Friday, February 13, 2004

And they're off!

Back to the 2004 Presidential race. Bush has decided that Kerry has already won (as has most of the media and everyone but Howard Dean and John Edwards die hards), so he decided to put out his first direct attack ad (or first ad) that named just one candidate, instead of "Angry Democrats" [aka Howard Dean].

The ad, of course, is online so that he won't have to put his mug on there and say, "My name is George W Bush, and I support this message because..." Don't ask me what his reason for slandering Kerry is, oh wait, "...I want to be re-elected." True, I have made charges of hypocrisy on Kerry's part for starting this message. Here's the solution as I see it: Fire Bob Shrum.

That way, you kill the messenger of this lame message that flopped for Al "the people vs. the powerful" Gore and you make Harold Ickles Jr. happy and that is good for Kerry because he controls about $100 Million that he will spend against Bush between now and the official nomination.
The Morning After

It seems clear to me that the leadership couldn't attract enough votes (101) to pass their bill so they adjourned until March 11th, much to my dismay. In fact the internal state house news says, "Lacking the votes to pass a
constitutional amendment limiting marriage to one man and one woman only
while authorizing civil unions for gay and lesbian couples, House and
Senate leaders let their proposal wilt without a vote Thursday night.

The move underscored the inability of legislators over two full days to
draft a consensus marriage amendment. After three close votes and endless
behind the scenes negotiations, it became clear that the Legislature is too
divided right now to make progress on any amendment."

In the meantime, we continue to get gems such as these:

"God, very specifically, told Adam and Eve (one man & one woman) to 'be fruitful and multiply.' Two men or two women cannot do that. God did not intend that. Please stand against same sex marriages and please stand up for the Lord and what he tells us to do. Like I tell my children all the time, think about the end results of your actions. America was very fast to pray to God when the tragedies of 9/11 happened. Will God continue to protect us if we continue to ignore his teachings? Maybe so, because he's God, and He loves us no matter what. But, maybe not because he loves us. Tough Love, ya know? Please vote against such a law as licensing gay marriages. Thank you, Dianne Latour, LA "

So are you planning on annulling marriages between infertile or impotent couples? It is ok to be married as long as there is viagra? Calling ex-Sen. Bob Dole Are people like Senator Kerry, who have had prostate cancer and had their "tubes tied" effectively be operations unable to continue to be married? I think not. Marriage is about a lot more than procreation. True that is important, but I feel that with 7 billion or so people on the planet, humans are far from being extinct any time soon.

Marriage is about mutual commitment, love and responsibility between two invididuals that does not, dramatically increase the likelihood of genetic abnormalities due to a kiddie-sized gene pool. This definintion precludes poligomy, beastiality, sibling/parental marriages, marriages between children or adults and children, and so on. There is no slippery slope that some folks talk about. We are never going to have to amend the constition to allow people to marry their animals or multiple partners or whatever.

I would also like to give a shout out to my boss, without naming, of course. Great speech over these last two days. We have already gotten several emails from around the country (Alabama, Pennslyvania, Michigan, New York, and Massachusetts) praising the speech. This is from a man in Alabama:

"I want to thank you for your comments when you addressed your colleagues at approximately XXXX [blacked out to preserve boss' identity]. Your words were very inspiring and I truly appreciated them after hearing so much spin regarding the issue of gay marriage on most of the cable news networks. I felt that you cut through to the essence of the issue. Hearing you speak made me more proud to be a citizen of this nation than I've felt in some time. You are indeed a credit to your district and they should be proud to have you serving them.

Perhaps some day the socio-political climate in this beautiful State I live in will allow for the same level of measured, open-minded, and open-hearted discourse as I witnessed tonight.

Thank you for being a voice of reason, a champion for the dignity and liberty of ALL people. Thank you for holding up a light of hope in a time when the darkness of fear leads some to say that gay marriage threatens the very foundation of our society. It is sadly ironic that an amendment which would enshrine discrimination of any form in the Constitution would in fact threaten the true foundation of our society: the equality of ALL people."

