Thursday, December 21

Monks Gone Wild

I prefer news reports about cross-dressing Greek monks holding secret drag shows in the seclusion of their monastic retreats over stories about crow-bar wielding monks and brawls over property rights.

This past week rival groups of Greek monks clashed violently over ownership of the Esphigmenou Monastery on Mount Athos, the normally serene and self-governing monastic republic located in northeastern Greece. Apparently, the thousand-year old monastery is occupied by a group of zealots who are hostile to any attempt to improve relations with the Vatican. Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I has repeatedly tried to evict the maverick faction.

The fighting broke out when Bartholomew, who recently met with Pope Benedict at the patriarchal seat in Istanbul, sent a group to seize control of the monastery. Bartholomew’s group tried to force their way in and were met with armed resistance. For centuries Orthodox monasteries in Greece dealt with marauding pirates and brigands, though I don’t know how often they engaged in armed resistance. As a result of this week’s imbroglio, Seven monks were injured and had to be taken by boat to area hospitals.

It’s a sign of too much pent-up sexual energy, if you ask me.

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Tuesday, December 19

Travaglini the Eloquent

Christ, where the hell did Massachusetts Senate President Robert Travaglini (shown left) learn English? Watching The Sopranos? I don’t mean to nit pick, but reading the text of his remarks at last Friday’s press conference with governor elect Deval Patrick made me cringe. After issuing a stern warning to Patrick last week, he threatened to withdraw the legislature’s support of Patrick’s agenda, Travaglini backed down, explaining:

“The relationship between Deval and I is important not only to he and I but to everyone who resides in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts…”

The relationship between Deval and me. You don’t use the nominative case after a preposition. And to whom is it important? Certainly not to he and I, but rather to him and me.

I’ve noticed something of a trend in the erroneous use of the nominative case in instances where the accusative case is required. Ironically, I get the feeling that those who are guilty of butchering the English language in this fashion do so because they feel it makes them sound more intelligent.

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Friday, December 15

A Class of its Own

Although afforded an opportunity by its highest court to allow same-sex couples to marry, New Jersey has chosen instead to pass a civil unions bill for same-sex couples. New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine has stated that he will sign the bill, which was approved yesterday by both houses of the state’s legislature. By stopping short of marriage for same-sex couples, New Jersey has reserved marriage as a special right for heterosexual couples, a move that seems blatantly unconstitutional and discriminatory.

This leaves same-sex couples in New Jersey in a dilemma. By offering something less than full marriage equality, civil unions relegate same-sex couples to second class status; for that reason, perhaps they should be boycotted. On the other hand, many same-sex couples would benefit from the benefits offered by a civil union. I am honestly not sure what I would do in that situation.

I guess I’d pass seeing that I haven’t even taken advantage of my right to marry my same-sex partner here in Massachusetts. Seems kind of futile to me without federal recognition attached to it on account of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). That’s not to belittle the great step forward taken by Massachusetts, which remains in a class of its own as far as marriage equality is concerned.

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Wednesday, December 13

A Piano Should Fall on His Head

It’s been a while since I’ve given out one of my pianos, not because there are fewer assholes in the world, but because I’ve been too busy to bother with them. However, the following little tidbit caught my eye this morning, and when I read about the pastor in question, my first thought was, “a piano should fall on his head.”

It seems that the Reverend Vincent Fields, pastor of Greater Works Ministries in Absecon, New Jersey, used his invocation yesterday morning before the start of New Jersey’s Senate session to engage in some good old fashioned gay bashing. “We curse the spirit that would come to bring about same-sex marriage,” Fields prayed as the senators bowed their heads.

Last week, the New Jersey legislature chose to draft a civil unions bill for same-sex couples in response to an October decision by the state’s highest court, which held that same-sex couples cannot be denied marriage rights. In its decision the court stipulated, however, that it was up to the legislature whether to call the unions “marriages” or something else. The legislature chose something else.

Notwithstanding the New Jersey legislature’s decision to forego same-sex marriage, Reverend Fields felt the need to call upon his wrathful god to curse “the spirit” of same-sex marriage. What spirit is that, exactly? The spirit of tolerance? The spirit of equality? The spirit of inclusion? The spirit of justice? It seems to me that these are the very principles for which (the Historical) Jesus stood.

If the spirit of Jesus can be said to exist today, it is to be found in movements for social justice, just like the movement for equal marriage. If Fields curses that spirit, then he is cursing the spirit of Jesus. I guess that would make him the anti-Christ.

More importantly, I wonder why Fields felt it was appropriate to use an invocation to endorse his own particular brand of religious bigotry. In case you were wondering, that was a rhetorical question to which I already know the answer. The answer is that fundamentalists like Fields have no sense of propriety when it comes to politics. They mix politics and religion like Ted Haggard mixed gay sexcapades and crystal meth.

Reverend Fields is free to invoke from his hellish pulpit a curse upon whatever spirit deemed the enemy du jour by his blackened, hate-filled heart. What he may not do, however, is take advantage of an invitation to make what was supposed to be a non-sectarian invocation in order to champion his personal religious views within the halls of government.

