Friday, August 10, 2007

Live Blog of the Logo Debate

It's pretty long, so I wouldn't dream of putting it all here. But, here's a link to it on Huffington Post. I have to admit that it was weird doing the Live Blog. It really reads as if I was watching the debate and commenting on it with friends as it was happening. Quite odd to think that thousands of people are reading what my thoughts were.....

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Q &A with Jonathan Capehart, Panelist for tonight's Logo Presidential Forum

Tonight's Presidential Forum hosted by Logo Network and sponsored by the Human Rights Campaign features Margaret Carlson as the moderator and panelists Joe Solmonese, Melissa Etheridge, and Jonathan Capehart.

I had the opportunity to pose questions to Jonathan Capehart in advance of tonight's event. Mr. Capehart is an editorial page writer for the Washington Post.

if you would like to view tonight's debate, but you don't get Logo Network, you can view live streaming video here. Otherwise, please join us at Huffington Post for liveblogging by myself and News Editor Katharine Zaleski.

Interview with Jonathan Capehart of the Washington Post
Q. What is your background and how did you come to be involved in tonight's Presidential Forum?

A. I've been an editorial writer for about 10 years now. First at the New York Daily News and now at the Washington Post. As a result, I've had to be on top of major issues, including gay and lesbian issues. I'd like to think that because of my past work the organizers sought me out to serve as a panelist.

Q What was the process by which the questions were selected for tonight? Will you have the liberty to answer your own tough questions?

A. There were several brainstorming sessions. We culled thousands of questions that came in via the Internet. I've gotten more than a few questions directly from friends and from folks who heard I was going to be a part of this and just wanted an outlet to make sure their question got a hearing.

Q. Will each candidate receive equal time or will the 'top-tier' candidates receive a greater share of the time?

A. It's all about equal time. This being live television with a hard-and-fast two-hour window, we have to be prepared for anything.

Q. What is the format for the forum?

A. The candidates will come out one by one over the two hours. They'll sit with us for about 15 minutes and then make way for the next candidate. Other than a 2.5 minute break somewhere in the forum, there are no commercial breaks. And everytime they remind us of that I think of that scene from "Valley of the Dolls" when Nellie O'Hara is drunk in the ally screaming about always having to be on: "Sparkle, Nellie! Sparkle!"

Q. In the Washington Blade, you had a comment that said this Forum did not intend to provide any 'gotcha' moments. Some people, including myself are apprehensive that tough questions will be asked. Can you assure us that tonight will challenge candidates to account for their lack of support for full equality for LGBT Americans?

A. Without question, the Democratic Party candidates will be challenged on their views. Unfortunately, the Republican candidates, notably Mitt Romney, John McCain and Rudy Giuliani, didn't accept the invitation to participate.

Q. Trangender Americans are often left out of discourse when discussing LGBT issues. In fact, I'm not sure that a Trangender oriented question has ever been asked in a nationally televised forum. Can we expect them to be represented in tonight's discussion?

A. Absolutely!

Q. Do you have any idea why Joe Biden never committed to attending the Forum or why Chris Dodd cancelled his participation?

A. We were told scheduling conflicts. I suspect Sen. Biden's has to do with his book tour. I'm not sure why Sen. Dodd cancelled exactly.

Q. What do you hope to accomplish tonight with your presence on the panel?

A. This will be one of the first times the candidates will be at a televised forum devoted soley to gay and lesbian issues. My hope is to get them to talk from the heart instead of their talking points, which might be impossible in these highly scripted times. But we'll try.

And yes....the gays do vote

On the L.A. Times blog, Top of the Ticket, Don Frederick reports on a survey done by Community Marking, Inc. in San Francisco. Here's the most pertinent part of the survey and his blog post:

The study this spring by San Francisco-based Community Marketing Inc. found that an eye-popping 92.5% of gay men reported that they voted in the 2004 presidential race, and almost 84% said they cast ballots in the 2006 midterm election. Among lesbians, the results were almost as impressive; nearly 91% said they voted in 2004; for the midterm, the figure was 78%.

