Daily Archive: 03/05/2012

Mar 05 2012

The Fight For Marriage Equality

“8”: A Play about the Fight for Marriage Equality

Featuring an all-star cast including George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Martin Sheen, Jamie Lee Curtis, Jane Lynch, Kevin Bacon and others, “8” is a play written by Academy Award winning screenwriter Dustin Lance Black and directed by acclaimed actor and director Rob Reiner. It is a powerful account of the case filed by the American Federation for Equal Rights (AFER ) in the U.S. District Court in 2010 to overturn Proposition 8, a constitutional amendment that eliminated the rights of same-sex couples to marry in the state of California. Framed around the trial’s historic closing arguments in June 2010, 8 provides an intimate look what unfolded when the issue of same-sex marriage was on trial.

This was a live production of the reading of Dustin Lance Black’s “8″, a play based on the transcripts from the hearings before Judge Vaughn Walker on the constitutionality of California’s Proposition 8 which banned state sanctioned same sex marriage. I join Teddy Partridge in his congrats to Judge Walker for having Brad Pitt play his roll. George Clooney and Martin Sheen play Daivd Boies and Ted Olson, the lawyers who argued the case for the American Foundation for Equal Rights. Also, Kevin Bacon plays Charles J. Cooper, the lead attorney for supporters of Proposition 8, and Jane Lynch is Maggie Gallagher, co-founder of the National Organization for Marriage. The actual play is about 90 minutes.

In February, a three judge panel of the 9th Circuit upheld Judge Walker’s decision. The supporters of Proposition 8 asked the Ninth Circuit to grant them an en banc rehearing of the 2 to 1 decision.

Mar 05 2012

Hurtling Towards a War with Iran

In his annual speech to AIPAC, President Obama said:



“Already, there is too much loose talk of war. Over the last few weeks, such talk has only benefited the Iranian government, by driving up the price of oil, which they depend on to fund their nuclear program. For the sake of Israel’s security, America’s security, and the peace and security of the world, now is not the time for bluster; now is the time to let our increased pressure sink in, and to sustain the broad international coalition we have built. Now is the time to heed that timeless advice from Teddy Roosevelt: speak softly, carry a big stick. And as we do, rest assured that the Iranian government will know our resolve – that our coordination with Israel will continue.”

If there is “too much loose talk of war”, perhaps President Obama needs to stop threatening to start one with Iran. The only ones who are driving up the price of oil with loose talk are Obama and the Prime Minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu. The president needs to stop perpetuating lies that his own national security advisors have said are not true and of which there is no evidence:

“A nuclear-armed Iran is completely counter to Israel’s security interests. But it is also counter to the national security interests of the United States. Indeed, the entire world has an interest in preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon. A nuclear-armed Iran would thoroughly undermine the non-proliferation regime that we have done so much to build. There are risks that an Iranian nuclear weapon could fall into the hands of a terrorist organization. It is almost certain that others in the region would feel compelled to get their own nuclear weapon, triggering an arms race in one of the most volatile regions in the world. It would embolden a regime that has brutalized its own people, and it would embolden Iran’s proxies, who have carried out terrorist attacks from the Levant to southwest Asia.”

Iran, like the United States signed and ratified the Treaty on Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons.

And this statement certainly doesn’t sound like Obama was backing away from banging the drum for a war:

“Iran’s leaders should know that I do not have a policy of containment,” he said. “I have a policy to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. And as I’ve made clear time and again during the course of my presidency, I will not hesitate to use force when it is necessary to defend the United States and its interests.”

Just how legal an attack, or even the threat of one, on Iran would be is discussed on this article by Glenn Greenwald at Salon:

Regardless of how one wants to rationalize these threats of an offensive military attack – they’re necessary to persuade the Israelis not to attack, they’re necessary to gain leverage with Iran, etc. – the U.N. Charter, to which the U.S. is a signatory, explicitly prohibits not just a military attack on another nation, but also the issuance of threats of such an attack. From Chapter II, paragraph 4:

   All Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations.

