Congress Must Codify Same-Sex Marriage, Will GOP Vote For Freedom And Liberty?

Given the ideological ruling from the United States Supreme Court this year, which overturned a 50-year precedent about the right of women to make their own reproductive health care decisions, which also struck at the heart of privacy as an unenumerated right, comes the need to codify same-sex marriage in our statutes.

This week the House of Representatives will vote on the matter, and as news reports questioned this morning, how will the GOP whips deal with the matter among their members?  Can the GOP actually try to gin up opposition to the effort at codifying this fundamental right into law?

With conservatives already seen to be in the extreme seating section of our society, and the majority of the nation reeling from the abortion ruling, will there be an attempt by the GOP to further their distrust among suburban voters and moderates in the nation? Will they provide another log to the culture wars so to play to the angry base of the party, at the expense of their long-term goals?

The reason to have deep concern about this matter rests with the words and actions of the justices, themselves.  Several told the judiciary committee, during their hearings as nominees, of their appreciation for precedent. They convinced enough senators they were sincere. The explosion of the social fabric of the nation, and the threats of more to follow underscore their lack of honesty, regard for the Court, and the laws of the nation.

When they blew up Roe v. Wade it was the words of Justice Clarence Thomas that caught equal attention as the abortion decision, itself. He wrote in a separate opinion that the legal rationale for the decision to overrule the abortion decision could be applied to reconsider other recent landmark cases—including same-sex marriage.

It is truly reprehensible to even need to consider at the margins the loss of rights that a conservative majority on this court might unleash upon the nation concerning same-sex marriage. 

There are hundreds of thousands of couples who have gotten married, adopted children, formed businesses, engaged in legal contracts, and live life in this nation like any other married couple.  We cannot, will not, stand silent knowing, due to presidents who could not muster a mere majority vote from the electorate but still were able to plant jurists on the court, that our fundamental rights can now be exploded and destroyed.

To have anyone tell me that my marriage is not valid, or threatened in any way, or not protected under the laws of this nation is beyond the pale.  That is a line that must not be crossed. 

I have often commented on this blog about sending a positive and reaffirming message to young people who are gay and live in rural and isolated areas.  I grew up in such a place and know the need to have advocates who are fighting in the nation for a better and more just society. I have been a constant voice for gay rights over the decades, and in so doing, trust that it will aid some other young person in this state or around the nation. 

Our nation must not take any action that sends a message to gay youth that their lives do not matter, their individual sexual orientation less important than any other. If conservative Republicans turn their back on freedom and liberty in the congress this week, as it pertains to gay men and women in this nation, then the midterms will be a pitched battle. 

As for me, I walk my talk, and would encourage congress to protect the marriage of Thomas, a black man who married a white woman. As such I would ask that the congress pass legislation to codify Loving v. Virginia, the 1967 decision legalizing interracial marriage, a topic I need to note the conservative justice did not opine about in his abortion opinion.

Pandemic Is Not Over, Regardless Of What People Wish To Believe

Friday night I walked the railroad track that runs alongside McPike Park in Madison as the La Fête De Marquette drew thousands to the large band stage as music wafted over the neighborhood and the aroma of festival food lingered in the humid air. It was as close as I ventured to an event that had been a part of my summer routine since moving to our home on the isthmus in 2007.

Though James and I sit for dinner at outside tables and enjoy the laughter and wide-ranging conversations at cookouts and backyard gatherings I have forgone the big-screen movie magic this summer of Elvis. We wear a mask when grocery shopping or a quick hardware store run, and certainly would not wade into the throngs of closely packed people at a festival. As I looked at the dense crowd I thought of the statistic I read this week reporting only a third of the American population has received at least one booster shot.

COVID is still a real health care concern in the nation. Omicron subvariant BA.5 is racing about and infecting millions in the United States. I understand that many are simply tired of the virus and have made a conscious decision to go about their lives as if the chapter has ended. As I walked past the festival and then onwards for a longer trek in the neighborhood I thought about what might happen should another virulent variant start to spread around the nation.

