Mormon Church Used Prop 8 To Mainstream With Other Conservatives

I have kept my powder dry on this blog over the truly disgusting display from California voters in last week’s election regarding Proposition 8.  Denying the right of marriage to gay people is just illogical.  It is mean-spirited, hateful, and bigoted.  I have not uttered a word here about the huge number of black voters in California who were proud of their own fight for civil rights, while at the same time displaying a culturally crude vote to rip other civil rights away from another group of Americans.  I never mentioned this past week anything about this story.  For the first time in over two years I have not discussed a top news story on this blog while it was happening. The story was just too deeply troubling.  I did not have the desire to go near it.  It nauseated me.

Now it is a week later, and it is time to join with others to beat back the bigotry.

There will be many kicks at the can here over the months.  But where to start…where to start…

How about with the sanctimonious prigs in the Mormon Church?

Why would the Mormon Church, with a most interesting history regarding marriage, or should I say marriages, interject itself into the highly emotional gay marriage issue in California?  What possibly could be gained by giving huge amounts of money to pass Proposition 8, which places discrimination into the California State Constitution?

My theory is that it was less about protecting traditional marriage, and more about public relations and allying itself with other conservative religious institutions.  The church eats and breathes public relations, to the point that they renamed the Book of Mormon, and added steeples to their already existing churches to make them look more Christian.  They are perhaps more PR conscious than many know.  By organizing Yes on 8, the Mormons stood to gain considerable accolades, if not clout, from the other conservative religious groups it so very desperately seeks acceptance from.  Be mindful that it was those same groups that for almost 2 centuries persecuted and ostracized the Mormon Church and its members.  It’s like when a high school loner beats up a geek in the presence of the school gang of bullies, hoping to win points with them; he improves his own chances of not being bullied any more, but still someone gets hurt. 

I do not understand the Mormon Church’s motive, but find thier actions reprehensible, especially when I’m the geek who gets the pummeling.  It’s a familiar effort of calculated opportunism, and that makes me want to puke.

Any questions why it took me a week to respond to this BS from California?

Day One For President Obama: Start Shutting Down Guantanamo Bay

There is a strong need for Barack Obama to hit the road running when he takes the oath of office on January 20th.  Not only does the nation require a captain guiding economic policy, but we also must have swift and clear signals sent around the world that this is a new begining in international affairs.  Once again it needs to be made known that America is not above the law, or international norms. 

I think it essential that Guantanamo Bay be closed.  This was one of the most dreadful examples of presidential over-reach by George Bush, and ranks among the worst in modern history.  Guantanamo Bay cast a black eye on America that was seen and understood by all around the world.   The base holds roughly 260 prisoners, and there needs to be a process put in place that will allow the closure of this base.  As many have noted this place is a gift that keeps on giving to those who wish to use it as recruiting tool among radical elements in the Middle East.  It has done us no good, and only brought shame.

It has been noted that the Obama team is already looking to move most, if not all, of the prisoners out of Guantanamo Bay.  If the people at the base are not charged with something they should be released.  It they are charged, then let the U.S. court system handle the matter.  There might be a few who are in fact ‘high-level’ detainees, and some conservatives argue they need to be dealt with through the special court designed by the Bush Administration for this propose.  I am highly dubious of this specially crafted court, and the mission it holds.  I want to see more accountability and openness with this military tribunal process.  And I think the world expects the same.

There will be a hell of a backlash for doing the right thing.  But Guantanamo Bay must be closed, and the prisoners dealt with in American courts.

The process must start on Day One of President Obama’s time in office.

Day Two……a ban on torture….but that is another post.

Condom Education Wins Out Over Abstinence

Once again logic from a Democratic White House will dictate family planning and AIDS policy.

President-elect Barack Obama will reverse U.S. family-planning and AIDS-prevention strategies that have long linked global funding to anti-abortion and abstinence education, a public-health adviser said.

Public-health policies of President George W. Bush’s $45- billion PEPFAR program have brought AIDS drugs to almost 3 million people in poor countries such as Rwanda and Uganda, more than under any other president. Still, requirements that health workers emphasize abstinence from sex and monogamy over condom use have set back sexually transmitted disease prevention and family planning globally, said Susan F. Wood, co-chairman of Obama’s advisory committee for women’s health.

“We have been going in the wrong direction and we need to turn it around and be promoting prevention and family-planning services and strengthening public health,” said Wood, a research professor at George Washington University School of Public Health in Washington.

Bush on his first day in office, in January 2001, reinstated the so-called Mexico City Policy — known to critics as the global gag rule. It bars U.S. family-planning assistance for organizations that use funding from any other source to provide counseling and referral for abortion, lobby to make abortion legal or more available in their country, or perform abortions except in cases of a threat to the woman’s life, rape or incest.

Obama “is committed to looking at all this and changing the policies so that family-planning services — both in the U.S. and the developing world — reflect what works, what helps prevent unintended pregnancy, reduce maternal and infant mortality, prevent the spread of disease,” Wood said.

