Thursday, May 29, 2008

Another one bites the dust.....

Is Scott McClellan McCain's Reverand Wright?

Another fine mess...

When California starts marrying gay couples on June 17th, we intend to be one of the grand crowd flying to Palm Springs for what I'll call the new "summer of love."

Assuming voters in California decide in November to amend their constitution to preclude gay marriages (which is far from certain, but certainly possible), let's count the ways in which we'll face a wonderful gumbo of legal limbo.

1. After November, would New York continue to consider us married?

2. If Obama repeals DOMA, would the federal government consider us married?

3. Would we get in trouble if we marked "not married" on our Federal Tax Returns if we are married in California, civil unioned in New Jersey where we live, and California no longer recognizes marriages? Would we get in trouble if we *did* mark "married"?

4. Would California still recognize our domestic partnership from New Jersey?

5. Would our California marriage remain, revert to a Domestic Partnership, or would both marriage and Domestic Partnership no longer be recognized in California?

6. Would our community property in California still be legally considered community property (since only Domestic partners or married couples can own community property in California, and New Jersey has no community property law).

7. If we moved to Massachusetts, would that state considered us already married or require us to get married again?

8. If New Jersey decides to recognize gay marriages, would we already be married since we married in California but California no longer recognizes it, or would we have to go through a process to upgrade our civil union?

9. If Vermont decides to recognize gay marriage after November, would we be automatically married in Vermont after November if we were no longer considered married in California?

10. This would be our forth time to solemnize our relationship (commitment ceremony, domestic partnership, civil union, marriage). Which one should we celebrate as our anniversary?

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

What's the chance?

That McCain would get into office and decide that gay relationships were deserving of the "dignity" found by the California Supreme Court?

Yes, he politely disagrees in public with Ellen now, but any celebrity like McCain used to appearing on "The Ellen Show" (or even willing to) must know enough gay people that he's been set straight, so to speak, on this issue. No one except the most blind right-wing evangelical could believe that any of the "Washington politicians" in the heart of hearts are against gay rights. So, like Bush before him, the gay issue is a calculated pander to the right-wing base and the party platform.

But McCain isn't Bush. The maverick might one day decide to reverse his position and stand up for what he knows in his heart is right, no matter how the base may scream: the way Jerry Sanders, the Republican mayor of San Diego, recently did.

But unless the issue hits home personally, and Mr. McCain has something close to a death-bed epiphany, the likelihood that he'll squander political capital on the piddly gays is close to ziltch.

Still, if he did, it'd probably have more impact coming from him than from someone like Obama, who's opinions are already highly suspected by the right...

Saturday, May 24, 2008

And now, here comes the fat lady....

Well, it looks like this endless Democratic primary is just about over....

Certainly didn't help that Hillary shot herself in the foot today.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Team of Rivals

Love how Obama's Team of Rival's speech coalesces with Andrew Sullivan's same article in the Times of London. But while some take this speech to indicate an Obama-Clinton ticket is in the making, I beg to differ.

Let's parse Obama’s words carefully: referring to putting rivals into your administration, "I think that has to be the approach one takes to the vice president and the Cabinet.

He is saying he’s open to having Hillary in the Cabinet…but I think, perhaps much less so as VP.

Why? Because, as Obama says, “My goal is to have the best possible government. And that means me winning.”Obama will select the VP that has the best chance of helping him win. Nothing more, nothing less. I don’t think the person who can best deliver votes to Obama is Hillary Clinton. White voters in Appalachia who won’t vote for Obama because of his race won’t decide to vote for him because Hillary is on the ticket as VP. And women who want a woman in the white house would be satisfied with ANY prominent female politician.

Clinton doesn’t deliver Obama more votes. He needs a southern/Midwestern/western good-old-boy, Hispanic, or female governor, depending on which democraphic will push key states into his column – look for either someone like a Jim Webb/Ted Strickland, a Bill Richardson, or a Kathleen Sebelius, Kathleen Blanco, or Christine Gregoire.

Too bad Jennifer Granholm of Michigan was born in Canada.

You Want Poland, Take Poland. You Want Checkoslovakia? Take Checkoslovakia. Anything Else We Can Help You With?

