Behind Harvey Milk Part 1
Behind Harvey Milk II
Behind Harvey Milk Part III
Days Without Sunshine: Anita Bryant's Anti-Gay Crusade
I am progressive. I am liberal. I make no apologies. I believe government has an obligation to create an even playing field for all of this country's citizens and immigrants alike. I am not a socialist. I do not seek enforced equality. However, there has to be equality of opportunity, and the private sector, left to its own devices, will never achieve this goal. This site is for liberals and progressives for Ron Mills Podcast& news and commentary.
What Americans Really Want: 10 Policies We Can All Agree On
Here is an agenda that the majority of Americans support, whether they vote red, blue, green or something else.
67% Favor public works projects to create jobs.
55% Favor expanding unemployment benefits.
73% Say corporations don't pay a fair share of taxes.
76% Support tax cuts for lower- and middle-income people.
71% Say unions help their members; 53% say unions help the economy in general.
80% Support increasing the federal minimum wage.
59% Favor guaranteeing two weeks or more of paid vacation.
75% Want to limit rate increases on adjustable-rate mortgages.
64% Are not confident that life for our children's generation will be better than it has been for us.
65% Believe same-sex couples should be allowed to marry or form civil unions.
70% Support restoring habeas corpus rights for detainees at
58% Believe a court warrant should be required to listen to the telephone calls of people in the
59% Would like the next president to do more to protect civil liberties.
68% Believe the president should not act alone to fight terrorism without the checks and balances of the courts or Congress.
ENERGY & CLIMATE
79% Favor mandatory controls on greenhouse gas emissions.
76% Believe that oil is running out and a major effort is needed to replace it.
90% Favor higher auto fuel efficiency standards.
75% Favor clean electricity, even with higher rates.
72% Support more funding for mass transit.
73% Believe our health care system is in crisis or has "major problems."
64% Believe the government should provide national health insurance coverage for all Americans, even if it would raise taxes.
55% Favor one health insurance program covering all Americans, administered by the government, and paid for by taxpayers.
69% Believe the government should make it easier to buy prescription drugs from other countries.
81% Oppose torture and support following the Geneva Conventions.
76% Say the
79% Say the U.N. should be strengthened.
73% Favor abolishing nuclear weapons, with verification. 80% favor banning weapons in space.
85% Say that the
63% Want U.S. forces home from
47% Favor using diplomacy with
57% Say going to war in
67% Believe we should use diplomatic and economic means to fight terrorism, rather than the military.
86% Say big companies have too much power.
74% Favor voluntary public financing of campaigns.
66% Believe intentional acts are likely to cause significant voting machines errors.
80% Say ex-felons should have their voting rights restored.
65% Believe attacking social problems is a better cure for crime than more law enforcement.
87% Support rehabilitation rather than a "punishment-only" system.
81% Say job training is "very important" for reintegrating people leaving prison. 79% say drug treatment is very important.
56% Believe NAFTA should be renegotiated.
64% Believe that on the whole, immigration is good for the country.
80% Favor allowing undocumented immigrants living in the
There will come a moment when the most urgent threats posed by the credit crisis have eased and the larger task before us will be to chart a direction for the economic steps ahead. This will be a dangerous moment. Behind the debates over future policy is a debate over history -- a debate over the causes of our current situation. The battle for the past will determine the battle for the present. So it's crucial to get the history straight.
What were the critical decisions that led to the crisis? Mistakes were made at every fork in the road -- we had what engineers call a "system failure," when not a single decision but a cascade of decisions produce a tragic result. Let's look at five key moments.
No. 1: Firing the Chairman
In 1987 the Reagan administration decided to remove Paul Volcker as chairman of the Federal Reserve Board and appoint Alan Greenspan in his place. Volcker had done what central bankers are supposed to do. On his watch, inflation had been brought down from more than 11 percent to under 4 percent. In the world of central banking, that should have earned him a grade of A+++ and assured his re-appointment. But Volcker also understood that financial markets need to be regulated. Reagan wanted someone who did not believe any such thing, and he found him in a devotee of the objectivist philosopher and free-market zealot Ayn Rand.
Greenspan played a double role. The Fed controls the money spigot, and in the early years of this decade, he turned it on full force. But the Fed is also a regulator. If you appoint an anti-regulator as your enforcer, you know what kind of enforcement you'll get. A flood of liquidity combined with the failed levees of regulation proved disastrous.
Greenspan presided over not one but two financial bubbles. After the high-tech bubble popped, in 2000-2001, he helped inflate the housing bubble. The first responsibility of a central bank should be to maintain the stability of the financial system. If banks lend on the basis of artificially high asset prices, the result can be a meltdown -- as we are seeing now, and as Greenspan should have known. He had many of the tools he needed to cope with the situation. To deal with the high-tech bubble, he could have increased margin requirements (the amount of cash people need to put down to buy stock). To deflate the housing bubble, he could have curbed predatory lending to low-income households and prohibited other insidious practices (the no-documentation -- or "liar" -- loans, the interest-only loans, and so on). This would have gone a long way toward protecting us. If he didn't have the tools, he could have gone to Congress and asked for them.
