Friday, November 22, 2013

Warden Watson Passes

Again, my fantasy got ahead of the obvious. Joel Watson died on October 1st. He must have been really bothered to miss the huge Boston mayoral election.

We had worked together as peers for years at the industrial sanitizer scented dining room of the Woodbourne Apartments in Boston's Jamaica Plain. For each election, that became the shared polling place of Ward 19, Precincts 7 and 12. Joel was warden of 7 and I of 12.

He was a dedicated pinko and a solid Dem functionary, on the party's state committee for many years and such. The punchline there was that everyone in the political river knew, respected and liked Joel.

I can mention one aspect that does not appear in the obit linked above. He got along well with and managed difficult people. That's not a small deal in the elections biz. For those who have never managed inspectors and clerks, be aware it is both a talent and proof of temperament and breeding. Joel placated the irate, he soothed the indignant, and he made the average feel extraordinary. He had a good soul and humility beyond his superior essence.

I am sorry Joe passed.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Political Circus Restart

OK, it's really nothing in contrast to the recent, yet prolonged Boston municipal election season. They're back though, the pols that is.

I confess up front that I've missed it in the past month. I'll go for all five Dem gubernatorial candidates, as well as the GOP on as guests on Left Ahead. I'm unsure on Charlie Baker; donkeys are happy to talk with anyone, but elephants seem timid, particularly when our show's name has "left" in it. Dems seem to have more of the courage gene and willing go on hostile right-wing radio.

The house meet-and-greet mini-events are underway for next year's election. Last evening was sort of a mandatory hustings one — two would-be governors, in Jamaica Plain, at Doyle's backroom. It's a must stop. The other three will do the same thing in the same place in two weeks.

It's a fairly small room that fills for these. If you can't do these on a Wednesday evening, you can check the JP Progressives site for the videos of these one-hour-per-pol thingummies.

I apologize for the snaps. The lighting is God awful and I didn't disrupt with flash.

In some bizarre media meme, our commonwealth's treasurer/receiver general gets the "boring" bill. I've never found that true. He wasn't last night and clearly against AG Martha Coakley he was the star of the evening. Plus he always has handsome ties.

You can judge his presentation yourself by checking out any of his several appearances with us on Left Ahead.

Both candidates did well enough. It was nothing like a debate. One exited the arena before the other entered.

My takeaway was primarily that Grossman is already in finely tuned campaign mode. I think Coakley needs a better speech writer(s).

For a couple of examples;

  • Grossman spoke to a primary thrust as being addressing societal inequalities. He said his administration would try to leave no one behind. Instead of stopping with that predictable crowd pleaser, he made it memorable by saying that wasn't just rhetoric. "You can't put rhetoric on the dinner table, cut it up and feed it to your family."
  • Likewise, in responding to the importance of arts in education, he promised to find the funding and make it part of schools again. He didn't dribble off with that. Rather he said, "If we teach children to pick up a flute or paintbrush, they're much less likely to pick up a gun or syringe."

He's smart, both in general and in marketing himself. I bet he ups everyone's game in this race.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Hawaiian Anti-Gay Death Twitch

Sure, we knew they'd try. As threatened/promised, anti-marriage-equality sorts ran back to Hawaiian courts to try to block implementation of same-sex marriage after it became law yesterday. No dice, guys.

The AG had already said that the amendment passed in 1998 gave the legislature the power to define marriage. They did just that and came down for marriage equality.

Now the likely last word came from Circuit Court Judge Karl Sakamoto. He refused to issue a temporary restraining order. Instead, he plainly remarked, "After all the legal complexity of the court's analysis, the court will conclude that same-sex marriage in Hawaii is legal," SS marriages are set to start December 2nd. 

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Hawaii Done Deal

Moments ago, Hawaii Gov. Neil Abercrombie signed same-sex marriage into law in Honolulu.

Sure, sure, the anti-forces — anti-gay/anti-equality — will make a stab at getting a court to stay the Dec. 2nd start date of marriages. Just as certain, there must be plug nasties ready to start a drive for a new constitutional amendment with the sole intent of reversing it. I don't see either of those happening.

