Sunday, May 31, 2009

New York Times Hiding Obama's Bush-Like Spying Policy

When news of then President George W. Bush's illegal wiretapping program broke, The New York Times, placed it on the front page, above the fold and it deserved to be on the front page. The president after all, was engaging in an activity had violated the privacy rights of an unknown number of American citizens and had done so without Congressional approval and without a court-approved warrant.

Today, however, the paper of record gave no such prominent coverage to the current administration's decision to withhold a "top secret" document lawyers challenging Bush's wiretap program. Judge Vaughn R. Walker ordered the administration to submit the requested documents but the Obama administration apparently will appeal this judge's decision.

Apparently, The New York Times' editors did not feel this revelation warranted press coverage on the first 19 pages of the paper.
Its backers I guess will claim that the administration was merely defending a prior administration's conduct and it could of course, claim that a law that was enacted by Congress at the prior administration's behest defends the government and the private telecommunications companies that cooperated with them from any lawsuits initiated by private citizens who felt their privacy rights were violated.

Were that to be the case, however, the president would drop the challenge and adhere to the judge's order in the interest of transparency (something the president at one time promised) while fighting challenges that the lawyers can sue the telecommunications industry or the government. In the alternative, (and this is the more preferable option), the administration would release the information, apologize for what the administration had done to the American people, and agree to a compensation package for those Americans who were wronged for what was done to them while defending the telecommunication businesses (since they are now protected by law for actions which they were doing on the government's behalf).

Either step would distance the administration from its predecessor's policies so its failure to do adopt either course (or provide an alternative of its own) suggests it will fight to uphold the Bush administration's policy.

This deserved front page news coverage. That it did not receive such press coverage from The New York Times undermines its claim to provide unbiased news coverage.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Obama is So Anti-White

Obama is so anti-white so he kept Robert Gates on as Defense Secretary.

He's so anti-white so he appointed former Senator and presidential rival Hillary Rodham Clinton as his Secretary of State. He's so anti-white he picked Shaun Donovan to run the Housing and Urban Development and Timothy Geitner to run the Treasury Department.

Since the president hates white people so much, he hosted a Passover seder to show some respect for senior White House advisor David Axelrod, among other people.

Hs's so anti-white that.

well, you get the picture.

Liberals Jumping the Gun on Sotomayor

If a prominent conservative legal analyst like Douglas Kmiec and a gasbag homophobe like Bill Donohue are backing Sonia Sotomayor's elevation to the U.S. Supreme Court, and the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals Court judge has virtually no known record of case law which could lead us to believe she will uphold Lawrence v. Texas, Roe v. Wade, or , Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey, Romer v. Evans and a civil rights record in which she turned down most discrimination cases, has the Human Rights Campaign and the liberal civil rights groups jumped the gun?

What do these conservatives know that we don't know? What is the new slogan from the liberal interest groups, "Confirm first, ask questions later?" She could be the conservatives' Souter. A Democratic stealth nominee with an insufficiently liberal record to speak of who votes with the conservatives who'd like to turn the clock back on privacy rights, and the establishment clause.

She may be everything we'd want in a Supreme Court justice. Then again, she might not. In the meantime, the debate over the kind of justice America deserves gets lost while conservatives smear her with baseless accusations that she is somehow, a Hispanic racist.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Sotomayor Continued

Some prominent conservatives who are not holding an elected position n government, like former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and Rush Limbaugh, have accused 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Sonia Sotomayor of being a racist. They base this accusation on a speech she delivered at the Berkeley Campus of the University of California.

Sotomayor was talking about the complex role one's life experiences might play on the court. She expressed some doubt about another judge's aspiration - that judges "transcend their personal sympathies and prejudices and aspire to achieve a greater degree of fairness and integrity based on the reason of law," is "possible in all or even most cases. ... Whatever the reasons why we may have different perspectives, either as some theorists suggest because of our cultural experiences or as others postulate because we have basic differences in logic and reasoning, are in many respects a small part of a larger practical question we as women and minority judges in society in general must address."

A racist would say people of a particular race or ethnic group all think alike and of course in an inferior manner). Obama's Supreme Court nominee, however, makes no such claim. One's racial background, she says, may play a role in the thought process but it by no means plays the only role:

"I further accept that our experiences as women and people of color affect our decisions. The aspiration to impartiality is just that--it's an aspiration because it denies the fact that we are by our experiences making different choices than others. Not all women or people of color, in all or some circumstances or indeed in any particular case or circumstance but enough people of color in enough cases, will make a difference in the process of judging."

