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Defenders of “Traditional Marriage” Eye Return to “Traditional Race Relations” November 8, 2009

Posted by Paige of Quarrel in we're only gonna die.
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BANGOR – Another victory for defenders of traditional marriage this week in Maine has many within that movement planning a return to another tradition: segregation.

Supporters of the new movement to “protect the sanctity of the races” are looking at several proposals to allow American voters to finally have their say on Brown v. the Board of Education, which they say is the result of “judicial activism.”

Maddie Gallagher, president of the anti-gay marriage group National Association for Marriage, said, “You know, when you think about it humans lived in racial segregation in this country – and others – for a lot longer than we’ve lived with this new, this redefinition of traditional race relations.”

That sentiment was echoed by Dr. James Bodson of the conservative Christian group Family in Focus, who added, “I think it’s important to remember that in the Bible, God performed several miracles in order to separate those Jews and those Africans.  The lord didn’t want the Jews living in Egypt just like he doesn’t want Africans and Americans going to school together or getting intermarried.”

Family in Focus and National Association for Marriage are just two of the groups supporting the idea that traditional marriage is a good start but the country really needs to return to the traditional values of the first half of the twentieth century: a ban on teaching of evolution and vaccinating children against harmful diseases; efforts to root out communists, civil libertarians and other anti-American dissidents; and, yes, racial segregation.

Opponents including the ACLU, Southern Poverty Law Center, and the US Department of Justice have responded, “Are you fucking kidding me?!”

One Maine voter who supported the removal of marriage rights for gays and lesbians in Tuesday’s election responded to questions about the new drive by saying, “I’m not sure about that.  Isn’t that, um, you know, a bit racist?  I voted against a gay being able to get married in this state because, you know, I love my kids and my husband and I love being married.  This doesn’t sound quite right though.  I’ll have to see what they say at church on Sunday about that.”

Pundits say she’ll almost certainly hear support for segregation.  In California’s Prop 8 fight, the Mormons from nearby Utah and Nevada were very influential.  In Maine, the Catholic Church was among the biggest supporters of the repeal.  “The two could join together on a national campaign to, to re-segregate America since both religions supported segregation long, long after everybody else but Bull Connor had seen the light,” said one opponent. “And, well, the Evangelical Christian churches are uh, pretty much all white already…  Good God, they’re going to win, aren’t they?  What the hell?!  This is why we don’t have a pure democracy, people!”

One proposal under consideration is a referendum to repeal at least five of the eight Civil Rights Acts.  Others include the Voting Rights Act and the 14th Amendment in the repeal.  Some envision a “super amendment” that would cover bans on gay marriage, flag burning and the designated hitter in post-season games.

Whatever plan they choose, they’ll have a strong campaign.  Experts agree that no one ever votes for more taxes or rights for others and recent history has shown that extends to removing existing rights.

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Quote of the day November 7, 2009

Posted by Paige of Quarrel in we're only gonna die.
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“On this day in 2000, Al Gore was elected president of the United States.”

Impure Democracy November 5, 2009

Posted by Paige of Quarrel in two rights make a wrong, we're only gonna die.
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Exactly how many defeats will it take gay and lesbian groups to drop their marriage obsession and focus on other work?  Believe me, I get it.  It’s an injustice, it sucks. I’ve heard the arguments, but mostly the repeated losses make the gay and lesbian lobby look weak.  It’s no coincidence that Dick Durbin’s put the brakes on Harry Reid’s plans to reconsider Don’t Ask Don’t Tell in the Senate in 2010.  He’s making the smart political move by trying not to tie the Democratic party to the fate of the LGB lobby.

Each ballot loss is proof of concept for why we don’t govern by referendum.  Would Brown v. Board of Ed have passed at the polls in 1964?  How about an income tax, do you think voters would approve or reject that if they had the chance?  There’s also a good chance our laws would reflect that 2/3 of American adults believe in angels.

Only allowing referendums on laws regarding “morality” is a dirty trick.  But none of that changes the fact that repeatedly fighting these fights and losing is just bad politics.

Check all the boxes that apply November 3, 2009

Posted by Paige of Quarrel in we're only gonna die.
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I’ve had a nagging thought in my head ever since I voted early this morning. What if I didn’t press all of the levers? What if I missed one? Will my vote be invalidated? What if accidentally I pressed two on one row and missed another?

It’s not like any of us would rather be voting on a digital Diebold VoteFixer(TM) that’s all insecure proprietary code and owned by Republican fund-raisers, but the current machines at least in the places I’ve lived are a mess too. There has to be a better way.

