Monday, August 30, 2010

Glenn Beck's non-political political rally

This past weekend, Glenn Beck held a rally on the footsteps of the Lincoln Memorial on the anniversary of Martin Luther King, Jr's, "I Have A Dream" speech. Critics of Beck, who hold that his views are contradictory to the message that Dr. King tried to spread, held their own counter-demonstration, marching to the Lincoln Memorial following the end of Beck's rally.

Beck insisted that his rally wasn't meant to be political -- even though he, a FOX News political commentator, was the MC, and Sarah Palin, potential Republican candidate for president in 2012, also spoke. Beck said that his message was more about bringing America back to its true principles, unifying everyone around them in hopes of restoring the values that this country holds dear.

Such a goal is noble -- until you realize that Beck's true ambitions are to unify the country around the principles and beliefs that HE holds, not what the country was founded upon or has traditionally adhered to.

Beck's message -- echoing his 9/12 project that runs along similar lines -- is that the American people need more of God in their lives.

"America today begins to turn back to God," Beck said. "For too long, this country has wandered in darkness."

Such a message runs contradictory to the founding fathers' beliefs that the nation's government needs to remain religiously neutral in order to allow everyone to be treated equally under the law.

The right to believe whatever you'd like transcends a democratic majority's belief that you must adhere to their principles. That's what the founders wanted for our nation, and that's how we've been running things ever since (or at least trying to). It's ironic that Beck would oppose such a notion -- his own faith, Mormonism, is protected by mob rule, which would likely "vote against" the religion were it put on a ballot.

The true principles of this country are not bound to any one faith, nor one religion's God, but rather the belief that the individual can choose their own path, can participate in any belief (or none at all) they wish to associate themselves with.

Beck's call for unity is a disguised attempt to label those who don't turn to God in government as un-American, which makes his non-political event a very political matter.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

My absence / Weekly review (RoJo, campaign spending up, mosque hysteria continues)

I've taken the past week off in order to refocus my thoughts, and to frankly have just time away from writing in general. That doesn't mean, however, that I haven't been paying attention to the latest stories and headlines. While I was gone I have been keeping them fresh in my mind for when I returned to Political Heat.
  • It was revealed this week that Republican Party senate candidate Ron Johnson's company, which he frequently touted as having never received any special treatment from the government, received special loans in the 1980s numbering in the millions of dollars. "I have never lobbied for some special treatment or for a government payment," Johnson has said. Clearly, Johnson has some homework to do, on his own campaign no less.

  • Political ad spending for 2010 has surpassed the amount of spending at this time in 2006 (the last midterm election year), and by all accounts this year's ads have been about the negativity. Two issues come about from this. First, it's become increasingly clear that Americans need to be super-wealthy millionaires (or even billionaires in Michael Bloomberg's case) in order to run a campaign. The only other option is to have serious campaign finance reform. The other issue is on whether negative campaign ads are really bad -- or are they good? -- for democracy. Consider this scenario: two candidates vying for the same office are exactly the same in every way, but Candidate A is willing to sell national parks to private contractors (who can in turn sell them to be developed) while Candidate B opposes this plan. Is it wrong for Candidate B to point this out in a campaign advertisement? Or is he obligated to? That said, campaign ads, when negative, need to highlight truth, not spin, in order to be acceptable (or, in other words, the only "good" campaign ads that are negative are ones that are based in truth).

  • The New York City mosque hysteria has continued, and sadly it has taken a turn for the worse. Two incidents in NYC perpetrated against peaceful American Muslims have come to light. The first involves a young man, who had volunteered in Afghanistan with an interfaith organization meant to bring different beliefs closer together, stabbed a taxi driver after discovering that the driver was a Muslim. A second man, heavily intoxicated, came into a mosque during nightly prayers, yelling anti-Muslim epithets while urinating on prayer rugs. These two incidents, as well as others like them (and there have been others 1 2), are clear indicators that the media in this country, specifically right-wing radio and FOX News, have successfully labeled the Muslim-American community in our nation as the enemies. What a terrible representation of what our founding fathers stood for, of what our nation has stood for since even before its founding.
  • Friday, August 20, 2010

    Ron Johnson: man of (no) principles

    Ron Johnson has had a difficult time sticking to his principles this campaign season -- perhaps because he doesn't have any.

