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Europe Must Stand in Solidarity with Iranian Protesters

Thursday, June 18, 2009

The fate of today's Iranian protest movement is impossible to predict. Its relationship to the state and religion differs from the movement that led to communism's collapse in Eastern Europe, but Europeans must take their own history seriously and show their solidarity with the protesters.

By Claus Christian Malzahn

Fifty-six years ago, hundreds of thousands of East Germans demonstrated in the streets -- first to demand better working conditions in state-owned businesses, and then to call for free elections in East Germany and oppose the Stalinist regime. The revolt was brutally suppressed, and thousands of people were thrown into prison. Later, the rulers in the East and some intellectuals in the West denounced the events of June 17, 1953 as a reactionary uprising by people stuck in the past. The citizens of East Germany had to wait another 37 years for free elections. Those who choose to fight stand a real chance of losing. But the loss is made all the more bitter when their protests are subsequently vilified.

Notwithstanding the many cultural and political differences, there is a certain similarity between the pluralistic opposition movement we are witnessing in Iran today and what happened in past decades and more recently in Eastern Europe. The focus of these opposition movements has been a protest against government censorship and authoritarianism, as well as the desire for personal freedom devoid of the repressive actions of a regime. Just as the East Germans were on their own in 1953, the Hungarians bravely fought a losing battle three years later. In 1968, the Czechoslovakian attempt to establish "socialism with a human face" within the Soviet sphere of influence was brutally crushed by Russian tanks. Twelve years later, Poland's Solidarity movement fought for human rights and democracy and, with the help of the Catholic Church, created a Polish parallel universe that eventually brought down the communist regime, despite the fact it had declared martial law in 1981. It was allowed to do so in part because the Soviet Union was on the verge of collapse in 1989....(Remainder.)


The Difference Between Democratic and Republican Sex Scandals

By Michael Currie Schaffer
The New Republic

Forget Iraq, terrorism, and the rickety credit market. This is turning out to be the best year in a while for political sex scandals--certainly the best since 9/11 supposedly focused our leaders on less tawdry pursuits. It's enough to make Gary Condit's head spin: Only eight months old, 2007 has already featured a Washington madam, a cruising senator, a cuckolded campaign manager, and a home-wrecking TV reporter. And while other sorts of recent governmental improprieties have had a decidedly Republican cast, booty calls appear relatively bipartisan. The soiled bedsheets of prominent Democrats like Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and his San Francisco counterpart Gavin Newsom are hanging in public view right alongside those of Republican Senators David Vitter and Larry Craig.

But if it doesn't take David Broder to show that wandering eyes and weak wills know no party, it's also worth pausing to consider some differences between the year's major Republican and Democratic sex scandals. On the one hand, comically anachronistic forays into the hidden netherworlds of whoring and cruising; on the other, consensual affairs that begin in the professional sphere of post-sexual revolution America. While the politicians involved may all find themselves in the same amount of trouble down the road--say, at Saint Peter's desk, or at least in divorce court--the specifics of their transgressions say a great deal about their respective political affiliations in the here and now.

The Republican version of the 2007 sex scandal, in fact, looks a lot like pretty much everyone's version of the 1957 sex scandal. In Craig's case, that means the world of the closet. Never mind that within a couple miles of Craig's Washington, D.C. offices there are dozens of places to non-illegally seek out casual sex; Craig followed the pre-Stonewall logic of the modern right wing straight into the bathroom, with all its attendant physical discomforts, and legal dangers. Vitter, too, played the part of a horny Rip Van Winkle. And while no mere sexual revolution can be expected to render obsolete the world's oldest profession, four decades of social upheaval have surely made it easier for a handsome young Louisianan to find a non-illegal extramarital bedmate (preferably one who doesn't keep phone logs). But both Craig and Vitter, officially disapproving of the very social changes that would have eased their stepping out, sinned the old fashioned way. They're now paying the price: Craig said he planned to resign, and Vitter is a punchline....(Remainder.)


Twitter and Iran

By John Cole
The Scranton Times-Tribune


Fox News Writer Charged in Central Park Bike Brouhaha

By Daniel Tencer
The Raw Story

A Fox News writer who allegedly dragged a cyclist for four blocks through New York's Central Park faces up to a year in jail after being charged with fleeing the scene of an accident.

According to Gawker, Don Broderick was arrested on June 12 for an incident that happened two weeks ago, in which a Brooklyn man cycling through Central Park was cut off by an SUV, and then dragged under the car for four blocks after confronting the driver.

Evidently, Broderick is blaming the cyclist, claiming that the two-wheeled commuter was a traffic "vigilante."...(Original.)


Head of CA GOP Voter Registration Firm Pleads Guilty to Voter Registration Fraud

By Brad Friedman
The Brad Blog

What's perhaps most interesting here is what isn't mentioned in this story, as written on the Los Angeles Times' "L.A. Now" blog. First, here's their entire blog item...
The owner of a voter-registration company pleaded guilty Tuesday to voter-registration fraud, according to the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office.

Laguna Beach resident Mark Jacoby, who collects signatures for petition drives, pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor and was sentenced to three years' probation and 30 days of service with the California Department of Transportation.

Jacoby, owner of Young Political Majors, registered to vote at Los Angeles addresses that were not his own. State law requires petition circulators to be qualified voters. Jacoby will also be required to show proof he is registered at his correct address.

And what they didn't bother to mention in that story?...Amongst other things, the fact that Jacoby and Young Political Majors were hired by the California Republican Party to head up their voter registration efforts in the state. Jacoby had been arrested for Voter Registration Fraud last October, smack dab during the media's orgasmic heights of last year's phony GOP ACORN "Voter Fraud" hoax, even as Fox "News" (and the other news outlets who similarly fell for the scam) were going wall-to-wall with their unsupported insinuations about voter fraud by ACORN, Democrats and Obama....(Remainder.)


Anderson Cooper & Dustin Lance Black On Obama's Same-Sex Cop-Out?


The Sex Scandal Hypocrite

By Max Blumenthal
The Daily Beast

Republican Sen. John Ensign of Nevada didn’t tap his foot in a bathroom stall like Larry Craig or spirit away to pricey bordellos like David Vitter, but like Newt Gingrich, he had an extramarital affair with a young staffer on his payroll.