By comparison, the Washington-based Committee for the Study of the American Electorate put the turnout for all Americans eligible to vote at about 61% in 2004 and roughly 40% in 2006.

Consider that last statistic for a moment--when matched with the findings by Community Marketing for the '06 contest, the bottom line is a turnout rate among gay men more than twice that for the nation's voters as a whole.

I consider this significant and a little surprising. After all, historically, minority groups that are affected by the lack of recognition by government and the political system vote in lower numbers than the general population. This information warrants the attention of the Political Parties and the Presidential candidates, especially in advance of tonight's Presidential Forum.

Combined with the growing minority population that I referenced in my previous post, candidates are going to have to campaign and court voters in different ways than they ever have before.

Importance of minorities steadily growing

The headline in today's Washington Post highlights the quickly growing population of minorities in America. Here's a snippet about how significant this growth is:

A similar dynamic is occurring nationally, with the Hispanic population growing by 26 percent between 2000 and 2006, from 35 million to 44 million. Demographers said the effect of this growth has been further heightened by the increasing inclination of minorities -- particularly Hispanics -- to move beyond major metropolitan areas in which they have historically concentrated, into suburban, exurban and rural localities.

I don't pretend to be an expert on the immigration issue. In fact, I freely admit that it's one of those issues that I find it difficult to get my head around because it is so complex. However, what I do know is that we've got to find a way to show immigrants that we recognize the value that they add to our economy. At the same time, I think we should acknowledge that any notion that we can possibly begin the deportation of every immigrant who resides in the USA without proper documentation is ill-conceived and impossible.

So far, efforts to find a means to solve this growing crisis have failed. I'll leave it to others to figure out the solution, but please do it soon.

Bush's 'spur of the moment' Presser

President Bush announced a last minute press conference this morning. It's a rarity when he actually appears before reporters to answer questions. I suppose the reason it was last minute was so reporters had little time to prepare for tough questions for the Decider-in-Chief. Of course, that gives him more credit than he deserves because pretty much any question for him is a tough one.

After attempting to move attention away from his miserably failing Presidency, he urged Congress, who isn't even in session, to pass some education initiative to increase American competitiveness in education and trade. Then the questions came.

I was a little distracted working on something else, but I heard a couple things that stood out. For instance, he was asked how he expected to balance the budget, address infrastructure challenges, pay for new proposals, and continue to fund the War. His completely idiotic response had something to do with Congress not having the right priorities. He must have missed the newsflash that all domestic spending would have to be cut 40% in order to balance the budget. This tenuous position is a direct result of nearly $2 trillion in tax cuts since he took office and nearly half a trillion dollars spent on the War in Iraq.

He's also still spouting rhetoric about the War on Terror, aka, Rove's failed attempt at instituting permanent conservative power. He still doesn't get it. It's this rhetoric that has permanently driven his approval rating below 30%. The stunning thing is that Democrats and Moderate Republicans have failed to GET IT also. They have already missed the opportunity to change the direction in Iraq twice. When they return in September, they'll have another opportunity. I suggest they take it or the can expect their approval rating to dive as well.

I wish I could break down the entire press conference for you, but that would take more space than you or I would care to use. Besides, it pretty much sums it up by saying that Bush just continues to be an embarrassment.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

FISA Bill Sucks!

Here is how Democrats should be ALL talking about the FISA Bill just passed by Congress. Briefly, FISA is the 'court' of sorts that the Federal Government is supposed to get approval from in order to wiretap Americans. Of course, the Bush Administration's illegal wiretapping program completely circumvented FISA jurisdiction.

So, this bill was proposed to make it LESS illegal. we've got an Attorney General that lies to Congress and does anything he can to cover up the illegal activities of this Administration. Instead of impeaching him, the Congress gives him MORE latitude in spying on Americans. Unbelievable!!

By the way, that is Darcy Burner talking. She narrowly lost election to the U.S. Congress in 2006. She's taking her energy, plain talking, and progressive ideas on the road once again and will be victorious in 2008. You can support her campaign by donating through Act Blue.

