Month: November 2008

Anti H8 Protest in Providence

Today I attended the protest against the passage of California’s Prop-8 here in Providence, RI.

It was a decent sized crowd, I’d estimate about 300 people showed up for the event. Ran into a couple of former co-workers at the event. As usual Rich was there and I also saw Tracy too.

Among the more notable attendees were Providence Mayor David Cicilline, State Representative Frank Ferri, State Senator Rhoda Perry, and what appeared to be the entire board of Marriage Equality Rhode Island.

We had a few chants, one where we’d all shout out “I do!” in answer to questions from the MC, then we did a little dialog “What do we want?” and we’d reply “Marriage Equality” and “When do we want it” to which we all answered “Now!”

But there was one part that I recall what was said and what I shouted in reply. One speaker said we’ll see marriage equality in RI within three years. I pointed and shouted “This Year!”

Several people came up and spoke, even a former bigot. So you see, we can change the minds of the bigots. Never let anyone tell you that you can’t change the mind of those with religious motivations either. You can.

One of the high points was when RI Pride’s Rodney Davis broke out in song. He’s pretty good too which made it a definite treat.

I do hope that if we have to repeat this again next year we move it to Cathedral Square. That’s the seat of the opposition against marriage equality, the Roman Catholic Church.

I think the time for conciliatory talking is over and it is time for direct action. If it means leaning on the #3 in the House we need to do so. And I can tell you we should also lean on a certain chairman in the House to come out, come out. I know you’re gay, it’s about time you come out and let people know where you stand.

In Rhode Island the only way the legislature seems to act is if they feel uncomfortable. I say lets make them as uncomfortable as possible. Corner them at fundraisers and in their favorite bars. Let them know we’re not backing down on this.

I see two encouraging bits of news for Rhode Island.

During the Nov. 4 elections, Senate President Joseph Montalbano lost his seat. I say good riddance. The incoming President is M. Theresa Paiva-Weed. I’m not sure where she stands on the marriage equality issue but looking at legislation she’s authored and co-sponsored she seems like someone we might be able to bring onto our side.

The other encouraging news is that the courts aren’t as hostile as we’ve been lead to believe. They’re particularly friendly when Constitutional arguments are used. So I say lets avail ourselves of that option too since we seems to be getting nowhere with the legislature.

Boosting the local economy

So today Keyron and I went to lunch at Tazza. Nice ambiance and the food is fair.

After that we visited the Eno wine shop and picked up a bottle of Berane.

But by far my favorite is Farmstead Lunch.

The thing that stands out about both Eno and Farmstead is the staff at each place. They know their wines and cheeses. And how convenient, they’re right next door to each other.

Then there is Symposium Books. They have a very interesting selection of books and the prices are very good. I picked up a book about NASA and how it’s all politically driven vs. any real science. Should be an interesting read.

It’s nice to see Westminster St. developing again. I sure hope they sustain the business in all those places. I think they will.

Oh Happy Day

This is an historic event, the first time the United States has elected an African-American President.

I imagine that if the Rev. Dr. King were alive today he would be very pleased by this, as am I. I’m pleased for many more reasons though.

This is a total repudiation of the policies and laws from the Bush administration and I am absolutely ecstatic about it. My primary concern was the U.S. Supreme Court.

This is a court that gave us the profit motivated eminent domain in addition to handing the election to Bush & Co. way back in 2000. It’s also a court that has several members that are in their 80’s and ready to retire.

I’d much prefer to have a liberal and open minded judiciary than one that is controlled by neo-con ideologues like Scalia, Alito, Roberts et al. We’re stuck with them for at least 10 or more years but with a Democrat President and Democrats having absolute control in the congress I have no fear that we’ll see any such. I’d honestly like to see my Senator, former AG Sheldon Whitehouse nominated to the Supreme Court.

I haven’t seen anything on Prop 8 in California nor on the other mean spirited measures. I do know that both issues on the RI issue passed.

The first allows the state to take advantage of federal highway funds as well as paying for enhanced commuter rail service.

The other is a perennial ballot question an open space initiative. This takes land off the books for preservation and I wholeheartedly approve.

But congratulations to the Obama team. I’m so happy I didn’t waste the money I donated.

On another note I’m saddened that Californians now have the dubious distinction of being the first state to enshrine hatred and bigotry into their constitution. But there’s hope, apparently a civil lawsuit is in the works because Proposition 8 violates several other parts of the CA constitution.

Even my straight co-workers were disappointed by Prop 8 passing. Surprised the shit out of me.

