Archived entries for Politics

A Clinton wedding?

You’ve got to hand it to the Clinton family. They are political rock stars! Apparently the buzz on Martha’s Vineyard all summer was that Chelsea would be married there this August. Well, August has come and gone with no nuptials. However, that hasn’t stopped the rumor mill from continuing at quite a tick. Now a September wedding, maybe? Who knows? All we have for certain is one terrific New York Times article to make the media look, well, a bit silly, and a fantastic quote by Slick Willy’s spokesman.

“Matt and I are sick of this insane environment where nobody bothers to heed the denials of the actual individuals involved and where facts and truth are a distant afterthought,” Philippe Reines, a senior adviser to Mrs. Clinton, wrote to journalists along with Matt McKenna, a spokesman for Mr. Clinton. “So, if we’re all going to be stuck together in this endless unfounded rumor loop through at least 8/29, let’s at least make it interesting.”

“Outrage”

outrageToday I had the distinct pleasure of seeing “Outrage,” the new documentary out this week that takes aim at politicians and public officials, alleged to be gay, who have been leading double lives — playing gay in private while simultaneously voting against equal rights legislation. Doing one thing in private while railing against it in public is so not cool.

The film’s on-screen “sources,” credible names like Wisconsin Rep. Tammy Baldwin; Massachusetts Rep. Barney Frank; ex-Arizona Rep. Jim Kolbe; CNN commentator Hilary Rosen; and ex-HRC head honcho Elizabeth Birch — plus staffers and ex-lovers of the exposed — name names. But they certainly don’t out simply for the sake of outing. As radio commentator Michelangelo Signorile has so eloquently put it, this film isn’t about outing. It’s about reporting the truth about people who are gay but who have used their power and privilege to deny rights to gay people.

I’ve never been one to support outing. But there is a limit to personal privacy when your actions — limiting marriage to straight couples, banning gay adoptions, allowing employment discrimination to persist, and voting against funding for AIDS research and prevention — are injurious to millions of Americans. “There is a right to privacy, but not a right to hypocrisy,” House rainbow-striper Barney Frank succinctly puts it.

Those among the “named” have been named before, and they’re really no surprise: people like airport-loo-toe-tapper Idaho Sen. Larry Craig; chief-of-staff-dater Calif. Rep. David Dreier; frat-boy-lover Louisiana Rep. Jim McCrery; phone-sexer Virginia Rep. Ed Schrock; and in the most egregious and bizarre example, Florida Gov. Charlie “i’ve-started-dating-a-woman-because-there’s-an-election-coming” Crist, whose personal life — and his record of finding girlfriends just as a campaign or appointment looms — truly defies any explanation.

outrage_quoteThe other very shameful theme that rises to the top is the widely-known reality that the GOP excludes its gay members, or those rumored to be gay, from rising to any position of leadership. Gazillion-term Congressman David Dreier, being too “moderate,” was cited as one example of this. To be sure, it’s their party, and they certainly have a right to run it the way they choose, but to do so at the expense of ordinary Americans is shameful. The mainstream media doesn’t have a stellar record, either: “There exists a brilliantly orchestrated conspiracy to keep gay and lesbian politicians as closeted as possible,” begins the film.

The film could have gone on for days naming names. There was no Mark Foley and no Aaron Schock (though, to be fair, the rumored-to-be-gay Illinois congressman just entered office, but he has already voted against expanding hate crimes legislation to include LGBT people). But Outrage is sure to serve an important purpose in bringing anti-gay hypocrisy to the fore, and hopefully a gay politican or two out of the closet. Here’s hoping for a sequel.

My recommendation: run, don’t walk.

Quotable: Saving the women of Afghanistan

The Globe and Mail this weekend had a big spread on the plight of women in Afghanistan, one of the issues constantly cited as justification for the war, and that is back in the news as the country considers legalizing marital rape. The Globe questions the effectiveness of the U.S.-backed democratization push, describing the country — not unrealistically — as “a pre-Industrial tribal society where the rule of law is not even a concept, let alone a functioning system.”

While there’s no doubt life under Taliban rule was tough, not everyone is convinced things have gotten better under the Karzai government.

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Among the many insightful nuggets the story offers up, I thought this quote — right or wrong — was a great one:

“How has the war helped women in Afghanistan? It hasn’t,” Judy Rebick, former head of the National Action Committee on the Status of Women, says. Instead, she argues, life is worse for women since the occupation. “Never have women achieved equality by somebody coming in and giving it to them. We can’t bomb our way into equality.”

We can’t bomb our way into equality. Something to think about.