    The Republican candidate for U.S. Senate, who is hoping to unseat current Sen. Russ Feingold this fall, has proven to be a formidable opponent for the thrice-elected Democrat. Several polls show Johnson just a few points under Feingold, with recent Rasmussen polls showing the Republican even leading him (see why that may not be so big a concern here).

    That's likely to change, however. Recent ads from the Feingold campaign have brought to light what kind of senator Ron Johnson would be were he to win election this November.

    One of the first ads detailed how Johnson, when asked about whether he'd be open to drilling for oil in the Great Lakes, said that "we have to get the oil where it is." Johnson later said he misheard the question (but only after the Feingold campaign released its commercial, weeks after the interview). Even so, Johnson's BP stock holdings, which number in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, as well as his recent defense of the oil company, paint a picture of a candidate who would be open to such drilling.

    Then there's the issue of the Second Amendment, the right to own a weapon. Speaking to a Tea Party crowd awhile back, Johnson expressed his support for gun rights -- with certain restrictions required, such as registering for a license to own one.

    "You know, like, we license cars and stuff, I don't have a problem with [licensing for guns]," Johnson said.

    Feingold responded to this quip as well. Feingold, a constitutional scholar, doesn't believe that licensing should be needed, that registering for a permit is what's needed. "You shouldn't have to wait in line at the DMV for your constitutional freedoms," Feingold says in his ad, Stuff.

    Following the ad, Johnson reversed course once again, stating that he misspoke earlier on the issue.

    "I'm a first-time candidate, and I made a mistake," he said.

    Can Wisconsin afford to have a first-time Senator make similar mistakes in Washington?

    Then there's the issue of global climate change. Ron Johnson, a skeptic on the issue, believes he knows why the earth is warming up. It's not from man-made problems, but from sunspots!

    "It's far more likely that it's just sunspot activity or just something in the geologic eons of time," Johnson said, adding that those who believe in man-made climate change were "crazy" and that the theory -- a generally accepted one among the world's leading scientists -- was "lunacy."

    Except Johnson's science doesn't hold up either. The "sunspots" theory was dismissed long ago, as this article from National Geographic shows us.

    It seems that Johnson's scientific theories are the one's that are crazy, not the scientific community's. And Feingold agrees: "I'm not going to take a course in Ron Johnson science any time soon," he said recently.

    The Johnson campaign is trying to paint Feingold as a "career politician," implying that he is out of touch with the average Wisconsin voter. Yet over the past few month that Johnson has been a viable opponent, he has proven more and more that he (Johnson) is the candidate who is out of touch, who doesn't understand the true sentiments of the people in this state.

    The question every voter in Wisconsin will have to ask themselves come November will be this: will they want an experienced public servant who has served Wisconsin dutifully over many years, who has held a consistent position on a variety of issues, thwarting even his own party in the process when necessary? Or will they want a businessman who can't keep his facts straight, who has never held any position within governance, who wavers on the issues, taking a stance one day then quickly changing his mind the next when he sees it's politically advantageous to do so (which shows he's never really thought them through), and whose interests don't always coincide with the average Wisconsin voter but rather with what's going to help his personal portfolio?

    For my money, the "career politician" -- the man with the experience and the know-how to get things done in Washington -- is the man we want representing our state. Inexperience isn't necessarily a disadvantage, but it is when you don't know what it is your doing (or saying, for that matter -- a problem Ron Johnson seems to have). A freshman senator needs to be ready to handle the job on day one. We can't expect Ron Johnson to do that. Russ Feingold, on the other hand, comes with both the experience and candor needed to represent our state, and has always worked with the interests of the people of Wisconsin in mind.

    A senator like Russ Feingold only comes around once in a lifetime; we shouldn't toss him aside simply because he's worked his whole life serving the people of Wisconsin.

    Thursday, August 19, 2010

    (Some) MN GOP: our women are hotter

    The Minnesota GOP has an interesting agenda. It isn't about jobs, the economy, the wars overseas, or even the Ground Zero mosque debate. Their major concern? Who has the bigger hotties!

    A web video in Minnesota State Senate Distrcit 56 was posted, playing music to images of women in politics, separating these women by which political party they aligned themselves with. During the Republican women montage (featuring overly flattering photographs of these women), "She's a Lady" played; during the Democratic women (which featured overly unattractive photographs), "Who let the Dog's Out?" was the song of choice, suggesting that Democratic women weren't all too good-looking.

    Democrats in the state have called the video sexist and offensive; the official state GOP has tried to distance itself from the video as well, condemning it as the work of those in the 56th Senate district.