The conservatives who claim she is a racist, however, do not cite those passages since they help explain the "offending" boldfaced passage:

"Justice O'Connor has often been cited as saying that a wise old man and wise old woman will reach the same conclusion in deciding cases. I am not so sure Justice O'Connor is the author of that line since Professor Resnik attributes that line to Supreme Court Justice Coyle. I am also not so sure that I agree with the statement. First, as Professor Martha Minnow has noted, there can never be a universal definition of wise. Second, I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn't lived that life."

Nor do they cite the following passage, which notes that two very wise justices nevertheless upheld sex and race-based discrimination. "Personal experiences," Sotomayor said, "affect the facts that judges choose to see." Sotomayor said that she is not, however, willing to let her background prejudice an outcome in any judicial decision. "My hope," she said, "is that I will take the good from my experiences and extrapolate them further into areas with which I am unfamiliar." She wants to use her experiences to help her rise above them.

The opposition to Sotomayor's nomination has taken an ugly turn. Remarks about her choice of food and her name pronunciation serve only to hurt the Republican Party by reinforcing the perception that the Republican Party is the anti-Hispanic party (leave aside the anti-immigrant party) nor does it does not help them make the legitimate case against providing illegal immigrants amnesty because it allows the advocates for illegal immigrants to recast the fight against amnesty as a fight against Hispanics.

Couldn't the Republicans question Sotomayor about her judicial philosophy or the decisions she reached on the Court of Appeals and stay away from the racist innuendo?

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Important Question About Sotomayor's Privacy Rights

Judge Sonia Sotomayor may have some trouble with the left since she did not rule on many right to privacy challenges. I think the Democrats have to ask some tough questions to see if she believes that (a) there is a general right to privacy, (b) that this general right to privacy must include a right to private non-procreative intimate conduct between members of the same and members of the opposite sex and (c) whether that privacy right includes, at least a disposition to favor a pregnant woman's right to terminate a human embryo or fetus within the first trimester.

No judge who is inclined to overturn the right to privacy should be appointed to the Supreme Court.

Now it should be noted that the cited abortion cases concern immigration law (as it applies to political/moral dissenters) as an example. but it shoudl still be asked.

Obama's Not-So "Fierce Advocacy" for Gay Rights

Glad to see one major newspaper editorial board taking President Barack Obama on for his failure to push for gay rights legislation. Kudos also go to Frnak Rich of The New York Times.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Judicial Turf War Begins

Today President Barack Obama said he will nominate Sonia Sotomayor to fill the Supreme Court seat being vacated by Justice David Souter. If confimed, Judge Sotomayor, a a circuit judge for the Second Circuit Court of Appeals, would be become the first Hispanic American (and Puerto Rican for that matter) to serve on the United States Supreme Court.

Nominating Sotomayor politically shrewd. Obama knew the Republicans would oppose his nominee no matter who it was so he appointed the first Hispanic American woman, solidifying his support within the Hispanic community while forcing the Republicans to either back her or further alienate the Hispanics who have been leaving their party. They could rally their base but only if they burn the remaining bridges they have built with the African American and Hispanic American communities.

By picking Sotomayor, Obama also sidelined the gay marriage debate which the Republicans would use to rally their base without alienating African American and Hispanic American voters.

The Republicans will, for the most part, vote against Sotomayor while the Democrats, for the most part, back the president's nominee. You will, hear the Republicans wax eloquently for the right to a filibuster they nearly tried to eliminate when they were in power and you will hear the Democrats wax eloquently for the right to a vote by the full senate they previously denied President George W. Bush's nominees.

Republicans will bemoan the president's decision squander any chance he had to reach across the aisle and heal this country's wounds by picking a "moderate" or a "moderate liberal." The Democrats will sa her views are well within the mainstream of legal thought.

Ultimately, however, both sides must examine Sotomayor's record to see how she will rule in future cases that reach the Supreme Court. Supreme Court justices are lifetime appointees and are only replaceable when a sitting member resigns, is impeached and successfully removed, or dies. Since she is replacing a reliably liberal member on the bench, we'd need to know if she would uphold Roe v. Wade and the other privacy rulings tha have reached the court, the unofficial suspension of habeas corpus righs for some prisoners, and civil rights.