No one said that talking to people meant agreeing to their demands. Sometimes talk is a great way to redirect dangers:

" experts said that Israel had its own compelling reasons to engage Syria: to blunt Hezbollah’s growing power in the region."

That's right, Mr. Bush: ignoring enemies only *strengthens* their power. Engagement designed as part of a policy of containment is the OPPOSITE of "appeasement."

Now, if only Obama would articulate this policy as well as Helene Cooper of the New York Times.

Hey, Bunkies!

Welcome to any new readers from Blog Bunker!

It was great fun being Joe's guest yesterday. We discussed the seemingly endless Democratic primary, Hillary's potential Act II in politics, and the "appeasement" flap and McCain versus Obama's approach to Middle-East negotiations.

All very heady was quite odd having someone take my opinions seriously. Thanks, Joe - would love to do it again.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Obama, Obama, Obama Iran....The Scorecard

McCain is willing to talk to Hamas, but not to Ahmadinejad.

Obama is willing to talk to Ahmadinejad, but not to Hamas.

Clinton is willing to talk to Ahmadinejad, presumably after she "obliterates Iran."

Okay, my head hurts.

Interesting Thought Experiment

Andrew Sullivan quotes a blogger wondering if the anti-gay marriage amendment initiative in California would force the California justices to also make marriage invalid for straight people (in order to preserve the equality they found other constitutional clauses requiring).

It's a nice idea but probably implausible. As other amendment attempts have shown, Constitutions can contain logical contradictions, especially when it comes to discriminating against minorities. Legally, I think, the instructions to the court implicit in any amendment are clear: here's a case where we are enshrining discrimination into law.

However, if an amendment passes, it'd still be nice to see a lawsuit on this idea make it's way through the courts. It wouldn't have to win - just put it through the courts and let everyone worry about the outcome. It'd be kind of nice for a change to see how much straight people like it having the courts decide if their unions can legally be called "marriages."

Bush III

Is it just me, or is it that the more McCain tries to go after Obama on Iran, the more out-of-touch and Bush-like McCain looks? Republicans are advising him to leave Bush far, he sounds more Bush than Bush....isn't he suppose to realize the nomination is over and pivot to the middle?

If he keeps this up, either Democrat is going to rack up big margins in the fall....

Dressing Up the Pig

Ok, Clinton has used every excuse in the book to claim the rules ain't the rules, but in today's latest doozy, Clinton now says "if we [Democrats] had same rules as the Republicans, I would be the nominee right now." Yeah, and if ants had pretty yellow wings they'd be butterflies.

Clinton has been increasingly driving me crazy with her changing claims for what should count for the nomination (seat the dismissed delegates, have elections without competing candidates, only count the states that voted for me, etc.), but this one sends me over the edge. Democrats came up with a proportional delegate system out of a *philosophical reasoning* about how the nomination process should work according to *Democratic party beliefs.* I personally think it's stupid; hey, I think the entire nomination process is stupid - all the states should vote on the same day and the winner nominee should be selected based on the popular vote - but that ain't going to happen neither. My opinion about how it should be done means diddly, only what the DNC says about it means anything; Clinton's opinion about it means about as much as mine, and in dissing the DNC like this just increasingly pisses me off.

I understand this is a close-fought nomination and whoever loses is going to feel a bit...well, to use a phrase, bitter. The fact that Clinton has increasingly gone into a never-never-land of what-ifs in her arguments, but if she can't even agree which party's playbook she wants to follow, what's the point of a Democrat voting for her? I mean, it's not like I can go say, "I think I should be a Superdelegate just because if I were, then my vote would count for more...."

I don't know what's happening to her....I used to think she was cool. Now I think we're witnessing a public melt-down.

Birds Do It, Bees Do It

Even talented politicians with great leadership skills occasionally do it.

Pander, that is.

Ok - so chalk this one up to McCain. Privatizing social security is a terrible idea (which is why no sane politician supports it), but raising the minimum retirement age is going to be innevitable. Obama should know better....

Saturday, May 17, 2008


The latest dust-up in the election is our foot-in-his-mouthness's Bush recent pronouncement to the Israeli kinneset equating talks with Hamas to the political appeasement of Hitler.

