Thursday, April 30, 2009

Poll: Americans support gay marriage, immigrants, and pot

A new ABC News/Washington Post poll shows that, on many issues, the average American is turning sharp left.

At the top of the list? Support for gay marriage, which, the poll shows, has more Americans supporting it (49 percent) than opposing it (46 percent). It's a first for the poll; never before had more Americans supported gay marriage.

More Americans support legalizing marijuana as well, though most still oppose it. According to the poll, 46 percent of Americans supported making pot legal.

And views on immigration also took a sharp left turn: 61 percent of Americans favored granting amnesty to so-called illegal immigrants within the country.

But there were some disturbing trends as well: Americans turned more right when it came to gun control, becoming almost evenly split when it came to enforcing stricter limits on gun owners. Most Americans also felt that more could be done to limit the number of immigrants entering the country illegally.

However, more Americans also supported federal controls on greenhouse gases, signaling that the average citizen now viewed the threat of global climate change as real.

The idea that America is a "conservative" country is slowly changing. More Americans, it seems, are starting to see the light.

BREAKING: Justice Souter to step down

Supreme Court Justice David Souter plans to retire from the Supreme Court. This is breaking news...comment will come later tonight or tomorrow.

UPDATE: Here is a link from MSNBC.com regarding Souter's retirement.

I promised a comment, and here it is...with Souter stepping down, the Court's makeup isn't likely to change much: though appointed by the first President Bush, Souter became a more-liberal-than-not justice, so the balance will remain the same with Obama likely picking a liberal judge. However, the replacement for Souter will give Obama the opportunity to place a young, liberal mind on the Court's bench, much like Bush II did with Chief Justice John Roberts, who will likely be on the court for the next 30 to 40 years.

Without a doubt, conservatives will turn this into a battle on the abortion issue. With a strong, Democratic Senate, the confirmation of a pro-choice justice should be fairly easy, with some Democratic senators possibly voicing their concern but ultimately voting in Obama's choice, assuming he/she is an astute legal mind. Some other issues that may come up: gun rights, gay marriage, and judicial activism.

One consequence of this selection, however, could be the galvanization of the right wing in the country -- if Obama selects someone too far left, it's likely that he'll infuriate the right and even some in the middle.

I'm confident, however, that Obama will plan out his selection very carefully, much like he's tried to do everything else in his short tenure as president so far.

GOP: Bitter Much?

So, Sen. Arlen Specter has defected to the Democrats. I for one welcome him -- although he is a moderate, it's important to have many points of view within your political circle. And while I certainly won't agree with every vote he makes, I do believe Specter will be a good Democrat.

The Republicans, however, are furious. RNC Chairman Michael Steele said that Specter flipped the bird at the GOP. In fact, looking at the GOP website, you'd compare the Republican Party's reaction to that of a scorned teenage girl.

The official site of the party allows you to send a memo to Specter, welcoming him to the Democrats. You can thank him for helping us "borrow more money from China and the Middle East," tell him how he'll "love how much we can spend taxpayer money," and many more ludicrous comments.

It's too bad the Republicans are so bitter; perhaps it's this attitude of "better than thou" that has caused them not only to lose moderates like Specter, but supporters as well (less than 1 in 4 Americans consider themselves Republican).

Ms. Cal. to campaign for straight marriage

Miss California, the beauty pageant contestant who lost the Miss USA competition due to her views on gay marriage is set to begin waging a campaign in defense of traditional marriage -- and against the rights of homosexuals to wed.

"I'm going to do whatever it takes...to protect marriage," said the infamous pageant star, whose real name is Carrie Prejean. She now stars in an ad from a group that supports keeping marriage between one man and one woman.

Previously, I had defended Ms. Prejean's right to dissent with pageant judge Perez Hilton. She had every right to say what her beliefs were.

However, I think it's sad that anti-gay marriage proponents have to continuously call the gay marriage movement an assault on the institution. Marriage needs "protection" in their eyes.

But protection from what? If gay marriage is legalized, no one else's marriage is going to be affected by it. Church's will still be able to say no to gay couples -- protecting any religion's right to deny whomever they want to marry (they do this already with straights).

All that legalizing gay marriage will do will extend marriage benefits to gay couples -- that's it. There won't be any institution ruined, seeing as couples already can marry outside the traditional institution (that is, they can have a wedding without the church if they wanted to). Extending these rights to gays and lesbians causes no harm to you or me, period.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Palin: Just kidding, I'll take the money (1,000 hits!)

After putting up a huge stink about how the stimulus funds for her state would restrain Alaskans from "charting their own course," Gov. Sarah Palin has decided to take the money after all, rather than rejecting money intended to improve health care and education.

A Palin spokesperson said that public opinion was a big turning point in the governor's decision to accept the funds:
Palin spokeswoman Sharon Leighow said the governor changed her mind after the public weighed in during legislative hearings prior to lawmakers passing bills to seek almost all of the funding.
Of course, the only reason Palin rejected the funds in the first place -- the real reason, not the "it will restrict our options" reason -- was to look strong in the face of President Barack Obama. If she could appear to be against Obama's liberal spending plan (rather than be a part of it), she would further her ambitions to win the Republican nomination for president in 2012.

The Republican Party is slowly self-destructing.

ALSO THIS: as of last night, Political Heat received its 1,000 hit! Thank you to everyone who came to the site, keep coming!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Bachmann blames Dems for Swine Flu

Minnesota Representative Michelle Bachmann, a Republican, has a hard time refraining from looking unintelligent. Not too long ago, in a debate on climate change, she said that carbon dioxide was a safe gas that caused no harm to us because it was "natural."

I suppose that means arsenic is safe as well, eh Congresswoman?

Now, Bachmann is questioning the swine flu outbreak as a possible Democratic Party problem.

Says Bachmann: "I find it interesting that it was back in the 1970s that the swine flu broke out then under Democrat [sic] President Jimmy Carter. And I'm not blaming this on President Obama, I just think it is an interesting coincidence."

