Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Axis of Family Jihadis

Sometimes, you find a piece that really expresses exactly what you are thinking, and there's no way to improve upon it. So, here's a rare cut/paste job from the NYT.

The New York Times:

COLUMN: Mary Cheney's Bundle of Joy

By Frank Rich

Columnist Frank Rich calls Focus on the Family, Family Research Council
and American Family Association the "axis of family jihadis" and says
anti-gay politics is losing its ability to woo voters.

Sunday 12.17.06

IT'S not the least of John McCain's political talents that he
comes across as a paragon of straight talk even when he isn't
talking straight. So it was a surprise to see him reduced to
near-stammering on ABC's `'This Week'' two Sundays after
the election. The subject that brought him low was the elephant in the
elephants' room, or perhaps we should say in their closet:

Senator McCain is no bigot, and his only goal was to change the subject
as quickly as possible. He kept repeating two safe talking points for
dear life: he opposes same-sex marriage (as does every major
presidential aspirant in both parties) and he is opposed to
discrimination. But because he had endorsed a broadly written Arizona
ballot initiative that could have been used to discriminate against
unmarried domestic partners, George Stephanopoulos wouldn't let him
off the hook.

`'Are you against civil unions for gay couples?'' he asked the
senator, who replied, `'No, I'm not.'' When Mr.
Stephanopoulos reiterated the question seconds later—`'So
you're for civil unions?''—Mr. McCain answered,
`'No.'' In other words, he was not against civil unions before
he was against them. His gaffe was reminiscent of a similar appearance
on Mr. Stephanopoulos'
s show in 2004 by Bill Frist, a
Harvard-trained doctor who refused to criticize a federal abstinence
program that catered to the religious right by spreading the canard that
sweat and tears could transmit AIDS.

Senator Frist is now a lame duck, and his brand of pandering, typified
by his errant upbeat diagnosis of the brain-dead Terri Schiavo's
condition, is following him to political Valhalla. The 2006 midterms
left Karl Rove's supposedly foolproof playbook in tatters. It was
hard for the Republicans to deal the gay card one more time after the
Mark Foley and Ted Haggard scandals revealed that today's
conservative hierarchy is much like Roy Cohn's milieu in
`'Angels in America,'' minus the wit and pathos.

This time around, ballot initiatives banning same-sex marriage drew
markedly less support than in 2004; the draconian one endorsed by Mr.
McCain in Arizona was voted down altogether. Two national politicians
who had kowtowed egregiously to their party's fringe, Rick Santorum
and George Allen, were defeated, joining their ideological fellow
travelers Tom DeLay and Ralph Reed in the political junkyard. To further
confirm the inexorable march of social history, the only Christmas
season miracle to lift the beleaguered Bush administration this year has
been the announcement that Mary Cheney, the vice president's gay
daughter, is pregnant. Her growing family is the living rejoinder to
those in her father's party who would relegate gay American couples
and their children to second-class legal or human status.

Yet not even these political realities have entirely broken the
knee-jerk habit of some 2008 Republican presidential hopefuls to woo
homophobes. Mitt Romney, the Republican Massachusetts governor, was
caught in yet another embarrassing example of his party's hypocrisy
last week. In a newly unearthed letter courting the gay Log Cabin
Republicans during his unsuccessful 1994 Senate race, he promised to
`'do better'' than even Ted Kennedy in making `'equality
for gays and lesbians a mainstream concern.'' Given that Mr. Romney
has been making opposition to same-sex marriage his political calling
card this year, his ideological bisexuality looks as foolish in its
G-rated way as that of Mr. Haggard, the evangelical leader who was
caught keeping time with a male prostitute.

There's no evidence that Mr. Romney's rightward move on gay
civil rights and abortion (about which he acknowledges his flip-flop)
has helped him politically. Or that Mr. McCain has benefited from a
similar sea change that has taken him from accurately labeling Jerry
Falwell and Pat Robertson `'agents of intolerance'' in 2000 to
appearing at Mr. Falwell's Liberty University this year. A
Washington Post-ABC News poll last week found that among Republican
voters, Rudy Giuliani, an unabashed liberal on gay civil rights and
abortion, leads Mr. McCain 34 percent to 26 percent. Mr. Romney brought
up the rear, at 5 percent. That does, however, put him nominally ahead
of another presidential wannabe, the religious-right favorite Sam
Brownback, who has held up a federal judicial nomination in the Senate
because the nominee had attended a lesbian neighbor's commitment

For those who are cheered by seeing the Rovian politics of wedge issues
start to fade, the good news does not end with the growing evidence that
gay-baiting may do candidates who traffic in it more harm than good.
It's not only centrist American voters of both parties who reject
divisive demagoguery but also conservative evangelicals themselves. Some
of them are at last standing up to the extremists in their own camp.

