Thursday, December 18, 2014

Gone with the obituary

Cross-post note: This appears at my non-political blog, Harrumph! As it is marriage related, it seems apt here too.

A college chum made his family vanish in his self-written obit. A wife and four daughters vanished in his detailed recap of life and kin.
I feel a double connection. I introduced, really connected, him and the woman he’d marry….first Then over 20 years later, he’d ask me to be a witness in the bizarre and hypocritical Roman Catholic annulment tribunal.
It’s not my thought to demean any religion’s dogma or processes. Yet from a post written at the time of the declaration-of-nullity proceeding, I clearly was stunned at the acrobatics involved. Likewise, reading the obit he wrote, I marvel at the duplicity.
His second wife, also Roman Catholic, insisted on an annulment, so they could marry in their church. Her will be done. Meanwhile, while he pressured em to fill in the complex tribunal questionnaire from the Savannah diocese, I was and remain uneasy.
As requested in the cover material, I did check the papers and answers with a local priest. He heads one of the region’s largest parishes and certainly understands his church’s rules, if not MA history.  He nimbly clarified the how and why of the process. To this UU, he was an animated FAQ on nullity. While I still see it very much as a game and a fund raiser, annulment is not otherwise part of my life and that is not my church.
The puzzlement comes when the theater extended to my friend’s death statements. The RC Church is careful to claim a nullified marriage did in fact exist when it occurred and that any children resulting did not become illegitimate as a result of the declaration. With his heart conditions and knowing his end was at hand, he could not drop the ruse.
The longest paragraph in his obit lists his relatives, sort of. His second wife’s folk abound. She is s”the great love of his life.” Her parents, children, grandchildren, siblings and appendices all appear. On his side, his late father appears in the previous résumé-style paragraph. At the very bottom of the survivors he mentions his late brother.
Invisible are his aged mother, his very alive sister, his first wife and his four daughters. I can surmise that he was estranged from his family, perhaps as a result of his leaving, divorcing and getting that annulment from wife #1. I can imaging wife #2 insisting he drop contact with his birth and previous family.
I’ll likely track down and call his first wife. That will mean confessing my role in the nullity process. That would probably be good for my psyche.
My erstwhile chum seems to prove the idea in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Last Tycoon that “There are no second acts in American Lives.” He avoided the complications and development of personal play, going directly to the resolution, comfortable if delusional.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Alarm! Designated Solemnizing in Peril!

Lackaday, my blogger name is massmarrier and I've been at the designated solemnization biz since July 2004. Today though, the harsh news is that the long-standing MA means of plain folk performing marriages is on hold.

Allegedly having friends and relatives do the honors at the ceremony might start again next month. Given a ponderous bureaucracy and a new governor, who's to say for sure?

You can catch my various early posts from the thrilling yester-decade from the archives, like here and here and here. Also the image is of the old-style wax seal from my first solemnization. Not only is the new version just a peel-off seal embossed with a squeeze, but the application process is pretty much online (except for providing a character-reference letter).

The Globe piece on the hiatus for the process cites failure by success. The designations have become more popular. Even so, they are talking 14 a day. Maybe the governor and secretary of the commonwealth should go to a fast-food joint or the RMV to see how to process.

I have performed five marriages as a designated solemnizer and one as a Universal Life Monastery minister. I prefer the theater and elegance of petitioning the governor. In my heart of hearts, I'm sure the governor per se does not approve anything, that someone on the staff eyeballs the application to get a sense you're not trying to pull an immigration or other scam, and then a functionary in the secretary of the commonwealth's office records and mails out the form. Still, it's the idea.

By the bye, CA copied us a few years ago and improved the process. You can go to a local registrar for approval, do not have to wait the nominal three weeks (I never waited more than 10 days), and can perform multiple marriages per calendar year. We are supposedly limited to one per year, although they make an exception for me once.

In short, if we can't handle 14 of these a day, we need to tweak our process and maybe our law. We can return the favor to CA who copied our law and copy their (new, improved) version.

Truly, performing the marriage friends and in my case, a son, is more meaningful than a hired gun JP.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Warming in Scandinavia

Finland doesn't seem to be in any hurry. It did get around to legislating marriage equality at last, today.

Over 10,000 years ago, it was the last place to get ready for the Stone Age as the last ice sheets receded. Then nomads began settling. It has since nudged its way to over five million residents (about the same as Houston or Madrid). With its empty spaces and sparse population, it has a high percentage of internet and cellphone use, but no leading modernity. Even in its atavism, it is not very political and so low key in that way it doesn't even have a national motto.

Let it be written though that on 28 November 2014, its unicameral parliament approved same-sex marriage 105 to 92. They had registered partnerships of homosexual couples for 12 years and were the only Scandinavian country without marriage equality.

So, the deal is done but not the details. Finland is never rushed. The Grand Committee of parliament gets the decision for a pro forma approval and then the whole parliament reapproves it also pro forma. Then as in other backwaters like Massachusetts many forms, regulations and enabling lawn need tweaking. Couples there may have to wait though next year or as long as March 2017 for everything to be in place after all the approval. Finland is not to be rushed.

Another oddity is that the head of the official church is on board. It's good for the country and in line with the church's values said Archbishop Kari Mäkinen of the Evangelical Lutheran church, About three quarters of Finns belong.

However, Finland became a focal point for anti-gay/anti-equality types there and even our own MassResistance bozos. In Finland, audible complaining came from the likes of Interior Minister Päivi Räsänen. It remains to be seen whether she'll be obstructionist n helping implement parliament's marriage decision. However she promises to be a sore loser, saying, "I believe that in the future a large group of Finns will continue to consider marriage to be a bond between a man and a woman, and that they will not consider relationships between people of the same gender to be marriages."

Regardless, she can sit in a corner and spew. Like New England, Scandinavia is now a marriage-equality bloc. Happy holidays.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Marc Solomon on the long battles for SSM

Marc Solomon mug, from his websiteMarc Solomon is justifiably flogging his newly published Winning Marriage: The Inside Story of how Same-Sex Couples took on the Politicians and Pundits — and Won. He is national campaign director for Freedom to Marry and has been a key player in several rights groups for 13 years.

Eager-Reader Note: You can order his book through his website. Click on the title above to go there.

In fundamentally another stop on his book tour, Solomon came on to answer past, present and future questions about marriage equality in the U.S., as well as describing what's in WMTISOHSSCTOTPAPAW. We're not huge on promoting books. That's for the likes of The Daily Show. However, I think this is one is really timely, very important, and with a strong local angle.

Solomon admits we aren't quite to full marriage equality yet, but expects it soon. He figures that with or without Chief Justice John Roberts' vote, the Supreme Court will expand it to the nation, likely this term, by the end of June 2015.

Getting there has not been easy nor linear. Click the player below to hear some of the road blocks and struggles. He recounts the anguish of California's Prop 8, which stripped legislated equality away, only to have it restored in another initiative. There, then Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger "punted" as Solomon put it, after vetoing SSM twice and claiming the courts should decide. In the end though, Schwarzenegger aided the cause by not fighting the result.

Solomon also recalled the struggle to keep marriage equality alive in MA, the first state to legalize it, with the Goodridge decision of our Supreme Judicial Court. Efforts to overturn that pivoted on a ballot initiative that would require only 25% of the combined bicameral legislature to put to a risky vote. Listen in as Solomon describes what worked in MA and later elsewhere. Convincing lawmakers to support equality required gay couples, many with children, to visit their Reps and Senators to simultaneously present themselves and plead the case. That made the difference here and elsewhere.

While that campaign went on, Solomon said the pro-marriage-equality forces often felt the whole world opposed them — leadership in the Vatican, the commonwealth's Republican party, local pols like Sen. John Kerry, and national ones like Karl Rove. He talks about how their strategy won the day, even with legislators from rural and more conservative urban areas.