Does this matter at all? Should we even pretend to care in any way what the U.N. Charter prohibits and whether the U.S. Government’s threats to attack Iran directly violate its core provisions? I’m not asking this simple question rhetorically but rather to hear the answer.

The UN was of little concern to George W. Bush; it’s no wonder it’s of little concern for Barack H. Obama

So what are Iran’s leaders saying? From Juan Cole:

“A week and a half ago, Khamenei gave a major foreign policy speech in which he said,

The Iranian nation has never pursued and will never pursue nuclear weapons. There is no doubt that the decision makers in the countries opposing us know well that Iran is not after nuclear weapons because the Islamic Republic, logically, religiously and theoretically, considers the possession of nuclear weapons a grave sin and believes the proliferation of such weapons is senseless, destructive and dangerous.

There is no evidence that Iran is trying to even develop a nuclear weapon. Getting into another war in the Middle East is not in the best interests of the US, Israel or the rest of the world.

Barack are you listening?

Mar 05 2012

Punting the Pundits

“Punting the Pundits” is an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from around the news medium and the internet blogs. The intent is to provide a forum for your reactions and opinions, not just to the opinions presented, but to what ever you find important.

Thanks to ek hornbeck, click on the link and you can access all the past “Punting the Pundits”.

Paul Krugman: States of Depression

The economic news is looking better lately. But after previous false starts – remember “green shoots”? – it would be foolish to assume that all is well. And in any case, it’s still a very slow economic recovery by historical standards.

There are several reasons for this slowness, with the most important being the overhang of household debt that is a legacy of the housing bubble. But one significant factor in our continuing economic weakness is the fact that government in America is doing exactly what both theory and history say it shouldn’t: slashing spending in the face of a depressed economy.

In fact, if it weren’t for this destructive fiscal austerity, our unemployment rate would almost certainly be lower now than it was at a comparable stage of the “Morning in America” recovery during the Reagan era.

New York Times Editorial: Drill Baby Drill, Redux

It’s campaign season and the pandering about gas prices is in full swing. Hardly a day goes by that a Republican politician does not throw facts to the wind and claim that rising costs at the pump are the result of President Obama’s decisions to block the Keystone XL pipeline and impose sensible environmental regulations and modest restrictions on offshore drilling.

Next, of course, comes the familiar incantation of “drill, baby, drill.” Mr. Obama has rightly derided this as a “bumper sticker,” not a strategy. Last week, he agreed that high gas prices were a real burden, but said the only sensible response was a balanced mix of production, conservation and innovation in alternative fuels.

Tom Gallagher: War Crimes Hypocrisy

The Leona Helmsley theory of international law

Asked whether Syrian president Bashar al-Assad was a war criminal, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told the Senate Appropriations Committee that “Based on definitions of war criminal and crimes against humanity, there would be an argument to be made that he would fit into that category,” although she downplayed the idea of charging him as such, in the interest of persuading him “perhaps to step down from power.”  And with maybe 7,000 Syrian civilian deaths in the past year, probably few outside of al-Assad’s power apparatus would argue strenuously with her characterization.  There was a rather large elephant in that committee room, though.  The Senate and the Administration are accustomed to thinking that they define and enforce justice on a global basis, but doesn’t justice, like charity, begin at home?

Like perhaps with George W. Bush?  Prosecuting the former U.S. President  for the crime of invading Iraq would, of course, be considered absurd on Capitol Hill and is virtually ignored in the mainstream American media, yet the matter is not taken so lightly everywhere.  Last November, for instance, a War Crimes Tribunal in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia convicted both Bush and former United Kingdom Prime Minister Tony Blair of “crimes against peace.”  The verdict concluded that “Weapons investigators had established that Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction. Iraq was also not posing any threat to any nation at the relevant time that was immediate that would have justified any form of pre-emptive strike.”