Of equal concern is Sotomayor's ability to persuade her colleagues in the center - Justices Anthony Kennedy (center-right) and Stephen Breyer (center-left) to vote with the liberals on privacy, war detention, the 14th Amendment's equal protection clause and separation of church and state issues. If, in fact, she won her colleagues' hate or disrespect, that would make our chance of winning a given case more difficult.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Obama's Speech on War on Terror

President Barack Obama fiercely defended his anti-terrorism policies from critics on the right and left yesterday in a speech he delivered at the National Archives yesterday.

Mr. Obama's conservative critics claim he is exposing this country to another terrorist attack by forbidding CIA operatives from using "enhanced interrogation techniques" like water boarding, closing the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, and relocating some of those detainees in U.S. military and civilian prisons located on the mainland.

Liberal critics say he is betraying the core values he stood for while running for the White House since he is preserving the military tribunals and the indefinite detention policies adopted by his predecessor. They also fault President Barack Obama for his reluctance to prosecute those Bush administration officials who are responsible for the torture of prisoners held at Guantanamo Bay and other U.S. military facilities abroad.

Mr. Obama's response against the conservatives was measured but forceful and passionate defense of our democratic values. "The documents that we hold in this very hall," the president said speaking before a larger-than-life copy of the United States Constitution, "-- the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, the Bill of Rights ... ... They are the foundation of liberty and justice in this country, and a light that shines for all who seek freedom, fairness, equality, and dignity around the world."

"I've studied the Constitution as a student," the president continued. "I've taught it as a teacher, I've been bound by it as a lawyer and a legislator. I took an oath to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution as Commander-in-Chief, and as a citizen, I know that we must never, ever, turn our back on its enduring principles for expedience sake."

Mr. Obama's attributed our constitutionally dubious practices to a "season of fear," that led many otherwise good and decent people (in his view) to make bad decisions. "I believe that many of these decisions were motivated by a sincere desire to protect the American people," the president said. But I also believe that all too often our government made decisions based on fear rather than foresight; that all too often our government trimmed facts and evidence to fit ideological predispositions." And, perhaps alluding the troubles that are now haunting Democratic leaders on Capitol Hill, most notably House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-California) he noted that our senators and Congressmen on Capitol Hill "fell silent"

That "season of fear" is still with us as we saw earlier this week when the Senate overwhelmingly voted to deny the president the funding needed to close the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada) told a reporter at a press conference that he was adamantly opposed to any plan that would relocate those detainees on American soil. "We have to release the prisoners," he said, before we can send them to prison. Senator Thune (R-South Dakota) said he didn't want any Al Qaeda terrorists roaming our streets, as if such detainees would be released into the American public at large once the detention facility is closed.

Mr. Obama calmly reminded his former colleagues on the hill that our prisons, particularly the maximum security prisons, hold dangerous criminals, including terrorists. To some of us the president was merely stating the obvious. "We are not going to release anyone if it would endanger our national security, nor will we release detainees within the United States who endanger the American people," the president said. His colleagues' fears aren't just wrong, they are irrational. "Nobody has ever escaped from one of our federal, supermax prisons, which hold hundreds of convicted terrorists. As Republican Lindsey Graham said, the idea that we cannot find a place to securely house 250-plus detainees within the United States is not rational."

Though he was no less forceful and calm in defending himself from his liberal critics. He defiantly rejected calls to prosecute those who engaged in torture, saying he didn't want to "rehash what was done." He forcefully and persuasively made the case for denying the public at large access to some torture photos. And he laid out a broad outline of what he plans to do with the remaining prisoners at Guantanamo Bay. Some will be tried in civilian courts. Those who violated "the laws of war" will be tried before military commissions. Those whom the courts have ordered released will be transferred to their home countries or a third-party country willing to take them and an undisclosed number of detainees who cannot be tried but who nevertheless pose a risk will still be held at a detention facility indefinitely.

Mr. Obama's decision to uphold the military commission system and his predecessor's indefinite detention policy in general has exposed him to crticism from the left. The president says he and his advisers will establish a "legal framework" to help them determine whether a given prisoner held at Guantanamo Bay should be tried before a civil court of law, military commission, released, or held indefinitely at a war detention facility.

The details as of present remain murky at best. Mr. Obama must somehow find an objective means to determine which crimes are violations of "the laws of war" and which crimes are not since that ultimately would determine whether such prisoners are tried before a civil or military court. My reading of his description of the military tribunal and the successes at the civilian court level suggests whether to try a suspect before a civilian or military court on an ad hoc personal basis, dependent upon his ability to win in either court). I hope I'm wrong. Justice requires an unbiased "legal framework" as he describes it from which everything else follows.

