First they came for the Jews
and I did not speak out
because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for the Communists
and I did not speak out
because I was not a Communist.
Then they came for the trade unionists
and I did not speak out
because I was not a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Catholics,
and I didn't speak up
because I was not a Catholic.
Then they came for me and there was no one left
to speak out for me.
~Martin Niemoller, Protestant Pastor and Social Activist, 1892-1984
If Martin Niemoller were alive today, I believe he would add gays and lesbians, as well as new immigrants, and people of color to this list. What happened in Nazi Germany can happen anywhere. What we are seeing in today's political landscape is what so many have feared -- with the rich getting richer, and the poor getting poorer, Americans have turned on each other. It's called scapegoating.
The New GOP has gotten more extreme every year, attempting to take away women's basic rights to health care, financial safety nets for the poor and the elderly, and our children's opportunity to succeed through public education. They blame our pain on us, and they target the most vulnerable among us -- gays and lesbians, American laborers, new immigrants, teachers and firefighters, people of color -- even minority children.
As we say in Judaism, "Enough!" "Dayenu!"
There is one antidote for scapegoating, and only one. It's when people of all stripes -- of all colors, all ages, all ethnic backgrounds, all religions, all sexual orientations, and all professions -- stand together and say, "This is our country. These are our bodies. These are our homes. This is our work. These are our beliefs. These are our choices. These are our friends. This is my life, and you are going to have to pry it from my cold, dead hands!"
I ask my straight friends and neighbors -- please stand with me on this year's Civil Unions Bill in Colorado. This bill is not just about giving compassionate equity to Coloradans who have been treated like second class citizens far too long, allowing them the same human dignities we enjoy and take for granted. It's not just about ensuring they can hold their loved one's hand at the end of life, or own a home together, or buy insurance policies together. It's not just about protecting their children's right to legal protections.
It's about holding tight to the America we love... the America that cares about every citizen, rich or poor, male or female, native or non-native, gay or straight. It's about fighting to hold onto what made this nation great -- it's diversity and it's compassion -- it's equality, it's dream, and it's potential.
As straight progressives, please stand with me every step of the way on the CO Civil Unions bill. Take a morning or afternoon off when it is time to testify. Bombard your legislators with phone calls, emails, letters, and faxes. Organize a rally. Start a letter, and get your neighbors to sign it with you.
Join me in speaking up, because when they come for us, we're going to wish someone's left to speak on our behalf.
When I was a little girl living three miles outside of Detroit in a small house with eleven residents (my parents and nine children), my Dad had regular poker games in our garage. The garage was a working garage with a grease pit to fix cars (a 6 foot deep rectangular hole), which he covered with several layers of plywood on weekend evenings, in order to have his regular poker game on top of it. (Ever seen the Roseanne show? It was just like that, only our kitchen was much smaller than theirs.)
Dad was deaf from a childhood accident, but he heard the language of the streets through beer, cigarettes, cars, and frequent "gut checks". Everyone from the shop was invited to poker night, no matter what their faith, color, ethnicity, language, bank account, religion, etc. The only rule to be invited to poker night was you couldn't drive a foreign car. (I talked a lot about that here.)
We had one television, one telephone, and ten people fighting over them, so I read often, and listened to Canadian public radio, where my liberal curiosity was nurtured. I loved meeting all my Dad's friends from "the shop" -- each had a different accent, a different smell, a different look. When I studied Native Americans, my Dad had a friend who was a Native American Chief, and my Dad asked him to teach us. Chief Red Bird, a local volunteer at a state park, brought his daughter and some friends, and had a mini-Pow-wow in our living room. He even made us leather slippers, which we wore when we visited him at Detroit Metropolitan State Park.
Dad didn't discriminate, at least not in the usual ways. Although my father quit school in the eighth grade and only later went back to finish the eleventh grade (there was no special education offered for poor deaf kids in the forties), he was an expert at people. Dad made friends with everyone -- literally everyone -- and he brought them all home for poker. Jewish friends, Italian friends, Greek friends, African-American friends, German friends, Asian friends -- didn't matter. As long as they didn't drive a foreign car, they were all his friends.
I don't feel very good about this country this morning, and as so many of us are I'm thinking of how Troy Davis was hustled off this mortal coil by the State of Georgia without a lot of thought of what it means to execute the innocent.