Now, Solomon says, the anti- forces have pretty much lost their strength. The Catholic Church has shifted its position, the Mormon Church has backed away, and the professional anti-gay groups have much less support as the nation favors SSM by 60% or more.

For one point, Solomon is much kinder to President Barack Obama than I on the issue. Many political insiders hold that Obama was always pro-SSM but cynically held off saying so before his first election. I am incredulous that he and his wife, both lawyers with him also a former law professor, certainly knew the distinction between religious ritual and civil marriage.Solomon, who was privy to White House thinking, phrases the process leading to Obama's support for equality differently. Solomon sees a very narrow range where politicians feel comfortable making definitive statement on controversial issues. "It's simply the way the political process works," he said.

Cross-post note: This appears at Left Ahead.

Thursday, November 06, 2014

Marriage Fight on a Platter to the Supremes

No more hiding from marriage-equality for the US Supreme Court, as the 6th Court of Appeals ruled 2 to 1 to uphold same-sex marriage bans in Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee. This stands alone after the 4th, 7th, 9th and 10th Courts rejected the bans and upheld lower-court rulings.

Despite the jive rhetoric of right wingers, has seldom been "activist" or "legislators from the bench." That's what wingers have called it when the Supremes or state high courts do their jobs but don't find as conservatives want.

Instead, the Supremes have largely waited until pushed hard and often enough. Every so rarely, they do something wacky, illogical and spitting in precedence, such as Citizen's United. Normally our highest court only goes into huge battles when there is a direct conflict between Courts of Appeal.

Ta da.

Observers figured this was eventually going to happen, even after a long, thick string of victories for equality. The 6th Circuit is very conservative and was the likely catalyst. Simply put, come out, come out. You guys have to decide. Suddenly equal protection is up against states' rights.

Today's ruling was about more than just marriage of homosexual couples. Among the cases the three-judge panel considered were whether same-sex couples could adopt, whether they had such rights as being on each other's death certificates (with all those ramifications), and whether states had to offer comity — recognizing same-sex marriages performed in other states where they are legal (i.e. most of the nation).

There is no legal option for the Supremes. They likely won't rush into this one, but will have to decide it.

Friday Update: LGBTQNation reports that the lesbian couple who sued Michigan for the right to jointly adopt their three kids are preparing an appeal to the SCOTUS. This likely will hasten the schedule for taking up the big question at the top.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

MA Election Choices. Fret Not on 11/4.

Yes indeed we'll have two-page, double-sided ballots next week. Be aware most of that is the four ballot questions...and that this is a simpler set of choices than the recent Dem primary.

I happily play scout and point the trail. I read the literature, go to the stump speeches, watch the debates, and drill down into the campaign sites so others don't have to. People do ask and I do say.

Do all of us elections officials and your fellow voters a big favor. Show up knowing which ovals you'll smear. You can do the essential research in two minutes through the secretary of the commonwealth's site. Go here to view or print your precinct's ballot.

Count 'em 4 Questions

This includes the four ballot questions, with all of their explanatory text. Please come with your choices. We have to account for every page of every ballot all day long. If you don't vote on the front and back of the second page, the scanner will reject it and an official will have to trot over to manually override that.

I have strong thoughts on these four. If you don't or are undecided on any, feel free to use my brain. The short of it No on 1 and Yes on 2, 3, and 4. My reasoning is in my Left Ahead podcast, which you can access here.

Mostly Obvious Choices

Sometimes I mix it up, but this cycle, the picks are Dems, as in:

  • US Sen. Re-elect Ed Markey over a weak GOP Brian Herr (no real vision or any other virtues)
  • Gov./Lt. Gov. Martha Coakley/Steve Kerrigan over Charlie Baker/Karyn Polito. Reject the baseless, even puerile, fantasy that putting a Republican in the titular head office somehow balances anything. The nominally heavily Dem legislature is not very liberal putting a GOP Gov. in is silly. Baker has toxic history from his roles running HHS and the Big Dig finance, and in his inhumane approach to fixing Harvard Pilgrim. Don't trust him.
  • AG. No contest between the brilliant and experiened Maura Healeyk and the ho-hum John Miller.
  • Secretary of State. Bill Galvin is stagnant and is a Luddite whose technology foot-dragging makes it hard to access "his" data (it should be ours). Alas, neither D'Archangelo nor Factor has made a convincing argument to unseat him. Too bad. Last time, Jim Henderson did, but as an indy, he didn't have the recognition. Begrudgingly, Galvin yet again.
  • Treasurer. Deb Goldberg is the one, over GOP Mike Heffernan and Indy Ian Jackson. She has the experience and smarts.
  • Auditor. Re-elect Suzanne Bump over GOP Patricia Saint Aubin and Indy MK Merelice. In a fit on inexplicable asininity, The Globe endorsed Saint Aubin. who is an anti-gay, anti-marriage-equality bigot. Moreoer, she got a basic accounting degree 34 years ago and briefly practiced as an auditor; too little, too long ago to qualify her for anything. She is abrasive. Bump has found terrific waste in the system and saved us tons of money. Let her keep at it.
  • Congress. Incumbents are OK and in the one meaningful race for an open slot, the Sixth US House District, go with Seth Moulton over Richard Tisei. I generally like Bay Windows picks, but they are wrong picking the latter. Sure, he's openly gay and wants to push ENDA, but he's a Republican first and not in a good way. He promises to be John Boehner's puppy. Tisei has been a MA state senator and there's nothing he knows that Moulton can't outdo in a few days of study and conversation. Moulton has better politics and planks.

More of my reasoning on most of these choices are in another Left Ahead show here.

So, if for some reason you don't totally agree with all my choices, still vote next Tuesday. For all of our sake, come prepared with your picks.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Huck Has Hissy...Yawn

Après moi,...

In the case of Mike Huckabee, the threat is le déluge. But far more realistically, it would be just sans moi.

It was big yucks from Huck last Tuesday on winger radio, American Family Radio's Today's Issues. He was on with a couple of other loonies, including Rick Santorum. Huckabee's false prophesy starts around 22:18.

The short of it is that he said that if Republicans accept same-sex marriage, the GOP will lose all elections going forward. Setting aside that the opposite has been the case and getting more so, bigotry and discrimination don't cut it.

Moreover, the Huck says obey him, GOP, or see a wholesale desertion.
I am utterly exasperated with Republicans and the so-called leadership of the Republicans, who have abdicated on this issue, If the Republicans want to lose guys like me and a whole bunch of still God-fearing and Bible-believing people just go ahead and abdicate on this issue. And while you are at it, go ahead and say abortion doesn't matter either because at that point you lose me.
I'll become an independent and I'll start finding people that have guts to stand," he said. "I am tired of this.
He's going to take his Bible and go away, but not go home. He seems to figure he'll call out, "Over here, y'all true Christians," and millions will do it.

Alas, his record of leading and harvesting voters suggests, very strongly, otherwise.

Vanity and ego, behold yourself in Mike Huckabee.

Monday, October 06, 2014

SCOTUS turns back on marriage bans

SCOTUS shocks must be good for me, at least keeping me alert and flexible. They did it again today, refusing without comment the requests by five states to review federal courts overturning their gay-marriage bans.

WaPo has its usual thorough coverage of this here. Also, The NYTimes has deeper history here.

Indiana, Oklahoma, Utah, Virginia and Wisconsin are in this batch. In Virginia, for example, that commonwealth will begin issuing licenses this afternoon and will recognize the same-sex marriages from other states where they are legal already.

It is almost certain that this will quickly expand to six more states — Colorado,  Kansas, North Carolina, South Carolina, West Virginia — where federal appeals courts have ruled such bans unconstitutional. That would bring to 30 the number of states with marriage equality.

States that has piled on both constitutional amendments and laws banning marriage equality are the legal equivalent of oldsters whose Depend diapers fail them, with lots of soiled clothing involved.