Perhaps most vexing was his refusal to maintain his predecessor's indefinite detention program for those who cannot be released because their confessions or their testimony was coerced through illicit practices (like water boarding). The president, in effect, is telling us these people have to be punished and deprived of their day in court because we violated their human rights by extracting confessions and testimony from them. It also appears to contradict Mr. Obama's lofty rhetoric in defense of habeas corpus rights, the rule of law, the constitution, and the viability of our legal court system.

"Some have derided our federal courts as incapable of handling the trials of terrorists," Mr. Obama said. "They are wrong. Our courts and our juries, our citizens, are tough enough to convict terrorists. The record makes that clear."

Strong words. "Except when they aren't, he implicitly told us.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Hate Crimes and Obama

So how long did President Barack Obama give Judy Shepard to talk about the most innocuous piece of gay rights legislation he claims to be a "fierce advocate" for?

"a minute or so".

That should make Chris Matthew's numbers segment.

Democrats Cave on Guantanamo

In a press release dated (approximately) two years ago, Senator Dianne Feinstein announced she was introducing legislation ordering the Department of Defense, then managed by Bush-appointee Robert Gates (um very much related to Obama-appointee Robert Gates) to close the war detention facility maintained at Guantanamo Bay.

" “Guantanamo Bay has become a lightning rod for international condemnation,” California's junior senator said in her press release. "“This has greatly damaged the nation’s credibility around the world. Rather than make the United States safer, the image projected by this facility puts us at greater risk. The time has come to close it down.”

Senator Feinstein's legislation, according to her own press release, required the president, then George W. Bush, to close the detention facility within a year and transfer those still held at the facility to:

(a) "any international legal tribunal that may be authorized for this purpose,"
(b) "The detainees’ home nations or a third-party government for further processing,"
(c) "a facility in the United States for continued detention, where authorized," or (d) " a "a civilian or military facility in the United States and charged with a violation of U.S. or international law for prosecution in a civilian or military proceeding."

I purposely highlighted those passages referring to the detainees' potential incarceration in detention facilities within the United States because they are particularly relevant to the debate the Democrats ceded today. The Republicans raised a new battle cry against closing Guantanamo Bay this week. "Not in my backyard," they said.

Why, they asked, would we bring these terrorists to the United States where they can do us some harm? "The American people don’t want these men walking the streets of America’s neighborhoods," Senator John Thune said (see The New York Times).

Apparently it had never occurred to the Democratic leaders in the "deliberative" body on Capitol Hill that our prisons do not protect the people within the surrounding communities from the criminals that get locked up within them. These prisoners, apparently are free to roam around within the confines of their jail cells, the jails where they are assigned to, and the communities where these prisons are located. In fact, it did not occur to the Democrats that these prisons are run like hotels. The detainees are given the keys to their jail cells. They can buzz themselves out at any time and most significantly (the horror, the horror) they leave the facilities at any moment.

Our Democratic representatives didn't think about this before they called for the Guantanamo's closure. They didn't think about this problem when they rebuked President George W. Bush for inflaming the Middle East by incarcerating these "enemy war combatants" in Guantanamo Bay indefinitely and they didn't think about this when they signed onto Senator Dianne Feinstein's

These concerns weren't raised by Senator Dianne Feinstein in this bill she supposedly sponsored but it did, inexplicably arise by the time she voted for a "sense of the senate resolution" sponsored by Republican Senator (and then Majority Leader) Mitch McConnell. Today she again reversed course, disputing the "all hell would break lose" argument and made the case for us prison lobbyists sending these prisoners to maximum security prisons before inexplicably voting against the funding President Barack Obama would use to close Guantanamo Bay down.

I say "inexplicably" because they say no such funding should be given to close the facility until President Barack Obama came up with a plan to remove the prisoners and ship them abroad. What is he going to do, give them a ticket so they can get on an airplane in Newark, New York or DC?

Why, on earth, didn't the Democrats think of this when they first called for the closing of the Guantanamo Bay detention facility? or before they endorsed President Barack Obama for president? Obviously a man who would release the prisoners without a plan to securely transfer these prisoners to another facility before closing the existing one at Guantanamo Bay shouldn't be our president. So why on earth didn't they think of all of this before they backed Obama and before they called for Guantanamo Bay's closure?

Because the parade of horrors which the Republicans raise have not and would not occur. Prisoners are locked up. Guards keep a watch over their behavior outdoors. Maximum security prisons hold the most dangerous and unruly of prisoners and rules are in place to deny them fresh air and contact with the outside world 23 hours a day. Prison escapes are rare. And what are we to make of the Republicans' assertion that these prisons would become potential terrorist targets since they would house terrorists? Nada. Guantanamo Bay wasn't attacked and there are more of them held together within the confines of limited space then there ever would be at any one given facility from which they are transferred to.