The concern the public needs to be aware of is the growing number of cases of this latest variant attacking those who previously had contracted COVID. The need to mask up in buildings and movie theatres is not hard to reason, while the slow pacing of more concrete and strict orders from the CDC and governmental units is hard to fathom.

A neighbor who is a believer in science contacted public health offices in Madison and Dane County asking when they might be more vocal about the need to again mask up. It was reported the offices replied they certainly advise awareness of the virus, but would not at this time be more active in their statements.

One does have to ask, given the current fast-spreading variant, what lessons were learned over the past two years about how to deal with and stem an outbreak of disease? This past week the World Health Organization made it quite clear when stating “the virus is running freely”. While it is obvious that large percentages of the population have opted to think the virus is no longer a factor in how they conduct their lives, governments must be mindful of the mission at hand.

While many viruses tend to weaken as they mutate, others do not. Medical professionals have urged governments to be prepared regarding COVID for the “expected wave in the autumn and winter seasons”.

We need to make sure Congress understands that more funding is required so to further study COVID and ensure that the needed medical stockpiles for further outbreaks will be adequate to the needs of the nation. This year President Biden requested $22.5 billion for COVID funding, but due to partisan sniping, our elected officials were only able to appropriate half of the request.

Readers to this little place on the internet highway fully know my resolve in seeing Russian aggression pushed out of Ukraine. The massive amounts of funding to accomplish that end is a bill this nation, along with our international allies, must pay. And Congress, for the most part, has anted up. And quickly.

But that same stridency for missiles and armaments for the Eastern European war must be employed in the fight against the variants of COVID, and whatever future medical mysteries confront our people.

The festival crowd may not know or care that this pandemic continues. Our local, state, and national governments, however, must not only know about the dangers, but act accordingly for the citizens they have a responsibility to protect.

President Biden Correct About Flag Issue In East Jerusalem

The Middle East trip by President Biden has included a conversation about a wide range of hot-button issues from the threat posed by Iran, global economic pressures from oil production quotas, and the need for movement among the different parties in the quest for Palestinian rights and security safeguards in a volatile area of the world.

It is a good week for the United States when our president can present the issues as the topic of the day, rather than being the topic of the day. It is good to have gravitas not only in the Oval Office and also when presented on the world stage.

Not only do the weighty conversations matter on such trips, or the policy moves and offers of assistance but so do the smaller messages and actions a president takes. The leader of the free world is not a trite phrase that no longer has meaning. The American president matters. That is why a serious person needs to always hold the office.

It was most appropriate, therefore, for the presidential motorcade, when entering East Jerusalem, to no longer bear the Israeli flags. Israeli sovereignty in the entirety of the city will need to be addressed if any meaningful and long-lasting peace accord is ever to be finalized between the two sides. While Israel has long enjoyed the land it seizes, does not mean the military conquests and occupations are geopolitically the best outcome for all the people in the region.

That Israel is not a fair player in the region has long been noted on this blog. The Biden administration has sought from the first days of the administration a reopening of the US consulate to the Palestinians. That office was previously located in western Jerusalem, but as is so typical of Isreal they have utterly refused to authorize the reopening. Diplomatic moves and creating structures for dialogue would further demand accountability from Israel, and that would be so much harder than just shooting and killing a journalist and continually undermining the dignity of the Palestinian people.

Israel, with its military might, has forgotten a truism about global affairs. Without a legitimate political process, there will be no peace. The simple, but meaningful act by President Biden of removing the Israeli flag when entering East Jerusalem underscores that fact.

Another Year For Smiles

Life is good. As another year is observed today I was pleasantly reminded of all the free smiles that are to be had daily.

While mowing Wednesday a family biked by our home and stopped to chat. We showed them inside since they had not been here during the pandemic and were unable to see our work at refurbishing since the 2019 purchase of the top two floors.