[Update: when I first heard the story, it was in reference to Hamas...later, Iran...still later, "terrorists nations" like Iran and Syria. I still can't find text of the actual words of the speech and to whom Bush was specifically referring - on tonight's news, the reporter characterized the comments as "Bush comparing Obama to Hitler." It seems that in the current media environment, original meaning is no longer important - anyone can attribute anything to anybody. I've added a few lines here, but I think my sentiment remains basically unchanged.]

These are strong words, fighting words, to say the least - and certainly all the more ferocious for their being said in front of Holocaust survivors and the world's only country founded specifically as a refuge from that terrible tragidy.

Leaving Jimmy Carter's tracking towards the looney left aside for the moment, and even giving Bush (but not McCain) the benefit of the doubt that the comment may not have been a predictable swipe in the coming fall campaign, but a perhaps somewhat understandable bewilderment at the former President's middle-east-meddling shenanigans, the big question this raises is, just how helpful IS IT for an American President to say that talking to Hamas [or Syria] is the equivalent of appeasing Hitler?

Hamas is no nursery school; their charter is founded both on the premis of Israel's distruction and the credulous reading of anti-semitic texts. But Hamas is not Hezballah - a cancer that spreads no only the resentment of the displaced but also on active anti-semitic propaganda. Hamas, quite different, is a further-right-wing (in Palistinian context) nationalist movement, not only largely devoid of the Shiite zeolotry of Hezballah but actively opposed to it, engaged in a fruitless war with its own more moderate factions as well as with Israeli citizens. And Hamas, itself, has realised increasingly that the only way to govern their people is to modify its charter, implicitly recognize Israel's right to exist, and open a dialogue.

On the other side, a majority of Israelis now favor negotiating with Hamas, and in fact, the Israeli government is already talking to them. Meanwhile, the U.S. is helping to sponsor the ongoing talks between Syria and Israel. So it's odd, to say the least, the it's the American Republican party that's taking the public stand that Hamas, Syria, or whomever, must be more than ignored; it must become toxic for any kind of political discusion.

Is there any conceivalbe context in which Bush's comments about "appeasement," taken in the current Middle-East political climate, could be at all of benefit to the Israseli people? Even assuming he was referring to talking to the current nutcase in charge of Iran, no one has suggested that dialogue not be attached to conditions, that terrorists be tolerated, or that anyone should be appeased. One must conclude that had Bush been president during the past peacemaking opportunities to end the "Irish wars," bring down the Berlin wall, or stop the fighting in Bosnia, he would have found ways to torpedo those efforts as well.

We've long since given up that this President could pass Diplomacy 101; but come on: for this one, it's the Jews in America who should be steaming mad at Bush, not Obama.

California Dreaming

What's exciting about the recent ruling is that there's an unretractable window. If in an amendment restricts marriage in November, it'll be very hard to unmarry the couples who get married between now and then.

My partner and I were planning a vacation to Vermont to celebrate our anniversary. Now we're changing our plans: we're going to California, to get married on our anniversary.

(Kind of funny to say, getting married on your anniversary, but I've learned to live with the idea that for gay couples living in the US, this is going to be a bit of a weird, messy business. We've already gotten married four times - each more "married" than the last.)

I wonder how many other couples will change their plans, and what the financial benefit to the cash-strapped state will be....

Unlike Massacheusetts, California has no residency restriction. Because of our New Jersey civil union, we were already able to buy California property as community property. Who knows what having a marriage in California that California may or may not continue to recognize will allow us to do in various other states of the union.....

The Thread

Preparing for my radio talk, I did a little research today. I went to finally watch the entire forty minutes of Reverand Wright's performance on the National Press Club. Oddly, the effect of seeing this the day after California's ruling on the right for gay people to call their union 'marriage,' a common theme crops here...about Obama. Revealed both in Obama's position on gay marriage, and the fact that he spent twenty years listening to Wright without seeming to realize that the liberation theology of his church could pose a political problem.

