26 July 2011

Norwegian terrorist admires the Tea Party

Last Friday, a bomb exploded in Oslo, Norway, outside some government buildings. Many people immediately assumed it was al-Qaeda.

Then, less than two hours later, a gunman opened fire at a youth camp.

More than 90 people were killed in these two acts of violence.

Ironically, the admitted perpetrator in both incidents, Anders Behring Breivik, is not an Islamic terrorist, but rather a white radical right-wing Islamophobe who admires the American Tea Party movement and wants to save the Western world from Muslim infiltration/influence.

Violence based on that kind of attitude will never solve anything. Indeed, it's the mirror image of Islamic jihad. It leads only to unnecessary suffering and death.

Might does not make right. But, sadly, some people don't care about that.

"Don't Retreat, Instead - RELOAD!"
-- Sarah Palin

22 July 2011

The financial panic begins

With no agreement in Washington yet on raising the debt ceiling, a couple of people have told me that they are looking into moving their personal investments out of the stock market and into something safer.

If enough people do this, I'm guessing that it could destabilize our economy even worse.

Not that I blame them.

Some others, who are government workers, are slashing their personal spending even more, fearing loss of their paychecks. Since personal spending is what stimulates the economy, this too will have a negative effect.

Not that I blame them.

Will the GOP please stop playing games with our lives and livelihoods? (Rhetorical question, of course.)

21 July 2011

Lesbian couple sues VT inn for discrimination; inn cries misunderstanding

It seems that lawsuits are never simple, and there are always at least two sides.

The latest example to catch my attention is the case of Baker and Linsley v. Wildflower Inn. In this case, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is working with a lesbian couple, Kate Baker and Ming Linsley, to sue a Vermont inn for refusing to host their wedding reception.

According to some case background on the ACLU website, the Wildflower Inn seemed very eager to host the reception until the innkeepers learned that the happy couple are two lesbians. Never mind the fact that same-sex marriage has been legal in Vermont since 2009; it appeared that the innkeepers wanted no part of it on their property.

The ACLU quotes an email from an employee of the inn who had been working with the mother of one of the brides on preliminary arrangements: "After our conversation, I checked in with my Innkeepers and unfortunately due to their personal feelings, they do not host gay receptions at our facility."

And this wasn't the first time, allegedly. According to the ACLU's official complaint, filed July 19, "during the same 12-month period in which the Meeting and Events Director refused to allow Ming and Kate to hold their reception at the resort, the Meeting and Events Director also turned away at least two other same-sex couples pursuant to the Wildflower Inn's no-gay-reception policy."

Imagine the public outrage if interracial couples were treated this way in 2011!

According to the ACLU, "The Vermont Human Rights Law has prohibited public accommodations from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation for nearly 20 years."

And, notes the ACLU, "This case is about discrimination, plain and simple. When a business that is open to the public refuses to serve two people and their guests solely because the two people are a same sex couple, it is no different than restaurants not serving individuals because they were black, or other businesses keeping out women or Jews. It is discrimination and it is illegal."

But, as I noted above, there are always at least two sides to every lawsuit. So I called the Wildflower Inn. I expected to hear, "No comment." Instead, I ended up speaking with a woman who wanted to talk, albeit reluctantly.

When she answered the phone at the inn, I introduced myself and explained that I am a writer in Philadelphia hoping to hear their side of the story. The woman (who did not give her name) said it was all a misunderstanding.

She went on to say that the Wildflower Inn employs a number of gay people, and that numerous gay guests have stayed there in the past and have returned for repeat visits.

Whey then, I asked, were Ming and Kate turned away?

I did not get a straight answer to that question (pun unintended). But the woman on the phone seemed to imply it was the decision of the Meeting and Events Director, who had allegedly not consulted the owners at all.

I'll leave it to the lawyers on both sides to drag out the real facts. And I'll leave it to the courts to ultimately decide who at the inn broke the law, if indeed a law was broken. But, at the very least, the email quoted above certainly does make it seem like someone at the inn has a homophobia problem.

In the meantime, ABC News reports that Ming and Kate have found a different place to hold the festivities. I wish them all the best.

20 July 2011

Senate committee to consider DOMA repeal today

Today, the Senate Judiciary Committee will conduct a hearing to assess the impact of the discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and to consider Senator Diane Feinstein's bill S.598, the Respect for Marriage Act.

According to Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG), S.598 "would effectively repeal DOMA by allowing the U.S. federal government to provide benefits to married same-sex couples living in the 6 states (and the District of Columbia) that recognize marriage equality."

It is not total equality, but it's better than DOMA!

According to the Courage Campaign, "29 Senators now support repeal, which is more than twice the number of Senators that voted for DOMA in 1996." And President Obama has endorsed the bill.

