Friday, February 14, 2014

The weak and tepid response of gays to the new Kansas anti-gay bill.

Someone ought to remind people who call themselves progressive or believe in liberal principles that the country was founded by liberals and its constitution is a product of the most liberal thinking in the history of  human civilization. Maybe then they'll stop being so defensive, weak and timid when it comes to standing up for principles they believe in and will get tough.

The Kansas state House just passed a bill that allows anyone to refuse services of any kind to gays or same sex couples if it "is contrary to their sincere their religious beliefs".
The legislature has said the purpose of the bill is to protect businesses and individuals from having to serve or provide products and services to same sex couples who don't want to provide them on religious grounds from being sued.

The official response of a gay organization spokesperson to this is that the bill is "nothing more than a bill designed to treat gays and lesbians as second class citizens".

My response to their response is "duh".

The purpose of the bill is clearly to treat gays and same sex couples as second class citizens. Actually the purpose of the bill is to treat gays and lesbians as not being citizens at all.  But is that the best gay and lesbian organizations can do for a response?

How about getting tough?

How about pointing out that the bill violates the establishment clause of the first amendment, violates the equal protection clause of the 14th amendment, will never pass constitutional muster, will never be upheld by any court much less the Supreme Court, and is another example of one more state thinking they can impose their religious beliefs, whatever those beliefs may be, on people who don't share them and deny an individual's constitutional rights in order to enforce them.

They could also add that  same sex couples who are denied anything based on their orientation will sue anyone they want to sue and for any amount they wish for discrimination and that any business relying on this law who thinks denying services is going to prevent them from being sued is delusional.  And if the law is ruled unconstitiutional which it almost certainly will be,  they are going to lose and its going to cost them.

They might also point out that once again, as with abortion, the Kansas legislature as has been the case with others like them, continues to waste state taxpayers time and money by passing a law that will probably be ruled unconstitutional by a lower court federal judge who will then most likely grant an injunction against the law preventing it from going into effect which will put anyone who denied services to a same sex couple behind the 8 ball in a law suit not to mention that the legislature will waste even more state tax payer money, millions probably,  trying to defend it all the way to the Supreme Court if necessary and then lose.

They could have said all that. Maybe now they will.

NOTE: Maybe no one will have respond after all. While the bill passed the Kansas House handlily the Republican led state senate has gotten nervous about the bill.

 Susan Wagle, the Republican president of the senate issued a statements saying she is "concerned about the practical impact of the bill' and went on to say she didnt think the majority of Republicans in the senate will support it.

ADDENDUM (2/21/14): The Arizona legislature has just passed a bill similar to the one passed by the Kansas House. The response to the Arizona law and its clear unconstitutionality by gays and others who support equal rights has been more vocal than Kansas. There is a good chance Governor Brewer will veto the bill as outside pressure mounts against the bill. 

NOTE: As most know by now,Governor Brewer vetoed the Arizona bill. More recently the Kentucky Attorney General has announced we will refuse to defend the ban on gay marriage passed by the Kentucky legislature and struck down by a federal judge. The Governor of Kentucky has said he will hire outside legal help to defend the ban.

 Perhaps what's needed is making the point forcefully to other state legislatures that pretend fiscal conservatism (if equal rights and the constitution isn't their cup of tea) that they are wasting their time and their tax payers money trying to pass and defend laws that will never see the light of day.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Rand Paul and wife trash Bill Clinton, Martin Luther King, JFK, Eisenhower and FDR.

Senator Rand Paul's wife caused a stir a few weeks ago when she trashed Bill Clinton in an interview in Vogue magazine over his  affair with Monica Lewinsky 21 years ago in what was apparently an orchestrated and  transparent attempt at a political hatchet job. And for two reasons: first, to lay a groundwork to  damage Hillary Clinton in a future presidential run, whom they tried to tie to the Lewinsky matter as if she had anything to do with it.  But more importantly to reduce Bill Clinton's influence both politically and in fund raising for the Kentucky senate race where Republican minority leader Mitch McConnell is trailing the Democratic challenger Allison Grimes and by a substantial margin but is leading Grimes in fundraising. Which is where Bill Clinton comes in.He plans on going to Kentucky to fund raise for Grimes.
Hence the hatchet job by reviving Lewinsky.

