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This is What Democracy Looks Like

Today's Note From a Madman

Monday, June 12, 2006

Today's Quote

Our culture has been dumbed down by the tasteless, witless character of TV sitcoms; by the feel-good, don't-worry character of corporate TV news; by the mind-numbing idiocy of right-wing hate radio; and by a value system that celebrates consumerism above everything else in life.

It occurred to me today that Karl Marx might not have written that "religion is the opiate of the masses" had he lived to see "American Idol."

-James Burke, as forwarded by Eddie Konczal

Today's Joke

While suturing a cut on the hand of a 75-year-old Texas Rancher, whose hand was caught in a gate while working cattle, the doctor struck up a conversation with the old man. Eventually, the topic got around to former Texas Governor George W. Bush and his elevation to the White House.

The old Texan said, "Well, ya know, Bush is a 'post turtle.'" Not being familiar with the term, the doctor asked him what a 'post turtle was. The old rancher said, "When you're driving down a country road and you come across a fence post with a turtle balanced on top, that's a post turtle."

The old man saw a puzzled look on the doctor's face, so he continued to explain: ''You know, he didn't get there by himself, he doesn't belong there, he doesn't know what to do while he's up there, and you just want to the dumb thing get down.

-Sean (Mr. Blue-Sky)

Rep. Dreier

I don't care who Rep. David Dreier (R-CA) lives with. I don't care that he has an "unusual relationship" with his chief of staff, Brad Smith, with whom he shares a home in Washington, DC. I don't care that Dreier won the Roy Cohn Award, which is given out to presumably gay people who work hard against the gay community, just like its namesake did for over 24 years. I simply don't care. After all, I am used to Republicans, and, more specifically, those who vote Republican, voting against their own self interests over and over again.

What I do care about, however, is when our representatives are so deep into the pockets of big business and so unbelievably scared for their political lives that they will pimp themselves for any purpose and reason which they are ordered to. Today, as I was switching through the Cable "news" stations, Rep. Dreier stated that the economy is doing great, ignoring even the obvious drop in the stock market (as seen on Kudlow and Kramer). He then went on to say that if it weren't for the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, and the damage caused by Hurricane Katrina, the United States would be in the black! The he said that the budget deficit will be reduced by $150 million by 2008. And the reason for all of this "good news" was the tax cuts instituted by the administration of "G"lobal "W"arming Bush and his "G"reed "O"ver "P"eople "followers" in congress.

I was shocked. I was amazed. Even more, I was hoping that this guy would go on Lou Dobbs' or Keith Oberman's show.

Of course, Kudlow let it slide, as you would expect anyone on CNBC do.

My questions would have been simple:
-What about the Iraq war paying for itself, Mr. Dreier?
-What about growing the size of government in a time of war, Mr. Dreier?
-What about "halving the deficit", which President Bush, you and the other members of the GOP "followers" in congresspromised would happen by 2008, Mr. Dreier?
-What about actually putting that money to work in New Orleans, instead of just "catipulting the propoganda", Mr. Dreier?
-What about health care, Mr. Dreier?
-What about the rising poverty rate, Mr. Dreier?
-What about high gas prices and alternatove fuel, Mr. Dreier?

I don't care about your personal life Mr. Dreier. I care about the truth and the well being of every single American.

How about you, "Davey-Boy"?

-Noah Greenberg

Taking a Beating

The DOW dipped 46.90 today to close the week out 356 points down or over 3% down. Since its peak a few weeks ago, the DOW has lost 817 points or almost 7%.

As I pointed out earlier this week, the Fed is hawkish on inflation - that means more interest rate hikes. So, we have a slowing economy, tightening labor market, rising interest rates, slowing housing market, rapidly deflating dollar and massive budget deficits. Now, I don't have a crystal ball but I can't think of a mixture of factors better suited to bringing on a serious recession. Worst yet, I believe these are the right factors to bring on stag-flation (inflation coupled with a recession).

-Forwarded and Commented by Robert Scardapane

Abramoff's Boy

David Safavian has ties toJack Abramoff. For those of you who don't know who he was the former chief of staff at the General Services Administration and he is on trial for lying to investigators and obstructing inquiries by the Investigator General and Senator John McCain's (R-AZ) Senate Panel.