Stay tuned for updates as this bill hopefully continues to move through Congress and on to the president's desk!

19 July 2011

Philly archbishop resigns in wake of sex abuse scandal

Is it coincidence? I don't know.

But I find it interesting that Cardinal Justin Rigali, head of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Philadelphia, is now resigning. This comes just a few months after a new grand jury report cited him for failing to adequately follow a previous report's recommendations issued in 2005 for dealing with clergy sex abuse scandals in the archdiocese.

According to the Associated Press, the 2005 report "charged that Rigali and his predecessor hid credible sex-abuse complaints made against dozens of Philadelphia priests."

According to KYW, Philadelphia's CBS affiliate, "Rigali put several reforms into place after [the 2005] grand jury's findings were released, hired an advocate for victims, and pledged to pastorally deal with the crisis."

But many believe he didn't do enough.

In all fairness, under Church law, he was required to retire when he turned 75 last year. But the Pope did not accept his resignation until now.

I hope Rigali's replacement will do a better job of protecting the children and supporting the victims.

In the meantime, I'm glad that the legal system is following up on this issue, since the Church is obviously not doing enough.

15 July 2011

To Marcus Bachmann: Who are the real barbarians?

It's Friday, so I'm going to have some (sort of) tongue-in-cheek fun here.

Unfortunately, I'm thinking about Marcus Bachmann, homophobic husband of Congresswoman and GOP presidential candidate Michele Bachmann (R-MN).

I'm thinking about how Mr. Bachmann referred to homosexuals as "barbarians".

And I'm thinking that Mr. Bachmann obviously did not give a lot of forethought to that label before using it.

After all, the opposite of barbarism is culture. And the height of culture is fine living -- i.e., well decorated homes, an appreciation for beauty and art, and a flair for fine dining.

So tell me: Who can beat the gays at those things? For instance, who (besides Martha Stewart) can beat the gays at throwing a beautiful and fabulous gourmet brunch?

Probably not Marcus Bachmann.

Or, if he can, then maybe there are other questions we should be asking. ;-)

In any case, on the other hand, barbarism usually involves intolerance based on ignorance (willful or not).


14 July 2011

A missed teabag opportunity

At lunchtime yesterday, while enjoying a salad at a local cafe, I noticed a 50-something man and his wife sitting nearby. The man was wearing a t-shirt with a picture of Barack Obama and the words "RACIST JERK" (in capital letters).

I was tempted to approach him and strike up a conversation. I thought it might be fun to act like a naive but inquisitive conservative seeking his higher knowledge.

In my mind, I imagined sweetly delivering the following opener: "Hey, I like your t-shirt. I heard Glenn Beck say Obama's a racist, too, and he knows about these things. But I keep wondering: How could he be a racist when his mother was white?"

I really, really wanted to do it. Because I really, really wanted to see how he would respond. And how his wife would react.

But, by the time I worked up the nerve, they had finished their lunch and left the building.

I need to be bolder faster.

13 July 2011

Grayson wants his seat back

Good news for progressives: Former U.S. Congressman Alan Grayson (D-FL) is apparently running for office again.

According to WFTV in Orlando, "Grayson already raised nearly $100,000 in donations before filing his paperwork on Monday."

We need Grayson's progressive voice back in the House again, especially in the wake of Anthony Weiner's recent self-destruction.

Fingers crossed in hopes for a Grayson victory in 2012.

12 July 2011

Will jobs cost Obama the election?

Last week's unemployment numbers came as a sad surprise to those of us who have to work for a living. New jobs were fewer than expected, and the unemployment percentage inched up to 9.2 percent.

If these numbers don't improve soon, I'm afraid President Obama might stand no chance of reelection.

And perhaps he will deserve that fate. After all, when he took office, he chose financial advisors who are sympathetic to Wall Street and corporate America - the folks who cause this economic mess. And, in his constant efforts to placate the GOP, he has seemingly abandoned his base.

On the other hand, if Obama loses in 2012, things will surely go from very bad to much worse.

I'm tired of voting for the lesser of two evils. Where is the change I can believe in?

11 July 2011

Bachmann vs. the First Amendment

GOP presidential candidate Michele Bachmann, known for her extreme right-wing "religious" crusade against all things "evil" (like science), has officially joined a war against pornography.

It's part of a broader candidate pledge that she signed to save marriage and the family (i.e., the right-wing "ideal" for each). Bachmann was the first candidate to sign the pledge.

The pledge also registers opposition to same-sex marriage, birth control, and marital infidelity (as well as that huge looming threat of Sharia law replacing our Constitution).

But it's the pornography thing that concerns me right now. Signers of the pledge vow to support the "[h]umane protection of women and the innocent fruit of conjugal intimacy - our next generation of American children - from ... all forms of pornography."

