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The Beam In Our Eye

Sunday, December 21, 2008

By Hilzoy

Ever since I heard that opponents of Proposition 8 had filed suit to invalidate all the gay marriages that have taken place in California, I've been trying to wrap my mind around the fact that someone, somewhere had to actually initiate this process. That means that someone, somewhere must have decided that the best use of his or her time was not to perform some act of kindness or generosity, not to stand up for justice or to comfort the afflicted, not even to try to turn a profit, but to decide to get together a lawsuit in order to break thousands of people's marriages apart. That person could have gone to the beach, or worked a stint at a food kitchen, or taken up hang-gliding, or done any number of things, but instead he or she thought: why not do my best to tear thousands of people's lives apart, people who are not bothering them, people who only want to be married and have anniversaries and argue about who has to take out the trash, like anyone else.

It's a pretty strange way to choose to spend your time, if you ask me.

The LA Times has a profile of a couple who worked to get Proposition 8 passed, and are still working for the legal challenge to California's existing gay marriages. Here's what motivates them:
"The Ferreiras like life in their gated community in the eastern suburbs of San Diego. Their house, nestled at the end of a cul-de-sac, is comfortable, with plenty of room for them and their three grown children, who still live at home.

But the Ferreiras are afraid of what is happening to the world beyond the gates.

"I'm just seeing our morals and everything just deteriorating before us," Robbie, 49, said one recent evening.

"The first time they wanted to take prayer out of schools, we as believers should have stood up," said Abel, who was recently laid off from his job as a salesman of manufactured homes. "Every time you give them a little bit, they want more." (...)

One Sunday about a year ago, Garlow [their pastor] told his congregation what he thought the consequences of legalizing same-sex marriage would be.

Pastors around the state would be required to marry gays, he said. Businesses would be forced to recognize gay marriage. Schools would begin teaching children that gay and lesbian lifestyles are the norm.

"The thing that affected me the most was knowing that my grandkids are going to be taught this ungodly and sinful act as if it's OK," Robbie said. "I thought from that point on, 'No. I will fight for them. I don't have them yet, but I'm going to fight for them.'""


Separate and Not Equal

By NY Times Editorial Board
New York Times

Civil unions are an inadequate substitute for marriage. Creating a separate, new legal structure to confer some benefits on same-sex couples neither honors American ideals of fairness, nor does it grant true equality. The results are clearly visible in New Jersey, which continues to deny same-sex couples some of the tangible civil benefits that come with marriage.

Gov. Jon Corzine of New Jersey has long said that he would sign a measure granting the right to marry to couples of the same sex. We are heartened that he has declared that that should happen sooner rather than later.

We hope Mr. Corzine intends to prod legislators into passing such a law early in the 2009 session. That would make New Jersey the first state to legalize marriage for same-sex couples through legislative action. Three other states — Connecticut, Massachusetts and California — have done so through the courts. Unfortunately, California voters approved a ballot measure in November rescinding that right, at least for now.

Mr. Corzine made his statement after a state commission released its final report on New Jersey’s two-year-old civil union law. The commission noted the hurt and stigma inflicted by shutting out gay people from the institution of marriage. It also found that civil unions do not assure gay couples of the same protections, including the right to collect benefits under a partner’s health insurance program and to make medical decisions on behalf of a partner who is unable to do so. The panel concluded unanimously that the state should enact a law to remove the inequities....(Click for remainder).


Prop 8 - Instead of Forced Divorce, Why Not Civil Marriages for All?

By Christine Pelosi
Huffington Post

The news of the Proposition 8 lawsuits came last night as I was addressing my Christmas cards. You know the ritual - take a photo from the year, mail it to family and friends with holiday greetings. In past cards I've been parasailing, bungee jumping, and skydiving; and now, this year, the biggest "leap" of all - getting married. My happy if monotonous routine of addressing, stuffing, sealing and stamping was interrupted by news of the latest battles over California's Proposition 8. Now we know that supporters were seeking to affirm the decision to ban same sex marriage, but it wasn't till Ken Starr appeared on the TV screen (wearing what appeared to be Jack Abramoff's black hat) that we learned an unsettling truth - they actually want to go beyond the initiative banning future marriages and forcibly divorce 18,000 couples.

Now being a newlywed myself, I cannot imagine a county or court clerk calling my husband and me to inform us that the state had forcibly divorced us. Yet that's what Proposition 8 proponents now bring to the Supreme Court. Not just upholding a vote taking away "marriage" rights, but undoing a civil contract. So I wonder: instead of forced divorce in California, why not civil unions or civil marriages for all?