No one more dramatically so, perhaps, than Rick Warren, the Orange
County, Calif., megachurch leader and best-selling author of `'The
Purpose Driven Life.'' He has adopted AIDS in Africa as a signature
crusade, and invited Barack Obama to join the usual suspects, including
Senator Brownback, to address his World AIDS Day conference on the
issue. This prompted predictable outrage from the right because of Mr.
Obama's liberal politics, especially on abortion. One radio host,
Kevin McCullough, demonized the Democrat for pursuing `'inhumane,
sick and sinister evil'' as a legislator. An open letter sponsored
by 18 `'pro-life'' groups protested the invitation, also
citing Mr. Obama's `'evil.'' But Mr. Warren didn't

Among those defending the invitation was David Kuo, the former deputy
director of the Bush White House's Office of Faith-Based and
Community Initiatives. In a book, `'Tempting Faith,'' as well
as in interviews and on his blog, the heretical Mr. Kuo has become a
tough conservative critic of the corruption of religion by politicians
and religious-right leaders who are guilty of `'taking Jesus and
reducing him to some precinct captain, to some get-out-the-vote
guy.'' Of those `'family'' groups who criticized Mr.
Obama's appearance at the AIDS conference, Mr. Kuo wrote, `'Are
they so blind and possessed with such a narrow definition of life that
they can think of life only in utero?'' The answer, of course, is
yes. The Christian Coalition parted ways with its new president-elect, a
Florida megachurch pastor, Joel Hunter, after he announced that he would
take on bigger issues like poverty and global warming.

But it is leaders like Mr. Hunter and Mr. Warren who are in ascendance.
Even the Rev. Richard Cizik, vice president for governmental affairs at
Mr. Haggard's former perch, the National Association of
Evangelicals, has joined a number of his peers in taking up the cause of
the environment, putting him at odds with the Bush administration. Such
religious leaders may not have given up their opposition to abortion or
gay marriage, but they have more pressing priorities. They seem to have
figured out, as Mr. Kuo has said, that `'politicians use Christian
voters for their money and for their votes'' and give them little
in return except a reputation for bigotry and heartless opposition to
the lifesaving potential of stem-cell research.

The axis of family jihadis—Focus on the Family, the Family Research
Council, the American Family Association—is feeling the heat; its
positions get more extreme by the day. A Concerned Women for America
mouthpiece called Mary Cheney's pregnancy
`'unconscionable,'' condemning her for having `'injured
her child'' and `'acted in a way that denies everything that
the Bush administration has worked for.'' (That last statement,
thankfully, is true.) This overkill reeks of desperation. So does these
zealots' recent assault on the supposedly feminizing
`'medical'' properties of soy baby formula (which deserves the
`'blame for today's rise in homosexuality,'' according to
the chairman of Megashift Ministries), and penguins.

Yes, penguins. These fine birds have now joined the Teletubbies and
SpongeBob SquarePants in the pantheon of cuddly secret agents for
`'the gay agenda.'' Schools are being forced to defend
`'And Tango Makes Three,'' an acclaimed children's picture
book based on the true story of two Central Park Zoo male penguins who
adopted a chick from a fertilized egg. The hit penguin movie
`'Happy Feet'' has been outed for an `'anti-religious
bias'' and its `'endorsement of gay identity'' by Michael
Medved, the commentator who sets the tone for the religious right's
strictly enforced code of cultural political correctness.

Such censoriousness is increasingly the stuff of comedy. So are
politicians of all stripes who advertise their faith. A liberal like
Howard Dean is no more credible talking about the Bible (during the 2004
campaign he said his favorite book in the New Testament was Job) than
twice-married candidates like Mr. McCain are persuasive at pledging
allegiance to `'the sanctity of marriage.''

