Thursday, March 28, 2013

Passover,Holy Week and Gay Marriage

++I finally found out what happens to Matzos after Passover. They are fed into a shredder that makes them look like little bags of hay.

++Pope Francis called the Argentinian papers to cancel his delivery in Buenos Aires.

++The American Religious Right is upset that Christ is being run out of Easter and replaced by the Easter Bunny. It's all Obama's fault. 

++North Korea is acting out again and we've sent stealth bombers over Korea. This is more hinky than usual.

++We had the hearings in Prop 8 and DOMA. It was clear from the oral arguments in Prop 8 that none of the justices wanted the case. Neither side got to discuss the merits of the case and Ted Olson was closed down by Chief Justice Roberts when he tried. The whole argument was whether former Iran-Contra lawyer Cooper had any standing to argue for the law since California never defended it. Judge Kennedy got emotional when he cited the some 40,000 children adopted by gay parents who wanted their parents legalized. But he seemed as befuddled as the other justices about why they should have to rule on Prop.8.The Obama argument to seek legalization in the 8 states that have already approved went over like a lead balloon. You have to second guess Ted Olson and David Boies' strategy to get the case before this Supreme Court. Both men argued the case superbly in California but never got a chance this week. I basically think the reversal of the law will stand and the Supreme Court will kick it back to the lower court and wait for someone else to litigate it.

++DOMA seems DOA. Five justices ripped it apart on everything from bigotry to the issue of the government providing benefits to partners. This one is going down on the basis of federalism. The justices didn't see how Congress could define marriage when it was the prerogative of the states. Lost in the arguments was Edie Windsor who when her partner died was stuck with several hundred thousand dollars in estate taxes even though she had married her partner in New York state. Weirdly Tony Scalia argued that the court had no right to try the case because there was not a victim. At least Edie could meet the press and argue for her love of her departed partner.

++Elaine Kagan deserves credit for raising questions about the argument that marriage is about procreation asking whether heterosexuals over the age of 55 could be banned from marriage if they can't have children. She exposed the ludicrous argument on this issue. Both Justice Kagan and Sotomayer made it explicit that DOMA was intended to express disapproval for the "Homosexual lifestyle" as the bill stated in its introduction. This caught Clements off-guard since he maintained that this was not what he was defending--but it was. Until then, he was ably arguing his case, which was flimsy at best.

++The Court doesn't feel or look like it wants to make a sweeping decision while the states have not resolved the issue. The argument that gay rights is in the realm of the equal protection clause was lost. In fact Justice Roberts emphatically denied this was the case. We are not talking about profiles in courage here. The Court is way behind the revolution in public opinion. They simply are not going to get out in front of it.

++Supporters of equal rights gained this week and opponents got slaughtered but basically the legal issue only got pushed incrementally forward. There will be more to come as case law will be built bit by bit.

++Those hoping for Justice Kennedy to be a profile in courage to make a sweeping decision in favor of gay marriage might shudder to think when he will make such a dramatic decision--at the time Roe V. Wade gets argued again. And it will. The strategy of the anti-abortion crowd has been to push State legislatures to pass highly restrictive laws against abortion to force this issue to a Supreme Court, which  is tilted in its favor.

++If gays won this week, women are being mowed down by States severely restricting reproductive rights. North Dakota passed three bills which will in effect end abortions in that state. They have opted to push forward the Personhood bill which will be voted on in a referendum this fall.

++Tiger Woods is again Number 1 in Golf after winning his Eight Arnold Palmer Open, which ties Slammin' Sammy Snead who won 8 Greensboro Opens.

++Nate The Great predicts the Yankees will win 91 games and top the Eastern Division. Yankee fans do not believe the Yankees will make the playoffs. They point to Derek Jeter's awful appearance limping around. But there will always be Mariano for one last year.

++The Lakers seem cursed by injuries just as they started getting their game together. Meta World Peace just got injured.

Monday, March 18, 2013

What I've learned in the Last Week

++Gun registries will be hacked by China and then given to Mexico, according to Wayne La Pierre.

++Paul Ryan has to close over 6.5 trillion in tax loopholes to balance his budget in ten years.

++John Boehner agrees with Paul Krugman that we don't have a debt problem for ten years.

++Pope Francis really was for Argentina in the Malvinas war with Britain.

