distribution table.

Boston Parks and Rec. Commissioner Antonia Pollack joined him in handing out the pots from the city greenhouses. Last year, they were marigolds or salvia. I used the former to help guard my tomatoes from bugs, but the uxorial unit loves red salvia, so it's still a win.

There were a bunch of uniformed cops and a detective or two, along with District City Councilor Rob Consalvo. It's as jolly as any government function in town at 9 AM.

As a cyclist, I'm always asking him about his own biking. He previously told me how much he loved his newish recumbent bike. Then he broke some bones and for the three months as been in a protective boot and limping about.

Today he said he hoped to get it off next week. Then he doesn't know when they'll certifie the bones have healed enough for him to saddle up again. I encouraged him with a personal vignette about how I finally got a checkup after my broken leg with a surgeon who biked, and who told me, sure, it may hurt a little, but cycling will only increase the blood circulation and speed the healing. He seemed to like the sound of my version.

He did have to sit several times, apparently to rest the left foot and ankle. He also told staff that "These things are too long," which I took to refer to how much time he spent on his sore limb.

He endured a different kind of pain, in Munchkin form. There were boxes of them about, including on the plant table. He did not eat a one. However, he was quick to offer the box to the little kids who came with parents or daycare providers. He'd urge them to take another and seemed to enjoy their smiles as much as those of the flower-taking crowd. (By far, the 100-plus crowd were largely grey. They too liked both the Munchkins and the fresh-fruit salad.)

Pollak said Menino was dieting and was enjoying the Munchkins vicariously. Likewise Consalvo had a diet soda in hand and avoided the sugar. They both seem to have taken the Mayor's challenge seriously to get moving and lose a million collective Boston pounds.

For my concerns, Pollak and I chatted up the replacement process for Nicole Freedman, the bike tzarina. The likely replacement, Kris Carter, still has to go through the open-hiring process, but has a leg or more up. He's been working on bike programs. Moreover, we all agree that Freedman made amazing process as well as laying out detailed plans. The new person doesn't have to pioneer, just do the hard work of implementation including finding adequate funding.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Goodwin Breaks Grossman's Ice Cream Monopoly

Joe Kearns Goodwin, Harvard grad, combat vet, General Court chaser and only 34, kicked off his campaign today in the sunshine, outside, with ice cream. MA Treasurer and Receiver General Steve Grossman has pretty much owned the politics-with-frozen-confection routine until this afternoon.

It worked.

State Rep. Cory Atkins hosted the event in her Concord (home is too mundane a term for the estate). Goodwin helped run her initial, successful campaign when he took off a semester from Harvard to do so. In a similar positive payback, Boston City Councilor Matt O'Malley showed to support him; they worked together in Steve Pagluica's bid for the U.S. Senate to replace Ted Kennedy.

Goodwin had a great supporting cast, including remarkably Dutch cocoa-based ice cream. He truly didn't need it. His stump speech was solid. By the bye, you can pretty much hear it all and more on his podcast with us on Left Ahead this week.

He is dynamic, confident, filled with progressive ideals and ideas. He claimed to be nervous and did peek at his big-type topic list a couple of times, but he had it down and should thrive in debate-like-events.

His only off-line criticism of himself is that he tends to talk with a single voter on the front stoop for 20 minutes. He admits he needs to get more efficient.

My only criticism is that he brings up some big stuff that needs specifics. For one, he wants new sources of revenue for the goals he's after, but definitely doesn't want that to be taxes that saddle the working residents. So..........?

His famous parents were there — historian/author/professor Doris Kearns Goodwin and speech writer/adviser to JFK and LBJ Richard Goodwin. His wife of about six months,Victoria, (with him in the pic left)   may be an even bigger booster. His mother is delightful and a warmly tactile and intense advocate. Plus I was there as he finished his speech. She hugged him and said, "Joe, you did great." Happy Mother's Day, Doris.

He delights in them all. On Mother's Day eve day, he was quick to praise his own. Before his speech and beside him during it, Victoria was likewise quick with the anecdotes illustrating his virtues.