For all the skeptical theories about the Obama boomlet—or real boom,
we don't know yet—no one doubts that his language about faith is
his own, not a crib sheet provided by a conservative evangelical
preacher or a liberal political consultant on `'values.''
That's why a Democrat from Chicago whose voting record is to the
left of Hillary Clinton's received the same standing ovation from
the thousands at Rick Warren's Saddleback Church that he did from
his own party's throngs in New Hampshire. After a quarter-century of
watching politicians from both parties exploit religion for partisan and
often mean-spirited political gain, voters on all sides of this
country's culture wars are finally in the market for something new.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Like Vultures Circling

Everyone has heard about Senator Tim Johnson's illness and how it may affect control of the Senate. The GOP is playing it cool, trying not show their giddy delight at the thought that Sen. Johnson could die or resign, allowing the GOP Governor of SD to nominate a Republican for the seat and seize control of the Senate. Sen. McConnell and the outgoing Queen of the GOP, Ken Mehlman, have released appropriate statements of good wishes for Sen. Johnson.

However, you know the GOP is salvating, praying that Johnson will at least be forced to resign, and failing that, that he will join the Heavenly Father. You can almost smell the saliva dripping from their mouths and pooling on the floor.

I wish Sen. Johnson a speedy and full recovery. News reports make it sound like he is progressing nicely, and I hope that continues. The American people gave control of the Congress (BOTH houses) to the Democrats for a reason in November. To have it all undone because of a tragic illness would be cruel indeed.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Georgia: GOP Banks on Your Bigotry

And I thought the GOP hated gays! Well, they sorta do, at least in public. In private, they'll hire us to do their dirty work. But that is not the point of this blog entry. During the last week, I have read articles that expose the naked underbelly of hate and fear the GOP is trying to spread across Georgia in an attempt to solidify their hold on power.

First came former Rep. Bob Irvin's screed for Buckhead to join Milton County. The impetus for this plea allegedly came from the GOTV call from Shirley Franklin, John Lewis, and Andy Young on behalf of successful Fulton County Chair John Eaves. That call claimed that if the GOP took over Fulton County's commission, the days of fire hoses and attack dogs would return, and civil rights progress would be undone. A lot of my friends felt the ad was fine, and it gave to the GOP as good as they ever give to us. That's a good point, but the ad made me uncomfortable. While I do think the GOP as a whole wouldn't mind undoing the work of Dr. King and the civil rights movement, I'm not convinced the specific candidates for the Fulton Commission were in that category. I also feel that as Democrats, we should be better than the GOP in all respects. We need to find ways to win without sinking to their level. Perhaps that's not possible.

What I did not interpret that add to be saying was that white people are bad. The GOP claims that talking about "Republicans" is code for white folk. So much for their "diversity" plan, huh? Last time I checked in the mirror, I was a white guy AND a staunch Democrat. A good number of my friends in the Young Democrat community are also white and in many respects, more liberal than I am! So no, "Republican" doesn't equate to white. Republican equates to REPUBLICAN, whatever your color or creed.

Anyway, ex-Rep. Irvin wants Atlanta city council areas to be eligible to join the proposed resurrection of Milton County. After all, the whole purpose of resurrecting Milton County is to stop rich white people in Alpharetta from having their tax dollars potentially go toward services for people whose skin is darker than theirs. That's why the cities of Johns Creek and Milton have been formed. That's why the GOP will propose a constitutional amendment in 2007 to resurrect Milton County, thereby cutting of 46% of the value of the land of Fulton County from the rest of the county that is south of the Chattahoochee. All for the sake of their perception that their tax dollars should only go to "deserving" white people.

The whole reason Irvin wants the city council districts to vote is to get Buckhead to join Milton, in a first move that he admittedly hopes will lead to a "city of Buckhead". Well, shoot, Midtown seems to be whitening up too, Bobby, so why not annex Midtown too? Segregration worked SO WELL the first time we tried it, right? Why not give it a second go?

Don't be fooled. This whole citihood push for North Fulton and Dunwoody and the resurrection of Milton County is all about segregration. It's all about walling yourself off from people who don't look like you or make the money you do. And it's disgraceful. Yet I fear all this separation will come to pass, which will throw Fulton into a tailspin since no services will be affordable anymore. Will it fall to the cities? Won't that drive taxes way up? Of course it will, but the GOP doesn't care. They view this as hurting mostly poor people who are brown. "Those people" won't vote GOP, so what does it matter?

The next article was about Rep. Timothy Bearden of Villa Rica who is pushing a bill that would prohibit all Georgia cities and counties from issuing documents and forms in any language other than English. Bearden ckaims, "They refuse to learn the language, they refuse to assimilate. And that's a very dangerous problem."

Ohhhhhh, it's the ominous "they"! They are here to rape your children, steal your women, and force you to speak a strange tongue! They are here to burn Christians at the stake! They, They, THEY! How scary "they" are! We must stop "them" before "they" destroy us!

