Friday, October 27, 2006

An They'll Know We Are Christians...

The Family Research Council has spoken about the New Jersey ruling on gay marriage. Here are a few choice selections and my viewpoints:

This decision is nothing more than an act of veiled judicial activism and is completely out of step with the recent string of court decisions which upheld the basis for traditional marriage in promoting the well-being of children.

So, I guess the New Jersey court isn't supposed to think for themselves, but just follow what all the other states are doing. Forget deliberation.

Did you fall asleep during civics class?

The legislature should ignore the court's ruling and follow the lead of 20 other states that have already passed amendments to protect this sacred institution. Otherwise, the legislature will become nothing more than the lackeys of an activist judiciary.

Okay, so it's judicial activism when the court rules against you. So, what is it when it rules in your favor?

And why does the state need to protect something that is "sacred?" I didn't know God needed protection.

Again, you all seem to forget your civics lessons: there are three branches of government, not two. The court interprets the law created by the legislature. If the court says a law is unconstitutional, the legislature can come up with another law to see if it will pass muster, or challenge the ruling. Simply ignoring it threatens the very nature of our system of governing and is not an option.

As to the legislature being "lackeys" what a bunch of crap. They are not lackeys. They make tons of laws that the court doesn't say anything about. I will say this again, the court's role is to interpret the law and make sure it is passing constitutional muster. They are a check against the legislature and the executive. But then again, since you tend to tend to ignore checks and balances (again with the civics), I guess I should not be surprised that you think the court should be nothing more than handmaiden to the legislature and executive.


Thursday, October 26, 2006

The Pluses and Minuses of a Republican Loss

It's becoming conventional wisdom that the GOP will be losing its hold on Congress come November 7th. And as much as I don't like the sound of "Speaker Pelosi," I think will be a good thing if this happens. However, I also think there will be some downsides as well.

First the good things. Let's face it; six years of one-party rule from one end of Pennsylvania Avenue to the other, has resulted in a inept governance from both Congress and the President. Republicans got used to being power and walked away from first principles. A party that preaches fiscal conservatism, has allowed the deficit to skyrocket; a party that preaches small government, has allowed the government to grow faster than it did under Democrat Bill Clinton. A party the preaches federalism has put its nose in state matters, such as the Oregon Physician Suicide law. A party the preached pragmatism in foreign policy, got involved in a war in a far away place it had no business being involved in. A party that preached equality, now openly castigates gays and immigrants.

A loss in 12 days might help the GOP see how far it has fallen. A Fortune Magazine article notes that losing an election might help a party reform itself, getting rid of the fat that comes from being in power so long. Cait Murphy notes:

Power may be corrupting, but it is also addictive. That's why no party likes to lose an election. But the truth is that sometimes a loss is just what is needed to regain a sense of purpose and energy. And that's why the Republicans need to lose in November.

In 1974, for example, Britain's Conservative Party lost. Disillusioned Tory voters failed to turn out and more than a few, tired of the tired Edward Heath, decided what the hell, and voted Labor.

In the aftermath, small groups of Tories, both in and out of government, sat down and thought. In think tanks, and party clubs, through pamphlets and speeches and arguments and chats over tea, they set out to define what it meant to be a Conservative. The answers - lower taxation, rolling back the state from the private economy, a reassertion of British confidence - brought the Tories four straight wins.

(hat tip: Andrew Sullivan.)

So, a loss could drive a lot of Republicans to start talking amongst themselves and figure out what kind of party they want to be. As Murphy says in her article, it has happened among the GOP before. In the aftermath of Watergate, the party's conservative wing began talking and deciding what it meant to be a Republican. The result was Ronald Reagan's win in 1980. This is also what happened to the Dems in the late 80s and early 90s after losing three presidential elections in a row. The result was a win by Bill Clinton in 1992.

