Monthly Archives: April 2009

Starting to Lose Count of Gay Marriage States?

Us, too. Via Ben Smith at Politico:

The New Hampshire State Senate just passed a bill making same-sex marriage law — by a single vote, 13-11.

The same bill already passed the House, and now goes to the desk of Governor John Lynch, a Democrat who has said he opposes same-sex marraige, but hasn’t said how he’d act on the legislation.

Now Hampshire reports that it’s a big win for Democratic Chairman Ray Buckley, and a New Hampshire politico describes to me “insane behind-the-scenes wrangling,” with two votes switching in the last 24 hours.

Also, the New Hampshire State Senate only has 24 people?

Don’t Fall For This Imitation Lambskin Fool Over Here.

H/T to fantastic 90s flashback site Warning: you will get lost in a sea of teased hair, douches, and Charo doing the Macarena.

(I actually remember watching this whole film at some point in the mid ’90s: Time Out: The Truth About HIV, AIDS and You. Directed by the one and only Theo Aloysius Huxtable.)

So Much Swag He Can Give Some Swag Away.

We all got ’em. The embarrassing middle school pic in which we rock a terrible hairstyle. The prom photo in which we wore a knock-off the style that was hot at the time. The poster for a Catholic youth organization in which we’re holding a basketball and imploring our fellow teenagers to abstain from having premarital sex that your friends got their hands on and clowned you for weeks about. Oh, wait. What I was I saying?

Yeah, we’re pretty sure this kid is gonna regret this in five years.

‘The Confederate Flag Means Segregation.’

Ta-Nehisi Coates has a good post up on those who defend their desire to fly the Confederate flag as an affirmation of heritage and not an open expression of hate:

It may well be true that Alabama’s desire to fly the Confederate flag at the state capitol, or the desire of many Alabamans to use it themselves as they see fit, has nothing to do with the fact that the state was the last to drop its (unenforceable) prohibition against interracial marriage (in 2000!). It may be a mere coincidence that the only people to oppose the Alabama repeal were leaders of the states’ “Confederate heritage group.”  But if the flag’s defenders aren’t racist (which I can accept) the necessary conclusion, while banal and common, isn’t anymore comforting–a shocking ignorance of one’s own history.

As someone who grew up around Confederate flags and the white folks who love them (Southern by the grace of God, as they say), I can attest to this: most of these kids (and their parents) are scarcely aware of their history.  They have romanticized their Confederate ancestors as noble defenders of independence, and while that’s in some sense understandable (no one likes to think poorly of their ancestors), it does ignore the fact that the Confederacy was explicitly founded on a theology of divinely-ordained white supremacy.

What’s more, even the “heritage” defense betrays a deep ignorance of history; although the Confederate flag (in various incarnations) was flown throughout Reconstruction and into the 20th century, the Confederate flag as we recognize it (the “stars and bars) didn’t come into popular use until the 1950s and the beginning of federally-mandated desegregation, where it was used primarily to signal opposition to desegregation.  Insofar that it was supposed to represent Southern “heritage,” it was a sign that the flyer respected the long-standing Southern tradition of apartheid and racial violence.  As historian John Hoski explains in his book on the subject, this was a pretty explicit sentiment:

Roy V. Harris, the recently retired speaker of the Georgia House of Representatives and editor of the Augusta Courier, minced no words in linking the threat to his embrace of the Confederate flag in 1951.  ”The Confederate flag is coming to mean something to everybody now.  It means the southern cause.  It means the heart throbs of the people of the South. It is becoming to be [sic] the symbol of the white race and the cause of white people.  The Confederate flag means segregation.”

Honestly, I’d be a lot more comfortable with people who flew the Confederate flag if stopped they simply acknowledged that the flag represents apartheid and white supremacy; it’s not a pleasant history, but it’s history, and Confederate flag-loving white Southerners ought to accept that.


For internet addicts who want to keep tabs on swine flu developments the Center for Disease Control has a Twitter Feed to provide you with up to the minute facts, stats and reminders.

For example, you CANNOT catch swine flu from eating pork.

See black people? Don’t say I never gave you nuffin.

For the more geeky among us Paul Revere over at Effect Measure demystifies various aspects of the outbreak/ possible pandemic by keeping us informed,  translating all the medical jargon, reducing confusion over common terms, and explaining the scientific basis of how the treatment works.

h/t to SciencePunk

Angling for the Presidency.

