New Hampshire goes equal as the New Jersey Assembly flips the bird

On June 3, 2009, only an hour after the New Hampshire legislature took its final vote, marriage equality opponent Governor Lynch signed the marriage equality bill into law.  Today at 12:01 AM, January 1, 2010, the law went into effect.  New Hampshire joins Massachusetts, Connecticut, Iowa and Vermont as the 5th state respecting all residents in its marriage laws.  Congratulations New Hampshire!!

Meanwhile, just a few hundred miles southeast, the “democratic” New Jersey Assembly is making a total hash of their duty to the Garden State.  According to Garden State Equality:

The Assembly has announced there will not be an Assembly Judiciary Committee hearing on the marriage equality bill, as had been anticipated, this Monday, January 4, 2010.  Unacceptable.  Time for legislative action is winding down and it is urgent, to say the least, that we keep up the pressure.

This Monday, January 4, 2010 at 10:00 am, Garden State Equality and our partner organizations are holding an urgent rally and lobby day for marriage equality at the State House.  Meet Monday at 10:00 am in front of Garden State Equality’s Trenton office across from the State House – our Trenton office is at 110 West State Street.

Whether to hold the hearing rests on Assembly Speaker Roberts’ shoulders.  If he backed the hearing, the hearing would happen.  Here is his statement on the matter:

After more than seven hours of testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Dec. 7 and continued public debate in the weeks since, we’ve certainly had a chance to hear all sides on marriage equality legislation. I believe ample opportunity has already been given for all views to be heard and additional Assembly committee debate is not needed. I’ve advised the Senate sponsors that, if the bill is passed by the Senate, I am prepared to bring the bill directly to the Assembly floor for a vote before the end of this legislative session.

If you’re a NJ resident, contact your legislators and show up at the State House on Monday to help convince Speaker Roberts that holding this hearing is the right and necessary thing to do.  Tell him to quit hiding behind the Senate like a scared piece of sh!t.  But be polite, of course. (more…)

Eliminate the Senate: Winslow Wheeler @ Counterpunch

Former Senate Staffer Winslow Wheeler offers a perspective (Eliminate the Senate) on structural dysfunction over at the Senate.

Pointing out the obvious can sometimes be useful if you have a big enough megaphone. Washington Post staff reporter Ezra Klein was handed that opportunity this past Sunday when that paper’s prestigious Outlook section printed his commentary on “dysfunction” in the Senate: “After Health Care, We Need Senate Reform.” He got it right that the Senate “cannot govern,” especially itself, but he blew his chance to say anything to help readers truly understand the Senate or fix its problems. Oblivious, the Outlook editors put the commentary on page one, above the fold.

I spent a career learning about the Senate – from the inside as a staffer for both Republicans and Democrats and as one who both exploited and ultimately sought to change some of the Senate’s more corrosive, modern day behaviors. When I started in 1971 with liberal Republican Jacob K. Javits (NY), a breed now extinct, I observed an institution able to cope – albeit never smoothly nor gracefully – with genuine national crises (Vietnam and Watergate). When I left the Senate staff in 2002, the institution was well locked into moral bankruptcy and intellectual incompetence in its pathetic efforts to address problems as politically glib as defining marriage and as serious as going to war.

To argue, as Klein does, that the problem is just one of permitting a simple majority to rule the Senate, rather than the filibuster-imposed supermajority of 60, is to reveal fundamental ignorance of how the Senate works (or doesn’t). Klein cites two ideas to fix things: to permit 51 votes to prevail on any bill after nine days of debate, or to phase out filibusters over eight years. That these proposals come from two sitting senators does not mean they should be taken seriously. Long timer Tom Harkin (D-IA) presumably knows how empty his non-starter “reform” is; newcomer Jeff Merkley (D-OR) apparently does not. Plus, even if these gimmicks were to be adopted, they would not change anything — certainly not the atrocious behavior of the individuals currently occupying the Senate.

