Take Five (There Oughta Be a Law edition)

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ONE: A Good Week for Civil Rights

On February 7, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals declared California’s infamous Proposition 8 unconstitutional. Six days later, Washington became the seventh state to enshrine marriage equality into law. These are causes for celebration, but neither fight is over.

The Court of Appeals decision is merely the latest chapter in a story that began in 2008. The next chapter will likely be the written in Washington, once the organization ProtectMarriage.com files a Supreme Court Appeal. The group, which describes itself as a “broad-based coalition of California families, community leaders, religious leaders, pro-family organizations and individuals from all walks of life who have joined together to defend and restore the definition of marriage as between a man and a woman,” also has the option of an en banc appeal to an expanded judicial panel in the Ninth Circuit.

California marriage rights advocates will have to hope that court action(s) go their way; there seem to be no alternative approaches at this point. Love Honor Cherish, who have fought Prop 8 every step of the way, announced this week that they’ve abandoned their quest for a November ballot measure for formal repeal, following in the footsteps of LGBT advocacy group Equality California, which announced last fall:

In 2009, we anticipated that 2012 would provide our best opportunity in the near term to overturn Proposition 8 at the ballot. However, based on our analysis of public opinion and the significant challenges of the current political and economic climate, we concluded in fall 2011 that more work must be done and announced that we will not lead an effort to return to the ballot in 2012.

Following the enactment of Washington’s new law, marriage inequality zealots immediately began to close ranks:

A group called Preserve Marriage Washington filed Referendum 73 Monday afternoon. If they collect the more than 120,577 valid voter signatures needed by June 6, the law will be put on hold pending the outcome of a November vote. Separately, an initiative was filed at the beginning of the legislative session that opponents of gay marriage say could also lead to the new law being overturned…

The Washington, D.C.-based National Organization for Marriage, which was involved in ballot measures that overturned same-sex marriage in California and Maine, has promised to work with Preserve Marriage Washington to qualify the referendum to overturn the new law.

Given the time allowed and the low signature threshold, a November ballot measure seems inevitable. To find out how you can help defend hard-won equal rights under the law, go to the Washington United for Marriage website.

TWO: Justice Under Siege

While chilling at his vacation home on the Caribbean island of Nevis last Thursday, Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer, along with his wife and two guests, was robbed at machete-point by an intruder. The robber’s take was roughly $1,200. Happily, no one was hurt.

Since the story was fairly short on details, a number of media outlets supplemented it with crimes involving other justices:

Known crimes against the current justices are rare. In 2004, a group of young men assaulted now-retired Justice David Souter as he was jogging near his apartment in Southwest Washington.

And in 1996, Justice Ruth ­Bader Ginsburg was the victim of a purse-snatching as she and her husband and daughter were walking near the Kennedy Center.

Conspicuously unmentioned in such reports were Justices Scalia and Thomas, but I suppose that’s because they’re much more apt to be perpetrators than victims when it comes to criminal behavior.

THREE: Motor City Madman

General Motors, which you might recall is one of the two giant auto companies Barack Obama saved from extinction, had some good news to share today:

G.M. said it earned a quarterly profit of $472 million, or 28 cents a share, down from $510 million, or 31 cents a share, a year ago. It was the eighth consecutive quarterly profit for the carmaker…

For all of 2011, G.M. earned $7.6 billion, nearly all of it from North America. That was 62 percent higher than the $4.7 billion it earned a year ago and nominally more than G.M.’s previous record of $6.7 billion in 1997 (in today’s dollars, the 1997 profit would be about $9.4 billion).

This comes two days after someone named Mitt Romney (apparently the leader of a group of people who believe Mitt Romney should be President) contributed an op-ed to the Detroit News, in which he vacillates – sometimes within the same paragraph – between decrying President Obama’s handling of the auto bailout and trying to take credit himself for its success:

The indisputable good news is that Chrysler and General Motors are still in business… The president tells us that without his intervention things in Detroit would be worse. I believe that without his intervention things there would be better… Instead of a bailout, I favored “managed bankruptcy” as the way forward… Shorn of… excess costs, and shorn of the bungling management that had driven them into a deep rut, they could re-emerge as vibrant and competitive companies. Ultimately, that is what happened. The course I recommended was eventually followed…

Now, I’m no diagnostician, but I’m guessing Romney’s confusion could be a result of the weird medical condition he mentions in the same piece:

Cars got in my bones early. And not just any cars, American cars.