A few days after the interview broke Rand Paul in what seems like a tag team play, came out to defend his wife's comments and upped the ante by calling  Bill Clinton a "sexual predator" and said that, laughably, Democrats who have contributions raised by Clinton should give the money back. To which Democrats should have replied, (but haven't) "Nice try".  Paul then defined Clinton as a "sexual predator" for being " a boss who used his authority to take advantage of women" describing Lewinsky as a "female subordinate".

 But if  its morality that's motivating Paul, then based on his own definition of  Clinton as a"sexual predator" he also has to stand up, if he wants to be taken seriously,  and say the same is true about JFK, Martin Luther King, Dwight Eisenhower when he was Supreme Allied Commander during WWII, and FDR. To name just a few. He has to call them all sexual predators according to Paul's definition in his attacks against Clinton.

JFK's affairs are already well known and they weren't just with movie stars but with women who worked as secretaries in the White House. Martin Luther King had an affair with a young civil rights worker who worked for him -- "a female subordinate" -- which we know about thanks to his motel room being illegally bugged by J.Edgar Hoover. Dwight Eisenhower had an affair with Kay Summersby, a female British officer assigned to Eisenhower as his assistant and personal driver while Eisenhower was in London planning the D-Day invasion. Another female subordinate.  And it was also well known that FDR hadnt slept with Eleanor for years even before he was in the White House and had a secret amour  and confidant even if she didn't work directly at the White House.

So the only way to take Paul and his wife seriously is if they're willing to define these other men as "sexual predators" too. And say so publicly.  If they don't, that does more to define Paul and his wife than it does Bill Clinton. And exposes their comments as nothing more than more gutter politics.

Paul said two others things which seem to reveal his true motives: he displayed a staggering ignorance of the facts  surrounding the Lewinsky affair which is usually the case when people are too busy throwing stones to care that they don't know what they're talking about. According to Paul "the news media gave Bill Clinton a pass on the Lewinsky affair." This alone makes Paul look so stupid that its virtually impossible not to laugh at him or to take anything else he has to say seriously.

From the time the story first broke the news media treated the story as a journalistic gold mine. They began doing stories on Lewinsky 24/7  framing it as the beginning of the end of Clinton's presidency. That's hardly giving Clinton a pass. Sam Donaldson at ABC News predicted Clinton would have to resign "within days" (which he didnt) and that it was the end of his presidency (which it wasnt). For the record, on the day Clinton was impeached on a strict party line vote by Republicans his approval rating stood at 66%.

The news media, far from giving Clinton a pass,  wrung every last bit of political soap opera they could out of the Lewinsky story for ratings and newsstand sales. The president of MSNBC said at the time he was going to use the Lewinsky affair to put the new MSNBC start - up network on the map and said he would use the Lewinsky story the way ABC used the Iranian hostage crisis to establish Nightline.

CNN was no better. For them it was All Monica All the Time. When Lewinsky showed up for her grand jury testimony CNN showed the same 7 seconds of  footage of Lewinsky getting out of the back of an SUV 30-40  times in succession ( an obnoxious practice they still employ) during a segment on her testimony. And when Clinton testified to a grand jury conducted at the White House, CNN put up a live shot of the White House with a timer that counted the hours minutes and seconds that had passed during Clinton's testimony as Wolf Blitzer droned on in the background. To say the news media gave Clinton a pass alone invalidates anything else Paul has to say or will have to say on the subject. (It was telling that at the height of the Lewinsky frenzy Walter Cronkite invited Clinton to join him on his sloop at Martha's Vineyard for a photo-op. That one photo of Cronkite with Clinton released to the media with Cronkite's blessing neutralized every word, story,opinion and photo used by Republicans and everyone in the news media regarding the Lewinsky circus).