She says she's not blaming Obama, but why even bring it up? It's clear what message she's trying to send: the Democrats are responsible for this outbreak.

Of course, none of this matters since Bachmann was wrong: the last swine flu outbreak occurred under Republican President Gerald Ford, a full year before Carter took office.

Spector becomes a Dem

Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter, formerly a Republican, has switched his allegiances and joined the Democratic Party. Doing so is especially beneficial to Specter, who faced strong competition in the Republican primaries next year but faces little challenge now that he's a Democrat.

This event is also beneficial to the Democrats, who, once Al Franken becomes senator of Minnesota, will have a filibuster-proof majority (60 votes) within the Senate.

Ordinarily, though I identify myself as a Democrat, I would be hesitant to believe that unchecked power like this were a "good" thing -- I consider how I'd feel if it were the other way around, and shudder to think how terrified I'd be if the GOP had such power. However, seeing as the direction of the Republican Party is moving markedly more conservative (reactionary, even), the power to disrupt a filibuster is, in fact, a great thing.

And it won't be completely unchecked: there are plenty of moderate Dems who will refuse to vote for cloture simply to pacify party leadership. It will be an unreasonable Republican Party, rather, that is obstructing vote for obstruction's sake, that will unify both liberal and moderate Democrats to end a filibuster.

So, with Specter on board and Democrats in power, I'm positive that the Senate Republicans' use of the filibuster will no longer be an abusive power.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Republicans cut pandemic funding

With the recent outbreak of the Swine Flu, it's easy to go a little hysterical, perhaps placing blame on people who don't deserve it. As I was watching Lou Dobbs talking about the issue the other night, I couldn't help but think that Dobbs placed the blame on illegal immigrants, something that is quite deplorable if you ask me.

There is an item worth noting, however: during debate of the stimulus package, Republican lawmakers did their best to cut out the programs and expenditures they felt were unnecessary. For example, funding for birth control was seen as an unnecessary way to stimulate the economy.

Another item that was cut? Funding for emergency pandemics. $900 million for such emergencies was cut to woo the Senate Republicans who were most likely to support the bill. Many Republicans considered the pandemic provision a type of pork, a little ironic considering the pandemic we now face.

Is it any wonder why the Republicans are a shrinking party? Only 21 percent of Americans now identify themselves as part of or supportive of the GOP. Screwing up something like this surely isn't going to help.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

ABC Poll: Support for Obama strong

A new ABC Poll has some stunning numbers in favor of Barack Obama. The poll finds that 69 percent of Americans approve of how he's running the White House. 50 percent feel the country is heading in the right direction -- as ABC points out, a stunning reversal from the days before Obama's inauguration when only 19 percent felt that way.

Partisanship remains Obama's biggest struggle: only 36 percent of Republicans approve of him, in large part because of his economic policies. But while the number is low for conservatives, among moderates Obama enjoys a stellar 75 percent approval rating, and in regards to the economy 58 percent of all Americans approve his policies.

Obama has a significant advantage over his conservative rivals, too. He leads the Congressional GOP by 61-24 percent in terms of who Americans trust to handle the economy.

These numbers are reassuring to me; they show that mainstream America is in support of this president and his policies. While there may be a sizable minority who is quite vocal in their opposition to him, for the most part America stands behind her president.

Perez Hilton (and a rant on rights)

It's kind of a "lighter side of things" post, but a serious one nonetheless. And I don't know the entire situation, so forgive me if I'm wrong on part of the backstory (it is the opinion that matters more within this post).

Perez Hilton was a guest judge or panelist at the Miss USA competition last week. He asked a question of Miss California regarding gay marriage, and she answered that she felt the institution of marriage should be kept between a man and a woman.

Due to her answer, Hilton and another judge gave California a lower grade.

Was it fair? You may be surprised by my answer: no, it wasn't. Miss California, though I may disagree with her opinions, is entitled to believe whatever she wants on the issue. Whether she believes marriage is between a man or woman is not important; this wasn't an election, it was a beauty pageant.

Frankly, the issue of gay marriage is not one that should be democratic anyway. It is a rights issue: do homosexuals have the right to marry each other the way heterosexuals do? It's not a popular right, but then again many rights aren't popular in the eyes of the American public.

My right to free speech certainly upsets many people; the right to bear guns upsets many on the left; the right to habeas corpus upset those who want to fight as hard as they can in the war on terror. A person has the right to be in a monogamous or polygamous relationship.

Our rights end, however, when they infringe upon another person's (or persons') rights. I can't yell FIRE in a movie theater and claim free speech -- it endangers everyone rushing towards the exits. I can't have a gun if I've had a particularly violent past -- who's to say I've reformed?

The right to gay marriage, however, causes no harm to anyone, even if you have strong religious views. The simple solution, should gay marriage become legal, is that your church doesn't have to perform them.

I deviate from my point: Miss California was not given her due at the pageant. She has a right to believe that gay marriages are immoral, just as gay and lesbian couples have a right to wed.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Spare us this dark chapter

Is it just me, or are some conservatives getting loonier?

I hate writing these kind of posts because, frankly, it diminishes my other arguments. Suddenly I'm a basher, a ranter, only here to make fun of or poke fun of the other side. I don't like having that image, of being seen as someone who only wants to make the other side look bad. It's disgraceful, no matter what side you're on.

But it seems to me that the conservative base is moving further and further to the extreme. They call Obama a traitor, a Marxist or Communist, anti-American, even anti-Christ.

And why? Because he's raising taxes on the rich (actually, just allowing the Bush tax cuts to expire); because he's engaging in talks with foreign powers that the previous administration declined to acknowledge (a sure-fire way to get them to see the light!); because they don't trust his name, believe he is Muslim (would there be anything wrong if he were?), or believe any tale that is told to them so long as it discredits a "godless" liberal.