But here’s what I keep coming back to. If we ever could figure out a more elegant, more secure, more user-friendly, multilingual, fully accessible system for voting, why not incorporate better ideas about voting at the same time? I’m talking about more than just real campaign finance reform, reevaluating the original Constitutional small state solution, and ending gerrymandering. Freedoms should not be constrained by tradition.

Why not fractional voting? We do a lot more calculation in modern elections than the Framers ever envisioned anyway. Bigger numbers, more districts, more ballot questions. We have the capability to calculate fractional voting results now. But more than that, the current scheme’s a false choice. There were 8 individuals running for NYC mayor under 10 parties, because candidate here can be listed on multiple lines under multiple parties. A vote for Thompson on the Democratic line or on the Working Families line still goes to the same person. Why not allow voters to vote for Working Families Thompson and Democratic Thompson and count it as 1 vote for Thompson in determining the winner and as half a vote for each party in determining funding? That’d be a major blow to the current two party monopoly. (Duopoly? Biopoly?) I’d like to think that as disillusioned as voters on the left and the right are with their choices now, such a plan would have majority support despite the obvious legislative hurdles.

What about going further with fractional voting though? What about also allowing a voters to split their single vote between as many of those 8 individual candidates as they choose? Why can’t a voter cast a ballot that says they like the Republican and the Conservative candidates equally? What do we gain from the current process? Voter apathy? A nation perpetually divided near-evenly between two parties? An inordinate number of ballots are disqualified in every election because people try to vote for more than one candidate. I think those voters instincts are right though. I can say I like the colors blue and green but not yellow. Why do we run democracies like we’re ten-year olds? ‘No, you have to pick who’s going to be your best friend, me or Jenny, or I’ll never talk to you again.’ Hell, this is America; we wouldn’t stand for an artificial rule that you could only put one topping on your pizza, why do we have lower standards when we vote? We’re not only capable of calculating fractional votes, but we obligated by reason and ethics.

While we’re at it, how about solving a major objection people may have to fractional voting and the problem of elections without a majority (i.e. no candidate gets at least 50% of the entire vote)? Why not mandate a runoff in any election without a majority? Since our newer, more elegant voting system would also have to be designed to keep costs down and simplify vote calculation, it would reduce the financial and logistical burdens of a runoff. 8 candidates becomes 2 or 3 and a second, definitive vote is taken a week or a month later. Obviously, it would take a Constitutional Amendment to enact this for Presidential races, but we could put this in place for all other federal elections tomorrow. An end to election victors who begin their term in office with already low popularity and approval and an end to the frustration we’ve all felt watching the agonizing recount process. From Bush v. Gore to the fight over the Minnesota Senatorial race, I don’t think any American is happy with the state of democracy in the age of recounts and court battles.

I’ll leave the details of a better voting system to people who are a lot smarter, but I think we need to rethink how we vote in a bigger sense.

“They got the guns” September 9, 2009

Posted by Paige of Quarrel in two rights make a wrong, we're only gonna die.
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I haven’t written about politics in months. I simply don’t know how to deal with what I’m seeing and hearing. I don’t know how to respond. Perhaps this is how people, especially the ones without power, the youth, the minorities, the poor, perhaps this is how they feel in any time that historians will later end up universally prefacing with the word “turbulent.” Perhaps this is what activists felt in the early 60s, before the years of assassinations and riots and endless war, just seeing the storm gathering on the horizon. Will it blow this way? Will it pass us by?

I don’t know what to say about the seas of angry white people on the news. I don’t understand why they are so damn angry, while those who should be outraged, who should be fed up, seem so apathetic. I don’t know how to engage in a debate when there is no debate, just one side screaming threats.

And all these guns at political events? Just a year ago, you had to sign a loyalty oath to get anywhere near a presidential event. Just a year ago, to openly criticize Bush “during a time of war” was called “unamerican.” Now those same voices on the Right openly threaten revolution and secession on the evening news. All through the Bush years, we watched innocent people exercising their freedoms on public streets get gassed, tazered, beaten and arrested in efforts to put down any dissent. Now members of Congress can’t even speak at their own events?

Tonight, the President will speak. He’s most likely going to throw the public option under the bus. If this takes the form of a very nasty conservative bill Like the one Max Baucus is putting forward, a Republican bill that still won’t get a single Republican vote and acts as a huge giveaway to insurance companies, then it’s up to us to kill it from the Left. All of this shouting will have been for nothing and the crazies on the Right will have won. Again.