++A majority of Americans now think the Iraq War wasn't a good idea. Paul Wolfowitz claims it was badly managed. David Frum regrets it but not the phrase "Axis of Evil", his lonely contribution to the debate.

++The RNC released a report that a majority of Americans find Republicans scary.

++At CPAC the diversity panel debated the merits of slavery.

++Because they need some outreach, Republicans will support immigration reform. Both the Senate and House committees have completed their work.

++President Obama is going to end global warming by executive order according to the National Review.

++The Obama Administration is trying to feed alternative energy futures in pension funds for the military.

++David Pflouffe says that Hilary Clinton is the strongest candidate on either side for 2016.

++Hillary Clinton came out today and endorsed same sex marriage.

++ Over two-thirds of Southern Baptists believe same sex marriage is inevitable. What's nice is that over 3/4rds of those responding did not believe they should face discrimination in either accommodations for the celebration or hotel rooms.

++Evangelist Rick Bell came out and endorsed same sex marriage.

++Pope Francis does not. But he did choose the name after St. Francis of Assisi not the founder of the Jesuits. Interestingly he said he thought of all the wars when he chose the name, not the issue of poverty. Economically Pope Francis seems to be a Peronista. His first public speech called on the Church to serve the poor.

++Hugo Chavez will not be embalmed because the Russian technicians say he would have to stay 6-8 months in Russia for preparations.

++Vice President Madura wants President Obama to stop plotting against his opponents. The previous day he said that Otto Reich was planning to kill his opponent. Previous to that he said President Obama gave Hugo Chavez cancer.

++Pope Francis' parents fled to Argentina to escape Mussolini, the hero of Father Koch, the man who founded the Koch fortune.

++Cliff Kincaid told the CPAC audience that the Vatican had been infiltrated by Marxists and President Obama and George Soros had been manipulating the Papal Conclave.

++Iran has launched their first home-grown Destroyer into the Caspian City, a stunt which will please Vladimir Putin.

++Bibi Netanyahu is on his best behavior for President Obama,stopping settlement construction on the West Bank.

++Annie Leibowitz did her magic on Michelle Obama for this week's Vogue magazine.

++John Boehner, the second highest Catholic in the U.S. government, turned down the White House offer to send him and Joe Biden to the Vatican to greet the new Pope.

++Rob Portman decided to endorse same-sex marriage after his son came out. He assured his audience that the Romney camp said that he had not been turned down for Vice President because his son was gay. Wanna Bet. His announcement brought condemnation from conservatives who said that family matters should never change one's principles like in the case of, say, Dick Cheney who actively campaigned for same sex marriage in Maryland.

++Willard Romney told CPAC not to be pessimistic because the best is yet to come or some such pablum.

++Bill Kristol attached Rand Paul's criticism of John McCain and Lindsey Graham as ignoring 50 years of GOP foreign policy. The problem with Kristol's Weekly Standard piece was that it equated war with foreign policy.

++The Guardian and BBC magazine printed LBJ's tapes about Richard Nixon sabotaging the Vietnam peace talks in 1968. The tape was the subject of the quest of the Plumbers who brought about Watergate. Nixon feared that it would get out that he committed treason and had the Plumbers go to the Brookings Institute. Robert Parry did a good piece on this for the Alternative News Consortium.

++Rand Paul continued his family's tradition of winning the CPAC Straw Poll,edging out Marco Rubio and Rick Santorum.Conservatives will have to square the younger libertarians with the Tea Baggers. Not pretty.

++The big brouhaha on the Drone attacks may have come too late. It looks like this year's drone attacks are far less than last year and that the Administration is now trying to create a legal regime for future Presidents.

++The Right is upset that President Obama's endless campaigning will make him look like a Washington insider. Okay. Isn't that better than a Kenyan Muslim Socialist?

++But never fear Dinesh DeSouza is coming back to your screens with a second film about how Obama is destroying America. This should be as good as his last.

++The Easter Egg Hunt will take place at the White House despite sequestration. It is funded privately. 

++George Will says that the issue of procreation is what will make the Supreme Court reject same sex marriage. Come again.

++Fans--like me--of Bayard Rustin are urged to sign onto the White House petition to award Bayard on his 101th birthday The Medal Of Freedom. DOJ had previously wanted to honor Bayard but after thousands and thousands of pages of wiretaps that seemed inappropriate unless accompanied by an apology.