Perhaps I'm being too hard on these people; perhaps it is the slagging economy, the two wars in eight years, the credit and housing crises, and all the leftover controversies from the Bush era. But all this hatred, all this bigotry, all this nonsense is escalating...and it worries me.

Is this the direction we want to take our country? The same hatred, the same distrust, was evident throughout the darkest periods of our nation's history. The race riots of the 1990s; the fire-hoses being sprayed at Civil Rights demonstrators; the countless times we've discriminated against immigrants, both illegal and legal, throughout the past 200 years; the Indian removal during the 1830s; Japanese internment during World War II; slavery of African Americans during the first half of our nation, and the unfair treatment of African Americans during the second half.

Outrage is normal; I do not mean to say that conservatives cannot disagree with these policies. But the actions and statements of some conservatives are downright scary. We've seen some protest Obama based solely on his name; others have taken more violent means, taking the lives of parishioners or cops because liberalism had come to Washington after nearly 30 years of Reaganism.

These aren't the actions of a conservative; they are the actions of mad-men. I do not write this entry with the thoughts of EVERY conservative being evil; the people I write about here are a sizable minority within the conservative movement. They, too, are entitled to their opinions. But their actions and their statements are cause for concern.

I ask this of the extremist conservatives: Spare us this dark chapter in history that appears to be coming; fight your battles, but do so in constructive ways. Most conservatives already do.

Assessing the first 100 days

Near the end of his first 100 days as president, Barack Obama has done an exceptional job, delivering on several key campaign promises and working towards restoring the economy.

The American people seem to agree; for the first time in over five years, more Americans believe our country is headed in the right direction, and Obama's approval rating is consistently in the mid-to-high 60s, with most Americans believing he is working hard to best serve their interests.

Have their been missteps? Of course. A big one was the tax problems that many of Obama's cabinet members have had. But for the most part, Obama has performed well, executing his duties as president with cool temperance -- not an easy task for the leader of the free world.

Undoubtedly, there has been criticism from across the aisle, from conservative talking heads, and from their followers. But this criticism is, more often than not, from the fringe elements of the conservative side of American politics. In other words, it is not mainstream (one needs only to look at petitions calling for the release of Obama's birth certificate or tea party protesters insisting he is the anti-Christ to know what I'm getting at).

Economically, Obama has shifted us left by increasing spending, but is moving us towards fiscal responsibility with plans to balance the budget through the cutting of unnecessary spending within his cabinet and other government programs. This will be no easy task; indeed, it will take more than the first 100 days to accomplish, perhaps more than a year.

It will be an exciting presidency to watch, seeing as we face insurmountable challenges yet. Obama has shown little to no fear of facing these problems head-on, and facing them all together. He has shown he is willing to work towards fixing the economy, the environment, our standing with the world, and many other issues.

For these and many other reasons, I would have to rate Obama's first 100 days as stellar; and if I were giving him a letter grade, I'd have to say he earned a "B+" overall. There's room for improvement, but he's done more than most Americans could have even asked for.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Joining the Party

Yesterday, I received in the mail a request to renew my membership within the Democratic Party of Wisconsin. Without hesitation, I signed a check and immediately filled out the proper paperwork to rejoin the party.

That isn't to say, however, that I am completely supportive of the Democratic platform; there are many issues which I strongly support that the party itself does not. For instance, at the national level the Democratic Party has not offered a strong enough stance on gay marriage, an issue I'm 100% in support of. Most pragmatic Democrats, however, see the issue as one that cannot be won, and opt for the less-inclusive civil union option as a reasonable compromise.

Still, the Democratic Party remains, for the most part, the party of the People. They support the issues that benefit the most Americans, rather than the top 2 or 1 percent, like cutting taxes for the middle class while allowing the Bush tax cuts for the rich to expire.

I'm proud to be a part of a party that addresses the concerns of the middle class, that works to make the rule of law just again, and that works to pass legislation based on reason rather than religious preferences. This is the party that combines the best elements of populism with liberty, that looks to the future rather than stays in the past.

I'm proud to support Democrats like Russ Feingold, Barack Obama, Mark Miller, Dave Obey, Gwen Moore, Tammy Baldwin, and more, because they represent not only my interests but the interests of the vast majority of Americans.

Consider joining the party today. It's a decision I know I won't regret.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Obama open to investigations

Barack Obama last week released four key memos that detailed the Bush administration's rationale for and examples of torture within the war on terrorism. These memos included how many times we've waterboarded prisoners (over 180 times for one, in one example), a torture technique that was never used but justified (placing a prisoner in a box and filling it with bugs), and many more sordid details of prisoner abuse.

Obama also stated that he would not seek prosecution for CIA officers who carried out the torture, and that's the right move in my mind. Consider this: the president of the United States tells you that something is legal, so you go ahead and do it. Then the new president tells you it's illegal. Would it be fair to prosecute you, then?

The simple answer is it wouldn't be. Those who justified the acts of torture should be prosecuted, not the officers conducting them who were assured they were legal from their superiors. Obama has signaled he wouldn't be opposed to such prosecution, though he is leaving it up to his Attorney General Eric Holder to decide whom to prosecute. Congress may also seek to impeach former Bush aide Jay Bybee, who is currently a federal judge.

These are appropriate actions; it's clear that the torturing techniques we used were not only illegal but also in bad taste. Even John McCain thinks so. Those responsible should be held accountable.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Gay Marriage in NY State

A new poll shows a majority of New York State residents support the proposal by Gov. David Patterson to grant marriage rights to same-sex couples.

According to CNN.com, 53 percent of New Yorkers support the measure, with only 39 percent opposing it.

The bill faces tough opposition in the state legislature, but with polling numbers like these, it will be tough for state representatives to oppose the bill.

$100 million cut in 90 days

That's the goal of the Obama administration, according to anonymous officials within the White House. Obama is going to gather his cabinet together with the goal of cutting $100 million in less than 100 days.