Of course, the current problems with our financial system are not solely the result of bad lending. The banks have made mega-bets with one another through complicated instruments such as derivatives, credit-default swaps, and so forth. With these, one party pays another if certain events happen -- for instance, if Bear Stearns goes bankrupt, or if the dollar soars. These instruments were originally created to help manage risk -- but they can also be used to gamble. Thus, if you felt confident that the dollar was going to fall, you could make a big bet accordingly, and if the dollar indeed fell, your profits would soar. The problem is that, with this complicated intertwining of bets of great magnitude, no one could be sure of the financial position of anyone else -- or even of one's own position. Not surprisingly, the credit markets froze.
Here too Greenspan played a role. When I was chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers, during the Clinton administration, I served on a committee of all the major federal financial regulators, a group that included Greenspan and Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin. Even then, it was clear that derivatives posed a danger. We didn't put it as memorably as Warren Buffett -- who saw derivatives as "financial weapons of mass destruction" -- but we took his point. And yet, for all the risk, the deregulators in charge of the financial system -- at the Fed, at the Securities and Exchange Commission, and elsewhere -- decided to do nothing, worried that any action might interfere with "innovation" in the financial system. But innovation, like "change," has no inherent value. It can be bad (the "liar" loans are a good example) as well as good.
No. 2: Tearing Down the Walls
The deregulation philosophy would pay unwelcome dividends for years to come. In November 1999, Congress repealed the Glass-Steagall Act -- the culmination of a $300 million lobbying effort by the banking and financial-services industries, and spearheaded in Congress by Senator Phil Gramm. Glass-Steagall had long separated commercial banks (which lend money) and investment banks (which organize the sale of bonds and equities); it had been enacted in the aftermath of the Great Depression and was meant to curb the excesses of that era, including grave conflicts of interest. For instance, without separation, if a company whose shares had been issued by an investment bank, with its strong endorsement, got into trouble, wouldn't its commercial arm, if it had one, feel pressure to lend it money, perhaps unwisely? An ensuing spiral of bad judgment is not hard to foresee. I had opposed repeal of Glass-Steagall. The proponents said, in effect, Trust us: we will create Chinese walls to make sure that the problems of the past do not recur. As an economist, I certainly possessed a healthy degree of trust, trust in the power of economic incentives to bend human behavior toward self-interest -- toward short-term self-interest, at any rate, rather than Tocqueville's "self interest rightly understood."
The most important consequence of the repeal of Glass-Steagall was indirect -- it lay in the way repeal changed an entire culture. Commercial banks are not supposed to be high-risk ventures; they are supposed to manage other people's money very conservatively. It is with this understanding that the government agrees to pick up the tab should they fail. Investment banks, on the other hand, have traditionally managed rich people's money -- people who can take bigger risks in order to get bigger returns. When repeal of Glass-Steagall brought investment and commercial banks together, the investment-bank culture came out on top. There was a demand for the kind of high returns that could be obtained only through high leverage and big risktaking.
There were other important steps down the deregulatory path. One was the decision in April 2004 by the Securities and Exchange Commission, at a meeting attended by virtually no one and largely overlooked at the time, to allow big investment banks to increase their debt-to-capital ratio (from 12:1 to 30:1, or higher) so that they could buy more mortgage-backed securities, inflating the housing bubble in the process. In agreeing to this measure, the S.E.C. argued for the virtues of self-regulation: the peculiar notion that banks can effectively police themselves. Self-regulation is preposterous, as even Alan Greenspan now concedes, and as a practical matter it can't, in any case, identify systemic risks -- the kinds of risks that arise when, for instance, the models used by each of the banks to manage their portfolios tell all the banks to sell some security all at once.
As we stripped back the old regulations, we did nothing to address the new challenges posed by 21st-century markets. The most important challenge was that posed by derivatives. In 1998 the head of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, Brooksley Born, had called for such regulation -- a concern that took on urgency after the Fed, in that same year, engineered the bailout of Long-Term Capital Management, a hedge fund whose trillion-dollar-plus failure threatened global financial markets. But Secretary of the Treasury Robert Rubin, his deputy, Larry Summers, and Greenspan were adamant -- and successful -- in their opposition. Nothing was done.
