Sunday, August 29, 2010

Weak-kneed Democrats

Pathetic. What's wrong with them? Why don't they go after the Republicans for proposing tax cuts for the rich and austerity measures (in the form of cuts in government services) that overwhelmingly hurt the middle class and poor? Is there not a single principled Democrat in Washington? Are they all banana Republicans in Washington? Why do we need a Democratic Party when we can get the real thing from the Republicans?

What is the method behind their madness? Why would they, when presented with two alternatives that will add to the deficit, set aside a spending program (a policy that worked in the 1930s and 1940s), for a plan that doesn't work (tax cuts for the rich)?

I really don't get it and this is very depressing. One party selects candidates whose ignorance, naivete, and demagoguery while protecting the interests of the moneyed classes that got us into this mess while the other party backs candidates with no backbone to protect the people they vowed to protect. With friends like this I see no reason to sit this election out. Who cares if the Republicans win? The Democrats will concede everything whether they are in a position of power or not.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

DemocratiC Forecast

is not good, particularly in the House. 50 seats. Perhaps the House Democrats will think about the party base enthusiasm gap during their years in exile. Half-hearted stimulus measures and banking reforms and cowardice in the face of demagoguery and the battle for civil rights legislation don't help when they have to ask for votes. Conservatives won't give them any credit for compromising on their principles and the liberals will feel like they were betrayed.

That "none of the above" option in Nevada is looking pretty good now, particularly in that senate race between Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and tea-party no-nothing Sharon Angle.

Middle School Racism

Nettleton Middle School reversed its course and has eliminated its policy allotting student offices in accordance to one's race. Superintendent Russell Taylor said the policy, which allotted the student presidency and treasury to a white student and the vice presidency and reporter to an African American, was designed to ensure minority representation.

I doubt it. For starters, the school administration did not consider the aspirations and representational needs of any Asian American, Native American, or Pacific Islander. Students from these groups were not allocated any of the twelve seats, forcing them to compete with each other and any white or black seeking a seat not specifically allocated to people of their race.

But even if the administration's motives were purer than I suspect the administration would still have to explain why it awarded the more prestigious positions with more responsibility to its white students. White students represent the entire student body at important school functions (as president) while black student could only do so as a stand-in (as vice president). White students could handle money (as treasurer) while a black student could relay what happened at such meetings (as a reporter). This only reinforced the lingering feelings of prejudice some within the rural south still harbor towards racial minorities and confirmed, in the eyes of many blacks that there still remains a glass ceiling that deprives them of "being all they can be."

This school district's policy was repealed after public exposure. One has to wonder, however, if Nettleton is/was the only school district with a policy like this and if the prejudice that leads to school districts to enact such drastically flawed remedies (or avoid the prejudice) are still out there.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

George F. Will's Nonsolution on the Middle East

George F. Will says there is really nothing which the Israelis and Palestinians could negotiate over since the concessions Israel would have to make leave them vulnerable to their "perpetual enemies" in the West Bank. The Israelis obviously didn't need that territory when they effectively defended themselves from their hostile neighbors in 1949 or prevent them from launching a successful pre-emptive strike against the Egyptians in 1967. The Israelis can and probably would successfully defend themselves from another invasion.

The perpetual occupation of the West Bank which George F. Will seemingly supports would not stop terrorists from entering Israel-proper. Jerusalem is within a reasonable striking distance from the Palestinian territories. Jerusalem sits on both sides of the political border. Effectively guarded checkpoints at the border, not territorial occupation, will protect Israelis who live near the border from attack.

What George F. Will supports isn't feasible if only because the Palestinians whom the Israelis would continue to occupy won't accept the Israelis as their perpetual rulers. Israel eventually will have to dismantle the settlements they built in the West Bank or otherwise trade them for land of equal value to the Palestinians.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The Marital "Ideal"

Note the debate between Ross Douthat, Andrew Sullivan on gay marriage and Glen Greenwald.