I don’t know how to be engaged in this fight. It’s just so depressing. Where is my generation? Why are they keeping so silent? Why won’t anyone stand up to this angry white minority? Why is the issue being framed in seemingly every news outlet as if this fight is between two equal, philosophically differing groups, rather than as further proof of the dangers of domestic right-wing terrorism? Why can’t the Dems see that rolling over like this will only encourage this type of behavior in the next fight and the next? Will another assassination wake them up? How about the one after that?

I don’t understand and I don’t know what to say. At every point, good policy and rational thought has lost in this fight. The Left is clearly intimidated and it’s only going to get worse if we let them get away with these tactics.

Where is your voice? Where is your anger?

Just because I’m paranoid doesn’t mean… July 19, 2009

Posted by Paige of Quarrel in we're only gonna die.
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I went to see the new Harry Potter flick Friday morning at the AMC on 34th street. They have this deal where movies before noon are half price, which sounded great. Then, when we actually got there and sat down and the theater filled up and the lights went down…I spot two men in dark suits, one at either exit, kinda hiding down under the railing and using night vision scopes, scanning the audience. And so, I got weirded out and pointed it out to my friend, who didn’t care. But I was still weirded out, because if you don’t know anything about cheap hand-held night vision scopes, they have this little LED below the lens that you can really only see when they’re looking pretty much at you. And I’m trying to follow the action at Hogwarts and Three Broomsticks and Diagon Alley, but in the corner of my eye, there’s those LEDs sweeping the audience, spying on the audience, spying on me. They stayed pretty much the whole movie and it was really freaky and distracting.

I guess it’s supposed to be an anti-piracy thing. But no where does the theater inform you that people will now be spying on you with night vision scopes. They just hid there, spying. That sucks.

Yes, the movie theater is private property and a public setting, but there is an limited expectation of privacy. For one, theaters are dark. And recording devices are forbidden. And people are expected to be watching the screen, not me. Had the person in front of me turned around and stared at me the entire time, I could have just told management and either they’d have to do something about it or I’d demand a refund and leave. But this was the management. I certainly had no expectation that anyone would be sneaking around spying. And those scopes change the rules as well, they see through the darkness, thus those men in the dark suits were seeing me clearly while I could barely see them, other than those damned LEDs. And those scopes almost always include magnification. No, this was definitely not what I expected when I paid for my ticket. This was wholly unexpected. This was something I’d never seen or heard about happening.

Why couldn’t they tell the audience they were using night vision scopes to prevent movie piracy? Because they wanted to catch perpetrators in the act? I have to believe that if I spotted those men and I wasn’t looking for any trouble, I wasn’t on guard, any pirate would have seen them as well. So, why then? Perhaps because the audience would have objected? This way, most never knew they were watched, and when they learn about the practice later, the theaters can say, but we’ve been doing it for X amount of time and it never bothered any one before, your honor.

Well, it bothered me. I don’t like being spied on. I don’t like that this city is bristling with cameras, all of which become de facto government cameras whenever They say. I don’t like that a dozen web sites will illegally sell you my full credit report without my authorization or knowledge and there’s nothing I can do to stop it, even while the credit bureaus still get their cut. I don’t like that my phone company and my ISP helped my government illegally wiretap me and no one seems to care, no one gets in the least bit of trouble. I don’t like feeling so powerless and so watched.

Just living my life, just existing, in certain other countries would get me executed. Legally. Just being queer. Or Socialist. Or a war dissenter. I am of a fairly privileged class in this country, but even I’m terrified about the potential abuses of power given the size and scope of the abuses we’ve already seen and the awful things people with power are capable of. So, when and where will we draw the line? What exactly needs to happen in this country before We, the People, decide to place checks on Them, the Watchers? If votes don’t always decide elections and laws don’t govern the government, what power do we have left? What protection do we have left? What safety? What privacy? What rights? How much power is too much and will we realize it before it’s too late? Is it too late?!

If we’re never even informed when we’re giving up another right, another expectation of privacy, no matter how limited, what power do we have now? Look around you as you go through your day today. How many ceilings with innocuous-seeming glass domes conceal cameras? How many cameras do you walk by on your way to work? How many things do you say over the phone or online you may not want the whole world to know? What could I learn about you instantly by giving $40 to a website? How watched do you feel? How much privacy can you expect today? A little less than yesterday? A lot less than ten years ago? A tiny fraction of the privacy your parents had at your age?