How now what they manage to hurt, harm, hamper and hinder homosexuals? We can be sure the plug nasties will keep at it. They've done that with abortion and contraception rights, voting laws and more. When they hate a group, they plug away.

Meanwhile, this morning's SCOTUS announcement hints strongly that the high court will duck nationwide case this term to settle this. Despite the crazy conservative decisions of late, it seems the justices can't deny that marriage is a fundamental right, hence worthy of legal protection.

A clear case or set of cases would almost certainly come down favoring marriage equality. The justices are particularly loath to mandate where individual states have traditionally set their rules. Of course, they did just that in Loving v. Virginia, but that was 57 years ago.

I say it's time to do it again.

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Lively Deadly at Mic

Many other nations have their own public loonies. As in the U.S., those have voice as politicians or actors or business owners. Our most local, current version certainly includes Scott Lively.

He is one of five who will appear on the MA ballot for governor on Nov. 4th. I'd write "God help us," but that is largely a figure of speech. Lively seems to think he has that market cornered,

Pix note: Above are two screen caps (fair use claimed) from WGBY's recent broadcast of a gubernatorial debate with the five candidates. The wide-eyed one at left was his finest, funniest moment when he answered a question about medical marijuana by shouting that he "inhaled...A LOT!" While ID'ing himself as a pastor, he admits to 16 years of alcohol and other drug abuse. The image on the right is of his more usual, studied expression.

Lively is plain about his ideas. They are on his campaign site, as well as his personal one. The latter includes PDF files of chapters of his widely debunked co-authored The Pink Swastika. The book postulates that the Holocaust in particular and Nazism more generally were direct products of a group of German homosexuals.

A hallmark of ingrained, intense bigotry is that its being like a tarp that can cover everything. You can take Lively's words to verify that. If you did not catch the debate, check the video on the link above in the Pix note. Scroll to the bottom of the article to play it.

In the spirit of religiosity, I confess. I have not contacted Lively to ask him to do a Left Ahead show. The Dems and independents have all been on (see archives). The Republican won't even return my calls or emails, likely terrified of "Left" in the show title. For Lively, I'm not at all confident I could be civil enough to let him express himself. I could end up doing a show in the style of Bill O'Reilly or Chis Matthews for him.

Square One, Square One

Lively is a good entertainer, as befits a self-described pastor. For example, near the end of the debate, he had the best shtick of the hour, riffing on what he said was his 16 years of drug abuse. Unfortunately, he plays the dour scold nearly always.

You can read his positions on his campaign site. They are extreme and very much out of sync with MA voters' views. While his team managed to get 10,000-plus registered voters to sign his ballot petitions, they'd be hard pressed to find 10,000 people here that really agree with his positions, which include:

  • Abortion is the intentional killing of a living human being and should be criminalized...Since abortion is a form of homicide, it should bear similar punishment, depending on the severity of the particular crime.
  • (W)e should abolish public-employee unions and return to the earlier model in which public service was a civic duty and privilege shared by the citizens.
  • Since they (LGBT people) cannot prove that homosexuality, bisexuality and transgender is innate and unchangeable, we must assume for the sake of the children that these behavior-based lifestyles are acquired, and can be overcome. 
  • Rather than rewarding those who gained (or gamed) their entry to the United States by cheating (I'm speaking now of the adults who have been here for a long time), it is time to ask the illegal immigrants to take all that they have learned about living in an orderly democratic society back to their homelands so they can recreate there what they have enjoyed here.
  • We should dismantle the destructive feminist system of emasculating boys with pharmaceuticals and gender-blending social engineering tactics in public schools and the popular culture, and restore key elements of what feminists derisively call the “patriarchal society,” but which in reality is just respect for authentic male leadership.

Those are just samples from his positions. In the full context, those and such planks as the death penalty are more extreme.

During the debate, nearly every comment returned to what he termed his Biblical world view. That, of course, meant his particular take on carefully chosen verses to support his starting positions.

For example, he disdained LGBT rights and any mention of homosexuality during classes. Nothing else illustrated this so clearly as his off-the-road detour from the question about MA infrastructure. Consider:
I think there's a corrupt system we have right now and frankly I thank when we're talking corruption, we really need to be looking at the moral infrastructure of Massachusetts as well. We're killing unborn babies every single day in this state. We are promoting sexual perversion to the children in the public schools. Those kinds of things are corrupting us from the inside much worse than what's happening with our road system and our bridges.
He had started out touching on a bit of the infrastructure problem, suggesting that state contractors pay for bonds to cover cost overruns on bids. Yet he did not really address the infrastructure question the other four did. He brought in all manner of unrelated subjects, thoroughly muddying the waters and likely confusing listeners. He again also brought in his personal bugbear, homosexuals.

To his credit, Baker answered the next question and ended by taking Lively to task for his anti-gay allusion. Baker noted that his gay and married brother informed his views and feelings here, that he found the remarks somewhat offensive. Lively tossed out afterward, "I believe in the Bible, Charlie. I'm sorry that you don't."

Other oddments

I suggest listening to the debate, even if you just fast forward to Lively's answers. You'll hear that what was an idyllic agrarian MA has deviated from our Judeo-Christian to a Marxist perspective. Lively would aim to severely limit state government. "I would reverse that process. I would go back to localism," he said.

He would not increase funding for education, and in fact opposes universal pre-K. He believes that public schools, even before first grade are turning children over to government. He'd set up a voucher system that would include paying home-schooling parents.

He called climate change and global warming concerns "a scam." "The nonsense called global warming is a scheme of transnational elitists to institute a global taxation system," he said. He figures climate change can largely be blamed on the sun.

Those are glimpses of Lively's shadow world. Do listen to the whole debate and ponder his sites if you need more.

Back in the U.S.A.

Despite frequent victimization claims of repression by wingers and religious extremists, the U.S. is damned (that word again) loose in free speech. We let citizens and visitors make all manner of wild, unsupported, unsupportable claims. We don't have hate-speech laws like many European nations and Canada.

As states began enabling marriage equality, anti-gay sorts often claimed that it would mean preachers would be pulled from their pulpits and sent to prison for homophobic rhetoric. It hasn't, can't and won't happen here, but that does not stop the canard.

Instead haters like Lively can and do get on ballots. They almost always lose, but they can run, speak, and attract the votes and donations of like-minded loons. I think this is where we're supposed to agree it's a great country.

Sunday, September 07, 2014

Mail-order rights to rites

Till now, I avoided the Universal Life Church, a.k.a. The Monastery. Any hippie or hipster leanings I've had stopped short of what some deride as mail-order ordination.

Instead I hiked uphill with my respect and affection for marriage. The five I have performed — solemnized in nuptial lingo — started with petitioning the governor here. That is the state law and one of the inspirations for this blog, along with promoting marriage equality. Yet the process sounds a bit grander than its reality.

One of my early posts here over a decade ago was on what was then the physical process of earning the wax seal on the one-day certificate of solemnization. Alas, over the years and the five marriages, the official process of getting the right to sign a couple's license has lost much of its theater.

Even the stodgy secretary of the commonwealth's office uses technology to simplify, streamline, and in the process demystify getting the paper. You can apply online and be pretty set in a week.

I confess that I enjoyed the formality of petitioning the governor. In reality, that surely fell and falls to some petty functionary in the secretary of the commonwealth's office. Now that would lack drama in the telling.

On the other hand, three years ago, a chum from my professional association asked if I would solemnize his daughter's wedding when she and her beau were on a prolonged visit during their break from their French college. Of course I would, although that would run afoul of our general law Chapter 207 §39. That law limits one-day solemnizations to one per calendar year.

I filled out the application to the governor's office and in my cover letter noted that this would be second marriage that year. Much to my surprise I got a call from Gov. Deval Patrick's top aide, saying that would be fine.