Ensign admitted his affair Tuesday, declaring, “I deeply regret and am very sorry for my actions.” According to Politico, Ensign only revealed the affair when the husband of the woman involved demanded “a substantial sum of money” to keep quiet.

Confessed just two weeks after a visit to the Republican presidential-primary state of Iowa, Ensign’s affair effectively ends his apparent presidential ambitions. It also undermines his carefully cultivated image as a stalwart against the machinations of liberal judges, feminists, and homosexual activists.

Beginning with his call from the House floor for President Bill Clinton to resign after having an affair—“He has no credibility left,” Ensign said—and continuing through his tenure in the Senate with a hard-right voting record that earned a 100 percent rating from the Christian Coalition, Ensign has earned a reputation as one of Congress’ most active and ardent social conservatives. In 2008, he was rewarded with the chairmanship of the Republican Policy Committee, making him the No. 4 Republican in the Senate, a rising star at age 51 in a party with few strong presidential prospects. The future looked bright....(Remainder.)


A Nanny State of Mind

By Steven Weber
The Huffington Post

While liberals may rightly bristle at a cranky, diaper-wearing right-winger who wails about a "nanny state" whenever health care, social security, food stamps, welfare or affirmative action come up (or really anything involving so-called progressive social programs, i.e., "big government") those liberal, progressive minds which of late have been chastising President Obama for what they see as a lead-footed response to certain issues are being the thumb-sucking brats their attackers accuse them of being. Their expectations for this president far exceed the reality of a person, even one as capable as Obama, to govern expediently.

In the growing chorus of left-wing Obama critics who feel the president is not doing enough, along with many Americans who were, in some cases, only supporters of Obama once Hillary had dropped out of contention and who decry the president's sketchy support on the issue of gay marriage, his enlistment of the very individuals who were complicit in the economic meltdown and who he now entrusts to fix it, the waffling on Guantanamo (to name a few of the more glaring items), there is an expectation for him to fix what was so obviously, so callously broken right away; to keep the promises he made, posthaste.

But while the "critirati" (catchy, huh?) who ride Obama, now that the coital post-election glow has faded, are rightful to keep his feet to the fire after years of being marginalized by neocons and wingnuts, they are laboring under the delusion that the promised change is an easy one to achieve, as easy to fix as it was to ruin.

In truth, change on the required, massive scale requires nothing short of an actual, total revolution. Not merely an implied revolt vis-á-vis electing a dynamic activist president of color and background and intelligence, whose abilities stand in stark contrast to, in some cases, his woefully inadequate predecessors; nor obviously a violent "take to the streets!!" revolution with rakes and pitchforks. Rather, a revolutionary approach to how this county is run and who runs it.

We're talking a civil revolution....(Remainder.)


The Night of the Living Neocons

The shameless fools whose Iraq folly empowered Iran's hard-liners are back, smearing Obama as an appeaser

By Gary Kamiya

June 18, 2009 | Like Rasputin, the unhinged "Mad Monk" whom they sometimes seem to have adopted as an intellectual role model, the neoconservatives who brought us the Iraq war refuse to die. Although they have been figuratively stabbed, poisoned, shot, garroted and drowned, they somehow keep standing, still insisting that history will vindicate George W. Bush's glorious crusade. In a world governed by the Victorian moral code conservatives claim to uphold, they would be shunned, shamed and forbidden to appear on television or write Op-Ed columns. But because Beltway decorum apparently requires that disgraced pundits be given a permanent platform to bray their discredited theories, the rest of us are condemned to listen to their ravings.

What caused the neocons and their fellow travelers on the right to sit up in their coffins this time is the almost certainly rigged Iran election and the massive unrest that has roiled the country in its aftermath. Outraged that Obama has not behaved like their hero Bush and begun loudly rattling his saber, the neocons have denounced him as -- you guessed it -- an appeaser. In a piece titled "Obama's Iran Abdication," the Wall Street Journal's editorial page, that bastion of unreconstructed neocon lunacy, attacked Obama for not supporting the Iranian protesters more vigorously and derided his "now-familiar moral equivalence" in citing the 1953 CIA-backed coup that toppled Iranian leader Mohammad Mossadegh. In an Op-Ed two days earlier, the paper's Visigothic editors, who have been calling for the U.S. to bomb Iran for years, took the opportunity to climb into the Wayback Machine to pay homage to one of George W. Bush's greatest hits. "It turns out that the 'axis of evil' really is evil -- and not, as liberal sages would have it, merely misunderstood," sneered the editors, suggesting that the crackdown should make Obama rethink trying to strike a grand nuclear bargain with Iran.

In his own attack on Obama, Sen. John McCain also rushed to resurrect Bush's Axis of Evil line, saying, "Look, these people are bad people and I know that it was unpopular to call them part of an axis of evil or whatever it was, but we just showed again that an oppressive regime will not allow democratic elections, free and democratic elections."...(Remainder.)


Newt Gingrich Misuses, Not Just Misquotes, the Declaration of Indepencence

By Paul Abrams
The Huffington Post

In an article yesterday by Media Matters, Newt Gingrich is called out for misquoting the Declaration of Independence, although the article does acknowledge he correctly captured the gist. Gingrich goes on to use that language to raise rightwing policies--opposing women's choice in carrying pregnancies, the nomination of Sonia Sotomayor, and healthcare 'rationing'--to categorical imperatives commanded by the Declaration.

Apparently, I am told, his little piece of reporting claimed the attention of the Olbermann program..

But Media Matters, and Olbermann, miss the main point.

The Declaration of Independence is not the operating manual or contract by which the United States and the people govern themselves. Rather, it is a statement of principles justifying revolution. It contains no blueprint for governing, and could be used to justify anarchism. After all, if one is indeed endowed by a creator with inalienable rights, then nothing compels someone to accept any form of government.

The Constitution of the United States is our operating manual. Having revolted from Great Britain based upon the principles of the Declaration, the States first came together under the Articles of Confederation that was a failed experiment. The Constitution of the United States replaced the Articles after approval by the States. It is the contract that we have agreed to that defines our rights and the powers we have ceded to the Federal Government and the States.