++A young experimental percussionist who happens to have my last name surpassed his goal of raising funds for his debut album on kickstarter,com. Way to go! 

++Jack DeJohnette, Jazz great, played at the Kennedy Center as part of his 70th Birthday Tour. Great and I hope the young percussionist has as accomplished a career.

++According to John Thanis in his Vatican Diaries, Pope Benedict secretly drilled into St.Paul's tomb to see whether any body was there. It was. Now who it was is open to debate.

++There must be a congressional recess because I haven't heard any nonsense all day.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Don't Cry for Me, Argentina

++We have a new 76-year old Pope named Francis. The first Pope from the Americas is also the first Jesuit elected Pope. Not surprising, he is conservative on cultural issues,very homophobic, against contraception and abortions. But economically, he has been outspoken about bankers,Argentina's debt problems and the poor. At first people thought he took his name after St.Francis of Assisi but it was after the founder of the Jesuits. The runner-up at the last Conclave, Francis has escaped the sex scandals that faced the other candidates. There remains dispute about his failure to protect priests and Jesuits during the Dirty War. Overall,it seems he is a caretaker Pope for a Church mired in sex and banking scandals and seen far removed from modern reality. The good news for science fans is that Pope Francis has a degree in science and as a Jesuit isn't against advances in modern science and medicine. The Italians got their digs in when they said he couldn't be Francis I until he dies. The question is whether he can get any control over the Vatican bureaucracy.

++The Sandman exits. Yes, Mariano Rivera did announce his retirement this past weekend. His exit was wonderfully covered by the New York Post. 

++Kobe Bryant did live up to his promises that the Lakers would make a run for the playoffs--until last night when he suffered a knee injury when he blew the potential game-winning shot against the Hawks.

++The Washington Post is hosting an event for the Donald, who will speaking on Washington real estate. Think that is strange? The Post ran a piece the other day about how Alexandria is divided on the fate of two warehouses on the waterfront. Of course, they are owned by the Washington Post and I have yet to hear anyone in town talk about the warehouses.

++Waiting for a half an hour to enter the Russell Building for an event on Iran's nuclear program, a motorcade whizzed around the building and the President entered the building from the back for a meeting with Democratic Senators about their budget proposals. The next day he showed up at the House to meet with the Republican Caucus, who complained that he was still campaigning. 

++David Bowie's first wife doesn't like "The Next Day", his first recording in ten years. I do. David Bowie returns with an album that is more sober than the past but still outshines any competitors. It is an amalgam of all his styles and is impeccably produced.

++Jimi Hendrix hit #2 on Billboard the other day. I guess if you want to make money,it's best you are dead.

++Speaking of dead, Random House has re-issued John MacDonald's The Quick Red Fox and A Deadly Shade of Gold. My old friend Doug Payne used to read Travis McGee in the old paperbacks. The main character reminds me of Doug.

++Cara Black has a new Aimee Leduc mystery out Murder Below Montparnasse. An old Trotskyite calls Aimee to retrieve a stolen Modigliani. He does so at the recommendation of Aimee's mother, who has been missing the whole series. Wanted for terrorism since the 1970s, her mother has been an elusive presence in the series throughout. The novel has a wonderful premise --that Modigliani painted Vladimir Lenin during his Paris days and gave the painting to the old Trotskyite's grandfather as a gift because Lenin refused it. I found the meaning of the painting more intriguing than Aimee running around Paris avoiding attempts on her life. And,yes, dear readers, we finally get to meet Aimee's mother.

++And speaking of the Left, Venezuela has decided to embalm Hugo Chavez like Lenin so all can see him for the future. The Venezuela government still believes the United States gave Chavez cancer and conservative Americans want to assassinate the anti-Chavez candidate. Why, who knows?

++Paul Krugman didn't declare bankruptcy. The piece circulated in the right-wing blogosphere was a lampoon. The telling part, in my mind, was the reference to a Tiffany charge account--reminiscent of New Gringrich's problems the last year.

++President Obama still seems to be reading Krugman as he mentioned that we don't have a debt problem right now but will in ten years--a position Krugman has maintained all along as he urged Congress to stay away from more austerity.

