Friday, June 30, 2006

Another Good Letter on Gay Marriage

The Argus Leader has had a lot of great letters this week dealing with the gay marriage issue. This is the most recent:
In response to Rick D. Greb's letter (June 11), maybe judges have "taken it upon themselves to overturn marriage laws or amendments," because said laws and amendments are unconstitutional.

I am a Christian and a member of the ELCA Church, and I wholeheartedly agree with Sen. Tim Johnson in opposing any amendment that would bar any loving couple from getting married - gay, lesbian or otherwise.

Singling out a segment of our society and banning them from marriage is essentially writing discrimination into the U.S. Constitution.

By passing a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, are you not saying that gay and lesbian citizens are lesser than you and they are not entitled to the same pursuit of happiness that you are? I personally don't care if somebody marries a toaster oven; it doesn't affect me in the least and doesn't lessen the marriage to my wonderful wife one bit.

There is no reason to fear; you cannot catch "gayness." However, if you can find some way at catch some compassion and understanding, it may do you, our community and our country some good. Who knows, an amendment to the Constitution that singles you out could be next.

- Matthew C. Douglas


Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Why SD Teachers Need a Pay Increase

Here's a great reason why teachers in South Dakota need to be paid a lot more: They have to buy classroom supplies with their own money. Most K-5 teachers have to buy their own supplies for their class because the school doesn't supply them. Most of the teachers are forced to spend 50% (in some cases I've heard it as high as 80%) of their income on those supplies.

So SD teachers are already getting paid very little, but they are also forced to spend that little income on their class. Some schools might help the teachers out, but they have no money to spare.

So... why aren't we paying teachers adequately?

Monday, June 26, 2006

"Pro-Life" or Pro-Death Penalty: Pick One

It amuses me that some conservatives who claim to be "pro-life" also support the death penalty. How can that be possible? Isn't that a huge contradiction?

You'd think so.

Two Good Letters in Argus About Gay Marriage

In Sunday's Argus Leader, there were two great letters. They are so good that I'm just going to post them without comment.

Same-Sex Marriage

All the to-and-fro regarding the issue of an amendment to the Constitution that would ban same-sex marriage prompts one to ask a simple question of those who, as obvious political posturing, so vocally support it.

Why are they so mean?

"Do unto others as you would have them do unto you" is a universal principle underpinning all ethical systems. This principle, in many forms, is found throughout the human experience. It is pre-Christian, pre-religion, pre-history. And yet they would support writing into the U.S. Constitution an amendment of little practical value that would deny to a minority of U.S. citizens rights you appear to enjoy.

- J.A. Murphy

Gay Marriage

I don't understand the controversy over gay marriage.

The First Amendment clearly states the freedom of religion. I'm sure that several million gay people in this country believe that their religious belief allows them to marry the one person that they love.

God made me and made me gay just as he made you straight, and I don't see any differences between us.

Gay marriage is coming to the ballot in South Dakota. I don't believe that our state is full of bigots and haters. I do know, however, that we do have many moral-religious activists that got it in their heads that I cannot be or express who I am as God made me. I pray to God just as you, I take communion just as you, and am thankful every day just as you.

Marriage between a man and a woman does not need protecting. Heterosexuals will always be allowed to marry. By allowing gays equal rights, and allowing them the right to marry, we not only uphold the provisions in the Constitution but our religious beliefs, as well.

Ever take time to talk to a gay person? How about that distant cousin or your niece? You may be surprised at what you find.

- Bruce J. Scott

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Leaked Memo on Life in Iraq... It Still Sucks

The U.S. Ambassador to Iraq sent out a confidential memo about the current conditions in Iraq. It paints a picture that is much different than what we've been told by President Bush lately.

You can read the entire text from that memo here.

The situation in Iraq seems to be getting worse, and it's fueled by our continued presence there. Iraqis who work in the U.S. Embassy live in fear of being hurt or killed. From the memo:
Security Forces Mistrusted

11. In April, employees began reporting a change in demeanor of guards at the Green Zone checkpoints. They seemed to be militialike, in some cases seemingly taunting. One employee asked us to get her some press credentials because the guards held her embassy badge up and proclaimed loudly to passers-by "embassy" as she entered. Such information is a death sentence if heard by the wrong people.

