Senator Dodd: “The Fact That I Was Raised A Certain Way Just Isn’t A Good Enough Reason To Stand In The Way Of Fairness Anymore”

These are the words and sentiments that history books will one day print as turning points.

Public officials aren’t supposed to change their minds. But I firmly believe that it’s important to keep learning. Last week, while I was in Connecticut meeting with members of the gay and lesbian community from across the state, I had the opportunity to tell them what I’ve learned about marriage, and about equality. 

While I’ve long been for extending every benefit of marriage to same-sex couples, I have in the past drawn a distinction between a marriage-like status (“civil unions”) and full marriage rights. 

The reason was simple: I was raised to believe that marriage is between a man and a woman. And as many other Americans have realized as they’ve struggled to reconcile the principle of fairness with the lessons they learned early in life, that’s not an easy thing to overcome. 

But the fact that I was raised a certain way just isn’t a good enough reason to stand in the way of fairness anymore. 

The Connecticut Supreme Court, of course, has ruled that such a distinction holds no merit under the law. And the Court is right. 

I believe that effective leaders must be able and willing to grow and change over their service. I certainly have during mine – and so has the world. Thirty-five years ago, who could have imagined that we’d have an African-American President of the United States? 

My young daughters are growing up in a different reality than I did. Our family knows many same-sex couples – our neighbors in Connecticut, members of my staff, parents of their schoolmates. Some are now married because the Connecticut Supreme Court and our state legislature have made same-sex marriage legal in our state. 

But to my daughters, these couples are married simply because they love each other and want to build a life together. That’s what we’ve taught them. The things that make those families different from their own pale in comparison to the commitments that bind those couples together. 

And, really, that’s what marriage should be. It’s about rights and responsibilities and, most of all, love. 

I believe that, when my daughters grow up, barriers to marriage equality for same-sex couples will seem as archaic, and as unfair, as the laws we once had against inter-racial marriage. 

And I want them to know that, even if he was a little late, their dad came down on the right side of history.

 

Which Politician Is $500,000 in Legal Debt?

The question everyone should ask is why are there so many reasons to have ethic complaints lodged, and grievances filed against a politician.  The normal career path of any elected official is bound to take one into minefields of political opposition.  But that does not, in and of itself, equate lawsuits.  It is only when an elected  official crosses the line that the lawyers start knocking on the door.

All Sarah Palin can do now is answer the knock, and receive the summons.

All the complaints have been brought by Alaskans, except for one filed by Washington-based Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics alleging the $150,000-plus designer wardrobe the Republican Party bought to outfit Palin in her national quest violated the Federal Election Campaign Act. That complaint was dismissed.

One complaint, in which the Alaska Personnel Board found no wrongdoing, concluded with the governor agreeing to pay the state $10,000 for trips taken by her children — money that is due Tuesday.

Elected in 2006, Palin enjoyed an unprecedented 18-month honeymoon with Alaska residents and lawmakers alike until last July, when she fired Walt Monegan, the state’s popular public safety commissioner.

Monegan believed he was terminated over his refusal to let go a state trooper who was involved in a contentious divorce with Palin’s sister. Palin cited budgetary disagreements.

State lawmakers investigated, ultimately concluding the governor broke an ethics law that prohibits public officials from using their office for personal gain, although the firing itself was considered lawful since Monegan was an at-will employee.

Days after being named McCain’s running mate, Palin said the legislative probe had become too political and filed a “self disclosure” with the Alaska Personnel Board, whose three members are appointed by the governor. The day before the presidential election, that investigation concluded that Palin violated no ethics laws.

Palin was wrong to publicly criticize the complaints before the appropriate government body — the personnel board in most cases — had a chance to analyze them, said Gregg Erickson, a Juneau economist and longtime watcher of Alaska politics. That’s simply bad politics, he said.

“She rises to the bait fairly quickly when they troll these things by her,” he said. “I think it’s a weakness.”

Chatman said she voted for Palin to be governor, but now sees her as unethical, sacrificing the state’s interest to advance her national ambitions. Palin is widely believed to be considering a 2012 presidential run.

Chatman’s complaint alleges Palin is misusing the governor’s office for personal gain by securing unwarranted benefits and receiving improper gifts through the Alaska Fund Trust, which was established by supporters in April to help Palin pay her legal bills.

Centrist Democrats In U.S. Senate Get A Swift Kick, Krugman Style

Great morning read.

The question now is whether we will nonetheless fail to get that change, because a handful of Democratic senators are still determined to party like it’s 1993.

And yes, I mean Democratic senators. The Republicans, with a few possible exceptions, have decided to do all they can to make the Obama administration a failure. Their role in the health care debate is purely that of spoilers who keep shouting the old slogans — Government-run health care! Socialism! Europe! — hoping that someone still cares.

