Thursday, June 17, 2010

Stewart Takes On America's Oil Dependence

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Rachel Maddow's Oval Office Oil Spill Speech: What She Wishes Obama Had Said (VIDEO) Rachel Maddow was among the cable news hosts and pundits who were unsatisfied with President Obama's Oval Office address about the oil spill Tuesday night.

But instead of just complaining, Maddow offered a version of what she wished the President had said — and she did it from a fake Oval Office set on her show Wednesday night.

"You know how sometimes you get into an argument or confrontation with somebody, you can't help afterwards thinking of all the things you wished you'd said?" Maddow said. "Well, last night after the President's big Oval Office speech on the BP oil disaster, I had a version of that experience. I hadn't, of course, been in an argument with the President or anything. I just couldn't stop running tape in my head of what I wish that speech had been like, what I wish he'd said. An Oval Office address is a priceless chance to get the nation to stop what it's doing, to stop every other TV show in the country, to get us all to pay attention all at once to this crisis and to what the President has to say about it."

Maddow said she wished Obama had announced three major developments in the response to the disaster:

  1. "Never again, will any company, anyone, be allowed to drill in a location where they are incapable of dealing with the potential consequences of that drilling."
  2. "I'm announcing a new federal command specifically for containment and cleanup of oil that has already entered the Gulf of Mexico, with a priority on protecting shoreline that can still be saved; shoreline that is vulnerable to oil that has not yet been hit."
  3. "I no longer say that we must get off oil like every president before me has said too. I no longer say that we must get off oil. We will get off oil and here's how: The United States Senate will pass an energy bill. This year."

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Rep. Barton apologizes to BP for Obama 'shakedown'

LSB: This is my fucking representative! Could he be sniffing any further up the ass of the oil industry? He's a weak and ineffective legislator kept around by the GOP because he's a reliable vote on their continuous skull-fucking of the American public. Joe, if you don't want to live in a country that holds responsible the people that created the biggest environmental disaster in U.S. history because you'd rather see the American tax-payer pay for the clean-up rather than one of your contributors, there's the door. Don't let is hit you on your fat ass on your way out!

Brett Michael Dykes, Yahoo! News: Well, that was fast.

Barely 10 minutes into Thursday's landmark congressional testimony — where BP CEO Tony Hayward and other leading company executives are revisiting the Gulf Coast oil spill before a subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee — the first controversial statement has entered the record.

And no, it didn't come from the gaffe-prone BP brass. Instead, GOP Rep. Joe Barton of Texas — the ranking member on the House Energy Committee — made a decisive splash in his opening remarks. A staunch conservative who has a long record of backing oil industry interests, Barton apologized to BP CEO Tony Hayward for the "shakedown" the Obama White House pulled on the company. (Barton has received more than $1.5 million in campaign donations from the oil industry, according to Open Secrets, a nonpartisan watchdog group.) You can watch the video here:

"I'm not speaking for anybody in the House of Representatives but myself," Barton explained, "but I'm ashamed of what happened in the White House yesterday. I think it is a tragedy of the first proportion that a private corporation can be subjected to what I would characterize as a shakedown. In this case a $20 billion shakedown."

Wrapping up, Barton said: "I apologize. I do not want to live in a country where any time a citizen or a corporation does something that is legitimately wrong, is subject to some sort of political pressure that is, again, in my words — amounts to a shakedown, so I apologize."

The Niger Delta: a Cautionary Tale for the United States

From the Left: The people who live in the Niger Delta have endured the equivalent of the Exxon Valdez spill every year for 50 years by some estimates. The oil pours out nearly every week and swamps once teeming with shrimp and crab, are long since lifeless.

Poorly regulated and maintained aging pipelines belonging to Royal Dutch Shell and Exxon Mobil, regularly burst, spewing black crude onto the mangroves and into the creeks for months at a time. Last month, soldiers guarding an Exxon Mobil site beat women who demonstrated against the spills.