The common thread that is revealed, I think, is that Obama is, after all, a politician. Like other politicians, he wishes to create a story about himself that plays a bit loose with the riggors of logic. Wright reveals that Obama was brought up in a religiously left-leaning socially activist tradition, no matter how much, when he visits states like Ohio and Pennsylvania, he'd like to inflect his story as one of modest middle-of-the-roadness. The California ruling - in it's detailed ethical clarity - reveals the intellectual fallowness of the "marriage in everything but name" position that, not just Obama, but most politicians hope will please all the people enough of the time.

Actually, it's nice to pull out this thread - and finally see the seams in the Obama persona start to show.

Maybe some topics are just too hot, even for Obama. Explaining the black liberation church to a white audience or the necessity of the word 'marriage' to a 60% population that believes anything-but is good enough, these are third-rail issues that even the electroshock proof Obama has wished to avoid. Though I personally would hope not: for maybe it takes someone with the rhetorical skills of Obama, and the historical luck of the times, to make liberal social justice a heroic idea again; to embrace gay rights as a party platform the way a party once embraced the rights of blacks and women. These would be courageous issues, indeed, and there is hope yet that, given the exigencies of the coming political moment, Obama may decide to take them on.

Thought he hasn't, yet, and the point to take away, I think, isn't that Obama the candidate is a media creation that makes political calculations. Yes, conservatives see a way in now that Obama has been revealed as a politician like the rest of them. But those of us who watched the initial media swooning and subsequent disillusionment with any detatchment all knew that from the start.

What's significant about Obama isn't the persona he needs to create to build his new coalition. It's that at least this particular political creation is willing to take some significant chances to challenge that coalition to rise to do the tough things that need to be done, when he can see a way to make it work: willing to tell black religious audiences to support gay rights, to tell blue-collar workers that a gas tax holiday is a silly idea, to tell Bush/McCain to shove it when it comes to go-it-alone foriegn policy; to say, in some cases (with the glaring exception of NAFTA), what's the right thing to say even though some people don't want to hear it, and continue to stand by his position long enough to turn around a public negative into a public positive. To take positions, occasionally, that are NOT completely poll tested and guaranteed to be intellectually unabrassive.

That's a characteristic that used to be called leadership. After decades of seeing it only in sci-fi fantasies, but not in our politicians, I think what the Obama phenomenon show us is, we're just not used to the idea, yet, that an actual human being can be both a fallible politician, and a leader.

(Wright's bravura performance was but his way of "playing the dozens" with Obama...)

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Appearing on Blog Bunker!

Hey - I've been invited to be a guest on Sirius's talk radio show, Blog Bunker - next Wednesday May 21st at 5pm.

I'll let you know what it's like. If you have Sirius, tune in.

As Smart as VideoGamers

Found this video linked on Andrew Sullivan's website and had to post it. We have a Jack-a-bee; I've always said Jack Russells are at least as smart as video game kids.....

Now if we could just teach them to pilot an F-22, we'd conquer the world.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Defying the Expectations Game

I was wrong - Obama defied the polling numbers and withstood the Wright fiasco.

I think this is why, despite a result which would have basically been considered a victory for Hillary three weeks ago, the punditocracy is now calling the race for Obama. He was able to show that he could withstand and come back from even the biggest bombshell and the worst three weeks of gaffes and character assassination politics; and he gave a speech that laid out to the party and to superdelegates how he would do it. By saying, basically, he would run a campaign focused on issues.

For the entire season, both Obama and Hillary have been trying to lay out an expectations game. I think this was the first time Obama actually did it. The Wright incident actually gave him the opportunity, by drastically lowering the expectations for his performance; but through hard work and financial warewithall, Obama was able to take advantage of the past week to turn around the tide and for the first time, actually have a night that beat the conventional expectations. The fact that he was able to turn things around in just a week gives the supers evidence that, given enough time and support, Obama can make the necessary in-roads in the fall.

The supers have been waiting for some indication in the tea leaves that would tell them it was safe to jump into the pool and finally decide whether Obama had the chops to pull this off for them, or whether they should turn to option number 2 and unleash the Clinton fighting dogs. I think last night gave them the hope they needed to lay down their claim. They know that they need to give whoever is the nominee the time to build the party unity they would to need to win in the fall, and they have all the evidence they need now to make up their minds.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

The End of the Season of Hope

Well, it was a good run while it lasted.