Such a conversation is truly needed at this point. The fear is whether or not the GOP is ready for such frank talk. You see, a loss on November 7th could also make party leaders and rank and file believe that they weren't pure enough. If they were more purely "conservative" and were able to get the social conservatives out to the polls, they would have held on. This might only cement the relationship the GOP has with the far right. Remember that the lesson learned by the GOP from the closness of the 2000 election was not to make an appeal to the center as conventional wisdom would have taught us, but to bring out as many social conservatives to the polls with issues like gay marriage. We could very well see the party thinking it didn't connect with the Religious Right and that it needs to be more faithful.

I'm hoping we see the former. We need to face some hard truths about ourselves. But I'm enough of a pessimist to think we might choose the easy route, instead.

If conventional wisdom holds, we will find out on November 8th.

The Fox Effect

Reason Magazine's Hit and Run Blog reports that the ad showing Michael J. Fox advocating for stem cell research is having an effect in this years midterms.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Have You No Shame, Mr. Limbaugh?

Yet another example that Rush Limbaugh really is an idiot.

The ad is below, in case you want to see it. How you could not have some pity for Mr. Fox is beyond me.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

The Hundreth Post : Chris Shays' Meltdown

There are some interesting posts in the blogosphere about the troubles in the GOP as of late.

First off, is the sad turn of seeing moderate Republican congressman Chris Shays of Connecticut self-destruct. Shays has a good record on many issues like gay rights and the environment. He has been part of a small bulwark of good Republicans against the far right. This year he is in a tight race against a Democrat who is hammering Shays for his support of the Iraq war. It seems that all the pressure is getting to him, because in the last week he has made some stupid comments about the Foley scandal and the abuse of prisioners at Abu Gharib. On the Foley issue, Shays lashed out, saying that at least no one died in this scandal, making a reference to Massachusetts Senator Ted Kennedy and the Chappaquiddick affair, circa 1969.

Okay, that was a comment that at least I could let slip (said in the heat of the moment and all). However, then he unleashes this:

U.S. Rep. Christopher Shays was under fire yesterday after saying in a debate earlier this week that the abuse at Abu Ghraib prison was not torture but rather a "sex ring" involving National Guard troops.

Note to Mr. Shays: if you a running as a Republican in a Democratic district where there is a lot resentment over a certain war conducted by a certain president of your party, it is wise to not do anything that will rile up those important voters that you need to win.

Shays may have very well sealed his fate with that statement. I can just see Democratic operatives producing ads with his incredibly stupid statement.

As Joe Gandleman notes, Shays feels he has to defend the GOP since he is being linked to the party. Maybe. But wouldn't Shays win more votes in saying expressing his outrage at the Foley scandal or saying that Abu Gharib was a sad statement in American history? It seems at this point he needs to assert his independence from the party leadership (something he has done in the past) than trying to prop up a failing party. Saying what he has said already will only make his Democratic opponent more attactive.

I think it would be a shame to lose Mr. Shays. He is one of those great "Yankee Republicans" that the party needs to counter the radical right. But if he loses on November 7th, he only has himself to blame.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Wanted: National Coming Out Day For Gay Conservatives

So now, in the wake of the Foley scandal, there are moves afoot to out gay Republicans staffers and lawmakers on Capitol Hill. Frankly, I've found all "outing" by a bunch of self-righteous gays on the left to be repugnant. Time and time again, these outings don't do anything to further gay rights. No one should be dragged out of the closet.

That said, I think it's high time for gay Republicans working on the Hill to come out. As Andrew Sullivan has noted, many Republican lawmakers know they have gay staffers and don't care, so why stay in the closet?

Well, one reason is that many lawmakers and staffers are afraid of the Relgious Right. Lawmakers especially are worried that groups like the Family Research Council will come after them in the primaries. But the staffers and lawmakers need to realize the far right isn't as powerful as we all like to think. Case in point? Jim Kolbe. As Scott Olin Schmidt, aka Boi from Troy notes the retiring Arizona congressman has been out and proud since 1996 and he was never driven out by the religious nuts. Schmidt says just as much:

For their own political interests - and that of equal rights, in general - it makes sense for gay Congressmen, mayors, Senators, state and local lawmakers who are in the closet to come out now. Being gay should no longer be a deep secret every Republican has to keep. One man has been sending suggestive messages over the internet to teenagers - Mark Foley. So, right now, to Republicans, being gay is de minimus compared to being a gay who cruises teenagers.