“There is Shell oil on my body,” said Hannah Baage, emerging from Gio Creek with a machete to cut the cassava stalks balanced on her head.

The Gulf of Mexico oil disaster has transfixed a country and president they so admire is a matter of wonder for people who here, among the palm-fringed estuaries in conditions as abject as any in Nigeria. Though their region contributes nearly 80 percent of the government’s revenue, they have hardly benefit from it, and life expectancy is the lowest in Nigeria.

“President Obama is worried about that one,” Claytus Kanyie, a local official, said of the gulf spill, standing among dead mangroves in the soft oily muck outside Bodo. “Nobody is worried about this one. The aquatic life of our people is dying off. There used be shrimp. There are no longer any shrimp.”

With revised estimates that as many as 2.5 million gallons of oil could be spilling into the Gulf of Mexico each day, the Niger Delta has suddenly become a cautionary tale for the United States.

According to a team of experts for the Nigerian government and international and local environmental groups, as many as 546 million gallons of oil spilled into the Niger Delta in the past five decades, or nearly 11 million gallons a year. By comparison, the Exxon Valdez spill in 1989 dumped an estimated 10.8 million gallons of oil into the waters off Alaska.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

SAVAGE: The Nuclear Option

Dan Savage, SLOG:
(NYT) A government panel raised its estimate of the flow rate from BP’s damaged well yet again on Tuesday, declaring that as much as 60,000 barrels a day could be gushing into the Gulf of Mexico. The flow was already categorized as the largest offshore oil spill in the nation’s history, but the new figures sharply increase previous estimates. Scientists on Tuesday estimated that the flow rate ranged from 35,000 to 60,000 barrels a day—up from the rate they issued only last week, of 25,000 to 30,000 barrels a day. It continues a pattern in which every new estimate of the flow rate has been dramatically higher than the one before.
How long before the nuclear option is back on the table? Seems to me that if we're going to have to nuke the thing in the end... well, we might as well nuke it sooner rather than later.

LSB: The nuclear option ("inserting a bomb deep underground and letting its fiery heat melt the surrounding rock to shut off the flow") sounds dangerous and incorporates all kinds of political problems, but nothing else is stemming the flow of oil. Can it be any more detrimental to the environment than the long-term problems of even more oil in the ocean?

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

When BP Spills Coffee...

Hispanics Leaving Arizona In Advance Of Controversial Immigration Law's Enforcement

Nick Wing, Arizona's controversial new immigration law may be prompting a mass dispersion of Hispanics -- both legal and illegal -- from the state. Though enforcement of the harsh law isn't set to begin until the end of July, reports from state and local officials show that the new measure may already be taking its toll on Arizona's Hispanic population.

According to a recent USA Today report:

Schools in Hispanic areas report unusual drops in enrollment. The Balsz Elementary School District is 75% Hispanic, and within a month of the law's passage, the parents of 70 students pulled them out of school, said District Superintendent Jeffrey Smith. The district lost seven students over the same one-month period last year, and parents tell Smith the Arizona law is the reason for leaving. [...]

Businesses serving the Hispanic community say business is down, signaling that illegal immigrants are holding on to cash in anticipation of a move from the state, said David Castillo, co-founder of the Latin Association of Arizona, a chamber of commerce for nearly 400 first-generation Hispanic business owners.

But the reports out of the state don't yet serve as a comprehensive analysis of population numbers, and some say that the recent outflow of Hispanics from Arizona may just be the latest in a trend that has shown diminished immigration numbers and increasing departures from the state due to the poor economy over the past few years. (More)

The heart of the immigration dilemma: Only 5,000 green cards to cover 500,000 unskilled-labor jobs (David Neiwert, Crooks and Liars). When reality catches up to Arizonans for their passage of their misbegotten police-state immigration law, it's going to be ugly and unpleasant. If other states really are considering passing similar laws, they will want to watch what happens to Arizona -- and they will inevitably wind up thinking twice.