Ross Douthat says conservatives must oppose gay marriage in order to uphold "one of the great ideas of Western civilization: celebration of lifelong heterosexual monogamy as a unique and indispensable estate." Heterosexuality promotes life and the monogamy then assures that child parenthood:

"The point of this ideal," Douthat says, "is not that other relationships have no value, or that only nuclear families can rear children successfully. Rather, it’s that lifelong heterosexual monogamy at its best can offer something distinctive and remarkable — a microcosm of civilization, and an organic connection between human generations — that makes it worthy of distinctive recognition and support.

In their own, unique ways, Sullivan and Greenwald counter by noting this is not a zero-sum game whereby one relationship has to be condemned by the state while the other is promoted.

I will focus on the discussion between Douthat and Sullivan. Greenwald essentially makes a legalistic argument that yes, counters Douthat's zero-sum game analysis without addressing his concern about the cultural ideal itself.

"I don't disagree with this at all," Sullivan says on his own blog. "I remain in awe of the heterosexual life-long coupling that produces new human life. There is a miraculous, sacred, awe-inspiring aspect to it. I understand why this is a Sacrament, and have no interest in being included in such a Sacrament since it is premised on the very Thomist arguments Ross puts forward." But, and this is his key point:

"...the question is whether this ideal should rest on its own laurels or needs to be elevated by law and doctrine to the highest level of human relationship, and also, in order to achieve this ideal, actively exclude others - both in the religious and the secular sphere?"

Sullivan does not believe religious institutions actually uphold, let alone believe in those "ideals." He then notes those instances where religious institutions break from this marital ideal. The Catholic Church for example, allows infertile couples to marry as well as people who are past child-bearing age. It permits and in fact commends parents who adopt children even though this would violate the Mr. Ross' procreative ideal standard and it permits married couples to annul their marriages. Some protestant churches reject both, Douthat's monogamy and procreative ideals by freely permitting divorce and contraception. The Catholic and Protestant churches have, in Sullivan's opinion, squandered whatever justifications that might have justified a prohibition on gay marriage.

On the merits I think he is right. A conservative could say (and in fact some have said) that the recognition of the marriages which gay people would enter into confirms what they (socially conservative heterosexuals) have only conceded and makes the resurgence in values which they seek only that much harder.

Sullivan conceded too much to Douthat, for in effect Mr. Sullivan said heterosexuals who otherwise should have won the battle for privileging heterosexual marriage defaulted for their failure to live by the standards that separated them from their homosexual neighbors. Celebrating and privileging heterosexual intercourse would have been perfectly acceptable since it and it alone guarantees that life will be passed on from generation to generation.

This fear that our procreative situation is precarious is misguided. We don't have to celebrate heterosexual monogamy in order to sustain civilization and link one generation to another generation. (Our society may have to uphold monogamy as an ideal for reasons that affect gay and straight people alike), but heterosexuality itself will occur naturally, whether "heterosexual monogamy" is upheld as the "ideal" or not just as homosexuality will occur naturally, whether it is condemned or not. And if we compare the proportion of people who are straight (90 - 97% of the population) to the proportion of people who are gay (3 - 10% of the population) there are more than enough straights and bisexuals in heterosexual relationships reproducing to make up for the number of gays and bisexuals in homosexual relations who do not.

If, as our conservative opponents say, there aren't that many gay people out there, then "we have nothing to fear but fear itself."

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

A Good Ruling but Justice Will be Delayed

We have a long way to go before we can declare victory. This will be appealed to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals and ultimately, perhaps by the Supreme Court of the United States. Gay and lesbian Americans living in California, in the meantime, will probably have to wait before they can get married. Judge Vaughn R. Walker of the Federal District of San Francisco will rule on the Proposition 8 proponents request for a stay next week and in all likelihood he will rule in their favor since a higher court likely will hear their appeal.

I did not believe we should challenge Proposition 8 at this time since this decision ultimately will be decided by a largely conservative Supreme court majority whose record of support for gay rights is tenuous at best. David Boies, Ted Olson and the plaintiffs they represent bet our progress on the hope that we'll have the five votes on the Supreme Court if and when it hears this case. Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas have voted against every gay rights challenge that reached the Supreme Court. They don't even believe we have the right to be intimate with the people that we love within the privacy of our homes. One justice, when he served on the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals, struck down as unconstitutional a hate crimes statute that protected gays. This same judge as a Supreme Court justice voted to hear an appeal challenging the District of Columbia's newly-established marital ordinance permitting same-sex weddings.