Ouch! That might also explain Romney’s apparent preference for driving imports:

[Romney has] released an ad showing him driving around in a fancy Chrysler while he talks about how much he loves Michigan, and all…

And here’s the problem: that Chrysler that he’s driving is a 300 model, and the 300 is made in Canada.

In fairness, Romney does seem to have been driving American back in the days when he, his family, and his Irish setter Seamus made their annual vacation trip to, uh, Canada.

Romney is unambiguous in advising the White House what to do next:

The Obama administration needs to act now to divest itself of its ownership position in GM.

The shares need to be sold in a responsible fashion and the proceeds turned over to the nation’s taxpayers.

As always, President Obama is taking a smarter, more patient approach:

Shares of G.M. are worth about one-quarter less than the price set in an initial public offering in November 2010, when the federal government sold most of the 60 percent stake it received in G.M. after shepherding the company through bankruptcy.

The government still owns 26 percent of G.M., but the Obama administration has delayed plans to sell those shares in the hopes of recovering a larger percentage of its investment as the share price increases.

Oh, and Mitt? One more noteworthy item from today’s report:

The results mean G.M.’s hourly workers in the United States will receive profit-sharing checks next month of up to $7,000, a record…

Sounds like crony capitalism at its finest. Continue reading Take Five (There Oughta Be a Law edition)

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Take Five (Take My Candidate, Please edition)

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ONE: None of the Above, Thanks!

While I can no more imagine voting for a Republican than I can imagine myself conducting the Seoul Philharmonic or being named World Series MVP, that doesn’t mean I’m completely without sympathy for Republican voters. Mostly, sure, but not completely.

Last April, a Washington Post-ABC News poll showed less than half of Republican and right-leaning independent respondents were satisfied with the nascent GOP crop of candidates. The poll’s “field” at the time consisted of Mitt Romney, Donald Trump, Mike Huckabee, Sarah Palin, Michele Bachman, Newt Gingrich and Tim Pawlenty. Two of them never ultimately ran, two of them fizzled out, and one of them was flirting with a run solely for the sake of boosting the ratings of his extraordinarily dim reality show.

A Pew poll conducted the same week found that 53% of people surveyed couldn’t come up with a name – putative, purported, potential, preposterous or otherwise – when asked which candidate they’d been hearing most about.

Fast-forward to January 9, when a CBS News poll found that 58% of Republican respondents still wanted more choices for a nominee. And that was even before Bachmann, Huntsman and Perry dropped out, leaving sad-sack GOP voters with a narrow spectrum of options ranging from an ethics-impaired pseudo-intellectual clod to an antediluvian reptile masquerading as an advocate for liberty to a clueless empty suit who fancies himself a titan of free enterprise to a loathsome pipsqueak who spent more time crotch-sniffing than he ever spent conducting The People’s Business as a senator.

Yet the poll also indicated that 41% of GOP voters described themselves as more enthusiastic than in past elections, something only 21% of the Democrats and independents surveyed said about themselves. So what is it that they’re so enthusiastic about? Who the hell knows? Perhaps they’re enthusiastic about not voting:

The number of Republican voters taking part in the New Hampshire primary and Iowa caucuses dropped significantly this year, a Globe review of data shows.

The drop-off in Republican participation, compared with other years without a GOP incumbent, follows recent polls that indicate a high percentage of the party faithful is less than enthusiastic with the choices offered for the nomination. Analysts say there may be a combination of factors contributing to the decline in party faithful voting.

To paraphrase Saint Paul, Republicans are a piece of work, which passeth all understanding.

TWO: “Incredibly naive, almost stupid”

In the wake of Rick Perry’s decision to vamoose from the ol’ campaign trail, a Christian conservative conclave in Texas was left baffled, bewildered and basically befuddled. Who among the remaining claimants to the Republican nomination strikes the perfect balance between prurient, repressive social conservatism and absolute indifference to vicious capitalist depredation, a balance that so appeals to those who just love ’em some Jesus and yet despise His message? Rick Santorum, come on down!

Fueled by prayer and passionate speeches, Christian conservative leaders meeting in Gov. Rick Perry’s home state reached a “strong consensus” to support former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum for the GOP presidential nomination, the Family Research Council’s Tony Perkins said [January 14].

