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Mormons Tipped Scale in Ban on Gay Marriage November 15, 2008

Posted by rogerhollander in Human Rights.
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 Published: November 14, 2008

SACRAMENTO — Less than two weeks before Election Day, the chief strategist behind a ballot measure outlawing same-sex marriage in California called an emergency meeting here.

Jim Wilson/The New York Times

Frank Schubert was the chief strategist for Proposition 8, which defines marriage as between a man and a woman in California.

“We’re going to lose this campaign if we don’t get more money,” the strategist, Frank Schubert, recalled telling leaders of Protect Marriage, the main group behind the ban.

The campaign issued an urgent appeal, and in a matter of days, it raised more than $5 million, including a $1 million donation from Alan C. Ashton, the grandson of a former president of the Mormon Church. The money allowed the drive to intensify a sharp-elbowed advertising campaign, and support for the measure was catapulted ahead; it ultimately won with 52 percent of the vote.

As proponents of same-sex marriage across the country planned protests on Saturday against the ban, interviews with the main forces behind the ballot measure showed how close its backers believe it came to defeat — and the extraordinary role Mormons played in helping to pass it with money, institutional support and dedicated volunteers.

“We’ve spoken out on other issues, we’ve spoken out on abortion, we’ve spoken out on those other kinds of things,” said Michael R. Otterson, the managing director of public affairs for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, as the Mormons are formally called, in Salt Lake City. “But we don’t get involved to the degree we did on this.”

The California measure, Proposition 8, was to many Mormons a kind of firewall to be held at all costs.

“California is a huge state, often seen as a bellwether — this was seen as a very, very important test,” Mr. Otterson said.

First approached by the Roman Catholic archbishop of San Francisco a few weeks after the California Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage in May, the Mormons were the last major religious group to join the campaign, and the final spice in an unusual stew that included Catholics, evangelical Christians, conservative black and Latino pastors, and myriad smaller ethnic groups with strong religious ties.

Shortly after receiving the invitation from the San Francisco Archdiocese, the Mormon leadership in Salt Lake City issued a four-paragraph decree to be read to congregations, saying “the formation of families is central to the Creator’s plan,” and urging members to become involved with the cause.

“And they sure did,” Mr. Schubert said.

Jeff Flint, another strategist with Protect Marriage, estimated that Mormons made up 80 percent to 90 percent of the early volunteers who walked door-to-door in election precincts.

The canvass work could be exacting and highly detailed. Many Mormon wards in California, not unlike Roman Catholic parishes, were assigned two ZIP codes to cover. Volunteers in one ward, according to training documents written by a Protect Marriage volunteer, obtained by people opposed to Proposition 8 and shown to The New York Times, had tasks ranging from “walkers,” assigned to knock on doors; to “sellers,” who would work with undecided voters later on; and to “closers,” who would get people to the polls on Election Day.

Suggested talking points were equally precise. If initial contact indicated a prospective voter believed God created marriage, the church volunteers were instructed to emphasize that Proposition 8 would restore the definition of marriage God intended.

But if a voter indicated human beings created marriage, Script B would roll instead, emphasizing that Proposition 8 was about marriage, not about attacking gay people, and about restoring into law an earlier ban struck down by the State Supreme Court in May.

“It is not our goal in this campaign to attack the homosexual lifestyle or to convince gays and lesbians that their behavior is wrong — the less we refer to homosexuality, the better,” one of the ward training documents said. “We are pro-marriage, not anti-gay.”

Leaders were also acutely conscious of not crossing the line from being a church-based volunteer effort to an actual political organization.

“No work will take place at the church, including no meeting there to hand out precinct walking assignments so as to not even give the appearance of politicking at the church,” one of the documents said.

By mid-October, most independent polls showed support for the proposition was growing, but it was still trailing. Opponents had brought on new media consultants in the face of the slipping poll numbers, but they were still effectively raising money, including $3.9 million at a star-studded fund-raiser held at the Beverly Hills home of Ron Burkle, the supermarket billionaire and longtime Democratic fund-raiser.

It was then that Mr. Schubert called his meeting in Sacramento. “I said, ‘As good as our stuff is, it can’t withstand that kind of funding,’ ” he recalled.

The response was a desperate e-mail message sent to 92,000 people who had registered at the group’s Web site declaring a “code blue” — an urgent plea for money to save traditional marriage from “cardiac arrest.” Mr. Schubert also sent an e-mail message to the three top religious members of his executive committee, representing Catholics, evangelicals and Mormons.

“I ask for your prayers that this e-mail will open the hearts and minds of the faithful to make a further sacrifice of their funds at this urgent moment so that God’s precious gift of marriage is preserved,” he wrote.

On Oct. 28, Mr. Ashton, the grandson of the former Mormon president David O. McKay, donated $1 million. Mr. Ashton, who made his fortune as co-founder of the WordPerfect Corporation, said he was following his personal beliefs and the direction of the church.

“I think it was just our realizing that we heard a number of stories about members of the church who had worked long hours and lobbied long and hard,” he said in a telephone interview from Orem, Utah.

In the end, Protect Marriage estimates, as much as half of the nearly $40 million raised on behalf of the measure was contributed by Mormons.

Even with the Mormons’ contributions and the strong support of other religious groups, Proposition 8 strategists said they had taken pains to distance themselves from what Mr. Flint called “more extreme elements” opposed to rights for gay men and lesbians.

To that end, the group that put the issue on the ballot rebuffed efforts by some groups to include a ban on domestic partnership rights, which are granted in California. Mr. Schubert cautioned his side not to stage protests and risk alienating voters when same-sex marriages began being performed in June.

“We could not have this as a battle between people of faith and the gays,” Mr. Schubert said. “That was a losing formula.”

But the “Yes” side also initially faced apathy from middle-of-the-road California voters who were largely unconcerned about same-sex marriage. The overall sense of the voters in the beginning of the campaign, Mr. Schubert said, was “Who cares? I’m not gay.”