Smile for the ATM. Smile for the traffic light. Smile at the post office or the bank or, well, inside or outside almost any building you could be watched. Smile in the elevator, even if you think you’re alone. Take that extra moment to fix your hair in the mirror, because today is picture day; every day is picture day, whether you like it or not. Those pictures might last forever. And who’s going to see those pictures? Who’s going going to read those emails a year from now? In a decade, under another Administration, perhaps in the midst of yet another war or another threat, who’s going to index that phone call you make today against your web history and decide that, now that habeas corpus doesn’t mean anything even to those of us who took Latin in school, you might be too dangerous? Too liberal or conservative? Too queer? Too Chinese? Too…well, you get the picture.

Most importantly, though, ask yourself, all this spying and eavesdropping, all the data collection, all those lenses focused on innocent people, all the privacy you’re giving up today, is it making you more safe or less?

The Right, guns and violence June 22, 2009

Posted by Paige of Quarrel in pressure gage.
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Considering the recent history of Right wing violence, in this country and the world over, now is the time to call the Right to account when they pander on guns.  Now is the time to begin (re-)building a solid case for the public.

The issue of gun control and gun violence has been abandoned by the mainstream Left for several years.  Call it part of the James Carville/Rahm Emanuel strategy to carve out the political center and avoid hot button issues.  With little public or widespread support for meaningful, sensible gun control, now is the time to shackle it with Republican PR drag.

Consistently pestering Right wingers when they pander on guns, then stepping away, will allow them to demagogue on the issue, will tie it to the flagging Republican Party, and over time will highlight for the mainstream how the Right, in their own words, make the best arguments for gun control.

Consider this tweet from the Florida Republican Senatorial candidate who’s challenging Governor Crist from the Right, Marco Rubio:

I have a feeling the situation in Iran would be a little different if they had a 2nd amendment like ours. #sayfie #tcot #nra

First, that hash-NRA tag is worth a thousand words.  Rubio needs support from the traditional Right, not just the Cuban community, when facing Crist and guns are second only to god for the Panhandle Right.  Also note that unlike almost all of his recent posts on the subject of the Iranian protests, this post is not tagged #iran or #iranelection.  This red meat was obviously not meant for international consumption.

More importantly though, yes, you are correct to assume that Rubio is invoking the militia movements most repeated argument that guns are necessary to defend against our own government, a stance that at least theoretically supports violent revolution in the US.  There’s a reason this isn’t the typical NRA party line.  While it’s common knowledge that this is a primary argument within pro-gun circles, they usually hide it behind a public face of personal safety concerns and a tradition of hunting.

Because it’s really freaking scary to the mainstream.

Now, Rubio is far from being a noted thinker in the Republican Party, even if he is acknowledged as an adept and charismatic politician.  He also quoted Dr. Martin Luther King out of context earlier on Twitter and threw this gem out inexplicably, “POTUS, call for emerg meet of UN Sec Council to prevent massacre in Iran, if they fail to act will expose UN as useless.”  It’s plain to see that he lacks any basic understanding of world politics, but also of policy.  He’s full of the usual Republican buzz words like “taxes” and “big government” and awe of his creator, but he appears to be struggling with handling the the party platform at large and shows no signs of being able to make rational arguments for any of it.

That’s the point here.  We need to coax the Right into making all of their irrational, illogical appeals to fear on the gun issue.  We need to poke them and step back and they’ll naturally gravitate towards fear mongering and inch themselves toward the edge of reason.  We need to get them to put their simplistic, nonsense ideas on guns out there as often as possible, saturating the voters’ minds.  Call them on it initially, let them huff and puff and bluster as they defend it, and then wait.

Then, when the time is right and the mainstream has strayed from Leftist priorities like healthcare again, we can make the sound arguments, the rational arguments to the mainstream and allow them to judge the contrast between our side and what they’ve been hearing from the clumsy Right wing as it scrambles to pander to the NRA.

Sure, it puts a lot of faith in the average American voter, who is by definition emotional and ill-informed, but I think they’ll get it right on this one if we frame it — and time it — correctly.

Miss California’s been let go. Can queers let it go now? June 10, 2009

Posted by Paige of Quarrel in pressure gage, we're only gonna die.
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Miss California, Carrie Prejean, the beauty queen that queens love to hate, has been fired.   Can we move on now?  No matter what she said, no matter how stupid or irritating what she said may have been, can it be over now?

She offered a point of view.  It was poorly worded and poorly thought out and that alone should have been enough for her to lose the national pageant.  She then said publicly that she believed she was discriminated against for expressing that view, but what she really meant was that Perez Hilton must have like OMG sabotaged her cause he hates god-fearing Christians and makes Jesus cry by being so gay.  That accusation had to be answered.  She had to be told that she clearly misunderstands the term “discrimination.”