Doing even more damage to his credibility, Paul made statements that proved he either wasn't paying attention at the time, didn't read the Starr Report, or is just ignorant. Testimony by Lewinsky herself and her voice on  illegal wire taps by Republican stooge Linda Tripp who illegally recorded her private conversations with Lewinsky,  made it clear that she, Lewinsky was the huntress and Clinton the prey.Not the other way around as Paul tries to assert. It wasn't Clinton taking advantage of his "position of authority"  to seduce Lewinsky. It was the other way around.  Lewinsky was hardly a victim except at the hands of Linda Tripp  who betrayed their friendship for what she hoped would be political gain for the Republicans and committed 30 felonies to do it (for which she was given immunity by Starr). Lewinsky was also a victim of Ken Starr another Republican tool who so abused his authority as special counsel,  Starr's own ethics advisor quit.

For the edification of Rand Paul and his wife, Lewinsky had told people including Tripp almost as soon as she had her job at the White House that she was going to seduce Clinton. She was flirtatious, sexually suggestive in his presence and in one incident when they were alone, lifted her dress and showed Clinton her thong.

If anyone wants to accuse Clinton of  a personal weakness for letting himself get seduced in that circumstance or say he betrayed his marriage, (which, by the way, is no one else's business)  no one can argue against it. But if the moral position of Paul and his wife is that Clinton is a "sexual predator" because Lewinsky was a "female subordinate" in a work place situation,   then let them say the same about JFK, King, Eisenhower and FDR whose affairs fit the same definition. They should include them in their moral crusade.  Or they should shut up. Unless they are hoping that the news media will be as amoral as ever and use their statements to dredge up what was once their greatest golden egg.

One further note: Notice that Paul as a self appointed bastion of political and human morality has had nothing to say about Louisiana Republican senator David Vitter who was caught a couple of years ago cheating on his wife with prostitutes provided by the Washington D.C. Madam. So it seems for Paul and his wife morality is selective.Based on political party. Or agenda.  Or maybe its because Vitter paid for his liasons and Paul and his wife just see it as a business transaction. After all, we all  know how much Republicans like to support small business.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

What happened to Phillip Seymour Hoffman could not happen in the UK.

Phillip Seymour Hoffman died as much from America's drug laws and the country's approach to drug addiction as he died from the drug itself. And never let anyone tell you anything different.  And to prove the point, what happened to Hoffman never could have happened in the UK.

 The U.S. policy towards drugs in general and heroin addiction in particular is to punish addicts with long prison sentences while at the same time elevating heroin dealers to the ranks of the super rich. More plainly,  its been a preposterous failure on every level, legally, morally, medically and societally. It has never worked and in fact has created more addicts and a bigger market for drug dealers,  but the always fearful  politician who would privately acknowledge U.S.drug policy has never worked have in the past always refused to support what would.

 What happened to Hoffman and thousands if not tens of thousands of heroin addicts who die from overdoes every year would never have happened in Great Britain because unlike the insane drug policies of the U.S. that solves nothing,  Great Britain has had a drug program in place and drug laws regarding heroin that first, actually benefits the overwhelming majority of people who do not take drugs and secondly the addicts who do.

 It started with a pilot program that began in 2005 with heroin addicts that did not respond to other treatments like methadone. Registering them as certified heroin addicts and then, at government run clinics and under clinical supervision,  administering to each addict doses of enough pure heroin, not to send them to the Sea of Tranquility but to keep them stable and prevent them from going through withdrawal proved to be a resounding success.

 The results were so spectacular the program was gradually increased in 2007-8, with equally spectacular results until it was finally rolled out nationally in 2012.