Much more likely, the anti-LGBT sorts will be reduced has they have here in MA. They'll be a dwindling party of bitter types, fewer each month, each year. As the state sees the lies about disaster that heard a decade ago, people will know (almost to a one) that SSM helps many, harms no one, and is, as the Hawaiians call it, pono.

We can hope for a quick healing of the hearts and a resetting of the minds of those who would harm, hinder and hurt homosexuals.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Hawaii = 16 = marriage

Hawaii passed same-sex marriage today, making it the 16th of 50 states and DC. Gov. Neil Abercrombie has been eager to sign and should this evening.

We saw the same hackneyed, even bigoted, emotional and personal-religion based rants by legislators and 1000+ who testified to the Senate and 5000+ before the House (much overlap). Many were opposed to equal marriage rights. They used identical whines, non-intellectual arguments, and even threats of election retribution as we heard here in MA.

Same-sex marriage starts Monday, December 2nd.

The good guys prevailed. The law is pono — righteous.

Post-vote update: Listening to many hours of testimony and speechifying by voters and legislators, I was moderately surprised. The anti-equality arguments were replays of those a decade ago here in MA. So many of the anti-SSM voter made it plain that because people heard their emotional pleas, somehow that should mean agreement. Not so in MA nor in HI.

Update update: The Star Advertiser got around to a full recap.

Saturday, November 09, 2013

What Were We Thinking? Hawaiian Version

Marriage-equality legislation staggers along in Honolulu. Yesterday, after many (I think 29) amendment attempts, the House approved the bill, 30 to 19. Next it goes back to the Senate, who had previously voted for it...without these amendments.

The Senate should take it up Tuesday and will almost certainly make it law. Gov. Neil Abercrombie has pens screaming for him to use them and he's ready.

The few amendments that did pass are mostly silly, with one exception. The process in Hawaii mirrored the Connecticut debates and compromises five years ago.

The troublesome change is a fair capitulation to anti-gay clerical types and church pols. It gives loosely religious-institution groups the right to continue discriminating. Even in their for-profit activities, like facility rental, that are open to the public, they can use the we-don't-like-homosexuals trump card. This in effect alters the state public-accommodation laws to allow this.

The other amendments are benign and redundant. The gist is a triple-pinky-swear for clerics. The bill already let them say no to officiating at same-sex weddings. They can play the faith card at will. The amendment specifies that no one can bring any charges or lawsuits if this happens.

Watching hours of testimony before the House committees was stunningly familiar. The queue of several thousand who spoke in opposition did so too predictably. The gist of most was that their personal religious feelings should determine public policy. To the endearing credit of the moderator legislators, they did not ridicule or even point out the illegality and irrationality of those two-minute anti-gay tirades and whines.

Yet in the version tossed back to the Senate, the influence of the haters ("Don't dare call us haters!," they say) and bigots ("I am not a bigot," they say.) is obvious. As it was in CT and elsewhere, when the concessions that moderately impinge on gay rights in order to deliver some equality become part of the law, the anti-gay nasties appear largely placated.

I assume serious control issues here. They had called for defeat of the bill; no. They wanted to go back to the start and do another task force to delay everything for a year or more; no. They wanted every business operator to be able to discriminate as churches still can. In amendment after amendment, they did all they could to weaken the bill; with these few sops as exceptions, no.

Now their death twitch will be a lawsuit to overturn the law as soon as it gets the governor's sig. They simply cannot tolerate democracy. It's every procedure and trick in the book when they don't get to harm and hamper homosexuals. They'll eventually go away wailing. Who knows, they may try what they did here in MA, a ballot initiative and court challenge. Unfortunately for them, Hawaii only allows initiatives on constitutional amendments.

The anti-equality sorts thought they had done that with the vote to give the legislature the right to define and specify who could marry. Well, now that actually happened. They don't like that either.

