30 October 2006

Legislating "Normal"

On November 7, Virginia will ask its voters to cast their ballot on the following question:

Shall Article I (the Bill of Rights) of the Constitution of Virginia be amended to state:

"That only a union between one man and one woman may be a marriage valid in or recognized by this Commonwealth and its political subdivisions.

This Commonwealth and its political subdivisions shall not create or recognize a legal status for relationships of unmarried individuals that intends to approximate the design, qualities, significance, or effects of marriage. Nor shall this Commonwealth or its political subdivisions create or recognize another union, partnership, or other legal status to which is assigned the rights, benefits, obligations, qualities, or effects of marriage."?

This is the innocuously labeled "Marshall/Newman Amendment," more dangerously called the "Marriage Amendment." Why is its popular name dangerous? Because most of us are for marriage -- therefore, we don't mark the widespread implications of that second paragraph.

This legislation attempts to codify what "normal" is in American society, but we haven't seen that kind of "normal" since 1958. Families are not nuclear anymore -- in a single home, you can find half-siblings, step-siblings, and foster kids, sometimes with or without 2 parents of the opposite sex. Not to mention, the occasional relative or friend who is helping out a single mom or dad by moving into the house. There are also hard-luck adults who move in with various family members until "he gets on his feet." And elderly widows and widowers living with their children, grandchildren, or younger siblings.

Voting "yes" on this Ballot Question could destroy families in the name of saving marriage for heterosexual unions. How? Because it undermines a household's ability to support itself by taking away its right to claim dependents as dependent, dispose of its monies and personal property as necessary, and make agreements with other adults in the household for the care and feeding of all residents.

Before you vote, ask yourself this: What are the "effects of marriage"? What are the "rights, benefits, obligations, [and] qualities" of marriage?

Right #1: Your spouse is automatically listed as a member of household for all insurance purposes.

Under this amendment, foster children, step-children, and other extended family members who may be living with you in your house, either permanently or semi-permanently, will lose all insurance protection that they may have been able to naturally claim as members of your household.

This will effect presumed coverage in all auto, health, fire & disaster, life, personalty, house and rental policies.

Why? Because that right will no be longer extended to "other legal statuses" between unmarried persons. If you think that insurance companies' lawyers will not use this clause to deny coverage of claims, then you do not know insurance companies or lawyers.

Right #2: Your spouse is automatically a dependent or member of household for all tax purposes.

Under this amendment, your right to claim deductions for step-children, foster children, and elderly relatives in your full-time care as dependents on your taxes could be challenged.

Why? Because that right will no longer be extended to "other legal statuses" between unmarried persons. Do you think the IRS or VA Dep't of Taxation will let this slide?

Right #3: By right, your spouse has holds a property interest in all assets and personalty you acquire as a household.

Under this amendment, all property and business agreements and any disposition of assets that are made with someone who is not your spouse can be challenged in a court of law.

Why? A court could not enforce any such agreement or disposition because to do so would recognize a partnership that is not marriage and accord it a legal status on par with marriage. The proposed amendment makes it unconstitutional for a Virginia court to do.

If you are in business with your brother, you cannot make arrangements to give or leave your half of the business to your brother.

If you are elderly and have help in taking care of your needs and property, you can not make arrangments to leave that property or other compensation to your assistant.

You can not have a living will enforced on your behalf by anyone other than a spouse. If your spouse predeceases you, too bad.

Your right to put any land into a conservation easement can and will be challenged by the heirs of your body.

If you have a family business run by you, your mother, 2 of your kids, a cousin, and a nephew, you can not dispose of it according to each person's interest in the company because to do so would approximate the rights of marriage.

If you believe you have a right to own your property and manage your personal business without reference to or fear of a court system unable to enforce individual contracts you make. If you believe you have the right to protect and support all the children and elderly in your household and be compensated for that protection. If you believe that you have the right to die with dignity and leave your assets where you designate, then please VOTE NO to No. 1 on Nov. 7.

Dom & Jerry

From Grist:
A year ago it was virtually unthinkable that Rep. Richard Pombo (R-Calif.) -- right-wing darling, fundraiser extraordinaire, champion of polluting industries, and enemy No. 1 of the environmental community -- could be unseated by any Democrat, much less one with zero political experience to his name. But now, a week and a half before Election Day, the rookie Democratic challenger in California's 11th District, Jerry McNerney, is giving Pombo a run for his (prodigious amounts of) money.

Story continued at http://www.grist.org/news/muck/2006/10/26/pombo_race/index.html

W00t!!! If Jerry knocks that lard-arsed land baron off the Congressional map, the Dom Perignon is on me!

29 October 2006

Stranger than Webb Fiction

From the Washington Post:

Virginia Sen. George Allen (R) has accused his Democratic opponent, James Webb, of writing inappropriate sex scenes and demeaning descriptions of women in his fictional books, the latest character attack in a close and nasty campaign.