The nearly always disappointingly weak-kneed and dimwit of a Senate Majority Leader, Harry Reid (D-Nevada), said we have to "release the prisoners" before we can send them to prison.

So the prisoners must be released before they turn themselves in using the honor system?

Does Senator Reid given any thought to his retirement?

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Notre Dame Speech

Good speech overall and the call for civility is nothing to object to but...

(a) Will the president spend his capital finding that third way to this very complicated third rail issue and will the irreconcilable parties let him?

(b) How do we resolve the AIDS debate when the "gay activist" and the "evangelical Christian" come from irreconcilably opposing "cultural" positions?

Environmental Standards

President Barack Obama will be imposing tougher nationwide emission standards on the auto manufacturers that apparently will bring us up to California's standards but the rules won't go into effect for three years (I guess this to give the auto manufacturers time to recuperate and comply with the standards).

This may be all that is possible for now and it may be the only way he can get the best standards (as opposed to any watered-down legislative bill) but in 2012 the president will be up for re-election and if he loses his success might undo what he had done.

We may eventually need legislation protecting Obama's environmental legacy.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Skewed Priorities on Supreme Court Question

Conservatives who will lead the fight against President Barack Obama's judicial nominee (whoever that may be) apparently will focus their questions on the same-sex marriage debate.

Senator Orrin Hatch (R-Ohio) apparently told a reporter for The Washington Post that the do not want to see a ruling akin to Roe v Wade, in which the Court invalidates laws barring states from infringing against the freedom to act in a matter still under dispute or debate.

[In 1973 a seven-justice majority held that a woman had the right to terminate her pregnancy for any reason as long as the fetus was not viable at the time of the abortion. Conservative justices would later vote to uphold restrictions designed to discourage pregnant women. The religious conservatives were pleased and hoped that the justices Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush nominated to the Supreme Court would vote to overturn Roe V. Wade, eliminating a woman's right to an abortion and sending the matter back to the states. A narrower 5-4 Supreme Court majority, however, would uphold a woman's right to have an abortion in Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v Casey (1993).]

Conservatives, as a whole, believe this matter should have been decided at the state level by the legislators who are accountable to the people who vote them into office. They also say Roe denied the people within each state a deliberative political process that ultimately would "legitimize" the decision that was ultimately reached.

Some, and this is what Senator Hatch is alluding to, believe the Supreme Court might once again, shortcut the deliberative process (if it can be described as such) by invalidating laws barring same-sex marriage. President Barack Obama said he would be looking for a justice with "empathy," which the conservatives describe as a code-word for someone who supports affirmative action, amnesty for illegal immigrants, "abortion on demand," and gay marriage while opposing water boarding.

I don't, for a moment, believe gays have the five justices they would need to find a constitutional right to gay marriage and in any event, President Barack Obama will be appointing a moderately liberal to liberal justice to replace a moderately liberal justice, thereby preserving the balance of power on the Court. There were four moderately liberal justices on the Supreme Court before Justice David Souter retires and there in all likelihood will be four moderately liberal justices on the Supreme Court when he is replaced.

The Republicans' decision to focus on the gay marriage issue isn't entirely illogical. It has made the evening news. State courts have granted the right to same-sex marriages in Massachusetts, Iowa, Connecticut, California (overturned by proposition 8), and Hawaii (also overturned by popular vote) while courts in New York and Washington have upheld marital laws which discriminate against gay or bisexual same-sex couples.

State courts in Connecticut, New Jersey, and Vermont have granted same-sex couples civil union status. Thirty states have passed constitutional amendments banning state and local entities from recognizing gay marriages (and in some cases, from recognizing gay unions however they are called). Legislatures in Vermont and New Hampshire voted to extend marital rights to gay couples (marriage was legalized in Vermont and expected once a reformed bill is sent to the governor in New Hampshire).

Watching the conservatives shift their focus from abortion to gay marriage is, however unsettling and not only because I am gay (Yes there is that concern about my rights as well). Their objection to abortion rights is (or is it now "was") grounded, however imperfectly applied, in a liberal tradition dating back to Martin Luther King's civil rights movement.

Many conservatives (and some liberals) genuinely view Roe as the unborn fetuses' Plessy v. Ferguson (actually they have it reversed but that is a separate issue for a another day) because the court, in their view, has granted women the right to deny another person his or her right to life. It sanctions the wanton and unjustified taking of another person's life - murder.