Raised as a Christian, I remain confused when any religious types, particularly Christians contort to hurt people. They'll very selective go to Leviticus in the Old Testament and Torah to find scripture that supports their bigotry, while ignoring much scripture that would lead them to support equality. Particularly for Christians, they have a whole New Testament and a Messiah who preach against what they are about.

I am pretty sure in a few years and certainly within 10 or 20 that Hawaiians will be proud of their inclusive equality, almost to a person. That's happened elsewhere, as here in MA. When they come to and ask, "What were we thinking?," don't ridicule them. Just be glad they arrived at the right place.

Friday, November 08, 2013

Hawaii Anti-Gay Types Play the Game

Astonishing still how the anti-gay folk would harm, hamper and hinder homosexuals. As we saw a decade ago here, we now hear and see in Hawaii. With the special session to consider same-sex marriage in full, tedious hearings, debate and readings, the same shtick is on stage.

Those who don't like gay folk (or much stronger than don't like) go through the same scripted skits. Those include:

  • Catch-22 logic — SSM mandated by courts fails due to activist judges, passed by legislature is not representative democracy rather somehow unfair, passed by plebiscite requires a second or third public vote, approved by multiple ways circularly turns back to court appeal
  • Personal religious views trump all — ignoring state and federal constitutional and case law, anti-gay sorts say their feelings overrule rights of homosexual couples
  • Time-out — despite years of discussions, hearings and trials, they claim there is not need to pass this law without restarting the whole process
  • 1st Amendment paranoia — forget contradictory history proof and history in 15 US states, Canada and numerous European and Scandinavian nations, enabling SSM will absolutely force clerics to conduct SS weddings, force teachers to describe and condone gay sex acts, that parents rights will be crushed and blah blah

There are numerous other lunacies, but they are along the same lines.

One would think that Hawaiian legislators and voters would have at least a passing knowledge of SS info on the net, in papers and on TV over the two decades. Every one of their objections are total jive. In countries and states that have enabled marriage equality, no one is harmed and many are helped. Even the total disingenuous lies about the mad-dad (David Parker) case are so blatantly false that only the willfully ignorant would begin to accept them.

Yet. it has come to this again and again and again. The anti-gay folk know they are dishonest and dishonorable. They simply don't care.

Thursday, November 07, 2013

Aloha. Who's pono here?

Hot times in Honolulu, as the legislature is finishing passing marriage equality in a lengthy, highly contentious special session. Tomorrow morning, the House is certain to hand off its moderately amended version to the Senate, which already passed its. The latter will almost surely pass it. Gov. Neil Abercrombie has his pen ready.

There are both reasons and excuses for anti-gay sentiment there. This process stains our fantasies of the loving, peaceful paradise way out there. Several of the print and broadcast media show heavy anti-SSM bias. Moreover, the anti types made much bigger displays in demonstrations and in testifying before both Senate and House committees.

As the very conservative and obviously anti-SSM Hawaii Free Press tabulated it:
The unofficial count found that of 10,749 unique pieces of written testimony submitted to the House, 8,556 (80%) were in opposition and 2,193 (20%) were in support. Of 1,032 oral testifiers, 895 (87%) opposed the measure and 137 (13%) supported it.
Both pro- and anti-equality types often used Hawaiian terms. One particularly pointed and poignant here was pono. That is right or righteous. Numerous pro-testifiers said equality was pono, and some on the other side claimed their religion trumped such civil rights, that rejecting the bill was pono.

What we saw and heard there is very familiar to folk here in MA and elsewhere on the mainland. That included:
  • Non-stop calls for a plebiscite on these rights
  • Vast majority of those testifying citing personal religious feelings
  • A few threats that (blah, blah) anyone who supported this would lose in the next election
In addition, as we see in one of the tweaks to the bill, there an extra, a racial component. The original SB 1 allowed for married homosexual couples where one is considered by blood (that word figures frequently in Hawaiian laws and programs) to be Hawaiian, they can claim Hawaiian ancestry for a child they adopt or conceive.