To counter that, advertisements for the “Yes” campaign also used hypothetical consequences of same-sex marriage, painting the specter of churches’ losing tax exempt status or people “sued for personal beliefs” or objections to same-sex marriage, claims that were made with little explanation.

Another of the advertisements used video of an elementary school field trip to a teacher’s same-sex wedding in San Francisco to reinforce the idea that same-sex marriage would be taught to young children.

“We bet the campaign on education,” Mr. Schubert said.

The “Yes” campaign was denounced by opponents as dishonest and divisive, but the passage of Proposition 8 has led to second-guessing about the “No” campaign, too, as well as talk about a possible ballot measure to repeal the ban. Several legal challenges have been filed, and the question of the legality of the same-sex marriages performed from June to Election Day could also be settled in court.

For his part, Mr. Schubert said he is neither anti-gay — his sister is a lesbian — nor happy that some same-sex couples’ marriages are now in question. But, he said, he has no regrets about his campaign.

“They had a lot going for them,” Mr. Schubert said of his opponents. “And they couldn’t get it done.”

Mr. Otterson said it was too early to tell what the long-term implications might be for the church, but in any case, he added, none of that factored into the decision by church leaders to order a march into battle. “They felt there was only one way we could stand on such a fundamental moral issue, and they took that stand,” he said. “It was a matter of standing up for what the church believes is right.”

That said, the extent of the protests has taken many Mormons by surprise. On Friday, the church’s leadership took the unusual step of issuing a statement calling for “respect” and “civility” in the aftermath of the vote.

“Attacks on churches and intimidation of people of faith have no place in civil discourse over controversial issues,” the statement said. “People of faith have a democratic right to express their views in the public square without fear of reprisal.”

Mr. Ashton described the protests by same-sex marriage advocates as off-putting. “I think that shows colors,” Mr. Ashton said. “By their fruit, ye shall know them.”


Some blacks forgot sting of discrimination November 14, 2008

Posted by rogerhollander in U.S. Election 2008.
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Sometimes, progress carries an asterisk.

That’s as good a summary as any of a sad irony from last week’s historic election. You will recall one of the major storylines of that day was the fact that, in helping make Barack Obama the nation’s first black president, African Americans struck a blow against a history that has taught us all too well how it feels to be demeaned and denied. Unfortunately, while they were striking that blow, some black folks chose to demean and deny someone else.

Last week, you see, California voters passed an initiative denying recognition to same-sex marriages. This overturned an earlier ruling from the state Supreme Court legalizing those unions. The vote was hardly a surprise; surely there is nothing in politics easier than to rouse a majority of voters against the ”threat” of gay people being treated like people.

But African Americans were crucial to the passage of the bill, supporting it by a margin of better than two to one. To anyone familiar with the deep strain of social conservatism that runs through the black electorate, this is not surprising either. It is, however, starkly disappointing. Moreover, it leaves me wondering for the umpteenth time how people who have known so much of oppression can turn around and oppress.

Yes, I know. I can hear some black folk yelling at me from here, wanting me to know it’s not the same, what gays have gone through and what black people did, wanting me to know they acted from sound principles and strong values. It is justification and rationalization, and I’ve heard it all before. I wish they would explain to me how they can, with a straight face, use arguments against gay people that were first tested and perfected against us.

When, for instance, they use an obscure passage from the Bible to claim God has ordained the mistreatment of gays, don’t they hear an echo of white people using that Bible to claim God ordained the mistreatment of blacks?

When they rail against homosexuality as ”unnatural,” don’t they remember when that word was used to describe abolition, interracial marriage and school integration?

When they say they’d have no trouble with gay people if they would just stop ”flaunting” their sexuality, doesn’t it bring to mind all those good ol’ boys who said they had no problem with ”Nigras” so long as they stayed in their place?

No, the black experience and the gay experience are not equivalent. Gay people were not the victims of mass kidnap or mass enslavement.

No war was required to strike the shackles from their limbs.

But that’s not the same as saying blacks and gays have nothing in common. On the contrary, gay people, like black people, know what it’s like to be left out, lied about, scapegoated, discriminated against, held up, beat down, denied a job, a loan or a life. And, too, they know how it feels to sit there and watch other people vote upon your very humanity, just as if those other people had a right. So beg pardon, but black people should know better. I feel the same when Jews are racist, or gays anti-Semitic. Those who bear scars from intolerance should be the last to practice it.

Sadly, we are sometimes the first. That tells you something about how seductive a thing intolerance is, how difficult it can be to resist the serpent whisper that says it’s OK to ridicule and marginalize those people over there because they look funny, or talk funny, worship funny or love funny. So in the end, we struggle with the same imperative as from ages ago: to overcome the crippling legacy of bigotry and injustice. But if last week’s vote taught us nothing else, it taught us that persistence plus faith equals change.

And we shall overcome.

Why Is There Still So Much Interest in Gov. Palin? November 12, 2008

Posted by rogerhollander in Sarah Palin.
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FROM CNN’s Jack Cafferty:

When’s the last time a losing vice presidential candidate was still in the news a week after the election? Nobody seems interested in interviewing Joe Biden, or for that matter, John McCain. But we just don’t seem to be able to get enough of Sarah Palin.

The news media are scrambling to get her thoughts on everything…the campaign, the charges from within the McCain camp that she is a “whack job” and a “rogue,” the $150,000 wardrobe, the travel expenses for her family that were charged to taxpayers of the state of Alaska. It’s obviously something besides her keen and subtle grasp of the complexities of being president of the United States.

Watch: Cafferty: Interest in Palin?

In fact, her apparent total lack of knowledge of the aforementioned proved to be a handicap to McCain’s campaign in the closing stages. A majority of Americans felt Palin was hurting McCain’s chances rather than helping them. And yet speculation persists that the Republican Party may decide to hitch its wagon to this hockey mom from Alaska when the 2012 presidential race rolls around.

Here’s my question to you: Why is there still so much interest in Governor Sarah Palin?

Interested to know which ones made it on air?