If they believe abortion is infanticide, religious conservatives cannot allow the Republicans to shift their focus from that issue to gay marriage. The former concerns a gross violation of human rights while the latter concerns the choice of familial arrangements between two willful participants. One violates the basic rule needed for any society to function; the other does not.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Obama's War Detention Policies: Better but not Good

President Barack Obama apparently will use a military tribunal system to try and convict approximately 20 prisoners now held at Guantanamo Bay.

"Two senior administration officials outlined several of the rules changes, which will be carried out by executive authority, to The Associated Press on Thursday night. They include:

* Restrictions on hearsay evidence that can be used in court against the detainees.
* A ban on all evidence obtained through cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment. This would include statements given from detainees who were subjected to waterboarding.
* Giving detainees greater leeway in choosing their own military counsel.
* Protecting detainees who refuse to testify from legal sanctions or other court prejudices."

Definitely an improvement but I would much rather see the president try them in our court system. We have that system for a reason, knowing full well that we may occasionally release a person suspected of committing a series of murders or sexual assaults because there wasn't enough evidence to convict them of committing the crime (or crimes) for which they were charged. And we release those people into the society at large, if they are Americans.

In all likelihood, these defendants will be sent to their homeland if they are acquitted.

The APA and the AFA

Is there not a commandment forbidding Christians from "bearing false witness" against their neighbors?

Well, some on the religious right are latching on to a change in the American Psychiatric Association's stance on their being a gay gene but while doing so, selectively quoting from it.

This is the excerpted quote on One News Now:

"There is no consensus among scientists about the exact reasons that an individual develops a heterosexual, bisexual, gay or lesbian orientation. Although much research has examined the possible genetic, hormonal, developmental, social, and cultural influences on sexual orientation, no findings have emerged that permit scientists to conclude that sexual orientation is determined by any particular factor or factors. Many think that nature and nurture both play complex roles...."

This is the whole quote:

What causes a person to have a particular sexual orientation?

"There is no consensus among scientists about the exact reasons that an individual develops a heterosexual, bisexual, gay, or lesbian orientation. Although much research has examined the possible genetic, hormonal, developmental, social, and cultural influences on sexual orientation, no findings have emerged that permit scientists to conclude that sexual orientation is determined by any particular factor or factors. Many think that nature and nurture both play complex roles; most people experience little or no sense of choice about their sexual orientation."

The conservative "reporter" left 13 words out. Thirteen words that undermine what the habitually hysterical Peter Barbera has to say:

"It's irrefutable from a medical standpoint that people can leave the homosexual lifestyle, he argues. "Homosexuality is defined by behavior. Untold thousands of people have found freedom from that lifestyle through either reparative therapy or through -- frankly, most effectively -- a relationship with Jesus Christ."

No it is not:

" Sexual orientation refers to an enduring pattern of emotional, romantic, and/or sexual attractions to men, women, or both sexes. Sexual orientation also refers to a person’s sense of identity based on those attractions, related behaviors, and membership in a community of others who share those attractions. Research over several decades has demonstrated that sexual orientation ranges along a continuum, from exclusive attraction to the other sex to exclusive attraction to the same sex. However, sexual orientation is usually discussed in terms of three categories: heterosexual (having emotional, romantic, or sexual attractions to members of the other sex), gay/lesbian (having emotional, romantic, or sexual attractions to members of one’s own sex), and bisexual (having emotional, romantic, or sexual attractions to both men and women). This range of behaviors and attractions has been described in various cultures and nations throughout the world. Many cultures use identity labels to describe people who express these attractions. In the United States the most frequent labels are lesbians (women attracted to women), gay men (men attracted to men), and bisexual people (men or women attracted to both sexes). However, some people may use different labels or none at all.

Sexual orientation is distinct from other components of sex and gender, including biological sex (the anatomical, physiological, and genetic characteristics associated with being male or female), gender identity (the psychological sense of being male or female),* and social gender role (the cultural norms that define feminine and masculine behavior).

Sexual orientation is commonly discussed as if it were solely a characteristic of an individual, like biological sex, gender identity, or age. This perspective is incomplete because sexual orientation is defined in terms of relationships with others. People express their sexual orientation through behaviors with others, including such simple actions as holding hands or kissing. Thus, sexual orientation is closely tied to the intimate personal relationships that meet deeply felt needs for love, attachment, and intimacy. In addition to sexual behaviors, these bonds include nonsexual physical affection between partners, shared goals and values, mutual support, and ongoing commitment. Therefore, sexual orientation is not merely a personal characteristic within an individual. Rather, one’s sexual orientation defines the group of people in which one is likely to find the satisfying and fulfilling romantic relationships that are an essential component of personal identity for many people."