It took Perkins and his confreres three ballots to settle on Santorum, but I’m not even sure why there was any suspense involved. A few days before he and his mob met to bestow their blessings on a new standard bearer, a report in the Washington Post confirmed that Santorum is their dream candidate. The Post examined a charity Santorum had established to aid low-income Pennsylvanians. As it happens, “Operation Good Neighbor”:

… spent most of its money to run itself, including hundreds of thousands of dollars in fees for fundraising, administration and office rental paid to Santorum’s political allies.

The charity also had significant overlap with the senator’s campaigns and his work on Capitol Hill. Among the leading donors to the foundation were Pennsylvania development and finance firms that had donated to his election efforts and had interests that Santorum had supported in the Senate…

Before it folded in 2007, the foundation raised $2.58 million, with 39 percent of that donated directly to groups helping the needy. By industry standards, such philanthropic groups should be donating nearly twice that, from 75 to 85 percent of their funds.

“That’s exceptionally poor,” Ken Berger, president of Charity Navigator, a national organization that rates charitable groups, said of the Santorum group’s giving. “We would tell donors to run with fear from this organization.”

And well you might, Mr. Berger, but only because you don’t appreciate the intricate construct of hypocrisy, hard-heartedness and hellacious antipathy to truth that candidates like Rick Santorum (and sleazoid snake oil merchants like Tony Perkins) represent.

But there’s just a little more pious goodness to this story:

[Doug Wead,] a leading evangelical and former aide to President George H.W. Bush said he agreed with suspicions voiced by others at the meeting of evangelical and conservative Catholic activists that organizers “manipulated” the gathering and may even have stuffed the ballot to produce an endorsement of Mr. Santorum over former House Speaker Newt Gingrich.

Mr. Santorum, who nearly upset Mr. Romney in the Iowa caucuses, won the first ballot ahead of Mr. Gingrich in Saturday’s Texas meeting but the margin was too slim for organizers to claim a consensus. It was not until the third ballot, taken after many people had left to catch flights back home, that Mr. Santorum won more than 70 percent of those still in attendance and claimed the endorsement…

Mr. Perkins strongly defended the Texas meeting as “a remarkable gathering of conservatives leaders.”

Yes, it certainly does sound remarkable. Last word to Mr. Wead:

… Mr. Wead, who said meeting participants were warned not to discuss the gathering in the media, was still upset and said the entire exercise was misguided.

“The idea of evangelicals meeting this late to select a candidate always struck me as incredibly naive, almost stupid. It is way too late for that,” he said.

Amen, sir. Amen.

THREE: Way Out West

If there’s one thing Arizona doesn’t need, it’s another hateful dolt in elected office. The state can’t even keep the ones it already has from appearing in cringe-worthy news stories.

Sheriff Joe Arpaio, for example, was recently named Arizona campaign chairman for Rick Perry, who dropped out of the race less than two weeks later, leaving Arpaio with nothing much to do except finalize his “cold case posse” investigation into President Obama’s eligibility to hold the office he’s held for three years and six days now.

Governor Jan Brewer, no slouch herself when it comes to hateful doltishness, mounted her own attack on President Obama just yesterday. Color the Arizona Republic chagrined:

President Obama arrived on Wednesday afternoon for a run-of-the-mill campaign speech using an Intel facility in Chandler as a backdrop. He was greeted by the usual assortment of local dignitaries, including Gov. Jan Brewer.

Which turned out to be Mistake No. 1.

Brewer handed the president a letter and apparently said something about the border and about the state’s economic recovery. Apparently, Obama said something about Brewer mischaracterizing their White House meeting in her book, Scorpions for Breakfast. Apparently, things went downhill from there. Apparently, the president and the governor couldn’t stop talking over each other’s words…

The image of Arizona’s governor wagging a scolding finger at the visiting president on the tarmac at Phoenix International Sky Harbor Airport now pretty much defines this state’s relationship with Washington, D.C., to the world.

Far from offering contrition after her boorish display, all Brewer could talk about afterward was the scary black guy who climbed out of Air Force One:

“I felt a little bit threatened, if you will, and the attitude that he had because I was there to welcome him,” Brewer told reporters following the exchange.

But not so fast, Joe and Jan! For Arizona, the barrel now has a new bottom, and his name is JT Ready. And (as of January 13, 2012) he’s a Democrat: Continue reading Take Five (Take My Candidate, Please edition)

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