Thursday, January 21, 2010

Oh Massachusetts!

Oh Massachusetts! The seemingly blue state! However, on Tuesday January 19, the people of Massachusetts decided to vote a different way; they decided to vote for change…again. So, the candidates were R-Scott Brown and D-Martha Coakley. I found it odd that the seat the late Edward Kennedy filled for almost half a century is now held by a Republican, however that’s how politics works. To quote a TV show, “no one owns a Senate seat.” If you want to keep it you have to work hard for it and the political winds have to be just right (however the incumbent does have an advantage, usually).

Anyway, what does this signify? Well, if you’re a Republican it means your party is doing something right, it’s coming back, and finally Democrats will have to listen and take into consideration your ideas. You also will take any chance you get to say it has to do with Obama and shows his political future. For a Republican, this is game changing. If you’re a Democrat you’re trying to keep it from touching on the President, meaning it doesn’t foreshadow anything for Obama in the future. Also, you might feel some of your agenda will be centralized and you are definitely feeling wan from a fall from power. I suppose your front is it’s no big deal, but you might be panicking a bit on the inside?

The facts: Democrats don’t have that 60, that impenetrable number, to override filibusters (a filibuster is when a member talks, reads, etc. for a certain amount of time in order to “back up” the Senate and then a cloture vote is called for, where 60 votes ends it. More details: Republicans have been very much on the defensive this past year about Healthcare reform, etc. and this was mainly because the Democrats had the 60 votes and they didn’t need Republicans for anything, so excluding them was best. Now, Harry Reid WILL have to change his strategy. He didn’t really try to reach out to any of the Republicans in the end, even Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins who were open to working with him and were very much centrist on the ideas proposed. Gosh, now he’ll have to deal with the very conservative Republicans as well. I’m sorry Mr. Reid but the way you’ve been doing things is going to have to change it will be a very bumpy ride. Republican ideas will have to be present in the bill to get some votes. And there are just some Republicans who won’t be won over. I either foresee some Republicans really being listened to and trying to work with the Democrats or I see stubbornness on both sides, which will make it impossible to accomplish anything. I am planning for the latter and hoping for the former.

Other possible effects: We can only guess at what this means for the President. Some say it’s an indicator of where people think his government is going and they don’t like it, and other’s think you can’t really apply what’s happening in one state to the whole of the Presidency. I think it may be both. I feel like people turned up to vote and wanted this change because they didn’t like where the Healthcare Bill was going (especially the December vote) and were scared of what cap and trade would do to their small businesses, and maybe didn’t want new taxes. All of this is controlled by who wins that Senate seat, and that’s now Scott Brown. Also, we can’t look at this and say Obama is finished. Not everyone feels the same way about him like the people in Massachusetts do. Some people love what he’s doing and some people hate it so it’s hard to get an accurate read on where he’s going.

How did this happen? It looks like a combination of a lot of things. Coakley had one thing going for her; it was Ted Kennedy’s seat and therefore people might think it just “belongs” to a Democrat. However, that may have also hurt her because if people think that and don’t want the seat to go to a Democrat then they will have even more incentive to go to the polls and vote. I think the “60 vote” mentality of the Senate contributed to Coakley’s downfall because people felt ignored, excluded, horrified, etc. at what was getting passed and wanted to put a stop to it. Part of this comes from Republicans not being listened to because not one Republican voted for the Healthcare Bill in December and that looks bad and I think people were turned off by it. Also, having Obama endorse her (Coakley) might have backfired just a bit. She thought he would change people’s minds and he didn’t; so basically she counted on him changing people’s minds too much.

I just think it was a time for change. I feel that maybe the Democrats were getting too lax on the Healthcare Bill by not trying to appeal to both sides of the aisle. I think this challenge will produce a better and more accepted Healthcare Bill, if one gets passed. It all depends on how well the Republicans and Democrats can work with each other for a common goal. This should be interesting.

My sources:


Anya is horrified, but morbidly intrigued to see how this plays out. I do know it will mean a very centrist healthcare bill, far less liberal than I would have liked. Hopefully more bills will have bipartisan support now while still making the sweeping reforms we need. Congrats to Ashley on a very well written post :)

Monday, January 18, 2010

"Only Loyal Love Can Bring You Happiness"

Translation: Why on Earth do we need a federal court to tell us that denying two mature, consenting adults who are in a committed, monogamous relationship a marriage license is unconstitutional?  Or, at the very least, against traditional American values such as liberty & justice for all (Pledge of Allegiance) and equality of opportunity.
Perry v. Schwarzeneggerbegan in federal court today, launching what is sure to be one of the most high-profile cases of the year, if not forever (okay, maybe that's an exaggeration.  But still).  No matter what, this is going to be a fascinating case, for several reasons.