    "The day when a woman was judged by her looks rather than her competence and intelligence should have passed three generations ago," said Brian Melendez, state party chair for the Democrats.

    A candidate seeking a seat in the state's legislature, Republican candidate Andrea Kieffer, also condemned the video, and requested it be taken down. The ad has since been removed from the site, and the GOP in Minnesota has since condemned it outright.

    It's commendable that most Republicans, too, would find such a web video distasteful. But the fact that a good handful of Republicans believe this rubbish (for I've seen this argument before), believe that it's a legitimate measure of how we should base whom we elect, is troubling. Not only does it unfairly categorize women as "hot-or-not," but it also suggests that the only women worth electing are ones that look good, and that this quality somehow trumps any other -- including the character and integrity of that woman, and the ideals she wishes to represent while in office to her constituents. We should base our votes not on the attractiveness of one candidate over another, but on values these candidates represent, as well as the issues they support or reject.

    This disrespectful display of women couldn't come at a more inappropriate time: this week was the 90th anniversary of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution, which granted women across the country the right to vote. On such a historic anniversary, some within the GOP in the state of Minnesota thought it was appropriate to ask voters to consider the "hotness" factor of female candidates rather than their intellect. Can you imagine the reaction these suffragists, who fought decades for such a right, would have had at the suggestion that only the "pretty" ones should have a place in government?

    The true promise of American democracy was that all were free to speak their minds, to express themselves, and that through this marketplace of ideas the best would flow forward. The Republicans who created this web video haven't obstructed that notion, but they have made a strong suggestion that aesthetic appeal, not the ideas that these women put forth, matters more. They should be ashamed of themselves.

    Monday, August 16, 2010

    Polling suggests Americans are more liberal

    Often with polling, certain questions get buried for whatever reason. With recent polling of President Barack Obama, there's been a steady pattern of a president losing the support of the American people. Many attribute this to his being "too liberal."

    They'd be wrong.

    A CNN research poll shows that Barack Obama's approval rating among the American people is dipping below the 50 percent margin, with 47 percent approving his work as president thus far and 51 percent disapproving.

    But when you break that poll down more, when you look at the reasons behind WHY his approval rating has dipped, it's clear that Americans want him to be as liberal or more liberal than he is being.

    46 percent of Americans believe he is being "too liberal." 39 percent of Americans believe he's "just right," while 13 percent believe he's "not liberal enough.

    This means that 52 percent of the American people are as liberal as, or more liberal than, the president. America is NOT a "conservative" nation, as some talking heads would have you believe. It's a very evenly divided nation, to be sure, but the American people are leaning more to the left as of today.

    The same poll shows that registered voters would pick the Republicans to lead Congress following the midterms. But among all Americans (which includes non-registered voters), the numbers flip flop: when you ask ALL Americans what they want, they want the Democrats to lead.

    Additionally, of those who are registered voters, 37 percent said they might change their minds by the midterm election -- which means it's still anyone's ball game.

    The discontent with Democrats is being popularized in the media as well. But among registered voters in the country, about the same amount believe that Republicans in Congress don't deserve re-election either. 58 percent of Americans wanted most Democrats out, while 55 percent wanted most Republicans out as well.

    And according to an MSNBC poll, Republicans are only "winning" in one region: the South. In all other regions, they're not -- in the Northeast, the Dems are leading by a huge margin (55-30 percent), in the Midwest by a decent margin (49-38 percent), and in the West, it's a statistical tie.

    So what's this all mean? First: Americans are liberal. At the very least, the country is more liberal than others would like us to think we are. A majority of us believe President Obama and Democrats are working either at just the right amount of "liberal" or could even go further. Second: the media's hype over the impending Democratic destruction this fall is overblown. Even if the Democrats lose seats this fall, it's likely not going to be to the extent we're being told it'll be -- Reagan had a lower approval rating than Obama currently has, and he only lost 27 seats in the House (Democrats need to lose 39 seats to lose power).

    In short: We are not doomed. Unless the sour mood continues between now and November, with a catastrophic event thrown into the mix that will damage Democrats even further, things will probably remain relatively the same, as far as who will run Congress in January 2011.

    Saturday, August 14, 2010

    Obama supports "right" of mosque being built blocks from Ground Zero

    President Obama this weekend threw his support behind an Islamic mosque to be built in an area close to where the 9/11 terrorist attacks occurred in lower Manhattan, New York city.