Dick Cheney official photo

Dick Cheney official photo

In his inaugural column for the Times, Ross Douthat argues that Cheney should have run for president so that America could have had a stouter debate on torture during the campaign.  McCain couldn’t hold the pro-torture platform because he didn’t agree with the Bush/Cheney stand, and so the Bush/Cheney stand and the viability of their brand of conservatism could really only have been tested with a Cheney run. He doesn’t argue that Cheney would have been good for the country, but that the debate would have been.

. . .and Obama didn’t see a percentage in harping on the topic.

He wasn’t alone. A large swath of the political class wants to avoid the torture debate. The Obama administration backed into it last week, and obviously wants to back right out again.

But the argument isn’t going away. It will be with us as long as the threat of terrorism endures. And where the Bush administration’s interrogation programs are concerned, we’ve heard too much to just “look forward,” as the president would have us do. We need to hear more: What was done and who approved it, and what intelligence we really gleaned from it. Not so that we can prosecute – unless the Democratic Party has taken leave of its senses – but so that we can learn, and pass judgment, and struggle toward consensus.

Here Dick Cheney, prodded by the ironies of history into demanding greater disclosure about programs he once sought to keep completely secret, has an important role to play. He wants to defend his record; let him defend it. And let the country judge.

It’s an intriguing argument, but I’m not sure I buy it. First, you have to assume that the kind of debate would only have happened during the election, and that people hadn’t made a decision about torture based on what we knew about Abu Ghraib and waterboarding beforehand. You could argue that if the American people didn’t care then, they weren’t going to care during the campaign, when their home and 401(K) values began plunging. Or you could argue that the debate did happen in people’s families, homes and communities, and the Bush/Cheney torture policy was soundly rejected when Barack Obama won in November. Obama didn’t bring out those horrible photos, but he often spoke about the threat to civil liberties and our American ideals under a policy that condoned such activites and wiretapped it’s civilians and had “federal agents poking around in our libraries.” The election wasn’t just a defeat of McCain, but an overall rejection of the Republican party and the last eight years. And, in case you didn’t know, the previous eight years were run by the Cheney administration.

Which makes this a perfect time to tell you to read Angler: The Cheney Vice Presidency, the book Barton Gellman published after he and Jo Becker won the Pulitzer Prize for their series about Cheney for the Washington Post. Even if you read the series, the book contains revelations so astounding that you wonder if you ever know what’s going on in this country at all.

On giving exclusive authority to the Pentagon to decide which suspected terrorists to try with military tribunals, for example, Cheney, who “liked to remind the White House staff that ‘the president’s most precious commodity is his time,'” arranged a meeting with former Attorney General John Ashcroft and overruled his objections to tell him John Yoo had already recommended the Pentagon could do it.

Three days later, Cheney brought the order to lunch with the president. No one told Colin Powell or Condi Rice. No one told their lawyers. . .

Cheney emerged from lunch with a thumbs-up from the president. . .

In less than an hour, the document traversed a West Wing circuit that gave its words the power of command. It changed hands four times, with emphatic instructions to bypass staff review. Cheney’s days of ‘orderly paper flow,’ of shunning ‘by the way decisions,’ were long behind him.

Continue reading

On Arlen Specter.

Jam does the math on what Specter’s defection means.

The Democratic reaction – judging from the steady stream of emails I’ve received from various groups of college Democrats – is that this is excellent news; Specter plus a seated Al Franken equals 60-votes and a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate.  Of course, there probably needs to be quotes over “filibuster-proof”; Specter was particularly spineless throughout the Bush years, and like many of his “moderate” colleagues, is more concerned with image than substance.  While I certainly hope that Specter will take advantage of his newfound political freedom and reverse his stance on the Employee Free Choice Act  or commit to supporting a Democratic health care bill, I doubt that will be the case.  In all likelihood, Specter will jump on the Ben Nelson/Evan Byah train and use his position to enhance his “centrist credentials” while simultaneously obstructing or actively working against progressive legislation.

Nonetheless, this does further underscore the extent to which the Republican Party is cocooning itself into irrelevence. What Specter loses in ideological purity, he more than makes up for in sheer popularity; Pennsylvanians love the guy (A good friend of mine’s only Republican vote was for Specter) and the seat (along with a reliable vote) would have remained in Republican hands until he retired. Toomey, by contrast, doesn’t stand a chance in the general election; nominating him simply amounts to giving the Democratic Party another safe senate seat.  Frankly, this only goes to show that the GOP isn’t actuall interested in improving its electoral fortunes, since if it were, it would have done everything possible to keep Toomey out of the primary.  As it stands however, the GOP has a near-fanatical obsession with maintaining its ideological purity, despite the fact that its pro-torture/pro-plutocrat ideology is corrupt, ineffective and deeply unpopular.