 And what were these spectacular results? Most of those who participated in the pilot programs in those years first and foremost stopped committing crimes to pay for their habit because they no longer had to. The UK estimated that two-thirds of all street crime was attributable heroin addiction.  And so the heroin addicts in the program who no longer had to commit crimes to pay for their addiction stopped committing them. Of the almost 2000 admitted crimes committed by the 150 addicts in the original 2005 pilot program, the crimes they committed dropped by two-thirds to 547.  And that was just in the beginning.

 These addicts also reduced their expenditures on street drugs by two-thirds.  And again,  this was just in the original pilot program in 2005.The clinical trials in 2007 was even better and showed that drug use among heroin addicts in the pilot programs dropped from using heroin on a daily basis to about 4 times a month. The amount of heroin being administered was not for recreation or to cope with daily problems. Just enough to keep them stable and not having to fight withdrawal symptoms. By 2010 the success of the program was not in doubt.

 Since then, the results of  providing heroin addicts with what they need to stay stable under clinical supervision and without resorting to having to buy it on the street have proved so spectacularly successful the program was  rolled out  nationally in the UK in 2012 by King's College in London.

 The program has not only significantly reduced street crime, but because these addicts are registered and monitored closely, there are statistics that show most of them now have jobs and in fact their employment rate is higher than the national average. Which means they are also paying taxes.  It has also put heroin dealers in the UK out of business and driven them out of the country. And for obvious reasons. Heroin dealers are not in the business of creating new customers for the government where addicts can get it for free.

 The benefits on every level speak for themselves.  Heroin addicts are no longer committing crimes to get their heroin. Heroin addicts have reduced their consumption dramatically. Heroin dealers no longer have a market in Great Britain. And society as a whole,  the great majority who do not use drugs, are safer as a result of the significant drop in crime. On top of that all the money that had gone for interdiction and law enforcement can now be used for other more productive programs.

 The cost of the drug  to the British taxpayer?  Approximately $150 a year per addict. That's about what it costs to provide a heroin addict with the doses they need to stay stable. The costs involving the maintaing of the clinics and staff make overall costs higher but still a pittance next to what's spent on law enforcement. And when its factored in that these addicts are now working in legitimate jobs and are paying taxes the program pays for itself many times over. Compare that to the $40 billion and more a year in tax payer money the U.S. spends to interdict what amounts to about 5% of the drugs smuggled into the U.S. every year. Add to that the cost of police, judicial resources,  the cost of putting these addicts in prison and keeping them there and then the human cost given what people are driven to do to pay for their drugs. And those who don't take drugs who pay as victims of crime.

 No one disputes that for their own health and well being, what is most beneficial for heroin addicts is getting them off the drug entirely and the UK program gives addicts every opportunity to do so if they wish.  It's their choice.  But by legally administering a drug that is dirt cheap when purchased legally by clinics, to addicts who are beyond their own ability to quit, the program not only helps addicts at the very least, climb out of the deep holes they've created for themselves, give them some dignity and allows them to live productive lives,  it has also  stopped the crime these addicts were committing and made society a safer place.  It's also allowed resources that had been spent treating heroin addiction as a law enforcement problem to be spent  elsewhere.

 While the U.S. policy has always been to punish and try to use brute force to eliminate the problem which has been and always will be, a failure,   the UK policy has  not only has been humane for the addict by recognizing heroin addiction as a health problem not a law enforcement problem, but  the benefits to society as a whole, the people who don't take drugs, is actually more pronounced in the reduction of crime and the ability to reallocate those resources somewhere else, than its been for the addict. Similar programs have been successful in Germany and Denmark.

 Instead of moralizing about addiction and punishing those who have succumbed while making dealers super rich, these programs first get the addicts under control and then gives the addicts enough of what they need to keep them from committing crimes and letting them become productive members of society. And has put heroin dealers out of business.

 More importantly, there are no Phillip Seymour Hoffman's or anyone like him in Great Britain. And as their program continues to roll out, there is every reason to believe that  when the last heroin addict dies in Great Britain, by natural or other causes, the heroin problem there will die with them.