His horde of young volunteers is devoted. They seem to come from his associations with Harvard, the military, his political campaigns, and even his high school. They believe.

About six weeks ago, Mara Dolan had a very different kick-off for the same office. Hers was also in Concord, maybe four miles away and in the center of town. Word is that the several Dems and two Republicans angling for this open seat make for fascinating and even combative fora. I'm going to make it my point to attend.

Friday, May 11, 2012

POTUS Call At The Gate

In perhaps a microcosm of November's key races, a bar conversation this afternoon raised differences.

Bar note: I recommend First Printer in Harvard Square - beautiful bar, small draft and large bottle section of fine brews and a big list of good to better wines, all at student-pleasing prices; plus, the day bartender is one funny guy.

We are all middle-aged white guys within a few years of each other. Two are suburban and I am by far the pinkest of the bunch.

One sincerely, almost sweetly, advanced that Mitt Romney was the likely next President. We other two guffawed unkindly. One said that of course it will be close. I don't believe that and recited the disdain wingers have for Romney, as well as the numerous stupid legislative and policy moves the GOP has made to alienate so many voting groups — women, blacks, Latinos, immigrants, the poor and on and on. I said that following their drubbing in November, even the party of delusion will have to reevaluate their deceit and abuse.

Among the three of us, there was most but not all of the spectrum of older men. One spoke of Mitt's momentum, which is the message of cable news. One acknowledged the bizarre fantasy world of the electorate. Another, the abject news hound/political junkie, measured the vital signs and symptoms of the issues and campaigns.

Those come with a range of sources. One does largely cable TV. One eats the NYT whole. Another does three daily papers, a dozen news sites, many blogs, and cable political show left and right.

I suspect the cable-only guy is more like the American voter norm than the other two.

Yes, yes, many events can overtake the candidates, both Obama/Romney and Warren/Brown before November. The economy may thrive or languish. Some dreadful international tragedy may color all. The Republican House, as hard as it may be to write, might act even more viciously and inanely than they have been doing. Although evasion and deceit seem his nature, Romney might stop lying and play debates and campaigns straight. Yadda yadda.

The point of the second-drink conversation today was that three long-term friends had extraordinary different projections on the big elections coming up. Smarts and levels of information aside, none of us is a doctrinaire buffoon. We're thinking and extrapolating. We draw very different conclusions, each based on disparate data sets and opinion baskets.

Come six months, we'll see. We won't forget. More drinks will rise to the same lips.

Bright Line for the Dark Side

Mitt Romney clearly does not need training to raise his self-esteem; he obviously believes he is damned smart...despite his constant spoken boners. If he has enough brain cells to fire up, he should be sure to reject the opinion of his senior adviser Ed Gillespie. Yesterday, that squeaking bozo said that Romney would make marriage equality a big deal, "'bright-line difference in this campaign.' He said Romney would campaign on the issue and also actively push for a federal constitutional ban on gay marriage."

Addled Eddie must remember fondly when most Americans were terrified by civil unions in Vermont and full marriage equality in Massachusetts. Political lore holds that the 2004 election of G.W. Bush greatly benefited from social conservatives rushing to the polls based on that issue in various states. Don't re-count your chickens after their grown and already served for dinner.

That is not about to happen this time. Most obviously, voter sentiment either favors equality or is indifferent to the issue. Also,the 31 states that have restricted marriage to a heterosexual pairing have done so — no local plebiscites to draw the fearful.

Even the most befuddled of us have to notice as well. The states, federal district and Indian tribe allowing same-sex marriage, a.k.a. gay marriage, have zero problems and only pluses as a result. The same is true for Canada and the numerous overseas nations more socially advanced than we are.

Instead this time, Romney's risk is very real. In stumping on a national restriction of marriage he commits many fouls. The amusing one is that unlike the accusations tossed for so long at pro-equality sorts, he actually would be redefining marriage, even more so than Pres. Clinton in signing DOMA.

By calling for a national ban, he makes several blunders. First there's that federalism/states-rights thingummy. Our Constitution reserves powers not specifically granted the feds to the states. Marriage is one of those and as such that alone is a good basis for junking DOMA and returning to the key principle of comity. We have that for almost all areas of states' laws and regulations.

