Saturday, May 30, 2009

Marriage Equality in the U.S.

The LA Times has a nice interactive map of gay marriage rights by state that shows the many changes that have taken place over the past decade or so. Here's how things stood in 2000:

And here's where things stand today:

The scale represents the range of rights denied or afforded to gay couples, from "constitutional amendment ban[ning] gay marriage and other legal rights for gay couples" (dark red) to "domestic partnership legal" (pale green) to "gay marriage legal" (dark green). You can mouse ove states for details. They also have a timeline depicting the various votes, judicial rulings, and other events that have produced the civil rights hodgepodge depicted on this map.

On the face of it, it looks like there's been a lot of movement both for and against legal recognition for gay marriage; while some states have extended full marriage rights, others have retrenched with constitutional amendments banning the same. But I think it makes sense to see these as two sorts of steps that are actually fundamentally moving in the same direction. After all, prior to 2000 or so, marriage equality wasn't really seen as conceivable - not in the foreseeable future, at any rate. But then - possibly because of a genuine sense of a shifting ground in public sentiment - a bunch of states amended their constitutions. This was a defensive move which anticipated the possibility that gay people might be allowed to marry which, like most changes in social institutions, tended to freak out people with more traditionalist orientations. But even though the effect was that a bunch of anti-equality measures got written into law, this was a symptom of a general progressive movement on the issue of gay marriage.

In retrospect, I think you might even say that the big movement earlier this decade to amend state constitutions to explicitly ban gay marriage actually spurred further progressive movement. Those votes - many of which were orchestrated in an effort to get more people to come out and vote Republican in 2004 and 2006 - raised the profile of the issue, certainly, and perhaps placed a veneer of plausibility on the concept of gay marriage. After all, if it was a concept that had to be fought at the ballot box, it must have been a concept that needed to be taken seriously, right? And with several states approving gay marriage this year, following the high-profile loss of gay marriage rights in California last November, I wonder if all the efforts at thwarting gay marriage have just had the net effect of telescoping the timeline of the spread of marriage equality.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Ventura on The View: If waterboarding is fine, why don’t cops do it?

Ventura on The View: If waterboarding is fine, why don’t cops do it?

Former Minnesota Governor Jesse Ventura, making a guest appearance on ABC’s The View, gave co-host Elisabeth Hasselbeck a lesson or two about the torture technique known as waterboarding.

Ventura, who underwent a barrage of torture techniques at the military Survival, Evade, Resist and Escape (SERE) school, confirmed for Hasselbeck that waterboarding is torture and not just an “enhanced interrogation technique.”

“If waterboarding is okay, why don’t we let our police do it to suspects to learn what they know?” he asked to a chorus of applause.

“That’s an interesting question,” Hasselbeck said. “I understand that question.”

“If waterboarding is okay, why didn’t we waterboard [Timothy] McVeigh and [Terry] Nichols, the Oklahoma City bombers, to find out if there were more people involved? What’s your answer to that?” he asked. “We only seem to waterboard Muslims.”

“That’s an extremist statement,” said Hasselbeck.

“Aha!” cheered Ventura. “Have we waterboarded anybody else? Name me someone else we’ve waterboarded.”

She could not, instead shifting focus to Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) who has been criticized by Republicans for a seeming contradiction in disclosing what she knew about then-President Bush’s torture program, and when.

“They want her out because she lied?” asked Ventura. “Why didn’t they ask for Bush and Cheney to go out when they lied about why we went into Iraq?”

This video is from MSNBC’s News Live, broadcast May 18, 2009.

Download video via

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Live NASA video feed


Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Monday, May 04, 2009


Saturday, May 02, 2009

John Dean:Rice may have admitted to conspiracy,

Rice may have admitted to conspiracy, former Nixon counsel says

In little-noticed comments Thursday, the former White House counsel for President Richard Nixon John Dean said Thursday that former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice may have unwittingly admitted to a criminal conspiracy when questioned about torture by a group of student videographers at Stanford.

Rice told students at Stanford that she didn’t authorize torture, she merely forwarded the authorization for it. Dean, who became a poster child for whistleblowing after aiding the prosecution of the Watergate affair, told MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann that Rice may have admitted to a criminal conspiracy.

In a video that surfaced Thursday, Rice said, “The president instructed us that nothing we would do would be outside of our obligation, legal obligations under the convention against torture… I conveyed the authorization of the administration to the agency. And so by definition, if it was authorized by the president, it did not violate our obligations under the Convention Against Torture.” (Video of Rice’s comments appears at the bottom of this article.)

Her comments raised eyebrows from online observers, who compared Rice’s answer to that of Richard Nixon’s infamous quip: “When the President does it, that means that it’s not illegal.”

Dean said he found Rice’s comments “surprising” and put her in a legal mire of possible conspiracy.

“She tried to say she didn’t authorize anything, then proceeded to say she did pass orders along to the CIA to engage in torture if it was legal by the standard of the Department of Justice,” Dean said. “This really puts her right in the middle of a common plan, as it’s known in international law, or a conspiracy, as it’s known in American law, and this indeed is a crime. If it indeed happened the way we think it did happen.”

Asked if the comparison between her comments and Nixon’s were fair, Dean said it was “fuzzy.”

“She was obviously trying to extricate herself and keep herself in a safe distance, that she was only operating under some general guidance of the president making things legal,” he said. “So it’s not clear whether this is a full-throated Nixonian-type defense or whether it’s a lot of confusion of the facts and throwing things up there to try to protect herself.”

“These kinds of statements are going to come back and be interesting to any investigator,” he added.

Olbermann asked Dean whether Obama was violating the Geneva Conventions prohibiting torture himself by refusing to prosecute those responsible.

“He is indeed is in violation if the United States does not undertake investigation of this, or ultimately prosecution, if that’s necessary,” Dean asserted. “It’s not only the Geneva Convention, the Convention Against Torture also requires this. There are no exceptions with torture. There are no real things like “torture light.” The world community I think is going to hold the United States responsible, and if we don’t proceed, somebody is going to proceed.”

This video is from MSNBC’s Countdown, broadcast Apr. 30, 2009.

Download video via

This video is from The Young Turks via YouTube, broadcast Apr. 30, 2009.

Download video via

Several typographical errors have been corrected in this version.