That was too much for some of those who testified. I recall vividly one young woman at the point of tears decrying the unfairness were a child with no Hawaiian blood to get access to government education and other benefits provided to descendants of the original people, pre-contact. Sure, that's pure racism, but consider how the native Hawaiians were subjugated, their monarchy replaced and on an on. Pride of genetics is a big deal there. I had heard that years ago from friends who grew up in Hawaii.

The bill itself started out straightforward enough. It slightly revised the main marriage statute to broaden it for same-sex couples. It did have the exemptions the legislators knew clerics, church politicians, and the most serious laypeople have needed elsewhere. That would be such as no penalty for legal solemnizers who refuse to officiate at SS weddings, and no penalty for religious institutions that refuse to allow SS weddings or receptions in their religious buildings.

Among the red herrings dragged around on the issue are the baseless contention that ministers and priests will either be forced to perform SS marriages (or face fine or jail or both) and that when this passes, all textbooks will have to include and teach homosexuality in the most positive light. Those and similar ones are sacks of crap, but ones some religious loons can't put down.

Instead in this process, they had most of their craziest demands shot down, while winning a few. For example,  they also got the effective date pushed out three weeks.

More substantially, non-profit wording came out of the religious institution exemption. In Hawaii as in MA other most places, public-accommodations laws and regulations do not allow discrimination by a religious organization when they run both a church and say a rental hall open to the public. Now in the form that this law is most likely to pass, religiously affiliated groups can pull their church card and discriminate willy nilly.

What the anti-folk did not get here was the same right for ordinary citizens running small businesses. Think bakers who weep at the idea of decorating queer wedding cakes. Lackaday.

So, Hawaii's version will be a little weaker than ours and most of the other 14 states'. Still, this is a big step.

A huge lesson learned here and elsewhere is that once SS marriages begin, people see that there is nothing but good coming from this slight expansion of equality. Sure, the most dedicated anti-gay types continue to fume or fulminate, but the vast majority go on. They become or return to being, as the local expression goes, hau‘oli — happy.

Saturday, November 02, 2013

Boston Pol Moms to the Rescue

For the preliminary, it was mayoral candidate Rob Consalvo's mom on the line. Today for the final, it's the tearjerker from Marty Walsh's maternal unit.

Rob's mother was much less emotional, and considerably more sincere. In fairness though, she got me from a phone bank and Mary Walsh's letter clearly came via a campaign flack.

I kind of know Rob's parents. I am the warden at their polling place. So when I answered the phone and heard, "This is Rob Consalvo's mom," she was in context. It was the vote-for-my-son pitch, but it was more comfortable. We live in the same neighborhood, I know her casually and her son pretty well. She even ended up saying, "He's a nice kid," and immediately correcting herself to, "I shouldn't say that. He's a grown man. He's a nice man." It was a jolly call and I ended up endorsing him for the preliminary, all things considered.

For the final two in this mayoral go though, John Connolly gently uses his family too. His wife and kids are in pix on his campaign site. She features in an ad for him. These though are just homey appearances. The Mary Walsh letter is melodramatic, plucking on every heartstring.

I'll paste the text below so you can roll the rich aroma of it. As a fair introvert myself, I have to revel in the heavy-handed piece. Whoever wrote this has no shame.

The whole letter text is:

Dear Neighbor, 

I am writing to you to ask you to consider voting for my son, Martin l. Walsh, 
for Mayor of the City of Boston. I am, of course, so proud of Martin -as I have 
been his entire life. 

The worst day of my life was when Martin, at age seven, was diagnosed with a 
deadly form of cancer. But at the same time, I knew he had the determination 
to beat it. That determination is what now makes him such a wonderful 
advocate for seniors and people in need of help. 

He has never given up on anything. He will work and work and work unril 
the job is done. That's what he was like as a construction worker, as a state 
legislator, and even as a seven-year-old cancer patient who did whatever he 
needed to do to help the doctors make him better. 

Martin is the kind of guy who cares deeply for the welfare of others. He was 
always looking out for my husband and me, my son ]ohn, and for our 
neighbors. And he's been helping those in need his entire life. 

