Friday, May 02, 2003

NEW AND IMPROVED WEB SITE NOW UP

The new and improved To the Barricades is now up. You can find it at

www.tothebarricades.com.

This site will stay open to redirect folks for the next few weeks, anyway.

More content and some tinkering with the layout is to come, but this is how it will look for the next few months, or until I master Moveable Type enough to make my site as pretty as Kos's.

If anybody can produce me a .jpg of Delacoix's painting "Liberty Leading the People" with an overlay of the words "To The Barricades" in white, that would be great! Email it to tothebarricades2003[at]yahoo.com. Thanks!

Thank you for your support.

Thursday, May 01, 2003

PRESIDENT GORE: HOW MUCH PAIN WE AVOIDED

Thanks to the Football Madman for forwarding this article on a restrospective of the Gore presidency's first four years. Read it carefully.
AMAZING HEADLINES

From Reuters:
U.S. Troops Wounded; Bush to Declare End to Combat
I can't add anything to that.
EVEN LESS SUPPORT FOR THE TROOPS -- FROM THE GUY WHO SENT THEM OVER THERE IN THE FIRST F*CKING PLACE!!

You've read about the Virtual March In Support of the Troops. If you haven't, please click on the link to learn more about it, and join us to show real support for the troops, not just lip service and flag waving.

Tom Paine.com now nails the Pentagon to the wall for failing to follow existing federal law concerning deploying troops. They have failed sufficiently that a Republican, Chris Shays, has told the DOD that "From my standpoint, you’re not meeting the letter of the law, clearly, and I don’t think you’re meeting the spirit of the law"
Public Law 105-85 requires the Pentagon to collect health data on troops before and after deployment to a war zone. But troops headed to Iraq were not examined as the law specifically requires -- through physical exams and blood tests -- as The Kansas City Star first reported in March.

Pentagon officials admit they haven’t followed the law. They say a short questionnaire suffices in place of a medical exam. They say there’s no sense testing a generally healthy population of soldiers. They say there wasn’t time for exams in the rush to war, and troops returning home won’t sit still long enough for an exam.
. . . .
"Laws designed to protect soldiers on the battlefield are being ignored," testified Steven Robinson, a former Army Ranger who now runs the National Gulf War Resource Center. "Service members are being set up to face another round of delay, denial and obfuscation regarding possible service-connected medical conditions or disabilities."
Several members of Congress have asked the General Accounting Office to investigate. While we await its report, due this summer, perhaps Mr. Rumsfeld would tell us: Can the Pentagon ignore ANY law it thinks is mistaken?

Tapped (The American Prospect's blog) is equally pissed off:
One of the big disgraces of this administration is the way it has quietly sought to cut back health benefits for veterans even as it publicly sings the praises of our soldiers when they're in combat. (Their effort to keep veterans off of the Veterans Administration health care program comes to mind.)
Remember the virtual march to support the troops. It's all well and good to wave the flag and shout "Huzzah!" when the video of Geraldo is running. Will you be there when the boys and girls come home and need your help -- and tax money?

I've taken up Kipling again these days:
You talk better food for us, and schools, and fires, and all.
We'll wait for extra rations if you treat us rational.
Don't mess about the cook room slops, but prove it to our face.
The widow's uniform is not the soldier's disgrace.

For it's Tommy this, and Tommy that, and "chunk him out, the bruit".
But it's "Savior of this country" when the guns begin to shoot.
And it's Tommy this and Tommy that, and anytime you please.
And Tommy ain't a blooming fool - you bet that Tommy sees.
I can't add anything to that.

CHALLENGING AMENDMENT 416 -- THOU SHALT HAVE NO OTHER SPOUSE BUT THE OPPOSITE GENDER

(If you read The Political State Reporter the first part of this will look a bit familiar. Okay, call me lazy. Commentary is at the end.)

A coalition of five gay couples, the ACLU - Nebraska, the national ACLU, the Lambda Defense League, Nebraska Citizens for Equal Protection, and Nebraska Advocates for Justice have filed a federal lawsuit challenging Nebraska's constitutional amendment prohibiting same sex marriages, civil unions, and other relationships resembling marriages. LINK

Nebraska's amendment is widely regarded as the most stringent of the 34 states which have legislation or constitutional amendments regarding "traditional" marriage. It reads:
Only marriage between a man and a woman shall be valid or recognized in Nebraska. The uniting of two persons of the same sex in a civil union, domestic partnership, or other similar same-sex relationship shall not be valid or recognized in Nebraska.
Prior to the amendment's passage, opponents argued that the amendment could prohibit such wide ranging relationships as contracts between business partners of the same gender; that it would invalidate health care powers of attorney which name a same gender partner; and that it would run afoul of the "full faith and credence" provision of the U.S. Constitution. These issues have not been tested in court yet.