Gingrich always conflates the Declaration and the Constitution into our "Founding Documents" because the Constitution is a fairly liberal document and makes no reference to god or a creator. That could not have been an accident. It was the conscious choice of our Founders. Gingrich enjoys the sophistry of extracting quotes from some of the Founders, in other situations, professing their beliefs in a "Divine Providence" or the "Almighty".

But, that only makes the case more compelling that their omission of references to god, or a creator, or the Bible, in the Constitution was deliberate. The "original intenters" on the Supreme Court should take notice....(Remainder.)


Avenging Amanda Terkel -- Turning the Tables on FOX


Fox Attacks Obama for Suggesting Fox is Devoted to Attacking Him

By Ellen
News Hounds

Gee, Fox News depicts President Barack Obama as an America-hating, socialist radical, suggests that he deliberately insulted Israel, likens him to a cancer in the country, accuses him of making the country more vulnerable to terrorist attacks, and suggests he should be investigated by the Department of Homeland Security - and that's not counting the vicious readers' comments about him at The Fox Nation website (screen grabs after the jump) and now the "fair and balanced" network is attacking him again for saying there's one network "entirely devoted to attacking my administration." Well, maybe Fox has a point. After all, they do spend a fair amount of time attacking Nancy Pelosi, ACORN and Democrats, in general, so it's not just Obama.

From the Fox Nation post about Obama's comment, given the inflammatory title, President Takes Swipe at FOX News ... What's Going On Here?...(Original.)


Hannity’s In No Position To Be Lecturing ABC About Journalistic Integrity

By Ellen
News Hounds

Sean Hannity was in a bullyboy lather again last night (6/17/09), this time over ABC's upcoming special on health care, to be broadcast from the White House. The show has not aired yet but Hannity and his Fox News colleagues have already decided it's going to be an "infomercial" and that the White House will "take over" the prime time broadcast. It seems to me that in itself lacks a certain amount of journalistic integrity. But it's laughable for Hannity to be lecturing anyone else about balance or independent, ethical reporting given that his own record is full of distortions and softball interviews from which he shut out his liberal then-co-host. As icing on Hannity's hypocritical cake, as soon as he moved on from ABC, he immediately misrepresented the Congressional Budget Office's analysis about one draft bill in the Senate. With video.

In the opening headline for his show, Hannity announced, "ABC News throws journalistic integrity out the window," and then later referred to the special as "next week's Mickey-Mouse-sponsored infomercial."

"Journalism in America is dead," Hannity declared, one of his favorite lines since the 2008 presidential campaign. A banner on the screen screamed "JOURNALISM IS DEAD" in large letters, just in case viewers didn't get the message the first time.

Hannity went on to bemoan, "We were also reminded today that the White House director of Communications for Health Care Spin is none other than former ABC correspondent Linda Douglas. Now, that can not be a coincidence."

Kind of like the situation of having, say, an informal advisor to Presidential Candidate John McCain serve as a supposedly neutral news analyst? Because that's exactly how Fox News used George W. Bush's former advisor Karl Rove during much of the 2008 election cycle - and without revealing the tie. Rove was and is on the air shaping the news. Douglas is no longer working for ABC. She's shaping the Obama message. There's a big difference....(Remainder.)


Should What Sen. Ensign Advocated in Washington Stay in Washington?

By John V. Santore
Media Matters

For years, personal indiscretions by elected officials have been viewed as fair game by the press. The political impact of the ensuing stories is left to the public, which must determine whether a particular aspect of an individual's private life is relevant to their public one.

When reporting on personal issues, the press owes the people a full and accurate accounting, especially when suggesting reasons why a certain action might be relevant to voters. But today's print coverage of Senator John Ensign's affair demonstrates how often stories concerning personal problems miss a central part of the tale.

If Mr. Ensign's actions are indeed newsworthy (an idea some would dispute), it is because they represent hypocrisy on behalf of a lawmaker with future political ambitions. To that end, the Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times noted in their articles that Sen. Ensign had been highly critical of former Idaho Senator Larry Craig for his alleged actions in a Minneapolis bathroom, adding that Ensign had also called on Bill Clinton to resign during the Monica Lewinsky affair. Reuters and the Associated Press included the Craig connection, but failed to mention the statements regarding Clinton. The New York Times, to its discredit, chose not to mention Ensign's reaction to either event.

But more importantly, not one of these news organizations felt compelled to note that Senator Ensign has been a vocal opponent of gay marriage, as well as being a public and proud supporter of the Defense of Marriage Amendment (DOMA). As a readily available press release on Mr. Ensign's website makes clear, for him, "Marriage is an extremely important institution in this country and protecting it is, in my mind, worth the extraordinary step of amending our constitution."...(Remainder.)


Boehlert: "I Think Conservatives are Confusing Being in the Minority With Being Victims of Liberal Bias"

By Media Matters


Solidarity on the Soccer Field

By Zahir Janmohamed
Human Rights Now @ Amnesty International

A quick update: the Iranian soccer team was seen clad with green wristbands during their World Cup qualifying match against South Korea.

Green is the signature color of the mass Iranian movement for former presidential candidate Mir Hussein Musavi. Daily protests against the re-election of Mahmoud Ahmedinejad, numbering in the tens of thousands, have become virtual seas of green–with participants sporting green-colored headbands, shirts, and posters.

While there is no confirmation that the soccer team wore the wristbands in support of Musavi, it is not customary for players to wear wristbands at all.

Soccer has long been the sport of choice in Iran by both men and women. There’s a fantastic Iranian film called “Offside” about a group of women who try to sneak into a soccer match (interestingly enough, a match that determines whether Iran will compete in the World Cup) dressed up as men. It is directed by Jafar Panahi, one of Iran’s most influential and acclaimed directors. NPR has a great review on their website here, and you can also see a trailer on YouTube. Check it out!...(Remainder.)


Iran...I Stand

By Jerry Holbert
The Boston Herald


Change is in the Air

By Mike Luckovich
The Atlanta Journal-Consitution


Barney Frank Throws Us Under the Bus. Lauds Incest Brief. Says Language Was Appropriate.