++In case you missed it, Paul Ryan unveiled his new super duper Budget this week to ridicule and yawns. Even Fox News on several shows said it was dead on arrival. Reporters punched back by questioning Ryan on the results of last year's election and didn't this mean his budget was rejected. Ryan admitted that repealing Obamacare was unlikely but his dream. Medicare vouchers have been transformed into a Super Premium Plan. I guess this was the advice of Frank Luntz. But don't be amused,the draconian cuts to the social welfare net are still priority number 1 of the tea baggers and will form the basis for the 2014 election. The GOP gamble is that 2014 will have as low a turnout as 2010 and enable them to maintain control of the House and Senate.

++President Obama has sent shivers up the spines of Democrats with his talk about entitlement reforms and tying Social Security to the CPI. Anyone who has read this blog over the years knows my position on Social Security. Lower the tax rate and end the cap and Social Security will live at full function for another 75 years. Repeat after me--There is no problem with Social Security. 

++CPAC is in town with more attendees than in the past. The sparkling line-up of speakers include The Donald,Sarah Palin, Dick Morris,Mitt Romney,Rand Paul,Vishnu Jindal, Ted Cruz, and thousands more celebrities. After picking Romney in a landslide,Dick Morris wrote yesterday that Pope Francis was an answer to the Left in Latin America and a counterweight to the influence of Hugo Chavez.

++Sequestration is taking hold. Don't go to any national parks. They may be closed. Special ed programs in the DC area, at least, are being cut back. Virginia is bracing to lose 200,000 jobs soon. It does not look like there will be a solution soon.

++The Dow ran 9 consecutive days of gains, the best performance since 1999 and is nearing its peak. But as everyone now knows, Dow performance hasn't even generated the much touted trickle down benefits for the average American. American corporations stashed about a $1 trillion bucks abroad this year to avoid taxes.

++Gun control legislation is passing around the states and moving forward in D.C. But controls on assault weapons and large magazines look out of reach.

++SCOTUS will probably decide against the Voting Rights Act. Already red states are gearing up for massive voter suppression in 2014 and rigging electoral vote counts in 2016.  Weirdly enough, I am still hopeful that DOMA will be declared unconstitutional and Prop 8 will bite the dust.

++Immigration Reform is moving in the Senate and the House Republican leadership claims it can pass there.

++The Conservative Crack-up continues. No one can future out what conservatives stand for--if anything--and right now we are experiencing the flavor of the week. This week it is Rand Paul because he warns that President Obama will send a drone at you while you are drinking a latte at an outdoor cafe. Next week it will be someone different, who wants to profile Muslims. I expect Rand Paul to win the CPAC straw poll for President in 2016.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Let's Hear For the Old-Timers

++The great and classy Mariano Rivera will retire at the end of this season as the greatest reliever of all time. Five World Series rings and a playoff record the envy of all, Mariano said he would return after a rare injury cost him most of last season.

++Kobe Bryant promises us that the Lakers will make it to the playoffs and he has been playing that way.

++The late John MacDonald is back in print with his Travis McGee series with intros by Carl Hiassen. The latest paperback is "The Deep Blue Good-By" (but with an intro by Lee Child).

++Congrats to Grammy winner Jimmy Cliff for Best Reggae Album "Re-Birth". Most of us remember Cliff from "The Harder They Come,the Harder They Fall" which probably popularized Reggae before Bob Marley.

++David Bowie has returned after a ten year absence. You can access the album free at I-Tunes until it is released. Don't miss the videos. They are little films.

++The last studio album of Jimi Hendrix has appeared. "People, Hell and Angels" consists of 12 finished tracks from the Electric Ladyland studio in the Village. As my son would say, his playing on this album is "sweet". I have never understood why people defend Eric Clapton over Hendrix.

++Another old geezer showed up yesterday, President Bill Clinton, who urged that his own bill DOMA be declared unconstitutional. Andrew Sullivan welcomes him to the crowd but as with welfare reform was this necessary.

++And we close with a classy lady. "Old Yellow Moon" has been released by Emmylou Harris. Her voice is in fine form while the tunes are a bit stale.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Benedict,Boehner and Chavez have left the Building

** Housecleaning: The Violence against Women Act did eventually pass the House when Boehner broke the Hastert rule for the second time this year.

    The immigration reform bill is getting massaged but still is alive.

    There are at least four separate gun safety laws in process in the Senate.

     The finger-pointing over sequestration continues and will depending how thinks they can benefit.

     Rand Paul should be congratulated because he actually pulled off a 19 hour "talking filibuster", which only shows up McConnell's constant use of the non-verbal kind.

