Sunday, February 24, 2013

Markey Weaves a Beautiful Tapestry

OK, kiddies, Ed Markey can do this. He can be senatorial, certainly while campaigning, and that's sine qua non for this run to replace US Sen. John Kerry.

I wasn't sure. His typical wonky pronouncements as US Rep. can be dour and dry, from the video clips. Maybe it was the venue (JP Licks) or the audience (lefties all), but he was dynamic, passionate and funny. He delivered a simultaneously detailed and focused stump speech that owned the packed half of the joint.

He may be able to match our MA Treasurer Steve Grossman in the ice-cream talk. Markey's dad worked for Hood and the son worked his way to and through Boston College in part by driving a Hood ice-cream truck.

Today, he heaped on the related humor. "My life is inextricably linked to ice cream," he started, adding, "Without ice cream I'm not going to Boston College." He went on about how great it was to be at JP Licks.

He also delivered a smooth set of lines related to his wife, whom he had wave to us. That would be Dr. Susan J. Blumenthal, very bright, highly accomplished (as in and MD, Georgetown and Tufts professor, assistant surgeon general and on and on). It never hurts a pol either that she is very attractive and shiksha looking (my term, not his). The very Massachusetts, very Irish-American pol had good fun saying he had  "lived the American dream. I married a Jewish doctor."

We'll see how much traction Rep. Steve Lynch gets with his iron-worker v. ice-cream vendor approach in his campaign for the seat. On the face of it, walking steel beams is tougher stuff than driving an ice-cream truck. Yet that too may be risky for Lynch, as after a few years in his father's profession, he became the union local president and seems to have been more a union pol than a rusty-hands laborer.

With the crowd chuckling and attentive, Markey hit his policies, aims, and reasons to vote for him.

Considerable rhetorical and literary elegance, as well as strong evidence of crisp, goal-oriented thinking, appeared in his 20 minute speech. He started, reworked and ended with recurring themes that reappeared and reinforced each other. Yes, he was for gun safety/control. Yes, he was for health care for all, as right not privilege. Yes, he unabashedly touted his constant support for choice, equal treatment and rights for women, as well as his LGBT constituents.

His themes though echoes Elizabeth Warren and Barack Obama. He spoke recurringly of the hopes typical Americans have, particularly for their children. For example, that came up in his jest about marrying the American dream, but also in the reality of his immigrant grandfather and his father starting in a ground floor apartment of a Lawrence triple-decker. Then in a Honduran-American endorsing and introducing him in Lawrence. Again in visiting his old family digs at 88 Phillips Street there, to find a different Honduran-American family with aspirations the same as his father and grandfather had for their kids...aspirations Markey has manifested.

He tied himself strongly to Warren, saying such as, "I want to go to Washington to be a partner with Elizabeth Warren on the Senate floor." He added he wanted to advanced the same agenda as she and Obama. He benefits from not having to fudge his record to support that.

This campaign his likely to see such well-written speeches and debates. Here Markey has strong advantages over Lynch and any possible GOP candidate. He has not changed his policies or postures. He is in tune with the typical liberal/progressive MA voter. Also, he's really a pretty funny guy behind all that smart speechifying.

His campaign site is nude at the moment — just volunteer or cough up. However, ProgressiveMass is all for him and stocks his issues. I had gone there basically to meet his press folk and get a Left Ahead podcast in the works (done and done). I'm glad I waited for him to show.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Markey Sparking Barking

Fur shore, dood, MA's campaign to replace US Sen. John Kerry is already in the mud. Faux indignation follows each pronouncement of little-bit-ahead leader Ed Markey. There was the whore monger and more recently the fake cries of racism.

It'll only get worse. Even with a new GOP party chair here, the dreadful craziness and irrationality of Scott Brown's failed calumny of Elizabeth Warren last fall still is the tone.

Consider those two examples. First Markey will attend a fund raiser for his campaign co-hosted by former NY Gov. Eliiot Spitzer. Also, Markey really hates the Citizens United decision and compared it judicially to the Dred Scott ruling of 1857 when the US Supreme Court tortured Constitutional law to uphold slavery.