But it was when Kuno sat in his chair on the second-floor balcony, like he did as a younger boy on the front lawn, that my heart really lifted.

I always offered whole Sassy Cow chocolate milk to him and his big sister and so one day after heading outside I find him all by himself in a chair. He was just visiting from two doors down and wanted some milk!

Visiting Wednesday with his adorable sister, Hilke, and mom, Erin, was a tonic for the soul. There is much in the state and world which makes for concerns, but it is the simple unexpected smiles that continue to make life most grand.

Just Plain Dumb, Herschel Walker Talks About Climate Change, Makes Sarah Plain Look Like Rhodes Scholar

I have never been a fan of stupid jocks. I never found them of interest in high school, and even less so as an adult. I do not much care if they find their way to some sports channel to talk about this team or that play on the field. After all, capitalism allows for even the most base to make money, too.

But when the seriously inept and cerebrally challenged wish to trade their name and fame for a powerful political office we need to stop them.

Georgia Republican senate nominee Herschel Walker is such an example of being just plain stupid, and also wanting to secure a senate seat in this year’s midterm election. The troubling candidate who seems more suited for an election as a hall monitor in grade school wanted to talk about climate change on the hustings.

In Columbus: “China’s bad air floats over into our good air. And now we’re trying to clean their bad air and of course it just floats over here and now we gotta clean it, so all we’re doing is throwing money at it.”

In St. Simons: “The trillions of dollars that you’re paying for is cleaning up their bad air but now it’s gonna float back over to China because of the Earth’s rotation and until we can get China and all of these other places to invest in it, it isn’t gonna be any good.”

In south Georgia: “We’re gonna clean it up a little better than it’s already cleaned. But our good air, since we don’t control it, is gonna float over to China where they got bad air. Now China’s bad air floats over to us, where we have the good air.”

I have never been a fan of Sarah Palin, and this blog reflects that fact. But she does not fall as far down the hole of absurdity as Walker has willingly taken. I place her name in this post, however, as she was used by the Republicans for political purposes, even though she has a limited IQ. Just like Walker is now being used. Her acceptance by much of the party has allowed for more of her kind to be elevated and praised as candidates in the GOP.

I know from having done public speaking there were times when my thoughts and words took somewhat separate directions. But I can claim I never made the same mistake or blunder twice. A person who speaks publically learns the lesson.

Walker did not. Will not.

After clearly receiving brain damage from football allows some wiggle room for Walker’s bizarre ideas about how air pollution spreads. But the fact he is not now able to read and learn that reducing or increasing pollution in either China or the U.S. affects the entire globe, or that “our” air does not just say…’hey, some travel time would be fun’ and heads to China points to why this baffoon needs to be stopped by the voters.

If anyone thinks our atmosphere operates like geopolitical masses they need to be scorned, not elected.

Next British Prime Minister Should Reflect Modern Society, Tories Should Embrace Rishi Sunak

Boris Johnson and the term disgraced seems to be the way most British newspapers are reporting the final pages of a chaotic and troubling chapter of a prime minister. He was simply unfit for such a role in their nation or the responsibilities that come with the job.  While politics can be tempestuous and frothy and filled with truly unique personalities it would be hard for most Brits to equate Johnson with anyone else; they have never witnessed such an embarrassing spectacle at 10 Downing like this before in their lifetimes.

Tories, of course, want to salvage their political prospects for the future while walking away from the mess that never got better with Johnson, but only higher and ever more odiferous. Last week many Conservatives said enough and placed their devotion to their nation above the clown show at the prime minister’s residence.  

While no one should forget that the Tories allowed this con man and blowhard to reach such a prestigious position in Britain, it is telling how now they are seeking a stable leader moving forward.  British public opinion tells the Tories that culture war tactics were not acceptable in the past several years, and program cuts exacerbated by tax cuts going forward will not be warmly received either. Making a play for conservatives now with talk of such cuts will meet the sunlight of a new day. But that is how politics is conducted.

