Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Does Jewish law require we oppose same sex marriage in the civil realm?

A blogger at Three Jews, Four Opinions says religiously observant Jews may properly oppose Proposition 8 in California and still maintain a traditional Jewish religious belief against same sex marriages.

I was also intrigued by the commenter who speaks of the difference between a "chok" and a "misphat." I will not define those terms here so you have incentive to check the link.

Proposition 4 in California: Third time's even more harm

Anti-abortion forces in and beyond California have placed an anti-abortion proposition on the California ballot for the third time on the following issue: Should teen aged girls be forced to notify parents or close relatives before seeking an abortion?

The San Jose Mercury News passionately and strongly tells us why this proposition should be rejected. See here.

Back in the 1980s, I was initially fine with such a law from a constitutional perspective. However, over the years, I read the empirical data that showed (1) most teen girls who found themselves pregnant did consult with their parents--with the exception of teen girls who had abusive parents (not necessarily formal child abuse) or where the father or stepfather had impregnated the teen girl; (2) pregnant teen girls often went to nearby states that did not have these laws to have abortions, and (3) courts were often indifferent or downright hostile to teen girls who went through the judicial procedure to attempt to have an abortion. These factors led me to conclude parental consent laws are generally unconstitutional and primarily designed to undermine a woman's right to an abortion before viability--not protect our "daughters."

In 1997, the California Supreme Court held that California's 1987 parental consent law was unconstitutional, citing similar empirical concerns and strongly construing a person's right to privacy, which is expressly enshrined in the California Constitution.

However, Proposition 4 amends the Constitution in a direct attempt to bar the California Supreme Court from overturning the law, as it did eleven years ago. Pro-Proposition 4 folks say the only remedy for those opposing Proposition 4 would be to seek relief in the federal courts, where the US Supreme Court is likely to find Proposition 4 to be constitutionally proper. On the other hand, because Proposition 4 does not overturn the right of privacy expressly enshrined in the California Constitution (Article 1, Section 1), perhaps the California Supreme Court may nonetheless rule that Proposition 4 impermissibly interferes with the right to privacy.

Vote NO on Proposition 4 in California. Please, protect those teen girls who are most vulnerable from having their right to an abortion delayed or denied due to abusive parents or indifferent courts. And let's stop the waste of judicial resources that would occur if it passes as we attempt to determine whether this proposition would be enforceable at all.

Monday, October 20, 2008

No on Proposition 8 in CA for procedural, not substantive reasons

I was not in favor of the California Supreme Court's decision that recognized a constitutional right for homosexuals to be "married" under government auspices. See here for my cautious legal/judicial analysis. Simply put, I do not believe the arguments in favor of civil rights for those with darker skin apply with completely equal force in matters of sexual orientation. I also believe the populace should be allowed to draw a cultural line in saying "civil union or domestic partnership, yes--Same sex marriage, no."

I also stated and now state more directly, that we should, as a society, disentangle the primarily religious word "marriage" from government licensing and define marriage as a ceremony performed in a church or temple. Those of us consenting adults who wish to commit to someone to secure government benefits should simply get a license that is for a "civil union" or "domestic partnership." In the case of a dissolution of a civil union, or even a religiously sanctioned ceremony (marriage), the State would retain a compelling interest in the health, safety and interest of children as it relates to visitation and custodian rights.

The goal here is to stop this largely silly argument over the word "marriage" and keep us from wasting our society's time worrying about homosexuals who want to receive a formal government approval for a life commitment to each other.

So, where do I stand on Proposition 8, which would restate the legal proposition that "marriage" is only between a man and a woman?

I am voting NO on Proposition 8.

I hope Proposition 8 fails to pass because, if Prop 8 fails, the next step for ritualistic religious people who have been most motivated about this issue would be to end the State's issuing of "marriage" license, just like the clerk in Kern County, California who stopped performing civil marriage ceremonies around the time of the California Supreme Court's decision supporting same sex marriage (Thanks to a commenter for clarifying the action of the Kern County employee). Such ritualistic religious folks will immediately grasp the persuasiveness of the idea of separating "marriage" from "civil unions" so that homosexuals are not given state "marriage" approval. The idea should appeal as well to those who believe in a separation of church matters from state matters--and those of us, including me, who generally support equal rights for homosexuals. However, we won't get to that reform I am proposing if religiously ritualistic people prevail and Proposition 8 passes. The reform I have set forth, i.e. separating marriage from civil unions for State issued licensing, will not prevail until after Prop 8 fails.