Any Republican coming out now would see barriers - perceived or real - to higher office fall by the wayside. Such an announcement would be also be critical for the cause of gay civil rights. It would remind America that being gay does not mean being a pedophile and maybe remind people that, in fact, 98% of pedophiles are heterosexuals.

Many will fear that supporting tolerance of gays and lesbians will endanger the votes of the Religious Right - but evidence is to the contrary. After all, where would they go? To support the Party of Hillary Clinton and Barney Frank?

Indeed. Why do we give these people so much power? They are only powerful because we fear them, and in reality, they really can't hurt us- at least not politically.

Schmidt adds that his Republican governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, hasn't suffered in the opinion polls because his support of gay rights.

So, why are gay and gay-friendly Republicans bowing down to people who frankly don't share Republican views of limited government in such an area as love? These people aren't true conservatives, so why should we care what they think? To quote "Mr. Conservative" himself,

The conservative movement, to which I subscribe, has as one of its basic tenets the belief that government should stay out of people's private lives. Government governs best when it governs least - and stays out of the impossible task of legislating morality.

I don't think conservatism or the GOP are inherently anti-gay. However, many of us are cowards for not standing up for justice when it is demanded that we do so. If more Republicans came out, if more Senators and Representatives stood up for their gay staffers, hell if more Republican parents publicly supported their gay children, the gay rights movement would progress light years from where it is now and the religious right would be sent packing.

Outgoing Executive Director of Log Cabin Republicans, Patrick Guerrerio, wrote an impassioned essay last year calling for gay conservatives to step out into the sunshine. He concludes:

For many conservatives, coming out will come with real and profound sacrifice. Thankfully, we can find role models in and inspiration from a new generation of Log Cabin members who are coming out in some of America's most conservative places, joining new Log Cabin chapters in places such as Oklahoma, Kansas, Iowa, Kentucky, New Mexico, and the Carolinas. They are coming out to family members who sometimes turn them away from the Thanksgiving dinner table if they insist on bringing their partners, in towns where they're the only openly gay person, in traditional churches where they've heard intolerance from the pulpit, in high schools without gay/straight student alliances, and in workplaces where there are no protections that prevent them for being fired for simply being gay. They are the real heroes of today's LGBT movement and they need and deserve to be given a helping hand in the days ahead.

That helping hand needs to come from gay conservatives. We hold the key to changing the hearts and minds of fellow Republicans, conservative Democrats, and people of faith. In the not too distant future, the history books will record who had the courage to come out of the closet and lead us to victory when it mattered most. Only with the help of gay conservatives can our movement achieve victory over the radical right. Only with the help of gay conservatives can we prevent the radical right from hijacking the Republican Party. Only with the help of gay conservatives can we defeat the voices of fear and intolerance that are feverishly working to deny any and all civil recognition for gay families. The history books will note not only those who had the courage to stand up, but sadly also, those who remain silent. The time is now.


The Politics of Character

In the wake of the scandal surrounding former Representative Mark Foley, Democrats are now looking into the lives of GOP challengers to get some political ammunition.

On one level, I can understand this. My own party has made character asassination an artform. In short, it's karma time for the GOP. But on another level, I find this annoying no matter what party is doing this. It seems to reflect the times: one party portrays themselves as virtuous, and the other side is the bride of Satan.

Frankly, character or virtue is not that important except in extreme cases, like the now disgraced Foley. No one, I mean no one, is a saint. We aren't electing angels to office but fallible human beings, so we have to cut people some slack.

I think both parties need to lay off the character plank. As we are seeing with the GOP, trying to pass yourself or party off as perfect tends to bite you in the ass sooner or later.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Mark Foley Doesn't Speak for Me: A Gay Republican Speaks

The Mark Foley scandal threatens to make life hard for gay men in general and gay Republicans in particular. The former congressman's salacious instant messages with teenaged boys have unleashed stereotype of gay men as sexual predators ready to feast on innocents.