Barack Obama “Will Enter Office As Most Powerful President Ever To Sit In White House”

When it come to the process of how government should run and operate I am quite conservative.  While I have liberal policy goals, and have much fun cranking Republicans on my blog, I have a very narrow view for what constitutes the proper procedures that government should abide by when conducting the nation’s business.  As such, I was not pleased with the lack of public discussion in the recent campaign over a most important issue, that being the amount of executive power that resides with the President. 

Over the past eight years there has been a massive effort to expand the powers of the executive.  That does not bode well for the nation.   I would make that same statement about the issue had Barack Obama been in charge for the last two terms.  (And I am sure to raise this issue again as the months go by under an Obama Administration.)  This issue is not one of Democratic or Republican partisanship, but instead should be viewed as an American issue.  The results of a stronger executive branch undercuts the legislative, and ill-serves the very people they all claim to work on behalf of.

The goal for greater executive reach and power contained within the Patriot Act, Iraq War, and interrogations of those deemed to be terrorists, are just a few headline examples of what can go wrong when the legislative branch is treated like, or acts like, a doormat.  And let us not forget the infamous ‘signing statements’ that are just plain wrong, I would argue, on constitutional grounds.

This past weekend a long and brilliant piece about the excessive growth of executive power was written by Johnathon Mahler,and as such it demands a read.  I will post a few sections here, and while I realize that this topic is not ‘sexy’, I think it worthy of everyone’s attention.  I sat up late last night and read this piece, and hope for some constructive feedback from my readers.  If not, I hope at least it starts some more discussion where ever you are.

As it turned out, the power of the president soared to new heights under Bush. Many of the administration’s most aggressive moves came in the realm of national security and the war on terror in particular. The Bush administration claimed the authority to deny captured combatants — U.S. citizens and aliens alike — such basic due-process rights as access to a lawyer. It created a detention facility on Guantánamo Bay that it declared was outside the jurisdiction of the federal courts and built a new legal system — without any input from Congress — to try enemy combatants. And it argued that the president’s commander-in-chief powers gave him the authority to violate America’s laws and treaties, including the Geneva Conventions.

The assertion and expansion of presidential power is arguably the defining feature of the Bush years. Come January, the current administration will pass on to its successor a vast infrastructure for electronic surveillance, secret sites for detention and interrogation and a sheaf of legal opinions empowering the executive to do whatever he feels necessary to protect the country. The new administration will also be the beneficiary of Congress’s recent history of complacency, which amounts to a tacit acceptance of the Bush administration’s expansive views of executive authority. For that matter, thanks to the recent economic bailout, Bush’s successor will inherit control over much of the banking industry. “The next president will enter office as the most powerful president who has ever sat in the White House,” Jack Balkin, a constitutional law professor at Yale and an influential legal blogger, told me a few weeks ago.

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The Senate is a different place now, though. Consider this telling bit of institutional history, as related by Robert Caro in his continuing biography of Lyndon Johnson. When Johnson was elevated to the vice presidency in 1961, he suggested to Senator Mike Mansfield, his successor as Senate majority leader, that he be permitted to continue presiding over the Democratic caucus. Mansfield initially agreed — but the rest of the caucus revolted. The vice president might be the ceremonial president of the Senate, they argued, but to empower him to attend their caucuses, let alone run them, would create a dangerous precedent.

By contrast, in recent years, you could set your watch by the arrival of Vice President Cheney’s motorcade on Capitol Hill for the Republican caucus’s weekly strategy sessions. He was at times known to bring Karl Rovewith him as well. “You can imagine the amount of dissent that goes on with the two of them sitting there,” Leahy told me.

As Leahy sees it, these weekly trips to Capitol Hill were part of the administration’s strategy to marginalize Congress by encouraging Republican senators to put party loyalty ahead of institutional loyalty. He draws a sharp contrast between Cheney and vice presidents like George H.W. Bush and Walter Mondale, who made an effort to get to know members of both parties and ensure that their voices were heard inside the Oval Office. “I think in a way this administration set out to make the Republican Partyon the Hill an arm of the White House,” Leahy told me.

But the politicization of the Senate didn’t begin with Bush. Norman Ornstein, a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, traces the roots of the trend to the Congressional elections of 1994, when the Republicans took back the House after 40 years in the minority. Led by Newt Gingrich, a new group of fire-breathing freshman lawmakers arrived on Capitol Hill with an ambitious, highly partisan agenda. Finally in the majority, the House Republicans gleefully wielded their newfound subpoena power to harass the Democratic president, Bill Clinton, by, for example, taking dozens of hours of testimony on whether he abused the White House Christmas-card list for the purposes of fund-raising.

According to Ornstein, the Senate, and in particular its leader through 1996, Bob Dole, was at first skeptical of Gingrich and his ideological minions in the House. But Dole’s successor, Trent Lott, was more partisan and thus more willing to engage in the politicization of Senate actions like the confirmation of Clinton’s judicial appointments.