Too tight

I’m watching the results on the web. It’s looking like we just might be making history this evening.

One thing appears certain, the Democrats now have a solid filibuster proof majority in the Senate and we even have a solid majority in the House too. So even if McSame does manage to get elected, he gets to contend with an unfriendly congress.

But think about it, in my lifetime I’ll have seen a man who identifies as black become President. I think of the speeches given by the Reverend Doctor King and I just choke up. It’s such a shame that King couldn’t be alive to see this.

I just want it to be over, I want to wake up in the morning to the alarm that’s set to the local NPR station and hear “…President Elect Obama..”, it’ll make the last eight years seem like the nightmare that it is.

As it stands the tally of electoral votes is 207 Obama, 135 McCain. Not the landslide I’d imagined, but it’s not over yet. I want McCain and the Rove/Bush policy of the last eight years to be thoroughly discredited.

That reminds me, in one of his final acts as President, the Shrub has actually weakened the Clean Air and Water Act.

I so hope they send UN troops in and on January 20th they escort him from the dais and transport him directly to the Hague for trial on war crimes charges. With any luck it’d be a speedy trial and he’d be executed by hanging.

But for now it’s pins and needles. Last time I felt like this was the 2006 election for Rhode Island governor. I was a volunteer on Democrat Charlie Fogarty’s campaign. I canvassed, did phone bank, stuffed envelopes, worked parade routes, everything in that campaign. To see him lose by only 8,000 votes was heartbreaking. That the people of RI could be so stupid as to re-elect Don Carcieri astounded me.

Political Activism

It finally struck me the other day. A co-worker was a bit agog that I actually KNOW a sitting U.S. Senator, I worked for the guy when he was Attorney General of Rhode Island. So far as I’m concerned, Sheldon Whitehouse is righteous Senator and I’m glad he’s in Washington.

But then I thought back, I am what one would call politically active. Not holding up signs, oh wait, I’ve done that. Damn, I’ve made phone calls, stuffed envelopes, canvassed door to door, emailed my state rep and senators, and the Speaker of the House and President of the Senate, essentially calling them hateful and bigoted assholes.

I’ve testified at a hearing for marriage equality, I’ve created a database of all judicial committee members with their full contact information and shared it with Marriage Equality Rhode Island.

I do this because I am of the firm belief that the politicians should be there to do OUR bidding, not that of the corporations. Can’t remember where I’d seen this but someone compared the U.S. political system to those in France and Germany. They said that in the European countries, governments were actually afraid of the people whereas in the U.S. people were afraid of the government.

My hope is that in my lifetime we see politicians in the U.S. scared of we the people and the enormous force that we can generate for political change.

Look at the Obama campaign, it’s heavily branded, and very well managed. The people on the campaign believe in their candidate and to me that’s a wonderful thing. Look at the fund raising. The vast majority of his donors gave < $200. Then look at McCain and who funded his campaign and the answer is the big oil, banking, and other industries. Who would you rather have, a puppet of big business or a true leader like Obama?

What I find interesting about the Obama campaign is it has used a populist message to tap into the power of the zeitgeist.

For many years I would disaffiliate when I left the polls on primary day but this year I just let it slide. I did it because for the first time in my life, I have some faith in the Democratic party. I still abhor the fact that both parties get a majority of their funding from big business, but I think we may be on the cusp of a major change

What I find interesting is here in little Rhode Island they’re expecting between 500,000 and 700,000 people to vote this election. And most of those people, registered Democrats. Consider RI’s population hovers around a million people. Of that million I’d say maybe 15% are kids who can’t vote so we’re left with 850,000 people. Say 5% of that total cant’ vote because they aren’t citizens, we’re left with 807,500 people. If we get 700,000 votes that means that voter turnout would be close to 90%!

I hope that we’re entered an age of the more politically conscious citizen. But we still have an awful lot of distraction out there. We need everyone to get involved.

Read an interesting bit a couple weeks ago, it said that if newspapers want to survive they have to get hyper-local. Our local rag, the Providence Journal needs to park a dozen or more reporters at the State House.

Then media won’t be a distraction anymore, it’ll be informative. But I fear that the owners of the media can’t see the forest for the trees, and so they’ll just continue down the path of ruin until they spontaneously combust.

As a people we need to dig in, we need to become more fully a part of the political discourse and continuum. Because if we don’t we have no control over our own lives.

Start off gently, write a letter to the editor. Email, phone or visit your state representative and then go up a level to the federal representatives. Participate in a political campaign, donate money to one. Take control.