Nevertheless, the concern among same gender partners in Nebraska is that they are treated differently from other Nebraskans:
Gay couple Dave Gilsdorf and Robb Crouch of Lincoln said in an interview after the news conference they want some of the same protections heterosexual couples enjoy. Gilsdorf, 35, and Crouch, 32, have been partners for six years and describe the relationship as lifelong.

The couple recently had an attorney draw up papers giving each the medical power of attorney over the other.

But, they said, there is no guarantee a hospital would respect the papers if one of them should fall ill.

"It's a real inconvenience to have to carry these (papers) around," Crouch said. "How a hospital would react to them, we can't say."
Nebraska passed an "equal protection of the law" amendment ("No person shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law, nor be denied equal protection of the laws." [emphasis mine]) to its Constitution the year prior to passing the so-called "Protection of Marriage" amendment. It is largely on this amendment that it appears this challenge will be based.

COMMENTARY

This has been brewing since the amendment was passed in 2000. At the time of the campaign to pass the amendment, there was a lot of rumbling that nobody did much to prevent the bill from passing. The ACLU, Lambda, and CFEP all ran some commercials in Omaha and Lincoln opposing the bill but apart from that and some meetings in friendly venues, not much was done. It was as if the GLBT and GLBT-friendly community laid back and took it.

In retrospect, I am not sure that any amount of money would have helped. The fact of the matter is that this state is pretty anti-gay. Well, not anti-gay, just pro-traditional. Well, not pro-traditional, just immobile. Well, not immobile, just incapable of understanding anything new for about twenty years. The anti-gay coalition ran ads claiming that if we don't pass this amendment our children would grow up confused about marriage. Besides, this amendment wasn't anti-gay, it was just to protect marriage. Its proponents, including my nemesis and friend Bob Valentine (this is one area where we still vocally part company) claim that they have nothing against gays personally, they just want to preserve marriage as the exclusive province of a man and a woman.

We've heard all this before. Let's get to the current arguments. They're pretty slick.

Nebraska has an equal protection amendment. As I said above, it says that no person shall be denied the equal protection of the laws. Amy Miller of the ACLU Nebraska says that this is the linchpin of their argument: due to the breadth of the amendment, it denies the GLBT equal protection of the laws. (The federal complaint can be read at the national ACLU's home page) As an attachment, they've included an opinion by Nebraska's Attorney General that legislation under consideration to broaden permissions for visitation between same gender partners in hospitals would be unconstitutional under this amendment. This clearly goes further than the "marriage" issue.

Amendment 416 was a bad idea from the start. The anti-gay forces knew their battleground: Nebraska is a very conservative state when it comes to "family values" and their ad campaign worked well. The slipped in an amendment that was much larger than the voters realized.

(As a side note, Nebraska voters are infamous for not realizing or thinking about what they're voting for. For example, there is an amendment in the Nebraska constitution that prohibits the teaching of school in any language except English. It was ruled unconstitutional in the early 1920s. The peepul voted down housekeeping amendments to throw this unconstitutional amendment out twice in the last two years).

If Amendment 416 is ruled unconstitutional, you can bet there will be an attempt to pass a similar law within three months after its defeat. But it all may be academic. Remember that at least two other states are considering passage of full-fledged same gender marriage. Once that happens, you can bet there will be "full faith and credence" challenges that will go up to the U.S. Supreme Court. If they stand under "full faith and credence," Nebraska can ban anything it wants. It won't mean a damned thing.

Oh, one other point. The link to the story above is to the Lincoln Journal Star. The Omaha World Herald named each plaintiff by name and career. Now I know that the plaintiffs are aware of what awaits them: harassment, death threats, vandalism, taunts, and perhaps even assault. Maybe the occasional "you go, girl!" They were not afraid to have their names listed in the federal complaint. But does it seem to anyone else that the Wortld Herald just put up a sign saying, "Here they are, go get them, rednecks!"

Wednesday, April 30, 2003

YOUR PATRIOT ACT AT WORK

I know I'm probably preaching to the choir here, but you absolutely must read this article by Jason Halperin about his being on the receiving end of an unlawful search and seizure under the Patriot Act. (courtesy of Atrios). A sample to piss you off:
When I asked to speak to a lawyer, the INS official informed me that I do have the right to a lawyer but I would have to be brought down to the station and await security clearance before being granted one. When I asked how long that would take, he replied with a coy smile: "Maybe a day, maybe a week, maybe a month."

We insisted that we had every right to leave and were going to do so. One of the policemen walked over with his hand on his gun and taunted: "Go ahead and leave, just go ahead."
. . . .
As I continued to press for legal counsel, a female officer who had been busy typing on her laptop in the front of the restaurant, walked over and put her finger in my face. "We are at war, we are at war and this is for your safety," she exclaimed. As she walked away from the table, she continued to repeat it to herself? "We are at war, we are at war. How can they not understand this."
The probability is that most of you, including me, will never experience this, since the majority of us are of European descent. But this article brings home what brown Americans face.