No. 3: Applying the Leeches
Then along came the Bush tax cuts, enacted first on June 7, 2001, with a follow-on installment two years later. The president and his advisers seemed to believe that tax cuts, especially for upper-income Americans and corporations, were a cure-all for any economic disease -- the modern-day equivalent of leeches. The tax cuts played a pivotal role in shaping the background conditions of the current crisis. Because they did very little to stimulate the economy, real stimulation was left to the Fed, which took up the task with unprecedented low-interest rates and liquidity. The war in Iraq made matters worse, because it led to soaring oil prices. With America so dependent on oil imports, we had to spend several hundred billion more to purchase oil -- money that otherwise would have been spent on American goods. Normally this would have led to an economic slowdown, as it had in the 1970s. But the Fed met the challenge in the most myopic way imaginable. The flood of liquidity made money readily available in mortgage markets, even to those who would normally not be able to borrow. And, yes, this succeeded in forestalling an economic downturn; America's household saving rate plummeted to zero. But it should have been clear that we were living on borrowed money and borrowed time.
The cut in the tax rate on capital gains contributed to the crisis in another way. It was a decision that turned on values: those who speculated (read: gambled) and won were taxed more lightly than wage earners who simply worked hard. But more than that, the decision encouraged leveraging, because interest was tax-deductible. If, for instance, you borrowed a million to buy a home or took a $100,000 home-equity loan to buy stock, the interest would be fully deductible every year. Any capital gains you made were taxed lightly -- and at some possibly remote day in the future. The Bush administration was providing an open invitation to excessive borrowing and lending -- not that American consumers needed any more encouragement.
No. 4: Faking the Numbers
Meanwhile, on July 30, 2002, in the wake of a series of major scandals -- notably the collapse of WorldCom and Enron -- Congress passed the Sarbanes-Oxley Act. The scandals had involved every major American accounting firm, most of our banks, and some of our premier companies, and made it clear that we had serious problems with our accounting system. Accounting is a sleep-inducing topic for most people, but if you can't have faith in a company's numbers, then you can't have faith in anything about a company at all. Unfortunately, in the negotiations over what became Sarbanes-Oxley a decision was made not to deal with what many, including the respected former head of the S.E.C. Arthur Levitt, believed to be a fundamental underlying problem: stock options. Stock options have been defended as providing healthy incentives toward good management, but in fact they are "incentive pay" in name only. If a company does well, the C.E.O. gets great rewards in the form of stock options; if a company does poorly, the compensation is almost as substantial but is bestowed in other ways. This is bad enough. But a collateral problem with stock options is that they provide incentives for bad accounting: top management has every incentive to provide distorted information in order to pump up share prices.
The incentive structure of the rating agencies also proved perverse. Agencies such as Moody's and Standard & Poor's are paid by the very people they are supposed to grade. As a result, they've had every reason to give companies high ratings, in a financial version of what college professors know as grade inflation. The rating agencies, like the investment banks that were paying them, believed in financial alchemy -- that F-rated toxic mortgages could be converted into products that were safe enough to be held by commercial banks and pension funds. We had seen this same failure of the rating agencies during the East Asia crisis of the 1990s: high ratings facilitated a rush of money into the region, and then a sudden reversal in the ratings brought devastation. But the financial overseers paid no attention.
No. 5: Letting It Bleed
The final turning point came with the passage of a bailout package on October 3, 2008 -- that is, with the administration's response to the crisis itself. We will be feeling the consequences for years to come. Both the administration and the Fed had long been driven by wishful thinking, hoping that the bad news was just a blip, and that a return to growth was just around the corner. As America's banks faced collapse, the administration veered from one course of action to another. Some institutions (Bear Stearns, A.I.G., Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac) were bailed out. Lehman Brothers was not. Some shareholders got something back. Others did not.
The original proposal by Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, a three-page document that would have provided $700 billion for the secretary to spend at his sole discretion, without oversight or judicial review, was an act of extraordinary arrogance. He sold the program as necessary to restore confidence. But it didn't address the underlying reasons for the loss of confidence. The banks had made too many bad loans. There were big holes in their balance sheets. No one knew what was truth and what was fiction. The bailout package was like a massive transfusion to a patient suffering from internal bleeding -- and nothing was being done about the source of the problem, namely all those foreclosures. Valuable time was wasted as Paulson pushed his own plan, "cash for trash," buying up the bad assets and putting the risk onto American taxpayers. When he finally abandoned it, providing banks with money they needed, he did it in a way that not only cheated America's taxpayers but failed to ensure that the banks would use the money to re-start lending. He even allowed the banks to pour out money to their shareholders as taxpayers were pouring money into the banks.
The other problem not addressed involved the looming weaknesses in the economy. The economy had been sustained by excessive borrowing. That game was up. As consumption contracted, exports kept the economy going, but with the dollar strengthening and Europe and the rest of the world declining, it was hard to see how that could continue. Meanwhile, states faced massive drop-offs in revenues -- they would have to cut back on expenditures. Without quick action by government, the economy faced a downturn. And even if banks had lent wisely -- which they hadn't -- the downturn was sure to mean an increase in bad debts, further weakening the struggling financial sector.