It's a move that's going to make most middle-of-the-road conservatives happy, if only for a split second. It will eliminate wasteful spending within the cabinet positions of the Obama administration. Liberals will be happy, too, since we deplore wasteful spending just as much as conservatives (for two reasons: first, it's wasteful; second, it gives credence to the claim that WE'RE wasteful).

It's almost a guarantee, however, that some conservative commentators will look at this move and say, "So what? It's only $100 million in a sea of trillions."

The point of this move, however, isn't the number in dollars, but rather the number in days. If Obama can show he can cut that amount in 90 days, what can he cut by the end of his term? And can Congress live by his example, cutting wasteful spending while keeping the promise of helping middle-class and poorer Americans?

Hopefully this example will extend to state governments and localities. If this happens, we CAN expect billions, if not, trillions in savings.

Remembering Columbine

Today, on the tenth anniversary of the Columbine High School massacre, we should all take a moment to reflect and pray for/think of those who were affected directly by this horrible event. We should also reflect upon all of those school shootings or acts of violence that have happened since, happened before, and are yet to come, and consider ways we can curtail such violence in the future.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Column for Dane101: Tea Party Protesters Worrisome


I write a column for a local blog called Dane101, which focuses on issues pertaining to Dane County, Wisconsin. I will be posting my columns periodically on this blog as well, but do check out their site too. It's chock-full of goodies for Dane County residents. Tea Party Protesters Worrisome

This week, I partook in observing the Tea Party protest held at the state capitol building. I went as an undercover spectator; there, but not making my presence known, purposely not making any mention of my opposition to the event. It felt surreal in a way, being a liberal in a sea of conservative voices. I didn’t pay much attention to the speakers at the event; I couldn’t get a good spot. Anyway, I was on a different mission: I wanted to observe the actual participants in the protest, not the speakers but the real-life people who came seeking to make a difference.

For the most part, these protesters conducted themselves in a polite manner; I received smiles from many participants, shared a couple of laughs with others, and other niceties were exchanged between us. I was, however, sickened by a sizable amount of actors who took part in the event. Within the crowd, I saw many poster-board signs that were disturbing. One such sign described President Barack Obama as a terrorist; another called him the antichrist; still another claimed he wasn’t actually an American citizen. These accusations are all false, of course, but a good number of the protesters asked to have their pictures taken with these “patriots,” supporting their message as well as their lunacy.

In any protest, there is likely going to be fringe elements that make the overall cause look bad. I know that, at the protests I had attended while Bush was in office, I felt embarrassment at being associated with the so-called extreme elements of the left. But never did I feel that these fringe elements would do anything violent, would advocate an overthrow of the government the way that the protesters at the Tea Party did.

The Wisconsin State Journal quoted the person holding an “Obama is the Antichrist” sign as saying “[Obama] needs to go. This is his first and last warning.” As I was reading that, I began to think to myself, “What is wrong with these people? Aren’t they offended by this kind of rhetoric?” Many of these same people were offended before when others were critical of George W. Bush, like when the Dixie Chicks said they weren’t proud that he was their president. Now, with the foot in the other shoe, they celebrate the criticism, and oftentimes the more critical or more harsh, the better.

Many of the protesters, when confronted with this hypocrisy, pointed out that they didn’t support Bush’s policies or spending either. I suspect some didn’t, but in all honesty I didn’t believe most of them when they said this. If this were true, wouldn’t they have been more vocal about it in years past? And wouldn’t the left have received less critical marks from these people, who now accuse us of being socialists?

It’s admirable that a protest of this size could be formed; truly it is a sign that democracy is still a force in our country, even if those present were there under false impressions of the Obama administration as characterized by Fox News and the like. It’s also admirable to have dissenting opinions, patriotic even, and I’m not trying to say we should suppress these conservative voices. The fringe elements of the protest, however, were disturbing enough to warrant worry in anyone, liberal or conservative.

Obama controversy at Notre Dame

Recently, the president of the University of Notre Dame was on the receiving end of criticism from conservative students and alumni for inviting President Barack Obama to speak on commencement day this year. Specifically, these students and alumni were upset that the president, being pro-choice, would be honored at a campus whose religious doctrine opposes abortion rights.

As a religious school, Notre Dame has every right to adhere to its doctrines. However, it should be noted that, in the past, the school has invited presidents who were pro-choice without much flak (Notre Dame has, in fact, invited every president since Eisenhower to speak at at least one commencement day ceremony during their term).

It would seem that there is a bit of hypocrisy here, and I would imagine it is stemming from the conservative backlash we have seen in recent weeks. It would do these conservatives some good to consider their true motivations when opposing Obama's speaking there -- are they opposed due to his stance on abortion, or rather his being a liberal president during a time when conservative activists are speaking out loudly against him? Is hit his politics relating to Roe v. Wade that bother them, or is it just his politics in general?

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Fallout from Tea Party Video

I’ve received many comments from the Youtube video I posted regarding the Madison Tea Party. Most of them, as you can imagine, are from angry conservatives who felt I depicted the event too negatively. I did receive one positive review from Chris Liebenthal over at Cognitive Dissidence, so thank you Chris.

I would like to take some time to respond to the negative comments, however...

"...if obama is a citizen why has he spent millions to keep his birth records sealed. Seems a little to damn suspicious to me."

Barack Obama’s birth certificate (and the story behind it being false) can be found at snopes.com. In other words, the idea that Obama is not a citizen is so blatantly false that a simple Google search could have shown that to you. Or are you convinced there’s a massive conspiracy?

"The 9-11 was an inside job, and Bush is a nazi signs were ok with you [in the past]?"

Signs at anti-Bush rallies (like 9/11 conspiracy theories) were not something I supported, and I spent many hours online debunking those people as well. I also disliked comparing Bush to Hitler or Nazism, mainly because it made our side’s arguments look illegitimate.