Tim from Hot Springs, Arkansas writes:
Because the Republican operatives, on the condition of anonymity, are throwing her under the bus. They built her up as a means of reviving the campaign, only to tear her down upon their defeat. The operatives will be around again in four years if they aren’t blamed as the fall guys for the Republicans’ failures. She won’t be. At this point, she’s expendable.

Bamidele from Almaty, Kazakhstan writes:
I think it has something to do with the 57 million and counting, who voted for this ticket. That’s scary!

Mark from Oklahoma City, Oklahoma writes:
She is beautiful, articulate and a great people person regardless of what Matt Lauer tries to do to her on the Today Show.

Elizabeth writes:
National “rubbernecking.” It is like driving by an accident. You don’t want to look, but somehow you just can’t help it.

Diane from Barneveld, New York writes:
She’s Bush in skirts.

Andrew writes:
There are two reasons: 1) She’s attractive. For better or for worse, people listen when pretty girls talk, no matter what nonsense may come out of their mouths. 2) Incompetence, by itself, is not entertaining. However, when the incompetent are supremely self-confident, full of certitude, and absent of insight, it’s absolutely compelling.

Tom from Fort Lauderdale, Florida writes:
Jack, they should leave this woman alone. Nobody cares how many countries there are in Ohio.

Joan Moriarity   November 11th, 2008 12:48 pm ET
You would think she won the election! I am sick of her and her propaganda. It’s every body’s fault but hers. i wish the media would stop giving her so much attention. We have our new President. Send her back to ALASKA!!!!
Faith from Milford, Massachusetts   November 11th, 2008 12:57 pm ET
She’s like a car crash – no one really wants to look, but you can’t help yourself!
Nuria in Miami   November 11th, 2008 12:58 pm ET
Sadly because the media won’t stop interviewing her. Stop asking her questions and maybe she’ll just go away.
Sherrol in Canada   November 11th, 2008 12:59 pm ET
She’s not going away Jack!! More’s the pity………..
C in Belen, New Mexico   November 11th, 2008 1:00 pm ET
Interest by whom ???? The bigest interest is by the media, not the public. The media seems to be replaying the Paris/ Brittany “thing” using Palin this time around………
tammie   November 11th, 2008 1:03 pm ET
Only the media is interested in her. she is another Anna Nichole Smith.

Tammie, MI

ANGIE IN PA   November 11th, 2008 1:03 pm ET
I Dont Know Jack, But I am really tired of seeing her on TV and hearing her Scratchy voice, Maybe if the Media leaves her alone she will go away. But then again maybe the Media gets a kick out of her Interviews and how stupid she is and Reminds the voters everyday they made the right choice in Electing Obama!
Lois, Ont., Canada   November 11th, 2008 1:04 pm ET
I wish she would just ’shut-up’ She is blaming everyone except herself for losing the election. The media should put a ‘lid on her’ She is old news.
Domenic from Montreal, Canada   November 11th, 2008 1:04 pm ET
I don’t know Jack. Maybe it because she made a laughing stock of herself and comedians need more material.

She makes Bush look intelligent.

Mike, Cleveland, Ohio   November 11th, 2008 1:05 pm ET
Jack, misery loves company…
Jean from Belgium   November 11th, 2008 1:06 pm ET
She has smell the attention and now she is addicted to it.
Talks too easy and doesn’t caculate the quonsequenses and the affects which will taunted her and her family the rest of her life.
The need some common sense!
JoLynn in Illinois   November 11th, 2008 1:07 pm ET
I think we all want to know what she is going to do next! It’s better than watching “The West Wing”!! People like her persona regardless of what she says and does. No one should underestimate her. She is going to be around for the next election unless a new star is born before she can get her act together.
Jane (Minnesota)   November 11th, 2008 1:08 pm ET
I wish I knew – I certainly don’t get it! But then again I don’t understand how Michelle Bachmann was re-elected to Congress again after she publically questioned the patriotism of members of Congress. Some questions just do not have any logical answers to them – this is certainly one of them!
Sam   November 11th, 2008 1:08 pm ET
Truly, I think she is so disastrous that people simply cannot help themselves. She sticks out amongst the small sub-population of running mates in Presidential history.
Personally, I’m still stunned about her comments regarding her own insights into foreign policy simply due to Alaska being straddled by foreign countries, Canada and Russia. It boggles the mind, really.
James, New York   November 11th, 2008 1:09 pm ET
That’s a fantastic question, Jack. Some are obviously still upset with the Republican defeat. Believe it or not, some Americans were in love with her, and some of them simply hated Barrack Obama. The election was very intense, and it seems some people can’t accept reality. People love her because she’s a great personality, and simultaneously hate the fact of a black man as President. Old feelings die hard, I guess!
Anna – New Mexico   November 11th, 2008 1:11 pm ET
same reason media obsessed with the likes of Paris Hilton, the Olson twins, Lindsay, etc. Quite frankly, if the media didn’t write about them, nobody would miss them except the media themselves.
Tom, Bradenton   November 11th, 2008 1:13 pm ET
i have no idea why, maybe people like idiots like her and just wait for the next stupid comment of her. Her most recent one was that with gods help she will get into the White House 2012. She forgets again that she needs the voters for that.
Doug – Dallas   November 11th, 2008 1:13 pm ET
It’s like the country’s addiction to Hollywood; at the moment she’s the flavor of the month. If the news media would leave her alone, she would fade away.
Linda Morris   November 11th, 2008 1:14 pm ET
Sarah Palin looks like she is here to stay! The media covers everything that she does or says and seems not to be able to get enough of her and her family. I’ve had enough of her. It’s still hard for me to believe that she was ever a candidate for the second highest office in this country. A shock that I would like to get over but the news media won’t let that happen. Even this question puts her right back out there again. I guess she’ll be around until she runs for the number one spot. Maybe she reminds people of “Barbie” and she’s not going away either.
Sherre   November 11th, 2008 1:15 pm ET
The same reason Paris Hilton is a celebrity. We enojoy watching pretty air heads who have accomplished very little make fools of themselves. It is quite entertaining.
Ismael (Visalia, CA)   November 11th, 2008 1:16 pm ET
Because she is just chillin in Alaska, its to cold to go out!
Lisa, Ashford, Alabama   November 11th, 2008 1:16 pm ET
Sarah Palin is interesting and editorial cartoonists around the world are thrilled to have a replacement for George W. Bush.
Kim – Blair, NE   November 11th, 2008 1:16 pm ET
Kinda like the old ‘freak show’ at the circus, I guess.
Cori from Colorado   November 11th, 2008 1:17 pm ET
Palin is a joke, and I think people are curious to see why she continues to pursue a national career in politics at all. She is a moron, another Paris Hilton.
Gene from Bloomington, MN   November 11th, 2008 1:18 pm ET
Liz in Towson, MD   November 11th, 2008 1:18 pm ET
Perhaps it’s because we’re too intrigued by her clothes and too sexist to leave her alone.
Jackie in Dallas   November 11th, 2008 1:18 pm ET
Exposure to power, and exposure to media attention is addicting, Jack. And the media keep playing right into her cravings. If the media would just drop her, she could go back home, find all those clothes she needs to return, take care of her kids and her real job, and leave the rest of us in peace.