The administration talked about confidence building, but what it delivered was actually a confidence trick. If the administration had really wanted to restore confidence in the financial system, it would have begun by addressing the underlying problems -- the flawed incentive structures and the inadequate regulatory system.
Was there any single decision which, had it been reversed, would have changed the course of history? Every decision -- including decisions not to do something, as many of our bad economic decisions have been -- is a consequence of prior decisions, an interlinked web stretching from the distant past into the future. You'll hear some on the right point to certain actions by the government itself -- such as the Community Reinvestment Act, which requires banks to make mortgage money available in low-income neighborhoods. (Defaults on C.R.A. lending were actually much lower than on other lending.) There has been much finger-pointing at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the two huge mortgage lenders, which were originally government-owned. But in fact they came late to the subprime game, and their problem was similar to that of the private sector: their C.E.O.'s had the same perverse incentive to indulge in gambling.
The truth is most of the individual mistakes boil down to just one: a belief that markets are self-adjusting and that the role of government should be minimal. Looking back at that belief during hearings this fall on Capitol Hill, Alan Greenspan said out loud, "I have found a flaw." Congressman Henry Waxman pushed him, responding, "In other words, you found that your view of the world, your ideology, was not right; it was not working." "Absolutely, precisely," Greenspan said. The embrace by America -- and much of the rest of the world -- of this flawed economic philosophy made it inevitable that we would eventually arrive at the place we are today.
RonMills.us is making this material available in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107: This article is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.
We are calling for a nationwide strike and economic boycott by all members of our Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgendered community AND OUR STRAIGHT ALLIES on December 10th, 2008, International Human Rights Day.
WHY SHOULD WE DO IT?
Because LGBT workers, business owners, consumers and taxpayers contribute over $700 billion to the U.S. economy each year and should not be treated as second class citizens. See www.witeckcombs.com/news/releases/20080602_buyingpower.pdf
Because general strikes and economic boycotts are a powerful weapon in the history of non-violent protests. See http://www.pbs.org/now/society/boycott.html. For many of those protesters, their actions came at a cost, but they understood that we must be willing to make sacrifices to fight for equal rights, including the right to marry.
Because Civil Unions are only legal in the state that offers them. Civil Unions don't include the 1100 marriage rights and benefits provided by the Federal Government. Separate but not equal is discrimination.
Because every couple in America has to get a marriage certificate from their state, whereas religious ceremonies are optional. No church or religious institution has or ever will be forced to marry anyone.
Because marriage should be a Right for all Americans, regardless of gender, race OR religion.
Because until ALL are equal, NONE are equal.
WHAT SHOULD WE DO?
Strike: call in gay, shut down your business, take the day off.
Boycott: don't buy anything or spend money.
Participate: visit www.daywithoutagay.org for a list of volunteer and/or protest opportunities.
Communicate: we need everyone's support!
Our co-sponsors include:
GAYS ON STRIKE (on Facebook)
WHY THE NAME "A DAY WITHOUT GAYS"? The name was inspired by the film A DAY WITHOUT A MEXICAN and the nationwide strike in 2006 called A DAY WITHOUT IMMIGRANTS, protesting proposed immigration laws.
Anyone interested it the facts regarding Proposition 8 should go to:http://www.noonprop8.com/about/fact-vs-fiction
Nadler Introduces Resolution Opposing Possible Bush Pardons of His Own Subordinates for Crimes He Authorized
By David Swanson
Here's a resolution, hot off the presses from Jerrold Nadler, Chair of the Constitution Subcommittee of the House Judiciary Committee:H.RES.1531, "Expressing the sense of the House of Representatives that the President of the United States should not issue pardons to senior members of his administration during the final 90 days of his term of office," Sponsor: Rep Nadler, Jerrold [NY-8] (introduced 11/20/2008).
There will be a petition promoting this resolution, through which you can write to your representative and senators at http://democrats.com/nadler-pardons
Senator Russ Feingold editorialized against these possible pardons at Salon.com yesterday; please urge him to introduce in the Senate the same resolution that Nadler has in the House.
Never before has a president pardoned himself or his subordinates for crimes he authorized. The idea that the pardon power constitutionally includes such pardons ignores a thousand year tradition in which no man can sit in judgment of himself, and the fact that James Madison and George Mason argued that the reason we needed the impeachment power was that a president might some day try to pardon someone for a crime that he himself was involved in. The problem is not preemptive pardons of people not yet tried and convicted. The problem is not blanket pardons of unnamed masses of people. Both of those types of pardons have been issued in the past and have their appropriate place. The problem is the complete elimination of any semblance of the rule of law by pardoning one's own subordinates for crimes you instructed them to commit.