"I was there, and I was offended by many of the signs you showed. I think name-calling is childish, and while I don't like President Obama's policies, I think it's wrong to ridicule or satirize him. I also saw many signs that were positive - we are taxed to death, and this was our chance to publicly state this!"

The reason I posted the “fringe” signs in this video was to make a point: some of the people at this protest were extreme right-wing, who believed Obama to be a terrorist, and believed him to be a non-American. I could have shown a few “good” signs (that is, signs with legitimate concern), and in fact, I did! The first 45 seconds were filled with non-extremist signs, in my mind. Even the lady with the tax sign, which I debunked, had a sign that I wouldn’t consider “bad” -- only misinformed. Some of the protests (the piggy bank example comes to mind) I thought were very creative, and included them in my video without commentary.

Many comments accused me of being an ACORN infiltrator, and that the signs shown in my video were from ACORN associates of mine. As far as ACORN goes, for sure there were infiltrators at these tea parties -- I was one of them. However, I was an observer, and am unaffiliated with the organization. Additionally, the people who were holding these signs were likely NOT members of ACORN, and there’s some proof to this. For example, the sign that stated Obama was the antichrist was held by a local business owner who told the Wisconsin State Journal that “[Obama] needs to go. This is the first and last warning he’ll get." (Source: http://www.madison.com/wsj/topstories/447226)

That’s all I have to talk about for now. I’m starting to get a headache from trying to explain these things rationally...check back for more later, perhaps. I’m sure the fallout from these tea parties is just beginning to resonate...

TX Gov: Secession a possibility

"There's a lot of different scenarios," Texas Gov. Rick Perry said yesterday at a Tea Party rally in his state. "We've got a great union. There's absolutely no reason to dissolve it. But if Washington continues to thumb their nose at the American people, you know, who knows what might come out of that."

Troubling words from a governor of one of the largest states in the country. But do the states have the right to secede? A Civil War was fought over that idea, and the outcome was not so good for those who thought states could do that. Nearly a century and a half later, conservative activists like Perry (and Chuck Norris) are toying around with the idea again, even if it's just a casual daydream scenario right now.

Still, this kind of rhetoric isn't something to ignore. It's a strong outcry of what is fast becoming mainstream conservatism, a troubling phenomenon in our nation today.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

DHS: right-wing extremism may be on the rise

According to a report released by the Department of Homeland Security, right-wing extremism may be on the rise. These groups, fueled by a lagging economy and the first non-white president, may resort to violent means, the report said, comparing the state in which we're living in now to that of the early 1990s, when another recession lead to an increase in these groups.

One may recall the Oklahoma City bombing, where Timothy McVeigh, a member of one of these right-wing groups, killed hundreds of people (including children) because of his right-wing views.

Now, I'm not saying every conservative is a terrorist; that's hardly the case. Still, if this report were about violent liberal groups on the rise, how much do you think the conservative talking-heads would be going on and on about it? Heck, during the Bush years we were called terrorists just for wanting a more balanced approach to the Iraq War, especially in the lead-up to it.

We shouldn't consider every conservative an extremist; however, we should expect them to afford liberals the same respect.

Tea Party in Madison

Today, I was "fortunate" enough to attend the Tea Party tax/big government/overall anti-liberal protest in Madison, Wisconsin, at the state capitol building. Instead of listening to the speakers taking part in the event, I chose instead to pay attention to those who attended the rally. More specifically, I took a look at the signs they created.

Here's a video of those signs: (and please, forgive my editing skills...this is the first movie I've ever made/edited)



For the most part, the people at this event were very polite (I was pushing a stroller, so people were very cooperative with my movements). Still, the signs that many of them had were disturbing, making assertions ranging from Obama being the anti-Christ, taxes going up under his administration, and Obama not being a citizen of the United States, among other things.

I'm hoping that the crowd at the capitol today represented a minority of conservatives as many of them made me nervous to be there. I dared not mention that I was a liberal, but made my way to a couple of Democratic legislators' offices after the event to encourage them to keep working for the people of Wisconsin, seeing as they were going to be barraged with tea bags from these people.

Possible "live blog" today

So, this is totally going to ruin the surprise...but I'm going to be at the tea party in Madison today in order to get a sense of what these people are so angry about (taxes? government spending? Muslim presidents?). No promises here, but I HAVE set up the text-blogging feature here at Blogger, giving me the opportunity to text message the blog and have it post instantaneously while I'm at the event. So...if you even read this page regularly, be on the lookout for that. Otherwise, expect a blog on the tea party either tonight or tomorrow.

Until then...

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

NY Gov to propose Same-sex Marriage Bill

In what could be the second state to pass a same-sex marriage bill through legislative means, New York Gov. David Patterson is expected to announce Thursday his plans to propose a bill legalizing marriage rights and recognition within his state.

New York would become the fifth state to legally recognize same-sex partners' marriages. It's a sign of the times -- while a recent CBS poll shows only one-third of Americans support full marriage rights for gay and lesbian couples, the same poll shows the same number of Americans calling for no recognition (civil unions or marriage) at all, meaning two-thirds of Americans would be OK with SOME form of legal recognition for gay couples.

More Americans are starting to become more accepting of the gay community -- except in extremely conservative circles, it's become passe to consider gays and lesbians as "bad." As time moves on, we'll see more states (perhaps Wisconsin included) change their attitudes on gay marriage.

Glenn Beck: Founders wouldn't disagree with Secession

Glenn Beck is at it again. At this rate, I could probably listen to Beck's program every day and make a living writing this blog.

The latest comments by Beck are borderline treasonous -- he's advocating the right of the states to secede from the Union:
You can't convince me that the Founding Fathers wouldn't allow you to secede...the Constitution is not a suicide pact...[states] have a right to back out...You're telling me that states can't say, "Washington, we're not going to commit suicide with you."
Pretty strong words. Unfortunately, Beck is becoming a mainstream conservative talking-head in this country. He has a devoted listening audience who actually believe the things he says, that follow his logic (if you can call it that).

