Thursday, July 24, 2014

Give Us A Reason

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) on the question of marriage equality:
While recognizing that “our history is marred by discrimination against gays and lesbians,” Rubio argued that “traditional marriage has such an extraordinary record of success at raising children” and must be perpetuated to the exclusion of same-sex unions.

“[T]oday, there is a growing intolerance on this issue, intolerance towards those who continue to support traditional marriage,” Rubio observed, citing the firing of the CEO of Mozilla, following revelations that he supported California’s campaign to ban same-sex marriage, and other instances where opponents of marriage equality suffered economic consequences. “And I promise you that even before this speech is over, I will be attacked as a hater, a bigot or someone who is anti-gay,” he added. “This intolerance in the name of tolerance is hypocrisy.”

Rubio then sought to shield himself from accusations of homophobia, by linking his position on the issue to President Obama’s.” “Supporting the definition of marriage as one man and one woman is not anti-gay, it is pro-traditional marriage,” the junior senator claimed.

It takes more than a little gall to shed crocodile tears over discrimination against gays and lesbians and then turn around and explain in detail why he does it.

I've heard the "traditional marriage" line so many times that I'm not going to bother to once again remind him that what he calls traditional marriage -- i.e. one man and one woman -- isn't all that traditional.  It certainly isn't that way in the bible, nor is the idea of two people falling in love and getting married as opposed to an arranged marriage between two fathers as a business deal.  Read some Shakespeare or download Fiddler on the Roof.

His claim is that "traditional marriage" must be preserved to the exclusion of all others because it of its "extraordinary record of success in raising children."  This claim may be true; it's nice to have a mom and a dad.  But there are a lot of single parents who do just as good a job with their kids as anybody else.  So they shouldn't be allowed to raise kids because they're not married?  What about straight people who for whatever reason choose not to have children?  If you're going to exclude same-sex couples from marriage because they can't reproduce the old-fashioned way, why not exclude the straight ones who don't have kids?  Must all marriage licenses require proof of fertility?

Mr. Rubio implies that "traditional marriage" is under attack.  By whom?  Advocates for marriage equality don't want to stop straight people from getting married.  It's not some zero-sum game wherein one is traded out for the other.  How can advocating for committed unions between two people who happen to have the same form of genitalia threaten those marriages between two people who don't?

That's where the intolerance comes in.  Pro-"traditional" marriage people don't want same-sex couples to have the benefits of marriage, whereas those of us who are pro-marriage equality want everybody to have the benefits.  So who is the intolerant one?  Saying that same-sex marriage somehow denigrates or mocks straight marriage is yet again another sign of intolerance because that's saying that the people in that marriage are less than worthy of respect simply because of their orientation.  Again, who is the intolerant one?

And then there's the church.  Mr. Rubio doesn't say it, but the implication is that marriage equality violates religious freedom by forcing Christians to accept something they don't approve of.  However, not all Christians accept the idea of banning same-sex marriage.  In fact, there are a number of Christian denominations, including mainline Protestants, who welcome and perform same-sex weddings, as do a number of Jewish synagogues.  Why do some Christians get to tell others who they can or cannot celebrate in the bonds of holy matrimony?

But let's be fair.  If Sen. Rubio can give us a valid reason based in law as to why same-sex couples should not be joined in matrimony, let him speak now.  So far, though, more than twenty state and federal courts have heard arguments for and against marriage equality since the Supreme Court handed down their decision in United States v. Windsor which struck down DOMA, and not one court has ruled in favor of his position.  In fact, the prevailing opinion of all those courts with judges appointed by everyone from Ronald Reagan to Barack Obama is that state bans on marriage equality are violations of the equal protection and due process clauses of the Constitution, and some of the rulings have said that the bans are in place for no other reason than to deny those protections to same-sex couples and serve no valid state purpose other than to enshrine gay-bashing in the law.

Sen. Rubio says that he will be labeled as is "a hater, a bigot or someone who is anti-gay" because he opposes marriage equality.  So let us give him the benefit of the doubt.  He can prove he is not by giving us a reason to oppose marriage equality that isn't based on bigotry, discrimination, and intolerance.  We are all anxious to hear it.

Cross-posted from Bark Bark Woof Woof.

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Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Frankly speaking

Last week Thomas Frank wrote a piece in Salon in which he went all in on calling Barack Obama a weak and gutless leader and labeling his presidency an abject failure. The Hope and Change president promised so much and delivered so little, he didn't stand up to the crazy Republicans when he could have and should have, and worst of all, there's no pony with rainbow ribbons and no sprinkles on the ice cream.
Why, the visitors to his library will wonder, did the president do so little about rising inequality, the subject on which he gave so many rousing speeches? Why did he do nothing, or next to nothing, about the crazy high price of a college education, the Great Good Thing that he has said, time and again, determines our personal as well as national success? Why didn’t he propose a proper healthcare program instead of the confusing jumble we got? Why not a proper stimulus package? Why didn’t he break up the banks? Or the agribusiness giants, for that matter?