Far worse is that window that let in the swarms of the fearful and hateful, those who would strip rights they enjoy from others just because they can, shut pretty quickly. Even though it's a slim majority, most Americans favor marriage equality and a much larger percentage have no problem with homosexuals, interracial marriage and other former winger rallying cries. The let-the-people-vote groups have blown their wad.

The POTUS has sensibly said he'll add this issue to his campaign. His party is now certain to include a pro-marriage-equality plank in its platform come September. He'll come off as decisive, in tune with the nation, and civil-rights oriented.

If Romney truly expects the aged anti-gay voters to crank their Model-T passions again on gay marriage, that will figuratively backfire. There's been a lethargy among college and 20-something voters. This issue will far more likely inspire them to trot to the polls than their parents and grandparents. This is something where they can make a difference.

Gillespie calls for a bright line. This issue certainly is. His side would decidedly be the loser.


Thursday, May 10, 2012

Big Honking Government

The unnoticed yet powerful undercurrent moving voters along in November will be intrusive government. As many libertarians often point out with amusement or bitterness, Republicans are the supporters of Big Brother, big government, and tightly controlled liberties.

The words we hear from the GOP spokes-folk are often the opposite. Citing strong support for the likes of handgun laxness, they are wont to say, "See...Second Amendments...personal rights...freedom!" Yet in Congress, the Presidency, governorships and state legislatures, they have been all about having government direct our personal lives, tell us what to do, spy on us, and in general be paternalistic.

Obama and other Dems could benefit powerfully if voters take that difference to the polls come November. Y'all want Homeland Security/TSA in your bra and briefs? Go Republican! How about spending obscene tax dollars defending against the Soviet Union and other non-existent past threats with a bloated military budget? Go Republican! How about a national law forbidding federal benefits to gay couples? Oh, Republicans with Pres. Clinton's help already did that. How about plebiscites on civil rights of various minorities? Go Republican!

It goes on and on. Matched with the 5-4 archly conservative-to-reactionary SCOTUS, the only national safeguards for our established liberties are a Dem-controlled White House and Senate.

The GOP philosophic underpinning fascinates. A Daddy or Big Brother figure needs to be in charge. No freedom to marry for homosexual couples is obvious there. Ceding freedom to travel under the fantasy that millions of daily searches and pat downs will keep us safe has appalling widespread acceptance. Letting domestic spooks monitor our calls, emails, sites visited and more is the sort of unreasonable search-and-seizures that fomented the revolution in Colonial America, but the GOP'er blindly approve.

Come November, Americans are in for another great choice. We blundered nearly everywhere in 2010 in the midterms. The severely mistaken hope, the fantasy really, that Republicans had a better national view ruled that election.

Of course, as we have seen since at least Reagan's time, their solution is borrow and spend. Their policies cause ever-increasing income disparity. They want big government to control our personal lives, while all the while claiming they'd shrink expenditures and employees. In fact, they provably do the opposite at every chance, and a terrifying amount of their outlays enable laws and agencies to strip us of liberties.

Voters went with the fantasy of having guns and butter with several Republican administrations. Many will never learn the futility of such delusional votes. Now we have seen GOP Presidents and Congresses and a winger high court tell us whom we can marry, tell us whether we can board airplanes, and spy on us freely. Surely a majority of us can see that and are sick of it.

Wide, Strong Dem Plank

A hail of pronouncements follow Pres. Obama's calm, reasoned announcement that he favored marriage equality. Many of those balls of punditry are speculative. One style (like Rep. Barney Frank) holds that Obama and Dem pro or anti sentiments are already fixed, so the announcement will have little impact come November. Another (click below for Newark Mayor Cory Booker) thinks this overt LGBT support will mobilize anti-gay voters yet again and hurt in the general.

I'm a lot more shortsighted. Come the party convention in four months, yesterday's proclamation of equality will have a huge effect. Any doubt that the Dem platform would support marriage equality disappeared. As a counterpoint to the out-of-touch-with-America social extremes of the GOP, Democrats will be the party of fairness, civil rights, and humanity.