By John Aravosis

Well, it seems a trip to the Oval Office is all openly gay congressman Barney Frank needs to stab his community in the back. After criticizing the DOJ's anti-gay DOMA brief this morning, Frank did a 180 this evening and lauded the brief, which invoked incest and pedophilia. Frank now thinks the brief is just super.

Frank claims that he gave a newspaper reporter his negative opinion of the brief without actually having read it.

Did you catch that? Barney Frank, our senior gay elected representative, and a lawyer himself, claims that he was giving legal opinions on a legal brief that he hadn't even read. At least Joe and I, who are also lawyers, read the brief before commenting on it. How many other issues has Barney opined on about which he's been knowingly willfully ignorant? (Of course, I don't believe Frank for a minute - he read the brief, but the president got him to recant.)

I am simply astounded. Even more astounding is that Barney's release sounds as if it were written by the White House. Their talking points are all through it, including the bizarre notion that somehow Obama would be as bad as George Bush if he opposed DOMA in court. (Repeating the lie that presidents never oppose existing legislation in court.) Joe and I already debunked that lie with the example of four court cases in which Reagan, Bush Sr, Clinton and Bush Jr. all opposed existing law. And what's more, we published an essay by former senior Clinton White House official Richard Socarides explaining exactly how the president goes about telling the DOJ to oppose existing law in court. It's not debatable, it's what actually happens in the Oval office, and it's not illegal - it's a fact. The NYT editorial page agreed....(Remainder.)


Obama Reaches for Low-Hanging Fruit

By Dan Savage
The Stranger

UPDATE: Please see this post.

Politico reports that some sort of vague civil-rights-something-or-other suddenly appeared on Obama's schedule for tomorrow night.
As liberal criticism of the president's inaction on gay rights escalates, a cryptic event appears on the president's Wednesday schedule... "In the evening, the President will deliver brief remarks and sign a Presidential Memorandum regarding federal benefits and non-discrimination in the Oval Office. This event is pooled press."
Obama may be about to extend domestic-partnership benefits to gay and lesbian federal employees. Obamapologists will point to this as proof that he is so moving on his gay rights agenda. Don't fall for it. These benefits are by no means trivial... if you're part of the 2% of the population that works for the federal government and part of the 3% of that 2% who are gay or lesbian. [The benefits are trivial indeed. Please see this post.] But this does not amount to action on any of the eight promises Obama's made to the gay and lesbian community. Politico reported yesterday that the administration was looking around for something it could do, anything, to stem the rising tide of anger that was/is threatening to derail the DNC's big gay fundraiser next week. This may be that something.

It's not good enough. It's not action on any of Obama's eight promises to the gay community. You want to mollify the angry homos, Obama? Suspend enforcement of DADT....(Remainder.)


The Fierce Advocate

By Mikhaela Reid
Boiling Point Cartoon


Who Wants School Vouchers? Rich Whites and Poor Nonwhites

By Andrew Gelman

As part of our Red State, Blue State research, we developed statistical tools for estimating public opinion among subsets of the population. Recently Yu-Sung Su, Yair Ghitza, and I applied these methods to see where school vouchers are more or less popular.

We started with the 2000 National Annenberg Election Survey, which had responses from about 50,000 randomly-sampled Americans to the question: "Give tax credits or vouchers to help parents send their children to private schools--should the federal government do this or not?" 45% of those who expressed an opinion on this question said yes, but the percentage varied a lot by state, income level, and religious/ethnic group; These maps show our estimates:



Did Jesus Abolish the Old Testament?

By VJack
Atheist Revolution

A reader, I'll call him Jason, e-mailed me a great question. It is one I have received several times. In fact, it is one I have asked several times! I am going to post it here, take a stab at answering it and then invite you to chime in. I readily admit that my answer is tentative, as I am really not sure about the most effective way to respond. Let's get to the question.

Here is Jason's question:
I recently had a discussion with a Christian, and I asked him why Christians cherry pick from the bible. I brought up stuff from the old testament, like women not being allowed to dress fancy in church. His response was, "That's mosaic law and we are under a new law now." I didn't know how to respond to this. What would you say? I also hear Christians respond with "that's the old testament or Judaism. Christians follow the new testament". Are these legitimate responses to challenges to the bible?
No, I do not regard these as legitimate responses at all. The challenge, and what I hope to get some input from my more informed readers, is how best to articulate why.

It seems to me that one has a couple of avenues from which to respond. First and most challenging, there are passages in the New Testament where statements attributed to Jesus seem to make it clear that he was NOT coming to change anything about the old laws (e.g., John 14:15 says, "If you love Me, keep My commandments."). So the first line of response might be to point the Christian to such statements. The problem with this and the reason I described this route as most challenging is that the Christian bible can be used to support virtually anything. There are so many inconsistencies that it is difficult to come away without concluding that it is utter gibberish....(Remainder.)


Why U.S. Neocons Want Ahmadinejad to Win

By Stephen Zunes

The only people happier than the Iranian elites over Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's apparently stolen election win Friday, were the neoconservatives and other hawks eager to block any efforts by the Obama administration to moderate U.S. policy toward the Islamic republic.

Since he was elected president in 2005, Ahmadinejad has filled a certain niche in the American psyche formerly filled by the likes of Saddam Hussein and Muammar Qaddafi as the Middle Eastern leader we most love to hate. It gives us a sense of righteous superiority to compare ourselves favorably to these seemingly irrational and fanatical foreign despots.

Better yet, if these despots can be inflated into far greater threats than they actually are, these supposed threats can be used to justify the enormous financial and human costs of maintaining American armed forces in that volatile region to protect ourselves and our allies, and even to make war against far-off nations in "self-defense."

Such inflated threats also have the added bonus of silencing critics of America's overly-militarized Middle East policy, since anyone who dares to challenge the hyperbole and exaggerated claims regarding these leaders' misdeeds or to provide a more balanced and realistic assessment of the actual threat they represent can then be depicted as naive apologists for dangerous fanatics who threaten our national security.

The neocons have not been subtle about their desire for Ahmadinejad to continue playing this important role. For example, right-wing pundit Daniel Pipes, at a panel discussion at the Heritage Foundation just before the election, said that he would vote for Ahmadinejad if he could, because he prefers "an enemy who is forthright, blatant, obvious."...(Remainder.)