I must say something, however. Reading her inteviews since the handlers went away, she comes across moderately more intelligent than she did. I must think that the confusing messages she was given to talk about, and her general unpreparedness for the election process made her sound dumber than she might be.

Chadd   November 11th, 2008 1:20 pm ET
Americans seem to be obsessed with the idea of sitting down and having a beer with our leaders. The idea is that leaders who dress, sound and drink like us are somehow more qualified or trustworthy. Palin, who incessantly referred to Americans as Joe six-packs and Suzie soccer-moms, is no exception. We only have to look at the last eight years of failed leadership to see where this “beer logic” has gotten us. When will America wake up and realize we need to pick leaders that are something that we apparently aren’t: intellegent.

Cleveland, TN

Debby   November 11th, 2008 1:21 pm ET
I don’t know why there is still so much interest in Sarah Palin, I saw her recent interviews. Hey Jack I’m wondering what she’s going to do about Senator Stevens? I think Sarah Palin needs to find another choice as Senator or will she take it herself? Why is it when any member of Congress or a Senator is found guilty of a felony, they get to slink away quietly taking their huge expensive pensions with them???Are they not still ripping off the American people? If it were Tom,Dave,Julie or Ann normal citizen they’d have to pay with jail time, fines, community service plus it’s on their record when applying for a job. Sounds like we aren’t all equal after all. Makes ya wonder……
RonniefromAbileneTexas   November 11th, 2008 1:22 pm ET
Because, in these difficult times, we all need a good laugh!
robert sulzer   November 11th, 2008 1:24 pm ET
She’s like looking at an accident, you know it’s there, you don’t want to look, but you look anyway. Never under-estimate the power of stupid people, even in small numbers!
Pamela in L.A.   November 11th, 2008 1:25 pm ET
I truely think the only ones interested in Sarah Palin is Sarah Palin and the media outlets.. The media craves a catastrophe, and she’s a walking & talking one I can see why you all like her so much. You all feed her the attention she craves now that she’s not on the campaign trail. I personally wish she’d have gone quietly back to Alaska and be left there.
Jim/NC   November 11th, 2008 1:26 pm ET
She appears to be honest and straight forward. Unlike corrupted Washington politicians.
Christine, Upstate NY   November 11th, 2008 1:29 pm ET
Mattel’s Barbie doll hit the scene in 1959, and we’re still fascinated with it. The RNC didn’t issue their version of it until August 29, 2008. At least give us a chance to see if we really like it.
M Dixon Cedar Rapids, Iowa   November 11th, 2008 1:29 pm ET
Because it’s funny to hear from someone who doesn’t realize that we are laughing at them and not with them, besides it’s not politically correct to laugh at someone with an obvious mental disability, so we can laugh at her with out feeling like bad people, don’tchya know (wink).

M. Dixon
Cedar Rapids, IA

Diff from Maryland   November 11th, 2008 1:30 pm ET
Jack – This may sound absurd but I think she is interesting and unfortunately for America now a historical figure. This was a historical election. Although she is the target of much humiliation, frankly, it was John McCain who will go down in history as candidate solely lacking judgement and evidently, brains, because of the sheer stupidity of the pick.

Ironically, look at how many people now love Hillary Clinton. She earned respect over time and I would predict that if Sarah Palin stays in politics, she will to. Just look at her lessons learned. She is certainly still more interesting than John McCain and a hell of a lot nicer to look at.

Dan, Chantilly VA   November 11th, 2008 1:31 pm ET
The two things Americans love most are train wrecks and eye candy. Just turn on E! for five minutes and you’ll see what I’m talking about.
Carroll   November 11th, 2008 1:32 pm ET
I have no interest in Gov. Palin! It’s the so-called TV news shows. I’m tired of having her shoved down our throats. Every time she is on, I tune out and off. It’s time for a new. I don’t like liars like her. Who is dumb…. Move on!
Anj in CA   November 11th, 2008 1:32 pm ET
Two words, Jack. Train wreck.

San Francisco: Decriminalize Prostitution? November 1, 2008

Posted by rogerhollander in U.S. Election 2008.
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San Francisco’s Prostitutes Support a Proposition

New York Times, Novermber 1, 2008

Jim Wilson/The New York Times

Sex-related businesses have expanded in the North Beach neighborhood of San Francisco. A ballot measure in the city would decriminalize prostitution.



Published: October 31, 2008
SAN FRANCISCO — When Proposition K was added to Tuesday’s ballot, many people likely snickered at the possibility that San Francisco might take its place alongside such prostitute-friendly havens as Amsterdam and a few rural counties in nearby Nevada.


Bid to Decriminalize Prostitution in Berkeley (September 14, 2004)

Jim Wilson/The New York Times

Kamala D. Harris, the city’s district attorney, called the proposition “ridiculous.”