To win, Mr. Boies and Olsen will have to count on Justice Anthony Kennedy providing the deciding fifth vote for the four liberals who may but then again may not vote for gay marital rights. Justice Kennedy cast the pivotal vote for two major gay rights victories - the first (Romer v. Evans)overturning a state's constitutional amendment prohibiting it and any subdivision from offering sexual minorities any protection from discrimination whatsoever. In the second (Lawrence v. Texas), he cast the deciding vote recognizing the gay person's right to privacy.

It should be noted, however that in both cases Kennedy did not apply heightened, let alone strict scrutiny, to overturn the laws which discriminated against gay Americans within those jurisdictions which suggests that he believes there may be some instances where sexual orientation-based discrimination may be constitutional if not desirable.

As a general rule, the courts generally uphold laws that advantage one group over another since most laws have the effect of providing one group a set of advantages and another group with a set of disadvantages. Laws create winners and losers, so as long as the elective body can provide a rational basis for the disparity in treatment, its law or regulation will be upheld. Accusations of racial, ethnic, religious and gender discrimination have led the court to provide some exceptions to the rule.

The Court will, for instance, strictly scrutinize any law (hence the term "strict scrutiny") that has the effect of treating similarly situated individuals of a different race, ethnic group or religious affiliation differently since there are no potentially relevant or significant differences to justify the disparity in treatment. Moreover, the court knew that the bigotry and prejudice directed against racial and ethnic minorities at that time was ingrained, that it had to consider any law that disparately impacted-similarly situated individuals of different races suspect.

Men and women were at one time treated differently under the law and federal courts were forced to apply the Fourteenth Amendment's equal protection clause to laws that discriminated against women.

In Romer, Kennedy rejected the use of heightened scrutiny the state court used to overturn the law, which suggests that he may believe that some discrimination against gays may be constitutionally permissible if not socially desirable.

And he may not be the only one. We don't know how Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan and Justices Sonia Sotomayor, Ruth Bader Ginsburg or Steven Breyer will vote on gay marriage should Proposition 8 or any of the other constitutional challenges reach the Supreme Court.

Judge Walker's ruling was nevertheless monumental and it was the best ruling any of us could have hoped for since our opponents were going to make an issue out of his sexuality whether he ruled our way or not. Had he ruled against us, they would have used him as the shining example of an Uncle Tom who "knew his place" to marginalize the rest of us. Now they will say the system was rigged because it was made by a gay judge who naturally was personally vested in this case.

No one should take their claims at face value, particularly since the claims they will make about him can be said about their hero, Antonin Scalia, even though no one said a word when he heard and voted on cases affecting conservative Christians.

We must prepare ourselves for the backlash. Republicans will use this judicial ruling, like the one overturning Arizona's illegal immigration law, to rally their conservative base to the polls this November. This ruling might inspire Iowa's conservatives to vote their state Democrats out of office so they will have the votes to put gay Iowans' marital rights up for a vote.

Judge Walker won't issue a stay this week, so we will have some time to celebrate, as well as think about the fight ahead of us but we must remember, and Judge Walker's expected ruling to stay the decision on Tuesday should remind us, that we have won one small battle in what has and will continue to be a long and hard-fought war.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Gay Marriage/Interracial Marriage Comparison

The difference Ta-Nehisi Coates (who is an African American straight friend to the gay community) suggests that the gay community is wrong to suggest that the ban on gay marriage is as evil as the now banned ban on gay marriage. In at least one important respect, it's (shh) worse:

"Much worse, the comparison with interracial marriage actually understates the evil of reserving marriage rights for certain classes of people. Banning interracial marriage meant that most black people could not marry outside of their race. This was morally indefensible, but very different than a total exclusion of gays from the institution of marriage. Throughout much of America, gays are effectively banned from marrying, not simply certain types of people, but any another compatible partner period. Unlike heterosexual blacks in 1960, the ban gays suffer under is unconditional and total and effectively offers one word for an entire sector of Americans--Die. For evading that ban means virtual--if not literal--suicide."

It gets better.