President Obama Betrays the Gay Community

We supported you.  Time to live up to your promises.

By John Aravosis

June 17, 2009 | Team Obama keeps telling lesbian and gay Americans like me to be patient. If we just wait a little longer, administration officials whisper to us lovingly (and out of earshot of the media), after the White House finishes with healthcare reform and getting the troops out of Iraq, your time will come. In the meantime, cheer up -- we put a gay band in the inaugural parade!

Everyone loves a parade, but we don't like being betrayed. And while gay and lesbian Americans were initially willing to cut our new president some slack, the president's now-clear reticence to follow through on even one of his many campaign promises to the gay community has put the Democratic Party on the precipice of an ugly and very public divorce with this once-solid constituency.

During the presidential primaries, then-candidate Obama promoted himself as the biggest defender of gay rights since Harvey Milk. He would be a "fierce advocate" for our rights, he promised, and he even out-gayed Hillary Clinton: telling gay and lesbian voters that while she was for a partial repeal of the so-called Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), he'd get rid of the whole damn thing.

And there was much rejoicing.

Then, not so much.

About a year before the November election, primary challenger Obama invited Donnie McClurkin, a homophobic gospel singer who claims to have been "cured" of his own homosexuality, to lead a series of concerts in the South in order to woo the black vote. The gays were not amused, but candidate Obama held firm. The gays forgave the Big O until a year later, when then-President-elect Obama chose evangelical preacher (and well-known homophobe) Rick Warren to give the inaugural prayer. Again, the gays expressed their ire, Obama wouldn't budge, and his advisors continued to whisper sweet nothings in our ears about how glorious the future would be once Dear Leader was finally in office....(Remainder.)


Keith Olbermann: Obama's "Small Change" for the Gay Community


Who's Behind Tehran's Violence?

Opposition supporters worry about their movement being hijacked.

By Maziar Bahari

There is no English equivalent for the Farsi words Efraat and Tafrit. They refer to the possibility of extremism on both sides of an issue, and they were much in use during the third day of peaceful marches in Tehran Wednesday.

Despite official warnings against gathering, at least half a million people marched along a street in central Tehran Wednesday afternoon to protest the re-election of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in a vote that many believe was blatantly rigged. After three days of ignoring the demonstrators, who believe opposition candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi was the true victor, state-run Iranian television showed some images of Wednesday's activities. But its reporters chose to talk only to the ordinary citizens on the sidelines, who complained about the Mousavi supporters as a nuisance who were creating traffic in the city and bringing businesses to a halt. The crowd was peaceful and quiet, as they have been in previous days. But a chant against the director of Iranian television, Ezatollah Zarghami, was one of the few slogans heard today. "Shame, Shame, Zarghami!" people intoned.

What incensed people about the television coverage of recent days was its focus on the violence and vandalism that has broken out in sporadic incidents at night, and not the peaceful marches in the afternoons. "It's shameful that the state-run media show all of us as a group of hooligans who break shop windows and burn cars," said Mina, a doctor who has taken part in all of the pro-Mousavi demonstrations since Monday. Mina was a political prisoner before and after the revolution. She fought against both the Shah and Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini's regime as a member of an armed communist group. She now believes that violence is passé and counterproductive, and that it is only through peaceful means that Iranians can establish their rights. What worried Mina and other marchers was the violence that has broken out at night, which officials have blamed on Mousavi supporters....(Remainder.)


Iran, the Neocons and the Bomb

By William D. Hartung
Talking Points Memo

If the neocons are to be believed, Ahmadinejad's theft of the Iranian elections - and his continuing crackdown on dissent - are not the results of internal dynamics in Iran, but rather of the words of conciliation spoken by President Obama prior to the vote.

As the latest incarnation of Mitt Romney - the fire breathing hawk - put the right-wing case on ABC's "This Week" with George Stephanopoulos, "It is very clear that the president's policies of going around the world and apologizing for America aren't working."

An excellent post by Ali Frick that ran on Think Progress earlier this week quotes Iraq-war advocates Richard Perle and Frank Gaffney asserting that Obama's willingness to talk to Iran about curbing its nuclear program has helped legitimize Ahmadinejad's regime and emboldened the "thugs" in Tehran due to "our weakness." And Robert Kagan has put in his two cents worth in today's Washington Post in an article entitled "Obama, Siding With the Regime."

What would the neocons do differently? What should be done in the face of Ahmadinejad's repression, and how will it influence efforts to stop Tehran from seeking a nuclear weapon?
First, it should be noted that the struggle in Iran is far from over. It is too early to tell whether Ahmadinejad will maintain his power through the barrel of a gun, or whether the popular protests can last long enough and be strong enough to force him out of office.

But, if Ahmadinejad prevails, it will be with reduced power. As Joe Cirincione has noted on the Huffington Post, "he will be greatly weakened, handcuffed in his ability to play the nuclear card as a nationalist rallying cry. Pressed at home, he will need to show some gains internationally; the nuclear issue must be compromised to realize those gains." In particular, the needed economic progress that either an Ahmadinejad or a Mousavi government will need to show will depend on an opening to the West, which means putting the nuclear program on the table....(Remainder.)


Major Christian Right Leader to Speak At Conference Hosted by Anti-Gay, Pro-Old South Preacher

By Casey Sanchez
Hatewatch @ SPLC

Douglas Wilson runs an extreme-right religious empire based out of St. Andrews College in Moscow, Idaho. Popular in neo-Confederate circles as well, Wilson has co-authored a partly plagiarized booklet defending Old South slavery as a “life of plenty” with Steve Wilkins, a founding member of the neo-secessionist and racist League of the South.  A serious hardliner, Wilson recently told reporters at Christianity Today that he’s in favor of the “exile [of] some homosexuals, depending on the circumstances and the age of the victim. There are circumstances where I’d be in favor of execution for adultery.”