There's where I dovetail with Frank's view. As this shakes out, as the Dems stand up for equal protection as so embedded in the Constitution, the liberal, the moderate, the young, and other voter groups are sure to be inspired to stagger to the polls.

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Balls Out, As the Brits Say

Everyone — anti-gay, pro-civil rights, pinkos,  reactionaries — likely got it this afternoon. The POTUS finally, finally said he, like most Americans polled, favors marriage equality, a.k.a. same-sex marriage.

See and hear his brief ABC News comments below.

I have my take(s) on it. Meanwhile, I'm seeing:

  • Winger hope that they can somehow say he's as bad a flip-flopper as Willard Mitt Romney and that he is too fond of gay rights, so we need to dump him in November
  • Idle speculation that it was a savvy or stupid campaign gambit that will either ensure his reelection or his defeat

In my SSM-oriented world, I think instead of the much delayed reason and candor. Consider first that Barack Obama is a former professor versed in both law and history. He has been behind flimsy veils of politics, religion, and attorney-ese.

This same Obama has muddled his personal religious doctrine with civil law and civil rights. Specifically on the latter, he has feigned that religious ritual, a.k.a. church wedding ceremony, is somehow what makes a marriage. As a lawyer, he has long  known that the state-mandated and sanctioned civil ceremony — at a J.P., in a church, in a town hall or in a public park — and the signed marriage license are the legal essence. The minority of couples who choose to layer that with a religious ritual do so for show and feel. A cleric signing the paper is no more necessary than a sommelier recommending the dinner wine.

To me, this long overdue acknowledgement that SSM is the right path is welcome. Alas, at least in this first statement, he did not say something like, "Damn it! This is a matter of civil rights. Let's be real about that!"

Word is that his campaign is checking their cummerbunds for stray crumbs. Will conservative African-American voters pass out? Will older independents be insulted?

Instead, let's be plain. This is the right attitude and the right declaration. It is at least Christian, as well as in line with other inclusive, loving religion. It is an affirmation of civil rights, as well as individual liberties. In short, it is American.

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Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Call for POTUS to Back Biden

Over on the Rachel Maddow Show, Freedom to Marry Founder/Pres. Evan Wolfson makes a solid pitch. Unlike the timorous POTUS, he sees solid upside in agreeing that marriage equality is right, right now.

Click below to see and hear the discussion, including which voters might drop away, which might be attracted, and what the devil Obama means by "I'm evolving." (Hint: Evolving is not evolved.)

Sunday, May 06, 2012

Me, Me, Me Media Senate Race

Having spent much of my childhood in a still-segregated South where the paper-bag test was real and later having run a black newspaper in the biggest S.C. city, I pay attention to the colorism form of racism. Lately here in a city with its own disgraceful history of slavery, ghettoization, and discrimination, I'm still surprised at the obliviousness of the local press.

Most recently, both of the bigger dailies, the Boston Globe and Herald, have tried to outdo each other in exposing (in their minds) U.S. Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren for a minority-status issue. That is, an issue they created.

It seems Harvard and some law directories listed her among minority-background faculty and lawyers. Born in OK (as was I; disclaimer), Warren turns out to be maybe 1/32th Cherokee. Growing up in a TV and movie era where very, very white folk put on makeup to play Apaches and so forth, I'm not overwhelmed by the test going on here.

The Globe stories have, if you pardon, kept up the drumbeat with such gems as whether anyone ever alleged she asked for quarter for being a Native American. Not only is there absolutely no evidence of such, but this was only an issue because the competing papers pretended they were being real journalists, following some sort of real story.

In case you are not as provincial as the Globe and Herald staff, be aware that this is totally manufactured. Yet the rags won't drop it. They are like two puppies fighting over a sock.

The short version is that apparently someone in Harvard's admissions collected lists of faculty who had any sort of minority affiliation and then pushed that. Of course, the school on the Chuck is very, very white and very, very male, as it has been for centuries. As a disclaimer, I was in a Ford Foundation grant program in the late 1960s run by their youngest junior fellow in history ever, Joe Rhodes, who was a blend of native Chinese and Pittsburgh black, but he was quite the exception.