This is from a constituent:

"Dear X,

I just finished watching this evening proceedings at the State House. I wanted to drop you a note to say that I am extremely proud to have you as my X. What you spoke about tonight must have taken serious courage. I would imagine the pressures of local, state and national religious and "family" groups must be very strong, but you have stuck by your convictions and I appreciate that.

I actually have wanted to send you a note many times lately to tell you that I think you have done a wonderful job. I know that I supported Chris in the election, he is a close friend, but you have certainly proven yourself far more than worthy of the position. If there is anything I can do to help you in your future elections please let me know.

One final note; when I moved out to San Diego for graduate school, I received my Master's Degree in Leadership Studies. My favorite professor of Leadership used to say that true leadership is the rubbing up against the defined/standard morals and values of society to bring upon positive change. This is exactly what I heard in your speech tonight. This fight that you have taken on will positively impact many generations of people in our state and country.

Again, I am very proud to have you as my State X. Your leadership has not gone unnoticed.


Thursday, February 12, 2004

March 11th.

Great! About another month's worth of angry calls, emails, and letters. Can't wait! [I hope you sense the sarcasm]
I think this is going to be an even more narrow vote than before. Some folks in the gallery are getting antsy. I tell you, there were hundreds of pro-gay marriage and anti-gay marriage, and dozens of members of the press from around the globe all surrounding the house floor like an armed camp. This is history folks. They will burn the midnight oil folks.

I am hoping that the amendment fails but I think the leadership won't let them go until they approve at least one amendment. The pro-DOMA folks are chanting "We want to vote!" out side so loudly that they shut the door and may have to call in the gestpo dressed state troopers to move poeple or remove them (one trooper got out her camera to take a picture of these historic protests).
Took my boss' advice

I am home now, after I saw my boss and her colleagues meeting in hearing rooms to caucus about the third compromise "Finneran-Rodgers-Travaglini-Leeds-O'Flaherty" amendment. I think Andrew Bayer is correct that they don't have a good hard whip count on this latest bill, and members don't feel comfy voting for it since they have never laid eyes on it.

Stay tuned with me as we go back live at 10:05 EST.

More funny business

Andrew Bayer makes a good observation: "Travaglini just tried to adjourn the Constitutional Convention until March 10th. Seriously. It's looking like his attempt is going to fail and they're going to go past 9. Gotta think they don't have the votes to pass the amendment yet..."

I have no clue about their whip system. But it seems like they have no clue. There are loud cheers again coming from the Great Hall, where gay rights folks are watching it on TV.
Boss: compromise will win

My boss just called me. Told me to go home. The expectation is, that they will be done by 9 and "they don't have enough votes to hold it [the third compromise from passing]."

We will see if the boss is right.
Third time's the charm?

This new one seems to be more likely to pass...All the votes have been so damn close. This one allows for all the rights except the right to call a same-sex union a marriage. No one knows hows it is going to go.

If they can't get it done tonight, then they will start back up on the 23rd! That's right they take the week off for MA winter school vaction for more arm twisting. I too am holding my breath.
While you are waiting for the next vote

I walked up to the Members' Lounge, and the scene was amazing. Hundreds of people, gay and straight, crowded around with their signs and stickers while some sang "God Bless America" (before that they sang My Country Tis of Thee, the Star Spangled Banner, and America the Beautiful).

I entered into the Lounge and said hello to Representative Walsh, who gave his first ever speech on the House floor today. It was a pretty good one, so I congradulated him. It looks like the Senate and House leadership just offered their next compromise admendment. Stay Tuned.
Sample Email

Dear Honorable Dignities:

What happened to the world? Are they getting stupid or crazy?
Even the Animals, Birds & Fish know that their mates are from the opposite sex. Males and females they are created and this is the only way to get together. This is the only way to multiplicate on earth. Otherwise is from the lust of the hearts. Are we going to change the nature just to please the minorities whose hearts full of dirty lust?
Hope you dear friends in authority do not let this to happen.

Your good citizen,
Mansour Boutros
Suddenly, I am famous

To you ten normal readers, thanks. For those pointed here by Altrios or BOPNews, welcome.