Recall, please, how the Senate was designed in the Constitution. If you want efficiency and quick turn around in governance and legislation, you want a very different system. Clog and delay were built in from the get go — quite consciously. Guaranteeing minority rights was a central tenet of the design – as it is of democracy.

Wheeler brings up some good points here, that we err when we analyze a nondemocratic institution using tools suited for evaluating democratic institutions.

I’d prefer to see 51 Senators from states that represent the 50%+1 of the population be able to invoke cloture than any of these contrived proposals.

My 2010 Resolution- Open Thread

Autumn, Lurleen and I were chatting about this earlier and I volunteered to write up one of my usual silly, cheesy posts that I love so.


Then I thought about this cheese shop skit with its utter lack of cheeses in relation to resolutions and 2010… and saw this image on another site:

So here’s MY resolution- to NOT believe in cheese shops “completely uncontaminated by cheese”. To stop drinking out of a Democratic sippy cup in hopes of eventually making progress.

Anyone else wanna join my in this resolution? Or want to share what resolutions you’re making for 2010?

Open Thread Time! And a very Happy New Year to all Blenders…


It’s the end, the end of the decade

Last chance for a Ménage à trois

Oh, hey, look! Another one of those blabitty blah blah end o’ the decades listy things. Your chance to go “Jeez. I thought he was much cooler than that.”

Random number of movies I loved:

Charlie Wilson’s War
Lost In Translation
Ghost World
Mulholland Drive
Before The Devil Knows You’re Dead
The Devil Wears Prada
(but only for Meryl Streep)

Was there a better actor in the last decade other than Philip Seymour Hoffman?

Movie that most likely would have made my list but I couldn’t force myself to see it because it would probably break my heart

Wendy and Lucy

Favorite novel

Jonathan Lethem’s The Fortress of Solitude

Favorite not novel:

Farber on Film

Favorite musical artist

Ryan Adams. If there was a more beautifully written, performed, and recorded song than Dear Chicago in the past decade, it escaped my ears.

Favorite band

The Shins slightly edging out Modest Mouse (New Slang trumps MM’s Ocean Breathes Salty. Actually, Sun Kil Moon’s cover of Ocean Breathes Salty trumps the original)

Favorite CDs

The Hour of the Bewilderbeast – Badly Drawn Boy
Gold – Ryan Adams
Feed the Animals – Girl Talk
Boxer – The National
Heartbreaker – Ryan Adams
Lost In Space – Aimee Mann (which contains the second best song of the decade: Invisible Ink)

Favorite TV show

I don’t have one. Really. I only get to see about two hours of TV a week and, as I have pointed out before, I don’t have a snobbish “TV is beneath me” attitude. I’d watch more if I could.

Person I miss the most

My dad.

Not person I miss the most


Okay, you may kibitz amongst yourselves. Be safe. Happy New Year. Wolverines!

Year in Review: Looking Back at 2009 and the 00’s

It’s New Year’s Eve, and we know you’re thinking about some resolutions. How about resolving to support independent, progressive media? We’re able to do what we do because of donors like you, and we’ve got a couple more hours on a generous offer to match any donations we get before midnight tonight, up to $5000. If you can spare a few, click the Donate button in the sidebar. (That’s it–that’s our pitch. Now enjoy the show!)

It’s the end of 2009. We’re still in two wars, Guantanamo is not yet closed, and the jobless numbers are still sky-high. What happened to all the optimism we started the year with? There have been bright spots and not-so-bright spots, nasty political fights and moments of progress.

Time magazine suggested that this decade might’ve been the worst ever. Hyperbole? Maybe not–the Bush era still gives most progressives nightmares. But was it all that much worse than the decades before–or that much different?

We discuss the year that was and the decade that was with a roundtable of our favorite guests, including Katrina vanden Heuvel ofThe Nation, Mark Green of Air America, Danny Schechter of News Dissector, Max Blumenthal, author of Republican Gomorrah, Maya Wiley of the Center for Social Inclusion, Faye Wattleton of the Center for the Advancement of Women, and Nancy Giles of CBS News Sunday Morning.