Beck forgets what the Constitution was in response to: the Articles of Confederation, which made it nearly impossible for ANY federal law to take effect. Under the Articles, each state had veto power whenever a proposal was brought forward, essentially making each state sovereign the way these conservatives probably would like the United States to be today.

It didn't work then, and it won't work now. It made trade a nightmare, made defense nearly impossible, and these conservatives want to go back to that?

I also hear a lot of states' rights arguments from the Beck-wing of the Republican Party. They seem to spout off this argument every time it works to their advantage -- but when a culturally liberal law is passed in one of these states, its up to the federal government to intervene (say, with gay marriage and DoMA or the right to die case involving Terri Schiavo).

Being upset over the proposed Democratic Party budget is one thing; threatening secession is way out of line. It's unpatriotic, which is surprising considering this rhetoric is coming from the party that once derided the opposition as un-American.

Palin's AG pick

Alaskan Gov. Sarah Palin can't catch a break -- or maybe she's just not too bright. She certainly doesn't have the resolve that Barack Obama shows when making important decisions (read: she doesn't think things through before acting).

Take a look, for an example of this, at her recent pick for Alaskan Attorney General, Wayne Anthony Ross, who has a history of spouting off some disturbing comments.

In 1991, Ross allegedly said that domestic abuse wouldn't be a problem "if women would learn to keep their mouth shut."

I say allegedly because it's a he-said she-said situation; there's no proof that Ross said that. But when confronted with the comment and others involving whether it's ok for a husband to rape his wife, Ross's reaction was troubling: "Anybody said that to me then we'd have a little confrontation," he said.

Ross also has disturbing views of homosexuals, whom he has previously called "immoral degenerates" in a letter to an Alaskan state representative.

But he doesn't have any problems with his previous comments, and believes he can run the office despite these opinions:
"Let me give you an analogy," Ross said. "I hate lima beans. I've never liked lima beans. But if I was hired to represented the United Vegetable growers would you ask me if I liked lima beans? No. If I disliked lima beans? No. Because my jobs to represent the united vegetable growers."
Comforting.

Ross is also under fire for some op-eds he wrote in the 1990s. Among these op-eds are such wonderful titles, such as "KKK 'art' project gets 'A' for courage" and "It is time we quit crying over the oil spill."

If Sarah Palin is going to be a respectable candidate for president, she had better start acting more presidential. Frankly, however, if this is how one of the top candidates for president in 2012 is going to act -- engaging in feuds with her daughter's ex's family, appointing members of her cabinet with questionable character flaws -- then I'm optimistic we'll have another four years of Obama to look forward to. So...

Run, Sarah, Run!!!

Monday, April 13, 2009

Franken Update

A three-judge Minnesota panel has today declared (once again) Democrat Al Franken the winner of the Minnesota Senate race, five months after the actual election. Norm Coleman, the Republican incumbent, has said he will appeal to the Minnesota State Supreme Court.

Of course, the last time Coleman challenged the legitimacy of Franken's win (which set up this three-judge panel ruling), it was found that Franken GAINED MORE VOTES. So I say bring on the State Supreme Court -- Franken's lead may grow!

In all seriousness, we know the true motivation behind Coleman's stringing this out: to keep the Democrats from reaching a filibuster-proof number in the U.S. Senate. It's petty, but then again I've seen the Republicans do worse.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Beck's 912 project

Conservative commentator Glenn Beck has a project. He calls it the 912 project, and its main mission is to "bring us all back to the place we were" the day after 9/11. "We were not obsessed with Red states, Blue states, or political parties. We were united as Americans..."

A noble ideal to be sure...until you look at it a bit closer. Beck has 12 values which he believes the project embodies: honesty, reverence, hope, thrift, humility, charity, sincerity, moderation, hard work, courage, personal responsibility, and gratitude. Alright, a good start.

Then you look at the 9 principles the project promotes. Via Wikipidia:
* America Is Good.
* I believe in God and He is the Center of my Life.
* I must always try to be a more honest person than I was yesterday.
* The family is sacred.
* If you break the law you pay the penalty.
* I have a right to life, liberty and pursuit of happiness, but there is no guarantee of equal results.
* I work hard for what I have and I will share it with who I want to.
* It is not un-American for me to disagree with authority or to share my personal opinion.
* The government works for me. I do not answer to them, they answer to me.
Basically, a conservative's laundry list of values. First, the belief that America is good is, again, noble. But, looking at who the author is, this belief borders on blind patriotism. Believing that America is good is one thing; believing that it can do no wrong is another.

The second principle -- a belief in God and making Him the center of your life -- ignores a growing trend in America: more people are looking elsewhere for meaning in their lives. I'm not harping against Christians or Christianity (I myself am one), but to make being Christian a principle upon which it means to be American ignores not only this new trend but also the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

Being more honest is a trait that is worth having. It would do Beck good to take his third principle to heart...it's all nice to say you want to be more honest today than yesterday, but putting it into practice is something Beck needs to work on (for example, his understanding of Thomas Paine is greatly skewed).

The fourth principle (the family is sacred) is more an appeal, I'm sure, by Beck to promote so-called family values. These values usually rely upon conservative reasoning, again a flawed view that tradition trumps rational decision making when it comes to how people live their lives.

The fifth principle promotes the enforcement of law and punishment of those who are convicted of crimes. Again, there is nothing wrong with this in theory, but coming from such a staunch conservative as Beck, it probably really means he's against the appeals process as it stands in America today. We ought to embrace that process in order to be sure we have rightly convicted those who are guilty, rather than leaving doubts to fester when we send someone to prison.

Principle six sounds ideal, too, in that no one can expect the same results as another person when it comes to happiness. In other words, results WILL vary, and I agree with Beck when it comes to happiness, we cannot expect to all be at the same level. However, his results-may-vary disclaimer, when applied to liberty, is disturbing. Shouldn't everyone expect to have the same results when it comes to their liberties? That is how a democracy works -- it has to apply to everyone equally or else it isn't functioning properly.