And given the choice, I'd rather see us abandon the death penalty altogether, for reasons that must, at this moment, seem self-evident; that said, it's my suspicion that a lot of states are not going to be in any hurry to abandon their death penalties anytime soon now that they know the Supreme Court will allow the innocent to be murdered.
So what if there was a way to create a compromise that balanced the absolute need to protect the innocent with the feeling among many Americans that, for some crimes, we absolutely have to impose the death penalty?
Considering the circumstances, it's not going to be an easy subject, but let's give it a try, and see what we can do.
So I took a bit of a break this past month, and I figured by the time I came back y'all would have things sorted out: people would be surely by flying around with jet packs by now, God would have sent fires and floods to smite the unrighteous, and, if I really got lucky, Barack Obama would have "grown a pair".
And now that I'm back, debt negotiations are about to commence between that same Barack Obama and the Republican Congressional Leadership, things like Social Security and Medicare cuts are apparently on the table in order to protect tax cuts for the rich, and certain quarters of the Republican Party aren't even trying anymore to hide their racism.
All of which suggests that I shouldn't be looking for a jet pack anytime soon.
But there is some good news: God is apparently working hard, and states like Oklahoma and Arizona and Florida and Georgia and Texas have been alternately aflame or aflood, apparently as a result of their unrepentant behavior...and on the economic front, New York City's Stonewall Inn is going to make a ton of money this summer hosting weddings.
That gives us a lot to talk about...so let's get right to it.
To my great chagrin no one in the national media has picked up the Bodineism meme, but they are starting to get the picture that there are some elected officials, particularly Republican elected officials, are about as dumb as sack of hammers.
The particular Jethro that I am talking about today is Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky. Of all the folks that I have compared to Jethro Bodine, Sen. Paul is probably the closet to the mark. By all accounts he is a pretty genial guy with a good smile and a nice manner. He is also so clueless as to be a text book (given that all books are printed in text, wouldn't that make them all text books?) example of self-satire.
Most recently Sen. Paul (gods greater and lesser that gives me chills just writing it, ugh) has managed to trample the 1st Amendment with his "ideas". Some of us on the Left side of the Blogasphere were more than a little happy that he was holding up the PATRIOT act renewal, by wanting to insert some amendments that would lessen the ability of the government to spy on its own citizens.
That was a good thing, but it does not mean that he was doing it from a deep understanding of the Constitution. You see after his ploy failed he went on Sean "The Manatee" Hannity's radio show and said the following:
I'm not for profiling people on the color of their skin, or on their religion, but I would take into account where they've been traveling and perhaps, you might have to indirectly take into account whether or not they've been going to radical political speeches by religious leaders. It wouldn't be that they are Islamic. But if someone is attending speeches from someone who is promoting the violent overthrow of our government, that's really an offense that we should be going after - they should be deported or put in prison.
Thank you for your assistance in bringing together workers from every walk of life: teachers, firefighters, police officers, government employees, nurses, union members, people of faith, civil rights activists, environmentalists and many others. Thank you for giving us a reason, and a renewed commitment, to publicly declare that we stand together in solidarity to protect the middle class, and to ensure justice for workers. Thank you for helping us find our voice for democracy, and our passion for equal opportunity to the American Dream.
We all know how the U.S. justice system works. You're arrested, then tried, found guilty for a crime, then the court looks around for a different crime they are going to sentence you for. What? That is not how you think it is done? Well if you are a Guantanamo Bay detainee like Al Bahlul that is exactly what is going on today.
Mr. Bahlul was part of the original prisoners brought to Guantanamo Bay nearly a decade ago. After serving several years without charge or conviction, he finally got a trial. He was charged and convicted on conspiracy, solicitation and providing material support for terrorism.
In the process of his appeals there has been a new administration, a Supreme Court decision, a reshuffling of the Court of Military Commissions Review (the appeals court in the Military Commissions system) and a decision that the appeal be held en banc (meaning that the whole appellate court heard the appeal). At this point the government has all but agreed that the charges that they originally convicted him on were not established at law-of-war offenses either under international law or U.S. law at the time they were committed.
This is an important fact as the U.S. Constitution bars ex post facto convictions Article One, Section 9 prevents the Congress from passing ex post facto laws. What this means is that you can not be held accountable as a matter of law for a crime that was not as crime at the time you committed it.
News is suddenly moving so fast that it's becoming hard for me to keep up; that's why we're not finishing the story today that we just began Tuesday. You know, the one about Titan Cement suing two North Carolina residents who appear to be doing nothing more than speaking the truth.