First, neither of the defendants in the case actually wants to defend Proposition 8.  Attorney General Jerry Brown is a vocal opposer of Prop 8.  Even Republican governor Arnold Schwarzenegger supports the lawsuit!  Which leaves the plaintiffs fighting against . . . the original proponents of Prop 8, Dennis Hollingsworth et al.

Second, even pro-gay-marriage groups are uncertain if this case is the best way to proceed.  Many think it's too soon, that risking defeat now risks making defeat permanent.  I disagree.  I think there couldn't be a better time.  This is such a prevalent issue in society right now, and especially after the recent defeats in New Jersey and New York, we need this case more than ever.

But on to the issue itself.  Was prop 8 legal?  Welllllllll legal in the sense that its supporters went about putting it on the ballot properly.  Legal in the sense that it denies marriage to a segment of the population?  I say no.  Besides my own personal beliefs, I believe there's plenty of precedent to back me up here.

  1. The Constitution.  The Holy Grail of American politics, written by the founders to protect everyone from the tyranny of the majority.  Back then, "majority" meant "uneducated, rabble-rousing farmers", and "tyranny" was "acting like George III of England, or really just any dictator in general".  'Course, this is different.  But I see a majority (the people who voted 'yes' on Prop 8) and I see tyranny (denying couples the right to marry).  Am I missing something here?  Or is Prop 8 very contrary to the spirit, if not the letter, of the Constitution?
  2. 14th Amendment, Part 1.  I know that only a ridiculously small percentage of Americans have even a passing knowledge of the Constitution, so let us help you out here.  The 14th Amendment states that "No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States".  There's more, but this is the part I want to talk about here.   Privileges and immunities is a very broad term. What these really are have not been specifically enumerated in the Constitution, however the Supreme Court can rule if a certain right or privilege falls under this clause. The Court has done this for the right to acquire and retain property, the right of assembly, and habeus corpus. So, why not marriage?  And if marriage, why not gay marriage?  The anti-Prop 8 lawyers might hesitate to use this clause to support their arguments, because they would first have to prove that it applied to marriage.  But in my view, anyone with a grain of sense understands that marriage -- in any form -- is a fundamental right.  Even if you want to get technical an say that a marriage licence, like, say, a driver's licence is a privilege and not a right . . . guess what!  Privileges are still protected by this clause!
  3. 14th Amendment, Part 2.  Moving on through section 1 of the 14th amendment, we find that "nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property without due process of the law, nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws".  Well, the California Supreme Court has decided that Prop 8 had enough "due process" behind it to deny people liberty (freedom to marry).  But I believe that what they did not take into account is that Prop 8 is denying equal protection to gay couples . . . and equal protection cannot be taken away, even by due process.  Domestic partnerships are not the same as marriages, they are only "almost equivalent" to them (from wikipedia).  Yet they are the only option available to gay couples in some states; in others, they are denied even that.
  4. Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas.  The historic Supreme Court ruling that contended that the "separate but equal" doctrine established by Plessy v. Ferguson was unconstitutional.  Civil unions give same-sex couples some (or all) of the benefits that opposite-sex couples have.  While that is progress . . . separate but equal is not equal.  Remember those restrooms that said "whites only" and "blacks only"?   Well, it's like marriage has a big sign hanging off it that says "opposite sex couples only" and civil unions have a big sign that says "same sex couples only".  While thats not technically true, because some civil unions are open to heterosexual couples, I think you get my point.
  5. Separation of Church and State.  The supporters of Prop 8 have made no secret that their religion is one of the main reasons they oppose gay marriage.  News flash, guys: no one's trying to tell you you have to like gay marriage.  No one's trying to tell you that gay marriage "must" be taught in schools.  No one is trying to tell priests that they have to marry gay couples, if they don't want to.  Marriage is a civil institution, as well as a religious one.  Open your eyes, open your minds, stop spreading lies.
  6. The Futility of the "Tradition" Argument.  Right, so this one isn't a strictly legal argument.  But let me tell you some other things that have been justified by their being "tradition".  Slavery.  Denying women the right to vote.  Heck, denying women any rights.  The ban on interracial marriages.  To some extent, the ban on abortions.  And now, the ban on gay marriages. Tradition has been used to justify denying so many people civil rights that it shouldn't really come as a surprise that gay couples are next on the list.  But look around you.  Slavery is gone, women have equal rights, no one is allowed to deny a mixed-race couple a marriage licence, and abortion is legal.  Precedent?  I think so.  I hope so.
  7. And in the end, shouldn't the full faith and credit clause of the Constitution have made gay marriage legal everywhere after Massachusetts legalized it in 2004?  I admit that mine and Ashley's understanding of that particular clause is less than perfect, so if anyone has any better idea, please share!
Maybe I'm wishfully oversimplifying everything.  Maybe I still have those stars in my eyes that I thought the 2008 election and the healthcare debate had cured me of.  I vividly remember the day when I learned the California Supreme Court legalized gay marriage.  I was swimming in my neighbor's pool, my mom was reading the newspaper.  When she told me, my response was "well, duh."  But when I look at the history of our country, I just find it ridiculous, and totally counter to our most cherished ideals that something as fundamental as two people's right to get married is being put to a majority vote.