    The so-called "Ground Zero Mosque" -- which won't actually be located at Ground Zero, but will be built two blocks away -- has the full support of the president as well as NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who compared Obama's support for religious neutrality to that of George Washington in the early days of the U.S. republic when he supported a Jewish temple in Newport, Rhode Island.

    "The Citizens of the United States of America," Washington wrote, "have a right to applaud themselves for having given to mankind examples of an enlarged and liberal policy: a policy worthy of imitation. All possess alike liberty of conscience and immunities of citizenship. It is now no more that toleration is spoken of, as if it was by the indulgence of one class of people, that another enjoyed the exercise of their inherent natural rights. For happily the Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance, requires only that they who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens, in giving it on all occasions their effectual support" (Emphasis added).

    While won't say whether he believes it's a good idea to have a mosque in such a sensitive location, Obama endorses the right of any religion to place at any private property, with the permission of local zoning laws, a holy center for which members can take part in. This includes the area surrounding Ground Zero.

    Others were quick to criticize. Republican Congressman Peter King said, "It is insensitive and uncaring for the Muslim community to build a mosque in the shadow of Ground Zero. Unfortunately, the President caved into political correctness."

    King might be right; it may be insensitive to some for Muslims to build a mosque there. It may also be insensitive for a gentleman's club to be located near Ground Zero (such an establishment is already nearby, the same distance as the proposed mosque). The debate here, which King purposefully ignores, isn't about sensitivity but rather rights of people to have equal access to property in the area. Muslims have the same rights as any other people of any other belief system to that property, and that is what the president is supporting today.

    We must defend this right, for Muslims, Christians, Jews, atheists, Buddhists, Hindus, or anyone else. It matters not, in our great nation, what religion you are; each religious belief is welcomed here. It is a great sign of our strength as a people to allow a mosque near Ground Zero. Islam is not the enemy; it is those who pervert the beliefs of Islam, who attack Americans and others around the world due to that perversion, that we seek to defeat.

    The president recognizes that fact; so does Mayor Bloomberg. Hopefully the American people overall will recognize it as well.

    Friday, August 13, 2010

    Dr. Laura uses the N-word on the radio

    Dr. Laura Schlessinger, a conservative-minded radio personality that specializes in relationships (though her doctorate degree is in physiology), recently used the N-word several times on her program.

    She has since apologized for her use of the word, stressing that she doesn't condone its use but that she was attempting to make a philosophical point -- that it's hypocritical that some black people use it affectionately for each other while whites cannot use it at all.

    Philosophical or not, when you engage another person on a topic of great controversy, where hundreds of years of historical oppression are well-documented, you are required to be respectful, courteous, and mindful of the subject at hand. And if you do offend, you certainly don't exacerbate the problem by calling the person you're talking with "hypersensitive."

    The argument that it's "just a word" and that others use it so it's OK, doesn't make it OK to use it yourself. Words carry very strong emotions with them, emotions that are triggered by the historical context of those words you use. Calling a person a Nazi is likely to illicit a stronger response from a Jewish person in Germany than some random citizen walking in downtown Madison. Likewise, a white person who hears the N-word isn't going to be affected in the same way a black person would.

    It shouldn't be expected, then, by Dr. Laura or anyone else, that its use wouldn't cause emotions to flare, for some to feel greatly offended by anyone else who utters it.

    I do believe her when she says she's sorry. But she should have known better -- her actions show she is truly ignorant on the issue, and should make her listeners wonder how qualified she is to be giving out advice to them.

    Obama "worst president ever?" Sorry, Ben Quayle, but no.

    Ben Quayle, son of former Vice President Dan Quayle, is running for Congress in the state of Arizona. In an attempt to gain acceptance from conservative constituents in a state as crazy-right-wing as Arizona, Quayle has come out with a new campaign ad designed to appeal to a growing radical conservative base.

    In the ad, Quayle stares straight into the camera and calls Barack Obama the “worst president in history.”

    We shouldn’t be surprised by anything at this point from the right. From the unfounded belief in “death panels” in the health insurance reform debate, to the absurd notion that President Obama wasn’t born in the U.S., the fringe right has never once held back when it comes to trying to discredit the commander-in-chief, no matter how crazy the assertion they make is. Unfortunately, more and more of these “activists” are becoming leaders of the GOP, winning in important primary challenges and causing the Republican Party to move further right in order to appease them.