My opposition to Proposition 8, therefore, is procedurally based more than substantively based.

There is also something ugly about the motivations of certain Christians and other ritualistic religious people who are supporting Proposition 8. Their motivations are based mostly on fear, not love. In opposing same sex marriage, they end up quoting Leviticus, which is the Old Testament, and leave out the fact that Leviticus wanted to stone people for missing Shabbat services and adultery, too (See this link from that has an interesting interpretation of both the New and Old Testaments that lend support to a civil recognition of same sex marriage). Jesus said nothing directly on the subject of same sex marriage or homosexuality. Also, Jesus' essential sensibility, particularly in response to the attempted stoning of a woman who was an adulterer ("He who is without sin may cast the first stone"), tells me Jesus would not be on street corners holding signs supporting Proposition 8.

In the past few days, I have been shouting (not screaming) from my car across the busy and noisy streets near our home where YES on Proposition 8 supporters are standing on street corners with their yellow signs: "Way to show your Christian love, folks!" or "Jesus would oppose Proposition 8 because those without sin are the only ones who may cast the first stone." This morning, a woman with her yellow sign shouted back, "We love you. Bless you." I responded, "No, you don't love me. And you don't love homosexuals, either. Not very Christian of you!"

I've also put up a NO on Proposition 8 sign on our front lawn to counter the YES on Proposition 8 signs that have sprung up on our neighbors' lawns in our neighborhood (and which appear to have come from local area churches).

Final comments:

1. Prposition 8 supporters present a parade of horribles that will occur if Proposition 8 fails to pass. My wife said this morning, "Aren't these arguments by Prop 8 supporters ridiculous?" I shocked her when I responded that I am saddened to say they may not be as ridiculous as opponents of Prop 8 are saying, even if the Prop 8 supporters' parade of horribles remains unlikely. I say this because of my concern that the California Supreme Court decision supporting a State Constitutional right to same sex marriage undermined piecemeal reformist measures and stopgaps. The decision allowed logic to trump experience in the cultural realm*, such that who knows if the State legislature or State Superintendent of Schools may be able to legally prohibit teachers from reading stories to grade schoolers where a prince marries a prince? Again, however, if we take marriage out of the government's hands and promote only civil unions, our society can legally take a more cautious approach in how it supports, if at all, marriage among homosexuals.

2. I think the YES on Proposition 8 forces will prevail in this election, but it will be a phyrric victory for those who oppose same-sex civil unions or marriage. The younger generation, who have lived in a world of open gays and lesbians, are going to support the legal approval of same sex marriage sooner than later. Sadly, a victory for Proposition 8 will only lead to more arguments and will continue to crowd out important fiscal and financial issues. For example, instead of voting for a politician on the basis of his or her views regarding reforming our state's budgetary process, we'll more often be deciding who to vote for based upon that politician's position on gay marriage. That is a shame for a State like California, upon which much of our nation's economic engine depends.

I therefore urge my fellow Californians to vote NO on Proposition 8. Let's finish this argument over "gay marriage" in a way that promotes fairness and dignity for all Californians, and finish this policy argument over sexual orientation in the realm of our culture, and within the walls of our churches and temples, not our State government county clerk offices.

* As Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes said, "The life of the law has not been logic; it has been experience."

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Palin's real goal: To be a television show host

See here and here.

From the start of her candidacy, Sarah Palin struck me as being a narcissist. Her performance on Saturday Night Live is one more example of this. She obviously loved being there, despite the fact that she politically humiliated herself and anything for which she or McCain could possibly stand.

Even Kathryn Jean Lopez of the National Review felt Palin's appearance was "below her," meaning Palin, not Lopez. While Lopez also said Palin did "fine," again it was with "mixed feelings."

Watch for Palin to get her own talk show on FoxNews if McCain loses this election, which is something she'd obviously much rather do, judging from her initial career choices and her degree in Communications she received as a result of her years in various colleges.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Voter registration fraud, Republican style

This article in the LA Times proves the point of my earlier post that defended ACORN in that any aggressive campaign to register voters will end up with some bad eggs playing games with registrations. This does not mean we shouldn't aggressively register voters, but it does mean we should ratchet down the rhetoric that is emanating against ACORN, particularly when right-wing zanies are feeling really angry that the "socialist black man" might become president.

The pro-Republican group mentioned in the first linked article appears different from ACORN, however, because the pro-Republican group appears to be knowingly defrauding people into registering Republican--and that there is a pattern to the pro-Republican groups' tactics around the nation.