Yes, of course, there's something absurd about knowing that a president authorized crimes, not impeaching him, not prosecuting him, not proposing any action with any teeth at all, but formally objecting to the idea of him issuing pardons of his own subordinates for crimes he authorized. But this is where we are. State, local, civil, foreign, and international prosecutions are likely ways of holding Bush, Cheney, and gang accountable, and pardons can't interfere with them. Pardons can't interfere with impeachment. But if we allow these pardons, we not only guarantee no federal prosecutions, and not only give Congress an excuse to drop its investigations, but we also establish the precedent that from here on out any president can violate any law and then pardon the crime. This is simply to end the idea of law. We cannot allow that.
We need to work with Congressman Nadler and Senator Feingold to promote awareness of what is wrong with self-pardons. In this way we can prepare the American public for the appropriate response when the pardons come.The appropriate response will be to demand:
1. Immediate impeachment of Bush and Cheney, even if they are out of office.
2. Overturning of the pardons, as Bush's lawyers told him he could do to Clinton's pardon of Marc Rich, which was a far more minor abuse of the pardon power.
3. Legislation banning self-pardons and pardons of crimes authorized by the president.
4. A Constitutional Amendment banning self-pardons and pardons of crimes authorized by the president.
5. Prosecution of Bush, Cheney, and their subordinates for their crimes.
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Roger Stone, the notorious political hitman who helped George W. Bush prevail in the 2000 Florida recount, tells The Daily Beast that he wishes he hadn't.
Roger Stone is one of the last guys on Earth one would expect to feel guilty over an episode of rough and tumble politicking. As a self-admitted hit man for the GOP, Stone has had a hand in everything from Nixon's dirty tricks to Eliot Spitzer's resignation to spreading discredited rumors of a Michelle Obama "whitey" tape during the 2008 Democratic primaries. You might call Stone the Forrest Gump of scandal, popping up to play a bit part in the most notorious negative campaigns in recent history.
The capstone of Stone's career, at least in terms of results, was the "Brooks Brothers riot" of the 2000 election recount. This was when a Stone-led squad of pro-Bush protestors stormed the Miami-Dade County election board, stopping the recount and advancing then-Governor George W. Bush one step closer to the White House. Though he is quick to rebut GOP operatives who seek to minimize his role in the recount, Stone lately has been having second thoughts about what happened in Florida.
When I look at those double-page New York Times spreads of all the individual pictures of people who have been killed [in Iraq], I got to think, 'Maybe there wouldn't have been a war if I hadn't gone to Miami-Dade.' Read More......
|San Francisco Chronicle: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2008/11/13/EDAC144028.DTL|
Denver Post: http://www.denverpost.com/opinion/ci_10978301
Knowing When to Walk Away
By David Sirota
Creators Syndicate, 11/14/08
It wouldn't be the George W. Bush we all know if our shamed president didn't spend his remaining White House days in a final fit of polarization.
That's what Bush's moves this week are clearly about: dividing — not uniting. The New York Times reported that during his first meeting with Barack Obama, the outgoing president suggested he might support Democrats' economic stimulus package and aid to struggling automakers if party leaders "drop their opposition to a free-trade agreement with Colombia." While Bush later denied an overt quid pro quo, one was obviously implied.
Strange behavior? Yes and no.
Bush is the Texas Hold 'Em addict who raised on the largest tax cuts in contemporary history, re-raised on two wars and went all-in with an attempt to privatize Social Security. So yes, from a brinkmanship standpoint, it seems bizarre that in exchange for a massive legislative effort to right the entire economy, the cowboy president may insist on a tiny trade deal that — at best — promises a boost of "less than seven-hundredths of one percent to U.S. gross domestic product," according to the Brookings Institution.
But, then, Bush is the protege of Karl Rove and the son of George H. W. Bush. So no, his Colombia demand isn't weird at all — nor is it as small a wager as it appears.
Bush understands what happened in 1993 when his father left an almost-finished North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) in the lap of Bill Clinton's incoming administration. He knows that business interests subsequently pressured Clinton into joining with Republicans to pass the pact over his own party's opposition. His Rove-trained mind gets what The Nation's John Nichols reported: that the payout came with a 1994 election whose NAFTA taint delivered "a dramatic drop in turnout among members of union households," decreased "Democratic support in traditional areas of strength" — and thus birthed the Republican Congress.
Bush wants to replicate this Three Card Monte — and the Colombia trade pact is his ace in the hole.
The deal would reward a right-wing Colombian regime under investigation for links to paramilitary gangs, drug cartels and anti-union brutality. Like NAFTA, it includes few labor protections, meaning it will enrich Bush's corporate donors by forcing Americans into a wage-cutting competition with low-paid foreign workers. And, most important to Bush's legacy, the pact could bust Democrats before they ever have a chance to unify.