It should scare the living shit out of you.

Tuesday, April 29, 2003

UPDATE TO MEMO ON SODOMY LICENSES

Just this morning I wrote a satire piece about a fictional memo to Karl Rove about raising money by licensing sodomy. I guess I am too slow on the uptake. The Political State Report tells us that the Sovereign State of Missouri (state motto: "The Show Me State!") is considering legislation which will tax "bestiality, masturbation and sadistic or masochistic abuse. . . ."

There may be a more sinister aspect to this: Nebraska has a "drug tax" on illegal drugs. If you are picked up with illegal drugs, one of the charges they hit you with is failure to pay the tax -- which is a felony. If you slide on the possession or distribution charge, they still can get you on the failure to pay tax charge. I wonder if this might not be a way for the Santorums of the world to criminalize private behavior: prosecution for failure to pay the tax. The whacking tax, to coin a phrase.

But I shouldn't feel bad that the Missouri GOP contingent in its legislature dreamt up this scheme before I did. They have more comedy writers. They just don't realize they're writing comedy.
DE-TERRORISTIFICATION OF TERRORIST GROUPS

I want to bang my head against a wall.

George W. Bush, who promised no quarter, no surrender, no peace for terrorist groups, just signed a cease fire with a terrorist group the US has been chasing since 1977.

Okay, it wasn't George Bush himself, it was his field commanders. No doubt they were exceeding their authority. Ooops, it wasn't the field commanders, it was someone from the State Department.

But surely we are disarming them?

Wrong:
Under the deal, signed on April 15 but confirmed by the United States Central Command only today, United States forces agreed not to damage any of the group's vehicles, equipment or any of its property in its camps in Iraq, and not to commit any hostile act toward the Iranian opposition forces covered by the agreement.

In return, the group, the People's Mujahedeen, which will be allowed to keep its weapons for now, agreed not to fire on or commit other hostile acts against American forces, not to destroy private or government property, and to place its artillery and antiaircraft guns in nonthreatening positions. (emphasis mine)
In other words, we're counting on terrorists, the ones we have blamed for all the evils of the last two years, to play nice now and to put the artillery and antiaircraft guns down and don't point them at any of the nice Americans? No wonder I have a dent in my wall at about 5'8" up from the floor.

Bam. Bam. Bam.

(Thanks to Daily Kos for the tip and the headache. :) )
KILLING TWO STONES WITH ONE BIRD

MEMO

TO: KARL ROVE

FROM: STEPHEN CHAREST, EDITOR, "TO THE BARRICADES" POLICY RESEARCH DEPARTMENT

With regard to your current multiple dilemmas about how to deal with the recent remarks by Sen. Rick Santorum (Good Guy - PA) about sodomy, the Administration's reluctance to rule out sodomy as an option for politicians reaping the just rewards of political office, and the Administration's desire to keep its tax cut at the preferred level, the Policy Research Department submits the following proposal:

The Federal Sodomy License

An annual fee would be collected from all persons over the age of 18 who intend to commit acts of sodomy. This license would then allow them to do so without let or hindrance, or regard to state laws (in accordance with federal precedence, of course). The license fee would be on a fixed rate; this way the poor would be encouraged to live moral lives while the rich could enjoy the fruits of their labor by affording the license more easily. (Please note that the suggestion that each specific act be licensed was rejected as being impractical to enforce).

To enforce licensing, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms would be renamed the Bureau of Firearms, Alcohol, Tobacco and Sodomy (FATSO). Sodomy licensees would agree on application for license to waive warrant requirement for FATSO agents entering their homes on sodomy checks.

Needless to say, Sen. Santorum would be appointed the first Chief, FATSO once a suitable senatorial replacement were identified and appointed.

Given that at least 10% of the adult population in the US are practicing sodomites, and the remaining 90% perform at least one act of sodomy during heterosexual acts regularly, we have determined that at a licensing fee of $100.00 per year, this licensing fee has a potential gain of at least $750 million, clearly offsetting the President's tax cut for the overburdened one percent.

We also believe it would be appropriate to include waiver of fees for sodomy licenses under the franking privilege.

Specific proposed fee schedules, statistics, and graphic demonstrations of "sodomy" are attached. Please feel free to call me if you have questions.

Respectfully,
Stephen Charest
Policy Research Department

Monday, April 28, 2003

CREDIT WHERE CREDIT IS DUE

Ben Nelson has again been courted by the GOP as a possible turncoat . . . er, swing vote for the President's huge tax rebate for the rich.

According to ABC's extremely thorough political website/blog/omnibus The Note, they can kiss that stuff good bye. It ain't going to happen.

Good for you, Ben. And thank you.

P.S. If you aren't reading The Note, you're not a real political junkie. And you're probably going to keep your job, unlike me.