David Swanson: Un-Cheating Justice: Two Years Left to Prosecute Bush

Elizabeth Holtzman knows something about struggles for justice in the U.S. government.  She was a member of Congress and of the House Judiciary Committee that voted for articles of impeachment against President Richard Nixon in 1973. She proposed the bill that in 1973 required that “state secrets” claims be evaluated on a case-by-case basis. She co-authored the special prosecutor law that was allowed to lapse, just in time for the George W. Bush crime wave, after Kenneth Starr made such a mockery of it during the Whitewater-cum-Lewinsky scandals.  She was there for the creation of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) in 1978. She has served on the Nazi War Crimes and Japanese Imperial Government Records Interagency Working Group, bringing long-escaped war criminals to justice.  And she was an outspoken advocate for impeaching George W. Bush.

Holtzman’s new book, coauthored with Cynthia Cooper, is called “Cheating Justice: How Bush and Cheney Attacked the Rule of Law and Plotted to Avoid Prosecution — and What We Can Do About It.”  Holtzman begins by recalling how widespread and mainstream was the speculation at the end of the Bush nightmare that Bush would pardon himself and his underlings.  The debate was over exactly how he would do it.  And then he didn’t do it at all.

Jim Hightower: Treating Sick Rich Folks

In these trying times of health care austerity, it reaffirms one’s faith in humanity to learn that many hospitals are now going the extra mile to provide top quality care for all.

For all super-rich people that is. These folks are so rich they can buy their way into “amenities units” built into secluded sections of many hospitals. It’s not medical care that they’re peddling to an elite clientele, but the personal pampering that the superrich expect in all aspects of their lives.

Chris Hedges: AIPAC Works for the 1 Percent

The battle for justice in the Middle East is our battle. It is part of the vast, global battle against the 1 percent. It is about living rather than dying. It is about communicating rather than killing. It is about love rather than hate. It is part of the great battle against the corporate forces of death that reign over us-the fossil fuel industry, the weapons manufacturers, the security and surveillance state, the speculators on Wall Street, the oligarchic elites who assault our poor, our working men and women, our children, one in four of whom depend on food stamps to eat, the elites who are destroying our ecosystem with its trees, its air and its water and throwing into doubt our survival as a species.

What is being done in Gaza, the world’s largest open-air prison, is a pale reflection of what is slowly happening to the rest of us. It is a window into the rise of the global security state, our new governing system that the political philosopher Sheldon Wolin calls “inverted totalitarianism.” It is a reflection of a world where the powerful are not bound by law, either on Wall Street or in the shattered remains of the countries we invade and occupy, including Iraq with its hundreds of thousands of dead. And one of the greatest purveyors of this demented ideology of violence for the sake of violence, this flagrant disregard for the rule of domestic and international law, is the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, or AIPAC.

E. J. Dionne, Jr.: Super Tuesday: Missing the Primary Issue

politics never stays in Ohio, and there are two story lines here on the eve of Super Tuesday.

There is, first, the Republican presidential primary fight. Rick Santorum has to win Ohio to keep his candidacy alive. A Mitt Romney triumph would, at last, turn him into the “inevitable” Republican nominee. The second narrative involves the struggle for a state that Republicans must take in November to have any chance of defeating President Obama.

The problem for Republicans is that the two story lines are not coming together.

Dave johnson: Labor’s Fight Is Our Fight

Unions have been fighting the 1% vs 99% fight for more than 100 years. Now the rest of us are learning that this fight is also OUR fight.

The story of organized labor has been a story of working people banding together to confront concentrated wealth and power. Unions have been fighting to get decent wages, benefits, better working conditions, on-the-job safety and respect. Now, as the Reagan Revolution comes home to roost, taking apart the middle class, the rest of us are learning that this is our fight, too.

The story of America is a similar story to that of organized labor. The story of America is a story of We, the People banding together to fight the concentrated wealth and power of the British aristocracy. Our Declaration of Independence laid it out: we were fighting for a government that derives its powers from the consent of us, the people governed, not government by a wealthy aristocracy telling us what to do and making us work for their profit instead of for the betterment of all of us. It was the 99% vs the 1% then, and it is the 99% vs the 1% now.