But it also paints a very distorted picture of gay Republicans as self-loathing, closeted individuals who knowingly support anti-gay politicians. Recently, David Corn, a writer for the Nation, questioned why gay Republicans, well why we exist:

Let's be clear about one thing: the Mark Foley scandal is not about homosexuality. Some family value conservatives are suggesting it is. But anytime a gay Republican is outed by events, a dicey issue is raised: what about those GOPers who are gay and who serve a party that is anti-gay? Are they hypocrites, opportunists, or just confused individuals? Is it possible to support a party because you adhere to most of its tenets--even if that party refuses to recognize you as a full citizen?

Of course , Mr. Corn was talking about gay staffers on the Hill, but he might has well been talking about gay Republicans in general since I've heard that argument before.

Well, let me tell you MY story.

I am an out gay Republican man who lives with his partner in a house in North Minneapolis. (My partner is an ardent Democrat, and somehow we maintained a truce. He's too cute to argue with.) I'm a pastor and I don't hide my sexuality. I'm not putting it anybody's face, but I'm not hiding. For nearly five years, I've been part of Log Cabin Republicans. As a part of Log Cabin, I've worked on campaigns of those candidates who are "fair-minded" and support gay rights. Along with others, I've spoken out against Republican politicians who support policies that hurt gay Americans.

The question always comes, how can you support a party that doesn't like you? This again brings up the image of someone who just blindly support anyone with an "R" behind their name. Since this question usually comes from Democrats, let's turn that question around: do you support the Democrats because they like you? I would think most gay Democrats support their party for many reasons ranging from social programs to the environment to national security. Neither I nor any of my gay Republican friends support Republicans who are anti-gay. We believe in many of the values of the GOP: limited government, low taxes and a strong national defense (though the argument can be made that these days, the current leadership doesn't reflect these values anymore). However, gay Republicans, at least most Log Cabiners, won't support someone who wants to limit our rights as Americans.

Log Cabin Republicans want to change the party's stance on gays. It does us no good to simply leave the party and allow the far right to control the party. We want to send the bigots packing the same way that Democrats did to Southern segregationists four decades ago.

It is not easy to be a gay Republican. You are attacked by the Religious Right and by other gays. Try having a booth at Gay Pride. Every year for several years, our local chapter has had a booth at Twin Cities Pride. Many times you will recieve dirty looks and even sometimes slurs from people. We are constantly characterized as the equivalent to "Jews for Hitler." While I do agree that gay Republicans should be out, because that helps the cause of gay rights, I can understand why some chose to keep a low profile; no one wants to face the verbal assault from fellow gays.

Mark Foley is a sad individual. For years, he denied being gay. He finally did only when he was caught red handed. Foley might be a gay Republican, but he sure as hell doesn't represent the many gay Republicans that I know who are out and proud and are NOT trolling the internet to have virtual sex with people who weren't around during the Reagan Administration. He should not be viewed as the template for all gay Republicans. He chose to live in the closet and it is now the closet that has destroyed him.

I would ask those who lean more to the left to actually get to know some gay Republicans. Listen to them. We are not apologists for the far right. We live out in the open and work hard for equality. Don't allow one pathetic lawmaker from Florida be the only example of gay Republicans.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Liberal Conservatism? Sign Me Up.

Los Angeles Times columnist Niall Ferguson has another great column about the rise of "Liberal Conservatism," a strain of conservatism that is socially liberal and pragmatic instead of partisan and narrow in its social vision. Ferguson talks about how this kind of conservatism is taking root in Europe, primarily in the British Conservative Party and the Swedish Moderate Party.

It's also starting to take root here in America, with elected officials like California governor, Arnold Scharzenegger, who backed a hike in the state minimum wage and combating global warming. Ferguson didn't talk about this, but I think another politician that is exhibiting "liberal conservatism" is John McCain. Read his speech to the UK Conservative Party Conference recently and you can see some of this in action.