The polls suggest that hardly anyone does. Voters, it seems, strongly favor a universal guarantee of coverage, and they mostly accept the idea that higher taxes may be needed to achieve that guarantee. What’s more, they overwhelmingly favor precisely the feature of Democratic plans that Republicans denounce most fiercely as “socialized medicine” — the creation of a public health insurance option that competes with private insurers.

Or to put it another way, in effect voters support the health care plan jointly released by three House committees last week, which relies on a combination of subsidies and regulation to achieve universal coverage, and introduces a public plan to compete with insurers and hold down costs.

Yet it remains all too possible that health care reform will fail, as it has so many times before.

I’m not that worried about the issue of costs. Yes, the Congressional Budget Office’s preliminary cost estimates for Senate plans were higher than expected, and caused considerable consternation last week. But the fundamental fact is that we can afford universal health insurance — even those high estimates were less than the $1.8 trillion cost of the Bush tax cuts. Furthermore, Democratic leaders know that they have to pass a health care bill for the sake of their own survival. One way or another, the numbers will be brought in line.

The real risk is that health care reform will be undermined by “centrist” Democratic senators who either prevent the passage of a bill or insist on watering down key elements of reform. I use scare quotes around “centrist,” by the way, because if the center means the position held by most Americans, the self-proclaimed centrists are in fact way out in right field.

What the balking Democrats seem most determined to do is to kill the public option, either by eliminating it or by carrying out a bait-and-switch, replacing a true public option with something meaningless. For the record, neither regional health cooperatives nor state-level public plans, both of which have been proposed as alternatives, would have the financial stability and bargaining power needed to bring down health care costs.

Whatever may be motivating these Democrats, they don’t seem able to explain their reasons in public.

Thus Senator Ben Nelson of Nebraska initially declared that the public option — which, remember, has overwhelming popular support — was a “deal-breaker.” Why? Because he didn’t think private insurers could compete: “At the end of the day, the public plan wins the day.” Um, isn’t the purpose of health care reform to protect American citizens, not insurance companies?

Mr. Nelson softened his stand after reform advocates began a public campaign targeting him for his position on the public option.

And Senator Kent Conrad of North Dakota offers a perfectly circular argument: we can’t have the public option, because if we do, health care reform won’t get the votes of senators like him. “In a 60-vote environment,” he says (implicitly rejecting the idea, embraced by President Obama, of bypassing the filibuster if necessary), “you’ve got to attract some Republicans as well as holding virtually all the Democrats together, and that, I don’t believe, is possible with a pure public option.”

Honestly, I don’t know what these Democrats are trying to achieve. Yes, some of the balking senators receive large campaign contributions from the medical-industrial complex — but who in politics doesn’t? If I had to guess, I’d say that what’s really going on is that relatively conservative Democrats still cling to the old dream of becoming kingmakers, of recreating the bipartisan center that used to run America.

But this fantasy can’t be allowed to stand in the way of giving America the health care reform it needs. This time, the alleged center must not hold.

Should France Outlaw The Burka?

Many readers might recall the somewhat recent controversy in France regarding Islamic headscarves.  They are now banned in public schools there.  But now another interesting dilemma is facing France, and Muslims.    Are burka’s representative of a religious code, or a stifling  of women’s potential and place in society?

And how does one strike a balance?

While the burka is a wretchedly uncomfortable garment, and one that few (one must assume) would voluntary wear, I think it best left to the individual to make the choice.  As long as one is not forced to wear it, then I think it fine.  Modernity will ultimately win out, and the burka will be a museum piece one day.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy has spoken out strongly against the wearing of the burka by Muslim women in France.

In a major policy speech, he said the burka – a garment covering women from head to toe – reduced them to servitude and undermined their dignity.

Mr Sarkozy also gave his backing to the establishment of a parliamentary commission to look at whether to ban the wearing of burkas in public.

In 2004, France banned the Islamic headscarves in its state schools.

“We cannot accept to have in our country women who are prisoners behind netting, cut off from all social life, deprived of identity,” Mr Sarkozy told a special session of parliament in Versailles.

“That is not the idea that the French republic has of women’s dignity.

“The burka is not a sign of religion, it is a sign of subservience. It will not be welcome on the territory of the French republic,” the French president said.

But he stressed that France “must not fight the wrong battle”, saying that “the Muslim religion must be respected as much as other religions” in the country.

A group of a cross-party lawmakers is already calling for a special inquiry into whether Muslim women who wear the burka is undermining French secularism, the BBC’s Emma Jane Kirby in Paris says.

The lawmakers also want to examine whether women who wear the veil are doing so voluntarily or are being forced to cover themselves, our correspondent says.