Safavian "was trying to hide a secret, inappropriate and unethical relationship with Mr. Abramoff,"
-Prosecutor Nathaniel Edmonds

Why do I have a feeling that this isn't the last time we'll hear those same, exact words in a trial? I can see, in my mind's eye, Former Rep. Tom DeLay (R-TX) (my, that sounds nice - FORMER Rep. DeLay) squirming in his seat at the defense table and listening to that same, exact statement. You don't even need a good imagination for that.

Being friends with Jack Abramoff means always having to say "I'm sorry."

There is going to be an Abramoff Conga-Line of "G"reed "O"ver "P"eople party faithful who are going to say "Not Guilty, your honor," over the next few months (at least). And guess who is going to foot the bill for the misuses of power and theft of our American dollars and our dignity? If you guessed us, the American people, you'd be right.

Remember, the Republicans are the ones who brought us Kenneth Starr and the $66 million Clinton investigation, which went nowhere. How much are their own indiscretions going to cost us?

-Noah Greenberg

Killing Zarqawi

How does one begin to discuss the assassination of Zarkawi?

As GW Bush said in his speech, this man will not kill again. Hopefully, the insurgency in Iraq will settle down and stop murdering ordinary civilians. That tactic, of simply making the country too unsafe and trying to blame the insecurity on the occupation is as stupid as it is brutal.

But there is a bigger matter, how should we, as informed citizens of a democracy react to the incontrovertible news that our government is now involved in assassinating foreign enemies? Is it just a dog eat dog world where democracy merely permits the growth of the biggest dog?

Have we- under our saved Christian President- finally reached the end of history; the time when morality, humanity and virtue simply get in the way in the bitter battle for dominance?
Has the brilliant time of democracy, - democracy defined as the idea that government is something other than bloody factional battles- expired?

In our national gloating over the dead Zarkawi are we even capable of caring about the bigger issues of humanity, democracy and how the Iraq War is degrading and brutalizing us as a people?

-Robert Chapman

I'm still happy he's dead. -NG

by Victoria A. Brownworth
copyright c 2006, Journal-Register Newspapers, Inc.

June 7th was a good day and a bad day for civil rights in America as same-sex marriage rights hit the legislature. The good news is that for the second time in two years, the U.S. Senate overwhelmingly voted down a proposal for a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage, this time with even more votes against the amendment than in 2004. Among the eight Republicans voting against the amendment were perennial presidential hopeful Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) and Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA).

Specter, Senate Judiciary Chair, had made clear he opposed the amendment (although he had voted for it in 2004) when chairing the committee, but said he believed there should be debate in the Senate over the issue. Only two Democrats voted for the amendment, Sen. Robert Byrd (D-WV) and Ben Nelson (D-NE). Had the vote come near the majority needed for the amendment, Vice-President Cheney, who opposes the amendment and whose daughter, Mary, is a lesbian, would have had a key vote.

While the U.S. Senate was succinct on the inadvisability of the amendment, Pennsylvania took a different tack and voted for ratification of a similar amendment in a bitter floor fight that pitted Philadelphia (which voted overwhelmingly against the amendment) against the center of the state (voting mostly for it) and Republicans against far-outnumbered Democrats.

Said Rep.Babette Josephs (D-Phila.), "This is a very sad day for this great institution and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, which historically led the way to greater liberty and civil rights in this country."

State Rep. Dan Frankel (D-Allegheny) added, "I am stunned we are talking about this issue today when we need to be dealing with substance. We need to talk about minimum wage, we need to talk about property tax. George Bush wants to divert attention [from other issues]. I would suggest that is why the majority party wants to proffer this legislation." Frankel identified the cynicism with which this measure was brought to both the U.S. Senate and State House in Pennsylvania. This is an election year–a very tight election year, in the Senate and in Pennsylvania.

In the Senate there will be close races that may shift the balance of power back into the hands of the Democrats. U.S. voters have stated in poll after poll that they trust Democrats to run the Congress more than Republicans who have suffered under both the fallout from the war on Iraq and a series of very public and problematic indictments and resignations, such as that of former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay.

President Bush had declared that marriage was "under attack" in America from "activist judges." But as is so often the case, Bush's hyperbole doesn't mesh with reality. The only threat to heterosexual marriage in the U.S. comes directly from heterosexual couples themselves: one in two marriages in the U.S. ends in divorce. If the President were really concerned with protecting marriage in America, he'd proposed a constitutional amendment banning divorce, not same-sex marriage. Gay men and lesbians who wish to marry would actually bolster a clearly failing system, not the reverse.