We've pointed out previously -- as have the nation's police chiefs -- that the law is almost certain to in fact increase violent crime and dilute law enforcement's capacity to deal with it in Arizona.

And that will only be the first consequence (and a decidedly ironic one, since this law was sold as being a means to crack down on violent crime). The longest-lasting and most significant, however, will be the economic one: When the Latino workforce flees Arizona, their economy will suffer a dramatic downturn unlike any they've seen in decades.

It's already starting to happen:

Arizona’s hard-hitting immigration law is driving Hispanics out of the state weeks before the controversial law goes into effect.

Although concrete figures are not available, anecdotal evidence suggests Hispanics, both legal residents and illegal immigrants, are starting to flee.

Schools in Hispanic neighborhoods are reporting abnormal enrollment drops, and businesses that serve Hispanics also report that business is down, according to a USA Today report published Wednesday.

The report suggests that the immigration law is compounding demographic trends that have already significantly curtailed illegal immigration during the past two years. The bad economy has been the primary deterrent to many Hispanic immigrants seeking to enter Arizona, says Jeffrey Passel, a demographer at the Pew Hispanic Center in Washington.

“If you have a bad economy and a hostile environment, then that’s likely to cause people to think twice about coming, and possibly even to leave,” Mr. Passel says.

... Any loss, however, will be a loss for the Arizona economy, [David Gutierrez, a professor of immigration history, at the University of California San Diego] suggests.

“Latinos...are a highly flexible, highly exploitable work force, a buffer to economic downturns,” he says. “Many of the industries here – agriculture, service industries, low-end manufacturing, construction – are massively dependent on undocumented workers.

“If I were able to conduct an experiment and pay all of Arizona’s undocumented workers to not work for two weeks, the economy would come to a screeching, crashing halt instantaneously.” ...

... because we pursue the American Dream, we will always have a need for immigrants, particularly those who perform unskilled labor. As the economy grows, so will the demand for that kind of labor. And we need immigration laws that will help fill that demand rationally and in a controlled way, not through the induced illegality of our current system.

Blaming the immigrants themselves, as the Arizona law does, is not a solution: it only worsens the problem. When Arizona businesses start failing because they cannot obtain a legal workforce under their new regime, the rest of the nation will get to see why just "enforcing the laws we have on the books" is no longer a viable option -- socially, legally, or economically.

Sharron Angle, Rand Paul To Washington: Tea Party-Backed Outsiders Seek Establishment Help

Elyse Siegel, Tea Party-backed Senate candidates Sharron Angle and Rand Paul campaigned as outsiders during their primary election fights, but now they're acting a lot like Washngton insiders.

The Nevada and Kentucky Senate candidates are each turning to the Washington establishment for fundraising and strategy help.

The Wall Street Journal reports:
On Tuesday, Ms. Angle, who surged to victory on an anti-establishment message, is scheduled to meet with Mr. Cornyn in Washington to discuss how they can work together. On Wednesday, she will appear at a weekly meeting hosted by Americans for Tax Reform, a long-standing gathering point for conservatives from Congress, the GOP and lobbying and activist groups.
Angle consultant Larry Hart told the Washington Post earlier this week that the conservative hopeful's team fully understands the risks of appearing to have "gone Washington," but dismissed the matter as being any cause for concern. "She's down-home," he said of the Tea Party favorite who will take on Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid in November.

Reid's camp hasn't held back however, in blasting Angle's apparent shift in attitude toward Washington since her primary win.

The candidates' critics are seeking to make political hay out of these newfound alliances. "Sharron Angle has long been railing against the establishment" but is now "courting their support," said Jon Summers, a spokesman for Sen. Harry Reid (D., Nev.). Ms. Angle's campaign did not return calls for comment.
Paul will descend on the nation's capital next week and join forces with some big GOP establishment names. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell will host a pricey June 24 fundraiser for the conservative contender -- with tickets costing $1,000 for individuals and $5,000 for sponsorships per group.