    The assertion made by Quayle sticks out for two reasons: first, it’s absurd that, in less than two years, a president that has seen more obstruction than any other president from an oppositional party, would even be able to be the worst president ever.

    And second, there have been plenty worse presidents that Barack Obama, who frankly hasn’t done anything to warrant the label of “worst president” himself.

    Here’s a short list I can come up with off the top of my head.

    John Adams and his allies in Congress passed the Sedition Act, which made it illegal to say or publish unkind words about the federal government. Andrew Jackson relocated the Cherokee Indians, despite a Supreme Court ruling and the rule of law, killing thousands in the Trail of Tears and the subsequent relocation. Herbert Hoover refused to assist those in need following the Great Depression. Franklin Roosevelt imprisoned an entire race of people on the west coast. Richard Nixon conducted a secret war in Cambodia and planted “wires” in the Democratic Party’s campaign offices. The Reagan administration sold weapons to Iran in order to fund a war in Central America. Bill Clinton had an illicit affair in the Oval Office. George W. Bush started a war based on mistruths, false pretenses, and lies, while ignoring another war that was based on a legitimate mission.

    Some of these presidents did amazing things, to be sure. Their “misdeeds” shouldn’t overshadow the important accomplishments, though at the same time their “greatness” shouldn’t overshadow their ill deeds as well. Still, when you consider the terrible atrocities that some presidents in the history of our nation have committed, and when you look at Barack Obama and consider what he has done thus far, the idea that he is the “worst president ever” seems a little loony.

    This is a man whose “misdeeds” include a bailout to the auto industry, a bailout that that very industry is now paying back; who helped pass a reformation of how health insurance companies can cover patients, with tax rebates to those who can’t afford to purchase insurance on their own and an eventual prohibition of “pre-existing conditions” as a precursor to denying a patient coverage; a man who helped reform Wall Street, who created a special position that will oversee the industry of stock-trading among those rich elitists who gamble with the lives of working men and women in America; who helped women in the workplace strive for that all-important goal of “equal pay for equal work,” allowing women to sue their employers if it is found out they have been paying less than their equal worth over years of dedication towards a company; who has provided a plan for a steady withdrawal of troops in the war in Afghanistan; who has appeased even the conservative base by providing a larger presence than any conservative president ever has of U.S. border guards between the Mexican border with the United States; and who has improved relations between our country and others throughout the world.

    If Ben Quayle is to include Barack Obama in the list of “worst presidents ever,” he’ll have a tough time defining under what criterion Obama fits that moniker. Because frankly, Obama has done a lot more good than bad; and what “bad” he has done is a matter of opinion, a normative belief that doesn’t carry over into empirical observations made by mainstream voters.

    Tuesday, August 10, 2010

    Iowa GOP wants to "restore" the "original" 13th Amendment, strip Obama's citizenship

    The Republican Party in the state of Iowa has placed on its platform a peculiar proposal: reintroduce the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution as introduced to the states around the year 1812.

    Of course, the current Thirteenth Amendment outlaws slavery. But an amendment proposed more than 50 years before – an amendment that would have been the Thirteenth had just one more state at the time voted to affirm it – would have banned any citizen of the United States from receiving “any present, pension, office, or emolument of any kind whatever, from any emperor, king, prince, or foreign power.”

    The punishment proscribed by Congress for doing so without its consent? The stripping of one’s citizenship.

    The point to all of this is that Barack Obama this year accepted a Nobel Peace Prize, an award bestowed to recipients by the King of Norway. The thinking here must be that, if it can’t be proven that Obama isn’t a citizen, then heck, let’s just find a way to STRIP him of his citizenship!

    Aside from the legal hurdle of prosecuting the president using ex post facto laws, the amendment itself would be a foolish one to pass. It would basically restrict all U.S. citizens from accepting gifts from any foreign powers of any kind. People in the private sector couldn’t even accept a gift from said powers, greatly limiting gifts from foreign dignitaries to private entrepreneurs. And that, my friends, is a stifling of the free market – something a conservative organization like the Iowa Republican Party would NEVER advocate!

    Obviously the Iowa GOP would love to strip Obama of his citizenship, alongside Jimmy Carter and Al Gore, also Nobel Prize recipients. But what about participants of Doctors without Borders (Nobel Peace Prize winners in 1999)? Should we strip the citizenship of all Americans who participated in the organization?