The Tories do, however, have one ace in the game with a contender for prime minister.  A person who would speak to the future, has excellent communication skills, and is politically savvy. Oh, yes, let us not forget after the never-well-presented Boris Johnson I am writing about a very attractive candidate who will catch the attention of the press around the globe.  All these factors are very important for a modern prime minister.

Add into the mix this person does not wish to fall into the consequences of a cheap theatrical tax cut pledge knowing such action will further harm the British economy. He should know, being a former Chancellor of the Exchequer.

Meet Rishi Sunak. 

He is a conservative grounded in reality which means he speaks candidly to the fire-eaters in his party. He stated his path would be as a frank prime minister—a gentle (or not) reminder that what preceded was a continuous liar—and that he would not be one who offered “comforting fairy tales”.

Sunak has the very life story that Tories require if they are to make inroads into the diverse British society.  Born to Indian parents who had left East Africa, attended excellent schools, and rose to a high position in the government showcases the fact all are welcome in the nation.  And can lead the country.

Conservative leadership need not be grounded in the harsh racism and stale models of the past.  The Tories made a colossal error in supporting Johnson and now must step high and higher to get past the detritus that resulted from his failure at a job he never had the intellect to even seek.

The Tories can do no better at this time than embrace Rishi Sunak.

Grievance Politics In America Needs to End

My favorite radio station, since my years as a teenager growing up in Central Wisconsin, has been WGN from Chicago. It mostly remains the prime example of classic talk that many of us knew before angry politics started to dominate some AM stations. Except for late-night/early morning, a wide array of hosts bring their neighborhood feel to the WGN broadcasting studio and share quality time over the airwaves.

For about the past two years a couple hours of the Jim Bohannon national radio show are simulcast on AM 720, and if there is a better example of airing grievance politics in the nation I am not aware of what it is as of this writing. I rarely listen to that show, given the time it airs, but I recently tuned in thanks to finely ground coffee keeping me too-percolated past bedtime.

While listening to the callers from coast to coast I was reminded that just about anyone at that hour can get on the air. For example, are you aware that all the jobs in our nation are being taken from white citizens by immigrants? Are you aware that socialists want to take away “what makes a man a man” or that gentrification is also a socialist plan for neighborhoods?

Considering what gets on the air one does have to ask what did not make it past the screener?

What I find to be rather sad is what Bohannon now stands for, given he was once the replacement for the famed Larry King on the former Mutual Broadcasting System. He has a super-fine broadcasting voice, the first thing that I noticed, of course, decades ago. But now he calls himself Jimbo….yeah.

But what strikes the listener to such conservative shows is the level of perceived grievances that some people carry with them, almost seemingly, as a badge of honor. They cling to their false narratives and standard rhetoric about conspiracy theories and fear of ‘the other’. Over the years their rhetoric has mostly remained the same, while facts are not to be entertained.

The reason this type of grievance has grown is not surprising. The exploitation of this element of the GOP by those who desired elective office, and helped stir the Tea Party types, and praised the severely dim-witted ones like Sarah Palin are now reaping what they sowed. In one way, the Republican Party can be rightfully smirked at for what they created and now must address. But the smirks can only go so far, as this is our nation we are talking about, and we simply can not function as a healthy democracy with such baggage. Something has to give.

Conservative columnist Michael Gerson wrote a powerful read about this many-year growing grievance trend among the base of the Republican Party.

The party has been swiftly repositioned as an instrument of white grievance. It refuses to condemn racists within its congressional ranks. Its main national legislative agenda seems to be the suppression of minority voting. Trumpism is defined by the belief that real Americans are beset by internal threats from migrants, Muslims, multiculturalists, Black Lives Matter activists, antifa militants and various thugs, gangbangers and whiners.

In a separate column, Gerson states the obvious by writing, “It is absurd to talk about white grievance politics as the wave of the political future……….as “the direction of American society toward greater diversity is not in doubt.”

