Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Inslee Running For Washington Governor, Supports Full Marriage Equality

Congressman Jay Inslee (WA-01) announced his candidacy for Governor of the State of Washington in Seattle Monday, and Your Erstwhile Reporter was present.

The candidacy was announced with a speech that focused on “process improvements” and the invocation of new technology jobs as an economic engine for job growth (and in fact the event took place at the headquarters of a company that has developed seed-derived biofuels that have been used to power military and commercial aircraft).

But that’s not the part that’s going to be the most interesting for the civil-rights supportive reader.

The most interesting part is that Inslee was quick to offer his support for full marriage equality in the State of Washington, should he find himself elected.

So before we get to the good stuff, let’s do a bit of historical review.

The Congressman has compiled a mixed record on issues that matter to the LBGT community during his time in Congress, and most of it can be considered supportive. He did vote to pass the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT) repeal, and he co-sponsored the Domestic Partnership Benefits and Obligations Act of 2009, which made it out of the House Oversight and Government Committee, only to die in the House Judiciary Committee. (The bill would have provided same-sex partners access to the spousal benefits of their Federal employee family members.)

An additional bill, HR 1024, would have given same-sex couples an expectation of equal treatment during immigration proceedings; this was also cosponsored by Inslee. (It also died in committee.)

However…when it came time in 2009 to try to repeal the Federal Defense of Marriage Act, the House got a bill together (HR 3567) that Inslee was not willing to cosponsor; it died, again, in House Judiciary.

Now here’s where I get a bit suspicious: a similar bill was introduced in the 112th Congress, on March 16, 2011, and of the 115 co-sponsors, virtually all signed on before April 6th. There are 5 who signed on later…including Congressman Inslee, who was one of two co-sponsors who all signed up on June 15th, which was just 12 days before his announcement.

The historical review complete, let’s talk about Monday.

I walked into the after-announcement “press availability” just in time to record this exchange:

REPORTER: "Congressman, would you address two social issues that are in the headlines these days. One, where do you stand on gay marriage, two, where do you stand on the legalization of marijuana?"

INSLEE: "Thanks for your easy question, sir, uh. Um, so I believe in marriage equality, and the reason I believe in that is that uh, I've been married for 38 years, and I fundamentally believe that no government, and no politician should deny any of my fellow Washingtonians the right to have what I have, which is a stable, committed, you know, meaningful relationship. So I'm gonna support, uh, the legalization of that equality in the State of Washington. And when we do that, uh, we will do it to make sure in a way that no religious organization doesn't have the right to have their own definition for their own purposes, under their belief of spirituality. This is a situation where we can have both equality, which is a quintessential Washington value. And I said I love the State, one of the reasons I love the State of Washington is we have been leaders in equality in so many different ways; this is another place where I think Washington should lead.

Uh, marijuana, there are two things I know we should do for sure. Number one, we have got to get the intention of the voters of the State of Washington to be honored, which does allow the use of medical marijuana in the State of Washington...and right now, that intent of the voters is being frustrated by the Federal government, which is threatening the Federal--uh, State government any time you try to enforce the will of the people. So we need some changes to frankly, get the Federal government off our backs when it comes to the ability of Washingtonians to have access to medical marijuana.

Second, I believe that we should stop wasting so much of our resources in our criminal justice system associweated--associated with mari--marijuana, particularly personal use of marijuana. This is something that is really does not bring value or--or reduce significant levels of crime, and we need to reprioritize our law enforcement away from chasing folks who are involved in--in marijuana; we got enough problems in our criminal justice system, I'm aware of that, I guess in part because my daughter-in-law is a forensic scientist at the crime lab I've got a sense of the challenges. Law enforcement's strapped; they got a lot of problems to deal with.

As far as total decriminalization, I'm not there yet at this moment. I'm a parent, I'm just not comfortable right now, uh, and that's my position."

OK, so that’s a pretty interesting story, and we could leave it right there – but there is one extra bonus to the thing that is so good, so deeply ironic…that you may remember the ending of this story long after you forget the lead:

I got a parking ticket, I did, attending the event, issued by a Parking Enforcement Officer with an amazingly appropriate name…and that ticket was issued to me for a violation that occurred one block over from Harrison Street in Seattle’s South Lake Union neighborhood …which means I showed up to watch the leading Democratic contender for Governor in 2012 announce his candidacy…and when it was all over, Officer J. Hell had issued me a ticket on Republican Street.

And all that proves the truth of what I’m always saying:

Some days you don’t even have to write jokes.
You just have to harvest ‘em.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

On Reopening For Business, Or, What? No Flying Cars?

So I took a bit of a break this past month, and I figured by the time I came back y’all would have things sorted out: people would be surely by flying around with jet packs by now, God would have sent fires and floods to smite the unrighteous, and, if I really got lucky, Barack Obama would have “grown a pair”.

And now that I’m back, debt negotiations are about to commence between that same Barack Obama and the Republican Congressional Leadership, things like Social Security and Medicare cuts are apparently on the table in order to protect tax cuts for the rich, and certain quarters of the Republican Party aren’t even trying anymore to hide their racism.

All of which suggests that I shouldn’t be looking for a jet pack anytime soon.

But there is some good news: God is apparently working hard, and states like Oklahoma and Arizona and Florida and Georgia and Texas have been alternately aflame or aflood, apparently as a result of their unrepentant behavior…and on the economic front, New York City’s Stonewall Inn is going to make a ton of money this summer hosting weddings.

That gives us a lot to talk about…so let’s get right to it.