UPDATE: The Travis amendment, the primary DOMA bill that started this whole mess, lost 96-103. [my boss voted no]

The gay rights supporters in the Great Hall are cheering wildly. And I am happy too, because I don't think intolerance and bigotry should be inshrined in the MA constitution. Plus, I am happy because I just snuck up to the Members' lounge and got some food. I had some pasta, salad, and an eclair, if you are curious.

Another blogger, Andrew Bayer is blogging based on what he is seeing on TV. I am glad he too is covering this and pointing to my site. Excellant coverage. I can't post as often becuase I have to answer the phone and all the bigoted emails. If people are curious, I can post some of them.
A Point of Parliamentary Inquiry

This is the way MA lawmakers get to interrupt speakers debating the same-sex marriage issue. And my question is, why is Tom Finneran considered a leader? For years, he wouldn't let Civil Unions come up for a vote. He basically forced the hand of the SJC in the Goodridge case. He pulled a parliamentary stunt to get his amendment heard first, and it failed. Later last night, he gaveled the session over for the day despite clearly losing a voice vote on adjournment.

Now, this supposedly polite and proper debate is getting nastier and nastier. St Rep. Marie Parente (D) was droning on and on about her background as a foster kid and Italian American and how she isn't "anti-color" which a assume means racist in 1930s English. I learned one thing from her, however, appearantly the word "Nasty" comes from Thomas Nast's anti-Catholic political cartoons. Speaker Finneran tried to interrupt her to adjourn "briefly" but she talked right through him several times, stating that lawyers briefs were anything but. Then Finneran just turned off her microphone and gaveled the session adjourned to get rid of her.

Next, the members and Senators will be meeting behind closed doors to see the first glimpses of the latest "compromise" bill, which is a compromise between Finneran and Travaglini I guess, since nobody else has any clue what it in it. It is an all out effort to prevent Rep. Travis' amendment from making it to the floor.

After all, this is a guy that complained about "white slaves" in his speech today. But the best speech of today was Sen. Barrios, who told a personal tale of how his son got sick (104.5 degree fever) once and he couldn't take him to the hospital, because the papers had his partner listed as the parent and not him. He spoke eloquently and, in my view persuasively, about how a DOMA would, in fact preclude any civil marriages.

He cited California, and Pennsylvania, and Georgia and on and on. He explained that over and over again, those who pushed DOMAs, and who at the time promised that this wouldn't prevent civil unions or any rights for same-sex couples. Yet, after such DOMAs passed, they actively fought in the state courts to prevent such unions or rights and won. So either real civil unions now, or full gay marriage, or full ban on all gay unions, there are no real other options. In my view, only the first two are remotely palatable.
Day 2

Last night, something amazing happened: MA state lawmakers voted twice against their leadership. The final vote, a compromise measure by Senate President Travaglini and the Miniority Leader Leeds, failed 104-94 (101 needed to pass).

The first vote on Speaker Finneran's amendment was even closer, 100-98. But his crafty maneuvering is what spelled this measures doom (that and the patently flimsy promise of civil unions). "Do not be seduced by this piece of paper," said Representative Michael E. Festa, a Melrose Democrat. "We throw them not even a fig leaf. We throw them half a piece of paper, and say, `Trust us.' "

Now, the leadership thinks that it has another solution. No not letting the members vote on its own bills and amendments, but another one of their own. The Globe's Rick Klein reports that "Last night, Finneran allies began drafting several new approaches. The one most likely to emerge early in proceedings today was drafted by one of Finneran's top deputies, House Ways and Means Committee chairman John H. Rogers.

The Rogers amendment would ban gay marriage and establish civil unions, though it would not explicitly identify as many rights and benefits as the Travaglini approach." I am betting on another thumbs down.

The atmosphere in there is tense. The building is besieged by two diametrically opposed interests, with Christian conservatives praying for the souls of pieced homosexuals. The press have set up their own den outside the house floor and now I get a sense of what it must have been like to live in Vicksburg, MS during the Civil War. The members lounged was filled with gossiping members and catered food.