Because, to quote Elliot in E.T., this is reality. Governing in a democracy means working with other people, people who for some reason or another -- I'll let you fill in the blanks -- have no interest in a president succeeding; people who in fact were plotting against his every move before the president had spent his first night in the White House. Add to that a well-oiled and well-funded noise machine of unprecedented lung power and a TV network that can take the smallest thing and turn it into a 24-hour breaking news blitz, and getting things done becomes a bit of a challenge.

But to Mr. Frank's charges of failure after failure, let's think about the ones he's listed: How does a president persuade a college or university to lower their tuition and make it affordable? Someone's gotta pay for it; it's not like the alumni are going to pick up everything else after football. What about healthcare? Well, the "proper" way would have been a single payer plan with the government picking up the tab and raising taxes, much in the way a number of industrialized nations and Canadian provinces do it: Medicare for all. Yeah, try and pass that; I dare you.

The same could be said about the rest of Mr. Frank's laments: the stimulus package that was passed was done in the first moments of the Obama presidency and while we were still under the weight of the crapfest left by the previous administration. What we got would not have passed three months later, and certainly not through a Senate that was barely under the control of the Democrats. Break up the big banks and agribusiness? Sure, if you don't think anyone with any influence or money will object, go ahead.

We expect to hear this kind of whining and pearl-clutching from the Republicans; they've mastered the art of crocodile tears and fear-mongering even when they're in control. In the last thirty years they have done a fine job of making the case that no one else but a true American conservative should be running the country and then providing us with laboratory-grade examples of exactly why they shouldn't.

The biggest failure of the Obama presidency isn't in what it didn't accomplish or the "tepid" answers it gave to the problems at hand. It's that Barack Obama believed -- and probably still does -- that he was facing opposition from a political party that shared his basic goal of running the country and making it better for all the citizens, not just the ones who voted for him or contributed to his campaign. He didn't realize that their sole purpose in life was his personal destruction. But if a genius like Thomas Frank can't figure that out, how could anyone else?

Cross posted from Bark Bark Woof Woof.

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Please sir, may I have some more?

By Capt. Fogg

Pecunia non olet said Vaspasian, or so they say. Money doesn't stink, or so you'd think when looking at the way Florida governor Rick Scott laps it up like a cat with spilt milk. Showing up Monday at a  Boca Raton, Florida home of GEO Group CEO George Zoley for his $10,000 a plate fundraiser ( another $3K if you want to come to the reception) would suggest that Scott can't smell dirty money, as Zoley's company is in the business of running private prisons -- some say the worst in the country -- that squeeze the life and health out of prisoners as well as exposing the guards to unnecessary danger.

Of course it may be that Scott smells it all too well and, like a culture, is attracted to the smell of graft and corruption and human suffering. You'll recall his involvement with the largest Medicare fraud ever exposed. You may not recall that Zoley gave Mr. Scott $20,000 to add to the $800,000 of taxpayer money to pimp up the governor's mansion. Yes, it was a drop in the bucket compared to the great flood of lobbyist money soaked up by the Governor, but Scott is not one to forget his obligations to contributors.

No money doesn't care who owns it and it doesn't stink even though the people and deeds connected to it may reek. The dollars saved by understaffing prisons and serving substandard, sometimes maggot infested food to prisoners adult and juvenile affirm his credentials with his party and particularly because so many of the inmates rotting and starving and being beaten in GEO prisons are immigrants. Last year a group of protesters chained themselves to the doors of the GEO Group corporate headquarters in Palm Beach in protest over GEO's "pivotal role in promoting discriminatory laws that target people of color, 
immigrants, youth, transgender individuals, and the poor." There have been hunger strikes. There have been investigations looking into accusations that inmates were being served rotten food and suffering from food poisoning at the Broward County, Florida facility. There were also allegations of sexual assault among detainees and reports of several suicide attempts says the Broward/Palm Beach NewTimes blog. Did I mention that Scott is a Republican?

But we can't accuse old snake eyes of total blindness to appearances. After all Zoley was a second choice after it became known that the original host, real estate mogul James Batmasian, was convicted of tax evasion in 2008. Batmasian, who spent eight months in federal prison and completed a two-year supervised release program, also had his legal license suspended in Florida. That stinks, even if his money doesn't. It stinks almost as much as his rather dishonest and scurrilous accusations made against his likely opponent, Charley Crist, but to his supporters it doesn't matter any more than facts do. Rick Scott saved us money by abusing prisoners and a penny saved is a penny you can spend on yourself. And besides, prisoners can't vote.
(Cross posted at (Human Voices)

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Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Behind the Ad: A real progressive voice in Hawaii (HI-01)

By Richard K. Barry

Who: The Stanley Chang campaign for U.S. Congress

Where: Hawaii 1st congressional district

What's going on: Rep. Colleen Hanabusa is running for the U.S. Senate. State Senate President Donna Mercado Kim is considered the favourite to win the August 9th Democratic primary in this House seat the Dems are likely to keep. 

