Allison Kilkenny: Unreported

The Culture Warriors Get Laid Off

Posted in Barack Obama, politics, religion by allisonkilkenny on March 15, 2009

Frank Rich

106548196v30_350x350_frontSOMEDAY we’ll learn the whole story of why George W. Bush brushed off that intelligence briefing of Aug. 6, 2001, “Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S.” But surely a big distraction was the major speech he was readying for delivery on Aug. 9, his first prime-time address to the nation. The subject — which Bush hyped as “one of the most profound of our time” — was stem cells. For a presidency in thrall to a thriving religious right (and a presidency incapable of multi-tasking), nothing, not even terrorism, could be more urgent.

When Barack Obama ended the Bush stem-cell policy last week, there were no such overheated theatrics. No oversold prime-time address. No hysteria from politicians, the news media or the public. The family-values dinosaurs that once stalked the earth — Falwell,RobertsonDobson and Reed — are now either dead, retired or disgraced. Their less-famous successors pumped out their pro forma e-mail blasts, but to little avail. The Republican National Committee said nothing whatsoever about Obama’s reversal of Bush stem-cell policy. That’s quite a contrast to 2006, when the party’s wild and crazy (and perhaps transitory) new chairman, Michael Steele, likened embryonic stem-cell research to Nazi medical experiments during his failed Senate campaign.

What has happened between 2001 and 2009 to so radically change the cultural climate? Here, at last, is one piece of good news in our global economic meltdown: Americans have less and less patience for the intrusive and divisive moral scolds who thrived in the bubbles of the Clinton and Bush years. Culture wars are a luxury the country — the G.O.P. included — can no longer afford.

Not only was Obama’s stem-cell decree an anticlimactic blip in the news, but so was his earlier reversal of Bush restrictions on the use of federal money by organizations offering abortions overseas. When the administration tardily ends “don’t ask, don’t tell,” you can bet that this action, too, will be greeted by more yawns than howls.

Once again, both the president and the country are following New Deal-era precedent. In the 1920s boom, the reigning moral crusade was Prohibition, and it packed so much political muscle that F.D.R. didn’t oppose it. The Anti-Saloon League was the Moral Majority of its day, the vanguard of a powerful fundamentalist movement that pushed anti-evolution legislation as vehemently as it did its war on booze. (The Scopes “monkey trial” was in 1925.) But the political standing of this crowd crashed along with the stock market. Roosevelt shrewdly came down on the side of “the wets” in his presidential campaign, leaving Hoover to drown with “the dries.”

Much as Obama repealed the Bush restrictions on abortion and stem-cell research shortly after pushing through his stimulus package, so F.D.R. jump-started the repeal of Prohibition by asking Congress to legalize beer and wine just days after his March 1933 inauguration and declaration of a bank holiday. As Michael A. Lerner writes in his fascinating 2007 book “Dry Manhattan,” Roosevelt’s stance reassured many Americans that they would have a president “who not only cared about their economic well-being” but who also understood their desire to be liberated from “the intrusion of the state into their private lives.” Having lost plenty in the Depression, the public did not want to surrender any more freedoms to the noisy minority that had shut down the nation’s saloons.

In our own hard times, the former moral “majority” has been downsized to more of a minority than ever. Polling shows that nearly 60 percent of Americans agree with ending Bush restrictions on stem-cell research (a Washington Post/ABC News survey in January); that 55 percent endorse either gay civil unions or same-sex marriage (Newsweek, December 2008); and that 75 percent believe openly gay Americans should serve in the military (Post/ABC, July 2008). Even the old indecency wars have subsided. When a federal court last year struck down the F.C.C. fine against CBS for Janet Jackson’s “wardrobe malfunction” at the 2004 Super Bowl, few Americans either noticed or cared about the latest twist in what had once been a national cause célèbre.

It’s not hard to see why Eric Cantor, the conservative House firebrand who is vehemently opposed to stem-cell research, was disinclined to linger on the subject when asked about it on CNN last Sunday. He instead accused the White House of acting on stem cells as a ploy to distract from the economy. “Let’s take care of business first,” he said. “People are out of jobs.” (On this, he’s joining us late, but better late than never.)