More likely, Harvard is by and for rich, white folk. So it's understandable that they pretend to admit and hire women, African Americans and such. It's likewise understandable that hirelings would rummage through résumés (CV's in Harvard lingo) for whiffs of the other.

What's amusing is that the two local dailies continue to 1) create this horse to ride at all, 2) mount it repeatedly, and 3) whip it on again and again. It's a non-story. Even a naive Daily Kos blogger picked up on this with a silly piece, "Has Elizabeth Warren's Campaign Been Dealt a Fatal Blow?" To that, I can snort and say, "Hell, no. Sit up. Pay attention. Read the damn articles. Try to think."

The self-centered, mindless behavior of Herald and Globe reporters and columnists is absurd. Now, there's a story. They should alternate in reporting on each other and how stupid their coverage of an invented non-story is.

2 Important Pols for Equality

Bill Clinton continues to atone for DOMA in meaningful ways. Plus, Joe Biden seems to telegraph the Dem platform and maybe the POTUS' post-reelection marriage-equality moves.

HT to Igor Volsky at Think Progress for recapping both important items clearly and concisely. Read about former POTUS Clinton stumping for marriage equality before the vote in North Carolina and would amend their constitution with a one-man/one-woman discriminatory throttle, here. Also and more significant are Biden's remarks on Meet The Press, here.

I can't believe that Obama was surprised by his VP's pro-equality comments. How much to extrapolate will depend on how civil-rights centered you are and how optimistic.

The clear comments include, "I am absolutely comfortable with the fact that men marrying men, women marrying women and heterosexual men marrying women are entitled to the same exact rights. All the civil rights, all the civil liberties. And quite frankly I don’t see much of a distinction beyond that."

Thursday, May 03, 2012

Barney Frank Sees Reasons to Hope

Barney, the prickly one, not the plush one, behaved quite acceptably today. U.S. Rep. Barney Frank either is a morning person or WBGH talker Callie Crossley soothed him with her calm voice and ready smile. At 8 a.m. at Suffolk U's Ford Hall Forum, he made definitive statements but neither bullied nor shouted down anyone.

The central topic was dysfunctional government. As far as he's concerned, it's real and he doesn't like it.

I brought my trusty digital recorder, but no extra battery. I have nothing to post for clips as my silvery buddy stopped almost immediately. However, WGBH and iTunes will eventually carry the show for free.

The gist of his thesis is that the Congress he joined over 30 years ago would have fundamental disputes across party and ideological divides, but would compromise in the end to deliver what the nation needed. Now the Republicans no longer do that and simply refuse to pass legislation that is not 100% to their liking.

Our national memory might suggest that this has long been thus. However, he said it became unworkable only in 2010.

Pic note: That's Creative Commons. If you want to use or alter it, feel free after an initial credit to Mike Ball.

He traced the roots to then Rep./Speaker Newt Gingrich's strategy to earn the GOP a permanent majority in Congress. This included refusing to compromise, even when it would cripple governance. Over the past 15 or so years, that attitude began to permeate both houses, bringing the dysfunction Frank decries following the 2010 midi-term elections.

In some of the few lighter moments in his hour and a half on stage with Crossley, he brought up his two bumper sticker ideas for Democrats. The first might have been for the 2010 election — THINGS WOULD HAVE SUCKED WORSE WITHOUT US! Another that would have worked then but be even more meaningful for this fall's campaign was WE'RE NOT PERFECT BUT THEY'RE NUTS!

To open the morning, Crossley lobbed him a question about his political aims. He said that was easy, to make the world less unfair. He feels he's done a decent job, with some failings.

The unfair aspect will surely be pivotal to the race for the Presidency. He spoke of parallel systems of public sector and private sector. While avowing to be a great believer in capitalism, he said that inequality is inherent in the world of commerce, as individuals and companies jostle to get ahead and make money. He said that it is government's chief job to set policies that modulate the inequality to try to keep it within the socially useful range.