Jim Wilson/The New York Times

Carol Leigh, an advocate for prostitutes, said the measure would protect women.

But this week, it became readily apparent that city officials are not laughing anymore about the measure, which would effectively decriminalize the world’s oldest profession in San Francisco. At a news conference on Wednesday, Mayor Gavin Newsom and other opponents seemed genuinely worried that Proposition K might pass.

“This is not cute. This is not fanciful,” Mr. Newsom said, standing in front of the pink-on-pink facade of a closed massage parlor in the Tenderloin district. “This is a big mistake.”

Supporters of the measure say it is a long-overdue correction of a criminal approach toward prostitutes, which neither rehabilitates nor helps them, and often ignores their complaints of abuse.

“Basically, if you feel that you’re a criminal, it can be used against you,” said Carol Leigh, who says she has worked as a prostitute for 35 years and now works as an advocate for those who trade sex for money. “It’s a really serious situation, and ending this criminalization is the only solution I see to protect these other women working now.”

The language in Proposition K is far-reaching. It would forbid the city police from using any resources to investigate or prosecute people who engage in prostitution. It would also bar financing for a “first offender” program for prostitutes and their clients or for mandatory “re-education programs.”

One of the measure’s broadest prohibitions would prevent the city from applying for federal or state grants that use “racial profiling” in anti-prostitution efforts, an apparent reference to raids seeking illegal immigrants.

The fight over the ballot initiative has become an awkward test of San Francisco’s dual attitudes of live-and-let-live and save-the-world. In the campaign’s closing days, the rhetoric on both sides has heated up. Supporters of the measure accuse the city of profiting from prostitution through fines. They also imply that laws against prostitution are inherently racist because minorities are disproportionately arrested.

Proposition K, they say, will increase safety for women, save taxpayer money, and cut down on the number of murders of prostitutes at the hands of serial killers.

But opponents dismiss the notion of legions of prostitutes happily romping through the city’s neighborhoods. “This isn’t ‘Pretty Woman,’ ” was how one put it.

Anti-Proposition K forces paint grim pictures of girls and women from across the country held against their will in dark and dangerous brothels here, forced into unsafe sexual behavior, and often beaten, intimidated and raped.

“You’re going to have young girls recruited and brought to San Francisco, and they are going to be standing on these corners,” said Norma Hotaling, the founder and director of Standing Against Global Exploitation, an outreach project here. “And there’s not going to be any services for them to go to, and the police are not going to have any means of investigating the cases.”

The measure seems particularly abhorrent to San Francisco’s district attorney, Kamala D. Harris, who has made fighting human trafficking a priority.

“I think it’s completely ridiculous, just in case there’s any ambiguity about my position,” Ms. Harris said. “It would put a welcome mat out for pimps and prostitutes to come on into San Francisco.”

Central to Ms. Harris’s objections is the theory that prostitution is a victimless crime. Instead, she said, it exposes prostitutes to drug, gun and sexual crimes, and “compromises the quality of life in a community.”

She also dismisses the argument that prostitutes would be more likely to come forward if their business were not illegal.

“We’re in the practice and habit of protecting victims, not criminalizing victims,” Ms. Harris said, adding that she often reminds juries that the law protects people even if they are prostitutes or drug users. “Our penal code was not created just to protect Snow White,” she said, noting that 65 percent of cases handled by her department’s sexual assault unit involved sex workers as victims.

Officials with the State Attorney General’s Office would not comment on the measure.

The city’s Board of Supervisors, several of whom have expressed support for the measure in the past, would have the power to amend Proposition K if it passed. San Francisco, which has an exotic dancers’ union and a well-established history of sexual freedom, is not the first liberal outpost to mull legalizing prostitution. A decriminalization bill was defeated by voters in Berkeley, Calif., in 2004.

Heidi Machen, a spokeswoman for the opposition, said her side was hoping for a solid defeat. “We want this to fail by a landslide,” she said. “So it doesn’t come back.”

A local CBS poll released Thursday found that 35 percent of likely voters supported the measure, while 39 percent were opposed. But 26 percent were still undecided.

On Thursday night, about 50 supporters of the measure gathered at a church to press their case. One of them, Patricia West, 22, said she has been working for about a year as an “independent, in-call escort.”

Ms. West said that she enjoyed her work and believed that Proposition K would allow prostitutes to organize into collectives and negotiate for safer working conditions and better wages.

Ms. West concedes that what she does for a living “can be dangerous.” But she hoped Proposition K would make her occupation safer and more legitimate. “Working in a coal mine can be really dangerous, too,” she said “but it pays a lot of money so you’re compensated for your risk.”

ACORN Has Long Been in Republicans’ Cross Hairs October 24, 2008

Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, Electoral Fraud, John McCain, U.S. Election 2008.
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Peter Overby, NPR

Morning Edition, October 15, 2008 · Republicans continued the drumbeat of allegations against ACORN on Tuesday. Sen. John McCain’s presidential campaign, the Republican National Committee and others accuse the grassroots group of widespread voter registration fraud. It’s the latest, and most bitter, battle in a long conflict between conservatives and ACORN.

ACORN, which stands for the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, makes no secret of its progressive tilt. Its top job isn’t CEO, it’s chief organizer.

“We’re like a community union,” says Bertha Lewis, the interim chief organizer. “Our folks are low and moderate income. And we’ve been doing the fight on bread-and-butter issues for 38 years.”

Those bread-and-butter issues have recently included predatory lending and mortgages. Not long ago, ACORN forced Countrywide Financial into an agreement to help homeowners trapped in their subprime loans. In 1996, it led a campaign in Philadelphia to stop Pennsylvania from selling liquor stores to raise money for sports arenas.

“We have huge needs around education, around housing, around jobs programs, around social services,” Bruce Dorpalen of ACORN Housing said at the time. “And to devote that kind of money to sports stadiums is just wrong.”