Even were the public still in the mood for fiery invective about family values, the G.O.P. has long since lost any authority to lead the charge. The current Democratic president and his family are exemplars of precisely the Eisenhower-era squareness — albeit refurbished by feminism — that the Republicans often preached but rarely practiced. Obama actually walks the walk. As the former Bush speechwriter David Frum recently wrote, the new president is an “apparently devoted husband and father” whose worst vice is “an occasional cigarette.”

Frum was contrasting Obama to his own party’s star attraction, Rush Limbaugh, whose “history of drug dependency” and “tangled marital history” make him “a walking stereotype of self-indulgence.” Indeed, the two top candidates for leader of the post-Bush G.O.P, Rush and Newt, have six marriages between them. The party that once declared war on unmarried welfare moms, homosexual “recruiters” and Bill Clinton’s private life has been rebranded by Mark FoleyLarry CraigDavid Vitter and the irrepressible Palins. Even before the economy tanked, Americans had more faith in medical researchers using discarded embryos to battle Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s than in Washington politicians making ad hoc medical decisions for Terri Schiavo.

What’s been revealing about watching conservatives debate their fate since their Election Day Waterloo is how, the occasional Frum excepted, so many of them don’t want to confront the obsolescence of culture wars as a political crutch. They’d rather, like Cantor, just change the subject — much as they avoid talking about Bush and avoid reckoning with the doomed demographics of the G.O.P.’s old white male base. To recognize all these failings would be to confront why a once-national party can now be tucked into the Bible Belt.

The religious right is even more in denial than the Republicans. When Obama nominated Kathleen Sebelius, the Roman Catholic Kansas governor who supports abortion rights, as his secretary of health and human services, Tony Perkins, the leader of the Family Research Council, became nearly as apoplectic as the other Tony Perkins playing Norman Bates. “If Republicans won’t take a stand now, when will they?” the godly Perkins thundered online. But Congressional Republicans ignored him, sending out (at most) tepid press releases of complaint, much as they did in response to Obama’s stem-cell order. The two antiabortion Kansas Republicans in the Senate, Sam Brownback and Pat Roberts, both endorsed Sebelius.

Perkins is now praying that economic failure will be a stimulus for his family-values business. “As the economy goes downward,” he has theorized, “I think people are going to be driven to religion.” Wrong again. The latest American Religious Identification Survey, published last week, found that most faiths have lost ground since 1990 and that the fastest-growing religious choice is “None,” up from 8 percent to 15 percent (which makes it larger than all denominations except Roman Catholics and Baptists). Another highly regarded poll, the General Social Survey, had an even more startling finding in its preliminary 2008 data released this month: Twice as many Americans have a “great deal” of confidence in the scientific community as do in organized religion. How the almighty has fallen: organized religion is in a dead heat with banks and financial institutions on the confidence scale.

This, too, is a replay of the Great Depression. “One might have expected that in such a crisis great numbers of these people would have turned to the consolations of and inspirations of religion,” wrote Frederick Lewis Allen in “Since Yesterday,” his history of the 1930s published in 1940. But that did not happen: “The long slow retreat of the churches into less and less significance in the life of the country, and even in the lives of the majority of their members, continued almost unabated.”

The new American faith, Allen wrote, was the “secular religion of social consciousness.” It took the form of campaigns for economic and social justice — as exemplified by the New Deal and those movements that challenged it from both the left and the right. It’s too early in our crisis and too early in the new administration to know whether this decade will so closely replicate the 1930s, but so far Obama has far more moral authority than any religious leader in America with the possible exception of his sometime ally, the Rev. Rick Warren.

History is cyclical, and it would be foolhardy to assume that the culture wars will never return. But after the humiliations of the Scopes trial and the repeal of Prohibition, it did take a good four decades for the religious right to begin its comeback in the 1970s. In our tough times, when any happy news can be counted as a miracle, a 40-year exodus for these ayatollahs can pass for an answer to America’s prayers.

Drunken Politics: Gay is the New Black

Posted in Uncategorized by allisonkilkenny on December 3, 2008

Allison and Jamie talk about race, gay rights, Ann Coulter’s jaw and how apparently “Gay is the new Black”. 

Enjoy it, it’s Drunken Politics on BreakThru Radio. Check back at Breakthru Radio every Wednesday to hear new episodes of Drunken Politics.

Drunken Politics: myspace.com/drunkenpoliticsradio.