That fund raiser is in the DC home of Spitzer's sister. It's private and asking $500 to $5,000 per. In case you have had more important issues to consider, then NY AG Spitzer spent a lot of money on prostitutes. He resigned in 2008 with hints of impeachment for to rumored fiscal improprieties related to his lusts. He's pretty much rehabbed himself — writing for the likes of Slate, teaching at City College, lecturing and such.

As one of her first public acts, the new MA GOP head, Kirsten Hughes, got low and nasty on this. As the Globe reported it:
“You are judged by the company you keep and it’s disgusting for Congressman Markey to rub elbows with a man best known for his solicitation of prostitutes,” Hughes said. “Instead of lining his campaign coffers with donations from the disgraced Eliot Spitzer, Markey should immediately cancel the fundraiser and denounce Spitzer’s abhorrent and unacceptable behavior. Anything short of a public condemnation and cancellation would send the wrong message to women everywhere.”
From that same GOP with its current and long history of plug nasties — serial adulterers, tax cheats, and far worse — as candidates as well as supporters, that's some guts she showed. Pots and kettles, dear.

For the Citizens/Dred thingummy, The Phoenix' David Bernstein doesn't think it'll last or have much impact. Not only do I agree, but I think Markey offered a fair comparison that deserves consideration.

Negative reactions to it may say more about New Englanders than Markey's remarks. He delivered the analogy in the Berkshires and The Republican on sought out Springfield NAACP President The Rev. Talbert Swan II to view the video and react.

He concluded, "I don't think he had an ill-intent making the comparison, but it's an ill-timed statement (noting it is Black History Month)." However, he also said, "I don't think I would have compared any Supreme Court decision to the Dred Scott decision that subjugated a whole race, but I do understand the parallel between the two cases. The Dred Scott ruling denied rights to human beings and made them property. The Citizens Untied case took property and gave it human rights."

Those who try to play racial games with this and avoid Markey's ideas should note Swan's clarity.

Regional Ways

That brings up the provincialism issue. Not only Bostonians but many other New Englanders have real problems with abstracts and even metaphor. They can be confused by them, can fall back on literal interpretations, and seem to lack literary contexts.

While I've spent the majority of my life in Boston, I've lived in many places and spent some of my most formative years in the South. The contrasts in speech, writing and thinking North and South are abrupt and revealing.

There are good fiction writers up here, but not all that many. Contrasted to the Deep South, New England is the home of philosophy and hard and soft science writing...serious (and generally literal) stuff. You'd be hard pressed to find a Southern city or town without its famous native novelist or playwright.

That is nowhere as obvious as in daily conversation. Classroom, grocery, bar, living room, backyard BBQ, floor of the legislature, Southerners love their words, their tropes, their puns, their analogies. They as a group take great pleasure in turn of phrase and comparisons. It's a form of mental calisthenics that may not serve any great purpose, but lubricates interactions considerably.

That's why it shocks me so much to see the terrified alter kaker Sen. Lindsey Graham act out like such a Yankee on the cabinet nominee hearings. He picks up verbal crumbs and figuratively runs about the hearing room holding them high and squealing. We understand he's trying to convert his legacy of decades as a wishy-washy sort with uncharacteristic bombast. It doesn't suit him or his heritage.

Here, we'll see how far Hughes and other attack sorts can carry these small socks of shame they think they found. I suspect not that far. However, I also suspect they just won't stop trying.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

NM SS Marriage. Mirage?

As America fumbles and stumbles toward marriage equality...trailing even France, our legal and societal ineptness is nowhere plainer than in New Mexico. Mirabile dictu, 64 same couples married there on February 20, 2004.

Sandoval County Clerk Victoria Dunlap announced she'd issue the licenses. Turned out that she found that nothing in the state law prohibited it, nothing limited marriages to a man/woman combo. Her office was perking from 8 AM until 4:10 PM 4:10 p.m when then-Attorney General Patricia Madrid halted the process. By then 66 licenses were complete, but dozens of same-sex couples were left in line.

In all, 66 licenses were issued. Dozens were left in line.