Bogotá-bama

I was super bummed to be missing President Obama’s inauguration while traveling yesterday, but as it turned out, I didn’t miss a beat. You see, I was down in Bogotá and all the airport TVs were tuned to the action in Washington. Nevermind that everything had been dubbed into Spanish…but it was cool nonetheless to watch the Colombian masses transfixed by the ceremony.

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Protest pics

Scenes from Wednesday night’s electric rally at the Mormon temple on the Upper West Side (pardon the quality; they’re from my BlackBerry).

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Join the Mormon protest this Wednesday

Join thousands this Wednesday evening to protest the Mormon church’s involvement in California Proposition 8. The rally will run from 6:30 – 8 p.m. at the LDS Temple near Lincoln Center, at 65th and Columbus.

It’s all very ironic that the once-persecuted have become the persecutors, bankrolling and using massive political clout to strip equal rights from gay and lesbian Californians. As Rocky Anderson, the former Salt Lake City Mayor said this week, “With the L.D.S. church’s vast involvement in the passage of Proposition 8, we are seeing a repeat of a tragic and deplorable history.”

New York state, on the cusp of legalized marriage for same-sex couples, could well be the next target for the church’s fundraising and propaganda machine.

Protesting Utah

Don’t piss off the gays! It seems Utah will be bearing the brunt of California’s vote to ban marriage for same-sex couples. A movement has begun to boycott the state as a result of the LDS Church’s involvement in the California Prop 8 fiasco. On top of that, there is an urging by activists to have the IRS pull the church’s tax-exempt status (one of the requirements of being tax-exempt is not participating in excessive lobbying.)

“The main focus is going to be going after the Utah brand,” John Aravosis, an influential Washington, D.C.-based blogger, told the Associated Press. “We’re going to destroy the Utah brand. It is a hate state.”

Last night thousands took to the streets around Temple Square in Salt Lake to again hold the Mormon Church’s feet to the fire for its involvement. One great sign: “Let’s keep intolerance INSIDE the church.”

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Related: Thousands protest in Salt Lake City

Great site

There is a very interesting new web site out protesting the Mormon Church’s involvement in passage of Prop 8 in California. Check it out!

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Protesting the LDS Church

The passing of Prop 8 in California has been universally characterized as the worst setback for the equal rights movement in recent memory. Fortunately, the masses are pissed (!) and launching protests everywhere. The main focus: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which encouraged its members to contribute to the campaign, much as it did in the 2000 Prop 22 battle. Donations from Mormons are estimated at anywhere from $15-25 million of the $70 million or so spent on the ballot initiative.

A few photos from last night’s protest in at the Mormon Temple in Los Angeles…including one (immediately below) in which a protestor’s bullhorn just so happens to be oriented precisely like the Angel Moroni’s.

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My fav signs:
• When do I get to vote on your marriage?
• Keep Mormon hate out of my state
• Mormons go to hell

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Klassic

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Mallick on Palin

heather_mallickThe New York Times has really been overdosing on Canada coverage lately, and it’s been good to see. The latest dispatch from north of the border appears in today’s paper, with the Times’ man in Canada, Ian Austen, writing about the controversy that’s swirled around Heather Mallick, a brilliant writer who admittedly went a little too far in her criticisms of Sarah Palin.

In a piece for the CBC, the former Globe and Mail columnist said Palin had taken on “a toned-down version of the porn actress look,” had “white trash” supporters, and even claimed that Republican men are sexually inadequate (“It’s possible that Republican men, sexual inadequates that they are, really believe that women will vote for a woman just because she’s a woman,” she wrote.).

Of course she was summarily denounced for it by some in the U.S. media — including, you guessed it, FOX News. Following the receipt of hundreds of complaints, the story was removed from the CBC web site.

Mallick explained, “My problem is that I have to write with a certain kind of reader in mind, and that person is always going to be my vision of an intelligent Canadian…I don’t write for Fox viewers.” In the final zinger of the Times article, Mallick went on to say, “It wasn’t satire though; it was straightforward political commentary, admittedly with jokes…I had no idea anyone would take the remark about sexually inadequate Republican men literally!”

Palin doesn’t get it

Palin doesn’t get it

You have to give Sarah Palin credit for being good at memorizing. She hit every talking point during the VP debate, even if she never answered a question directly and was able to get away with it. As an Op-Ed in the Times explains, “Ms. Palin memorizes talking points rather than grasping issues.”