Unfortunately, other important news has forced itself to the front of the line, and it's going to demand that we break schedule, whether we like it or not.
That's why today we're going to be talking about Wisconsin, and how workers there are fighting back against the State's Republican legislators and Governor, who seem to have gone out of their way this past three weeks to govern without the consent of the governed.
It's kind of chilly today in Wisconsin...but I can assure you, things are heating up fast-and it ain't because of spring.
We have spent the past two years watching as insanity has gripped Congress, and even more so with Republicans now running the House.
We have a wavering President, far too many feckless Democrats, and Republicans that have decided to dive headfirst into total "insane mode" in a full-blown effort to destroy this country just as fast as possible.
To give but one example, in my own District, WA-08, we are represented by the absolutely useless Republican Dave Reichert, whose best-known legislative achievement is that he has virtually no record of any legislative achievement whatever.
Now we've had a very interesting relationship, you and I, over these past few years; in my efforts to "bring you the story" I've been a fake political consultant, a fake lobbyist, even a fake historian...and now, I think it's time to try to bring our relationship to a new level.
And that's why, America, I'm announcing my fake candidacy for Congress.
So the Westboro jackasses are going to be going to the funeral of the 9 year old victim of Jared Loughner's shooting spree. And they are going to get exactly what they want, outrage, attention and law suits. The State of Arizona is going to try to keep them away form the funeral, and they are going to lose. Which as much as it pains me to say is the proper thing.
You see the Westboro faux religionists are not in it to bring people to their deity with the message that "God Hates Fags". They could not care less about the state of your soul or if the nation reverses its trend towards full rights for gay citizens. They aren't in it for politics or religion, they do this for the money.
Go and vote. At this point I can't say much that will influence you as to who to vote for (as if I ever could) but go vote. It is one of your responsibilities as a citizen, and none of us should fail to fulfill it. 234 years ago today General Washington was on the run. His forces had been surprised at Chatterson's Hill and he was forced to retreat at night in order to avoid being decimated.
The War of Independence had been going on since before the Declaration, but now it was full blown and in earnest. The signatories to the Declaration had made their stand for an idea that was the United States and faced charges of treason if they were captured. They had pledged their lives, fortunes and scared honor to found a nation on the idea of equality (if a limited and flawed one) and they would fight for it until they won or were destroyed. They won and our nation was born. So go vote for the idea the Founders started.
It's been a few days now since we began a conversation that addresses the issue of how frustrated some number of LBGT voters are with the Democratic Party this cycle; this because they find themselves either frustrated at the lack of progress on the civil rights issues that matter to them, or because they see both the Democratic and Republican Parties as unreliable partners in the struggle to assure equal rights for all.
In an effort to practice some actual journalism, I assembled a version of an online "focus group" at The Bilerico Project ("daily adventures in LBGTQ"), with the goal of gathering some opinions on this subject in the actual words of those frustrated voters.
Part One of this story focused on "stating the problem", and today we'll take on Part Two: in this environment, with Election Day staring us in the face, what is an LBGT voter to do?
As before, there are a variety of opinions, including a very informative comment I was able to obtain from a genuine Member of Congress, Patrick Murphy of Pennsylvania's 8th District, and that means until the very end you won't hear much from me, except to help "set the stage" for the comments that follow.
Okay, call me a dope if you must but I just can't figure out what the hell the "radical homosexual agenda" that so many conservatives talk about actually is. Yeah, yeah, you could insert a lot of sexual identity jokes here, but really that just plays into stereotypes about our gay citizens. The fact is, and most of you will be able to confirm this from your own experience is that gay, lesbian, bisexual citizens span the same range of good, bad, conservative and liberal as those who are heterosexual.
Just take a look at the Log Cabin Republicans (a group who has the best ability to compartmentalize and segregate concepts that I have ever seen), here is a Republican gay rights group. Almost a oxymoron in and of itself. Yet these are conservative gay citizens who support most of the Republican agenda.
There are times in the life of a nation when ideas and attitudes that have been part of the conventional wisdom shift and there is very little that the forces of intolerance and the status quo can do about it. It seems we are reaching that point with the issue of full rights for our gay citizens. The recent decisions in the Proposition 8 case and the Don't Ask, Don't Tell (DADT) policy in California point are good indicators of this change.
While neither of these cases are finished by any means (though the issue of standing is one on Prop 8 is likely to end it at the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals) the rulings by the judges in each case have been devastating to the premise that our gay citizens are some how so different from the rest of us that they can be treated with a different standard of law.
