By The Associated Press via The Rocky Mountain News
MINNEAPOLIS — Idaho Sen. Larry Craig has lost his latest attempt to withdraw his guilty plea in a Minneapolis airport men's room sex sting.
A three-judge panel of the Minnesota Court of Appeals today rejected the Republican's bid to toss out his disorderly conduct conviction.
Craig was arrested in June 2007 in a Minneapolis airport bathroom stall by an undercover officer who said the senator solicited sex.
He pleaded guilty to the misdemeanor and paid a fine, but changed his mind after word of his arrest became public. Craig insisted he was innocent, but the case effectively ended his political career.
Craig's attorney argued before the appeals court this September that there was insufficient evidence for any judge to find him guilty. Prosecutors said his guilty plea should stand.
By Robert J. Elisberg
For those (including, as he always says, George Bush) waiting for history to make its judgment on George Bush, Republicans have already helped out and begun rewriting it beforehand.
In sports, this is called "playing the ref," arguing in hopes of getting a better call later on.
To con men, it's referred to as "ginning the system." History has named it "The Big Lie."
And so, with contorted twists, they desperately try to make up seem down, wrong seem right. Why anyone would listen to these people who have been wrong for eight years about pretty much EVERYTHING -WMDs, war, torture, global warming, financial oversight, housing and the economy - why anyone cares one whit what the William Kristols, Karl Roves, Peggy Noonans, Jonah Goldbergs and Kate O'Beirns of the world have to say is a mystery of life.
Even Robert Novak has strutted that he would out Valerie Plame again. These are people tone deaf to life. And ultimately, that has gotten 81% of Americans to say the country has seriously gone off track. And these tone deaf would do it all again.
Most people who crashed their loaner Cadillac straight into a brick wall would say, "Ooops, that wasn't good, I should drive around the wall next time."
Of course, it makes sense for them to try to rewrite history, since the neocons of the Bush Administration have long insisted that they don't live in a "Reality-based world." If you don't believe in reality, might as well try to rewrite your mistakes into something they're not....(Click for remainder).
At 10 am central time this morning, the Iowa Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in Varnum v Brien, a case in which six couples are challenging Iowa's law declaring that "Only a marriage between a male and female is valid." Polk County has appealed a district judge's ruling last year that the statute is unconstitutional. Last night jpmassar published a good overview of the legal issues underlying Judge Robert Hanson's ruling as well as the county's defense of the statute.
If you like, you can watch a livestream of the oral arguments at the Iowa Supreme Court's website as well as at several other media sites. You can download pdf files of the district court ruling and the briefs submitted to the Iowa Supreme Court on appeal here.
My focus in this diary is not the legal arguments, but the political case that will need to be made for marriage equality once the Supreme Court has ruled on Varnum v Brien several months from now. Follow me after the jump for more.
I have no idea how the high court will rule. Marriage equality advocates I have spoken with believe there is a realistic chance that Iowa's "defense of marriage act" will be overturned and Judge Hanson's ruling upheld. At the same time, no one believes this outcome is a sure thing. While five of the seven justices on the Iowa Supreme Court were appointed by Democratic governors, the court has never considered a gay marriage case before, so it is hard to say how the individual judges would be inclined to view Hanson's reasoning.
For better or worse, the Iowa Supreme Court's ruling is likely to be the last word legally on gay marriage in Iowa for at least a few years. Amending the Iowa constitution is relatively difficult. If the court overturns current state law, a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage would need to be approved by two consecutive legislative sessions (the 2009/2010 session and the 2010/2011 session) before going to the public in a general-election referendum. So, the earliest Iowa voters would be able to weigh in on this issue would be in November 2011.
My understanding is that Democratic leaders in the Iowa Senate (where Democrats have a 32-18 advantage) are committed to blocking any Proposition 8-style constitutional amendment. The 56-44 Democratic majority in the Iowa House may or may not be solid on this issue.