One plan, which was somewhat foiled, was that the liberals would vote for the Travaglini amendment to go to 3rd reading (where, true to form, they don't actually read it) at which point they would vote against it to have NO constitutional amendment on gay marriage and the court ruling would be in full force. The bill failed to make it to 3rd reading, and despite members interest to hear openly gay Senator Jarret Barrios' amendment or the original Representative Travis DOMA (both Democrats believe it or not). Members spoke emotionally, although I wouldn't necessarily say eloquently. For my taste, there were too many citations of JFK, RFK, MLK, the Bill of Rights, the Declaration of Independence, and Lincoln. Better were cases when Afro-American members got up and spoke about their first hand experiences of being discriminated against and being second class citizens. It is much better than a white Jewish woman from the wealthy suburbs of Newton talking about the historical persecution of Jews. True, it did happen and 6 million murdered was beyond words (that's why they call it The Holocaust), but it is not comparable.

The speaker and the senate president conspired to stop the proceedings last night after their amendments failed. We start all over at high noon today. Stay tuned for more posts as I can make them.

Wednesday, February 11, 2004

Closed Curcuit

Finneran has tried a terrible stunt to short curcuit the long proceedings. While the Senate 's Bipartisan compromise bill was supposed to be introduced and speak, the Speaker basically cut in line and introduced his first.

The effect? If his admendment passes (which would try to stall the issuing of marriage licenses and then never make civil unions available) no one could vote on the Senate bill. This is the worst move I have ever seen, in full view of the entire gallery and the 198 other members of the MA General Court (state legislature). I sure hope he not only loses this vote but also loses his power. All the parlimentary manuvers in the world can't disquise the fact that you are a horrible, lying human being. Go ahead, fire me, Tommy boy.
Profiles in Courage

If JFK's ghost writer Ted Sorenson had was still penning that famous book, he might just have to add a chapter on the Massachusetts State Legislators, finally.

In fact, In an indication of the anger and emotion at the State House, State Rep. Charles Murphy (D), who has been critical of House leadership, called on MA House Speaker Thomas Finneran (D) to resign. Murphy blamed Finneran for failing over the years to allow floor votes on civil union and domestic partnership bills pushed by gay rights advocates. Murphy said the court case that led to the SJC decision might have never occurred had the House worked with the Senate on gay rights legislation.

"Tom Finneran has gotten us into another constitutional crisis," Murphy
said. "He's been sitting on this. He's an embarrassment. And I think, quite frankly, Tom Finneran should resign. I am not happy with his leadership. We need new leadership in this House. I'm pissed. I'm tired of it." Finneran, who is known for his ruthless wielding of power, was not immediately available to comment.

While it is true that the legislature has punted serveral times on the issue while Goodridge was being decided, they agreed to face the music today.

The vote will be close. No one knows how it will come out, although it might be likely that a ban on gay marriages is directly tied to approving civil unions in the constitution. Although the leadership wants this, the far right and far left and working overtime to kil it.
“This hurts us,” said Arline Isaacson, co-chair of the Massachusetts Gay
and Lesbian Political Caucus. She worried the amendment would undercut
support for same-sex marriage by offering lawmakers an alternative that
appears to be equitable to gays and lesbians. MA Senate President Travaglini (D) said it is equivalent in the rights it confers. Isaacson told the State House News that civil unions offer 1,000 fewer benefits – for example hospital visitation rights in other states. MA Gov. Mitt Romney (R) and other opponents of gay marriage have said they oppose enshrining civil unions in the state Constitution.

After hundreds of calls and letters, my boss decided to stick to her conscience and not bow to the whims of those who had called and written to threaten her political life. The more calls I get from people detesting "fudge packers," the more I am inclined to agree with my boss and not let the people vote on this issue in 2006. Clearly, gay and lesbians are in the minority. And while Massachusetts has a liberal reputation, the Catholic church is working overtime to defeat this bill.