Supervising Staff At High Risk

12. Employees all share a common tale: of nine employees in March, only four had family members who knew they worked at the embassy. Iraqi colleagues who are called after hours often speak in Arabic as an indication they cannot speak openly in English.

13. We cannot call employees in on weekends or holidays without blowing their "cover." A Sunni Arab female employee tells us family pressures and the inability to share details of her employment is very tough; she told her family she was in Jordan when we sent her on training to the U.S.

Mounting criticism of the U.S. at home among family members also makes her life difficult. She told us in mid-June that most of her family believes the U.S. -- which is widely perceived as fully controlling the country and tolerating the malaise -- is punishing the population as Saddam did (but with Sunnis and very poor Shia now at the bottom of the list). Otherwise, she says, the allocation of power and security would not be so arbitrary.

14. Some of our staff do not take home their American cell phones, as it makes them a target. They use code names for friends and colleagues and contacts entered into Iraq cell phones. For at least six months, we have not been able to use any local staff for translation at on-camera press events.

15. We have begun shredding documents that show local staff surnames. In March, a few members approached us to ask what provisions would we make for them if we evacuate.
And human rights are disappearing:
Women's Rights

2. Two of our three female employees report stepped up harassment beginning in mid-May. One, a Shia who favors Western clothing, was advised by an unknown woman in her Baghdad neighborhood to wear a veil and not to drive her own car. She said some groups are pushing women to cover even their face, a step not taken in Iran even at its most conservative.

3. Another, a Sunni, said people in her neighborhood are harassing women and telling them to cover up and stop using cell phones. She said the taxi driver who brings her every day to the Green Zone has told her he cannot let her ride unless she wears a headcover. A female in the PAS cultural section is now wearing a full abaya after receiving direct threats.

4. The women say they cannot identify the groups pressuring them. The cautions come from other women, sometimes from men who could be Sunni or Shia, but appear conservative. Some ministries, notably the Sadrist-controlled Ministry of Transportation, have been forcing females to wear the hijab at work.

Dress Code For All?

5. Staff members have reported it is now dangerous for men to wear shorts in public; they no longer allow their children to play outside in shorts. People who wear jeans in public have come under attack.
The situation in Iraq doesn't look to be improving at all.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Ten Commandments on Colbert Report

On last night's Colbert Report, Stephen Colbert interviewed U.S. Rep. Lynn Westmoreland from Georgia's 8th District. He has co-sponsored a bill to display the Ten Commandments in public buildings like the House and Senate.

When Colbert brought it up, he asked the congressman if there was a better place to display the Ten Commandments besides government buildings. You'd think the first thing that would come to mind would be "church," but Rep. Westmoreland couldn't think of anything.

And then Colbert asked a toughy. He asked Rep. Westmoreland to name all ten of the commandments. He got three of the basic ones (don't kill, don't steal and don't lie) but couldn't think of any others.

Maybe Rep. Westmoreland wants the Ten Commandments displayed everywhere so he can find out what they actually are?

They'll probably put the video of that interview up here soon.


How many failed opt-outs is it going to take to make our state legislators realize they aren't giving enough money to our schools?

Garretson already tried an opt-out once. When that failed, they had to cut programs and teachers. And now they are forced to cut even more.

Wake up South Dakota legislators! No price should be too high for out kids' education. If it takes new senators, house members and a new governor to realize this... then so be it.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Bush Thinks He and the GOP are "Forward-Thinking"

Let us all laugh at the absurdity:
"I believe we're going to hold the House and the Senate because our philosophy is one that is forward-looking and optimistic and has worked," Bush told reporters at a White House news conference.

I also have a problem with him thinking the GOP's philosophy is optimistic and whether or not it has ever worked, but I want to focus on the "forward-thinking" part.

What exactly has he or any Republican done lately that is forward-thinking?

Iraq? The results of the war so far has shown that almost no forward-thinking was done. Did President Bush and his administration think about what would happen after they toppled Saddam's dictatorship? Not from what we can see. It seems like they only thought up to a certain point and now are making things up as they go.