Then Gerson offers a recollection of the past as to how the GOP can leave their current ‘woe is me’ political lifestyle for something that once worked in America.

In the late 1970s and early 1980s, Ronald Reagan reorganized the GOP message around the principle of economic opportunity, arguing for the moral achievements of democratic capitalism. Reagan disciples such as Jack Kemp turned a message of economic empowerment into an instrument of outreach.

Nothing in politics moves quickly, and the turning of the grievance mindset which now makes up the GOP will require efforts at strong and persistent messaging from within the party. Will there be a courageous national Republican candidate who will talk of optimism rather than anger and resentment, speak of the diverse array of Americans rather than of travel bans and border walls, and construct a message of economic uplift and truly conservative principles? I fear not for the 2024 presidential election.

But when the GOP is ready for their long-overdue facelift and massive swing away from grievances our democracy is ready to invite them again to the grownup table of politics.

I have to trust that a turn in our politics takes place sooner rather than later.

Wisconsin Justice Brian Hagedorn Correct: “The Business Of Courts Is Public Business”

The ruling Friday from the Wisconsin State Supreme Court was direct and to the point. The request from those bringing suit against the Madison School District to remain anonymous was denied in a case dealing with a gender identity policy. They must disclose their identities to attorneys arguing the case. The court did allow them to proceed using pseudonyms publicly.

There are many perspectives that can be had about the policy and its implications on both transgender youth, and parents or guardians of those children. I will not wade into that fight, but rather wish to write about the process of open and transparent government that must be adhered to if all are to be treated and viewed fairly.

If our system of government is to be open and transparent there can be no justification for keeping the names of those seeking redress through the court system secret.  As Justice Brian Hagedorn wrote in the majority opinion, “While we protect certain vulnerable legal participants, such as children and crime victims, the business of courts is public business, and as such is presumed to remain open and available to the public.”

If one can not stand in the light of day to their convictions when seeking a remedy in the court system then perhaps there is a problem with the position that they are privately taking. 

It should be remembered John Hancock used a large bold script when signing the Declaration of Independence, so large in fact that ”…fat George can read it without his spectacles.”  That should be the model of our convictions today.  If people can not publically stand by their views as expressed in court proceedings and are ashamed of having their names made known in the press or seen in the public square, we need to ask why they seek cover?

When one lobbies in any fashion for the government to take any action it should be public knowledge.  The consequences of using a conservative law practice to attempt, through the court process, to hide and harbor those who bring a suit when perhaps they are not even living in the school district or have students in our Madison schools run counter to the openness that our government should always strive to maintain.  (The same holds true for the individual who signs a petition concerning a heated issue.)

This issue of anonymity should not be a conservative vs. liberal issue but instead viewed as one of strict adherence to higher ideals. A good government issue. A process concern about how to proceed when our judicial system operates.

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, a favorite of conservatives, spoke to this issue in oral arguments regarding individuals seeking anonymity for signing a petition to get policy matters on the ballot. The oral argument was in John Doe # 1, et al., v. Reed, et al. (09-559)

Declaring that the rough-and-tumble of democracy is not for the faint-hearted, what Scalia referred to as the “touchy, feely” sensitivity of some political activists, the Justice said “you can’t run a democracy” with political activity behind a First Amendment shroud.  “You are asking us to enter into a whole new field,” Scalia told James Bopp Jr., the lawyer for Washington State signers of an anti-gay rights petition.  Politics, the Justice went on, “takes a certain amount of civic courage.  The First Amendment does not protect you from civic discourse — or even from nasty phone calls.” 

Scalia was most correct with that point.

Let me be most direct. The higher ideals of our state and the judicial process can not be made hostage to the fears of retaliation.  If that had been the case at the beginning of our national story Thomas Jefferson would never have set quill to parchment.

Would it not be great if, in the face of this needless court case concerning Madison schools, brought by people who may not even have any direct connection to the district, we could fully recognize the need for openness and transparency about how our court system must continually operate?