Working hard for what you have is a strong American principle, as is sharing it with whom you want. But this principle may be Beck's way of endorsing a "no taxes" clause within his list of principles. Taxes are an important part of our nation; no one likes them, but they love the results. A modest tax doesn't hurt anyone, and a progressive tax ensures that the poor aren't getting screwed by the system, something Beck likes to look over when he talks about "big government."

Principle eight is interesting because it endorses the belief that dissent is patriotic. However, is this truly a principle America endorsed in the days after 9/11? Ask Bill Maher, whose network television show Politically Incorrect was canceled after he refused to believe the terrorists were cowards (he didn't condone their actions, but felt it was hardly cowardly to perform the acts that they did). Dissent during the Bush administration was hardly acceptable, whether you were dealing with the government or the media. But now, with a liberal president in office, the right to dissent is suddenly being re-evaluated by the conservative activists who once derided it. Funny how that works.

Finally, principle nine, read literally, shows that Beck believes the government works for him. Of course, when writing it, he meant that the government works for the people. But in practice, Beck doesn't show much respect for this principle. The people elected a candidate who wasn't too reserved when talking about raising taxes on the rich, something that Beck vehemently opposes. Populism, then, is only beneficial to Beck when it works in his favor.

These principles do not represent what it means to be an American; they represent Beck's vision for America, a conservative utopia where the rich get richer, the poor stay poor, and religion rules the day in all other aspects of life.

Wis. Supreme Court and the gay marriage ban

The state Supreme Court may review the 2006 gay marriage ban in Wisconsin due to the legality in passing the measure before a vote of Wisconsin citizens in a statewide referendum.

State law requires that constitutional amendments be passed by two consecutive legislative sessions. The measure is then put on a statewide elections ballot where the people decide its final fate.

In addition to these stipulations, there can only be one question/item placed before the people per constitutional amendment. That is, multiple items require separate referenda, with the people deciding on each item separately.

In 2006, the ban on gay marriage had two provisions within it, one for banning gay marriage and another for banning any recognition of partnership between homosexual couples, essentially ending any possibilities for civil unions or employee partner benefits in the state for gays and lesbians.

If reversed, the fight for gay marriage rights would not necessarily be guaranteed within the state; more likely, the Court may reverse the ban but keep things the way they were before it -- no marriage rights guaranteed, but no ban either. However, another option (one likely to be seen as judicial activism by conservatives) would have the Court requiring the state legislature to come up with a plan to recognize homosexual unions within the state, much like the Massachusetts Supreme Court did.

The Court should reverse the ban; law dictates specific ways for constitutional amendments to be passed in Wisconsin, and that method was clearly violated. The Court should also guarantee rights to gay couples equal to the rights afforded to straight couples on the basis that no objectionable justification against gay marriage exists that cannot be justified outside of religious belief. This will be seen as extreme activism, but it is the right thing to do.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Lifting the Embargo

For all the talk against lifting the Cuban embargo that the right wing has been spouting off, there's this: according to a new poll, nearly two-thirds of Americans believe we should lift the embargo. Three-fourths think we should move towards normalizing relations with the island country that is just 90 miles south of us.

This is pretty much a done deal; the embargo serves no purpose to us now. Communism is no longer a threat to us, and neither is the Cuban regime (the only threat they ever posed existed only when Soviet Russia backed them). Any opposition to lifting the embargo probably rests upon the belief that if we begin relations with Cuba now, America will move towards Communism as well.

That's a bogus assertion, and one based in fear. We've bailed out financial institutions with billions (trillions?) of dollars -- there's no way we're going to turn "red" now after that enormous investment.

Let's lift the ban and begin normalizing relations with Cuba.

Column for Dane101: Judging Wisconsin Elections


I write a column for a local blog called Dane101, which focuses on issues pertaining to Dane County, Wisconsin. I will be posting my columns periodically on this blog as well, but do check out their site too. It's chock-full of goodies for Dane County residents. Judging Wisconsin Elections

The method we use to select judges in Wisconsin -- by direct election -- is admirable in that it gives the people the power to appoint them. But like anything else good in this world, there is a caveat: our judicial elections, especially in recent years, have become increasingly political.

This is problematic because judges are meant to be impartial; yet it’s clear within the past few elections (this year’s included) where our State Supreme Court justices’ allegiances stand ideologically. Wisconsin citizens shouldn’t know the verdict our courts make before a case is heard -- we need impartiality, not ideology, on our benches.

At the same time, it’s na├»ve to believe that anyone, judicial candidates included, can be above the politics inherent within elections. It’s only natural that citizens will want to know where the candidates stand on important issues, and often they want to know based off a political stance.

At issue within the selection of judges and justices in Wisconsin are two main questions: first, to what degree do we believe the public to be informed enough to select someone to perform the complicated duties of a judge? And second, how exactly do we want to go about funding such elections, if we do indeed continue to have them?

Let’s start first with finances. We have seen in recent years how outside groups have hijacked the elections by distorting the images of judicial candidates, often unfairly. This practice misinforms the public and distracts us from the real issues that matter. One solution could be removing all third-party advertising, but are we prepared to remove the right of these parties to express genuine concerns in order to remove those that don’t? Another solution might involve creating an advertising board to “weed out” those “bad” ads, but this merely shifts the politicization of the election from the candidates to the board members.

Another difficulty with finances is that it costs an arm and a leg to run in the first place. Some have suggested using public financing in order to remedy this problem, but many are skeptical of using taxpayer dollars in order to finance a campaign that some might not support.