Yet in the past few years, he says he has seen a dysfunctional democracy where that policy making should work but has not. Too many in Congress, mostly Republicans, are embittered by disagreements and instead of compromising seek to follow Gingrich's guideline of denying the legitimacy of the other side.

Amusingly enough, he uses Barney logic on the many voters who have such a low opinion of Congress. First he said that "nobody who fails to vote in primaries has any right to complain to me." His message for those unhappy with the Senators and Reps need to ask themselves, "What were you thinking when you elected all these people?"

For someone with his dour, sour reputation, Frank returned to optimistic notes repeatedly though. He believes the Tea Party victories two year ago were likely an anomaly brought on with dissatisfaction with the recession. He figures there's a good chance a majority of voters will want to change back from the extreme positions of the right this time.

For Pres. Obama, Frank hopes some lessons are learned. For one, "His people made a mistake" in the mid-term by pushing predictions. For example, they said that if Congress passed the requested relief program, unemployment would dip below 8%. When it turned not to get quite that low, the prediction gave many voters a sense not of the reality of improvement, rather the failure to reach the artificial target.

Much of his conversation was on money and taxes. He called for a better tax system, tax minimums, and building job skills for those without them. He also thought we still had a 1940s to 1960s defense spending mindset. "We should not still be protecting war-torn France from Joseph Stalin (or paying to forestall) all-out nuclear war with the Soviet Union." We can use our tax money better.

He said much more (including admitting a couple of times he was "too sanguine (and) missed the housing market" bubble. When the file is live, I'll post a link here. It was an insightful, fun session.

For this blog however, I have to note that he is engaged to his long-term partner. He joined the recent chorus I've been hearing of those who are amazed at how quickly LGBT rights are moving and public support growing. He thinks GLAD's attorney Mary Bonauto is brilliant in her attack on DOMA in federal court. Specifically, she is arguing for equal protection and not same-sex marriage as a fundamental right.

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Imagine Rupert Rules

The majority of the UK Parliament Commons Culture Committee found deceit, dishonor and criminal behavior in News Corp. executives in and after the phone hacking affair. The report (conclusions beginning p. 84) ripped  the conglomerate's chair, Rupert Murdoch, in particular.

The punchline was best expressed by Labour MP Tom Watson, speaking for the majority. In addressing News Corp. and its request to acquire BSkyB broadcasting, he said (actually intoned may be better here), "We conclude, therefore, that Rupert Murdoch is not a fit person to exercise the stewardship of a major international company."

They roasted him and his son James for "willful blindness" and "ignorance" related to the affair.

So, suppose this leads to:
  • Rupert Murdoch stepping down as chair
  • New Corp. not getting BSkyB
Would that be any precedence there or here? Would immoral and scofflaw top execs be at risk of getting called out and maybe forced out? Would pressures by government committees or law enforcement force action in publicly held firms?

(Note that I have some observer interest here. I used to be number two editor at American Management Association's monthly Management Review magazine and the coordinating editor of the massive McGraw-Hill Handbook for Corporate Directors, among other business writing.)

I suspect that nearly everyone who does not get paid to sit on corporate boards views those bodies with a jaundiced eye. Again and again and again, board members live the fantasy. Their chosen execs are the best and brightest. They must provide fat base and bonus and other incentive to keep these brilliant leaders. Then when anyone, shareholder or otherwise, criticizes those execs or even levels charges of illegality or immorality, board members almost never act at all, much less toss the bums.

Such direct comments on corporations surely would be controversial at least. Likewise, in England, the Murdochs are hanging tough. Also, Conservative MPs are claiming raw politics and ignoring the many pages of documented charges.

I let my imagination run with this. If paid corporate boards, steeped in self-interest and behind a facade of high competence by themselves and their hireling refuse to self-police, we should ask who will — Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

Surely one meaningful and necessary function of government would be to highlight illegal, unethical policies and actions of publicly held corporations. That should lead to crooks feeling forced out or alternately boards doing that watchdog part of their job.

As Martha is fond of saying, "It's a good thing.".