That happened.  Sure, she argued an indefensible position past the point of good sense.  But now that she and her family have been dragged through the mud for so long and she’s lost her job, can we act like humans and let it go?  The queer community and our allies have behaved miserably about this whole thing.  So did Prejean.  That’s not the point.  We’re responsible for our behavior no matter what they do or say.  We need to be accountable for our words too.

What say you my fellow queers, can we forget her now and move on to, say, criticizing the actual people in positions of power that are working to keep us from having equal rights?  Can we get back on message and cut the ad hominem crap?

I’m afraid I already know the answer, but let’s give it a shot anyways.

The political is personal June 10, 2009

Posted by Paige of Quarrel in we're only gonna die.
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This whole series of tubes is clogged with a lot of people up in arms about the outing of the liberal blogger Publius by National Review Online’s Edward Whelan III (conservative legal analyst, Harvard Phi Beta Kappa, Harvard Law magna cum laude, Deputy Assistant AG at OLC during W’s 1st term, former Scalia clerk, size 11 shoe, huge Kenny G fan*, and, ironically, president of something called the “Ethics and Public Policy Center”).  This comes on the heels of Publius’ colleague Hilzoy’s recent outing as well.

Add this trend of identifying pseudonymous left wing bloggers to the Valerie Plame scandal.  Add it to the stream of ad hominem attacks right wing talk radio and cable “news” spews forth daily.  Add it to the recent criticism surrounding Supreme Court nominee Judge Sotomayor’s ethnicity and gender (which apparently partially precipitated the fight between Whelan and Publius).  Add it to the years of personal harassment of Dr. George Tiller that made him a target.

The trend is just another example of the right wing tendency to attack their opponents personally.

It’s no secret that extremists and radicals on either side of the political spectrum tend to use terrible, brutal tactics with no regard for others or the results of those actions, but in this country, the right wing extremists are the ones who aim those tactics at individuals.  Modern left wing extremists like the ELF, ALF, and Earth First! seem to aim their actions at property.  This is part of why we live in fear of our right wing in the US.

Look at our domestic terrorists: “pro-lifers,” militia members, racists, religious extremists (yes, including Muslim ones).  Look at assassinations in the US over the last 40 years: abortion providers like Dr. Tiller, chairman of the Arkansas Democratic Party Bill Gwatney, Democratic Tennessee State Senator Tommy Burks (though a conservative himself, killed by his Republican opponent), anti-discrimination activist Alex Odeh, Alan Berg (killed by neo-nazis), musician and peace activist John Lennon, Harvey Milk, Fred Hampton, RFK, Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, JFK, Medgar Evers…the list goes on.  Hell, even George Rockwell, who founded of the American Nazi Party was murdered by another nazi.  In all these cases, either the victims were on the left or the killers were on the right.

Let’s be clear.  I am in no way shape or form comparing what Ed Whelan did to an assassination.  I’m simply adding that tiny act to a long, long list of acts that, whether minor or horrifically violent, illustrates a consistent trend of the right wing in the US to literally attack their opponent rather than the opposing view.

Despite all the furor over the DHS Report On Right-Wing Extremism  and Secretary Janet Napolitano begging for forgiveness, we do have a dangerous problem with our right wing, and, petty as it might be, Whelan’s outing of his critic Publius associates him with this right wing tendency toward personal attacks.  We saw recently in Wichita how easily ad himinem becomes incitement.  Publius isn’t going to get killed for being a liberal blogger, but it might just cost him (or his family members) a job.

Where should we draw the line?  Where should Whelan, the President of the Ethics and Public Policy Center, have drawn it?  He’s acknowledged that he crossed it and apologised.

More importantly, why does the right wing attack its opponents personally? There is a link, obviously, between the rhetoric and the violence.  Why do they attempt to injure their critics rather than debate them?  Why can’t they debate the merits of their arguments and leave personal attacks out of it?  Why do the same folks that cling to god, cling to guns?  Why do pro-immigrant groups march and protest, while anti-immigrant groups take up arms and patrol the borders?

The right wing is waging a war while the left is holding a debate.  Why is that?  And should the response of the left be in kind?

* Okay, fine, the stuff about shoes and Kenny G may not be true.  We’ll never know unless the real “Ed Whelan” is identified and his feet measured.

Don’t say there’s never any good news June 10, 2009

Posted by Paige of Quarrel in positive mental attitude.
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Al Gore's head in a jarAfter six years in reruns, Al Gore’s favorite cartoon, Futurama, is coming back.  The decision was apparently based on DVD sales rather than a recomendation from Gore.  Though, honestly who in Hollywood could possibly argue with the show business savvy of a man who got an Oscar, aGrammy and a Nobel Peace Prize for a PowerPoint presentation?