NAFTA proved that trade is the most divisive issue inside the Democratic Party. On one side is the party's Wall Street wing that supports free trade. On the other side is its progressive wing that wants our trade policies reformed. Lately, the latter has increased its clout. As globalization became a major campaign theme in the last two elections, the watchdog group Public Citizen reports that free trade critics replaced free trade proponents in 69 House and Senate races. These new populists, along with Democrats' more senior progressive incumbents, comprise a powerful new voting bloc promising to reject deals like the Colombia agreement and protect labor and human rights.
Therefore, if Bush successfully uses the economic emergency to hustle a faction of Wall Street Democrats into supporting the deal, he will have potentially engineered a 1994 redux: Democratic infighting, a demoralized progressive base, and these newly elected fair-trade Democrats humiliated — and thus electorally endangered — by their own party standard-bearers.
Certainly, with the president betting the economy on the Colombia deal, this is a difficult, high-stakes situation for Obama. But amid all the conflicting opinions he's hearing, he has the sound advice of country music's great political sage Kenny Rogers, who counsels that gambling greatness means knowing "when to walk away."
David Sirota is a bestselling author whose newest book, "The Uprising," was just released in June of 2008. He is a fellow at the Campaign for America's Future and a board member of the Progressive States Network — both nonpartisan organizations. His blog is at www.credoaction.com/sirota.
COPYRIGHT 2008 CREATORS SYNDICATE, INC.
San Francisco Chronicle: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2008/11/13/EDAC144028.DTL
Denver Post: http://www.denverpost.com/opinion/ci_10978301
|At almost every level, last week's election was a stinging defeat for the anti-choice movement, Many conservatives, contended that Obama will be "the most radical pro-choice president" in U.S. history. |
In Congress, supporters of choice rights now hold 17 more seats in the House and at least four more in the Senate, according to NARAL Pro-Choice America. And at the state level, voters in Colorado, South Dakota and California defeated ballot measures that would have banned or restricted abortions.
Colorado voters on Tuesday rejected Amendment 48, which would have defined a "person" from the point of egg fertilization. If the measure had passed, Colorado would have become the first state to grant full constitutional rights to a fertilized egg. The potentially far-reaching ramifications of such a decision divided the anti-choice community, and the amendment lost endorsements from prominent activists who felt the personhood definition went too far. The amendment was defeated nearly 3 to 1.
Although South Dakota's Measure 11 included more exceptions to the outright abortion ban — for example, allowing abortion in rare cases of incest, rape or when the mother's life or health are endangered — than a similar initiative that was defeated in 2006, the new measure was rejected by 56% of voters. According to Kristine Wilfore, executive director of the Washington-based nonprofit Ballot Initiative Strategy Center, which advocates socially progressive issues, the initiative would have set in motion a future challenge to Roe v. Wade if passed. "It was an effort to get as close as possible to challenging Roe," Wilfore said, pointing out that South Dakota already has some of the most stringent abortion policies in the country. "This was just meant to be a test case."
Proposition 4, which would have required parental notification for girls under 18 seeking an abortion and mandated a 48-hour waiting period before the procedure, was rejected by California voters Tuesday by a vote of 52% to 48%. Prop 4 was similar to other parental-consent proposals that were defeated in 2005 and 2006.
Obama's election also dashed hopes within the anti-choice movement for possible Supreme Court vacancies over the next four years to be filled by judges who might support reversal of Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision establishing a right to abortion.
Looking back on a surreal campaign season
By Bill Ayers
During the primary, the blogosphere was full of chatter about my relationship with President-elect Barack Obama. We had served together on the board of the Woods Foundation and knew one another as neighbors in Chicago's Hyde Park. In 1996, at a coffee gathering that my wife, Bernardine Dohrn, and I held for him, I made a donation to his campaign for the Illinois State Senate.
Subject: Blaming Black Voters for Prop 8 Loss is Wrong and Destructive
Blaming Black Voters for Prop 8 Loss is Wrong and Destructive
Memo from Kathryn Kolbert, President, People For the American Way Foundation, to Progressive Allies and Journalists
Nov. 7 — The past 72 hours have brought an extraordinary range of emotions — great joy at the election of Barack Obama and defeat of John McCain, and sadness and anger at the passage of anti-gay initiatives in Florida, Arizona, Arkansas, and California. That sadness has turned to outrage at the speed with which some white gay activists began blaming African Americans — sometimes in appallingly racist ways — for the defeat of Proposition 8. This is inexcusable.
As a mother who has raised two children in a 30-year relationship with another woman, I fully understand the depth of hurt and anger at voters' rejection of our families' equality. But responding to that hurt by lashing out at African Americans is deeply wrong and offensive — not to mention destructive to the goal of advancing equality.
Before we give Religious Right leaders more reasons to rejoice by deepening the divisions they have worked so hard to create between African Americans and the broader progressive community, let's be clear about who is responsible for gay couples in California losing the right to get married, and let's think strategically about a way forward that broadens and strengthens support for equality.