Mar 05 2012

Taking a Ride in the Austerity Train

James Crotty: Obama’s budget is a “less savage” attack on social programs, but still assumes we are “living above our means”

Thanks to the David Dayen at FDL News Desk for the links to articles that there is still a big push from the White House for cutting the deficit in the proposed budget despite the denials. There is a bipartisan group headed by House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer on the Democratic side to sell more deficit reducing austerity

The push is intended to disrupt the consensus among most political leaders that Congress will punt budget consolidation efforts until after November – when the election returns are in, and the January 1, 2013 expiry of the Bush tax cuts and deep across-the-board spending cuts make real action inevitable.

In a speech hosted Monday morning by Third Way, Hoyer revealed that he and other lawmakers are looking for the right moment to introduce a bill that would achieve the sorts of deficit reduction goals that have eluded Congress and the White House thus far. [..]

“There is ongoing work…to put concrete proposals to paper in legislative form, so that as I said there will be an opportunity to offer those proposals,” Hoyer said. “Obviously you want to create a large consensus for that before you offer it so that its defeat is, if defeated, temporary only and not undermining of what the objective is, and that is getting a big, bold, balanced plan adopted.”

The Hill identified some of the other members of this secretive committee but others don’t even want to be identified:

A small, bipartisan group of lawmakers in both the House and Senate are secretly drafting deficit grand bargain legislation that cuts entitlements and raises new revenue. [..]

The core House group of roughly 10 negotiators is derived from a larger Gang of 100 lawmakers led by Reps. Mike Simpson (R-Idaho) and Health Shuler (D-N.C.), who urged the debt supercommittee to strike a grand bargain last year. [..]

The talks are so sensitive that some members involved do not yet want to be identified.

Dayen, as do others, doesn’t believe anything will happen with the budget and these massive cuts until after the election during the lame duck session but that doesn’t mean that the grand plan would pass. He had a major concern that “those defenders of the safety net left in Congress have a plan of their own.”

Mar 05 2012

On This Day In History March 5

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

March 5 is the 64th day of the year (65th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 301 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1770, a mob of angry colonists gathers at the Customs House in Boston and begins tossing snowballs and rocks at the lone British soldier guarding the building. The protesters opposed the occupation of their city by British troops, who were sent to Boston in 1768 to enforce unpopular taxation measures passed by a British parliament without direct American representation.

The Incident

The event began on King Street, today known as State Street, in the early evening of March 5, in front of Private Hugh White, a British sentry, as he stood duty outside the Custom house. A young wigmaker’s apprentice named Edward Gerrish called out to a British officer, Captain Lieutenant John Goldfinch, that Goldfinch had not paid the bill of Gerrish’s master. Goldfinch had in fact settled his account and ignored the insult. Gerrish departed, but returned a couple of hours later with companions. He continued his complaints, and the civilians began throwing rocks at Goldfinch. Gerrish exchanged insults with Private White, who left his post, challenged the boy, and struck him on the side of the head with a musket. As Gerrish cried in pain, one of his companions, Bartholomew Broaders, began to argue with White. This attracted a larger crowd.

As the evening progressed, the crowd grew larger and more boisterous. The mob grew in size and continued harassing Private White. As bells, which usually signified a fire, rang out from the surrounding steeples, the crowd of Bostonians grew larger and more threatening. Over fifty of the Bostonian townsmen gathered and provoked White and Goldfinch into fight. As the crowd began to get larger, the British soldiers realized that the situation was about to explode. Private White left his sentry box and retreated to the Custom House stairs with his back to a locked door. Nearby, from the Main Guard, the Officer of the Day, Captain Thomas Preston, watched this situation escalate and, according to his account, dispatched a non-commissioned officer and seven or eight soldiers of the 29th Regiment of Foot, with fixed bayonets, to relieve White. He and his subordinate, James Basset, followed soon afterward. Among these soldiers were Corporal William Wemms (apparently the non-commissioned officer mentioned in Preston’s report), Hugh Montgomery, John Carroll, James Hartigan, William McCauley, William Warren and Matthew Kilroy. As this relief column moved forward to the now empty sentry box, the crowd pressed around them. When they reached this point they loaded their muskets and joined with Private White at the custom house stairs. As the crowd, estimated at 300 to 400, pressed about them, they formed a semicircular perimeter.