Note that California has done this right. For the longest time, Massachusetts was alone in this splendid method of letting family and friends conduct marriages for loved ones. When California was looking at pending passage of marriage equality, it passed but better legislation. There, you can get the privilege much as you would a marriage license, no high ranking officials involved at all. Plus, you can perform as many as you'd like.We need to catch up with the leapfroggers.

Recently when the sister of a family friend asked via that friend if I'd perform her wedding, I agreed. Then I considered the logistics. There wasn't much time. More important, they knew place but were unsure of the date. The one-day law requires exact details of the couple, the city of marriage ceremony and the date. If anything changes, you need to re-apply.

That sent me to the Monastery. I wanted the flexibility that comes with just being able to sign the license after the ceremony. Lackaday, the residual theater goes away here.

I did apply and got my credentials of ministry quickly. However, while in many states, that's all you need, Massachusetts adds a layer.  While it is free to do you, to perform marriages here, you must get on an approved list. That includes:

  • Being a Massachusetts resident
  • Providing a copy of ordination papers
  • Sending an original letter of good standing in the church that ordained you

That took a few extra days to assemble the paperwork. It also highlighted one of The Monastery's clever funding wrinkles. The packets of documents with ordination do no include a letter of good standing. In states that require one to have on file, it requires another order ($18 more, plus $18.50 shipping, in a #10 envelope).

There is an Emergency Minister's Package ($64.99, plus shipping) that includes the letter. You would suppose that more expensive and grander sounding packages would have it all, but they do not. To their credit, The Monastery does have some packages for states with convoluted laws, like California, NYC, NY state same-sex, and Nevada extras.

The key point is that you should work several angles if you go with the Monastery. Find out from the secretary of state where you might perform marriages before getting ordained this way. Then you can safe effort, time and money returning to order the surprise essentials.

Note too that after submitting everything to get on the marriage list here, I found they don't notify you. You need to call them and make sure they got the paperwork and certified you an officiant.

On the other hand, if you are in Massachusetts and expect to perform a single marriage, go with petitioning the governor. It's only $25 pus a stamp, and comes with the cachet of explaining how you, a non-minister/not-JP got to do that.

I would note to anyone deriding ULC/Monastery ordination, it's a several steps down from a divinity school degree, plus the fellowship process many churches require. However, it is a solid step up from the self-ordaining crowd. I know people who call themselves ministers, saying they got a personal call from God, and others who give themselves ecclesiastical titles (Bishop is big in one father/son mega-church around here). It's made-up stuff and America is just one country with a long history of ministry-because-I-say-so.

For the pending wedding, I met with the couple. As with each of the previous weddings, I planned, customized and produced the ceremony and vows. Unlike the many weddings I've attended, mine are what suits and what will be memorable to the couple and attendants.

I suspect ministers, justices of the peace and others who conduct weddings get as tired of the cant as the guests do. When my eldest son married, I dickered with him and my future daughter-in-law considerably on wording. They really only knew what they didn't wants (like nothing from the Bible). In the end, I drafted my own concept, figuring that was the next round of negotiation. Mirabile dictu! They were pleased and we went with it.

At their reception, a minister and a JP asked for copies of the ceremony. They were tired of delivering the same repeatedly. As with so much of life, creativity trumps cliché.

I'm likely to report here on how this wedding goes next weekend. While I'll miss turning in the designation of solemnization with the signed license, they'll be just as married.

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

MA Dems in Gov. Ruts

Having just watched and listened to the BIG DEBATE (numerous media outlets) 6 days before the MA primary, I was disheartened. As a pol wonk, I fretted at how few voters might have tuned in or stayed in; as a poll warden, I feared how few would bother to come to the polls 9/9.

The short of it is that the two moderators — Andy Hiller and Janet Wu — are pretty simple-minded and do not fit the Socratic ideal of maieutic questioning. Hiller had some bozo mindset of drilling whether it differed that funds came from the feds or commonwealth. Wu was her usual dull self, unable ask anything insightful.

I did not get the sense in the hour that far-front leader Martha Coakley avoided controversy or hard positions to play it safe, Her style is simply non-confrontational and even noncommittal.

Granted I favor the bold, progressive positions of Don Berwick.  It's no surprise that I thought he trounced Martha Coakley and Steve Grossman. His powerful performance should make little difference. All the polls have Coakley winning by 20 or more points over Grossman and Berwick getting the bronze.

Berwick is clearly also the avuncular figure in the race. He is a pediatrician by training and career, with all the compassion and wit that comes with it.  (In a disclaimer, I have known his casually for nearly 35 years, as he was the backup for our firstborn when we moved to Boston and he still was in the stethoscope end of the biz.)

He repeatedly used that to good effect this evening as he waved at AG Coakley and Treasurer Grossman  to paint them as career pols. "I haven't clapped anybody's back," he said. "I don't know any lobbyists."

One amusing, if ultimately trivial, question for the trio was as they are all over 60 and boomers, how do they relate to young voters. Here again, Berwick was best. He's an outdoorsman, including hiker, and immediately responded, "I'll met them on the cross-country trail first."

And thus the hour went. Coakley was largely washed over by responses from the guys. She was not so much passive (and certainly not negative in the passive-aggressive sense) as she answered under duress.

Pressed by opponents and moderators alike, Coakley could not come up with a single reason to trust her. Come her approval of the terrible Partners merger or casinos implementation or suit to recover sneaky financing of a hospital's money, she went with the rules-are-rules, laws-are-laws, and I'll-stand-by-my-work non-answers.

Maybe the most telling inter-candidate questioning in the second half was when Berwick asked Coakley if she didn't have any position beyond boilerplate ones. He called for big ideas, strong stances. She could or would not point to any, and on casinos again said that the voters will make the decision and she'll abide.

All in all, Grossman remained the Eagle Scout as always. Fortunately he was less whiny and nasty this time than  in previous debates. Coakley was flat, but may not have had to been better. Berwick circled both, but did it matter?

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Bad Cops Push Us Too Far

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes

There is still no good answer in America to who will guard the guards themselves. I am a little stunned to see that I asked that as long as eight years ago here.  The beat goes on, the beating down goes on, and the putting down goes on. 

Eight years ago, it was a Boston cop who spent the night into the wee morning hours at a bar with chums. Driving home, he plowed at high speed in the breakdown lane into a young mom who belonged there — disabled car with blinkers on, waiting for a tow. He told the staties on I93 he was sober. They never tested him in any way, as they surely would have anyone without a badge. No charges. She died. In 20 minutes they had cleared the road as though nothing happened.

The same and even worse happens when cops murder with guns, allegedly justifiable homicide while on duty. This pat month, for a dreadful example set, four unarmed young black men were gunned down. Unless we act from top and bottom, all the uniformed perps will be free to continue.

Surely, most assuredly, we have come to points through this nation where we can no long allow cops to murder with impunity. Other cops, prosecutors and judges must be made to realize, even if they lack, compassion and reason, that we cannot as a nature murder by police as the natural order of America.

I have absolutely no doubt that this horror will not abate until the bad cops know that if they harm or kill citizens they face prosecution, and prison. That means that the floppy end of the justice chain (those police, DAs and judges) tightens up and does their jobs. 

Monday, August 11, 2014

HI equality warrior retired by voters

Hawaiian Gov. Neil Abercrombie, 76, was swamped in his primary over the weekend. A state senator, David Ige, 57, will be the Dem against the GOP's Duke Aiona for the general election.

Seriously progressive in a conservative state, Abercromie had already riled the locals as a long-term legislator. He annoyed many of them more in four-year governorship. We noted his relentless push for same-sex marriage (successful in large part due to his efforts).  In a stat chockablock with very loud, very anti-gay religious fundamentals. was wisdom and compassion to offset them.

