Wednesday, May 19, 2010


This post has nothing to do with Tea Parties, or elections, or Health Care, or Obama, or Libertarians or DADT. It has to do with a walk in the woods yesterday.

We live on an 18 acre parcel of hilly woodlands, which abuts the 21-square mile, undeveloped Pisgah State Park. Our constant neighbors are porcupines, at least one wolf, hummingbirds, a pair of rose-breasted grosbeaks, red foxes, and, based on the missing birdfeeders and the bent wrought-iron feeder hooks -at least one black bear. Once we begin walking into the woods, it doesn't take long for it to get very, very dark - even in the middle of the day.

Yesterday, Scott and I went walking down an overgrown path back into the woods. It got darker and darker as the trees formed a wall on all sides and their branches touched and overlapped overhead. Everything in sight was forest-floor-brown, or forest-green, and everything was in shadows.

About 5 minutes into our walk, I looked to the right, where the tree line briefly parted for a short distance of about 15 feet. About 20 feet ahead, through the gap, was a craggy, boulder-strewn hillside too steep to easily climb without equipment. The largest boulder was practically illuminated, sitting in the sole shaft of sunlight that somehow found a direct route into the forest.

And surrounding the boulder - above it, below it, in its depressions, around its sides - was an explosion of color. A thick patch of Wild Red Columbines was in full bloom. I literally sucked in my breath and held it. I had never seen a patch of wild columbine.

And I sure didn't expect this burst of red and yellow - and light! - in the midst of this dark expanse of browns and greens. I could bring myself to do *nothing* but stare at it, knowing that I had stumbled into one of the woodland's hidden treasures...the closest thing I have seen to a Chapel made without human hands.

Somehow, I know that there are ancient monks and Celtic hermits who know *precisely* what I experienced yesterday.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Robertson to challenge Lynch

Timothy Robertson, a Democratic State Representative from Keene, announced tonight that he intends to challenge incumbant John Lynch in the Democratic Primary for Governor of New Hampshire.

Speaking to an overflow crowd of the Cheshire County Democrats meeting at the E F Lane Hotel in Keene, Robertson cited Lynch's "reluctant" support of marriage equality, opposition to medical marijuana, and support for both 'the war on drugs' and "The Pledge," the New Hampshire tradition of pledging to oppose broad-based taxes.

"I was afraid that when Lynch debated the Republican candidate, he would sound just like the Republican," said Robertson.

In addition to his legislative functions, Robertson has most recently been known for the permission he has granted homeless consruction workers to erect temporary shelter on land he and his sister own in Keene, which has since grown into a small community known locally as "Intensity."

Lynch's opposition to rational drug law reform, and the unnecessary drama he created in his effort to avoid dealing with a Marriage Equality bill on his desk last year have been frequent subjects of this blog.


Monday, May 10, 2010

The Politicization of Supreme Court Nominees...and why Kagan should be swiftly confirmed

The Supreme Court of the United States ("SCOTUS") occupies a role at the heart and soul of American society. As a co-equal branch of government, the Court has consistently been willing to act where Constitutional duty required, but where political strength was weak. The end of the Seperate but Equal doctrine, the right of adults to purchase birth control, the right of those uttering offensive speech to continue to exercise that right, have all been secured by the Court when politicians lacked the spines to do so. By choosing jurists and scholars in love with The Law itself, the great 'American Experiment' has lasted and been strengthened because of the vigilence of an institution that can weather the inflamed but fading passions of mob rule.

From 1900 to approximately 1969, Court nominees were afforded respect by both sides of the aisle. In that time frame, 28 Justices were approved unanimously by voice vote. One was rejected. And only 13 were confirmed with a smattering of 'nay' votes.

It is interesting to note that in that time period, the opposition to some of those Justices would later prove an embarassment:

Louis Brandeis, one of the most brightest legal scholars in the Court's history, was confirmed in 1916 by an unusual "split' vote of 47-22. It is shameful to think now that the nay votes were at least in part generated because he was first Jew nominated the High Court.

Similarly, Thurgood Marshall - the Court's first African-American - would be approved by a split vote of 69-11 in 1967.

When Hugo Black received 16 "no" votes in 1937, it was largely due to rumors (later confirmed) that he had been a member of the Klan in his earlier years. Even those 'no' votes were bipartisan, however, consisting of 10 Republicans and 6 Democrats.

All in all, prior to 1969, 41 of 42 nominees were confirmed....28 (fully 2/3 of them)unanimously.

In the modern era, however, we have chosen to reverse this approach, and we have turned most Court confirmations into a political fight. Between 1969 and today, 19 nominations have been made to the nation's highest Court. Of these, 3 were rejected (Bork, Carswell, and Haynesworth); 1 withdrew from nomination (Harriet Miers in 2005); 10 were confirmed on split votes; and only FIVE (barely one-quarter) were confirmed unanimously. And those five were all before 1987 - over 20 years ago.

We somehow have come to the conclusion in the last few decades that Court appointees should be instruments of Political Doctrine, rather than impartial judges of the Law, and so interest groups from all sides raise funds and wage battle over almost every nominee. Both the Democrats and Republicans are equally guilty of this warfare, and both should be ashamed, as qualified, professional, brilliant judges have received 'no' votes simply based on partisan ideology. Conservatives needlessly withheld 31 votes from Justice Sonia Sotomayor, an eminently qualified Jurist, just as liberals withheld 42 votes from Justice Samuel Alito, Jr. on political grounds.

The question before the Senate should not be, "Will this person further our party's legislative agenda?" The question should be, "Is this person qualified to analyze complicated fact patterns and impart sound legal reasoning to actual cases in a way that brings honor the nation's Highest Court?"