It was the Clinton impeachment trial in 1999, though, that finally pushed the Senate into the trenches of political warfare and polarized the institution once and for all. Senators now saw themselves as members of their respective political parties first — and representatives of their constituencies second. After George W. Bush’s election in 2000, many Republicans on Capitol Hill saw it as their duty to protect him from their Democratic colleagues. “The Republican leaders in both houses of Congress made the decision that they were going to be field soldiers in the president’s army, rather than members of an independent branch of government,” Ornstein says.

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You need not look any further than Senator John McCain’s efforts to give Congress a voice in the treatment of detainees to grasp the difficulty that the legislative branch faces trying to push back against a determined president.

McCain first got involved in the torture fight in early 2005, when it was by no means a popular cause, particularly inside his own party. “At a time when there was not a single person in the United States who had any influence who was willing to take this issue on, he took it on,” says the executive director of Human Rights First, Elisa Massimino, who worked with McCain on the torture bill.

The White House did everything it could to stop McCain, Warner and Graham from going forward with their torture bill. Bush repeatedly threatened to veto the legislation, and Cheney met behind closed doors with the three senators on three separate occasions to persuade them that limiting the president’s power to authorize coercive interrogations would hurt the war against terror.

McCain dug in his heels, though. When Stephen Hadley, the president’s national security adviser, called Warner to urge the senators to at least soften the language of the legislation, a Warner aide alerted a McCain staff member. In a matter of minutes, McCain was bounding down the hall toward Warner’s office. He emerged triumphantly a few minutes later, joking to Warner’s staff, “I had to go in there and waterboard him.”

After months of work, the senators succeeded in getting the torture bill passed with a vetoproof majority, 90-9. But the president subsequently undid all of their efforts with a stroke of the pen. The language of the bill required that all military interrogations be conducted according to the United States Army Field Manual, which defines what methods can and can’t be used and outlaws “cruel, inhumane or degrading” treatment of prisoners. When Bush signed the bill into law at the end of 2005, he issued a presidential signing statement asserting the right, as commander in chief, to determine what constitutes “cruel, inhumane or degrading” treatment. For good measure, he reserved the power to violate the torture bill itself if he thought it necessary for the purposes of national security.

Al Franken Now Just 204 Votes Behind In Minnesota Senate Race

This is amazing to watch.  Who knows where this ends…or how.

Al Franken’s deficit just keeps on shrinking as the state adjusts the unofficial tally in the U.S. Senate election last week.

Today’s latest results show the DFL challenger is now trailing Republican incumbent Norm Coleman by 204 votes. That’s down from 221 over the weekend.

As of 9:40 a.m., Coleman has 1,211,554 votes to Franken’s 1,211,350.

The difference between Coleman and Franken, which stood at 725 votes in Coleman’s favor Wednesday morning, has changed several times since then as county officials have checked results and sent the adjusted figures to the state. For the most part, the margin between the two has narrowed with each change.

The Coleman campaign has questioned the validity of changes. Minnesota Secretary of State Mark Ritchie has responded that the revisions are typical and that no fraud is being committed.

The bitter contest is heading toward a recount, since the gap is less than 0.5 percent of the total vote.

Ritchie has said he’s hoping that the hand recount of about 2.9 million ballots will be complete by mid-December.

More legal jockeying is likely.

On Saturday a court in Ramsey County, where St. Paul is located, blocked an injunction filed by Coleman’s camp to halt the tallying of 32 absentee ballots from voters with Minneapolis addresses. According to Coleman’s legal team, the ballots were left in an election official’s car. But Ramsey County Chief District Court Judge Kathleen Gearin rejected the request because it was out of her jurisdiction. Minneapolis, which historically votes heavily Democrat, is in Hennepin County.

Franken’s campaign called the Coleman move a “Saturday morning sneak attack.” But the Coleman camp alleged possible vote tampering, saying in the Minneapolis-St. Paul Star Tribune that the veracity of ballots “is in serious doubt.”

“We did what we had to do,” Coleman attorney Fritz Knaak told the St. Paul Pioneer Press. “There was a real concern that what was going on here was wrong and unfair.”

Minneapolis Elections Director Cindy Reichert said the ballots were not delivered because some polling places had closed, and were being sent to be tallied Saturday afternoon.

But as a recount looms, more legal jockeying is likely to be just the latest chapter of a campaign that has gone down as the Star Tribune puts it, one of the ugliest Minnesotans have ever witnessed.” The candidates pulled in nearly $50 million in cash from across the country, making it one of the highest funded races in the nation.

With 100 percent of precincts reporting and nearly 3 million votes cast in Minnesota on Tuesday, Coleman has a lead of about 0.03 percent. In Minnesota any race in which the margin of victory is less than 0.5 percent is subject to a mandatory recount, a privilege that Franken is exercising amid allegations of voting irregularities in Democratic-leaning Minneapolis.

“Let me be clear: Our goal is to ensure that every vote is properly counted,” Franken told reporters Wednesday morning. Franken’s camp has enlisted former U.S. Attorney David Lillehaug as legal counsel during the recount process.