We also have an interview with Robert Greenwald of Brave New Films on progressive organizing through media–what works, what doesn’t, and where to go from here.

Late Night: Resolute – Not Resolutions

This is not a post about The Top Ten anything for 2009 OR 2010.

This is not a post about Your Most Important xx (pick your number) Resolutions for 2010.

This is not a post about Thin Thighs in Thirty Days.

This is not a post about How to Make 2010 Your Best Year Ever!

This is a post about you. And your family.  And feeling good in some way, shape or form.

As I gaze out over this semi-great nation of ours, I smell the odor of burned pretty much everything. We came into January all plumped up, ready to go. We were going to kick some major ass out there and…it’s been one long year of politicus interruptus.

Lotta heartburn out there. Lotta burned out people. Lot of people who are stuck in ‘crispy critters’ territory. Whole lotta disappointment goin’ on.

So, Aunt Toby is tying on the apron, getting out the mixing bowl and is here to tell you to – suck it up, people. The Repubs have had 30 years to send this magic bus over the guard rails and it was going to take a whole lot more than one election to get it back on the road, broken axle and all.

OK? You with me, here (and if you aren’t and still want to have an “agita” party, there are plenty of places out there that will have you)?

So. Let’s get back to basics. Pull up the Pampers. Fasten the garters. Tie up the bathrobe. Put on the fuzzy slippers. Pour a cup of tea (or coffee – your choice). And put the outside aside for a couple of minutes. There are some amazing people here at the Lake who do incredible amounts of heavy lifting. And for that, they deserve a huge hurrah and support in any way we can provide it.

But what we all need as well, is a little bit of a hurrah and support for ourselves and each other. Curly there at the top is my patron saint of remembering what’s important. One thing. We all need to get centered on what is one thing we can all do, individually, for ourselves, that is going to make us feel good.

And feeling good can take many forms, but to me, it always centers around feeling some sense of control and accomplishment. Trust me, there are days when getting out of bed and being able to move all the joints qualifies as a red letter day in my book. Sometimes, it is just sucking it up and saying to myself: (more…)

‘…there was barely air or water’

A man is morally free when, in full possession of his living humanity, he judges the world, and judges other men, with uncompromising sincerity. -George Santayana

On the eve of a new decade, in reflecting upon the decade that was, it truly is a travesty that we seem to know our history, but, we fail to learn from it’s lessons…

A case in point is the newly disclosed study conducted by the Contemporary Operations Study Team from the Combat Studies Institute at Ft. Leavenworth. Entitled: ‘A Different Kind of War’

It is an excellent critique or rather ‘AAR’ (After Action Review) of our efforts in Afghanistan from 2001-05. For the purposes of this post, I want to concentrate specifically what we knew before we went in…

Let’s start with my title of this post, it is from PAO Maj. Hilferty when he arrived early on in ’02…

"Afghanistan was kind of a blank slate because there was no infrastructure there. There were no native newspapers, radios, television, electricity, or anything… there was barely water or air."

An astute observation…

Why that is so, is where the lessons of history were ignored in our headlong rush into Afghanistan and confounded our subsequent ‘occupation’ thereafter…

The authors do acknowledge that…

"…early perceptions of Afghanistan often dwelled on the alien nature of the country and tended to overlook the deeply rooted social, economic, religious, and cultural structures that together formed the environment that American Soldiers soon began operating(in)."

That would be the understatement of the report…

Although the authors do an admirable job in describing many of the ‘structures’ involved in the Afghan society as whole, they fail to properly address the means to ameliorate the institutional problems inherent.