    How about removing Henry Kissinger’s citizenship rights (Nobel Peace Prize winner in 1973)?

    What’s the Iowa GOP’s stance on stripping Martin Luther King Jr.’s citizenship (Nobel Peace Prize winner in 1964)?

    What’s their stance on removing citizenship rights of every Quaker in the country (Nobel Peace Prize recipients in 1947)?

    Or how about we just go ahead and say that Republican President Teddy Roosevelt, a well-known traitor to his country (please note the sarcasm), should be stripped of his citizenship rights as well (Nobel Peace Prize winner in1906)?

    What about the countless gifts that presidents – both Democratic and Republican alike – have received from foreign dignitaries over the history of our nation? Is this proposal by the Iowa GOP really going to enforce anything against them? Or is it more likely that this proposal is a direct attack at the current president himself?

    What this proposal really amounts to is another attempt by a state Republican Party trying to appease its growing number of radicals within its base. By doing so, the GOP is showing us that it’s not a party of ideas, that it doesn’t have anything to offer voters besides blind hatred against a president whom they desperately want out of office, by whatever means necessary. The party of ‘no’ is a party of ‘no respect,’ a party that has ‘no real American values.’

    Wisconsin State Journal: wrong to call Feingold mudslinger

    Originally published at

    The Wisconsin State Journal this week ran an editorial about the slew of campaign ads hitting Wisconsin as of late, particularly the ads pitting Incumbent Sen. Russ Feingold against businessman and sometimes-Tea-Party-endorsed-sometimes-not-so-much Republican candidate Ron Johnson.

    The editorial attempts to appeal with the fatigue we all feel when campaign season rolls around in the Badger state: sometimes we're just so fed up with all the ads that November "can't come soon enough."

    Using the Senate race as the prime example, the Wisconsin State Journal tries to paint both candidates as overstepping their bounds when it comes to commercials they recently released. The Feingold campaign, the State Journal said, ran an ad stating that Johnson would support drilling for oil in the Great Lakes, while the Johnson campaign alleged that Feingold was no environmental champion, having voted against a bill that would have extended the ban on such drilling in the Great Lakes region.

    The Wisconsin State Journal rightly points out that Johnson's ad was a clear manipulation of facts. Feingold did indeed vote against such a bill, but it was only because the ban extension was part of a larger bill that Feingold opposed. One look at Feingold's Senate website shows that Feingold is a champion of environmental issues in the state of Wisconsin.

    But the Wisconsin State Journal wrongly chastises Feingold for stating that Johnson would allow drilling in the Great Lakes.

    "The premise of the ad was a somewhat vague response from Johnson when he was asked about his preferences on where to drill for oil," the State Journal wrote. "[Johnson] never said, 'Yes, I think we should drill in the Great Lakes.'"

    The suggestion that the Wisconsin State Journal is leaving us with is that Feingold is spinning Johnson's words somehow. In fact, Johnson was asked point-blank this year if he would support drilling in the Great Lakes region: "I think we have to just be realistic...we have to get the oil where it is," he said.

    So no, Johnson didn't say "We should drill in the Great Lakes." But he didn't answer "No" when asked if we should drill there either. Essentially, his answer was, "If there's oil there, we should drill there."

    The characterization of Feingold as a mudslinger is unfair, if you define slinging mud as being a baseless attack on another candidate. Feingold's accusations against Johnson are definitely merited, given the fact that Johnson said he would support drilling for oil where the oil is (alongside the fact that Johnson has strong economic ties to BP and believes the oil giant is being treated unfairly).

    The Wisconsin State Journal is wrongly labeling Feingold a mudslinger for bringing up facts that are...well, facts. And those facts couldn't be any clearer: Ron Johnson supports drilling where the oil is, even when asked if that includes the Great Lakes region. It's not slinging mud when it's the truth, and the Wisconsin State Journal should appreciate that fact, not deride Feingold for bringing it to the voters' attention.

    Friday, August 6, 2010

    Prop 8 ruled unconstitutional

    Earlier this week, U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker (no relation to myself) overturned Proposition 8, the ballot initiative that banned same-sex marriage within the state of California.

    In overturning the ban, Walker validated through his written opinion what many advocates of same-sex marriage have been arguing all along. Among his points he made were these:
  • Marriage isn't inherently a religious institution. Atheists are allowed to have a union recognized by the state as "marriage," for instance. Walker points out that having religion involved in marriage is a choice by those who want to include it within their ceremony -- so the justification that gay or lesbian couples can't wed based on religious principles doesn't hold up.