Wilson’s now found a new friend in Chuck Colson, recipient of the 2008 Presidential Citizens Medal and a revered Christian Right leader for decades, dating back to 1975 when he founded the Prison Fellowship ministry after serving time for obstruction of justice after being caught up in the Watergate scandal. Later this month in Atlanta, Colson will be the featured speaker at Wilson’s annual conference of classical Christian educators and homeschoolers, known as the Association of Classical and Christian Schools. It’s a leap off the deep end for Colson, or as the Americans United for Separation of Church and State put it,  “So let’s get this straight: Colson is happily speaking at a conference whose founder and guiding light celebrates theocracy, defends slavery as biblical and expresses regret that the Confederacy lost the Civil War.”

Over the past three years however, Colson has given speeches that suggest a move from conservative evangelical Christianity into the far ends of Christian dominionism, a belief that America, along with the rest of the world, should be governed by conservative Christians using a conservative Christian interpretation of biblical law. In a 2007 column for Christianity Today, Colson ripped into Christian parents who are unable to “defend Christian truth … because we worship at the altar of the bitch goddess of tolerance.”...(Remainder.)


Twitter Saves the Day

By Zahir Janmohamed

Human Rights Now @ Amnesty International

Since Friday’s Presidential election, the Iranian government has blocked access to several social networking sites, such as Facebook, and cut off cell phone services. But updates have continued to stream in from Iran via Twitter. While these updates are only 140 characters or less– they are certainly packing a punch.

Recent tweets read:

“Demo spread from Azadi sq, to streets and hwys around it. Cars honking horns, smaller groups marching. False hopes?”

“Dispersed fights in Tehran; sound of shooting heard”

“Tho today’s protest is illegal, police not moving in. Possibly too big to handle, or images of attax beg. to embarrass ldrs”

Follow the election protests on Twitter here. The Atlantic has a page called “Live-Tweeting the Revolution” with Twitter updates, as well. Other sites, such as Flickr, are constantly uploading photographs from these rallies.

It almost seems like 24-hour news networks just can’t keep up– they’ve even been accused of falling behind on coverage by bloggers!

Update: Twitter has pushed back its scheduled down time due to how important it has become for communication with Iran over the past few days....(Original.)


NPR's Zwerdling Understated LGBT Criticism of Obama's DOMA Brief

By Media Matters

In a June 17 NPR news brief on President Obama's upcoming announcement of a memorandum to give benefits to same-sex partners of federal employees, correspondent Daniel Zwerdling mischaracterized and understated criticism leveled by lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender activists of actions the Obama administration has taken on LGBT issues. Specifically, Zwerdling reported that "gay activists ... wanted his administration to support same-sex marriage; instead, the administration is defending the federal law that forbids the federal government to recognize same-sex marriage." In fact, prominent members of the LGBT community have not merely criticized the administration's defense of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA); they have also sharply criticized the manner in which it has defended the law, filing a brief in federal court that included, among other things, a section referring to prior legal cases involving incest and marriages to underage girls. Zwerdling further claimed that "the president could pacify activists today when he signs" the memorandum, ignoring numerous reports that activists are far from "pacified."

Contrary to Zwerdling's suggestion, criticism of the Justice Department's actions in the DOMA case went far beyond its defense of DOMA. In a June 16 editorial, The New York Times highlighted objections to the brief in the DOMA case:
The brief insists it is reasonable for states to favor heterosexual marriages because they are the "traditional and universally recognized form of marriage." In arguing that other states do not have to recognize same-sex marriages under the Constitution's "full faith and credit" clause, the Justice Department cites decades-old cases ruling that states do not have to recognize marriages between cousins or an uncle and a niece.

These are comparisons that understandably rankle many gay people. In a letter to President Obama on Monday, Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign, a gay rights organization, said, "I cannot overstate the pain that we feel as human beings and as families when we read an argument, presented in federal court, implying that our own marriages have no more constitutional standing than incestuous ones."...



By Mr. Fish
LA Weekly


Holder Refuses to Call Warrantless Spying Illegal

By David Swanson

In probably the most disturbing testimony to hit Capitol Hill since Attorney General Eric Holder appeared before the House Judiciary Committee in May and refused to rule out lawless detention or to agree that government officials can sometimes be prosecuted for their crimes, on Wednesday Holder appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee and, among much else, refused five times to agree that warrantless spying is illegal and unconstitutional. I spoke to Holder in April, and he assured me that I would be proud of my country. When?

Over the months that have passed since Holder last testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee at his confirmation hearings, it has become clear that most, if not all, of the major criminal activities of the Bush Administration will be covered up and protected, and in fact continued, by the Obama Administration -- yes, including torture. Most recently in the media, including in Wednesday's New York Times, are accounts of ongoing warrantless spying. At Wednesday's hearing, liveblogged here, illegal spying was the subject of a dramatic exchange.

Chairman Patrick Leahy was the first to raise the topic and to complain that he had to learn about the executive branch's crimes from the New York Times. I'm not sure who he would prefer or expect to hear such things from. Holder, in response, claimed not to know anything about it, because he hadn't "reviewed in any detail" the New York Times article. Senators Tom Coburn and Diane Feinstein both claimed that the New York Times article was not accurate.

But whether that article is accurate or not misses the broader question that was then raised by Senator Russ Feingold. He pointed out that executive "opinions" asserting the legality of torture have been overturned, but that those asserting the legality of warrantless wiretapping have not been. Senator Feinstein asked whether the Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) "opinion" announcing that the 4th Amendment did not apply in the "war on terror" had been withdrawn. Holder said he did not know. Feingold pointed to past statements by Barack Obama and Eric Holder denouncing the warrantless wiretapping. And he asked Holder directly whether the warrantless wiretapping programs set up during Bush's presidency were illegal. Holder replied that they were "unwise". So Feingold asked again, and a third, fourth, and fifth time. Holder would go so far as to say "inconsistent with FISA" and yet explicitly refused to say "illegal." Holder said he hoped to someday release secret "opinions" on spying. But releasing something is not the same as overturning or "withdrawing" it. After five unsuccessful attempts to get Holder to call illegal spying illegal (even though Holder would, later in the same hearing, indicate his reliance on legislation that provided immunity for the crime), Feingold gave up and moved to another topic....(Remainder.)


On Health Care, Who's Hooked on Special Interest Money?

By Nate Silver

Last week, we documented how the American Medical Association, which probably a the reputation among the laypublic for being a sage council of doctors, in fact is a rather aggressive lobbying organization, which has a history of giving mostly to Republican candidates for office.