Bush's comments about activist judges–a favorite fall-back position of the President's when his polls numbers are down as they have been for months–could also raise other issues about marriage. It was so-called activist judges who changed marriage laws dramatically in 1967 with the landmark U.S. Supreme Court ruling, *Loving v. Virginia.*

In that case an interracial couple married in Washington, D.C. and then returned home to Virginia where they were arrested for violating the miscegenation (ban on interracial marriage) laws in that state.

In 2003, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down state sodomy laws under a similar rubric as that used for *Loving v. Virginia.* Justice Anthony Kennedy, a conservative justice appointed by George Bush, Sr., wrote the majority opinion in *Lawrence v. Texas*, stating that sodomy laws were inappropriately used against consenting homosexual couples; the majority opinion found the laws unconstitutional. It is widely presumed that both the *Loving*and *Lawrence* cases (both of which involved interracial couples) solidify the judicial view that laws banning same-sex marriage are unconstitutional, just as miscegenation laws were found to be.

Prior to the black civil-rights movement, religious activists and politicians gave a biblical argument against mixed-race marriage, stipulating that God made the races separate for a reason and therefore they were not meant be mixed. In recent years both the President and evangelical Christian groups have made similar arguments about same-sex marriage.

On June 6th, the day before the Senate vote, the President was declarative: "traditional marriage," the President asserted, "marriage between one man and one woman," had to be protected.

But when the President and religious leaders talk about traditional marriage, if the Bible is their precedent, then traditional marriage is not one man and one woman but one man and many women: polygamy.
Throughout most of recorded history in Western civilization, marriage has been polygamous.Is *that* what the President and evangelical Christians want judges to uphold? If so, then the criminalization of Mormon sects that still practise polygamy should be stopped and everyone else needs to have more wives.

Marriage has also traditionally allowed men control over their wives, which is why until recently rape in marriage was not against the law and domestic violence crimes were perceived as marital issues, not legal ones. Also, marriage for people of color had long been outlawed in the U.S. and today only 27 percent of black couples actually do marry.

According to the most recent U.S. census, traditional–a married heterosexual couple–families represented only 24 percent of American households. In 1970 that number was the obverse: 76 percent of American households were comprised of a married heterosexual couple.

The push now, as in 2004, for a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage (which is currently only legal in one state and parts of several others) is cravenly political. Bush, with the lowest poll numbers of any sitting president since Nixon prior to his resignation, is trying to stoke his conservative base after the disaster of Iraq and escalating domestic problems. The impending elections in November pose problems for incumbent Republicans associated with Bush as 71 percent of Americans do not approve of Bush's handling of the war and other major issues of import to Americans.

On June 7th, polls showed that only 42 percent of Americans favored a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage and 67 percent thought that Bush was out of touch with America for making the ban an issue. Polls indicated Republicans were as likely to think Bush was out of touch with the issue as Democrats.

More Americans support the idea of both same-sex civil unions and same-sex marriage than not; the numbers *supporting* same-sex unions has increased each year of the last decade by five percent. The President himself was careful in his language June 6th to explain that the ban was not meant to be discriminatory (which exactly what was said about miscegenation laws) and that it would only cover marriage, not civil unions. But marriage *is* a civil union according to the law. Only a fraction of marriages in the U.S. are performed in houses of worship and even when they are, the couple must also have a marriage license from the state in order to be married in a church, synagogue, mosque or ashram and have the marriage be legal in the eyes of the state.

Yet all of this is a relatively new development historically (like marrying for love instead of duty or money): until the 20th century in America, the state was not involved in marriages in most states, which is why many conservatives like Vice President Cheney believe marriage laws are a state's rights issue, not a federal one.

In 2003, Massachusetts became the first state to allowed same-sex marriage when the state's Supreme Court found laws prohibiting same-sex marriage to be unconstitutional. Since the same-sex marriage became law the following year, nearly 5,000 same-sex couples have married in the state. A majority of these have been between long-term couples, many of whom also have children. The issue of children is a key one in these battles over marriage, as are other rights accruing to married couples, such as the right to make medical decisions for a spouse or tax benefits after the death of a spouse.

Those opposing the bans on same-sex marriage have long argued that such amendments–whether statewide or federal--would prevent same-sex couples and unmarried heterosexual couples from adopting and discourage employers from offering domestic-partner benefits. Thus the President's comments that civil unions would still be viable isn't exactly true. Many of those opposed to same-sex marriage also oppose civil unions.