He stood for numerous lefty positions, most of which he won. I had to wonder if the marriage issue was big in his defeat. 

Not so, according to numerous local accounts, like here. Instead it seems voters  could forgive him the equality thing but not the pension one.
In 2011, he proposed raising revenue by adding retirees' pension income to state tax liability. In a state knee-to-knee with oldsters, that seems to have been his worst idea. The legislature soundly defeated it.

In a real sense, it's good that pushing for marriage equality was not the problem. Plus he's plenty old enough to relax. I bet he doesn't though and while he likely won't run for office again, he can mettle around and find good causes to champion.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Gosssman against the wall

Neither has a pol/sales rep/cheerleader personality, Yet it's Steve Grossman v. Martha Coakley for MA Gov. She leads him by perhaps 30% heading to the Sept. 9th primary.

Our irony factor is that the third Dem in the primary has the best platform and policies. Donald Berwick (Dr. Don) is the true visionary and progressive in the race. He's nowhere near as well known as the two cabinet members and few give him even a slim chance.

Cliché time

Yesterday's intro of Grossman's first video ad reeled in the stereotypes and assorted tropes. (Click the ad below and judge for yourself.)

As usual, the silliest was in the Boston Herald. Immediately under the head Steve Grossman goes on the attack in first ad of race was a tightly cropped pic of him looking like a screaming berzerker (definitely not his style or wont). Winger columnist Hillary Chabot wrote it was a decision to go negative and got a pol turned UMASS prof to call it a Hail-Mary approach.

Set aside her perpetual melodrama and disdain for all lefty and Dem ideas and folk. This piece is asinine and wrong. Personally after observing and writing about politics — five years in South Carolina, 10 in Manhattan and 34 in Boston — I think I recognize negative and dirty politics. Grossman's I-know-biz-and-job-creation-from-doing-it doesn't qualify. He didn't even use Coakley's name and just said he could and had done it.

As usual, the LITE version came on TV news/noise. On WCVB, Janet Wu missed repeatedly with loaded content. For example, she denigrated his introduction of a female employee he had helped twice as her boss as "bragging." She has real emotional issues with Grossman. Then over at CBSBoston, Steve Keller was his usual hit-and-miss self. He began reasonably, raising the question of whether jobs would really be what swung this primary, as Grossman holds. Yet he thoroughly muddled this with a made-up alternative about it being centered on women. Lackaday.

Refreshingly enough, over at the Boston Globe, Joshua Miller had a passable take on the ad and related campaign. He describe the ad, noting that it drew a contrast. He avoided the clumsiness of the other commentators. He didn't analyze or speculate what might work for Grossman.

Any chance?

Big questions remain in what looks like a grim eight weeks for Grossman. When the first polls came out showing Coakley skunking him, many asked how one cabinet member had such a much higher profile. Likely her then humiliating 2010 loss to Scott Brown for the U.S. Senate seems to have played out in the predictable stereotype; in the minds of voters, she may have been elevated to Senator/Governor status. Grossman remains "just" a successful business guy who's done really good stuff as Treasurer and Receiver General.

To Keller's unanswered query though, what is this election about and what would enable Grossman to win? Unfortunately for him, timing on the jobs-creation is not good. Voters who get any news know by now that our MA unemployment is about 5.5% and many know folk who are back to work. There are still huge problems, like in gateway cities and lack of preparation in education to prepare young and reentering workers for future needs (which will also attract businesses).

Both Coakley and Grossman when they spoke with Left Ahead said these economic and education issues were huge. Yet at the moment, people here seem less morose and panicked about it all.

In TV dramas, such elections would pivot on a sudden surprise scandal revelation. Forget it. Coakley has been known to misspeak and misjudge her audiences, but she's no crook. Grossman is literally and figuratively an Eagle Scout. He's clean.

I suspect he'll not find the traction he needs in his job creation ad(s). Here's betting he has several more approaches ready to go. He might even be able to sweeten some of his issues area, say promising affordable daycare for working moms. No time to waste for him.

Vaguely related: My rant on his weird hangout for the ad last night is here.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Grossman not chat ready

MA Gov-would-be Steve Grossman has lots of smarts and skills, but this social-media stuff doesn't appear to be on his forte list. I sat stunned listening to him lecture about his new ad this evening.

That doesn't seem terrible...except his lackeys promoted it as a Google hangout. Well, I know hangouts and this didn't qualify.

For the non-G+ folk, be aware that a hangout is not push technology. Those logged in expect to have the chance, even obligation, to participate with their webcams and mics.

It was supposed to be a discussion. Instead, he showed on-screen like an extra from a vampire movie (Pro tip: Shell out $25 for minimal lighting). He was the only person and only visual element, until he showed the 30-second ad...twice.

He then iterated and explained the obvious that we'd just seen. Yes, the whole point of the ad was that people are concerned about having jobs and he has a record of creating them. He figures a business sort is better qualified to do that than a prosecutor sort.

Fair enough, but we got it the first two times.

Time for a second pro tip — a hangout or similar chat requires interaction. Grossman didn't even take advantage of the built-in text chat functions.

It was lo those seven years ago that a certain Deval Patrick used social media well to get voter interest and commitment. Then his buddy a certain Barack Obama followed suit. Really, pols can do this.

This was definitely a stumble. Turning an interactive social medium into a one-way lecture sucks.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Cry Havoc...and Blather On

Some benign looking and sounding phrases are the most laden. Consider, if you will, parental rights...

The phrase in newsy yet again, today, this month and season and year because of Justina Pelletier. This young girl has become an amazing media critter and perpetual sideshow. Some docs, hospital departments and child-protective departments decided her parents were harming her, maybe causing severe mental and physical problems. They took her from her parents with the approval of a judge.

The mess only seemed to have stopped in the past few days. The judge reversed his edict. She got to return back to her family (Father's Day!).

Meanwhile, from a safe distance, we can be astonished at the motley crew of unified outraged supporters. The illogical and puerile (Jeff Beck, MassReesistance and Liberty Counsel) find common cause with pinkos in screaming about government overreach.

True enough that most of us adults know that physicians as well as bureaucrats are blowhards and arrogant pseudo-experts. That a judge joined a protective agency in pretty much stealing a child for a year and one half on the flimsiest of reasons should come as no surprise.

Yet I find it unfortunate that the core of the outrage in this case is the parents' rights wackos. For every lefty who is offended that Justina Pelletier became a game piece for these ego-driven government and medical types, there are several wingers who believe that children are property.

I've dealt with them before like here nearly seven years ago. These are the loonies who shout that they have absolute rights to determine public-school curricula and to beat their children with hands, belts or sticks. Children are subhuman to them.

So, yes, good that this teen got free from a crazy subsystem of medical, bureaucratic and judicial fools. We can expect the parents' rights crowd to scream that this just proves everything they've been saying is totally true.

No it isn't. That the governmental types, including institutionalized medicine, sometimes goof up proves nothing beyond their all to human failing. Children still should not be considered by society to be slaves of their parents, subject to any mental, emotional or physical caprice. Let's keep our focus on the well-being of the children, not the emotional needs of the demented alleged adults at home.

Friday, June 06, 2014

The Glib, Glob, Globe Really Tries

For the longest time, the Boston Globe didn't really try.  Truth be told, for MA politics, the NYT bureau chief, Fox Butterfield, was the source. It got worse when the Globe was sold and shuffled and stifled. Like all badly managed media, the top team fired reporters, cut back on local coverage even more and sucked with an even mightier wind. Whoooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo.

Here we alternated calling it The Glob or The Glib.

My retribution was the recent resurgence of political reportage in the new, John Henry-owned, paper. They honestly do more.

Too much of it is Murdoch quality. The wee competitor, the Boston Herald, remains in size and spirit, the true tabloid in the market. Yet the Glib/Glob/Globe tries in its own way to be as salacious and scandal mongering.