At a 2006 rally in Miami, ACORN featured a friend who now seems surprising: McCain. As a senator, he was pushing an immigration reform bill supported by ACORN and other progressive groups. ACORN members waved “McCain ’08” signs at the rally as McCain said, “What makes America special is what’s in this room tonight. That’s what makes America special.”

Now, McCain’s campaign has accused ACORN of flooding America’s polling places with illegal voters. The campaign and the RNC also have played up Democratic Sen. Barack Obama’s ties to ACORN.

Obama responded Tuesday, calling his relationship to the group “pretty straightforward.”

In 1995, Obama said, he represented ACORN in a lawsuit against the state of Illinois. “My partner in that representation was the U.S. Justice Department, in having Illinois implement what was called the motor voter law, to make sure that people could go to DMVs and driver’s license facilities to get registered. It wasn’t being implemented,” he said.

There are other connections that conservatives have highlighted. Obama ran a voter-registration project in Chicago in 1992 under the banner of Project Vote, and years later, the national Project Vote affiliated with ACORN. Earlier this year, his presidential campaign indirectly paid ACORN more than $800,000 for campaign work in the primaries. And ACORN’s political action committee has endorsed Obama.

But conservatives have been after ACORN for years.

“It is an organization that has a very outsized role in the democratic process,” says Tim Miller of the business-backed Employment Policies Institute, which produced a 2006 report titled “Rotten ACORN, America’s Bad Seed.”

Miller points to the ouster of ACORN’s founder earlier this year after the controller, the founder’s brother, had embezzled nearly a million dollars.

“When you think about a truly transparent organization, there would never be any way somebody could embezzle such a large amount,” he says.

The Employment Policies Institute also criticizes ACORN’s organizational structure. ACORN has dozens of subsidiaries. Some get federal funds. Some get money from charities such as the liberal Charles Stewart Mott Foundation and the not-so-liberal Bank of America Charitable Foundation.

Miller says ACORN moves money around among the subsidiaries. He says it “essentially gives them a cloak that prevents people from seeing really how they’re spending money that comes, in some cases, from the taxpayers, in other cases, comes from members of their organization who pay dues.”

But right now, voter fraud is the GOP’s top campaign message. The Republican National Committee produced an online ad called “ACORN Chicago” that reads: “Nationwide voter fraud. Barack Obama. Bad judgment. Blind ambition. Too risky for America.”

Lewis, ACORN’s chief organizer, says the group’s profile has never been so high. “This election, this linking us to Obama in order to try to damage him, that’s a great opportunity,” she says.

Will Evans of the Center for Investigative Reporting contributed to this piece.

McCain’s Socialist Delusion October 24, 2008

Posted by rogerhollander in John McCain, U.S. Election 2008.
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Posted on Oct 22, 2008

By Joe Conason

Wherever John McCain appears on the stump in these waning days of the presidential campaign, he is always accompanied by his imaginary friend “Joe the Plumber,” but it is the specter of Karl Marx that lurks just offstage.

Reverting to the Republicanism of eons ago, when he was just a child, McCain inveighs against the “socialist” design of Barack Obama’s tax platform. This delusional ranting, like so much of his behavior this year, tells us nothing about Obama (or socialism!) but much about the Republican senator.

Let’s begin with the dishonesty of the McCain rant. What Obama proposes is to restore tax rates on the wealthy to the same level as during the Clinton administration—that is, to allow the Bush tax cuts to expire without renewing them for individuals and families reporting more than $250,000 in annual income. There is nothing radical in this idea, let alone socialistic (especially compared with the violations of capitalist orthodoxy that McCain has supported recently as emergency measures to rescue the financial industry).

Not only is there nothing radical about repairing the unfairness of the Bush tax cuts, but it is precisely the same position that McCain argued when they were first enacted. Is his memory so poor that he cannot remember saying the Bush tax plan was “skewed” to benefit the rich? Having reversed that position for political convenience, he has also invented a different justification for opposing Bush back then—namely that he thought the cuts were fiscally irresponsible. But that isn’t what he said in 2000 and 2001.

Now let’s address the ignorance of his rant. Progressive taxation is a tradition of Western economics that dates back considerably further than Marx and the Communist manifesto, with all due respect to the wingnuts who seem to be writing McCain’s speeches. He admits that he has neglected his economic studies, so perhaps he isn’t aware that Adam Smith, revered philosopher of market capitalism, advocated tax fairness as far back as 1776, the fateful year when he published the first edition of “The Wealth of Nations.”

Although there was then no income tax, Smith’s principled judgment on the justice of higher taxes on those who could pay more, enunciated on several occasions, could not be clearer. He favored property taxes and luxury taxes because they would fall most heavily on the wealthy. He would have levied a sizable tax on all seven of the McCain homes plus an additional chop at all of Cindy McCain’s credit card binges.

In “Wealth of Nations,” Smith wrote: “The subjects of every state ought to contribute towards the support of the government, as nearly as possible, in proportion to their respective abilities; that is, in proportion to the revenue which they respectively enjoy under the protection of the state.”

Few legislators are more familiar than McCain, in his maverick incarnation, with the enormous fortunes raked in by oilmen, defense contractors, bond holders and the whole host of modern capitalists under the protection of the American state. The notion that those fortunes, often gotten in a parody of the free market, should be taxed at the same rate as the earnings of a plumber would strike Smith as monumentally unjust and an attack on the moral foundations of society.

Finally, let’s discuss the other bit of demagoguery in McCain’s most recent speeches, when he complains about the “redistribution of wealth” and equates an income tax rebate for working people with “welfare.” Leaving aside the racial subtext of those remarks, it is hard to say whether they display ignorance, dishonesty or both. The American tax system, like all other taxation in modern nations, has always redistributed wealth. Sometimes it sends streams of money upward, from low-income taxpayers into the pockets of corporate executives; at other times it sends those streams downward, to assist the very poor.