Full story at http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/10/27/AR2006102701000.html?nav=rss_email/components?nav=slate

Just to make sure I am reading everything correctly, Allen actually thinks that what is written in fictional books should count against a candidate's character? By that rod of assize, shouldn't Allen's character be judged on the basis of his sister's "fictionalized" memoir, Fifth Quarter, in which she relates stories of her eldest brother's abuse of her and her other siblings?

George, when it comes to domestic violence and disrespect of women, I find your truth to be stranger and more disturbing than Webb's fiction.

23 October 2006

Obama '08 !!!

From the Chicago Tribune: Obama Reconsiders Presidential Run
Oh YES! On the heels of Mark Warner's withdrawal from '08 nomination contention, I dreaded being stuck with Senator Clinton. But hope is renewed, and the Dems may have a contender I can vote for instead of just with. Frabjous day!

22 October 2006

Ballot Spoilage in Va?

Recently and for reasons relating to this November's election, a little birdie told me I should check out spoilage statistics in Virginia.

For those not familiar with the term in this context, "spoilage" is decaying green stuff in the polling booth. All those hanging chads in Florida in 2000? Spoilage. All those provisional ballots that got tossed out in Ohio? Spoilage. Any time someone who is legal to vote, wants to vote, has taken the time to vote, and has his or her vote discarded, it's spoilage. There are hundreds of creative ways to spoil an electoral count and we've seen most of them in the past 3 elections. But have we seen them in Virginia?

Two of the most vile ways to spoil a vote, IMO, are caging lists, which are technically illegal, a fact which did not stop Katie Harris from using them in Florida in 2000, and discriminatory placement of equipment and staff, a more subtle voter purging method used by Blackwell in Ohio in 2004.

[For the record, it's not just the Reds that plays the ballot rigging game -- Boss Daley in Chicago kept IL staunchly Blue by soliciting the votes of the undead.]

What infuriates me about both of these methods is the blatant discrimination of the disenfranchisement. These tactics are designed to target black and hispanic voting precincts. I'm fairly sure that the Powers that Spoil don't care about the actual skin color of the people whose rights they violate. These voters could Scandanavian, Siamese, or Scottish -- as long as they were in Blue-voting districts, they wouldn't care and the results would be the same. But these 2 ethnicities are experiencing this form of discrimination precisely because they have experienced other forms before: They are the least educated, financially solvent, and upwardly mobile demographics, and thus tend to live in the lower income precincts. The intentional discrimination our society metes out has led to a computer statistics program essentially taking away their rights to vote, and eliminating their communal voice. Voting is basic to empowerment, and I'm incensed by tactics designed to hit those who need the most empowerment.

We need electoral reform -- not just campaign finance reform, but process & ballot accountability reform.

To get back on point: I have not managed to dig up any proof of spoilage in the last few election cycles here in Virginia, but I have looked at a set of statistics from FedStats and the State Board of Elections that make me curious. I learned something new: Most of the counties & cities in the 5th Congressional District of Virginia have a much higher percentage of blacks than the rest of the state. Virginia's average African-American demographic percentage is 19.9%. The 5th District's average is 26.9%. The 5th CD is made up of 18 counties and 5 cities and, in spite of having a reputation for being White Redneck World, only 5 of those 23 municipalities are more than 5% below the state average.

There are 7 counties and 1 city in the 5th CD where the black population is significantly greater (more than 10%) than 19.9%, yet they've consistently voted Republican: Buckingham, Charlotte, Cumberland, Halifax, Lunenburg, Mecklenburg, and Pittsylvania Counties, and Lynchburg City.

The 5th CD areas with an even higher percentage of blacks (e.g., Brunswick with 56%, Danville with 44%, and Martinsville with 42%), are all bluer than sky. It seems very strange to me that counties like Buckingham, Mecklenburg, and Lunenburg which are 38% black are not showing at least a purple tinge in their ballot tallies.

I also noted that Fluvanna & Greene counties have voted consistently Republican, although a high percentage of their residents commute to and, thus, take part in the liberal Charlottesville/Albemarle culture. We have always been a strong Democrat seat but, due to gentrification, there has been a mass exodus of the lower and middle lower income residents to Fluvanna & Greene. It seems unnatural that our former population, which voted Democrat while living here, started voting Republican when it fled to cheaper housing in the surrounding counties. Are they voting? Are their votes being uncounted or discarded?

I know the CW about Virginia politics: If we vote Democrat at the state, we'll vote Republican at the federal and vice-versa. It keeps the balance between our parties Since most of our governors have been Dems, no one thinks to question it. But that old truism hasn't held true: the increase in state Republicans (Delegates and Senators) as well as the split vote in the 2005 Gubernatorial election indicate that Virginians, if on form, would have voted for more Democrats in the federal Senate, Representative, and Presidential elections.