In my own personal view, the current Republican party is bereft of ideas and without any principles. From Iraq to Katrina, we have seen a party more interested in short term political gain than in ideas that will benefit this nation for years to come. A party that was once committed to fiscal disciplne has run up the nation's credit card. A party that believed in small government, has in turned favored big government. As many have said, this isn't the party of Roosevelt, Goldwater or Reagan, but the party of Dobson, Santorum and Katherine Harris.

What's needed is a new and vigorous conservatism, that is less ideological, more humble and basically efficient and pragmatic. I think our British brothers and sisters are showing the way. When the dust clears after November 7, the Republican Party needs to take a serious look at this more open minded conservatism.

For Conservative Party Leader David Cameron's "Liberal Conservative" foreign policy, please read here.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

A sign of the Apocolypse?

I'm not a big fan of Fox News. Don't get me wrong, unlike liberals, I think they have a right to broadcast their news which tends to be pretty biased towards the right, I just decide not to watch it. All very libertarian.

That said, when Fox News says something like this, you know that it's pretty bad for the GOP.

I will blog more on the Foley scandal, but my short take? Hastert should step down. Not for the good of the GOP (even though I'm a Republican and I'm not crazy of having a Speaker Pelosi, I think the GOP needs to have their clock cleaned), but because he was in a position to do something about all of this and didn't. If the situation was reversed, the GOP would demand the head of a Democratic speaker and we should ask for no less.

Hat tip to Andrew Sullivan.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Lose Ben Stein's Mind

I've always liked comedian Ben Stein because of his monotone delievery. He was always the scense stealer in the Wonder Years, the sitcom from the late 80s-early 90s.

I think that's gonna change after this tirade:

We have a Republican man in Congress who sent e-mails to teenage boys asking them what they were wearing, and an entire party, the Democrats, whose primary constituency, besides the teachers' unions, is homosexual men and lesbian women. I hope it won't come as a surprise to anyone that a big part of male homosexual behavior is interest in young boys. (Take a look at anyone renting Endless Summer next time you are at the video store.)

Don't get me wrong. My very best friend is gay. I have many gay friends and they are great people. But how the Democrats, the party of gays, can be coming down this hard on a MC who's gay is simply beyond belief. One of my top, favorite congressmen, Barney Frank, is openly gay. Might he say a word in defense of his fellow gay MC right about now? Hmm, I thought not.

Yeah, there's nothing better than after finishing a sermon, kicking back with my partner and watching some kiddie porn and chatting with fifteen year old boys online.

Please. A man who says he lives in Beverly Hills and Malibu should know a thing or two about real gay men than peddaling these lies.

Churchill and the Golden Rule

"So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets."
-Matthew 7:12, aka The Golden Rule

Niall Ferguson writes in today's LA Times about the recent bill passed by Congress that might very well allow torture. He cites examples of countries like Japan, which during WWII reinterpreted the Geneva Convention to treat POW's rather inhumanely.

Ferguson does understand why Congress and the American public in general might support torture. I understand it as well: we are only five years after the nightmare of 9/11 and frankly, we are scared. But Ferguson also notes that while these law might make Americans feel safe, it might very well expose us to torture. He cites why a very famous conservative opposed torturing his enemies:

...Winston Churchill insisted throughout the war, treating POWs well is wise, if only to increase the chances that your own men will be well treated if they too are captured. Even in World War II, there was in fact a high degree of reciprocity. The British treated Germans POWs well and were well treated by the Germans in return; the Germans treated Russian POWs abysmally and got their bloody deserts when the tables were turned.

Few, if any, American soldiers currently find themselves in enemy hands. But in the long war on which Bush has embarked, that may not always be the case. The bottom line about mistreating captive foes is simple: It is that what goes around comes around. And you don't have to be a closet liberal to understand that.

In short, Churchill lived by the Golden Rule; act how you would like to be treated. What's interesting is that today's so-called "conservatives" seem to talk a lot about the Bible and yet don't live out some of the words that Jesus said.