Ultimately, Jerry Brown has said it best: "Proposition 8 violates constitutionally protected liberties. There are certain rights that are not to be subject to popular votes, otherwise they are not fundamental rights.  If every fundamental liberty can be stripped away by a majority vote, then it's not a fundamental liberty."

Further reading:

And yes, I have (rather) shamelessly cribbed the title quote from Sinead O'Connor's song "What Doesn't Belong to Me".  Credit where credit is due . . . it's a great song!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Some People Shouldn't be Allowed to Talk

Well, that's not true.  Everyone should be allowed to talk, we have a right to freedom of speech, and I cherish that right.  It applies to everyone, no questions.

On the other hand, just because you can talk, it doesn't mean you should.  And it for sure doesn't mean you should be allowed to broadcast your opinions to the world.

Take Pat Robertson.  He says that the earthquake in Haiti was caused by the Haitians themselves, because they made a pact with the devil to throw out the French.  That is so disgusting on so many levels, I don't even know where to begin.  He's dismissing the Haitian's religion, promoting colonization, ignoring the fact that things called natural disasters exist, and are called natural disasters for a reason, and he's implying that 50,000 people deserved to die.  Excuse me.  I take issue with that.  You should be praying for those people, donating money to help them, promoting relief efforts.  I didn't think it was possible for Robertson to offend me any more . . . he did.  I am glad, at least, to see that the White House is responding to this, with Press Secretary Robert Gibbs calling his remarks "utterly stupid".  Because, guess what, they are!

Or Rush Limbaugh.  He, at least, is not blaming the Haitians for their tragedy.  But he's matching Robertson in stupidity, by saying that Obama is using US relief efforts as a way to boost his credibility with the black community in the US.  'Scuse me?  What happened to caring for your neighbor, and, um, the obligation to help people?  I mean, Limbaugh is very Christian, right?  Doesn't the Bible have very specific things to say about loving your neighbor?  And doesn't "helping your poverty-stricken neighbors recover from a devastating earthquake" qualify as "loving"?

And then, when somebody actually points out what a hypocritical, lying, jerk he's being, he responds with . . . well, some unrepeatable sentiments.  Watch here:  I got exactly 1 minute and 30 seconds into the video before wanting to strangle him, and about 2 and a half minutes before I nearly cried at how simply horrific, disgusting, and completely un-defendable his statements are.  Really.  I don't care if you don't like the president, no one in their right mind would turn a humanitarian tragedy into a political game.  Except, apparently, Rush Limbaugh.  Way to make the world hate you.

By the way, it's also a good idea to check out some of the other videos on that page.  And I know that Media Matters is a very liberal website, but keep in mind that there is no commentary on these videos.  It's simply exactly what Limbaugh/Robertson said: their words from their mouths.

By the way, it's also a good idea to check out some of the other videos on that page.  And I know that Media Matters is a very liberal website, but keep in mind that there is no commentary on these videos.  It's simply exactly what Limbaugh/Robertson said: their words from their mouths.


  •  Rush Limbaugh's original comments.
  •  Limbaugh's disgusting, pathetic, and exceedingly childish attempt to defend his comments.
  • Pat Robertson's "pact with the devil" comments.
  • Press Secretary Robert Gibbs responds to Limbaugh's remarks.
  •  If you really do want commentary, although this is more of a summary of what I've said.

I'm sorely tempted to say that these two men are aliens, because I find it hard to believe that any human being could be so devoid of compassion, kindness, and pure common sense. But I'm not going to, because I've seen enough science fiction to know that offending the aliens is generally a pretty bad idea.

Kudos to Senator Claire McCaskill for posting this on her Twitter, that's where I found it :)
This is copy/pasted verbatim from my personal blog, In Stars and Swirls, with Ashely's approval and total agreement. :)