Obama's Abysmal Record on Gay Rights

"But I have a sickeningly familiar feeling in my stomach, and the feeling deepens with every interaction with the Obama team on these issues. They want them to go away. They want us to go away.

Here we are, in the summer of 2009, with gay servicemembers still being fired for the fact of their orientation. Here we are, with marriage rights spreading through the country and world and a president who cannot bring himself even to acknowledge these breakthroughs in civil rights, and having no plan in any distant future to do anything about it at a federal level. Here I am, facing a looming deadline to be forced to leave my American husband for good, and relocate abroad because the HIV travel and immigration ban remains in force and I have slowly run out of options (unlike most non-Americans with HIV who have no options at all).

And what is Obama doing about any of these things? What is he even intending at some point to do about these things? So far as I can read the administration, the answer is: nada. We're firing Arab linguists? So sorry. We won't recognize in any way a tiny minority of legally married couples in several states because they're, ugh, gay? We had no idea. There's a ban on HIV-positive tourists and immigrants? Really? Thanks for letting us know. Would you like to join Joe Solmonese and John Berry for cocktails? The inside of the White House is fabulous these days.

Yesterday, Robert Gibbs gave non-answer after non-answer on civil unions and Obama's clear campaign pledge to grant equal federal rights for gay couples; non-answer after non-answer on the military's remaining ban on honest servicemembers. What was once a categorical pledge is now - well let's call it the toilet paper that it is. I spent yesterday trying to get a better idea of what's intended on all fronts, and the overwhelming sense - apart from a terror of saying anything about gay people on the record - is that we are in the same spot as in every Democratic administration: the well-paid leaders of the established groups get jobs and invites, and that's about it. Worse: we will get a purely symbolic, practically useless hate crimes bill that they will then wave in our faces to prove they need do nothing more."
- Andrew Sullivan on his blog site hosted by The Atlantic

I don't think anyone within the gay community has accurately describe our predicament any better when Sullivan puts his mind to it. No word on ENDA. No word on the Uniting American Families Act (which would allow Americans to sponsor their same-sex partners). Backtracking on DOMA repeal. Backtracking on "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" Sigh. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Delaying the Photo Release

President Barack Obama may have gotten himself into some trouble with the liberal wing of the Democratic Party today when he decided to block the release of photos depicting prisoner abuse conducted by the United States military in Iraq and Afghanistan on Iraq. The president said these photos, which were as he described them, "not particularly sensational" but not in conformance with the "Army manual" could still endanger troops that are still fighting in the Middle East.

The ACLU and the Pentagon had previously agreed to release the photos but there is a fear among some that these photos could inflame tension in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Based upon the information that we have as of now I believe the president made the right call for now. While our troops are on the ground we should not expose them to further harm. We know the torture occurred but pictures are, "worth a thousand words." The visual image could enrage the Afghanis and Iraqis in a way that words cannot.

However, the president should limit his appeal to a ban to the public circulation of these photos. This information, however, should not be withheld from the lawyers, judges, and jurors who might ultimately hear challenges to coerced interrogations, and torture trials.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

The White House Correspondents' Association Dinner

President Barack Obama had a few good liners at tonight's dinner as did Wenda Sykes, particularly when they made a few digs at Vice President Joe Biden but his performance will be overshadowed by Sykes' over-the-top, shrill comments directed at Rush Limbaugh. I don't like the radio talk show host but wishing anyone poor kidneys or passing off the talk show host's "failure" to participate in the 9/11 hijackings that killed thousands of people to his drug problems isn't funny, and it isn't appropriate. In fact, it's downright hateful and unbecoming for a liberal.

Friday, May 08, 2009

National Day of Prayer and Obama's Christianity

Yesterday, some religious conservatives criticized the president for, as they see it, his failure to hold a ceremony honoring the National Day of Prayer. Wendy Wright of the "Concerned Women for America" told The Washington Times, the conservative paper of record in the capital city, that the president should have "lived up to the office" and host a faith gathering ceremony.

In her statement to the conservative newspaper, Wendy Wright revived the accusation that was used in the campaign to discredit the president when he was running for the White House - that he is not a Christian. "For those of us who have our doubts about Obama's faith," Mrs. Wright said, we did not expect him to have the service." He should have, in her opinion, "put his lack of faith aside" and honored the event.