Among the unanswered questions in the 9 years since are:

  • Are the 64 marriages valid? (A judge ruled one couple seeking divorce had a valid marriage, but that only applied to their case.)
  • Why haven't lawmakers legalized or made illegal SSM there? (NM has a strong equal-rights law that forbids gender discrimination.)
  • Can clerks start issuing these licenses again? (They have an informal agreement to wait for the legislature to do something solid and sensible.)

Census stats say NM has the fifth greatest percentage of gay couples. It's a reasonable place to get sensible.

Self-flushing Scott Brown

Let us laugh together. Scott Brown has flushed himself down the drain, apparently out of greed alone. According to the Globe and to the Herald, he'll be a talking head for Fox(if you pardon the oxymoron)News.

Giggle now that he wasn't immediately available for comment. Consider that this attention addict doesn't even get that aspect of it all.

So in a couple of years from a drone realty lawyer to a do nothing state legislator to a big honking ego disguised as a fill-in-the-term US Senator, Brown chose to unplug the drain and wash himself down.

In his Congressional mini-life, truncated when someone with ideas, accomplishments and the compassion he totally lacks skunked him for the full-term in office, he was also a do nothing.

Rather, he was a do badly while pretending otherwise. Assuming all other Senators and all voters were thoroughly stupid, he played junior-high tricks. He'd stand at the edge of the new playground, the Senate chamber, waiting to run in and make the key point or save. He'd pretend to play for one side and then for the other, all the while saying not that this proved his deviousness and dishonor, rather showed him fair and balanced, to coin a phrase. He feigned bipartisanship so many times, he seemed to come to believe it himself.

So there you have it, FoxNoise hired him to provide political commentary and insight. Well, at least he's in the Sarah Palin moldy mold of no-noting, do-nothing, having accomplished next to nothing, smoke blower. Brown as a political commentator is like Bernie Madoff teaching ethics. They make it up as they do and hope they don't get caught.

French To Join SSM Parade

With the opposition reduced to petty cleverness (as in 4,999 amendments to clog the works), the French National Assembly voted 329 to 299 for same-sex marriage and adoption by gay couples. The Senate takes it up in two months and seems certain to make it law. President Francois Hollande supports and drove the move.

Good coverage at WaPo in the recap, with a bonus column speculating on what finally tipped France into the gang of nearby Roman Catholic-heavy countries who already legalized marriage equality.

Joyeuse St. Valentin.

While France led much of the world in decriminalizing homosexuality (1791, a trail of the Revolution), it's taken its time with this. Religiously and culturally similar Spain and Portugal, among others, have SSM already.

Now despite government support up and down, public opinion approval, and law almost completed, the opposition acts like that here. There's promise of both protests and court battles. Even in a country noted for sexual and marital liberty, the nasty meddlers want to be in charge of other folk's private matters.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Bye Bye, Benedict

I am not Roman Catholic, have never been and don't even play one on internet radio. Yet I have more than passing interest in Pope Benedict XVI, born Joseph Aloisius Ratzinger, 25 years running the Roman Inquisition (formally the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith), and widely known in ecclesiastical circles as God's Rottweiler

It may be unfair in some emotional ways for a non-RC type to criticize him, but he's long been a foe of marriage equality among other good trends. He's also done his damnedest (most blessed?) to shrink the Church. He's made it plain that he only wants to truly devoted and obedient congregants.

So, he announced that he's stepping down on February 28th and has called for a conclave to replace him in March. The last time a pope resigned was 598 years ago, when Gregory XII stepped down to heal a major succession schism.

I confess, if I may use that term in its common meaning, that I admire and appreciate his reasons. Unlike many predecessors who literally limped along when they were ailing and both physically and mentally enfeebled. he admitted he doesn't have the oomph to do papal duties. As he put it, ... "After having repeatedly examined my conscience before God, I have come to the certainty that my strengths, due to an advanced age, are no longer suited to an adequate exercise of the Petrine ministry..."

He brother Georg Ratzinger said the Poper was having increasing difficulty walking and that his resignation was part of a "natural process".  "His age is weighing on him. At this age my brother wants more rest."

I of course hope for a new, improved version, one less doctrinaire, more compassionate, and more believing in using the Church's resources for social action.