  • Like the religions components, the issue of child-rearing is one that doesn't need to be required in order to join two people together in marriage. A sterile couple can wed just as easily (and legally) as a fertile couple. The notion by Prop 8 supporters that the initiative helped promote child-rearing is flawed.

  • The belief that Prop 8 supporters held -- that homosexuality is an unnatural phenomenon -- is without merit. There is well-documented evidence of homosexual animals in nature, and even in the history of mankind, from prehistorical times to the present, homosexuality was not uncommon.

  • The belief that a same-sex marriage could affect a straight marriage is again an unfounded one. Nor will same-sex marriages have any affects on couples choosing to cohabit, who choose to have children outside of marriage, who choose to end their marriage through divorce, and so forth.
  • Looking beyond these facts, it's clear that there isn't a reasonable justification for banning same-sex marriage. But is there a constitutional right to allow gay and lesbian partners to wed?

    Judge Walker argues that there is. If we apply the 14th Amendment to the Constitution, there is an unjust prohibition against homosexuals in regards to marriage. If we allow straights to marry but not same-sex couples -- keeping in mind that there is no justification for barring these same-sex couples outside of the majority's personal preferences -- we are applying the law in an unequal fashion.

    Let's think of it in terms of licensure. The state is free to issue licenses for a variety of things -- driving, fishing, hunting, and so forth. In certain instances, it's justifiable to restrict certain people from having these licenses, usually through personal decisions these people have made in life. A person with incredibly poor driving skills can't be issued a driver's license, nor can a person with a violent criminal record receive a permit to own certain weapons.

    But it's not justifiable to restrict these licenses on the basis of a person's identity (with age restrictions being the exception to the rule). You can't restrict all black people from attaining a fishing license, for example, or all women a license to hunt -- there has to be a REASON for the denial, based upon the individual's actions in the past. From this point of view, it's clear that denying gays and lesbians the right to marry is unacceptable -- being homosexual is a part of their identity -- and even if it were a choice (which I maintain it is not), it is not one that would warrant the restrictions of liberties in the eyes of the state.

    Still, there may not be a constitutional "right" for gays and lesbians to wed. But that's precisely the point -- the right doesn't exist for gays and lesbians, but it doesn't exist either for straights. The government is free to create the title of "married," to allow two persons the right to enter into a contract with one another, whether based out of love or not. Discrimination based on sexual orientation violates the notion that the state cannot "deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law."

    Judge Vaughn Walker -- a Reagan appointment, it's interesting to note -- laid out an amazing argument against any state ban of same-sex marriage, one that will be difficult for any appellate court to contend. If it reaches the steps of the Supreme Court, hopefully the justices there, too, can take his words into great consideration.

    Sunday, August 1, 2010

    "Change" message can still work -- in the long-term

    "Change" is still a marketable idea. It resonates with Americans from all walks of life, from the rightest of TEA Party protesters to the furthest left of progressives.

    What matters in regards to "change" is whether the mainstream will view it as positive or negative once implemented. In 2008, voters overwhelmingly approved of the "change" now-President Barack Obama offered to them. In 2010, it's yet unclear if voters will sustain that notion, with much of it depending upon how energized both those who support and those who oppose the president's ideas will be.

    Obama right now is stuck -- still wanting to promote the "change" he endorsed two years ago, he knows that doing so will only fire-up his opponents' base. Abandoning the mantra altogether will cause his own base to lose faith in him, giving little incentive for them to come to the polls in November.

    He's damned if he does and damned if he doesn't. If he keeps up his message of "change," he'll risk losing big in 2010 -- not because Americans reject that message but rather because the opposing base will be that much fired-up.

    His best bet is to look long-term. It's become expected that every president loses seats in their first Congressional midterm "test." If Obama loses seats while staying on message, he won't lose as much of his base when 2012 rolls around.

    Presidential election years draw more mainstream voters in, while midterms are more likely to bring those who feel victimized by the current administration to the ballot boxes (whether that victimization is justified this year, however, is in serious doubt).

    Obama is going to lose seats in 2010 due to a stronger far-right conservative base coming to the polls. But that isn't a reflection of a shifting attitude of mainstream voters. If he wants to keep his base energized for 2012, and keep the mainstream voters interested in his message, he'll need to keep his message intact from here until then -- and he'll need to act on it as well.