Bearden, he of "let's vote back in the Rebel flag" fame, also claims that English is the thread that unites us. Perhaps it is, perhaps it is not. It's telling though that the idea of the week from www.georgiaspeaks.com, the GOP idea board, was: "Public schools should be limited to kids who speak English as their first language and whose parents speak English as their first language." That was Dec. 5's "creative conservative idea of the week".

Immigration is a tough problem, and the system should be overhauled, but it can only be overhauled by the national government. Mean-spirited notions like the ones Bearden supports will get us no where. It also sends a message loud and clear to Hispanics, both legal and illegal, that they are NOT wanted here by the GOP. They are NOT welcome here by the GOP, and they will NEVER be "real" Americans in the GOP's eyes.

The question that I have is: will Georgians buy this? Will they allow themselves to be manipulated and fear-mongered into slapping around people who have never done anything to them? I used to have faith that the answer would be "no", but the gay marriage amendment's passage with 76% of the vote in 2004 changed that for me. The GOP was listening then, and that's why they are doing these things now. At what point will it stop?

Will Georgia once again live up to its motto of Truth, Justice, and Moderation?

Saturday, December 09, 2006

5 Day Work Week UNFAIR!!!

The Democrats in Congress plan to do the people's work, including adequate oversight of the Executive Branch. This means that Congress will be session 5 days a week from Monday afternoon to Friday morning. Under my timekeeping, that's technically only 4 days of work, but it sure beats what the GOP Congress has done. This year, the GOP Congress met only 103 days, and the federal government is STILL being run by a "continuing resolution" (i.e. "do what you did last year, minus the earmarks") and will be run by one until at least February 15. These jokers have met fewer days than the infamous "do nothing" Congress of 1947-48.

All this "work" by the GOP earns them $165,000 a year, official junkets, and lobbyists slobbering all over them to give them free stuff. They only met from late Tuesday afternoon to midday Thursday....if they met at all. For most of us, holidays mean an extra day off work. Not so for Congress. One day for mere citizens equates to at least a week for Congress. The Democrats, rightly, are putting a stop to it. And the GOP isn't happy.

Jack Kingston (R-Savannah) seems to have been nominated to be official whiner for the GOP caucus. In a fit of hysteria, Kingston told the Washington Post, "Keeping us up here eats away at families. Marriages suffer. The Democrats could care less about families — that's what this says."

Yes, that's exactly what this says. Democrats are elected to public office, and they have the audicity to believe that they should put in an honest work week on behalf of the people who elected them. Mind you, Kingston is a guy who sleeps in his damn office to show how "fiscally conservative" he is. Many Congresspeople share living quarters to cut down expenses. Senators usually move their families since their terms are 6 years. Of course, many Congressmen do too.

It's Jack Kingston's problem if his wife refuses to leave the confines of the greater Savannah area. You would think that after 14 years in Congress, they would have discussed living arrangements that would look after the well-being of their family. Apparently, since 12 of those years were spent with the GOP in control, ol' Jack didn't have to worry about it since he only had to show up for a day and a half in DC.

I have no idea how our fragile Republic survived all those years before the advent of air travel, telephone, and the internet. Why, a Congressman would have to stay in town for an entire session, staying in touch only through snail mail! The HORROR! Of course, back then, our government was less complex and only needed to meet maybe 6 months every two years. Congress is a full time legislature, and it needs to be full time. If you don't like that, then don't run. If Jack can't hack the new schedule, he can feel free to resign so that someone who is willing to work for people of GA-1 can actually elect someone who will gladly do the work he/she asked to do.

wrote in today's AJC that "last year I hosted 25 town hall meetings regarding Medicare Part D. The year before that, I held 17 town hall meetings on Social Security. In addition, I made over 200 speeches and meetings with veteran groups, farmers, energy, tax, health care, education and environmental groups. And I met with many individuals who had problems with the federal government — people who don't have business cards and don't know doctors and lawyers personally. These are the people who don't have the lobbyists, the time, or the budgets that would allow them to come to Washington and meet with me." Wow, he had meetings in his district 25 times in a calendar year! That's every other weekend. I don't know where he gets the energy to keep up that schedule!

Being a Representative or Senator to Congress is not supposed to be easy. If you have to spend your workweek in DC and commute home on the weekends, so be it. And if you truly care about your district, you will find ways to stay in touch and not lose the pulse of the people.

Jack Kingston and his GOP whiners don't understand that.