This could all be BS, OR there could be some teeth to it. What has been reducing the effectiveness of the black vote in this district? Is it apathy or is it something much less natural? What has been preventing any evidence of purple tinge in our state-wide federal voting? Is it just not our color anymore? I'm suspicious. I want to hear some other peoples' thoughts and theories.

20 October 2006

Green Evangelism

God blessed them and said to them, "Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground."
— Genesis 1:28

Word on the street is God is pro-environment. Who knew?

Apparently, Bill Moyers did. In the first of a series of Grist articles, Moyers was interviewed regarding his new PBS special Is God Green?. In one of the interview's choicest statements, Moyers said:
The next film I do should be about how environmentalists view religion ...

The fact of the matter is, progressive Christians and mainstream churches and the environmental movement have had a lot in common for some time now. It's the conservative evangelicals who have been, and I use this word advisedly, brainwashed by the political right and the political right's religious allies.

The James Dobsons, the Pat Robertsons, the Jerry Falwells have demonized environmentalism as the work of Satan or Hollywood wackos or treehuggers. Orwell was right: you can change the language until you change behavior. By demonizing good, serious, sincere environmentalists, the political right and its religious allies were able to make it impossible for people in the pews, people in the churches, people in the local congregations to hear environmentalists.

Whoa. These sentiments echo a "debate" I had recently on the cvillenews blog about Phillabaum's ELF arson plea. [ELF = Earth Liberation Front] I call it a "debate" because the position of nearly everyone was that "Yes, Virginia, extremists do get lots of media attention and thereby benefit moderates by making them seem, well, moderate." The only difference of opinion was actually whether such attention-grabbing behavior thus served some Greater Good.

To get back to Moyers's purported next topic, this environmentalist views religion in a very different way than most. As the evangelists fear, I am indeed a pagan. I don't practice or preach my religion. I live it, and part of my manifestation of my religion is my environmental work and advocacy. Contrary to evangel opinion, I've met extremely few other pagans doing the kind of hands-on, community-minded, politically active environmental work that I do. In fact, I left public worship within the "pagan community" precisely because they weren't putting their energy where their beliefs were. I have found a lot more satisfying friendships, acquaintances, and working colleagues among the Christians in the eco-field than I do from any other religious group.

As an active treehugger, I'm pleased to see the green wave hit more moderate and conservative Christians. Perhaps it will lead to a better interfaith understanding.


Another from the Washington Post, Politics section, GOP Aims to Scare [Up] Voters:
With top Republican strategists now privately predicting substantial House losses, President Bush and top GOP officials plan to spend the final days of the 2006 campaign attempting to rally partisans and limit conservative defections with dire warnings about the consequences of a Democratic Congress.

Amid predictions that demoralized conservative voters might sit out the election, Bush and other senior Republicans will escalate charges that Democrats will raise taxes, weaken national security and liberalize social policies. Bush struck those themes in campaign appearances yesterday in Pennsylvania and Virginia, and White House senior adviser Karl Rove said he "will consistently refresh that message" between now and Election Day.

Both Bush and Clinton campaigned yesterday in Virginia for Allen and Webb respectively. (Isn't it nice to be so important?) So, let's compare Presidential records:

The worst scandal to rock the Clinton Administration was an adulterous affair. The worst scandal to rock the Bush Administration thus far is an out-of-control war funded by a out-of-control debt.

After 8 years, Clinton left us with a checked North Korea, a limited bin Laden, no war, and a $237 billion surplus. After merely 6 years, Bush has allowed Kim Jong Il to build his bomb, has increased the likelihood of anti-American terrorism, wasted our international political capital on an unsupportable war, spent all of the surplus and created $8.54 trillion in debt.

Who in their right mind thinks that's a fair trade? So why should anyone fear Democrats?

Daisy Cheneys

From Michael Abramowitz on the Washington Post's Front Page:
The growing doubts among GOP lawmakers about the administration's Iraq strategy, coupled with the prospect of Democratic wins in next month's midterm elections, will soon force the Bush administration to abandon its open-ended commitment to the war, according to lawmakers in both parties, foreign policy experts and others involved in policymaking....

Ah, Iraq.... As much as I hate the war, it is so satisfying to see Big Oil and the Neo-Cons going at it like WWF SmackDown contenders. The only thing spoiling my view of this match-up is the knowledge that both groups are backed by Dick Cheney. Which means no matter who wins control over Iraq & its oil, the Cheney White House is set to make another multi-trillion dollar fortune by the end of Fiscal Year 2006.

After 6 years of cataloging his political mayhem, I'm quite sure I like him almost as much as he likes Hugo Chavez.

18 October 2006


I fell off the political commentary wagon for a year, but it's time to reinhabit my blogger home again, if only because it's election time and I need some kind of residency in order to vote.

We will return to our regularly unscheduled venting tomorrow!