Pessimism is cowardice. The man who cannot frankly acknowledge the “Jim-Crow” car as a fact and yet live and hope, is simply afraid either of himself or of the world. There is not in the world a more disgraceful denial of brotherhood than the “Jim-Crow” car of the southern United States; but, too, just as true, there is nothing more beautiful in the universe than sunset and moonlight on Montego Bay in far Jamaica. And both things are true and both belong to this, our world, and neither can be denied.

--From On Being Black, by W.E.B. DuBois

We gotta start with the most “WTF?!?” news first: Personhood USA is a group that figures the only reason we want to make sure that abortion rights are protected for women who are raped, either by members of their own family or others…is because we really don’t understand how wonderful it can be for women to enter motherhood in this way, or for those children to enter the world; all of which presumably means that for these folks, the dark cloud of rape and incest has a silver lining that the rest of us never really think about.

To help make the point, and to help advance legislation that basically says that as soon as two sets of haploid chromosomes become a diploid a child is born (this to try to criminalize abortion in the State), Personhood Mississippi sent their representative, Rebecca Kiessling, on a week-long “Conceived in Rape Lecture Series”.

“I am not the rapist’s child!”, Kiessling declares in a written statement, which I personally think is going to be tough to sell to some poor kid who’s been forced by law to sit down at Thanksgiving dinner next to his father and grandfather – and there’s only one guy sitting there. Especially in a State that isn’t exactly big on providing mental health services to these victims.

But let’s move on to happier subjects:

I live in Washington State, and for the past several years Democrats in what you might think is an aggressively liberal State are fighting a losing battle to keep it that way; much of this, frankly, rests on the shoulders of Governor Christine Gregoire, who, not unlike many other Democratic leaders nationally, has simply not chosen to take the fight to the Republicans.

But this may change, as Congressman Jay Inslee is apparently going to announce his candidacy for the State’s top office on Monday.

I have to confess that I personally am looking forward to this, as Inslee has been pushing a lot of issues that I care about over the years, including real health care reform and an energy policy that tries to remove Saudi Arabia from their position as America’s “best frenemy forever”.

I don’t have the exact quote handy, but I once saw Inslee, on the floor of the House, describe a Bush budget as having the same effect on someone as it would be if you hit them over the head with their own artificial leg, and I’ve been a fan ever since; if he takes that attitude to the campaign and governing we’ll be the better off for the effort.

The number of states looking to screw over their workers is growing fast, and so far Barack Obama hasn’t been able to locate those “comfortable shoes” he said he’d be putting on so he could march right alongside those same workers.

I want to be helpful here, Mr. President, not mean…so maybe you might want to check out the Nike Factory Store over there at the outlet mall in Potomac Mills, which is out in Virginia just a bit past Arlington National Cemetery. (It’s right next to the Burlington Coat Factory and that Japanese place in the food court). I have shopped at one of those Nike stores a time or two, and they have lots of comfortable shoes – and boots, too, which are really great for marches.

Now I like these right here – but I wouldn’t pay $120 for ‘em; instead, I’d wait for them to drop to below $50…but workers in Wisconsin and Ohio and Michigan and New Jersey don’t have that kind of time, so if I were you I’d pay the extra money and treat it as a campaign expense or something…and then I’d actually fulfill my promise and get out and wear those shoes, before the Republicans start running that pesky YouTube video as a campaign ad…which, sooner or later, they probably will.

When Osama Bin Laden was killed just a mile or so from Pakistan’s military academy we all wondered how it was possible for the world’s most wanted man to be there and, somehow, no one in authority knew about it.

And now (alleged serial killer, notorious Mob boss, FBI informant, and “Next Most Wanted Man”) Whitey Bulger was just captured a few blocks from the Santa Monica pier, in an apartment he rented for 15 years, which just happens to be 4.5 miles from the FBI’s Los Angeles field office up on Wilshire Boulevard.

Just sayin’.

Not a word from me about Anthony Weiner. Instead, go read what K.Flay had to say about all this, as she has it exactly right. (If you visit she will also, out of the kindness of her heart, hook you up with lots of her music, free of charge, which is très sweet.)

Olbermann is back, if you did not yet know, on Al Gore’s Current channel, which means you probably have to go to the website to see him (unless you have either DirecTV, or Dish, or a cooperative cable company), but it’s worth the effort.

Since Current lacks content, he can be seen “on air” at nearly any hour of the day (the “official” time: 8 PM weeknights on the East Coast, 5 on the West), which reminds me of “Spahn and Sain and pray for rain” in a couple of ways (much respect, Vanguard); we’ll be watching to see how that shapes up over time with great interest.

Next up, perhaps the best story of “taking your enlightenment where you find it” in history:

So the Dalai Lama walks into a bar and tells the bartender:

“Make me one with everything”

Does everyone remember that guy in Florida a few weeks back who said God wanted him to burn the Qur’an, so he went out and burned him some?

Has anyone noticed that, just a few weeks later, Florida is now so overwhelmed with fires that they are running out of people to send to fight them…and that most of them, evidently, were started by lightning?

So…does that make you more or less likely to be an atheist – or a comic – or do you find that compassion in the face of the bad karma of others is the right way?

In our final comment today, we offer congratulations to New York’s LBGT community, who, thanks to the passage of marriage equality legislation, are now just as free to be just as miserable as any other married couple in the State. In your honor, we’ll close out today’s story with a joke, courtesy of the great Henny Youngman:

So the wife and I are laying in bed, and she looks over at me and says: “What’s the matter, honey? Can’t you think of anyone else either?”

What do you think it symbolizes?