Now our Attorney General Jerry Brown fights forced divorce (arguing in part that the initiative was in fact a Constitutional amendment requiring a higher threshold for ballot placement and passage so should be nullified on procedural grounds). And we will be told repeatedly that while Proposition 8 proponents support civil unions for same sex couples, they must force divorce because same sex marriage violates their religious beliefs. That to me sounds like a great argument for rendering civil contract rights unto Caesar and marriage ceremonies unto God. Let loving, consenting adults form civil unions under a common law while clergy perform marriages for some of those couples under the covenants of their faith. Remove the term "marriage' from the civil code entirely, or utilize the term "civil marriage" in the civil code to delineate the rights and responsibilities of the parties to each other and the state . Either way, if this really is not about discrimination, then why not grant heterosexual couples the same rights being proferred for same sex couples?...(Click for remainder).


Stopping Bush's Destruction of Our Environment

By Robert Redford
Huffington Post

Democracy is working. At least that's the news for now from my friends at the Natural Resources Defense Council, which has filed a lawsuit against last-minute Bush administration plans to lease huge swaths of majestic wilderness in Utah for oil and gas extraction.

Late last night, NRDC and a coalition of environmental and preservation groups filed an agreement with the Bureau of Land Management that could save 100,000 acres of pristine land that are endangered. The deal temporarily prevents the Bureau from issuing leases on 80 contested parcels of Utah wilderness, including land adjacent to national parks, for 30 days (until January 19).

Although the Bureau will go forward with the auction today, based on the agreement it will not issue the contested leases. The delay will give a federal court time to hear the case.

As I've written previously, words alone cannot do justice to the beauty of these places, but they do capture the absurdity of the Bush plan. Oil and gas drilling in Desolation Canyon? Industrial development along the meandering Green River? The thought makes one wince.

Utah's Red Rock country is one of America's few remaining wilderness treasures. It's our land, it's our legacy, but will it still be here for our children and grandchildren?...(Click for remainder).


Prop. 8 sponsors seek to nullify 18K gay marriages

By Lisa Leff
Associated Press @ Google News

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — The sponsors of Proposition 8 asked the California Supreme Court on Friday to nullify the marriages of the estimated 18,000 same-sex couples who exchanged vows before voters approved the ballot initiative that outlawed gay unions.

The Yes on 8 campaign filed a brief arguing that because the new law holds that only marriages between a man and a woman are recognized or valid in California, the state can no longer recognize the existing same-sex unions. The document reveals for the first time that opponents of same-sex marriage will fight in court to undo those unions that already exist.

"Proposition 8's brevity is matched by its clarity. There are no conditional clauses, exceptions, exemptions or exclusions," reads the brief co-written by Kenneth Starr, dean of Pepperdine University's law school and the former independent counsel who investigated President Bill Clinton.

The campaign submitted the document in response to three lawsuits seeking to invalidate Proposition 8, the constitutional amendment adopted last month that overruled the court's decision in May that had legalized gay marriage in the nation's most populous state.

Both Attorney General Jerry Brown, whose office is scheduled to submit its own brief to the court Friday, and gay rights groups maintain that the gay marriage ban may not be applied retroactively.

The Supreme Court could hear arguments in the litigation as soon as March. The measure's backers announced Friday that Starr, a former federal judge and U.S. solicitor general, had signed on as their lead counsel and would argue the cases.

Proposition 8's supporters assert that the Supreme Court lacks the authority or historical precedent to throw out the amendment....(Click for remainder)


Plane Crash Kills Rove IT Guy, Testified in OH Voter Fraud Case, Key in White House Email Scandal

Ok, maybe my tinfoil hat is on too tight, but this just seems too convenient.

By Lisa Derrick
The Campaign Silo

Mike Connell, Karl Rove's IT guru--who was compelled six weeks ago to testify in an Ohio vote-tampering case--was killed late Friday night in a solo plane crash. His plane crashed into the garage of an empty house. Per Cybrinth CEO Stephen Spoonamore, Connell was also considered "vital to uncovering the truth" about the missing White House emails considered a critical link to the Justice Department and White House's involvement in the firings of nine US attorneys.