Paul has come under fire for his plan to attend the ritzy event from Democratic opponent Jack Conway, who said it was an example of the Tea Party hopeful's hypocrisy towards Washington. Paul's camp however, rejected the criticism, suggesting there's no such "credibility issue."

The AP reports:

Conway's campaign said the fundraiser was an example of Paul's hypocrisy by cozying up to Washington insiders he criticized during the primary.

Paul, the son of Texas Congressman Ron Paul, a former presidential candidate, has portrayed himself as an outsider in berating Congress as free-spending and overreaching.

Benton said there's no "credibility issue" for Paul in bad-mouthing the Washington establishment while heading to the capital to benefit from a high-dollar fundraiser.

"Money will not influence Rand," Benton said in a phone interview. "Just because you donate to Rand doesn't mean that you get special favors. He's not that kind of candidate."

The Lexington Herald Leader notes that when Paul hits DC to collect campaign cash, he'll be "voiding a promise made last year to shun money from lawmakers who supported government bank bailouts."

Paul also has plans in the works to attend two additional fundraisers to be hosted by McConnell and Sen. Jim Bunning in his home state later this month.
LSB: Hypocrisy = Republican.

Rand Paul Not Board Certified: Kentucky Senate Hopeful Faces Challenge From Medical Panel

Bruce Schreine and Brett Barrouquere, AP: Rand Paul, who touts his career as a Kentucky eye doctor as part of his outsider credentials in his campaign for U.S. Senate, isn't certified by his profession's leading group.

He tried Monday to bat away questions about it by calling it an attack on his livelihood, saying the scrutiny stems from his challenge of a powerful medical group over a certification policy he thought was unfair.

The libertarian-leaning Republican helped create a rival certification group more than a decade ago. He said the group has since recertified several hundred ophthalmologists, despite not being recognized the American Board of Medical Specialties – the governing group for two dozen medical specialty boards.

Questions about Paul's certification as an eye surgeon first arose in a story published Sunday in The Courier-Journal of Louisville.

Paul, who is continuing to practice in Bowling Green during the campaign, chafed Monday at questions about his certification.

"It's a personal assault on my ability to make a living," Paul told The Associated Press in a telephone interview.

Paul, whose father, Ron Paul, is a Texas congressman and former presidential candidate, said he is a good physician with thousands of patients. Paul casts himself as a political outsider spent years building his medical practice in Bowling Green before making his first run for elective office.

By focusing on an internal struggle within his profession, he said, "you vilify me and make it out to sound, 'Oh, ... there's something wrong with him as a physician because he chose not to register" with the American Board of Ophthalmology.

Paul said he helped formed the rival group because the established organization exempted older ophthalmologists from recertification. He likened it to members of Congress passing laws that don't apply to themselves.

The campaign for his Democratic rival, Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway, said the episode raises serious questions about Paul's character. Conway's campaign said it shows Paul doesn't want to be held to the same standards as other doctors.

"It is clear that Rand Paul does not think the rules apply to him," Conway campaign manager Jonathan Drobis said in a statement Monday.

Paul, a graduate of Duke University's medical school, said he was board certified under the American Board of Ophthalmology for a decade. Paul has been licensed to practice in Kentucky since 1993.

In the late 1990s, Paul was a driving force behind forming the National Board of Ophthalmology to protest the ABO's exemption policy.

"I don't think that some people should recertify and others shouldn't," he said. "And I don't choose to give my money to a private group that discriminates."

Paul has been certified through the National Board of Ophthalmology since 2005. He is listed as the group's president; his wife, Kelley, is listed as vice president; and his father-in-law is listed as secretary. Paul and his relatives receive no salaries from the organization, his campaign said.