On the other hand, if the Iowa Supreme Court overrules Judge Hanson and finds the current statute constitutional, I do not expect Democratic leaders in the legislature or Governor Chet Culver to put their political weight behind repealing the "defense of marriage act." So, full marriage rights for gays and lesbians in Iowa would probably be blocked for at least a few years in that scenario....(Click for remainder).
Feds: Blagojevich put 'for sale' sign on naming of Obama's Senate successor
By NBC News
WASHINGTON - Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich was arrested Tuesday on federal charges that accuse him of trying to benefit from his ability to appoint President-elect Barack Obama's replacement in the U.S. Senate.
A 76-page FBI affidavit says the 51-year-old Democrat was intercepted on court-authorized wiretaps over the last month conspiring to sell or trade the vacant Senate seat for personal benefits for himself and his wife, Patti.
The affidavit contends Blagojevich discussed getting a substantial salary for himself at a non-profit foundation or an organization affiliated with labor unions. It also says Blagojevich talked about getting his wife placed on corporate boards where she might get $150,000 a year in director's fees.
The affidavit also quotes Blagojevich as saying "I want to make money" in one conversation.
In Illinois, the governor selects a successor when there is a mid-term Senate vacancy. Obama resigned from the Senate soon after winning the Nov. 4 presidential election....(Click for remainder).
Obama aide Steve Hildebrand explicitly attacks "the left wing of the Democratic Party" with Fox News-style talking points.
By David Sirota
Open Left via AlterNet
A few weeks ago a Senate Democratic aide and Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-MD) kicked off a campaign to publicly berate "the left" in the wake of the 2008 election. Now, here's a rant-ish "Message to Obama's Progressive Critics" from top Obama aide Steve Hildebrand demanding the Dirty Fucking Hippies of "the left" shut up
This is not a time for the left wing of our Party to draw conclusions about the Cabinet and White House appointments that President-Elect Obama is making. Some believe the appointments generally aren't progressive enoughThe problems I mentioned above and the many I didn't, suggest that our President surround himself with the most qualified people to address these challenges. After all, he was elected to be the President of all the people - not just those on the left. (emphasis added)
First thing's first: I absolutely agree with Hildebrand that you can't draw concrete conclusions about Obama based only on his personnel decisions -- and I've written that repeatedly (and I've also said that most of Obama's policy declarations have been pretty progressive). However, Hildebrand implying that those personnel decisions really don't matter at all is straight up silly. It supposes that all the enormous egos that populate a White House are just mindless functionaries, and that even though those egos are heading major federal departments or are key advisers, they have no hand in making policy and/or their advice to a president makes absolutely no impact. Please -- let's get real.
But far more important than that is Hildebrand firing up the whaaaaaaaambulance to whine and cry and moan about "the left." Really, what is with top Democrats explicitly attacking "the left wing of the Democratic Party" in Fox News-style talking points? Why is every substantive, non-partisan, non-ideological question of pragmatism from progressives almost automatically portrayed as some sort of super-Trotsky-ite, ideological and wholly inappropriate demand for Obama to be a president "just for those on the left?" Can anyone even ask a non-ideological question of Obama without being attacked as some sort of raving left-wing lunatic?...(Click for remainder).
Posted by Bret Carbone at 5:34 PM
By Lisa Leff
Associated Press via Google News
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Some same-sex marriage supporters are urging people to "call in gay" Wednesday to show how much the country relies on gays and lesbians, but others question whether it's wise to encourage skipping work given the nation's economic distress. Organizers of "Day Without a Gay" — scheduled to coincide with International Human Rights Day and modeled after similar work stoppages by Latino immigrants — also are encouraging people to perform volunteer work and refrain from spending money.
Sean Hetherington, a West Hollywood comedian and personal trainer, dreamed up the idea with his boyfriend, Aaron Hartzler, after reading online that a few angry gay-rights activists were calling for a daylong strike to protest California voters' passage last month of Proposition 8, which reversed this year's state Supreme Court decision allowing gay marriage.
