Levellers

Faith & Social Justice: In the spirit of Richard Overton and the 17th C. Levellers

Same-Sex Civil Marriage Passes Vermont Senate

Everyone remembers that Vermont  narrowly passed a same-sex civil union law in 2000: A law that gave gay and lesbian couples SOME, but not ALL of the legal and economic benefits of heterosexual married couples.  In the time since, public support for full (civil) marriage equality has grown considerably in Vermont.  Today, the VT state Senate voted 26-4 in favor of civil marriage equality.  The measure next goes to the House Judiciary.  It is expected to pass the House, too.

The big question is whether Gov. Jim Douglas (R-VT) will sign or veto it. He has opposed the bill, but not threatened to veto it so far.  Public opinion in VT is strongly in favor of passage, but is it enough to override a veto? 

KY is a long way from VT, but I wonder if the national debate has shifted that far since ’04, when anti-same-sex marriage amendments were used in numerous  states to help Pres. George W. Bush to a second term.  One thing’s for sure:  A victory for GLBT rights’ advocates here could be a real morale boost after the Proposition 8 debacle in CA last November.

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March 23, 2009 Posted by | GLBT issues | 3 Comments

Financial Media Matters

The media watchdog group, Media Matters, has launched a new website, “Financial Media Matters.”  The site will monitor the financial news, especially the papers (e.g., The Wall Street Journal) and cable channels devoted primarily to financial news, but also the financial news in mainstream media.  It will look for bias, mistatements of fact, coverage of the “woes” of the financial fat cats vs. coverage of labor,  and ordinary people. (Also looking for “pimping” of particular stocks, etc.) On today’s page, the site notes that Joe Scarborough, former Republican Congressman from Florida and host of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” falsely claimed that White House Budget Director Peter Orzag “admitted that the Obama Budget will create unsustainable debt.” Orzag said no such thing.

The new site also calls out the Wall Street Journal‘s article on the AIG bonus debacle for omitting the role of the Bush administration back in the Autumn.  And, it wonders if CNBC’s Kudlow is illegally using his show to plug his election candidacy.

Media reform is essential to our democracy.  Citizens can help by using these kind of watchdogs and then responding with calls to Congress and to sponsors  of shows–and wide publicizing of media problems.

March 23, 2009 Posted by | media reform | 5 Comments

Bi-Partisanship to Believe In?

This coming Wednesday 25 March 2009, Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Arlen Specter (R-PA) are introducing the Fair Elections Now Act.  It would create, at long last, a public elections finance system that would ban lobbyist money in elections and would manage to keep the campaigns competitive for candidates who take the money.  I hope it includes mandatory free air time on TV so that candidates don’t have to spend tons of cash on commercials.  If this passes, it should mean that more candidates who are not indebted to special interests (and, thus, are more responsive to the citizens they are supposed to represent) would be elected, strengthening our democracy.

I know some liberals who gave up  on public financing when the Obama campaign managed to out-raise the Republican money machine through the internet and using mostly small contributions and no lobbyists.  But this model cannot be easily replicated without a charismatic figure like Obama and, in a recession, such fundraising is not as likely to be successful.  A level playing field (so  that we pick candidates on the issues, their character, etc., not  on who has enough  money to keep his/her name in front of us the most) is really needed for an effective democracy.

Senators Durbin and Specter  expect that a similar bill will have many co-sponsors in the House.  However, I expect it to be strongly opposed by Sen. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) who believes that money and speech are identical and that campaign finance laws thus violate the 1st Amendment’s protections of free speech!! (McConnell infamously appealed the previous attempt at campaign finance reform,  the McCain/Feingold Act, to the Supreme Court and managed to get the best parts of it declared unconstitutional!)

Can a genuinely fair elections law get passed Congress? I am sure Pres. Obama would sign such legislation if it did.  Will the recent  Democratic fundraising successes (in both ’06 and ’08, the Dems out-raised  the GOP) finally convince enough Republicans to cooperate?  Will any election law with teeth pass this incredibly rightwing Supreme Court? 

One thing’s for sure: If the answers to the above questions are all “yes,” and we do get real election reform, then the hedge fund types won’t be calling the shots in D.C. as much–whether they are buying off Dems or Repubs.  We could actually end up with a government “of the people, by the people, and for the people,” instead of “of the money, by more money, and for the special interests WITH the money.”  Wow.  That would almost be like living in a real democratic republic instead of a plutocracy–like Canada or New Zealand, maybe.

March 23, 2009 Posted by | elections, U.S. politics | 1 Comment

Volcano Monitoring = Wasteful Govt. Spending?

mtredoubt1Remember last month when Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R-LA) complained that the stimulus bill contained “wasteful government spending” like money to monitor volcanoes? Sure, the money to prevent catastrophes like levees breaking during hurricanes or the inability to evacuate people when a volcano erupts is not the biggest stimulus to the economy. But it was only a tiny amount and it DOES prevent the added economic problems of clean up after a natural disaster that does not get enough warning and prevention.

Alaska’s Mt. Redoubt was on the monitoring list.  This weekend, Mt. Redoubt erupted. Repeatedly.

Does anyone know whether or not Gov. Jindal STILL thinks that was a wasteful use of taxpayer money?

Just wondering.

UPDATE:   Jindal’s office finally responds to questions about this, claiming that his criticism of volcano monitoring in the stimulus bill was only a criticism that this belonged in the regular budget, not in a bill designed to create jobs.  Nice try, Bobby.  Here’s the actual quote you said two months ago:  While some of the projects in the bill make sense,  their legislation is larded with wasteful spending.  It includes . . . $140 million for something called “volcano monitoring.” Instead of monitoring volcanos, what Congress should be monitoring is the eruption of spending in Washington, D.C.

The volcano monitoring was thereby left out of the stimulus package and so no advance warning was given about Mt. Redoubt (now six eruptions six Saturday).  The volcanic ash which can penetrate skin, motor vehicles, and even puncture aircraft, is drifting toward Juneau and Wasilla–without any monitoring. And the cleanup will be far costlier than if advance warning had been available.  Gov. Jindal have you asked your fellow conservative Republican, Gov. Sarah Palin, what she thinks of your removal of this “wasteful spending” from the stimulus?

March 23, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | Comments Off on Volcano Monitoring = Wasteful Govt. Spending?