Just yesterday, I couldn't help bemoaning early in the chat with Dem candidate for AG, Maura Healey, on Left Ahead just how how low-brow coverage has been. You can click this link to go to the half-hour show, but know that the gist of the media mini-rant is that she was just the latest drive-by reporting false scoops by The Globe.

The empire is more like a shire, bragging about being the 24th largest circulation (total print and digital) in the country. That's pretty much on par with Boston not ever being the nation's capital or busiest port or largest anything except maybe just maybe money-market center. (Wait, we did have the first working subway by a couple of years; does that count?)

Back to Healey, I went on about how the local larger rag has a new emphasis to go with its insatiable Pulitzer hunting. It's pretty good about siccing staff on potentially prize-winning features, almost as though they work for the Washington Post. You can see when they get a good subject and how they worry it like a puppy with a balled-up sock. To their credit, they end up with more than their share. Meanwhile, local coverage is weak. Thanks to the media gods and Adam Gaffin for Universal Hub, which constantly beats the Glob/Glib/Globe in depth and range of coverage of Boston-areas news.

On the political side, the Henry version has spot scoops of scandal. Given a commonwealth-wide or high-profile MA regional candidate, Glob/Glib/Globe reporters apparently have the task normally assigned to opposition research by competitors.

Every candidate is in for a mud painting. Like Gov. would-be Martha Coakley didn't reimburse MA in a timely fashion for gas and mileage when she was campaigning while being AG. In the replace-the AG race, we see Healey and her partner inferred to be ethics violators (partner being Appeals-Court judge when Healey used their home as the campaign HQ for four months), and Warren Tolman, also running for AG, hit for owning part of an online-gambling software firm.

These and other other stories in this election cycle are OK and have modest factual value. However, they are not of real substance and seem far more intended to inflate the Glob/Glib/Globe rather than inform the electorate. They aren't, lackaday, John Henry, Pulitzer catalysts.

Now,  we suddenly got a new section, Capital, in the paper. This sports-section thin add-in that first appeared today does not atone to those of who lave long lived here for so many years of tepid local and political coverage. However, I'm willing to give it a few months to see if they can teach it to sing and dance politics.

It could end up being just another Sunday Globe Ideas Section, that's more unneeded, formulaic mush mouth. That'd be a few lefty pieces, one or two kinda right-wing ones, and some this-but-that yawners. TBD.

The first insert was not inspiring. The lead was a highly boosterism Clout or Drought. It chewed and re-chewed the meaningless factoid that for the first time in four Prez elections no MA candidate was likely to be running. Again, yawn. Again, how parochial can you get? Is this a The Onion parody of newspapers?

However, a lesser front-pager was a poll and analysis of what the public thought of gubernatorial hopefuls for the 2014 election. That was useful and well done.

I'll reserve judgment for a bit (not too long though). The recently reawakened Glob/Glib/Globe has paid long overdue attention to political coverage. Yeah for that. Much of it has been sad, strange, desperate barely-stories in the gotcha range, smearing one candidate or office holder after another. This unfortunately falls in the cliché of throwing enough sh*t against the wall to see what sticks.

So here's to the paper:

  • Stopping the puerile regionalism in coverage
  • Telling reporters who find a mini-scandal to go deeper and do analysis
  • Going after abstracts and ideas instead of left-brain obvious stories
  • Pressing pols to drop the PR and make real promises they can be held to

Let's drum our fingers while we wait and watch.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Liberty Belles and Beaux

Well, there you have it. Pennsylvania finally straggles in behind the rest of the U.S. Northeast in marriage equality. A federal judge today joined the great wind of marriage equality today.

Among the several intriguing aspects is the per-state decisions as well as the court-driven conversion.

It was only a couple of years ago that equality advocates feared the state-by-state process. They figured it too risky, too likely to see differing results, and too likely arouse negative reaction by locals. Instead, it has become the accepted norm. The MSNBC article linked above notes that "Just three states – North Dakota, South Dakota, and Montana – currently have no marriage equality lawsuits pending in either state or federal court. "

In the childish and paranoid preemptive panic following VT's civil unions, then MA's same-sex marriage, that U.S. map was foreboding and very anti-gay. Old times.

Now we face the whining and duplicity. Wingers and anti-LGBT folk are in high activist-judges mode. That is, when the co-equal third of democracy, the courts, rules in ways they don't like, they are evil and immoral. In contrast, when they go for Citizens United approving unlimited money-as-speech or OK guns in schools and bars, they are stewards of America.

We lefties have much to carp about in the court system, particularly the Supremes. Yet, in marriage equality, life is good.

Mark Fisher Gets Shout Down Instead of Shout-Out

Like the old man in Moonstruck, "I'm confused." Not only did I get sucked into a winger radio show embedded in a RedMassGroup diary, but here I pass it along.

You can go to The Kuhner Report page for the audio show. You can catch it on Red Mass Group, replete with sniping comments from its readers. It is over 40 minutes of fast-paced accusations, counter-accusations, bluster, innuendo, and calumny.

H/T to RMG's Rob Eno. I had never heard Kuhner's show and would have been unaware of this high theater had Eno not featured it.

Guest for Jeff Kuhner's show yesterday was Mark Fisher, the Tea Party GOP candidate for MA governor. As he was when he joined Left Ahead, he started and remained calm and rational throughout the show. In stark contrast, a couple of caller- in said he was a liar, that he misrepresented him involvement in the GOP, and worse.

The gist of Fisher's contentions includes that a couple GOP Poobahs and moneyed types asked him to drop out of the gubernatorial race, giving nearly certain nominee Charlie Baker a clear field with no primary. In return, Fisher said, he would get a shot at a more winnable office, plus funding toward such a race.  He named the Grand Poobahs in the show.

There have been he-says/he-says disagreements on who offered whom what when. To us with clean hands, those seem like quibbles. Some Baker folk may imply Fisher tried to extort up to $1 million from the party bigs to get out. Fisher's competing implication is that they wanted to bribe him.

Regardless, the consensus among GOP functionaries seems to be avoiding the primary is essential for Baker's November victory. As an aside, I'm with various righties and lefties thinking a primary can only strengthen Baker's hand, particularly with unenrolled voters.

The lowest ring of his Kuhner-show hell featured Boston Herald columnist and GOP consultant Holly Robichaud. She is the show.

Robichaud plays the drama queen and is even worse than Chris Matthews and at least as bad as Bill O'Reilly in screaming, in shouting down other speakers, in raw, abrasive emotion in lieu of logic. She is unbelievable in multiple senses of that term.

Her basic refutation of Fisher relies entirely on ad hominem ploys. Again and again, she screams that she knows this or that person Fisher says was involved in proposing the deal. She knows, she just knows (without evidence) that what he said is impossible. She was as far as possible from demonstrating anything in her QED. She just knows, like a parent who just knows her son would never steal a car.

The show fascinates me. There's the circled-wagons aspect. There's the crazed shouting lady, bordering on sociopathy.  Mostly there's the raised curtain revealing the motley GOP crew backstage.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Fully Baked Charlie Baker on Gay Folk

There's a disarming, charming big-lug quality to Charlie Baker, candidate for MA Gov. You see him, as well as his brother Alex mirroring him, in the new ad off his campaign site.

Click below for a worthwhile two minutes. It's not going to make you cry or touch you deeply. Both guys are stiff, but hell, they're from New England. Yet, regardless of what you think of Charlie, you are likely to feel more positive about him...unless you hate and disrespect gay folk.

The head on his site page featuring the video is Charlie Releases New Video, "Brothers" To Mark 10 Year Anniversary Of Marriage Equality. That shows at least a bit of guts for an otherwise personally timid Charlie. It has not been news to Charlie that Alex is gay for quite some time. Alex married a man 10 years ago when MA was just gearing up for same-sex marriage.