The couple thought it would be more effective and less divisive if people were asked to perform community service instead of staying home with their wallets shut. Dozens of nonprofit agencies, from the National Women's Law Center in Washington to a Methodist church in Fresno collecting food for the homeless, have posted opportunities for volunteers on the couple's Web site.
"We are all for a boycott if that is what brings about a sense of community for people," said Hetherington, 30, who plans to spend Wednesday volunteering at an inner-city school. "You can take away from the economy and give back in other ways."
Hetherington said he's been getting 100 e-mails an hour from people looking for volunteer opportunities, and that his "Day Without a Gay" Web site has gotten 100,000 hits since mid-November....(Click for remainder).
The 300 workers at Republic Windows and Doors have vowed to continue their occupation of the factory until they get the pay and benefits they are owed. Today they have some new new allies:
Gov. Rod Blagojevich said this morning the state of Illinois "will suspend doing any business with Bank of America" … the state has "hundreds of millions of dollars" in dealings with the bank.
"Attorney General Lisa Madigan has opened an investigation," and Sen. Durbin visited with the workers and said "he would returning to Washington soon to hold discussions about whether banks were using the bailout money appropriately."
"It was money to be invested back in America. Cutting off the loans to Republic and losing hundreds of jobs as a result of it is exactly the opposite of what we need to have in this economy."
Gapers Block points to a report on Bloomberg that "Cook County Board Commissioner and potential candidate for Rahm Emanuel's 5th District seat Mike Quigley:
Cook County Commissioner Mike Quigley will introduce an ordinance to block the state's biggest county from doing business with Bank of America, he said in an interview. "I'm usually cautious, but this is an extraordinary example at an extraordinary time," Quigley said. "When you talk theory, they nod and wink, but when you put in an ordinance, they know you are serious."
Yesterday, President-Elect Obama spoke up for the workers, today Rep. Gutierrez held a meeting with the workers, their union, the company (who finally showed up) and Bank of America. Reports of what went on in the closed door meeting aren't available but Gutierrez afterwards said "There was a tone of reconciliation, a tone of wanting to find an end to this situation."...(Click for remainder).
Posted by Bret Carbone at 8:00 AM
By David Neiwert
Crooks and Liars
At a cursory glance, the news about George W. Bush moving into a former whites-only enclave in Texas called Preston Hollow looks to be one of those minor, one-day stories. After all, it's not as if these kinds of covenants are still in existence or are being enforced, right?
But there's a lot more to this story, because it tells us a lot about not just George W. Bush, but about the conservative worldview and how it plays out as governance, and moreover, about the real reasons for the nation's lingering racial divide.
For starters, it's worth remembering that this isn't the first former "sundown suburb" that the Bushes have lived in. When Bush returned to Texas in 1989, he moved to the Dallas suburb of Highland Park, where he lived until becoming governor in 1994.
James Loewen -- who has written the definitive text on the subject, Sundown Towns: A Hidden Dimension of American Racism -- has compiled a Sundown Town database that includes a number of Texas towns, (though not Preston Hollow, an apparent omission; Loewen is adding to this database as evidence comes in). The database describes Highland Park thus:
Highland Park is one of Dallas's most exclusive suburbs. President George W. Bush lived there at one time, and Dick Cheney still maintains a home in Highland Park. When it was developed in 1913, restrictive covenants applied to every home. After Brown v. Board of Education in 1954, Highland Park sent its few black students to school in Dallas rather than allow them to attend Highland Park schools. Eventually this was overturned on the basis of Texas's desegregation laws, to which an alderman suggested that the city ask homeowners to fire their live-in servants (the parents of those black schoolchildren). In 1961, the city of Dallas stopped accepting children from the suburbs, and at least one white employer paid rent for a Dallas address for her black servant's children.
Posted by Bret Carbone at 7:54 AM
By Robert Pear
New York Times
WASHINGTON — A last-minute Bush administration plan to grant sweeping new protections to health care providers who oppose abortion and other procedures on religious or moral grounds has provoked a torrent of objections, including a strenuous protest from the government agency that enforces job discrimination laws.