    After Harry Reid's so-called "filibuster reform" the GOP has filibustered Chuck Hagel's nomination,an Obama nominee for the Second Circuit Court, and the Democratic bill to curtail the excesses of the sequestration.

     Ruth Bader Ginsberg said she is going to stay on the Supreme Court another two years.

     The históric Voting Act is jeopardized by the Supreme Court, which is thinking of ruling it unconstitutional because the South has changed. Say what?

     The Obama Administration did submit briefs against DOMA and Prop 18 to the Supreme Court. 

     House Republicans went into recess the day sequestration hit. They also went into recess when Snowpocalypse didn't hit yesterday.

    President Obama hosted 12 Republican Senators in his new strategy to woo Republicans to act sensibly. Today, he is supposed to have lunch with Paul Ryan, who wants to raise the age for Medicare after promising House colleagues he wouldn't.

    North Korea has threatened to nuke the United States and create a sea of fire. How about one last Shock and Awe for old times' sake? The UN unanimously passed a US-UN resolution for tighter sanctions on North Korea. Dennis Rodman says that all President Obama has to do is pick up the phone and talk basketball with the young North Korean leader. You know--it would probably work.

     Pope Benedict is no more. Pressured by sex abuse scandals, Vatican bank scandals and internal Vatican sexcapades, he stepped down. The American Right claims that President Obama and George Soros are conspiring to make an African Pope. Of course, both Africans are more reactionary than Benedict but the story is too cool to pass by.

     Hugo Chavez is still dead. Venezuela is plunged into chaos as the government poorly handled his health crisis from the beginning. The Vice President accused the United States of giving him cancer and expelled the American ambassador.

      The Syrian opposition is holding local elections to take control of municipalities in the country. John Kerry met with the opposition in Italy and promised American non-lethal aid, while Britain and Gulf States are providing lethal aid. The Iranian government claims Assad will run again in 2014. The big losers in this conflict are Hezbollah,the Syrian government and Tehran. And, of course, the Syrian people who have more than 1 million refugees. The Russians have decided to step up military assistance to Iraq in a bid to salvage a base outside the country.

        The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights is under siege by Ecuador, Venezuela and Brazil. These countries are trying to promote a change to the IACHR's mandate, which would gut its effectiveness. For all its faults,the IACHR has been one of the most effective supporters of human rights throughout the hemisphere--whether it was under Pinochet's Chile, Castro's Cuba, and the United States.

        Speaking of retirement, Raul Castro hinted he may not serve a full six term as President of Cuba,pointing the way to the post-Castro period.

        Bibi Netanyahu has not successfully formed a new government coalition and time is running out as President Obama is about to visit.

        Much to the chagrin of people trying to prevent further climate change, I believe the Keystone Pipeline will be approved, even though it will create only 35 permanent new jobs in the United States.

        The past two weeks have seen cat fights break out among conservatives about the direction of the Republican Party. The web is filled with excellent piece debating this. This morning Craig Shirley wrote a piece against Jeb Bush and why CPAC continues to be looney-tunes in their search for a new Ronald Reagan.

       The Washington Post and others are suggesting that President Obama is aiming for the 2014 elections to win back the House and thwart GOP obstructionism. Even Nate the Great Silver knows this is nuts. The Democrats don't have a chance at taking back the House until the next census in 2020. The Democrats "won" the house in the last election by over 1.5 million votes but because of gerrymandering only picked up a few seats. Why believe it will be different?

       SPL issued its new "Hate" group survey which showed that "Patriotic" Groups have risen dramatically this past year because of the President's re-election.

       The war against women continues in full force. Virginia is still contemplating making "abortion" clinics follow the new guidelines for new hospitals, which would put them out of business. States are just bursting with new anti-abortion legislation and personhood bills. House Republicans want to investigate Planned Parenthood. The Texas GOP eliminated healthcare provisions for women but did a "Big Whoops" and restored them after dissent from women Republicans.

        Ignore the 2016 speculation. On the GOP side, it is not going to be Ryan,Rubio,Rand because Senators and House members only win every generation and the Senator this time was President Obama. Look toward the Mid-West for a Governor because of the desperate need for Republicans not to look so Southern. On the Democratic side, I am still skeptical about a Hillary run. Cuomo,maybe and a Westerner.