It’s a sad reflection on voters when polls show her to be immensely popular, despite her obvious lack of understanding of the world and its issues. I’m all for having a folksy leader, but I want one who knows her stuff. Palin is clearly not ready for prime time.

As a friend from Anchorage told me this week, “personally I would like to keep her as governor. I think she has been doing a good job here, but I would not want to release her on the world. The press has been exposing more of her embarrassing side lately. It is going to be interesting to be sure.”

And with all the chatter in the press about ‘Alaska is not America,’ and how leading a state that is so disconnected from the rest of the nation is not necessarily preparation for the White House, I got to thinking, why can’t we just cede the remote state to Canada?

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Palin REALLY doesn’t get it!

Every day, it seems, Sarah Palin’s rhetoric becomes even more unbelievable. Not to mention incomprehensible. You can’t blame her, what with McCain’s poll numbers being the pits. But back to business — are we living in the same reality? I don’t think so. This weekend, at a campaign stop in L.A., she tried talking her way out of her disastrous interview with Katie Couric. The San Francisco Chronicle reports:

Palin, in her address, repeatedly – and to the crowd’s delight – jabbed at the media. In a reference to her interview with Couric, she said that she had been “flippant” in some answers, but didn’t think the questions were very relevant. “Oh, come on, let’s start talking to the American people about the issues that you guys want to know about,” she said to cheers.

To quote someone who commented on the article, “SHE FREAKING ASKED ABOUT THE BAILOUT! HOW IS THAT IRRELEVANT IF YOU ARE GOING TO STOP YOUR CAMPAIGN OVER IT.”

Oh Sarah!

Aside from the blatant distortions, tonight’s vice presidential debate wasn’t so bad. Low standards and expectations are the key to success. The only real highlight was something that I can guarantee will come back to haunt Sarah Palin should she end up in Washington. I got a bad feeling when she said made mention of how she wouldn’t be against equal rights (besides marriage, which all candidates oppose) for same-sex couples.

“No one would ever propose, not in a McCain-Palin administration, to do anything to prohibit, say, visitations in a hospital or contracts being signed, negotiated between parties.”

And then Joe Biden backed her in a corner by saying, “I’m glad to hear the governor, I take her at her word, obviously, that she think there should be no civil rights distinction, none whatsoever, between a committed gay couple and a committed heterosexual couple.”

How do you respond to that? If you’re Sarah Palin, you don’t.

GWEN IFILL: Is that what your said?

PALIN: Your question to him was whether he supported gay marriage and my answer is the same as his and it is that I do not

And there you have it. History in the making. Let’s see what happens.

The Palin Problem

palin_headshotI’m sure right now, someone, somewhere, is creating a book of “Palinisms.” We all thought President G.W. had the market cornered on garbled speech and nonsensical logic, and then along came Governor Palin. While the Republican Party tries to stay on message by touting her experience as small-town mayor and 1 1/2 years as Alaska’s governor, the candidate herself has finally been allowed to speak for herself, and what she’s been saying isn’t exactly helping the campaign’s prospects.

RUSSIA and PASSPORTS: In the most glaring and frightening example of her logic, we have her trying to explain to Katie Couric why Alaska’s proximity to Russia gives her foreign policy experience needed to run the world’s most powerful nation. Never mind that the woman never had a passport until last year. She explained she wasn’t “one of those who maybe came from a background of, you know, kids who perhaps graduate college and their parents get ‘em a passport and give ‘em a backpack and say, ‘go off an travel the world.’ I’ve worked all my life…”

One conservative columnist said, and I agree, “I suspect the truth is that Palin simply didn’t have the intellectual curiosity to travel abroad and learn from other cultures. That’s not a sin, but it is to be regretted in someone who puts herself forward as a leader of the world’s pre-eminent power.”

THE ECONOMY: I won’t even comment on the bizarre answer to Couric’s question about the bailout proposal.

Jack Cafferty, the hilarious CNN commentator said this week, “If John McCain wins, this woman will be one 72 year old’s heartbeat away from being the president of the United States. If that doesn’t scare the hell out of you, it should…I’m 65 and have been covering politics for a long time. That is one of the most pathetic pieces of tape I have ever seen for someone aspiring to one of the highest offices in this country.”

Am I the only one who thinks Sarah Palin and Miss Teen South Carolina went through the same media training?

Quotable

“If BS were currency, Palin could bail out Wall Street herself.”

-Kathleen Parker, Conservative syndicated columnist

‘Disturbing Vancouver’

david_wilkinsThe debate over Sarah Palin’s qualifications reminded me a little bit of the furor surrounding the 2005 appointment of David Wilkins as U.S. Ambassador to Canada. Wilkins, you’ll remember, had only been to Canada once — and that was to Niagara Falls three decades ago. (I know, I know, ambassadors to most non-hardship nations, don’t really require any credentials other than a fat checkbook.)