Nevertheless, even in blue MA where SSM has been the law of the land for a decade, being openly LGBT friendly takes a bit of courage for a Republican. After all, the official state GOP platform claims on the one hand to " reject all forms of discrimination, intolerance and exploitation" and right below that " We believe the institution of traditional marriage strengthens our society." That passive-aggressive crap is just barely shy of overt anti-gay lingo.

So Charlie lets the exchange with Alex humanize him, in a big-lug, fraternal way. The arch conservatives and anti-homosexual types weren't going to vote for him anyway. As a political ploy, this can only help, In particular, unenrolled voters and wishy-washy Dems, particularly those who buy into the fantasy that we just have to have a Republican governor to keep balance in our government, are likely to feel good about the socially liberal Baker. That puts him in the mold of his mentor and former boss, GOP Gov. Bill Weld. That's good company around here.

Many around here though also know that the state house is full of registered Democratic legislators who are fiscally conservative, may also be somewhat socially conservative, and really were they honest and not afraid of losing their seats would swap registration to Republican. I've long held that most Republican pols in MA are Dems.

This ad can only help Baker get more undecided voters liking him. Nicely done at low risk, Charlie.

Kissy Kissy in Boise

Surely it's only coincidence that Idaho is one of two states shaped like a handgun. It is extreme — extremely gun rights, Republican, socially conservative, and no pathfinder in LGBT rights.

Now reduced to quivering yet angry wingers, the folk in the land of potatoes hear that they can't even delay homosexual couples marrying there. Yesterday, U.S.Magistrate Candy (yes, Candy) W. Dale rejected the state's request to delay implementation of marriage equality. (This link is to the Idaho Statesman, which has the best coverage of the issue. Click around there for more.)

This truly is the state of the art of same-sex marriage law.

It's been five or more years since anti-SSM/anti-gay types began admitting that the other side had one, that it was just a short time until marriage equality was the norm and the law. As Idaho and other recent cases have shown, you can't have federal and state laws that forbid discrimination while allowing discrimination in marriage. That conflict only resolves one way, in fairness and honesty.

Following the paranoia and panic from Vermont's civil; unions and Massachusetts gay marriages, the states with the dumbest legislators and most easily swayed voters did their worst. One-man/one-woman marriage laws and amendments sprung up like spring dandelions. They have delayed the inevitable but were a fool's fantasy, as useful as a picket fence in keeping out the winds of change.

So Magistrate Dale provided the bad news, news no petitioning bigot wants to hear. She rejected the request to stay the implementation of marriage equality in Idaho saying it "is not likely to succeed." She had previously noted that the state could not show damages if the marriages were allowed. Moreover, denying same-sex couples marriage "irreparably harms" them. Take that Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter (yes, Butch and Otter) and Attorney General Lawrence Wasden.

The state GOP spokesfolk iterate that this decision will cause further disintegration of its society. Over a decade of refuting evidence in the U.S. and worldwide makes little difference to little minds. At least Idaho law still lets bigots fire any homosexuals who work for them. So there.

All around the country, judges federal and state agreed with the winger seers who foretold this trend. You can't have it both ways. You can't claim you don't discriminate and then discriminate against a whole class of people. Meanwhile, a few states have gotten ahead of this, enabling marriage equality by law. Collectively, they remove themselves from the little-brain group.

Idaho is in fact the way it works. Standing at a podium or sitting in a bar screaming about how unfair it is to have to be fair may give you a self-righteousness fix, Otherwise, it's like urinating in a Depend diaper. It gives you a nice, warm feeling but doesn't do anything meaningful.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

I Have a Wing to Pick With You

Ed. Ed. Ed, and some more Ed. Broom the vanity and ego aside to get to a vignette from MSNBC's The Ed Show. There, the former right-wing talker but a left-wing talker for the past 16 years, Ed (of course) Schultz did his usual short segment Ask Ed (of course) Live.

That evening, his tweeted query was why didn't more conservatives appear there. He answered simply and disdainfully that he asked them and would welcome them, but they didn't want to. He figured they figured doing so would not help them get elected.

While I nod to Occam's razor, I don't worship the idea that the simplest explanation according to the known facts settles everything. I muse on why so few Republicans and other self-identified conservatives will talk with me at the weekly Left Ahead show.

It's been running for seven years. From the beginning, some weeks the founders — Lynne Lupien, Ryan Adams and I (Mike Ball) — sometimes like to cover topics ourselves. We'll all highly opinionated. About every other week, there's a guest.

Lynne long ago dropped out, pleading business busyness. I generally arrange and book most guests. A few contact me, but typically I call, email or meet potential guests. Often it's a deal to dicker on a day and time, even though we long ago picked a default that works for many, Tuesday at 2:30 PM. Few pols in particularly are solidly committed then.

We also make it pretty painless. We use BlogTalkRadio, so guests don't have to travel or give us an office space to record the show. For what used to be an hour and is now a half hour, they just call in and I manage the connections by computer and the tubes.

Moreover, we're probably too nice. We don't book multiple guests, don't bring on tit-for-tat adversaries to sensationalize or conflict. We don't try to trick anyone or spring accusations. We like to get to the big ideas and help the guest develop them on air. A few listeners used to on-line bullies on winger radio, or the Bill O'Reilly and Chris Matthews shouters are disappointed that we don't badger guests.

Are Wingers Gutless?

Scan the Left Ahead archives to notice a few things. First, the topics and guests are mostly politics and politicians. Second, many big ideas are subjects. Third, many of the guests are hotshots and big shots — a current or former governor, a state or U.S. Senator, and many office seekers. Fourth, there are damned few conservatives.

That latter is not from my want of effort. Some smart, fun and provocative ones included the very conservative MA pol Karyn Polito and the now late economics and transit guru William Lind. My politics differed markedly from those two's. Yet I think we brought out good stuff. Lind in particular could not have been farther from my political views, all except for transit-oriented development and mass transit. We had met at the Rail-Volution 2009 conference in Boston and bonded over our overlaps.

In many ways, Polito was the outlier for me. She spoke with me, took my card, checked the site and said, sure, she'd talk with us in her run for MA Treasurer/Receiver General. That was not at all hard, but she is quite the exception.

Virtually all the other right-leaning potential guests I meet or contact seem terrified or at least disinterested. So, I ask myself, are they cowards or is it like Schultz said, that they don't see the upside?

This has been happening again in this election cycle, which includes MA Governor. Scan the archives again and see every gubernatorial candidate, except the presumptive GOP nominee, Charlie Baker. That includes all five Dems, the several independents or political affiliation candidates and and the other Republican, self-defined full-MA-GOP platform, Tea Party candidate Mark Fisher.

I can't quite figure out whether :

  • Baker has no guts
  • His campaign staff has no guts
  • His staff's cost/benefit analysis doesn't see the ROI on an internet radio show
  • He or his staff thinks he's too important to be bothered

Bad Manners

Having spent much of my childhood in more genteel parts of the country, I can still be surprised by the poor breeding of Bostonians and New Englanders. For example, when they do not return phone calls or emails, I have to wonder, who are their people? Were they raised by wolverines?

Baker's camp has been the worst, in both of his staggers toward the governorship. I have gotten fewer than one response to multiple voice and email requests to Baker and his campaign manager,

You can amuse yourself by calling the Baker campaign number, (617) 254-2014.There's no human and no option to speak to one...ever. You can dump your request into a voice box or punch in by last name. The communications director, Tim Buckley, does not communicate and is not even in the directory. The campaign manager, Jim Conroy, does not communicate but is in the directory. There's a slush email box, and the other's is

Conroy has ignored 11 voice or email requests. Because Buckley hides from ordinary mortals, the closest I could get was Facebook and requests through that info box, where he ignored an FB friend request and two direct messages.

Again,who are their people? Didn't they have mothers or someone to act like a mother?