Stanley Chang, a Honolulu city councilman, is running as an honest-to-goodness progressive, having earned his bona fides legitimately by studying at Harvard with lefty goddess Sen. Elizabeth Warren. 

Chang may not have much of a chance, but good on him for waging the good fight. And such an earnest young man. 

Grade: Public policy sure is boring. C-

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Sick to death of "serious" politics

By Richard K. Barry

Last week John Dickerson at Slate said what I have been thinking (hoping) for some time. His said that even though Elizabeth Warren would (likely) not beat Hillary Clinton in the Democratic presidential primary, she would, if she got in, change the debate.
What do you mean you know
where I live?
If Warren joined the race, she would not win, but she would till the ground, putting grit and the smell of earth in the contest. She would energize the Democratic Party’s liberal base, which would then stir up other Democrats who seek to moderate or contain that group. Warren would challenge the Democratic Party on issues like corporate power, income inequality, and entitlements. She would be a long shot and she would have nothing to lose—which means she could keep talking about those ideas out loud. Because Clinton is close to Wall Street and finance executives and Warren is gunning for them, she has the potential to put campaign pressure on Clinton that other candidates can’t. Clinton and other candidates would be forced to explain where they stood more than if Warren weren’t in the race.

Everyone knows, and serious people will confirm, that one cannot credibly run for president while speaking too energetically about corporate power and income inequality. Serious people will tell you that this is proof positive a candidate is not, in fact, serious.

Hillary Clinton won't go there unless she has no choice, and Elizabeth Warren is the only one who can force the issue.

To repeat:
Because Clinton is close to Wall Street and finance executives and Warren is gunning for them, she has the potential to put campaign pressure on Clinton that other candidates can’t.

What does it say about the Democratic Party that our highest aspiration is that someone might run for the presidency who is capable of articulating a truly progressive vision, but who cannot win the nomination?

(Cross-posted at Culturolio.)


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Monday, July 21, 2014

Unlimited money in politics sucks (was that too subtle?)

By Richard K. Barry

If you stack up all my million dollar bills, 
it's way higher than this. 

CNN has been reporting that conservative patron Sheldon Adelson might donate as much as $100 million to help Republicans take back the Senate.

Now that the U.S. Supreme Court has officially declared money to be the same thing as free speech or, put another way, that billionaires can freely put elections in their trophy cases along with those rhino tusks bagged last summer, democracy is truly fucked.

More significant than any other use of the green stuff, needless to say, is that money buys media. 

Ever since the earliest days of advertising, whether for soap or cigarettes or cars, consumers have hated to think they can be influenced to do things they may not otherwise do. Sure, they reason, it's all bullshit but we can see past it and make up our own minds. It doesn't matter how many images, catchy slogans, beautiful women and men, or lies are put in the mix, they think, we are independed-minded American citizens and we'll decide for ourselves, Goddamit!

The problem is that they can't and don't; none of us do. Advertisers have long claimed they aren't responsible for creating demand, they simply respond to it. Political spinmeisters similarly claim, just a bit disingenuously, that they don't create opinion, they simply put the truth out there and let voters decide for themselves. Fox News, the formal advertising wing of the Republican Party describes it like this: "We Report. You Decide."

This guy.
Advertising, whether political or product, is about manipulation because, ever since Edward Bernays, they know how to do it, and we're very close to being helpless once they get us in their sites. 

But, because voters in particular don't like to believe they are capable of being led, they aren't as upset as they should be that billions more in paid media increases the likelihood that others will be telling them what to think and for whom to vote. 

I'd like to believe that Democrats won't engage in the same kind of manipulation as the other side with the gazillions they raise, but of course they will.  So, this is not really a partisan rant. 

The sooner we realize that independent thought in the face of incessant media conditioning is harder and harder to achieve,  the sooner we will get at least a little frightened at the idea that unlimited money in politics leads no where good. 

(Cross-posted at Culturolio.)

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I don't often link to Pierce

By Carl

I like to keep that as my private stash, but this, this was too good not to share:

It's not just that TBOTP [ed. note: Tiger Beat On The Potomac also known as] invited the Manson Family of American geopolitics to come together for an exercise in ensemble prevarication. It's not just that the account of said exercise is written in the kind of cacophonous cutesy-poo necessary to drown out the screams of the innocent dead, and to distract the assembled crowd from the blood that has dripped from the wallet of the celebrity war-criminal leading the public display. And it's not as though this was a mere interview—a "get" that could help you "win the morning (!)." In that, it might have been marginally excusable. No, this was one of Mike Allen's little grift-o-rama special events—a "Playbook lunch," sponsored by that noted mortgage fraud concern Bank Of America. There's an upcoming TBOTP "event" in L.A. that is sponsored by J.P. Morgan. I know what Mike Allen is, but I am so goddamn tired of haggling about the price. Here's how TBOTP's own account of the event begins.

If I could write like that, I could put away my shitty little blog and become world-famous, and have women dripping off me like rainwater in a monsoon.

(Cross-posted to Simply Left Behind.)

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