Another piano should fall on the head of whatever imbecile invited Fields to make the invocation in the first place. Perhaps it’s time to rethink the whole invocation before a legislative session thing, no?

Thursday, December 7

More News from New Jersey

I really don’t know what New Jersey’s highest court expected would happen when they opened the door for the state’s lawmakers to draft a bill creating civil unions for same-sex couples as an alternative to marriage. Back in October, the court held that same-sex couples could not be denied marriage rights, but left it up to the legislature to decide whether marriage or civil unions would be the final product, declaring that “[t]he name to be given to the statutory scheme that provides full rights and benefits to same-sex couples, whether marriage or some other term, is a matter left to the democratic process.”

Fearing the backlash that has occurred in Massachusetts, the New Jersey legislature has chosen the same course chosen by the Vermont legislature when it found itself in a similar situation following Baker v. Vermont, which said that the state could not deny the benefits of marriage to same-sex couples, but left it up to the legislature to decide how to proceed around this thorny issue.

Predictably, New Jersey lawmakers have chosen a compromise bill that satisfies neither the GLBT community nor social conservatives opposed to any validation of same-sex couples, however half-assed. The only difference is that back in 2000, most people hailed Vermont’s civil union bill as a victory. That was before Massachusetts chose to extend marriage rights to same-sex couples. In the aftermath of that historic decision, civil unions pale by comparison.

Many are tired of hearing it, but it needs to be repeated: the name matters. It simply won’t work to set up two separate institutions, one of which is recognized at the federal level, the other of which is not. To be sure, even if the New Jersey legislature chose to extend marriage rights—and called it marriage—to same-sex couples, the federal government would not be required to recognize those marriages.

However, a same-sex marriage coming out of New Jersey, like a same-sex marriage coming out of Massachusetts stands a much better chance of challenging the 1996 federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in federal court. Two people united by a civil union are arguably much less likely to be granted standing in a challenge to DOMA because civil unions do not exist at the federal level. I would be curious as to whether (non-homophobic) legal experts agree with me on that. I welcome correction if I am wrong in my assessment.

Perhaps both New Jersey’s highest court and its legislature felt that civil unions would create a more manageable uproar than same-sex marriage. Right now, that remains to be seen. The proposed bill has angered both sides. I myself would like to applaud civil unions as a step forward, but my heart just isn’t in it. By reserving marriage as a special right for straight couples, New Jersey is offering same-sex couples prejudice masquerading as progress.

Monday, December 4

Aw, geez…

Photobucket - Video and Image HostingMassachusetts lame (duck) governor Mitt Romney has announced a new policy that will authorize state police to arrest illegal immigrants. But only after they’ve finished cutting his lawn.

It was revealed last week that a local landscaping firm that Romney used for about 8 years to manicure the lawn at his Belmont home hired illegal immigrants as laborers. Romney never bothered to ask the company’s owner about the status of the Spanish-speaking workers, though he did occasionally greet them with a cheerful “Buenos dias!”

The Boston Globe tracked down four of the company’s workers, all of whom worked on Romney’s property. The workers said they were paid in cash at $9 to $10 an hour and sometimes worked 11-hour days, typical of America’s vibrant underground cash-economy of which illegal immigrants are the lifeblood. Although the Globe was able to confirm that three of the four were in the United States illegally, Ricardo Saenz, the owner of the Chelsea-based company, Community Lawn Service with a Heart, maintains that all of his workers are legal.

When asked by reporters if he screened his workers to verify their status, Saenz said he had never requested any proof from his employees to show they are here legally: “I don’t need to tell them to show me documents,” he explained. “I know who they are, and they are legal.” Community Lawn Service also provides landscaping for a Massachusetts Port Authority property in Revere and public school grounds in Chelsea.

Romney was hosting the Republican Governors Association conference in Miami last Thursday when he was asked by a reporter about his use of Community Lawn Service with a Heart. He uttered, “Aw, geez,” and then walked away. He later claimed to have been unaware that the workers were in the United States illegally.

During the summer, a state trooper posted outside Romney’s home is reported to have asked to see the papers of one of the workers he suspected of being illegal, but Saenz explained that he’d left the worker’s papers at the office. The trooper never inquired again, but Romney’s new policy would have allowed the trooper to arrest the worker on the spot for a suspected immigration violation.

Personally, I was not at all surprised to learn that Romney has been hiring illegals on the cheap while simultaneously grandstanding about the need for stricter border controls. This is classic American conservatism at its cruelest: Exploit the labor of the poor and desperate while depriving them of the rights and protections afforded citizens.

I have no doubt whatsoever that there are hundreds of thousands of Romneys who rant and rave about the need to curb the flow of dark-skinned illegals into the United States while their houses are being painted, their lawns are being cut, and their children are being cared for by those same illegals who work longer hours for lower wages. That has always been the irony of the immigration issue. Moreover, this is a type of hypocrisy with which the conservative Right is very familiar: Condemn publicly what you engage in privately.

The new agreement spearheaded by Romney between Massachusetts and federal immigration officials authorizes state troopers to arrest suspected illegal immigrants after an encounter as routine as a traffic stop. Governor-elect Deval Patrick has vowed to review the policy carefully. In the meantime, Mitt, you got some splainin’ to do…
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