The AMA, however, is hardly the only player in the health player game. Based on data collected from, I've tallied the amount of contributions that each of the 99 current senators have received from Political Action Committees -- PACs -- from the health care industry since 1989. This includes PACs associated with pharmaceutical companies, hospitals, HMOs, health services companies, medical supply companies and physicians', dentists' and nurses' groups. It does not include any money collected from individual contributors -- only money collected from PACs.

For comparison, we've provided the overall amount of federal campaign funds each Senator has collected over the same period from all sources -- including PACs, individual contributions, and self-financing. The senators are ranked by the percentage of their overall bankrolls that they've received from health industry PACs; the top 10 follows below. We've also listed each senator's position on the public option -- a government-run health care policy that would be established to compete with private policies -- which vigorously supported by progressives and many health care wonks but is generally opposed by industry groups.



Right-Wing Media

By Steve Sack
The Minneapolis Star-Tribune


American's Don't Trust GOP to Fix Health Care

By Metavirus
Library Grape

Today, House Republicans offered a substance-less alternative to the Democrats’ health care plan. The GOP “plan” comes on the same day that Gallup releases new numbers showing the GOP ranks last when it comes to who the public thinks would get health care reform right. Only 34% of Americans are confident that Republicans in Congress will make the correct decisions, which is less than the insurance companies (35%) and the pharmaceutical companies (40%). The public’s faith in President Obama comes in at 58%, while confidence in Democratic leaders in Congress is at 42%:



Anti-Gay Conspiracy Theories Debunked by Christian Professor

By Casey Sanchez
Hatewatch @ SPLC

Scott Lively has made a ministry career that spans two decades and three continents, in part by preaching that the Nazi Third Reich was helmed and orchestrated by gay men. That’s the central thesis of his book The Pink Swastika, and it played a pivotal role in Lively’s co-founding of the international anti-gay hate group Watchmen on the Walls. For years now, historians, watchdog and gay civil rights groups have called Lively out on his slander.  But now, the anti-gay crusader faces a formidable new critic on his own home turf. Warren Throckmorton, a well-respected conservative Christian psychology professor, has been exposing Lively’s false claims in evangelical Christian magazines and blogs.

What set Throckmorton off was Lively’s March appearance at an anti-gay rights conference in Uganda, where homosexuality is already a crime punishable by life in prison. In the capital city of Kampala, Lively rehashed his gay Nazi stump speech and called for Ugandan gays and lesbians to be forced into so-called “conversion therapy.”  Since then, as Throckmorton notes, “lists of people suspected to be gay have been included in tabloids, various ministers have accused other ministers of being homosexual, and Christian groups are calling for the government to create a commission to eliminate homosexuality — all supported by American Christian ministries.”

“[T]here is a disturbing parallel with the Nazis, but it is not with the homosexuals,” Throckmorton writes in the Christian web magazine Crosswalk. “In Uganda among Christian groups and government leaders, and encouraged by Mr. Lively, homosexuality is considered the root of society’s evils.” In response, Throckmorton has launched an ambitious project to discredit Lively’s books and analyze how the anti-gay rights leader came to formulate his idea that “the Nazi Party was entirely controlled by militaristic male homosexuals throughout its short history.”...(Remainder.)


With Iran, Think Before You Speak

By Sen. John Kerry
The New York Times

WASHINGTON - The grass-roots protests that have engulfed Iran since its presidential election last week have grabbed America’s attention and captured headlines — unfortunately, so has the clamor from neoconservatives urging President Obama to denounce the voting as a sham and insert ourselves directly in Iran’s unrest.

No less a figure than Senator John McCain, the Republican presidential nominee in 2008, has denounced President Obama’s response as “tepid.” He has also claimed that “if we are steadfast eventually the Iranian people will prevail.”

Mr. McCain’s rhetoric, of course, would be cathartic for any American policy maker weary of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s hostile message of division. We are all inspired by Iran’s peaceful demonstrations, the likes of which have not been seen there in three decades. Our sympathies are with those Iranians who seek a more respectful, cooperative relationship with the world. Watching heartbreaking video images of Basij paramilitaries terrorizing protesters, we feel the temptation to respond emotionally.

There’s just one problem. If we actually want to empower the Iranian people, we have to understand how our words can be manipulated and used against us to strengthen the clerical establishment, distract Iranians from a failing economy and rally a fiercely independent populace against outside interference. Iran’s hard-liners are already working hard to pin the election dispute, and the protests, as the result of American meddling. On Wednesday, the Iranian Foreign Ministry chastised American officials for “interventionist” statements. Government complaints of slanted coverage by the foreign press are rising in pitch....(Remainder.)


Polis Gives Lukewarm Praise to Obama For Memo Extending Same-Sex Benefits

By Ernest Luning
The Colorado Independent

U.S. Rep. Jared Polis said he was happy — but not very happy — President Barack Obama would be extending certain benefits to same-sex partners of federal employees Wednesday afternoon.

The openly gay Boulder Democrat, who a day earlier ripped the Obama administration’s defense of a federal law banning same-sex marriage, told The Colorado Independent the federal benefits extension amounted to “a far cry from the equality we seek.”

Here’s what Polis said:

“I am glad the president has decided to extend benefits to same-sex partners of federal employees. The exclusion of health care and retirement benefits because of DOMA, however, provides little real benefit to same-sex partners and is a far cry from the equality we seek. I again call on the president to repeal DOMA or work with Congress to end this law.”

Obama has been under fire since last week when his Justice Department filed a brief defending the federal Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA.

The memorandum Obama is signing Wednesday adds sick-leave and long-term care benefits for same-sex partners of federal employees but stops short of adding health care and retirement, leaving many gay-rights activists cold....(Remainder.)