While I can understand wanting to shield children from porn, we already have measures in place for that, so there's nothing for Bachmann and her cohorts to do.

But they want to "protect" everyone - and especially women - from porn (as if I need to be protected from it).

I'm no constitutional attorney, but it seems to me that there have been several cases in which the Supreme Court has ruled that pornography is protected under the First Amendment.

And that is healthy, in my opinion. After all, if you start censoring that which someone finds subjectively offensive, you construct a very slippery slope.

It's the very kind of thing that our Founding Fathers worked so hard to try to prevent.

It's sad and scary that Bachmann so hates our freedom.

08 July 2011

Will Obama pull the plug on Grandma's income?

In all the talk about the deficit and the debt ceiling, I thought Social Security and Medicare had long ago been taken off the table. Apparently that's not the case.

The news yesterday was that President Obama might be willing to trade Social Security and Medicare cuts in exchange for tax increases.

Whose side is he on?! Certainly not on the side of our non-rich senior citizens.

I am appalled.

07 July 2011

Sick of Casey Anthony

Today in Florida, Casey Anthony will be sentenced for the handful of misdemeanors for which the jury on Tuesday found her guilty, all related to giving false information to law enforcement. Since Anthony was acquitted of the more sensational charges against her, I am hoping that the whole media circus will now go away.

I am sick of it. And I am sick of the pundits and everyday citizens expressing their outrage over the jury's decision on Tuesday that Anthony is not guilty of the murder of her 2-year-old daughter. (As if these armchair critics are privy to some secret evidence that would erase the reasonable doubt. But no, they just know it anyway.)

Just after the verdict broke, an acquaintance asked me what I thought of it. I answered honestly: I don't care. I do not personally know Casey Anthony. She is not a member of my family or my professional or social circle, so it's none of my immediate business, unless her human rights are at some point violated (which would have been the case had she been convicted with a death sentence).

The Casey Anthony story got so big, and so out of control, because the media saw some glamour (and therefore ratings) in it. A hot white middle-class mom may have killed her cute white daughter because the toddler was interfering with mom's party-happy social life. Cha-ching! Not even Paris Hilton can compete with that.

But I hear stories every week here in Philly of missing children. In many of those cases, a parent is a suspect. But those other cases don't become national news sensations. Maybe they're just not glamorous enough. The parties involved might be minorities, or they just might not be interesting or edgy enough to capture the national spotlight.

This double standard is not solely the fault of the media that hype the select few cases. It's also the fault of the sheep who turn them into a ratings success.

Get a life, people.

Sadly, though, I predict some major magazine exposure for Anthony after this, along with maybe a book and a made-for-TV movie.

Again: Get a life, people.

06 July 2011

Will Texas execute a Mexican national tomorrow?

Humberto Leal Garcia Jr., a Mexican national, is scheduled to be executed by lethal injection by the State of Texas tomorrow, July 7.

He was convicted of the 1994 rape and murder of a 16-year-old girl. Having been found guilty, punishment is warranted. But not the death penalty in this case.

That is because Texas cut legal corners in the case. Under the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, international arrestees are entitled to help from the consulate of their home country. But Leal didn't find that out until he was already sitting on death row.

Texas is obviously not interested in true justice. They're just interested in procedural expediency. And so they have ignored mitigating evidence in Leal's clemency petition that the jury never heard during trial and sentencing, and that Leal (like so many other non-rich, non-white criminal defendants in this country) had inadequate and ineffective legal representation.

According to the Los Angeles Times, "The International Court of Justice has called on the United States to review Leal's case, as well as the cases of other Mexican nationals who were never told of their rights under the treaty."

Not good enough for Texas.

Even former President George W. Bush (who, while Governor of Texas, and under the influence of Alberto Gonzales, seemed to just love signing death warrants while ignoring mitigating evidence) called on Texas to comply with the Convention.

Not good enough for today's Texas.

So the Obama administration also called for a review of the case. According to the Telegraph (UK), "The Obama administration, adopting a similar stance to the one taken by President George W Bush's, believes executing Leal could endanger Americans abroad who are also entitled to consular assistance under the Vienna Convention."

Still apparently not good enough for Texas.

How you can help:

Click here to call on Texas Governor Rick Perry and the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles to commute Leal's sentence.

Please hurry.

01 July 2011

Obama, the new war president

George W. Bush proudly described himself as a "war president". But it seems his successor has beaten him at the game, only 2 1/2 years in.

Under Bush, we carried on military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Under Obama, we continue killing and/or being killed on those fronts while also using military force in Pakistan, Libya, Yemen, and Somalia.

Bush must be so jealous!