Friday, October 17, 2008

The Wall Street Journal's policy fears are my happy dreams...

See this editorial from the Wall St. Journal today. Unlike the Journal, I believe these sorts of reforms, if they actually occurred, will enhance economic productivity and increase government revenues to start paying down the debt over a reasonable time, and restore America's economic and yes, military greatness.

Too bad Obama has not yet shown he is the second coming of FDR, but there is hope!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Another economist who understands New Deal economics

Stephen J. Conroy, an associate professor of economics at San Diego State University, sets forth a New Deal program for the 21st Century. The really surprising thing is that the pro-Republican and pro-right wing San Diego Union Tribune published this yesterday.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Pushing Israel to invade Iran just got tougher

Per Haaretz today, the Labor Party has just agreed to a coalition with the Kadima Party, led by former Kadima Party Foreign Minister Livni, who is fast becoming a dove--and is more likely than ever to talk directly with Hamas, should Hamas want to talk with Israel. This also means the Cheney (Bush) administration is not likely to be able to push Israel to invade or bomb Iran. That is good news for those of us seeking the election of Obama in a few weeks. For just as low-information or swing voters flock to Democrats when there is an economic crisis situation, so too do they flock to Republicans when there is a military crisis. Low information voters tend to make "gut" decisions based upon the meta narratives they have believed in since they were youngsters.

There is also bad news coming out of Israel today: Hamas is increasing its demands for the release of the Israeli solider, Shalit. In this instance, Israel will likely have to negotiate with Hamas on other issues and then, when Hamas sees a deal is definitely in their interest, return to the issue of releasing Shalit. While Yossi Melman made the point several months ago that lopsided release agreements, where Israel releases hundreds of Arab prisoners for one Israeli Jewish soldier, have been done for many years, Hamas' arrogant negotiating stance may be the tipping point where the Israeli public decides enough is enough on further negotiations for the soldier, Shalit--even as the Israeli public seeks more aggressive talks on the broader strategic issues of peace and withdrawal from the occupied territories.

Also, this is an interesting opinion piece by Bradley Burston in Haaretz, entitled, "This year, this Jew is embracing jihad." It is an informative opinion piece and gives us a glimpse of the thinking from that growing percentage of Israelis who have had it with empty hawkish politicians and endless war. If, however, Hamas takes such thoughts as signs of weakness, and instead pursues further war against Israel, Hamas will find it has severely miscalculated. For nothing brings Israelis together better than an attack or a suicide bombing. And when the Israeli Jewish public comes together, it tends to turn to hawkish politicians, and so the cycle of violence has the grease, or better yet, blood, it needs to continue cycling.


Friday, October 10, 2008

A defense of ACORN

This article at Talking Points Memo (Josh Marshall's place) is compelling.

My memory of Republican voter registration efforts in the 1980s and 1990s was that the Republicans had similar problems. This is what happens, I think, with most major voter registration drives. And stuff like this happens, where Republican voter registration people throw away registrations of those who register as Democrats. Of stuff like this, where Republican voter registration efforts lead some to wrongfully fill in Republican for registrants rather than the person's stated preference for Democrat or perhaps some other party. This is, again, what happens from time to time.

To judge ACORN by this problem is the height of hypocrisy and unfairness. ACORN strikes me, if the first linked article is accurate, as better on the registering of citizens than many other organizations conducting large scale voter registration drives.

Oh, never heard of ACORN before the past couple of weeks? Here is a description of what they do from their website. One can see why most right wingers hate them...until they might need them of course.

ADDENDUM: See this post on the latest Republican allegations and why they are without merit.


Obama echoes Robert Kennedy in the face of McCain stoking of hatred

The Republican conservative movement is melting like the Wicked Witch of the West, and instead of saying "I'm melting, I'm melting..." its movement members are screaming with hatred and fear about Obama, which was the way Republicans operatives have typically run campaigns for the past several decades, but mostly with an ability to control events they no longer possess. Even David Gergen is worried--and so is Ed Rollins. See here for the link to their statements last evening on CNN (the entire clip is worth watching, particularly with Begala's parting shot against the typical corporate media spin of "both campaigns are doing it...").