Maine's Anti-Gay Hate Merchants Are Racing the Clock

By Joe

Everyday Whack-Job Christian is crowing that Maine's petition drive to repeal same-sex marriage is "off to a fast start." Anti-gay activists hope to gather the petitions in time for the November election when controversial tax items will be on the ballot, drawing more voters.
It’s a tall order, but one that is feasible if early momentum continues, Bob Emrich said. Emrich, a pastor, is the founder of The Jeremiah Project, a conservative non-profit. To date, he said between 10,000 and 12,000 signatures have been collected since late May. The goal, he said, is to get about 80,000 signatures before the petitions are handed in to account for potential duplications and errors. “We are off to a good start,” Emrich said. “The level of interest and level of intensity is remarkable. It’s unlike anything I’ve ever seen before. The challenge is to get the level of action into the right number of signatures.” Other than being at a time with higher turnout, putting the issue to voters in November has other advantages. “For one thing it’s still fresh in people’s minds and they’re still motivated,” he said. “It’s also a shorter period of time and would require less money for a shorter campaign.”
About 55,000 signatures must be gathered. The names must be submitted by September 1st, the 90-day deadline after same-sex marriage was approved. However, making that deadline will put the item on the June 2010 ballot, a lightly attended legislative primary election. If the haters get their petitions in by August 1st, they make the November ballot....(Original.)


Obama's Gay Rights Gap

The president has done precious little to advance gay rights, despite campaign promises.

By Los Angeles Times

Because the Justice Department traditionally defends federal laws from court challenges, it should surprise no one that the Obama administration filed a brief arguing in favor of the odious Defense of Marriage Act :HR3396:. Gay and lesbian activists were stunned and outraged anyway, though the cause is more complex than a single legal paper. They have reason to be disappointed in President Obama; only after a groundswell of anger has he taken steps to make good on his campaign pledges to advance gay rights.

Even during the campaign, Obama sent ambivalent signals on the issue. He favored equal rights for gays, but not same-sex marriage. Yet he didn't support Proposition 8, which banned such marriages. Obama the candidate walked a fine line between appeasing the gay community and reassuring heartland Americans who find same-sex marriage a shocking idea.

Nevertheless, Obama pledged to work toward the repeal of the federal marriage act, which denies gay couples such basics as filing a joint tax return. He has made encouraging noises about signing the so-called Matthew Shepard Act, which extends hate-crime laws to cover acts against gays. And he's expected to announce today the extension of benefits to the same-sex partners of federal employees. But although he appears willing to sign gay rights bills, he takes a curiously passive approach to ensuring that such legislation actually gets to his desk.

On Sunday, the administration's top-ranking openly gay official offered a less-than-stellar prognosis for gay rights. Obama remains committed to banning employment discrimination against gays, along with repealing the marriage act and "don't ask, don't tell," said John Berry, director of the Office of Personnel Management, and that will happen "before the sun sets on this administration." The implication was that much of this agenda might wait until a second term....(Remainder.)


DOMA Lawsuit Wins First Victory

By John R. Ellement
The Boston Globe

The Obama administration has changed course and will now allow same-sex couples to use their spouse’s surname when they apply for passports with the US State Department, a gay activist group said today in Boston.

A gay married couple, Al and Keith Toney, joined the Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders in challenging the federal Defense of Marriage Act, which was passed during the Clinton administration, in federal court in Boston.

One issue the couple and GLAD raised was the State Department’s refusal to allow Keith Toney -- his name before marriage was Keith Fitzpatrick -- to seek a new passport under his spouse’s surname.

In a letter dated June 15, the US Justice Department notified GLAD and the Toneys that the prohibition has been stricken from federal rules. Keith Toney was invited to apply for a new passport and was also told the normal fees will be waived. He will file the paperwork June 22, GLAD said.

“Denying married same-sex couples the ability to have their married names on their passports not only puts them at risk in traveling with two identities, it demeans their marriages,” Mary L. Bonauto, lead counsel on the case, said in a statement issued by GLAD....(Remainder.)


Gay Critics Say 'Too Little, Too Late' From Obama

By Kristi Keck

President Obama's decision to grant some benefits to the same-sex partners of federal employees is seen by some as his attempt to extend an olive branch to the gay and lesbian community, but critics say it's "too little, too late."

"It seems to me at least to be a nice gesture, but a disappointment," said Richard Kim, a senior editor at The Nation magazine.

The memorandum Obama signed Wednesday is not expected to grant health and retirement benefits to same-sex partners, as that is prohibited under the Defense of Marriage Act.

"It will absolutely be seen as something good -- but I think, for example, it not including full health insurance -- that is going to put a real microscope on that question. You know, why not?," Kim said, adding that memo applies only to federal employees, so most people will not be affected by it.

Charles Moran, the spokesman for the Log Cabin Republicans said the lack of full benefits in Thursday's memorandum shows a lack of commitment to the gay community.

"That's the part that just shows that the Obama administration really isn't serious about their promises to the gay and lesbian community. Things like the health benefits, things like retirement benefits and coverage for spouses. These are the core issues," Moran said.

"Why start the marathon if you're not serious about ending the race?" he added.

White House officials involved in discussions with gay-rights advocates say that Obama favors extending full health care benefits to same-sex couples but that will take legislation to accomplish.

Moran said Obama has had multiple opportunities to fulfill his promises to the gay and lesbian community -- including by repealing the military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy and standing against the Justice Department motion filed last week in support of the Defense of Marriage Act....(Remainder.)


Christian Hate Group: Burn "Gay" Book

By Julie Bolcer

A group calling itself the Christian Civil Liberties Union filed a claim with the city of Milwaukee seeking the right to burn a public library’s copy of a young-adult book with gay content, according to the American Library Association.

The CCLU presented trustees of the West Bend Community Memorial Library with the complaint on June 2, asking for the right to burn or otherwise destroy in public a copy of Baby Be-Bop. The group also demanded $120,000 in damages for being exposed to the book on display, and requested the resignation of West Bend mayor Kristine Deiss for allowing the title to be viewed by the public.

Baby Be-Bop, written by Francesca Lia Block, tells the story of a teenager struggling with his homosexuality and an attack by a homophobic gang. It has been the subject of local complaints for months, and has thus far survived attempts to eliminate it.

The CCLU claim describes Baby Be-Bop as “explicitly vulgar, racial, and anti-Christian,” and charges that the four plaintiffs, “all of whom are elderly, claim their mental and emotional well-being was damaged by this book at the library” because the book contains the word "nigger" and derogatory sexual and political epithets that can incite violence and “put one’s life in possible jeopardy, adults and children alike.”...(Remainder.)



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