According to Spoonamore, as reported by Rebecca Abrahams, at an October 11, 2006 meeting between Spoonamore, Connell, and GovTech Solutions President Randy Cole--who ran and lost for State Representative in Ohio this election--
Connell asked him about ways to "permanently destroy hard drives." Spoonamore said "If this is what I think you're talking about, this meeting is over."
Investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board are on site today. Investigations typically take weeks and even months or longer to complete, according to an FAA spokeswoman.

Connell, president of GovTech Solutions and New Media Communications, was a website designer and IT professional who created the website for Ohio’s secretary of state Kenneth K. Blackwell that presented the 2004 election results in real time as they were tabulated.

Connell created websites for Blackwell's election runs was well as the one which tabulated and displayed votes in real time. During the 2004 elections, Blackwell was also chairman of Bush-Cheney 2004 reelection effort in Ohio, successfully leading the campaign for the 2004 Ohio Constitution Amendment banning state recognition of same sex marriage or civil unions. Blackwell was defeated in 2006 by Ted Strickland....(Click for remainder)


Obama Triangulates His 'Base'

Many of the cable-television Democrats are smirking, chortling and smiling as they say how clever it was for Barack Obama to name Rick Warren to give the Inaugural invocation.

By Brent Budowsky

These insider Democrats believe – in the great tradition of Clintonian triangulation – that it is clever, cunning and shrewd to humiliate gays and they believe, falsely, that this will create some good will for Obama from the Christian Right that will ultimately help him.

I believe: It won’t matter anymore than keeping Bob Gates as Defense Secretary will help Obama with Republicans, unless Obama adopts Bush-like policies on Iraq.

The Rick Warren case is actually complicated. Warren is a relatively open-minded, ecumenical conservative Christian. He should be courted and respected, though I would not have chosen him for the invocation.

Something larger is at stake, which is symbolized by condescending and demeaning ridicule that is offered by some Democratic insiders, such as Peter Fenn, against some of the most loyal, faithful, long-term supporters of Obama, whom Fenn scornfully demeaned in a recent post on The Hill's Pundits Blog.

I like and respect Peter Fenn, but I believe that his post, like so many comments by cable-television Democrats, was outrageous and wrong. He referred to those concerned about some Obama moves as part of what he called the "leftist blogosphere,” and "a few disgruntled malcontents,” the "far left” and "so-called" Obama supporters.

This is the kind of utter nonsense and demeaning ridicule that we expect from Karl Rove, the Republican National Committee and Rush Limbaugh....(Click for remainder).


Tortured Reasoning

President George W. Bush on his way to announce the transfer of 14 terrorism suspects from previously secret C.I.A. prisons abroad to the detention center at Guantánamo Bay, September 6, 2006. By Gerald Herbert/A.P. Photo.

George W. Bush defended harsh interrogations by pointing to intelligence breakthroughs, but a surprising number of counterterrorist officials say that, apart from being wrong, torture just doesn’t work. Delving into two high-profile cases, the author exposes the tactical costs of prisoner abuse.

By the last days of March 2002, more than six months after 9/11, President George W. Bush’s promise “to hunt down and to find those folks who committed this act” was starting to sound a little hollow. True, Afghanistan had been invaded and the Taliban toppled from power. But Osama bin Laden had vanished from the caves of Tora Bora, and none of his key al-Qaeda lieutenants were in U.S. captivity. Intelligence about what the terrorists might be planning next was almost nonexistent. “The panic in the executive branch was palpable,” recalls Mike Scheuer, the former C.I.A. official who set up and ran the agency’s Alec Station, the unit devoted to tracking bin Laden.

Early in the morning of March 28, in the moonlit police-barracks yard in Faisalabad, Pakistan, hopes were high that this worrisome intelligence deficit was about to be corrected. Some 300 armed personnel waited in silence: 10 three-man teams of Americans, drawn equally from the C.I.A. and the F.B.I., together with much greater numbers from Pakistan’s police force and Inter-services Intelligence (ISI). In order to maximize their chances of surprise, they planned to hit 10 addresses simultaneously. One of them, they believed, was a safe house containing a man whose name had been familiar to U.S. analysts for years: Zayn al-Abidin Muhammad Hussein, a 30-year-old Saudi Arabian better known as Abu Zubaydah. “I’d followed him for a decade,” Scheuer says. “If there was one guy you could call a ‘hub,’ he was it.”

The plan called for the police to go in first, followed by the Americans and ISI men, whose job would be to gather laptops, documents, and other physical evidence. A few moments before three a.m., the crackle of gunfire erupted. Abu Zubaydah had been shot and wounded, but was alive and in custody. As those who had planned it had hoped, his capture was to prove an epochal event—but in ways they had not envisaged....(Click for remainder)


Gays Shut Out of Cabinet

But don't worry, we've got a marching band in a parade; that should be enough, right?