No Child Left Behind? This was created because it made it sound like President Bush cared about improving education without actually having to improve education. And by creating this without giving it any money, they've pretty much screwed over ever school in the country. I doubt they ever thought about how this new policy would actually affect schools.

The Gay Marriage Ban Amendment? Nope. This is pretty much a backward-thinking, hurtful piece of legislation. Thank God it didn't go anywhere.

Immigration? Aside from John McCain, I don't think most Republicans have thought this issue through. What exactly is the point of alienating illegal immigrants and, in the process, legal immigrants as well? I think we'll see a lot of Mexican-American Republicans vote Democrat in the upcoming elections.

And I could go on and on. My point is that the Republicans are not the party of forward-thinkers. They've shown this countless times with... pretty much everything they've done.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Do Conservatives Even Care About Gay Marriage?

I've read a lot of arguments opposing gay marriage in the last couple of weeks. What strikes me as funny is that a lot of the conservatives who argue against gay marriage hardly ever mentioned gay marriage. Most of the arguments I read talked about preventing the legalization of incest, polygamy, pedophilia, beastiality and so on. They seem to think legalizing same-sex marriages will automatically lead to the rest. So, it seems to me, that they are hurting homosexuals in committed relationships for no other reason than to prevent completely unrelated things.

So what's the point of banning same-sex marriage at all? Why not just skip the middleman and go after the issues that they really care about? All this does it hurt people for no reason.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Gay Marriage Ban Failed... Again!

The sinking ship that is the Gay Marriage Ban has sunk once again... only to be probably raised once more at a future date (hopefully to then sink again).

The funny thing is, this amendment didn't even get to a true Senate vote. Today's vote was whether or not the Senate should cast a real vote on the amendment. And that couldn't even pass.

Unfortunately, several thick-headed Senators don't seem to be deterred by this latest defeat.

The measure's defeat in the Senate is by no means its last stand, said its supporters.

"I do not believe the sponsors are going to fall back and cry about it," said Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah. "I think they are going to keep bringing it up."

The House plans a redux next month, said Majority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio.

"This is an issue that is of significant importance to many Americans," Boehner told reporters. "We have significant numbers of our members who want a vote on this, so we are going to have a vote."
I was amused by the response Sen. Kennedy got from this quote:

"The Republican leadership is asking us to spend time writing bigotry into the Constitution," said Sen. Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts, which legalized gay marriage in 2003. "A vote for it is a vote against civil unions, against domestic partnership, against all other efforts for states to treat gays and lesbians fairly under the law."

In response, Hatch fumed: "Does he really want to suggest that over half of the United States Senate is a crew of bigots?"

How long do we have to wait for conservatives to realize they are wrong and mean when it comes to this issue?

Friday, June 02, 2006

Haggard Heroes of the Week: Haven Herrin, Jacob Reitan

Haven Herrin and Jacob Reitan, two gay activists, have applied to the National Guard.

ROSEVILLE, Minn. (AP) - Two gay activists applied to serve in the National Guard on Tuesday, saying they hoped to spotlight the unfairness of the military's "don't ask, don't tell" law.

Jacob Reitan and Haven Herrin had expected to be rejected on the spot, and planned a sit-in protest of the law. Instead, their applications were taken and set aside to be processed after a trespassing charge is resolved from an earlier demonstration.

"I'm willing to serve," Reitan said. "I have a right to serve my country."
Haven and Jacob have been in the news a lot lately. They both participated in the Equality Ride this spring. The trespassing charge mentioned in the article was from when the Equality Ride stopped at West Point Military Academy to protest the policy against openly-gay students. It was only one of many arrests they endured in the cause against college discrimination policies.

Those two, plus their friend Ezekiel Montgomery, are my heroes this week for challenging the stupid, mean, discriminatory "Don't ask, don't tell" policy.

Find out more here.

President Bush and Gay Marriage

As reported on A Moderate from South Dakota, President Bush is planning to support the gay marriage ban that will be voted on in the Seante next week.

The funny thing is, even with the President's support, the amendment isn't likely to pass. This just shows that there is no sinking ship that President Bush doesn't love to jump on.