The gormless Baker-camp non-reactions are particularly noteworthy and amusing in light of Fisher's prompt and warm response. He and I could hardly differ more politically, but we had a good chat. Moreover, he clearly was raised well.

Fear of Lefties

A previous failure of booking seems to blend all the possible causes. I had Jennifer Nassour in hand, only to lose her. She chaired the MA GOP from Jan. 2009 through Sep. 2011.

I spoke with her at two political Rappaport presentations at Suffolk Law, in early 2009 and early 2011. At both, she pressed her card into my hand and told me how much she wanted to be a Left Ahead guest. She punked on both.

Most telling here is her mortal sin, in GOP eyes. She was candid.

In the April 1 (yes, that day), 2009 issue of Bay Windows, she spoke about the new Republican party here, particularly how they wouldn't be guilt tripping on marriage equality, gay rights and abortion. Honk. Wrong.

She got months of pitchfork poking from the most conservative party members and the nasty MassResistance guy, Brian Camenker pretending to be a real movement. The gist seems to be not only should she not have said the party would stop its hateful rhetoric to bring in unenrolled and socially liberal GOP voters, but she should never have even spoken with LGBT-friendly media.

Since her time, the newest MA GOP chair, Kirsten Hughes, won't respond to repeated contacts.

Well,our show hides nothing. It's there in the Left Ahead name. We're reasonable and nice but we don't pretend to be anything else.

I've lost count of the potential guests who have heard the name on a phone line or seen my card and stopped dead. "Left...Ahead...are you left wing?" is the typical shocked question.

Nothing that progressives and liberals speak with anyone, and that we are antithetical to right-wing talk radio's bullying tactics doesn't cut it. Far too many conservatives seem terrified at speaking with "left" anything. Pathetic.

Lefty Anomaly

To smooth the edges and risk being simple-mindedly even handed, I'll admit that there's one left winger's crew who is afraid of me.

Following the initial show with Elizabeth Warren, her handlers seem winger gutless. They won't return my calls or emails either. Once burned, 1000 times shy.

I was blessed or cursed with being early to the Warren extravaganza, in Oct. 2011, right after she announced for US Senate, she spoke with us. It was genial, particularly as she and I are the same age, and both born in OK.

We had a jolly time, including an exchange in which I noted that with my OK/WV background, I have heard repeatedlyfrom the provincials in Boston that I am a hick. Moreover, the local wingers had railed against her as a 17-year Harvard professor, a.k.a an elitist. She laughed, saying she was new class, an elite hick. She said something about going for the hick vote. We laughed.

Well, the plug nasties were loaded for her, just waiting. Our show was just the first Warren-hunting expedition.

The next morning, I got a call and email from her communications guy, asking if I knew of the s**t storm. Turns out, the forces of evil had tried to run with that innocuous bit of humor. Suddenly everyone from FoxNews to winger talk radio and even the likes of ABC TV and the NYTimes portrayed her as ridiculing rural America.

Of course, she didn't say anything like that. However, the imps had been lying in wait for something they could use.

In our show, she said maybe there should be a group hicks for Elizabeth. Again we laughed. I actually made some buttons (reproduced here). My wife and I, from hick backgrounds, wore them. People asked for them and I produced more. I showed her one at Boston Mayor Tom Menino's block party the next July She alleged to love it. I sent her one, but given the crap she got for moments of humor, she most assuredly tossed it.

At that party, one of her staffers, a ziftig woman actually pushed me. She muttered something about how I'd better not try to pull any tricks and insinuated that I and not the forces of right-wing evil has caused the early dust-up.


The sad aspect is that Warren's people have not responded to several show requests since. I'll try again, likely by being at one of her public events and squirreling up with her. After all, she adores my yellow glasses.

Of course the hick-vote fad disappeared months later, to be replaced by the Native-American one. Those gunning for Warren picked up her listing herself in a faculty directory as having Cherokee roots. They manufactured a fantasy that she had only gotten jobs at Pennsylvania and Harvard as a result. They morphed that with calls for her to release every academic job application she has ever made, much in the mode of birthers demanding President Barack Obama's short-form, then long-form birth certificate, and subsequently his college applications and transcripts. Pathetic. As with the President, the crazies won't let go of their silly slanders.

Common Senselessness

So there it is, kiddies. There are many variations on guest-interview shows. You might:

  • Be typical right-wing radio, badgering lefty guests and licking the hands of your own type
  • Play grade-school magazine, bringing on a balance of left and right wingers for mush
  • Let the guest shine, like Dave Leno or, dare I write, Left Ahead

There are others, but we are definitely in the latter category. So I still have to wonder why so many conservative sorts fear us.

Over the years, many right wingers have passed on coming on Left Ahead. Granted, we do not have prime-time TV or even cable reach. A small show for us gets hundreds of listeners and a big one 10,000. Those are far more than a pol talks to in a typical stump speech, plus anyone who listens live or clicks the archive play is committing to half an hour of dedicated ear time. If I were a candidate for any office, I'd chat with as many shows as would have me.

I note that the progressive and liberal pols have no problem going on hostile right-wing shows. Yet it seems rare that Republicans and self-described conservative types mirror that. Maybe I shouldn't advise them, but righties would be smart to go on pinko shows.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Latest Pathetic Winger Hero

SuperRancher (in his sad, strange little mind) Cliven Bundy is n the midst of his moment. Wingers throughout the country are proclaiming him at once martyr and warrior.

He'll plunge to earth all too soon. Perhaps when he does, a few of the FTW, make-up-rules righies will have passing thoughts on personal responsibility.

You can get tons of background, at least right now. Search the net to find conspiracy-minded crazies making up stuff and conflating others, like here. If you'd rather deal with reality and the provable, you'd be better off with the actual laws he's been violating for two decades, like here. If you'd like to read how the courts view his baseless claims in their rulings, go here and here.

The punchline is that Bundy has been stealing from the US government by not paying it for grazing rights on land he has never owned nor even had easements to. He owes over $1 million to us, a.k.a. U.S. His response has been that he wrote small checks to a Nevada County, which has no power to let his herds graze on federal land, and that he recognizes some of Nevada's authority, but none of the federal government.

His loony raps take two tacks:

  1. Minimize any fees he should pay, and all the other ranchers do already pay
  2. Assert his power to legislate and enforce laws, of which of course he has no such powers

I figure since he has lost all court appeals through the federal level and owes us over $1 million, he's looking at liens and foreclosure because his debts. He likely has more than enough money to pay back fees plus penalties and interest. If he chooses not to, the feds will likely take the legal and financial tracks, instead of seizing his cattle on federal lands. I'm sure his fellow ranchers would buy his land and herds if it comes to that. Then the tax resisters can shoot their guns in air, spit on the dry dirt, and moan about not being able to make up their own rules.

Winger media have been talking and screeching over each other to proclaim Bundy super. Some compare him to Henry David Thoreau and his actions that led to tax resistance in the mid-19th Century. You can refresh yourself with Resistance to Civil Government, which has become known as On the Duty of Civil Disobedience.

There's scant concurrence though. Young Hnnk T engaged in an act of conscience, not paying poll tax that he thought would go to support the Mexican-American War as well as slavery. He was willing to go to jail for his statement and in fact spent a day and night there (before someone, likely an aunt, paid his poll tax, largess he accepted).

Bundy on the other hand is clearly motivated by greed. He is a wealthy cattle rancher, doing all he can to keep his costs down and profits up. Coupled with his fantasy that he can make up any laws that suit those goals, he is as irresponsible, dishonorable and dishonest as they come.Thoreau snuck away from jail knowing that money in his name went for purposes he disapproved of, but Bundy seems to have no principles at all.

This is a pattern we have seen often from the American right. They want things to be the way that benefits them, but they are not willing to take their lumps in protesting. In short, by Thoreau's standards, they are not American, they aren't noble, and certainly not super.