Others have taken on the challenge of looking at the basic numbers and concluded that it is simply false to suggest that Prop 8 would have been defeated if African Americans had been more supportive. The amendment seems to have passed by more than half a million votes, and the number of black voters, even with turnout boosted by the presidential race, couldn't have made up that difference. That's an important fact, but when African American supporters of equality are being called racist epithets at protests about Prop 8, the numbers almost seem beside the point.
Republicans and white churchgoers, among many other groups, voted for Prop. 8 at higher rates than African Americans. There are few African Americans in the inland counties that all voted overwhelmingly to strip marriage equality out of the California constitution. So why single out African Americans? Who's really to blame? The Religious Right. Let's start here:
Conservative evangelical leaders who are unremittingly hostile to the rights of gay people and who put Prop. 8 on the ballot and bombarded pastors, churchgoers, and the public with lies about gay people wanting to destroy their religious liberty and come for their children — even suggesting that Christians would be thrown in jail if Prop 8 passed.
Mormon Church leaders who turned Prop. 8 into a national religious crusade against gay couples, badgered Mormons nationwide to give heavily to the campaign, and recruited thousands of footsoldiers for door-to-door canvassing (special kudos to the courageous Mormons who challenged the Church leadership)
Conservative Catholic leaders who betrayed Catholic teaching about human dignity by enthusiastically joining forces with campaign organizers who portrayed supporters of gay equality as evil and satanic
"Yes on Prop 8" leaders whose view of the campaign as a battle between good and evil led to an "ends justifies the means" campaign that included grossly distorted ads, mailings, and robocalls directed at African Americans and falsely portrayed Barack Obama as a Prop 8 supporter.
There will be plenty of post-game analysis of the No on 8 campaign's choices and strategies, and that's not the purpose of this memo. But it is clear that the Yes on 8 campaign had a far more aggressive and systematic outreach to African American religious leaders and voters. If we either take black voters for granted because they are "supposed to" be liberal, or we write them out of our campaign strategies because we label them inherently homophobic, we cannot turn around and make them the scapegoat for our failings.
Here's a fact that creates some perspective. On November 4 there was an anti-gay initiative on the ballot in Arkansas to prohibit unmarried couples from adopting or being foster parents. White voters supported that anti-gay initiative by a 16 percentage point margin, twice the margin for African Americans in the state. So it's clearly not the case that African Americans are inherently more prone to supporting discrimination than white Americans.
We need a broad and ongoing strategy to create and sustain constructive dialogue at the intersections of race, religion, sexuality, and politics. And it should go without saying that partnership is a two-way street. How many white LGBT leaders and activists have been at the forefront of battles to preserve affirmative action, or raise the minimum wage?
The Right's Big Investments Pay Big Dividends
The Religious Right has invested in systematic outreach to the most conservative elements of the Black Church, creating and promoting national spokespeople like Bishop Harry Jackson, and spreading the big lie that gays are out to destroy religious freedom and prevent pastors from preaching about homosexuality from the pulpit.
In addition, Religious Right leaders have exploited the discomfort among many African Americans with white gays who seem more ready to embrace the language and symbols of the civil rights movement than to be strong allies in the continuing battle for equal opportunity. At a series of Religious Right events, demagogic African American pastors have accused the gay rights movement of "hijacking" and "raping" the civil rights movement.
The effort to stir anti-gay emotions among African Americans by suggesting that gays are trying to "hijack" the civil rights movement is not new. During a Cincinnati referendum in 1993, anti-gay groups produced a videotape targeted to African American audiences; the tape featured Trent Lott, Ed Meese and other right-wing luminaries warning that protecting the civil rights of lesbians and gay men would come at the expense of civil rights gains made by the African American community. It was an astonishing act of hypocrisy for Lott and Meese to show concern for those civil rights gains, given their career-long hostility to civil rights principles and enforcement, but the strategy worked that year. Eleven years later, however, African American religious leaders and voters helped pass an initiative striking the anti-gay provision from the city charter. (The story of that successful fairness campaign is told in an award-winning mini-documentary — A Blinding Flash of the Obvious — that is part of a Focus on Fairness toolkit produced by People For the American Way Foundation.)
In California this year, national and local white anti-gay religious leaders worked hard to create alliances with African American clergy; Harry Jackson was busy in both California and Florida stirring opposition to marriage equality. None of the Right's outreach to African Americans on gay rights issues in recent years has been a secret. Neither has polling that showed some deterioration in African American support for full equality. But there hasn't been the same investment in systematic outreach from the gay rights community.
Support Champions, Don't Undermine Them
In the face of the Right's efforts to stir anti-gay sentiment among African Americans, many civil rights leaders have been powerful advocates for LGBT equality, among them Julian Bond, John Lewis, and the late Coretta Scott King. These leaders are deeply committed to the value of fairness and the constitutional principle of equality under the law, and they understand that strengthening the hand of far right leaders is not in any way in the interest of the African American community.