Beth Ann Slembarski, administrator for the American Board of Ophthalmology, said less than 5 percent of the nation's practicing ophthalmologists aren't certified through her organization.

Slembarski said that certification through the ABO reflects "an extra commitment by physicians to demonstrate their knowledge and skills in this specialty."

Before 1992, ABO certification had no expiration, she said. After that, it started issuing certifications that lasted 10 years, but ophthalmologists certified before 1992 were grandfathered in, meaning they didn't have to be recertified.

Neither group has anything to do with medical licensure, which is handled by state boards.

Paul shrugged off his group's lack of recognition by the American Board of Medical Specialties.

"Do you think that they're going to recognize a competitor?" he said.

HUFFPOST: DNC Hammers Angle For Misleading Viewers In Softball Fox News Interview

Sam Stein, The hosts of "Fox and Friends" were widely ridiculed on Monday morning for their interview with Senate candidate Sharron Angle in which probing -- or, more importantly, factually-based -- questions seemed to be sorely lacking.

Notably, the hosts stated as fact that Angle was a newcomer to the political scene (she's not) and had earned the endorsement of Sarah Palin (she hasn't). It was enough to cause some quizzical and critical takes from the Nevada press, including the local Fox affiliate, which wondered why the network had done such little preparation for the interview (Palin actually gave a "shout-out" to the defeated candidate in the race, Sue Lowden).

Now the Democratic National Committee is also weighing in -- though not by calling out the show's hosts for their softball questions but by slamming Angle herself for misleading viewers by not correcting the record.

"She may think it serves her to be less than straight, but Angle left the wrong impression with Nevada's Fox News viewers. Sarah Palin didn't endorse her. And why would she? Not even someone as far out of the mainstream as Sarah Palin shares Sharron Angle's belief that we should kill Medicare and Social Security and reinstate the prohibition of alcohol," said DNC National Press Secretary Hari Sevugan.

Angle, of course, has some responsibility to make sure her interviewers are providing the correct information -- though the job of ensuring factual accuracy really does belong to the interviewer.

Ironically, the Tea Party candidate went on "Fox and Friends" because it represented a soft landing after what has been a shaky general election campaign rollout so far. But the meekness of the questions may have drawn more negative attention than had she not appeared on the program at all.

LSB: FAUX-TV News is so desperate to see Harry Reid leave the Senate that they will use any trick. A soft-ball interview that conveniently ignores the truth of this candidate is an overly used tactic that has worked for them in the past.

Rachel Maddow Blasts BP COO Doug Suttles: 'Not Even Remotely Believable' Answers In Interview Rachel Maddow blasted BP COO Doug Suttles Monday night for what she found were highly misleading and inaccurate responses during an interview Suttles gave to NBC's Tom Costello.

Maddow had two main issues with the interview: 1. Suttles' explanation for why BP included animals such as walruses --which are typically not found in the region-- in a list of potentially endangered animals in BP's oil spill plan for the Gulf of Mexico; and 2. Suttles' attempt to defend the lack of technological innovation when it came to responding to spills by arguing that there had been "so few big spills" over the past few decades.

"The events haven't driven the technology change that's out there," Suttles told Costello.

Maddow called Suttles' explanation of the walrus mistake "not even a remotely believable answer." In response to his defense of the technology, she went to a board with a map of the United States on it and ran through a long list of oil spills that had occurred in the 2000s alone. She highlighted over a dozen of them, ranging from Massachusetts to Delaware to Louisiana to Alaska to California to Utah, and contradicting Suttles' claim that there have been too few spills to force the technology to catch up.

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FROM THE LEFT: U.S. “Discovers” $1 Trillion in Untapped Mineral Deposits in Afghanistan

Nevermind routing out Taliban strongholds, this the real reason for the Afghanistan war.

The United States has “discovered” nearly $1 trillion in untapped mineral deposits in Afghanistan, far beyond any previously known reserves and enough to fundamentally alter the Afghan economy and arguably, the nine-year old Afghan war itself, according to senior American military and government officials, who could barely contain their glee.