These problems aside, there is still the difficulty in trusting the people to pick judicial candidates. That may sound un-democratic, but there exists a difference between electing a legislator to write laws that reflect a constituency’s attitude and selecting a judge to protect the rights of all -- as is often the case, those two ideals don’t always go together. A charismatic leader is fine for determining what laws the people want passed, but when it comes to people’s rights (specifically, the rights of the minority), the will of a populist majority isn’t always looking out for what’s best.

It may be better, then, to just skip the entire process of having an election and model our state’s judicial selections process after that of the federal government’s, and just have the governor select someone to the court with legislative approval. This doesn’t remove the politicization by any means -- judges and justices will still be scrutinized over who seated them. But it does remove a lengthy and expensive elections process in our state, and provides swift appointment to the courts without the need to exploit the people’s desires through campaign promises. Judges shouldn’t be making those promises in the first place.

Whatever your opinion on the matter, whether or not you agree or disagree with these sentiments, it’s clear that Wisconsin is in dire need of judicial reform. Contact your local legislators and tell them we’ve had enough -- we need change to our selections process.

Oh No! Obama bowed!

So the president, on his trip overseas, made a stop to visit the Saudi king. He showed his respect by bowing to the monarch, and now the right-wing blogosphere is going nuts about it, making claims that this proves Obama submits to Muslim rule.

Terrific.

To these people, I have this to say: if you were in the presence of a king, in his country no less, how would you show your modesty or your humility in his presence? Would you arrogantly do nothing because, hey, you don't believe in monarchies?

The king probably is aware that Obama supports democratic rule. Still, it's a common courtesy, and Obama was trying to be humble about meeting the king.

It's awful we even have to have this discussion. It's degrading to the intelligence of the common American when the right wing must stoop to stupid accusations about the president's allegiances.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Gathering Storm ad

The National Organization for Marriage -- an anti-gay marriage group -- has released an ad that expresses their frustrations with gay marriage. Among the frustrations spoken by the actors in the ad are that freedom would be taken away.

Really? Your freedom to live a non-gay life, to believe that gay marriage is wrong, would be taken away? If gay marriage is legalized, this right would not disappear. Churches can still refuse to marry a couple of the same sex -- just as they can refuse to marry a couple who have been excommunicated for other reasons.

See the ad here.

If you don't want to recognize a same-sex union in your church, then your church doesn't have to. But denying people basic privileges is wrong. We shouldn't discriminate against an act that does no harm to people, or to couples. The right to marry should be extended towards same-sex couples.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

ACLU of Wisconsin: close down voucher schools

The ACLU of Wisconsin has sent a letter pleading for the state legislature to end the school voucher program in Milwaukee. The program essentially uses taxpayer dollars to send students to private schools in hopes that these students receive better grades.

The program, according to the ACLU, is a resounding failure.

The press release/letter cites reports from the School Choice Demonstration Project at Georgetown University, stating that ""more than 120, mostly small, Milwaukee schools that taxpayers support with tuition vouchers are performing at or below the levels achieved by comparable students attending Milwaukee Public Schools" (emphasis added).

The bottom line? The program isn't accomplishing anything.

It's time we support public schools in Milwaukee by giving them the funding they need, and not taking it away to fund private schools.

Spring Election Results

Lots of reasons to celebrate tonight. First up, Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson won re-election against Randy Koschnick, a conservative challenger who tried labeling Abrahamson as a liberal judge who legislated from the bench. Abrahamson is considered by many to be a possible pick by President Obama should a justice step down from the Supreme Court in the coming years.

In the Department of Public Instruction race, Wisconsin voters decided experience trumps idealism, and elected Tony Evers to state superintendent. His opponent, Rose Fernandez, had never been a teacher but supported many conservative ideas for education.

Lastly, Kathleen Falk won re-election to County Executive of Dane County. Winning primarily in the city of Madison, Falk will serve in her fourth term as County Exec.

A great day for progressive politics in Wisconsin.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Fancy a cup of tea? Anyone?

Have you heard about the upcoming Tea Party demonstration in Madison? Apparently, people are so fed up with paying taxes in Wisconsin that they've decided to hold a demonstration bearing the name of the protest our Founding Fathers performed years before we declared our independence.

Of course, the Founding Fathers were protesting taxation without representation while the current-day demonstrators will be protesting big government and tax increases on the rich (because we all know how great the alternative worked out for us).

Are taxes high in Wisconsin? We are within the top 10 of the most taxed states in the country on a yearly basis. But we also provide generous programs to the poor, to those who can't afford health care coverage, to those who have become unemployed (little known fact: unemployment benefits actually began in Wisconsin during the Great Depression), and so forth. Taxes also help us to sustain important services, like fire departments, schools, police, roads, etc., that private enterprise cannot provide us with.

Those who are supporting this rally are forgetful of the many benefits of living in the state of Wisconsin. Those benefits didn't happen by accident; many of them are funded through taxpayer dollars.

Before you blindly support a message of "NO MORE TAXES!" try to remember who is affected the most by a Reagonomics style of taxation -- the poor and lower middle-class workers who can't survive without a little bit of help.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Big Ed on MSNBC

Ed Schultz, a self-described voice for the middle-class and radio host on Air America, is set to have his own television program beginning this Monday on MSNBC.

Following in the footsteps of fellow Air America host Rachel Maddow, Schultz joins a slew of liberals on the prime-time lineup of MSNBC. Which begs the question: Is MSNBC the answer to FOX News? And if so, is it hypocritical of liberals to support it when we were screaming "bias!" over the conservative network's views?

The answer to both is yes: MSNBC can be considered by some to be a liberal answer to FOX News, AND it wouldbe a hypocritical situation -- were it our only complaint with FOX. Not only did the network claim to be "fair and balanced" when it wasn't, but commentators and reporters often misreported the facts (and sometimes reported flat-out lies), spreading misinformation to a believing public.

When the hosts of MSNBC's prime-time lineup begin spreading mistruths and lies, then there will be reason to worry. Until then, I won't be losing sleep over watching Schultz, Maddow, Olbermann, etc.