Are we safer since 9/11?

John Edwards has been bringing up the idea that America is not safer since September 11. Hillary completely disagreed with him during the Presidential Forum at the YearlyKos Convention. I think they've both got good reasons for what they are saying, but I also think that Edwards is barking up the wrong tree.

Hillary's point is that we have spent a lot of time and effort providing more training and better equipment to our nation's first responders. She also cites increased security procedures that have been put in place to secure transportation infrastructure and government institutions.

Edwards contends that the rogue foreign policy of the Bush Administration has indeed made America less secure because of the damage done to America's reputation. After all, we have recently been told by the government that Al Qaeda is stronger than ever. This is surely due, in no small part, to increased recruitment in direct response to our reckless Middle East policies.

Like I said, I think they both have valid points. But, herein lies my problem with Edwards position here. He is promoting the same agenda of fear that we've been hearing from the Bush-Cheney-Rove Administration for six and a half years. Frankly, I'm sick of hearing what color the terrorist alert is and I'm sick of Leaders thinking the way to the hearts of voters is through fear.

Edwards is going down a slippery slope on this argument. I'm sure it somehow figures into his strategy to be the anti-establishment, populist candidate. If that's true, then I think they have made a miscalculation that could be very damaging to them in the long run. I'm sure I'm not the only one who is sick of fear being used to motivate votes. Americans are looking for someone who will make them feel good about the future. Edwards is usually pretty good at that, so he needs to drop this whole fear bit. He'll be a better candidate for it.

Live Blogging the Logo Debate

I'll be live blogging the Logo/HRC Presidential Forum tomorrow night. It'll be on the front page of Huffington Post during the debate. Please stop in and see me banter back and forth about the discussion with HuffPo's News Director. The Forum starts at 9pm Eastern time.

It's actually my first time live blogging, so take it easy on me. :)

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Hillary's DOMA Dilemma

Here is a response that Hillary Clinton gave in response to a question posed by Paul Hogarth of BeyondChron during her breakout session at the YearlyKos Convention:

Secondly, DOMA, I believe that DOMA served a very important purpose. I was one of the architects in the strategy against the Marriage Amendment to the constitution, and DOMA gave us a bright line to be able to hold back the votes that were building up to do what I consider to be absolutely abominable and that would be to amend the constitution to enshrine discrimination. I believe marriage should be left to the states. I support civil unions as I’ve said many times with full equality of benefits and so I think that DOMA appropriately put the responsibility in the states where it has historically belonged and I think you’re beginning to see states take action. I think it’s, I think part three of DOMA needs to be repealed because part three stands in the way of the full extension of federal benefits and I support that. So that’s the first.

She pretty much said that banning equal marriage is discrimination, which makes me wonder why she isn't better on issues of equal rights. But, that's a completely different issue.

However, if Hillary supported passage of DOMA then as a means to prevent passage of FMA, then the fact that FMA no longer stands a chance at passage should be taken into account now. Accordingly, she should take her support of repealing parts of DOMA further.

The commerce clause of the United States constitution makes it clear that each of the States shall respect the laws of other States. Accordingly, it wouldn't be a stretch for her to advocate repealing that provision of DOMA.

Recent news articles in Newsweek and the Washington Blade showcase the tremendous support that Hillary is receiving from the LGBT communities around the country.

The question remains with regard to what we are getting for our support. Very little time has been spent addressing LGBT rights during the previous Presidential debates and forums. This Thursday, Logo Network and the Human Rights Campaign will host a forum with the Democratic Presidential candidates. (Joe Biden never committed and Chris Dodd recently canceled.)

Here is a comment which doesn't make me think that any candidate will be pressed towards taking positions in support of our movement toward equal rights.

The purpose of this forum is not to provide gotcha moments, because that doesn’t serve anybody well,” said Jonathan Capehart, a gay Washington Post editorial page writer who will serve as a panelist for the forum.

But you do want to get the candidates talking about these issues in a way that’s human and not overly rehearsed.