By that standard, Kagan is qualified. End of Discussion. Republicans should assent to her confirmation, and reverse the modern trend towards "getting one of ours in."

Once confirmed, I will admit that there is one aspect of the Court's make-up that does raise a flag, and that is the lack of anyone from a protestant background on the court. In a large way, this is indicative of changes in American Society, and from that perspective it is a positive development. On the other hand, depending on the survey quoted, protestants still comprise about 50% of the population. Now, I pesonally do not believe in 'group' politics; I judge induividuals as individuals. But the nomination of Sonia Sotomayor last year began an interesting debate.

Justice Sotomayor was criticized for the following comment she had made:

"I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn’t lived that life..."

What Justice Sotomayor suggested is that we are *all* a product of our backgrounds, and bring that background to the table with us. Often, that background gives us insights that others with differing backgrounds might not as readily understand.

I defended her remarks then, and continue to do so now. And so, I believe I am consistent when I suggest that a nation that has many, many devout Protestants may feel unrepresented because the insight that their particular background contributes may not find a voice on the Court. It is a legitimate concern.

But I am forced to wonder how many liberals who defended the 'wise latina' comment will simply dismiss protestant or evangelical concerns as lacking merit.

And I wonder how many conservative protestants who will now lament the loss of a 'protestant perspective' on the bench were willing to raise their voices in agreement when a wise latina woman offered the same arguement as they do now.

Of course, one could simply defend Sotomayor and criticize evangelicals - or vice versa - based on political approach that will only perpetuate the destructive politicization of the Judical confirmation process. Better to recognize our diversity and differences and strive for balance...but to confirm Justice nominees based solely on qualifications.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Thank you, Sen. Shaheen!

For almost a Century, the Federal Reserve System has engaged in a 'mission creep' that has extended its power and authority way beyond its Congressional authorization. Originally established to insure a stable money supply and to prevent the hyper-inflation that less-developed countries chronically endure, the "Fed" has expanded to become the nations primary guardian of gold reserves, controller of the currency, auditor of all federally-chartered banks, and check clearinghouse. In the last two years, they have stepped front-and-center into the nation's financial crisis, allowing Lehman Brothers to go belly-up while 'arranging' for the saving of AIG and Merryl Lynch. Through their "Troubled Asset Relief Program" (TARP), the Fed has permitted banks to borrow American taxpayer funds anonymously, and had lowered the Federal Discount Rate so low that loose credit has enabled insolvent and arrogant banking corporations to plunder the nations funds in legalized gambling with taxpayer funds and fraudulent financial instruments. Tellingly, some Regional Federal Reserve branches (Dallas in particular) have strenuously and openly disagreed with the decisions of what is arguably the most powerful institution in America.

Through all this, the Fed has remained insulated from acountability: with 7 Governors having terms of 14 years each (more than any elected official in the nation other than some NY Judgeships), and no congressional approval needed for their decisions to create money, influence interest rates, or determine how much banks must - or should - lend, the Fed has conducted the nations banking without having ever being audited.

A coalition of Senators and Members of Congress from the Left (Bernie Sanders) and the Libertarian Right (Ron Paul) have called for accountability and an audit of the Federal Reserve System. Today, New Hampshire Democratic Senator Jeanne Shaheen has added her voice to sponsoring this legislation.

She stands in stark contrast to Republican NH Senator Judd Gregg, who has defended the Fed's insularity and has attempted to block any audit of this institution.

Today's press release:

"Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) will co-sponsor an amendment that would require government auditors to open up the books at the Federal Reserve.

The "audit the Fed" measure, first introduced by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), is actually popular on both sides of the aisle, but is staunchly opposed by the White House, the Fed and the financial industry. Sanders is trying to round up the 60 votes it need to overcome a likely filibuster.

The Obama administration will most likely be under intense pressure to veto the entire financial reform bill if "audit the fed" survives.

Reporting by Brian Beutler

Now...which party is for accountability, transparency, and responsibility in government? Which party is being fiscally responsible?

Breaking News: Conservative Anti-Gay "Expert" discovered with Male Escort...

George Alan Rekers has been photographed leaving Miami International airport after a 10-day European vacation with "Lucien," a male escort.

From the Miami New Times

"For decades, George Alan Rekers has been a general in the culture wars, though his work has often been behind the scenes. In 1983, he and James Dobson, America's best-known homophobe, formed the Family Research Council, a D.C.-based, rabidly Christian, and vehemently anti-gay lobbying group that has become a standard-bearer of the nation's extreme right wing. Its annual Values Summit is considered a litmus test for Republican presidential hopefuls, and Sean Hannity and Ann Coulter have spoken there. (The Family Research Council would not comment about Rekers's Euro-trip.)

He has also influenced American government, serving in advisory roles with Congress, the White House, and the Department of Health and Human Services and testifying as a state's witness in favor of Florida's gay adoption ban. A former research fellow at Harvard University and a distinguished professor of neuropsychiatry at the University of South Carolina, Rekers has published papers and books by the hundreds, with titles like Who Am I? Lord and Growing Up Straight: What Families Should Know About Homosexuality.

"While he keeps a low public profile, his fingerprints are on almost every anti-gay effort to demean and dehumanize LGBT people," says Wayne Besen, a gay rights advocate in New York City and the executive director of Truth Wins Out, which investigates the anti-gay movement. "His work is ubiquitously cited by lobby groups that work to deny equality to LGBT Americans. Rekers has caused a great deal of harm to gay and lesbian individuals."