Personally since my husband passed away, Martin has done everyrhing in his 
power to help me to stay in the house he was raised in. Clearly, he understands 
how important it is for me to maintain my independence. He appreciates 
that, physically, I am not what I once was and intuitively provides the 
support I need particularly as it relates to my staying at home. 

Simply put, Martin has the vision and values that would be so good for our 
city -to ensure that everyone has an opportunity for a better life. I ask you 
to support my son's candidacy, as I have no doubt that you will be as proud of 
him as Mayor as I will be. 

A1l the best, 

Mary Walsh 

Ya got your kid with cancer. Ya got your loyal son caring for the decrepit mom. Ya got the widow.

For all the journos who've been looking for differentiation between the two candidates, here's a big one. Unlike the present and previous mayors, a Walsh administration might well be a TMI one, heavy on the emotion and revelatory details. I suppose we could adapt.

Recently, Meg Connolly finally appeared to have had enough of the kid-with-cancer card. She didn't note that the type young Marty got almost always responds excellently to chemo, as his did, and unlike his mother's "a deadly form of cancer" description. Meg revealed to a reporter that she had had cancer and they beat it together with her doctors. She still doesn't make it a pity point, despite being the mother of three wee ones. It's a different mindset.

Read the putative Walsh-mom letter and see that, first, it's not credible that she wrote it. Second, that's a computer font and not her signature (small point, but why not get real at the bottom?). Third, was the worst day of her life, a life of a long-term married that included the death of her husband, a cancer diagnosis with a good prognosis? Fourth, why should we extrapolate that doing the expected son's duty of keeping his mom perking to proof that he "has the vision and values that would be so good for our city..."? The letter appealed only to raw emotion.

Of course, that last question is rhetorical. The letter clearly was written by some political functionary.

An underlying theme is that Marty Walsh wants us to believe. He wants us to believe he is sincere, honest and transparent. Other than that background, this kind of cheap hyper-emotional gimmick would not be unusual. Candidates use their family members are props and puppets all the time.

Truth be told, I found the call from Rob Consalvo's mom, the real human being, much more convincing than the voice-over in Mary Walsh's name.

Walsh could well win this thing, but if so, he'll come in slimier than he has to.

Friday, November 01, 2013

Aloha Equality, 20 Years Late

Yes, yes, Hawaii should have been the first state in our nation to legalize same-sex marriage. Now they are finally finishing the equality task. Obvious has not been simple.

In 1991, the state Supreme Court ruled in Baehr v. Lewin that denying same-sex couples marriage was unconstitutional discrimination. Well, they weren't ready to pioneer. The case bounced through appeals while the anti-gay forces gathered in a panic and led to a one-man/one-woman amendment forbidding equality in 1998.

Eventually, they got to a civil-unions law but no farther. Until this the past two weeks...

As I write this, 5,181 locals have signed up for their two minutes each to testify, in all senses of the term, before a House committee considering whether to concur with the Senate. The latter body has already passed SB 1 in special session to legalize SSM by 20 to 4. The tally in the House is that there will be enough votes to pass it. Progressive Gov. Neil Abercrombie has his pen ready. In fact, it was his call for the special session.

Baseless Fears

The basis of the Senate version was the bill never acted on during the regular session, its draft is here. Those accustomed to the per-state fights will recognize the skeleton. The actual change to law is plain — homosexual couples will have the same access to marriage as different-sex ones. Then there is the placating overlay, iterating in excruciating detail that:
  • solemnizers (a.k.a. marriage officiants) don't have to perform SS weddings if they don't want to
  • religious organizations don't have to permit same-sex weddings in their facilities if they don't want to
Such protections, already on top of US and Hawaiian constitutional religious protections are never, ever enough for the anti-gay sorts. Without any reason or proof whatsoever, they go on and on about how they are just positive that permitting SSM in their state will force their ministers to consecrate queer marriages. That is a a really tiresome rap and one the Senate in its 1-minute speaker slots and now the House in its 2-minute ones heard repeatedly.