The president did of course, issue a proclamation honoring the event which, for a lot of us who believe in the separation of church and state, was itself a step taken too far. His press secretary, Robert Gibbs, said Obama "understands, in his own life and in his family's life, the role that prayer plays" and prays privately every day.

The reporter at The Washington Times implicitly accused the president of favoring Judaism over Christianity by noting that he held a seder for his Jewish friends and family members while refusing to partake in a public Christian ceremony honoring the National Day of Prayer. No such favoritism was expressed however. The Passover Seder which he hosted was conducted in private, behind closed doors. He would have spoken to his family and friends on his own behalf. The National Day of Prayer events which the religious evangelicals wanted him to host however, would have occurred before the cameras and anything which the president said would have been attributed to his role as the Head of State.

Reverend C. Welton Graddy of the Interfaith Alliance defended the president on Rachel Maddow's MSNBC show last night, reminding the viewers that the Christians' acknowledged savior (as they see it) himself condemned the Pharisees for praying in public while strongly urging those who prayed to do so in private. Ironically, the conservatives who defended George W. Bush's right to practice his faith in the private square as he sees fit is now attacking the current president's decision to practice in public as he sees fit.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Matthew Shepard Act

Third Way has offered a two fact sheets refuting claims that the Matthew Shepard Act which the House of Representatives voted for would curtail the freedom of speech rights of religious leaders (and others) to denounce homosexuality. Courtesy the Religion Clause blog.

In sum what does the Third Way say? That unless you actually use an anti-gay (or anti-ethnic or anti-religious) epithet during the actual commission of a violent crime, the hate crimes statute cannot be invoked.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Last week Justice David H. Souter submitted a letter announcing his pending retirement from the Supreme Court of the United States in June, giving President Barack Obama his first opportunity to nominate a Supreme Court Justice that could solidify his legacy for years to come.

When President George H.W. Bush first nominated Justice Souter to the Supreme Court, conservatives and liberals considered him a stealth candidate whose opinions were apparently known to no one but the president but by the time we submitted his letter of resignation he had proven himself to be a reliable member of the more liberal faction on the bench.

In 1992 he and two of his Reagan-appointed nominees (Sandra Day O'Connor & Anthony Kennedy) co-authored the opinion that upheld a woman's right to an abortion while providing states more leeway when imposing restrictions on its use. Conservatives would use his vote on that contentious issue as their new rallying cry - "No more Souters" - but he would vote with the more liberal wing on many issues.

Gay Americans appreciated his reliable votes to extend basic civil rights protections to them. He joined the six-justice majority that overturned a Colorado amendment forbidding state and local agencies from prohibiting sexual orientation-based discrimination and another overturning Texas' "Homosexual Conduct Law," granting gay Americans the same intimate privacy rights everyone else takes for granted. He vociferously dissented when the Court upheld the Boy Scouts' right to bar gays from their organization.

Justice Souter voted to uphold laws designed to offset the effects of racial segregation, voting with the majority that preserved in part a college affirmative action program, and with the minority that voted to uphold a school district program designed to ensure racial integration in the public schools.

Those of us who believe in preserving the separation of church and state were pleased with his rulings against government-endorsed prayer at public school graduation ceremonies and football games as well as his vote against a school voucher program.

Most recently he sided with the majority in restricting Obama's predecessor from holding enemy combatants indefinitely without a hearing justifying the suspenion of habeas corpus rights.

President Barack Obama's nominee to replace Justice Souter probably won't alter the balance of power on the Supreme Court. He is, after all, expected to pick a liberal who would vote, it is hoped, to uphold basic privacy and civil rights. Specifically President Obama said he would appoint someone with not only a "sharp and independent mind and a record of excellence and integrity" but also someone who "understands that justice isn't about some abstract legal theory or footnote in a case book." "It is also about how our laws affect the daily realities of people's lives -- whether they can make a living and care for their families; whether they feel safe in their homes and welcome in their own nation."

Let's hope his nominee, like Souter, will know how the law affects people in their daily lives and will do his or her best to make sure the law isn't used to make any American citizen feel "unwelcome" in our nation.


President Barack Obama said he will be looking for a Supreme Court Justice who is empathetic (among other things). Senator Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), who serves on the Senate Judiciary Committee that will hold hearings on the president's judicial nominees, said that should be read as a code word for judicial activism. I guess he is acknowledging the fact that conservative judges who adhere to legislative deference or lack empathy.