As if the news of antigay pastor Rick Warren's invitation to deliver Obama's inaugural invocation weren't insulting enough to LGBT Americans, we're now hit with the reality that no openly gay people will be seated at the cabinet table to weigh in on the next antigay flap.

By Kerry Eleveld

LGBT Americans were hit with yet another piece of bad news Thursday -- no openly gay people will be appointed to President-elect Obama’s cabinet.

Less than 24 hours after the announcement that antigay pastor Rick Warren would be giving the invocation at Obama's inauguration, reports surfaced that Rep. Hilda Solis is the incoming president’s pick as secretary of the Labor Department. The Labor and Interior posts having been the only two positions left for which openly gay qualified candidates were still in the running, LGBT leaders conceded that no out person will be seated at the cabinet table.

“It’s now clear that President Obama’s top appointees will gather in a cabinet room that does not reflect the living rooms, board rooms, or rooms of worship across this country,” said Chuck Wolfe, president and CEO of the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund.

Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign, said that in spite of “a very positive series of discussions with the transition team” last week, no forward movement had been made on behalf of gays and lesbians. “Unfortunately, one week later, we learn Rick Warren is giving the inaugural invocation and we're no further ahead in seeing LGBT Americans represented in the new administration,” he said. “A good dialogue without real action is only half the equation.”

Steve Elmendorf, a former deputy campaign manager for John Kerry and senior adviser to Dick Gephardt, called it “very disappointing” that a number of high-quality LGBT candidates had been passed over. “It’s a very diverse and inclusive cabinet for every community except for the gay and lesbian community,” he said....(Click for remainder)


The Road to Equality

Barbara Boxer, the U.S. Senator from California, understands why her gay constituents are furious over Rick Warren's role in the inauguration -- it feels like Proposition 8 redux.

Commentary @

An exclusive posted December 19, 2008.

In recent days, I have been overwhelmed by the number of Californians who are excited and hopeful about the change that is coming to Washington and our nation. I have also heard from many of my constituents who are upset about the inclusion of pastor Rick Warren in the presidential inaugural ceremonies.

As someone who saw, firsthand, the way the passage of Proposition 8 in California personally affected those who have struggled so long and so hard for equal rights, this controversy is understandable.

Proposition 8 overturned a California supreme court decision -- eloquent in its simplicity -- that made clear that California's constitution protects a fundamental right to marry that extends to same-sex couples. Chief Justice Ronald George, a Republican, made a strong legal case as to why setting up a different set of marriage rules is akin to setting up a different set of rules for people based on race or gender.

My views on marriage equality have evolved over time. At one point, I did think it was possible to substitute civil unions for marriage as long as couples had the same rights and responsibilities as everyone else under the law. But, as the California supreme court found, in order for full equality to exist for all of our people, you cannot have different standards when it comes to making the lifelong commitment to honor and love....(Click for remainder)


Obama Expands Economic Recovery Plan to Create 3 Million Jobs

I think this is great, my only question would have to be is to the type of jobs to be created?Not everyone who is out of work in US is a blue collar construction worker.

By Julianna Goldman

President-elect Barack Obama, faced with a deteriorating economy, is expanding his stimulus package with a goal of creating or saving 3 million jobs over two years, a transition aide said last night.

The revised target, up from 2.5 million jobs he previously announced, came at the suggestion of Christina Romer, Obama’s pick to head the Council of Economic Advisers, during a Dec. 16 meeting with the president-elect’s top economic advisers, the aide said, speaking on condition of anonymity. Romer said the short, medium and long-term economic forecasts have worsened since Obama outlined the plan on Nov. 22, the aide said.

Romer said the economy is likely to lose 3 million to 4 million jobs over the next year and the unemployment rate is likely to rise to above 9 percent. As a result, she said, the initial jobs estimate for the package was too timid, according to the aide.

Obama has made his first priority after he takes office Jan. 20 to sign an economic recovery package with a significant focus on infrastructure projects to help boost jobs. Recent economic indicators have underscored the need for additional action, Romer said.

The meeting also included Vice President-elect Joe Biden; Obama’s designee for Treasury secretary, Timothy Geithner; director of the White House National Economic Council, Lawrence Summers; and Paul Volcker, Obama’s choice to head a new Economic Recovery Advisory Board....(Click for remainder).



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