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Velvet Revolution Calls on CA Secretary of State to Investigate Prop 8 Vote

Posted in Uncategorized by allisonkilkenny on November 23, 2008
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Offers $100K reward for information leading to arrest and conviction re: rigging of Prop 8

Voters are asked to submit complaints by Monday, November 24, if possible.

When a government runs our elections on electronic voting systems that are known to be riggable and hackable, systems that repeatedly fail to record and report election results correctly (see Diebold Admits Their Tabulator Software Doesn’t Count Votes Correctly and ES&S Op-Scans ‘Yielding Different Results Each Time Same Ballots Run Through Machines’ in MI County for examples), the public has good reason to be skeptical of the announced results.

And so it is with Proposition 8, the California initiative revoking marriage equality that was announced to have passed in the November 4 election. We support the lawsuits challenging Prop 8 on legal grounds. We simultaneously call for Secretary of State Debra Bowen to initiate an investigation into the results of the Proposition 8 election, based on concerns raised by voters, election monitors and election integrity advocates.

In order for Bowen to investigate problems that may have affected the outcome of Proposition 8 or other election results, her office must receive Election Complaint Forms from California registered voters as soon as possible. Final election returns are to be submitted by December 9th and the results will be certified on December 13th. Similar complaints may be combined in a joint investigation. The more personally-witnessed and well-documented complaints we can get to her, the better.

We ask that anyone who has bona fide information relevant to such an investigation submit it to Debra Bowen’s office by Monday, November 24, 2008 if at all possible, so that an investigation can be launched immediately. Complaints about individuals’ experiences while voting or monitoring the election are encouraged. Please use the official complaint form, which is available for download in several languages, and follow the outlined procedure. See below for more information about submitting complaints. If you cannot submit your complaint by Monday, November 24, please submit it as soon after that date as possible.

Please email a copy of the complaint to us as well at info(at)StandingForVoters.org. (StandingForVoters.org is a project of Velvet Revolution.)

Of course, we also encourage people to submit complaints to their local and state elections officials about any election irregularities they can document, regardless of where they occur or which campaign or issue they may favor. We the People demand accountability in our elections systems and a true basis for confidence in the election results.

In addition to the new reward being offered in the Proposition 8 race, Velvet Revolution is also offering rewards related to Mike Connell’s election manipulations, the break-ins at ACORN’s offices in Massachusetts and Washington state, and the 2002 Georgia Senate race in which Saxby Chambliss prevailed. Chambliss is currently fighting to retain that Senate seat in a runoff election to be held December 2. Velvet Revolution’s tipline for election fraud whistleblowers can be reached at 1-888-VOTE-TIP.

HOW TO SUBMIT AN ELECTION COMPLAINT FORM:

It can be mailed to:
SECRETARY OF STATE’S OFFICE
ELECTION FRAUD INVESTIGATION UNIT
1500-11th STREET, 5th Floor
Sacramento, CA 95814
OR
  • You can scan the completed form and supporting documents and email them to:
secretary.bowen@sos.ca.gov and elections@sos.ca.gov (Please remember to send a copy to us as well, as above.)
OR
  • You can call in a complaint at one of the following:
English: 1-800-345-VOTE (8683)
Spanish: 1-800-232-VOTA (8682)

The SoS legal staff recommends casting the widest net possible in the section “PERSONS OR ORGANIZATIONS AGAINST WHOM THE COMPLAINT IS BROUGHT,” i.e., anyone and everyone who could be liable, responsible or accountable for or otherwise involved in elections results.

EXAMPLE: All companies whose election systems are used in the State of California including but not limited to ES&S, Sequoia, Hart Intercivic, and Premier Election Solutions (aka Diebold); all elections officials and elections personnel of the State of California, including the Secretary of State’s Office, all County Registrars’ Offices and their staffs including temporary poll-workers; National Exit Polls (aka Edison/Mitofsky); CNN.

If you want your complaint to also be reviewed under HAVA regulations such as “HAVA Title III-Subtitle A-Requirements. SEC. 301.VOTING SYSTEM STANDARDS (a) (5) “The error rate of the voting system in counting ballots…” you must also include the second page of the form notarizing your signature. 

Blogged by Emily Levy 11/22/08

Gay Marriage in Peril in California

Posted in Uncategorized by allisonkilkenny on October 22, 2008

Wall Street Journal

A state ballot measure to ban gay marriage in California is gaining momentum, with polls showing almost even odds of it passing after trailing by double digits a month ago.