But to cast socialist aspersions on a tax refund to working families whose incomes are too low to pay income taxes is to paint a big pink stripe onto McCain’s supposed idol, Ronald Reagan. In 1986, Reagan signed legislation greatly increasing the earned income tax credit, a credit for low-income workers that reduces the impact of payroll taxes in order to boost take-home pay above poverty levels. When the credit is more than the amount of federal income taxes owed by an individual, that person receives a tax “refund.” Reagan praised the earned income tax credit as the best “anti-poverty” and “pro-family” legislation ever enacted by Congress.

It must be troubling for Republicans to learn that according to McCain, the Gipper was a socialist, too.

Joe Conason writes for The New York Observer.

© 2008 Creators Syndicate Inc.

Sorry, I Can’t Find Your Name October 24, 2008

Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, Electoral Fraud, John McCain, U.S. Election 2008.
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by: The New York Times | Editorial


    Before Mississippi’s March presidential primary, one county election official improperly removed more than 8,000 voters from the eligible-voter rolls, including a Republican Congressional candidate. Fortunately, the secretary of state’s office learned of the purge in time and restored the voters.

    It’s disturbing that a single official (who acted after mailings to voters were returned) could come so close to disenfranchising thousands of voters. But voting rolls, which are maintained by local election officials, are one of the weakest links in American democracy and problems are growing.

    Some of these problems are no doubt the result of honest mistakes, but in far too many cases they appear to be driven by partisanship. While there are almost no examples in recent memory of serious fraud at the polls, Republicans have been pressing for sweeping voter purges in many states. They have also fought to make it harder to enroll new voters. Voting experts say there could be serious problems at the polls on Nov. 4.

    When voters die or move to a new address, or when duplicate registrations are found, a purge is necessary to uphold the integrity of the rolls. New registrations must also be properly screened so only eligible voters get added. The trouble is that these tasks generally occur in secret, with no chance for voters or their advocates to observe or protest when mistakes are made.

    A number of states – including the battleground state of Florida – have adopted no match, no vote rules. Voters can be removed from the rolls if their names do not match a second list, such as a Social Security or driver’s license database. But (like the U.S. mail) lists of this kind are notoriously mistake-filled, and one typo can cause a no match. In Ohio, Republicans recently sued the secretary of state, demanding that she provide local officials with a dubious match list. As many as 200,000 new voters could have been blocked from casting ballots. The Supreme Court rejected the suit, but Republicans are still looking for ways to use the list on Election Day.

    Congress and the states need to develop clear and accurate rules for purges and new-voter verification that ensure that eligible voters remain on the rolls – and make it much harder for partisans to game the system. These rules should be public, and voters who are disqualified should be notified and given ample time before Election Day to reverse the decision.

    For this election, voters need to be prepared to fight for their right to cast a ballot. They should try to confirm before Nov. 4 that they are on the rolls – something that in many states can be done on a secretary of state or board of elections Web site. If their state permits it, they should vote early. Any voter who finds that their name has disappeared from the rolls will then have time to challenge mistakes.

    If voters find on Election Day that their names are not on the rolls, they should contact a voters’ rights group like Election Protection, at 1-866-OUR-VOTE, or a political campaign, which can advocate for them. They should not, except as a last resort, cast a provisional ballot, since it is less likely to be counted.

    There is a desperate need for reform of the way voting rolls are kept. Until then, election officials, voting rights advocates and voters must do everything they can to ensure that all eligible voters are allowed to vote.

Message from Jack Layton October 9, 2008

Posted by rogerhollander in Canada.
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I have known and worked with Jack Layton for the past 25 years; he is clearly the most qualified and pro-Canada candidate amongst the various party leadership. He stands for a Canada that puts people before profits, and he is the only leader who has uncondtitionally condemned the Canadian government for sending young Canadian men and women to fight and die for Bush’s war in Afghanistan. He deserves your support:

My friend,

It’s time to throw Mr. Harper out.

It’s time for a leader who cares more about bank customers than about banks. It’s time to finally put you and your family first.

In the next 5 days, you and I can make this happen. Together we can defeat Harper and change the way things are done in Ottawa.

Make no mistake – it’s not going to be easy. But our momentum has been growing since day 1 of this campaign. Everyday, more and more people come on board. Just yesterday we launched a new website to help you fund the final push of our campaign for change. Already hundreds of people have joined.

I want you to be a part of this momentum right now. I’m asking you to participate in our New Democrat final push. Here’s what I’d like you to do:

1. Donate online right now. $100 or $150 will make all of the difference.
2. Share with others why you’re voting New Democrat.
3. Invite your friends to join the New Democrat wave.

While the Conservatives rely on the support of corporate CEOs, our New Democrat strength has always come from everyday people like you. Now you have the chance to shape the outcome of this election.

There are only 5 days left. But there’s still time to get your contribution into action right away. Your secure online donation now will be deposited into our Election fund within minutes.

This is our chance to finally put everyday people first. This is our chance to say that family doctors are more important than giveaways to profitable banks and the big polluters. This is our chance. Help me seize it.

Thank you,

Jack Layton

A Leftist Defends Palin (sort of) September 29, 2008

Posted by rogerhollander in About Repubicans, Sarah Palin.
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Roger Hollander/September 29, 2008


As a lifetime political activist and a former municipal councillor of a major North American city, I may have a unique perspective of the Palin phenomenon.


Of course, I believe her selection by McCain was perhaps one of the most self-serving, idiotic and unpatriotic acts in recent U.S. political history.  As either vice president or president (and that is not just a possibility, but from what I have heard about McCain’s cancer, a likelihood), she would be an unmitigated disaster; and given the past eight years of Bush/Cheney, that is saying a lot.


However, it is not her lack of knowledge or experience, as so aptly demonstrated in the Couric interview, that I find unacceptable.  IT IS HER PAST RECORD AND HER VALUES.  As these are by now well known to the general reader, I need not say more.


For the most part, lawyers and businessmen fill the chambers of our legislative assemblies at all levels of government.  I have no problem whatsoever with a “housewife” as president.  It would be a refreshing change.  It has been my experience that anyone with normal intelligence and the capacity to learn and be diligent and flexible has the capacity to govern, or, rather, to represent a constituency at the government level.  At all levels of government, political appointees and civil servants are in abundant supply to provide information and advice.  It is what an elected official does with such information and advice, and the kind of leadership given to her or his subalterns, that determines the effectiveness of a legislator or executive.