Speaking of votes, political lives and so on, my dream candidate, General Wesley Kanne Clark (Retired), is appearantly bowing out of the race today after finishing distant third in Virgina and a more narrow third in Tennesse. Kerry, of course, won both states handily

It all leaves me extremely sad and wondering what went so wrong? I think Clark has the answer: "I wish I had, too. Everything might have been different" -- Clark, in response to a supporter who said he should have competed in IA. It was all about momentum. No one knows much about Kerry, except he served in Vietnam and vowed to be tough. His special interests Bob Shrum speech isn't doing it. It is the fact that he won IA from behind, and then didn't lose until OK and SC, but then won all the rest. He is seen as a winner because he has won primaries and caucus, not because he is actually electable. It would have worked about the same way for Edwards and maybe even Dean (although I think the South won't have been as kind to him).

Another trouble with Clark is that he was a mix of Kerry, Edwards, and Dean; all the good parts in my opinion. But unfortunately, he wasn't polished and although he got better towards the end, the mistakes in the fall cost him dearly. Clark could really differentiate himself from Dean, but when the race flipped on its head, he had no contrast for Kerry, no way of winning back. The same could be said of Edwards, Lieberman and so on. That inability to turn on a dime sunk him. Clark's best time was December, his worst obviously, was February 10th.

Tuesday, February 10, 2004

12 PM Exits: Kerry crusin'

According to Daily Kos, here are the results from TN and VA:


Kerry 46
Edwards 28
Clark 15
Dean 7


Kerry 48
Edwards 25
Clark 11
Dean 8

Doesn't look good for Clark. Will he drop out before Wisconsin? Seemed like he said he wouldn't. Dean also decided not to drop out if he loses Wisconsin (where he is currently in 4th place and 38% of primary voters say he is the nominee they DON'T want). But at least Clark won a state and has picked up 80+ delagates since NH. Dean will look like a sore loser if he stays in too long. He is not going win any states on Super Tuesday.

So will it be Edwards vs. Kerry soon? It really seems more and more that Edwards is content to be VP. There are sightings of Edwards folks watching Kerry on TV and cheering and vice versa.
Gay Marriage issue brings out the best in folks

Quote of the Day: "This civil rights thing isn't for them [gay and lesbian people], it's for race people." --Barbara Monroe of Framingham, Mass.

By "Race People" I assume she means African-Americans, although who knows. Mrs. Monroe continues, "I mean, even the animals have more sense than some people! A male dog doesn't just jump another male dog." Again, I am not sure if dogs have homosexuality, but chimpanzees do, as do giraffes and other animals. So it is not like it is completely unique to humans and some tormented person.
The Return of Al Gore and why he turned Dean

This weekend, Al Gore addressed his fellow Tennessee Democrats at an J-J Dinner (Jefferson-Jackson) which brought the crowd to their feet several times, and as Slate's Chris Suellentrop remarks, had the spirit of '76-- 1976.

"We have seen an administration which in my view more closely resembles the Nixon-Agnew administration than any other previous administration," he said. "There's a reason I say that. I don't offer that as simply a casual slur." The crowd laughed. "I'm not above a casual slur," Gore added, in what Suellentrop calls a "mind you tone," to more chuckles. "But I'm biased, I didn't vote for the guy." A man calls out, "Neither did America!" To which Gore responds, "Well, there is that."

Gore continued: "But here's the reason I say that President George W. Bush reminds me more of former President Richard Nixon than any of his other predecessors. Nixon was no more committed to principle than the man in the moon. He, as a conservative Republican, imposed wage and price controls. Hard to believe in this day and time. But he did. And he cared as little about what it meant to be really conservative as George W. Bush has cared in imposing $550 billion budget deficits and trillions in additions to the national debt. That has nothing to do with conservatism and everything to do with his effort to get re-elected!"

Gore talked about how he had said that Bush was "Commander in Chief" in September 2001, and how he had hoped Dubya would lead us after 9-11. "And the reason I'm recalling those feelings now is because those are the feelings that were betrayed by this president! He betrayed this country! He played on our fears! He took America, he took America on an ill-conceived foreign adventure dangerous to our troops, an adventure that was preordained and planned before 9/11 ever took place!" Gore closed with his father's line from 1970, when Senior lost his senate seat: "And so I say to you in closing my friends, in the year of 2004, the truth shall rise again!"

Even Conservatives like Andrew Sullivan are mad as hell about Bush's lies and misdeeds, in particular on the budget and his weak Meet the Press appearance on Sunday: "it is undeniable that this president is not on top of the most damaging part of his legacy--the catastrophe he is inflicting on our future fiscal health."