Obama's latest response to the seething hatred McCain and Palin are stoking is outstanding. He said this morning:

It's easy to rile up a crowd by stoking anger and division. But that's not what we need right now in the United States. The times are too serious. The challenges are too great. The American people aren't looking for someone who can divide this country -- they're looking for someone who will lead it. We're in a serious crisis -- now, more than ever, it is time to put country ahead of politics. Now, more than ever, it is time to bring change to Washington so that it works for the people of this country that we love.

I know my opponent is worried about his campaign. But that's not what I'm concerned about. I'm thinking about the Americans losing their jobs, and their homes, and their life savings. We can't afford four more years of the economic theory that says we should give more and more to those with the most and hope that prosperity trickles down to everyone else.

Robert Kennedy, in the last speech he delivered moments before he entered the kitchen of the Ambassador Hotel in June 1968, said something similar to his fellow Americans:

What I think is quite clear is that we can work together in the last analysis and that what has been going on within the United States over the period of that last three years, the divisions, the violence, the disenchantment with our society, the divisions, whether it’s between blacks and whites, between the poor and the more affluent, or between age groups or on the war in Vietnam, that we can start to work together. We are a great country, an unselfish country and a compassionate country. And I intend to make that my basis for running over the period of the next few months.

I continue to believe that Obama has more in common, stylistically, and even policy wise, with Jack Kennedy--cool, steady, detached and regal, and inspiring from that level. Robert Kennedy was far more of a firebreather and inspired people by jumping into the middle of things and being passionate about it. Obama also has a lot more in common with Abraham Lincoln, another Illinois lawyer with excellent judgment and an ability to transcend moments. None of this is to say that Obama will win this election or end up one of our truly great presidents. More than ever, time tells more than any analysis right now.

Let's just hope Obama stays safe and that the hatred emanating from the conservative movement does not engulf Obama the way the seething hatred during the 1860s and 1960s engulfed Lincoln and the Kennedy brothers.


Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Corporate socialism on the march in a growing war against the working class and the poor

Corporate socialism is definitely on the march in America.

See this latest move by the Cheney (Bush) (Paulson?) administration whereby the federal government is now stepping in to provide basic operating commercial paper loans so businesses can receive short-term financing. If a Democrat did this, it would be called socialism all the way, even if it was also helping business. If this was done directly for homeowners, to help give them credit for personal credit cards, it would definitely be denounced as socialism and there would be an emergency petition to the Supreme Court to do what it did when President Truman nationalized the coal mines with soliders when mine workers' struck during the Korean War. As some may recall, the Supreme Court rebuked Truman's action as inconsistent with the Constitution, though one must admit the Court majority (including several concurring opinions) was interpreting our Constitution through capitalist biases.

The Republican rhetoric about how the government should not help anyone economically, and how "you" know better than Washington what to do with "your" money never sounded so hallow and hypocritical as now. And where does the Cheney (Bush) (Paulson?) administration think it's getting this money--from Heaven? It's not even part of the bailout passed last week, if I read this article correctly, and I don't even see the legal basis for this incredible sum to be placed before businesses.

I am really starting to believe this is turning into a cynical, last ditch effort by Republicans to crowd out any ability of any Democratic administration to provide much needed social spending (infrastructure needs, R&D for technological advancement and pharmaceutical products, national health insurance, etc.). There is precedent for this, as Reagan's leading budget cruncher, David Stockman, admitted years ago in the early days of the Reagan era. Stockman's memoir, "The Triumph of Politics", at page 267-268, states:

Years later, in 1985, my old rabbi, Pat Moynihan (then Senator from NY) would say that we had pushed through the (1981 Reagan) tax cut to deliberately create this giant deficit. in truth, not six of the six hundred players in the game of fiscal governance in the spring and summer of 1981 would have willed this outcome. Yet, caught up in the powerful forces unleashed by the dangerous experiment of a few supply siders who had gotten the President's good ear, they let it happen just the same. (Parentheses added)

And those six who willed it included some people at the top levels of the Reagan administration, making Moynihan's point all the more compelling. Is that why Cheney and Co. are so quiet about this latest action--because it gives them the room to later and suddenly argue about the need for balancing budgets and making spending cuts, instead of reinvesting in infrastructure, trying to help people with health insurance, etc.? That is what this is all begininning to sound like as we trudge through the last weeks of this electoral campaign...


Monday, October 06, 2008

One more reason for senior citizens to vote for Obama

If Bubbe and Zayde are still thinking about voting for McCain, maybe they need to read this article from today's Wall Street Journal, where McCain's top economic advisor, Douglas Holtz-Eakin, says McCain will pay for his health care plan with deep cuts in Medicare and Medicaid.