The crowd continued to harass the soldiers and began to throw snow balls and other small objects at the soldiers. Private Hugh Montgomery was struck down onto the ground by a club wielded by Richard Holmes, a local tavernkeeper. When he recovered to his feet, he fired his musket, later admitting to one of his defense attorneys that he had yelled “Damn you, fire!” It is presumed that Captain Preston would not have told the soldiers to fire, as he was standing in front of the guns, between his men and the crowd of protesters. However, the protesters in the crowd were taunting the soldiers by yelling “Fire”. There was a pause of indefinite length; the soldiers then fired into the crowd. Their uneven bursts hit eleven men. Three Americans – ropemaker Samuel Gray, mariner James Caldwell, and a mixed race sailor named Crispus Attucks – died instantly. Seventeen-year-old Samuel Maverick, struck by a ricocheting musket ball at the back of the crowd, died a few hours later, in the early morning of the next day. Thirty-year-old Irish immigrant Patrick Carr died two weeks later. To keep the peace, the next day royal authorities agreed to remove all troops from the centre of town to a fort on Castle Island in Boston Harbor. On March 27 the soldiers, Captain Preston and four men who were in the Customs House and alleged to have fired shots, were indicted for murder.

The Trial of the Soldiers

At the request of Captain Preston and in the interest that the trial be fair, John Adams, a leading Boston Patriot and future President, took the case defending the British soldiers.

In the trial of the soldiers, which opened November 27, 1770, Adams argued that if the soldiers were endangered by the mob, which he called “a motley rabble of saucy boys, negroes, and molattoes, Irish teagues and outlandish jack tarrs,” they had the legal right to fight back, and so were innocent. If they were provoked but not endangered, he argued, they were at most guilty of manslaughter. The jury agreed with Adams and acquitted six of the soldiers. Two of the soldiers were found guilty of manslaughter because there was overwhelming evidence that they fired directly into the crowd, however Adams invoked Benefit of clergy in their favor: by proving to the judge that they could read by having them read aloud from the Bible, he had their punishment, which would have been a death sentence, reduced to branding of the thumb in open court. The jury’s decisions suggest that they believed the soldiers had felt threatened by the crowd. Patrick Carr, the fifth victim, corroborated this with a deathbed testimony delivered to his doctor.

Three years later in 1773, on the third anniversary of the incident, John Adams made this entry in his diary:

The Part I took in Defence of Cptn. Preston and the Soldiers, procured me Anxiety, and Obloquy enough. It was, however, one of the most gallant, generous, manly and disinterested Actions of my whole Life, and one of the best Pieces of Service I ever rendered my Country. Judgment of Death against those Soldiers would have been as foul a Stain upon this Country as the Executions of the Quakers or Witches, anciently. As the Evidence was, the Verdict of the Jury was exactly right.

“This however is no Reason why the Town should not call the Action of that Night a Massacre, nor is it any Argument in favour of the Governor or Minister, who caused them to be sent here. But it is the strongest Proofs of the Danger of Standing Armies.

Mar 05 2012

Pique the Geek 20120304: Norovirus, a Nasty Bugger

I was actually going to address another topic this evening, but after late Friday and all of yesterday (and part of today, too) this topic is on my mind.  First we shall review my symptoms then get to some material released by CDC about this nasty bugger.

Friday evening I was answering comments for Popular Culture and started feeling a little funky.   I did not think much of it then, but I noticed that when I would stand up that my equilibrium was a bit off.  It was getting late, so I shut down the computer and went to bed.