Prop8In June, the state legalized same-sex marriages. The next month, Proposition 8, defining marriage as between a man and a woman, was put on the ballot for November. Initial polling showed that a majority of Californians were likely to vote against Proposition 8. A Sept. 18 poll by the San Francisco-based Field Poll found the measure losing 55% to 38% among likely voters.

But now the measure is favored 48% to 45% among likely voters questioned in an Oct. 17 poll by Survey USA of Verona, N.J. The poll’s margin of error, four percentage points, means the results were a statistical tie.

A group leading the fight against the measure, Equality for All, said this week that one of its internal polls shows Proposition 8 leading by four percentage points. The close results of that poll, too, may suggest a dead heat as the Nov. 4 election approaches.

“The outcome will be close because Californians are evenly divided on gay marriage,” said Mark Baldassare, chief executive of the nonpartisan Public Policy Institute of California in San Francisco. A new poll by the institute, due out late Wednesday, is expected to show a tight race. The measure needs a simple majority vote to pass.

Proposition 8 was initiated after the state’s Supreme Court said in May that a ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional, paving the way for the legalization of gay marriage in California starting June 17. Same-sex marriages are also legal in Massachusetts and Connecticut.

The issue has come up in the presidential campaign, with Republican Sen. John McCain’s running mate, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, suggesting this week that she would support a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage nationwide. The outcome of California’s battle could affect whether states move to recognize gay marriages.

Supporters of Proposition 8 have gained ground by capitalizing on their opponents’ missteps. They have been running a television ad for several weeks that shows San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom delivering a boisterous response to a throng of supporters after the state Supreme Court ruling. “The door’s wide open now. It’s going to happen, whether you like it or not,” the Democratic mayor says loudly.

“Gavin Newsom has been a great player on our team,” said Sonja Eddings Brown, spokeswoman for Protect Marriage California, a group that has been leading the “Yes on 8” campaign.

Pollsters say that fueling the rise in support for Proposition 8 is an advertising blitz heavily bankrolled by the Mormon Church, which suggests, among other things, that if Proposition 8 doesn’t pass then schoolchildren will be indoctrinated about gay marriage.

Between 30% and 40% of the $25.5 million in donations raised as of last week by the “Yes” campaign has come from the Utah-based Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, supporters of the measure say. “Yes” campaigners say the Mormons are just one of many religious groups that support the ban.

Officials in San Francisco — a national pioneer in recognizing gay marriages — have come out strongly against the Mormon Church’s campaign. “This is a blood feud on their part,” said Therese Stewart, chief deputy city attorney of San Francisco.

[Marriage]

A Mormon Church spokesman said it is acting only as a part of a broad coalition of groups opposed to gay marriage. “The campaign has had the support of over 60,000 individual contributors, the majority of which are not Mormons,” Mormon spokesman Michael Purdy said in a statement. Mormon leaders, on the church’s official Web site, ask their followers to support the California ballot measure to reinforce church teachings that “marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God.”

Proposition 8 opponents are scrambling to turn back the tide. They have raised about $20 million by enlisting powerful allies such as the state teachers and nurses unions. The “No” campaign also is unleashing its own attack ads. “Unfair, Unnecessary, and Wrong,” says one new ad, which calls attention to a wave of newspaper, union and other endorsements against the measure.

Proposition 8 draws its heaviest support in Republican strongholds such as the Central Valley and Inland Empire of Southern California, according to recent polls. Its biggest opposition is coming from Democratic bastions such as San Francisco and Los Angeles along the coast.

But two Democratic constituencies — African-Americans and Latinos — are leaning toward the ban. Among likely black voters, 58% supported Proposition 8 compared with 38% who opposed it in the most recent Survey USA poll. Among Latinos, 47% supported the proposition while 41% opposed it; white voters were nearly evenly split. The reason, “Yes” officials say, is that church attendance is strong in many minority communities.

As a result, both sides are lobbying to corral votes in minority neighborhoods. Tuesday, for instance, African-American leaders in Oakland and Los Angeles held news conferences opposing the ban. The same day, other African-American leaders in those cities came out in support of Proposition 8.

Write to Jim Carlton at jim.carlton@wsj.com