Vast deposits of iron, copper, cobalt, gold and critical industrial metals like lithium essential to modern industry that Afghanistan could eventually be transformed into one of the most important mining centers in the world.

Afghanistan could become the “Saudi Arabia of lithium,” a critical raw material used in the manufacture of batteries for laptops and BlackBerrys and nuclear weapons and the treatment of mental illness.

Gen. David Patraeus, commander of the United States Central Command, said in an interview on Saturday:
“There is stunning potential here. There are a lot of ifs, of course, but I think potentially it is hugely significant.”
Patraeus’ remarks are more than a little curious. For nine years, the American people have stood idly by and watched two presidential administrations fight a war seemingly without end in Afghanistan and now we learn the Pentagon isn’t just in the business of fighting wars but, in mineral exploration. [LSB: Emphasis added]

Just as India was once Britain’s “jewel in the crown,” it would appear that Afghanistan is now poised to become the U.S.’s jewel in the crown.

LSB: Well, doesn't this put a different spin on things! Now our troops can be fighting and dying for lithium as well as oil. It's good to know that there is a profit motive behind the fighting. Does anyone know if Halliburton gets a cut of the lithium trade?

AmericaBlog: GOP IL Senate candidate up to 9 lies about his military record

From Steve Benen:
As of about a week ago, I think the list was up to eight separate incidents: Kirk (1) falsely claimed he served "in" Operation Iraqi Freedom; (2) falsely claimed to "command the war room in the Pentagon"; (3) falsely claimed to have won the U.S. Navy's Intelligence Officer of the Year award; (4) falsely claimed to have been shot at by the Iraqi Air Defense network; (5) falsely claimed to be a veteran of Desert Storm; (6) falsely claimed to be the only lawmaker to serve during Operation Iraqi Freedom; and (7) falsely claimed to have been shot at in Kosovo; and (8) falsely claimed to have been shot at in Kandahar.
This week, we have a new one for the list.

When Republican Senate candidate Mark Kirk says he repeatedly deployed to Afghanistan with the Navy, he's referring to two-week training missions as part of his annual reservist requirements.

After acknowledging a series of misstatements that embellished his Navy service, Kirk is being challenged over his use of the military term "deployment," and this could be yet another opportunity for critics to parse his words in what has recently become a resume-bashing battle with Democratic Senate opponent Alexi Giannoulias.

Deployment can mean more than one thing in the military, but it is often used to describe service members going off to war for an extended time.

Navy Cmdr. Danny Hernandez said there is a difference between annual training and being deployed, which can sometimes last more than a year.

"I would think that would be (considered) two weeks of annual training," Hernandez, a Navy spokesman, said of Kirk's stints. "A deployment is a deployment and annual training is annual training."

RICH: "Two Weddings, a Divorce and ‘Glee’"

Frank Rich, NY Times Columnist: THOSE of us left off the guest list could only fantasize about Rush Limbaugh’s nuptials last weekend. Now cruising into marriage No. 4 — an impressive total for a guy not quite 60 — Rush staged a lavish luau at the Breakers in Palm Beach. The revelers included what some might regard as the Rat Pack from hell — Sean Hannity, Rudy Giuliani, James Carville and Clarence Thomas. The scriptural readings remain a mystery. But we did learn the identity of the pop deity anointed as the wedding singer. That would be Elton John, whose last, albeit second-class, wedding was a civil union with David Furnish in 2005.

Why would America’s right-wing radio king hire an openly gay entertainer to star at his wedding? And why would one of the world’s foremost AIDS activists sing “Can You Feel the Love Tonight” for a gay-baiting provocateur who has trivialized AIDS and speculated that same-sex marriage could lead people to marry dogs? Sir Elton’s fee was reported to be a cool $1 million. Which goes to show that pop music and cash have the power to make even stranger bedfellows than politics.