You know, it seems like every time I write a letter I have to begin by apologizing for not having written in so long, and that's the case again today.
We only get a few days of real summer up here every year, and I was out having fun at golf tournaments and doing a bit of climbing around the local hills-and you know, I do love doing a bit of nothing at all from time to time-but while I was away, things have gotten even crazier than usual around here...and I'm sorry to say, you've been on the pointy end of the crazy stick, which is something that never should have happened.
Things have been so nutty that you're probably thinking America has something against Islam-in fact, you might be wondering if we have something against our own Constitution.
Well, we don't, most of us, and I'll take a few minutes today to help y'all understand just what is going on in this country.
The airwaves (and the print and blog waves, for that matter) are filled with the news that a Federal Judge in California has declared that State's Proposition 8 to be unconstitutional, which could clear the way for the resumption of same-sex weddings in the State.
Ordinarily, this would be the point where I would present to you a walkthrough of the ruling, and we'd have a fine conversation about the legal implications of what has happened.
I'm not doing that today, frankly, because the ground is already well-covered; instead, we're going to take a look at some of the tactics that were used to pass Prop 8, as they were presented in Judge Vaughan's opinion.
It's an ugly story-and even more than that, it's a reminder of why it's tough to advance civil rights through the political process, and what you have to deal with when you're trying to make such a thing happen.
Depending on what study and what definitional criteria one wants to use the number of LGTB citizens is between 4% and 20%. It does not matter at all to me what this number is as I have had gay and lesbian family members, close (best) friends and acquaintances all my life. They were never "my lesbian friend" or "my gay cousin" they were just the people in my life and that they were family or a good friend has always been a hell of a lot more important than who they liked to frolic under the sheets with.
Still the fact of their sexuality was always an issue. Even if I didn't care, the rest of the world seemed to and this made them have to lead their lives differently for fear of being attacked or just legally discriminated against. It still breaks my heart on a daily basis to see good people who just want to live their lives like every other citizen having to hide or downplay what and who they are because of the irrational prejudice against them.
What do you do when it becomes clear you're going to lose on a political issue? Depending on the issue you might get depressed, you might feel cynical about the whole situation, you might get really angry. Or if you are a conservative group like the Family Research Council or American Family Association, you might lose you freaking mind and start saying and supporting things that can only be described as bat-guano insane.
As the compromise on Don't Ask, Don't Tell repeal has taken form the uber conservative and falsely named Family Research Council has pulled out all the stops. Yesterday they rolled out a so-called study claiming that an end to DADT will mean a free-rape zone in the military. Talking Points Memo reports:
Here's how the Family Research Council envisions things going if Don't Ask, Don't Tell is repealed: first, more straight soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines will be fellated in their sleep against their will. Then, commanders afraid of being labeled homophobes will refuse to do anything about it. Eventually, the straight service members will quit out of fear.
On a conference call with reporters today, FRC Senior Fellow for Policy Studies Peter Sprigg delivered the results of what he said was the first-ever study of "homosexual assault" in the military. Joined by several former military officers opposed to allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly in the armed forces, he warned Congress that the DADT repeal language currently under discussion with the agreement of the White House will turn the U.S. military into a terrifying free-rape zone where no heterosexual is safe.
STOSSEL: because private businesses ought to get to discriminate.
(I)t should be their right to be racist.
"I want my country back"
Back to when? 1963? or 1910? or 1810?
When Rosa Parks was thrown off of a bus for refusing to sit in the back in accordance with discriminatory Jim Crow laws it helped begin the Civil Rights movement.
It was racist then, and it would still be racist now.
Except, of course, if you are a libertarian or a Republican.
In the last 24 hours, both Kentucky Senate candidate Rand Paul and Fox News Corp employee John Stossel have made the case that it is OKAY to throw Rosa Parks off the bus if it is owned by a private business.
In my professional life (such as it is) I am a 6 Sigma Black Belt. For those who don't know (most of you probably) that is a process improvement project manager. One of the tenets of Six Sigma is that you have to design the process to meet the needs of the customer, whoever that is. It is simply summed up as starting with the end goal in mind. This is applicable and important when we are talking about politics as well.
In the middle of policy fights, it is easy to get narrowly focused on the minutiae of the policy itself, while losing sight of the overall goals. This is even more of a problem when one does not have an overall set of goals in the first place.