His conclusion? "I'm not one of those who believes that a good president has to have the debating skills of a Tony Blair or the rhetorical facility of Bill Clinton. I cannot help liking the president as a person. I still believe he did a great and important thing in liberating Iraq (although we have much, much more to do). But, if this is the level of coherence, grasp of reality, and honesty that is really at work in his understanding of domestic fiscal policy, then we are in even worse trouble than we thought. We have a captain on the fiscal Titanic who thinks he's in the Caribbean."

Personally, I hope this captain goes down with his ship.

Monday, February 09, 2004

John Kerry, hypocrite

Remember how Kerry is running against special interests and the little guy? When federal lawmakers "could be paid for speaking to outside groups," Kerry collected more than $120K in fees "from interests as diverse as big oil, tobacco, the liquor lobby and unions." Between '85 and '90, Kerry "pocketed annual amounts slightly under the limits for speaking fees set by Congress," and "unlike many colleagues, he donated a speaking fee to charity only once." This coming from a man who is worth millions.

Metalbanc paid Kerry $1K for speaking in '87 and was later indicted on charges "it helped the Cali drug cartel in Colombia launder money" in the U.S. When he spoke, Kerry was chair of the Senate subcmte that investigated drug trafficking and money laundering. On the trail, he "sharply criticizes special interest money and big oil companies," but he "earned handsomely from some of Washington's most famous lobbies as well as corporate America." NAM spokesperson Laura Brown Narvaiz: "It certainly didn't seem to influence his voting record. I don't think he voted in favor of our positions very many times" (Solomon/Khumar, AP, 2/9).

His opponents, according to Howard Fineman "will undoubtedly focus on family financial transactions. One such deal involves the conversion and sale in 2002 of up to a million dollars of stock in Ingersoll-Rand." The sale, "netting" from $100K to $200K, of a company whose "balance sheet was boosted by its decision to move its headquarters offshore to Bermuda." One of Kerry's "best applause lines is his pledge to end tax breaks for what he calls 'Benedict Arnold' firms that move offshore." Kerry spokesperson Michael Meehan said the sale was made by professional mgrs of Teresa Heinz Kerry's trust and Kerry "wasn't even aware of it" (Fineman/Isikoff, Newsweek, 2/16 issue).
The Calm before the Storm

Wesley Clark and John Edwards' last stand is tomorrow. Unless one or both of them win big, they are both going to have to drop out in all probability on Wednesday.

With Kerry's continuing streak of big wins over the weekend in Michigan, Washington and Maine isn't looking damn near impossible for Clark or Edwards to win either TN or VA, let alone WI or other states down the road.

The MSNBC/Zogby poll doesn't look good for anyone but John Kerry: in VA, he has 47%; John Edwards 24%; Wesley Clark 11%; and Howard Dean 10%. The TN poll shows Kerry with 45% support; Edwards 21%; Clark 19%; Dean 5%.

So now onto something more interesting: Gay Marriage

The vote of a political lifetime for MA State legislators is going to happen in two days. According to an unofficial tally by an AP reporter, who had only gotten half way through the calling by Friday, the score is 40 some for banning gay marriage, 50 some against the amendment to ban gay marriage and 10 undecided. The amendment needs 101 votes out of the 199 current members and senators (one Vacancy in the senate) meeting on Wednesday to pass but 2/3rds majority to get on the calendar to be voted on. Look for them to try to keep it off the calendar, and if that fails, then who knows what will happen.

I think the courts have already decided this. Because even if they vote this amendment in, then next year they need to do the same thing, and then in 2006 the voters need to pass it. So we could have gay people marry in May, and be forcibly divorced 2 years later. Sounds anti-family to me. The winning way to spin this is to say "I am pro-family and pro-marriage. I am glad that these people want to take the responsibilities of commitment. I want all kinds of families and marriages to work, I think we should not be tearing families apart because of sexual orientation. What is really hurting marriage are these reality TV shows, drive thru weddings, and Hollywood foibles." Some think we should abolish marriage all together to solve the problem.