Angrily blaming African Americans for the passage of Prop 8 is not going to help open doors for the kind of long-term conversations we need to have about homophobia and discrimination. It will, instead, further isolate and undermine courageous African American leaders who have taken a firm stand for equality. Alice Huffman, president of the state NAACP, has been an outspoken champion on equality and on Prop 8, and right-wing leaders are fomenting attacks on her from within the organization. People like Alice Huffman need our support and strategic thinking, not complaints or condemnation.
Broad-brush denunciation of African Americans by white gay leaders also fosters the incredibly damaging perception that the LGBT and African American communities are two separate, rather than overlapping entities, and undermines the work of African American LGBT leaders.
Religion, Homophobia and Marriage Equality
The far right has aggressively sought to use traditional religious beliefs about homosexuality as a wedge to separate African Americans from progressive allies and particularly from the LGBT rights movement. In response, People For the American Way Foundation's African American Ministers Leadership Council has created an Equal Justice Task Force and made a commitment to a multi-year effort to take on homophobia in the black church and broader African American community.
As part of that long-term campaign, People For the American Way Foundation conducted focus groups among African American churchgoers in California in September. Among men and women, and among younger and older groups, we found strong opposition to discrimination against LGBT people in employment and housing. And we found widespread support for legal protections for committed couples. Among all groups there was generally a live-and-let-live attitude toward gay people in their communities and congregations, and a recognition that couples deserve some basic legal protections. People For the American Way Foundation produced and ran three radio ads designed to tap that instinct for fairness and encouraging African Americans to oppose anti-gay discrimination.
But our focus groups also showed us that marriage equality faces a higher hurdle. Many people in our focus groups had difficulty sorting out the difference between civil marriage and marriage as a religious institution. Even some of the most eloquent opponents of discrimination argued that marriage was somehow different because they saw it as an inherently religious act that God had designed to be between a man and a woman. Rev. Kenneth Samuel, chair of the AAMLC's Equal Justice Task Force, says we need to be in "tough and loving" conversation to get people to think differently about that question, and to grapple with separating religious belief from commitment to constitutional principles of equality under the law. That's a hard conversation to have in the midst of a heated political campaign.
Samuel was among the leaders of workshops at the California NAACP convention in October on homophobia in the black church. The overflow sessions went on for hours, demonstrating that there is a real hunger for the kind of honest, rousing conversation about homophobia, discrimination, love, equality, scripture, and politics. People's hearts were changed, even if everyone didn't end the session ready to fully embrace marriage equality.
As an outgrowth of those workshops, Rev. Gerald Johnson, the Individual Rights and Advocacy Vice Chair of the state NAACP, asked for volunteers to develop and submit a resolution that resolved to: "develop partnerships with African American civic and religious leaders to educate, train, and advocate for cultural competency and sensitivity in the greater African American community as it relates to gay and lesbian concerns." That resolution passed overwhelmingly.
In preparation for those workshops and other clergy roundtables and training sessions, People For the American Way Foundation created a video documenting right-wing efforts to co-opt the black church by embracing and lifting up the voices of anti-gay conservative black clergy. In that video, Rev. Samuel describes Religious Right leaders who believe welfare is satanic and the minimum wage and other worker protections are ungodly, and he asks, "what are the consequences of lending our voices, our moral and spiritual authority, to those who seek our support to deny the dignity, humanity, and equality of our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters?"
Rev. Samuel speaks movingly about the religious journey that led him to begin preaching a gospel of inclusion — and his commitment to stick with it even when a thousand members left his church. He understands how deeply questions of homophobia and marriage are rooted in understandings of scripture and the traditions of the black church. Here's how Rev. Samuel concludes that video:
I know that within the Black Church we have different theological views about sexuality. But I believe we can find common ground against mistreating our brothers and sisters in the words of Jesus to love our neighbors as ourselves. And we can find common ground in opposing discrimination in the constitutional principle of equal justice under the law that we fought so hard to make a reality.
I believe the Black Church loses a bit of its soul every time we sacrifice the well-being of our gay brothers and sisters — every time we make political alliances at their expense. I believe it is our calling to be a consistent voice for justice. And I do believe that "A threat to justice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere."
The LGBT-equality movement needs to recognize that its real enemies are the Religious Right organizations and leaders who oppose gay and lesbian equality and who devise and fund strategies like Prop 8. And we must commit now to building long-term partnerships with equality-affirming African American clergy and community leaders that will allow us to advance the progressive values that we share.
Days Since Michael Steele Said He Won't Resign"The Playa" said he wouldn't resign as head of the RNC ("Not me Baby! Nuh-uh. Not happening. No way, no how.")
23 Days, 23 Hours, 32 Minutes, 38 Seconds.