I hope the panelists will consider pressing Hillary on this point. Accordingly, I hope Hillary will show the courage to expand her position and show the LGBT community that she is truly willing to fight for equality.

Thoughts on YearlyKos

I just returned yesterday from the 2nd Annual YearlyKos Convention. So, I've had a couple days to digest everything that occurred while I was there. Out of the thousands of moments that transpired, there are a handful that I think bear recounting for their possible impact in the future.

First, this is the last YearlyKos Convention, at least by this name. Next year's gathering will be named Netroots Nation. I'd been given a heads up that this was happening and I think it's incredibly appropriate. Markos Moulitsas was incredibly generous to loan the DailyKos brand to get this project off the ground, but the event is less about Kos and bloggers, per se, than it is about building an entirely new progressive movement -- one that is a collaboration between bloggers, readers, progressive organizations, grassroots organizers, political activists, and anybody else who cares enough to do something to move our country in a progressive direction. I'm glad that the new name will reflect the vast alliance that exists to build this people powered movement.

The Washington Post ran a piece yesterday by Jose Antonio Vargas about the lack of diversity at YearlyKos. It's true. The make-up of the progressive blogosphere is mostly white and mostly men. However, we're collectively working to fix that. KidOakland, a frequent and popular diarist at DailyKos raised enough money to recruit 17 upcoming minority bloggers to attend the conference. He plans to continue his effort to increase minority representation. I intend to do my own effort to increase LGBT representation next year. After all, the event is only two years old and there is a long way we can go in improving lots of things about it.

Hillary Clinton was the subject of lots of speculation. She is notoriously unpopular with the progressive blogosphere. She is the subject of endless posts that are critical of pretty much everything about her. There was an initial situation which caused confusion about whether she would attend a breakout schedule in addition to the Presidential Forum. When it was all said and done, she packed the room. Many people expected there to be boos. (There was a moment of booing, but it was when she proclaimed that she was a Cubs fan. She followed it up with "Hey, I've still got the t-shirt that says 'No Lights at Wrigley', so it was a nice recovery.) Having been an intern at the White House and having encountered her on numerous occasions, I expected her to win many people over. The end result is that she showed herself to be self deprecating, incredibly knowledgeable, and willing to take on some of her harshest critics in the Party. Overall, I'd say she comes out a winner.

The other winner for the weekend would be John Edwards. He solidified his populist credentials by lashing out against Lobbyist cash to campaigns. His challenge to other candidates to stop taking it put Hillary in a very uncomfortable position to defend Washington Lobbyists. I do have to say, however, that I thought this was a disingenuous position for Edwards because I thought he accepted Political Action Committee money. However, his campaign staff has confirmed that he does NOT take PAC money either. While I don't believe taking either kind of money amounts to being a sellout, I think he hit a nerve that many at YK responded to. I've heard about it today on some of the news networks, so he make get some mileage out of it.

I'd have to call the Netroots Movement the biggest winner of the event. I realize that the millions of us who are proud to be a part of this movement achieved a major moment of legitimacy Friday when the Democratic Presidential candidates filed on stage one by one. It was quite a sight to see and incredibly moving for most in the room. The nostalgia, however, quickly turned into a robust exchange of ideas and policy. What transpired was the liveliest exchange between the candidates. Of course, what else would you expect from a bunch of bloggers?

While the official events of the conference were varied and educational, the best action was in the hallways, bars, and atrium between the hotel and the connecting McCormick Convention Center. It was here that acquaintances were made, faces were connected with names, and ideas were hatched to further the goals of the progressive netroots movement.

There is a big question lingering my my mind. In a short time, the Netroots Movement has come to fruition. During the maturation of other movements, there is always a time of frustration between competing factions and philosophy about the direction of the movement. This will be forced upon us as well. I believe that it will be met with enthusiasm and grace. If it isn't, it threatens to destroy something that is very much needed in American political discourse.

I don't think that will happen, but in the meantime, I'll continue to do what I can to advance this movement and help it grow.