June is America’s month for weddings, and were we so inclined, we could bemoan Limbaugh, an idol to the family-values crowd, for marrying a woman barely half his age. Alternatively, we could lament Al and Tipper Gore’s divorce, which has produced so many cries of shock you’d think they were the toy bride and groom atop a wedding cake rather than actual flesh-and-blood people capable of free will. But let’s refrain from such moralistic hand-wringing. The old truth remains: We never know what goes on in anyone else’s marriage, and it’s none of our business. Here’s a toast to happiness for the Gores and Limbaughs alike, wherever life takes them.

But there is a shadow over marriage in America just the same. The Gores and Limbaughs are free to marry, for better or for worse, and free to enjoy all the rights (and make all the mistakes) that marriage entails. Gay and lesbian couples are still fighting for those rights. That’s why the most significant marital event of June 2010 is the one taking place in San Francisco this Wednesday, when a Federal District Court judge is scheduled to hear the closing arguments in Perry v. Schwarzenegger, the landmark case challenging Proposition 8, California’s same-sex marriage ban. A verdict will soon follow, setting off an appeals process that is likely to land in the Supreme Court, possibly by the 2011-12 term.

When the former Bush v. Gore legal adversaries, Ted Olson and David Boies, teamed up to mount the assault on Prop 8, it was front-page news. But you may not know much about the trial that followed unless you made a point of finding out as it unfolded in January. Their efforts in this case, unlike the 2000 election battle, were denied the essential publicity oxygen of television. The judge had planned to post video of the proceedings daily on YouTube, but the Prop 8 forces won a 5-to-4 Supreme Court ruling to keep cameras out.

Their stated reason for opposing a television record was fear that their witnesses might be harassed. But in the end the Prop 8 defenders mustered only two witnesses, just one of them a controversial culture warrior. That “expert” was David Blankenhorn, president of the so-called Institute for American Values. Blankenhorn holds no degree in such seemingly relevant fields as psychology, psychiatry or sociology. But his pretrial research did include reading a specious treatise by George Rekers, the antigay evangelist now notorious for his recent 10-day European trip with a young male companion procured from And Blankenhorn’s testimony relies on the same sweeping generalization as Rekers — that children raised by two biological parents are so advantaged that all alternatives should be shunned.

What was the unqualified Blankenhorn doing at the Prop 8 trial? Like Rekers, who had a lucrative history of testifying for pay in legal cases attacking gay civil rights, he also profits from his propaganda. Public documents, including tax returns, reveal that Blankenhorn’s institute, financed by such right-wing stalwarts as the Bradley and Scaife foundations, paid him $247,500 in base salary in 2008, the most recent year for which data is available, and another $70,000 to his wife. Not a bad payday for a self-professed arbiter of American marital values who under oath described his sole peer-reviewed academic paper (from the University of Warwick) as “a study of two cabinetmakers’ unions in 19th-century Britain.” That the Prop 8 proponents employed him as their star witness suggests that no actual experts could be found (or rented) to match his disparagement of gay parents.

You can’t blame the Prop 8 advocates for wanting to keep Blankenhorn off camera. Boies demolished him during cross-examination. (Read the transcripts at Another likely motive for opposing cameras at the trial was to shield viewers from the sympathetic gay plaintiffs — ordinary tax-paying Americans whose families, including four children, were often in the courtroom.

Gays are far from the only Americans still facing discrimination, but as Boies said when I interviewed him about the Prop 8 case last week, the ban on same-sex marriage “is the last area in which the state is taking an active role in enforcing discrimination.” And though some — including Elton John, of all people — have claimed that civil unions are tantamount to marriage and remedy marital inequality, that is a canard.