The proposed rule would prohibit recipients of federal money from discriminating against doctors, nurses and other health care workers who refuse to perform or to assist in the performance of abortions or sterilization procedures because of their “religious beliefs or moral convictions.”
It would also prevent hospitals, clinics, doctors’ offices and drugstores from requiring employees with religious or moral objections to “assist in the performance of any part of a health service program or research activity” financed by the Department of Health and Human Services.
But three officials from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, including its legal counsel, whom President Bush appointed, said the proposal would overturn 40 years of civil rights law prohibiting job discrimination based on religion.
The counsel, Reed L. Russell, and two Democratic members of the commission, Stuart J. Ishimaru and Christine M. Griffin, also said that the rule was unnecessary for the protection of employees and potentially confusing to employers.
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 already prohibits employment discrimination based on religion, Mr. Russell said, and the courts have defined “religion” broadly to include “moral or ethical beliefs as to what is right and wrong, which are sincerely held with the strength of traditional religious views.”...(Click for remainder).
Posted by Bret Carbone at 7:01 AM
By John Aravosis
One is gay, the other isn't. And the artist won't tell you which is which. That proved too much for the bigots running the Mormon church, and its Borg incubator, otherwise known as Brigham Young "University" (air-quotes added). Apparently exposing young impressionable Mormons to art, and another point of view, runs too great a risk of damaging their fragile narrow-minded sense of hate and intolerance.
Says the artist...
"Apparently the topic of homosexuality is a bit much for the BYU audience and my part of our Fine Art Classes show was taken down today. It seems that censorship is favored over support and love. This really saddens me. I found out because a friend of mine went to the show and said that my peices had been removed and the show had been rearranged."The show was rearranged so that no one who attended would realize that the works on display had been censored for political/religious reasons. So... shhh. Don't tell anyone.The student artist took pictures of openly gay BYU students—openly gay and openly ballsy—and a companion portrait of a supportive friend or family member. The artist didn't label the portraits; you don't know who in each pair of portraits is the fearsome, terrible, ungodly gay, and who is the tragically deluded enabler of evil—excuse me, "the supporter." You can see the pictures... here. But they deserve a wider viewing—hey, maybe the Salt Lake City Weekly ("We Not All Crazy Bigots Down Here, You Know!") could put them on its cover.
Posted by Bret Carbone at 6:50 AM
Opponents of gay marriage often cite Scripture. But what the Bible teaches about love argues for the other side.
By Lisa Miller
Let's try for a minute to take the religious conservatives at their word and define marriage as the Bible does. Shall we look to Abraham, the great patriarch, who slept with his servant when he discovered his beloved wife Sarah was infertile? Or to Jacob, who fathered children with four different women (two sisters and their servants)? Abraham, Jacob, David, Solomon and the kings of Judah and Israel—all these fathers and heroes were polygamists. The New Testament model of marriage is hardly better. Jesus himself was single and preached an indifference to earthly attachments—especially family. The apostle Paul (also single) regarded marriage as an act of last resort for those unable to contain their animal lust. "It is better to marry than to burn with passion," says the apostle, in one of the most lukewarm endorsements of a treasured institution ever uttered. Would any contemporary heterosexual married couple—who likely woke up on their wedding day harboring some optimistic and newfangled ideas about gender equality and romantic love—turn to the Bible as a how-to script?
Of course not, yet the religious opponents of gay marriage would have it be so.
The battle over gay marriage has been waged for more than a decade, but within the last six months—since California legalized gay marriage and then, with a ballot initiative in November, amended its Constitution to prohibit it—the debate has grown into a full-scale war, with religious-rhetoric slinging to match. Not since 1860, when the country's pulpits were full of preachers pronouncing on slavery, pro and con, has one of our basic social (and economic) institutions been so subject to biblical scrutiny. But whereas in the Civil War the traditionalists had their James Henley Thornwell—and the advocates for change, their Henry Ward Beecher—this time the sides are unevenly matched. All the religious rhetoric, it seems, has been on the side of the gay-marriage opponents, who use Scripture as the foundation for their objections....(Click for remainder).