I was just catching up with our fair ambassador’s progress through his travel blog and found a telling entry about a trip to Vancouver, during which he had a chance to check out the city’s struggling Downtown Eastside. He’s clearly not a fan of the place or, like any good Republican, of the presence of Insite, the first (and very controversial) supervised-injection drug site in North America.

In his blog, he wrote:

While there I had the chance to see an experiment in social tolerance that left me profoundly uncomfortable and made me wonder what the limits to social tolerance ought to be. How tolerant can a free society be and still maintain the minimum social standards needed to function effectively? I don’t have the answer to that question, but surely what I saw made me certain that there has to be some socially agreed upon minimum standard.

What I am referring to is the hour or so we spent in the area of the old downtown on the east side, where we saw the country’s, indeed North America’s, only needle exchange program, located in the heart of what was for all practical purposes a drug tolerance zone.

I came away heart sick that such a place could be invented in the name of progress. At the same time, I came away with an admiration for the police who manage to maintain a balance between what goes on inside that zone and outside. It is my hope that what I saw there is not the future, but a false start that will soon be left in the past, but only time can answer that question.

Playing politics with family values

Not since Rev. Peter Gomes’ stirring Op-Ed more than four years ago has an editorial moved me as much as Rep. Barney Frank’s recent commentary. In it, the Massachusetts congressman succinctly explains how the revelation that Gov. Sarah Palin’s daughter is pregnant is, in fact, a relevant political issue, despite the Gov.’s very public stance that it should not be.

Too often, people on the right seek to impose strict standards on others, and blame them for falling short, while making exceptions for those close to them…The problems that have affected Palin’s family are part of the experience of millions of people who face the stresses and strains, moral dilemmas, and difficult choices of contemporary life.

The right wing, of which Palin is one of the acclaimed leaders, rejects this view, and argues that it is the failure of many of us to adopt their particular moral view that is the cause of these problems. The glaring inconsistency between the social philosophy that blames liberalism for divorce and teen pregnancy and the facts of Palin’s family life further underlines the serious shortcomings of that philosophy.

The relevant political point about the existence of these incidents in Palin’s family is not that they reflect badly on her or her relatives, but that they further reveal the central flaw of the harshly judgmental and intolerant philosophy she exemplifies: She advocates restricting the personal freedom and right to fair treatment of many Americans in a fruitless effort to eradicate the kind of behavior that, as her own experience shows, does not lend itself to this sort of approach.

Politics or parties?

Democratic ConventionThis week many of us are glued to the tube for the Democratic National Convention. I’m glad to see it finally here, if only because of the sign that this protracted political season is winding down (sort of), not because there is that much excitement going on. Political conventions are basically lame affairs. It was the same story four years ago when I had the pleasure of the DNC Convention in Boston. As I wrote in an editorial back in 2004, it was simply “a show that at times verged on the catatonic.” I continued:

After watching four days of proceedings, a lesson to the uninitiated: it may be an impressive show on TV, but there is really nothing glamourous to a political convention, even a mud-slinging American-style one in a curiously close election year. Something about being corralled into secure “hard perimeters” and “soft zones” and squeezed into seats so narrow and so lacking in legroom they make airline economy class seem downright decadent, makes it seem like a lot of effort for a glorified pep rally.

What’s worse is that a party’s presidential candidate isn’t even selected at the convention. It’s a preordained pick established months in advance dictating who in U.S. politics is hot this year and who’s not (it’s been years since there was a contested party race that actually extended into convention season). No business is conducted here, with thousands of delegates spending most of their time being wined and dined around this sophisticated city.

The other night, as I sat slouched in my narrow press section seat, my attention wandering while waiting for the convention to end, I turned to the 12 delegates who traveled 23 hours through 10 time zones and across 13,000 kilometres of open ocean from America’s territory of Guam to cast their vote (for a pre-picked candidate they won’t even be able to vote for come November!)—and prayed they thought it was worth all the fuss

Oh the irony!

The Christian Science Monitor reports that the U.S. military is ready to pay $150,000 retention bonuses to Arabic linguists. This reminds me of the bumper sticker, ‘If you’re not angry, you’re not paying attention.’ After all, five dozen Arabic linguists and some 250 other language experts have been kicked out of the service under Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.

Steve Ralls: A Six-Figure Solution Missing One Common-Sense Addition



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