Having spent parts of my life in West Virginia and South Carolina, the stupid and bigoted talk coming out of Oahu in the last few days is not what I associate with the island paradise, rather rural backwoods hicks. It's the same old dreck we heard here in MA a decade ago. Hawaiians have fair less excuse though, being able to look at many states with successful SSM implementations, all where religious freedoms are more than observed and only good accrues to the citizens.

The wrinkle comes with its mandatory irony as well. The anti-forces are of course screaming, "Let the people vote!" That's the call when either representative democracy (a.k.a., the legislature) and the courts mandate equality. Suddenly, the nasties demand a plebiscite on other folks' civil rights. Honk. Wrong.

Special Rights

The other part of the humor is that they want special rights (what they falsely accuse homosexual couples of wanting). In this case, they are calling for amendments to the bill to legalize discrimination that is presently against the law in Hawaii. Specifically, they want a conscience clause exempting any private, for-profit, business of public accommodation. That would be if you run say a bakery or photography biz or rent your hall to the public, you'd get the religious exemption if you don't like them homos. It's like suddenly making every business into a church and making every for-profit side business of a church into a religious institution.

Of course that would be a Pyrrhic victory if passed. If you want to be a for-profit biz, you have to obey federal and state public-accommodation statutes and regulations, including non-discrimination ones. A challenge would wipe those away pretty quickly if the House was dumb enough to include them and the Senate acquiesced to the blackmail just to pass the larger bill.

However, the anti-gay types are not going to get their plebiscite and if they can delay passage by a few days by loading BS amendments onto the bill, they'll fee smug and briefly righteous.

Back in the capitol in Honolulu, the House committee has amazing patience. Why they would listen to the iterative, repetitive snippets pro and con SSM almost eludes me. I have to keep in mind that they are letting the nasties vent and rant. Loading this vitriol upfront is a great prophylaxis. Both chambers have also been open-minded in letting the dumbest of their legislators carry on.

As it is, the several thousand testifiers could go on until Tuesday or even Friday. This is truly from MacBeth — sound and fury signifying nothing. Yet, the drama plays on and on, hour upon hour and day upon day.

In the end, apparently, Hawaii will finally manifest its two-decade-old promise of marriage equality to match its constitution, and now to bring up the wagon of states embracing SSM. They are not quite what Le Tour riders call la lantern rouge, the slowest rider, in an allusion to the red lantern hung on the back of a train caboose. They sure have lost their shot at leading though.

Pic note: Thanks to Jeff Polston's site for the lantern image.

Dirty Money in City of Dirty Water

Alas, to the many of us who see Citizens United as anti-democracy institutionalized, the battle to buy the Boston mayoralty is wrenching. John Connolly's hidden supporters are not all that clean, but Marty Walsh's stick to high heaven.

Apparently the Globe nudged its reporters awake when the excellent piece by David Bernstein appeared. They mirrored his coverage.

Walsh's folk are in a ham-fisted, buy-the-election mode. In these last few days, that will surely inspire Connolly's stealth supporters to try to play catch-up, try to match the ad blitz.

Neither candidates' hands-off PAC folk will reveal donors until January, although the candidates have weakly asked pretty please that they do.While election laws and regulations prevent candidates from communicating directly with these donor  groups, Connolly at least had gotten his previously to stop spending on his behalf, in a one-sided display of morality.

We know a little from early disclosures. Connolly's outside money seems related to pro-charter-schools groups and Walsh's to big labor unions, notably the AFL-CIO. Unequally, as both guys want more charter schools here, Connolly's backers seem much more benign, almost to the point of disinterest.

More disturbing is the extrapolation to a Walsh administration, which seems increasingly likely. Union members, reportedly largely from outside Boston, have been ordered to canvass for him here and supposedly will get people to the polls. Coupled with, as Bernstein put it, the election being "for sale," Mayor Walsh does not inspire confidence in an independent city hall.

The vast majority of Bostonians, including me, are pro-union. More so, we like to think our pols are not bought by special interests. Assuming big union money buys his way into office, Walsh would likely be a creature of his benefactors.

....sticks mightily.