In my last post I explained why I changed from a Clinton supporter to voter for Obama. Though I'm still convinced that Obama would be the kind of politician that could accomplish the real reform the country needs, I think I now must officially relinquish my mantle of hope: for looking at today's polls, I think the Obama candidacy is done. If the polls are correct, Obama is sinking fast in Indiana, and will be lucky now to just eek out a victory in North Carolina.

It's a significant reversal of fortune. Clinton won't secure the nom via the popular vote. But with no joy for Obama after North Carolina, the SuperDels who've been sitting on the sidelines will have little compunction about handing a very tight race over to Clinton after the voting concludes. I might personally wish there were a way for them to do this by brokering some kind of deal to get Obama on as VP and unify the party; unfortunately, the sad reality is there is no single Democrat now in the country with the power to broker such a deal. The SuperDels have no collective wisdom or influence to impart (the fact that the contest has gone on this long to such a detrminent to the party is all the proof we need of that fact). All they have is the individual decision making of a few hundred random people. Those people, however, are professional politicians - one can pretty much bank they have the training to read the writing spelled out by the latest polls, and will, in a kind of final sigh, hand Clinton her win and her mantel. And there's nothing in Clinton's character that would suggest that the first thing she would do is anything other than run as fast as possible from anything that even hints the word 'Obama.'

Yes, Wright was the shot across the bow that swiftly sunk this boat. Obama could have withstood months of pounding on this topic from the right-wing circus. But when the preacher got up on stage and proved to the world he was as unhinged as his detractors said he was, that was all she wrote.

The problem isn't that Obama's denunciation came a 24-hour news cycle too late. The problem is, for those of us who defended Obama admid the constant McCarthyistic accusations (his preacher is a radical; this man's politics of unity is a lie), the fact that Wright turned out to be as loony as the swiftboaters said he was, made all of us into fools, not the least of which, our candidate. Denounce as he might, Obama can't explain away why he didn't see this coming, or why his cracker-jack political team didn't act earlier to defuse the bomb. Either he didn't think Wright's predilection for rhetorical napalming would become as big a problem as it did - which suggests that Obama is potentially more provincial (and perhaps naive) than his stated platforms, a problem that turns him into an inexperienced liberal attempting to mascerade as a moderate (what his opponents mean by "slick"); or he was genuinely surprised by Wright's political suicide bombing, which calls into question his lauded judgement (what his opponents mean by "inexperienced"). Either way, those of us who defended Obama's twenty-year association with Wright as well as his opportunity to have things both ways during his eloquant speech on race, have to wonder now, what the hell was he thinking?

The problem is, I still like Obama. His politics is probably the most refreshing I've seen in years. Yes, using Wright to tar Obama is still McCarthyite tactics. But none of that is Obama's problem now, as he faces "white flight." Obama's problem is that he didn't see last Monday coming. He let a long-time friend and associate get on National TV and completely trash his entire campaign. I think voters can legitimately wonder, well, if Candidate Obama can be blindsided this badly by a friend of twenty years...can we really trust his judgement when he goes out on stage to form friendships with the likes of Putin, Amadinajad, and Kim Jong-Il?

My personal faith in Obama isn't shaken, because I always thought the "better judgement" meme was a load of crap. Obama doesn't have better judgement than Clinton or McCain. None of them know what the future will bring, which no-brainer vote today will seem like cowardace or triangulation tomorrow, or which dictator or President who seems trustworthy will suddenly go off the rails. But Obama has a better approach to policy. His stance against the gas tax holidy shows that. But sensible politics - that's boring. Wright is what's interesting. And as any crack prosecutor will tell you, Obama himself opened the door, by making judgement the central meme of his campaign.

I'm disappointed, sure. I thought, this time, we might actually be able to get somewhere, reverse the sinkhole this country has been falling into for the past eight years. But hey - I never thought Clinton was as bad as her detractors made her out to be, either. Certainly better than McCain. Now the decision rests with just 200 so-called "super" Democrats: if they want to take back the White House after eight years in the wilderness, will they have the audacity to leave behind hope? A tough nut, I grant you. I don't know what I would do, if I were one of them. But whatever they're going to do....they'd be better doing it sooner, rather than later. If the Wright fiasco has taught us anything, it's that.