Domestic partnerships and equal economic benefits aren’t antidotes, Boies explains, because as long as gay Americans are denied the same right to marry as everyone else, they are branded as sub-citizens, less equal and less deserving than everyone else. That government-sanctioned stigma inevitably leaves them vulnerable to other slights and discrimination, both subtle and explicit. The damage is particularly acute for children, who must not only wonder why their parents are regarded as defective by the law but must also bear this scarlet letter of inferiority when among their peers.

Boies doesn’t dispute the consensus that the endgame in this case will most likely fall to Anthony Kennedy, the Supreme Court’s reigning swing justice. Kennedy wrote the eloquent majority opinion in Lawrence v. Texas, the ruling that finally ended the criminalization of gay sex in 2003. But where he may come down in Perry v. Schwarzenegger is anybody’s guess.

What fuels Boies’s hope for a just resolution is his faith in America itself. “This country is a culture of equality,” he says. “We’ve got that baked into our collective American soul.” He observes that attitudes continue to change fast on gay rights and that the approval rate for legalizing same-sex marriage — up to 47 percent in a Washington Post poll in February — is far higher than the approval was for interracial marriage (20 percent) even a year after the Supreme Court ruled it legal in 1967.

It’s not news that same-sex marriage is a settled issue for most young people. But the growing adult acceptance of unconventional family models can be found in the phenomenon of “Glee,” the prime-time hit on Rupert Murdoch’s Fox, no less, that unexpectedly became this year’s most watched new scripted series on television for the 18-to-49 demographic. “Glee” recounts the lives of students in a hypercompetitive show choir at an Ohio high school, and it’s addictive for many reasons that have nothing to do with sexual politics. But what’s exceptional is the way it mashes up different kinds of American families from week to week much as it mashes up musical genres ranging from vintage rock to hip-hop to Lady Gaga to show tunes in its performance sequences.

The leading teenage characters in “Glee” have single parents (both widowed), absentee parents and, in one case, two gay dads. The teenagers suffer, struggle and occasionally triumph like any others, but along the way we see how families reconfigured by death, divorce and sexual orientation can be as loving, nurturing and, yes, as dysfunctional as any other. The landscape is recognizable as the country we actually live in. Even if family-values zealots do retain the ability to prevent America from watching the Prop 8 trial, we’re lucky that the era when they could banish a show like “Glee” from network television seems to have passed.

Dramatically enough, “Glee” generated an unexpected real-life story last weekend to match its fictional plots. The Times’s Sunday wedding pages chronicled the Massachusetts same-sex marriage of Jane Lynch, the actress who steals the show as Sue Sylvester, the cheerleading coach who is the students’ comic nemesis. It’s a sunny article until you read that Lynch’s spouse, a clinical psychologist named Lara Embry, had to fight a legal battle to gain visitation rights with her 10-year-old adoptive daughter from a previous relationship. That battle, which Dr. Embry ultimately won, was required by Florida’s draconian laws against gay adoption — laws that were enacted during Anita Bryant’s homophobic crusades of the 1970s and more recently defended in court, for an expert witness fee of $120,000, by the Rev. Rekers of renown.

We’ve come a long way in a short time, but as the Embry case exemplifies, glee for gay people in America still does not match “Glee” on Fox. Until the law catches up to the culture, the collective American soul should find even June’s wedding Champagne a bit flat.

Been Away for a While

Not literally "away," but I stepped back from keeping the blog active for a while. "Busy with work" is only part of it... guess I needed to stop reading so many blogs and breathe for a while. It gets so frustrating reading all of these stories about politicians and community/business leaders acting only in their own interests. (I stopped blogging just before the BP oil spill, so you can only imagine the angina caused when reading of the actions of some BP executives!) The Palins, Limbaughs, Becks, O'Reillys, and their minions were wearing me down. And to be honest, our President has been lackluster as well. (I wasn't expecting a super hero, just a leader; seems what we got was someone following along where ever Congress wanted to go and jumping on the bandwagon at the last minute.)

Anyway, I'll try to pick this up again and see what happens.