McCain's overall plan, of course, repeals the deduction businesses currently have to provide health insurance to their employees--which will lead to millions of employees losing their employer-based health insurance--and then sends the employees into the private plan market, where insurance companies can and do refuse to cover "pre-existing" conditions. And as Joe Biden made clear at last Thursday's debate, the $5,000 tax credit McCain proposes for those employee-taxpayers will not cover the health insurance premium costs they are currently receiving as a benefit of employment.

McCain's health care plan cannot be more pro-insurance company nor worse for American workers and their families. McCain himself could not have put it better in one of the great ironic statements ever uttered by a politician (see here for link):

Opening up the health insurance market to more vigorous nationwide competition, as we have done over the last decade in banking, would provide more choices of innovative products less burdened by the worst excesses of state-based regulation.

Well, Senator McCain, we know how that worked out...

Bottom line: All seniors who rely upon Medicare should be supporting Obama. Period.


ADDENDUM: Krugman nails the same issue here.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Bill Clinton reminds me why I voted for Nader in 2000

Bill Clinton shows his ignorant side in this interview with Business Week. In the interview, Clinton was asked if he regrets signing the Gramm bill that deregulated banking and investment brokerage industries by formally blurring the two. Clinton responded as follows:

No, because it wasn't a complete deregulation at all. We still have heavy regulations and insurance on bank deposits, requirements on banks for capital and for disclosure. I thought at the time that it might lead to more stable investments and a reduced pressure on Wall Street to produce quarterly profits that were always bigger than the previous quarter. But I have really thought about this a lot. I don't see that signing that bill had anything to do with the current crisis. Indeed, one of the things that has helped stabilize the current situation as much as it has is the purchase of Merrill Lynch (MER) by Bank of America (BAC), which was much smoother than it would have been if I hadn't signed that bill.

Sorry, Bill. Keeping insurance on bank deposits, while letting banking institutions run amok with risky adventures as if they were investment banks, and letting investment houses get into banking, is precisely what was wrong with the Gramm bill. And maintaining disclosure only meant we all watched this car crash in real time, with the b.s. flowing that real estate is "always a great investment" and the usual herd-lemming mentality that prevails when bubbles get pumped up. Further, there was nothing in this bill to make bank executives become less pressured about quarterly stock investor returns.

I'll give Clinton one thing: Because of the Gramm bill, it was easier for Merrill Lynch to be bought by Bank of America--but that's because of the walls being broken down by the Gramm bill that led to the debacle in the first place.

Who does Bill Clinton think he's kidding here? As Nader and folks like me recognized at the time, and a few brave Democrats like Senator Byron Dorgan (D-ND) understood, investment houses take risks in lending money to start ups and people on the edge. Banks are supposed to be far more cautious ("conservative") in their lending practices. You don't combine the two or let one morph into the other.

Since Clinton is too financially ignorant to understand this, read this great, prophetic quote from Senator Dorgan in 1999 warning us that the repeal of the Glass-Stegall Act of 1933 was something we'd regret in ten years time. Clinton needs to crawl under a rock, at least until the election. He is so narcissistic, so eager to undermine Obama and his party in order to justify and promote himself, that he deserves nothing but our contempt.*

Note on the Biden-Palin debate: Didn't you love it when Palin, after saying Obama's tax plan (which gives tax relief to middle class folks and repeals the tax cuts for those making more than $250,000) is a "redistribution of wealth," almost immediately thereafter trumpeted how she signed a windfall profits tax on oil companies in Alaska? Being governor of Alaska is like being governor of Nevada, where you run against government, but tax the hell out of the main business that makes your state famous, and then condescend against states that have more diverse and therefore harder to tax industries and businesses.

The bottom line about Palin is that she is without any intellectual integrity, is horribly programmed (that is the significance of her inability to name even one newspaper or magazine she reads) and is as narcissistic in her personal ambition as Clinton. There is nothing "there" but herself. Overall, she sounded like someone who crammed for a test, but didn't really understand the material. Biden, at least, had some substance to him, and at least knows reality when it hits him in the face. Biden did extremely well last evening, and our fellow Americans should be congratulated for recognizing Biden is the superior candidate over Palin.

* Media Matters, bless their hearts, try to put Clinton's remarks in a larger context. See here. However, Clinton simply could have said Obama was a great man with the ease he said so about McCain, and he would not have been so easily edited. Also, if you think McCain is a great man, then read this tough piece from the Rolling Stone.