"A more compelling analogy would be a law barring blacks, not from marrying other whites, but effectively from marrying anyone at all. In fact we have just such an analogy. In the antebellum South, the marriages of the vast majority of African-Americans, much like gays today, held no legal standing. Slavery is obviously, itself, a problem--but abolitionists often, and accurately, noted that among its most heinous features was its utter disrespect for the families of the enslaved. Likewise, systemic homophobia is, itself, a problem--but among its most heinous features is its utter disrespect for the families formed by gays and lesbians."

Take that Bishop Jackson!
He gets it, perhaps even more than the spokespersons in the gay community get it.

Monday, August 02, 2010

Republican's Set of Priorities and Math

"The second unhappy change in the American economy has been the extraordinary growth of our public debt. In 1970 it was just 40 percent of gross domestic product, or about $425 billion. When it reaches $18 trillion, it will be 40 times greater than in 1970. This debt explosion has resulted not from big spending by the Democrats, but instead the Republican Party’s embrace, about three decades ago, of the insidious doctrine that deficits don’t matter if they result from tax cuts." - David Stockman, former OMB Director under late President Ronald Reagan.

President George Herbert Walker Bush called it "voodoo economics," flipped for the 1988 election and then paid the price for breaking his "no new taxes" pledge. In hindsight he really wasn't that far off.

Of course today's Republicans say they want to cut government spending as well. Most won't dare to say what they want to cut aside from some generic "across the board" spending which no one seems to fear since no sacred cow is gutted but of course the money that is used to pay for the tax cuts have to come from somewhere. States may have to put their road construction projects on hold if they don't get federal aid. Teachers might get laid off. Social security benefits may have to get cut. The Food and Drug Administration might have to inspect less food.

In its effort to save money, New Jersey's Department of Motor Vehicles, for example, will no longer inspect cars and trucks for mechanical problems. The state decided it could not afford to pay for the service and forcing motorists to pay for this service was out of the question (no one in Trenton wants to face the voters' wrath over this one) but it will cost more in the long run. Insurance companies like GEICO and All State might use this latest news as a pretext to raise their premiums since the risk of insuring a car on the road that is shared by those with faulty brakes or steering problems have gone up.

Services cost money. Government programs cost money. Everything costs money and the way that a government raises the money to provide for those whom it is set up to serve is to tax those whom it was created to serve. The Republicans are willing (and in fact call for) the repeal of our president's financial reform and health care reform packages even though they are designed to benefit small investors and the middle and working class and they have, in the past, expressed a willingness to entitlement benefits. These savings, however, are more than offset by the wars in the Middle East which they would have us fund ad infinitum and the Bush tax cuts which primarily but do not exclusively benefit the rich made permanent. And yet in spite of this they have the audacity to push (rhetorically) for deficit reduction.

At times it seems as if they want to balance the budget on the backs of the middle and working class American citizen, or that they are out to defend the big guy at the expense of the small guy. How else can one explain Republican Joe Barton's (R Texas) apology to British Petroleum while referring to attempts to have it pay for the loss in revenues and jobs associated with their oil spills a "shake down." Or the Republican's opposition to the auto industry's bailout while backing the first bail out on Wall Street. How else can one explain conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh's suggestion that our health care system is fine because he was effectively cared for during his latest stay in the hospital (one would think that a multimillionaire could afford the best of care).

The Republicans' sense of priorities and math just don't add up and the Democrats should call them out on it before voters begin to believe what they have to say.

Sunday, August 01, 2010

Governor Pawlenty

“I’m very thankful for my red-hot smoking wife, the first lady of Minnesota,” Governor Tim Pawlentry (R-Minnesota)in Waverly, as quoted in The New York Times.

Phew, he's straight. Now that he got that out of the way he can focus on the issues that really matter.

But lest we forget why he said what he said, flouting one's [heterosexual] sexuality while belittling another's [homosexual] sexuality seems to be a badge of honor within the conservative movement. Conservative Richard Lowry of The National Review noted his attraction to Governor Sarah Palin during the 2008 vice presidential debate. The religious right will be pleased (because that's primarily what they care about these days).

Designer Diaper Insanity

Um. They get trashed which I guess makes them more fitting for diapers. Baby speedos? What's next, low rise diapers? I know. Mesh diapers.