Over the years I have come into contact with literally of thousands of human beings, so-called “ordinary folks,” with whom I would trust legislative or executive authority over those whom the lobbyists have put in place.  Pick any two names at random out of the latest U.S. census and they are likely by far to be less dangerous and more advantageous to the U.S Republic than Messers (uppers) Bush and Cheney.


So find me an “ordinary” citizen with intelligence, compassion, progressive values, an analytic mind, and a capacity to learn quickly and to work hard – and she or he would have my support at any level of government over the majority who currently fill the positions.  A little known and vastly ignored chapter in recent history — the Paris Commune of 1871 — demonstrated the capacity of working people to legislate justly and effectively (the Communards were slaughtered in a bloodthirsty massacre by the French Bourgeoisie).


There is no doubt that Sarah Palin is NOT that person.  Perhaps she has best served her country by demonstrating the utter incapacity for John McCain to make intelligent and patriotic decisions and his cynical opportunism.


From what I have read and seen of Sarah Palin and her family, I cannot say that they are the kind of people for whom I can muster much, if any, sympathy (I believe, for example, that wolves are noble animals that should be protected, not hunted mercilessly in helicopters).  But, I have little doubt that the Palins will come out much the worse for what McCain has put upon them; and they are in a real sense a victim – along with the rest of us – of his patent unscrupulousness.


Is Palin Qualified? Couric Interview: Decide for Yourself September 28, 2008

Posted by rogerhollander in Sarah Palin.
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When CBS News anchor Katie Couric sat down for an exclusive interview with vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin, she focused on the economy – but also addressed reports that the lobbying firm of Sen. John McCain’s campaign manager received payments from the controversial mortgage giant Freddie Mac until last month. Couric asked for the Alaska governor’s reaction to that.

Sarah Palin: My understanding is that Rick Davis recused himself from the dealings of the firm. I don’t know how long ago, a year or two ago that he’s not benefiting from that. And you know, I was – I would hope that’s not the case.

Katie Couric: But he still has a stake in the company so isn’t that a conflict of interest?

Palin: Again, my understanding is that he recused himself from the dealings with Freddie and Fannie, any lobbying efforts on his part there. And I would hope that’s the case because, as John McCain has been saying, and as I’ve on a much more local level been also rallying against is the undue influence of lobbyists in public policy decisions being made.

Next, Couric asked about the $700 billion government bailout of bad debt – and whether she supports it.

Palin: I’m all about the position that America is in and that we have to look at a $700 billion bailout. And as Sen. McCain has said unless this nearly trillion dollar bailout is what it may end up to be, unless there are amendments in Paulson’s proposal, really I don’t believe that Americans are going to support this and we will not support this. The interesting thing in the last couple of days that I have seen is that Americans are waiting to see what John McCain will do on this proposal. They’re not waiting to see what Barack Obama is going to do. Is he going to do this and see what way the political wind’s blowing? They’re waiting to see if John McCain will be able to see these amendments implemented in Paulson’s proposal.

Couric: Why do you say that? Why are they waiting for John McCain and not Barack Obama?

Palin: He’s got the track record of the leadership qualities and the pragmatism that’s needed at a crisis time like this.

Couric: But polls have shown that Sen. Obama has actually gotten a boost as a result of this latest crisis, with more people feeling that he can handle the situation better than John McCain.

Palin: I’m not looking at poll numbers. What I think Americans at the end of the day are going to be able to go back and look at track records and see who’s more apt to be talking about solutions and wishing for and hoping for solutions for some opportunity to change, and who’s actually done it?

Couric: If this doesn’t pass, do you think there’s a risk of another Great Depression?

Palin: Unfortunately, that is the road that America may find itself on. Not necessarily this, as it’s been proposed, has to pass or we’re going to find ourselves in another Great Depression. But, there has got to be action – bipartisan effort – Congress not pointing fingers at one another but finding the solution to this, taking action, and being serious about the reforms on Wall Street that are needed.

Couric: Would you support a moratorium on foreclosures to help average Americans keep their homes?

Palin: That’s something that John McCain and I have both been discussing – whether that … is part of the solution or not. You know, it’s going to be a multi-faceted solution that has to be found here.

Couric: So you haven’t decided whether you’ll support it or not?

Palin: I have not.

Couric: What are the pros and cons of it do you think?

Palin: Oh, well, some decisions that have been made poorly should not be rewarded, of course.

Couric: By consumers, you’re saying?

Palin: Consumers – and those who were predator lenders also. That’s, you know, that has to be considered also. But again, it’s got to be a comprehensive, long-term solution found … for this problem that America is facing today. As I say, we are getting into crisis mode here.

Couric: You’ve said, quote, “John McCain will reform the way Wall Street does business.” Other than supporting stricter regulations of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac two years ago, can you give us any more example of his leading the charge for more oversight?

Palin: I think that the example that you just cited, with his warnings two years ago about Fannie and Freddie – that, that’s paramount. That’s more than a heck of a lot of other senators and representatives did for us.

Couric: But he’s been in Congress for 26 years. He’s been chairman of the powerful Commerce Committee. And he has almost always sided with less regulation, not more.

Palin: He’s also known as the maverick though, taking shots from his own party, and certainly taking shots from the other party. Trying to get people to understand what he’s been talking about – the need to reform government.

Couric: But can you give me any other concrete examples? Because I know you’ve said Barack Obama is a lot of talk and no action. Can you give me any other examples in his 26 years of John McCain truly taking a stand on this?

Palin: I can give you examples of things that John McCain has done, that has shown his foresight, his pragmatism, and his leadership abilities. And that is what America needs today.

Couric: I’m just going to ask you one more time – not to belabor the point. Specific examples in his 26 years of pushing for more regulation.

Palin: I’ll try to find you some and I’ll bring them to you.