During the Pennsylvania battle, Rep. Josephs queried her colleagues, "I really don't understand except for the political reasons, which is to bring out the conservative vote, why there is this rush to do this damage to families who are committed and loving." Josephs' district covers Center City Philadelphia, where a large number of same-sex couples lives.

Thus far 19 states have adopted constitutional definitions of marriage; Pennsylvania is among 26 that have enacted statutes, but not constitutional amendments.

In Pennsylvania, constitutional amendments must pass the General Assembly in each of two successive two-year sessions, then win voter approval in a statewide referendum; the earliest that could happen is 2007.

Although Gov. Ed Rendell does not have a role in the amendment process as governor, this is an election year and he is in a tight race with Republican candidate Lynn Swann who is opposed to same-sex marriage. Rendell made no specific comments about the vote June 7th, but Rendell's spokeswoman, Kate Philips said, "The governor believes that couples in long-term committed relationships who are gay should have the same rights as heterosexuals do in marriage."

The question of same-sex marriage is not going to disappear off the societal landscape anymore than that of interracial marriage disappeared. Couples will, as happened in Massachusetts, continue to fight for equal rights under the law, including the same rights, protections and responsibilities of marriage that are afforded heterosexual couples: taxes, custody rights, property rights and so forth.

The argument that "traditional" marriage is solely between a man and a woman has no validity in either religious or common law; one only need read the first five books of the Bible–the fundament of Judeo-Christian belief–to see that marriage is polygamy. Thus if as a nation we want traditional marriage, then we must make polygamy the law and it's difficult to imagine many women raised in the era of feminism and equal rights for women agreeing to that.

The only true bar to same-sex marriage is bigotry, and that has been evidenced again and again by politicians and lawmakers eager to win elections based on the prejudices of a portion of their constituents. Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI) called the call for a federal constitutional amendment a deflection from real issues facing the nation and a clear political maneuver by the President.

More than half of Americans support same-sex marriage. More than ten percent of Americans are gay or lesbian. Of those gays and lesbians, about a quarter have children who are often ostracized more by their parents being unable to marry than by their parents not being heterosexual.

If heterosexuals don't want gay men and lesbians to have the same rights as heterosexuals, then they should not expect gay men and lesbians to pay the same taxes or be held to other civic responsibilities.

Marriage is no longer a privilege, it is a right. Depriving citizens of the rights others enjoy is a violation of that group's civil liberties, pure and simple.

If the government–federal or state–wants to deal in social issues, there are plenty that need addressing from health care to the minimum wage. Marriage should be a matter of choice for all Americans. Otherwise we are violating the Constitution by not allowing all citizens the same rights. We have yet to recover as a nation from imposing those restrictions on African Americans. Do we really want to chart that same territory of bigotry again–and face the same consequences?

In response to Rhain's response to "Home Schooling", Carol F. Yost writes:

Rhian, it is not acceptable to go out of your way to mention someone's race or ethnic background in connection with the fact that the person hurt or insulted one of your children. The purpose is to try to make it look as if the race or ethnic origin had something to do with what the person did. Telling us that you are partly of Native American ancestry, etc., doesn't change this. What you wrote about those children had a racist cast and was shameful. You simply have refused to let go of your bigotry. Those children's races or backgrounds had nothing whatsoever to do with what they did.

In response to, "Given what the GOOPERS have done over these past years - NSA wiretapping, torture, starting a war based on lies, is it really so hard to believe >that they cheated in 2004? I think that Kerry really did win in 2004. Poor Mr. Kerry has withstood such abuse - even at the hands of frustrated Democrats. What did he do so wrong except to make a few verbal blunders? That pales to insignificance compared to Bush's criminal record," Eddie Konczal writes:

I'm convinced the news media dropped the ball on Bush stealing another election in 2004 because they considered it "old hat." Americans saw Bush steal the election in 2000 - who wants to see the same old story 2 elections in a row? So they gave us the American Idol, The Runaway Bride, American Idol, celebrity breakups, American Idol, celebrity babies, American Idol, American Idol, and more American Idol...

In response to, "It has been reported that during a fundraiser Herr Barr was observed licking whipped cream off a stripper's breast! (I must have missed that part of the definition of "family values"), Eddie Konczal writes:

Sure, it's the "new family values." He fits right in with Bill "The Gambler" Bennett, Rush "Dopehead" Limbaugh and the phone sex fiend himself, Bill O'Reilly.

This crew makes Bill Clinton look like an altar boy.

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-Noah Greenberg