Key factors I’d like to concentrate on in today’s post is the Geographical, Ethnic, and, Religious composition of Afghanistan…

Rather than handling each one separately, one must address them as a whole. Why, you might ask…? Because one can not properly talk about one structure without another playing an integral role…

Lets look at the boundaries of Afghanistan, first. When the British arbitrarily drew the line between Afghanistan and Pakistan(India’s Northwest Provinces, at the time) in 1893, they intentionally halved the Pashtuns. Divide and conquer was the mentality. Another classic example of that British Colonial mindset was the disenfranchisement of the Kurds after the fall of the Ottoman empire, whereby the Kurds were effectively neutralized by being sliced up into three different countries(Turkey, Iran, and Iraq). Which lead to the Kurds being persecuted by all three governments.

The Pashtun represent 40% of the 27 million Afghans(13 million) and 16% of Pakistan’s 172 million(27 million). One also needs to note that approximately 1.7 million Afghan refugees remain in Pakistan. Nearly half of this population actually was born and grew up in Pakistan during the last 30 years, so they have never seen Afghanistan. They are not counted in the national census, even the ones born in Pakistan, because they are still considered citizens of Afghanistan. These disenfranchised individuals are mentioned prominently in the report…

The root of the Taliban rise to power lies not in Afghanistan but in Pakistan. Throughout the 1980’s and 1990’s, as the Afghan population grew in Pakistan, an entire generation of young men was exposed to a fundamentalist version of Islam(Wahabbi) in the many madrassas that thrived in the Pastun areas around Peshawar. That interpretation of Islam, combined with the lack of employment opportunities available to refugees and the culture of violence that had developed among the mujahideen, contributed to the creation of groups that sought simple, often violent, answers to Afghanistan’s problems…

Now, where else does that same scenario play out…?

Iraq…? Yemen…? Somalia…?

Large groups of unemployed Muslim youths, taught in Wahabbi Madrassas funded by the Saudis…

When one factors in one of the key tenets of Wahabbism, the jihad to ‘rid the land of the infidel’, you’ve painted a very bleak condition that needs to be addressed first and foremost…

Project ‘Soft’ power instead of Military might. Instead of training those men for ten weeks at a time, for the ephemeral Afghan National Army, of which then 1 in 4 defect, and oftentimes coming back for another 10 week stint under another name, train them to build schools and mosques, roads, aqueducts, etc… Anything other than warcraft, employ them, utilize them in peaceful means.

It’s insane to assume we can surmount these same problems by following the same old failed policies… Time and again…!

Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.
George Santayana, The Life of Reason, Volume 1, 1905

cross posted at Relaxed Politics…

From FDL’s Editing Department: Most Popular FDL Videos of 2009

Zeitgeist. It’s a cool word, makes a buzzy, crunchy sound as it rolls off your lips to snag attention when uttered.


It’s German for “spirit of the time,” referring to a cultural snapshot which encapsulates the mood of a group or society. There are many ways to capture zeitgeist; we often see it without thinking about it when we look at lists of “most read,” “most shared” content from blogs, news sites or portal pages.

One such snapshot we can share is Firedoglake’s Most Popular Videos of 2009. What does it say that Wanda Sykes appearance at the White House Correspondents’ dinner took multiple places out of the top 25 — the second slot in particular wherein she reefs on a certain radio personality? Fortunately Sarah Palin only features in one of the top ten, while Sen. Al Franken and President Obama feature in at least two of the top ten; let’s assume this reflects well of the spirit of 2009. And let’s hope the most popular video in which Sen. Franken discusses the rate of medical bankruptcies in U.S. bodes well for our aggregate attention going into the new year.

Without further elaboration, here they are, ranked by the number of times they’ve been viewed: Firedoglake’s Most Popular Videos of 2009. Auld Lang Syne, Firepups!

1) Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) humbles Hudson Institute dilettante over health care bankruptcies

2) WH Correspondents’ Dinner: Wanda Sykes thinks Rush Limbaugh is a fine fellow.

3) Rachel Maddow: Indefinite detention? Shame on you… President Obama (more…)