March 2009

Not many of us liberals are acquainted with the Log Cabin organization. More than just a coalition aimed at promoting eco-friendly houses, Log Cabin is an organization of gay and lesbian Republicans surviving within the GOP – think of a closet from which a handful of pearls and blue ties-wearing people would try to speak and participate into the conversation. It’s sad, but it exists, and right now, the Log Cabin members are suddenly feeling like someone is trying to put a padlock on the door.

My friend Rachael told me yesterday that “gay Republicans are like feminist Palin voters – it just doesn’t make any sense”. It does defy the rules of logic, but it still exists, and has to be addressed. The Log Cabin mission statement explains that they are “the nation’s only organization of Republicans who support fairness, freedom, and equality for gay and lesbian Americans.” The keyword here is “only”, as they are painfully aware that no other place will ever be given to them. Insisting on the fact they are “loyal” Republicans, it feels like the Log Cabin members are constantly under the gun and forced to justify their political beliefs, in appearance so far away from the social agenda Republicans have been enforcing during their years in office. It can sure feel awkward to show up with your lifelong partner at the Republican National Convention while Ann Coulter is speaking.  A little like cabin fever maybe? For several former Log Cabin policy directors and current Republican officials, the cabin is staying a little too isolated from civilization and failing to take the matters into its own proverbial hands: exposure is lacking, while gay Republicans are wondering if they will still have a place – and a membership card – the day after. What Log Cabin intends to do, still according to their website, is to “change the hearts and minds” across the board and act as a buffer between the Republican Party and the lesbian/gay community (we noticed they safely set the bisexuals and transgendered out of their discourse, perhaps out of republican political correctness). They set to “educate” (in their own words) mainstream Republicans in the gay and lesbian world, and extend a conservative hand towards members of the gay and lesbian community to spread the word that not just Democrats can be inclusive. However, it feels like Log Cabin is being a victim of its own politics: rejected on both sides.

from the Log Cabin website: as long as there is hope...

from the Log Cabin website: as long as there is hope...

Chris Barron, a former political director for Log Cabin, explained: “A lot of folks who care a lot about the direction that this party is headed in … are seriously concerned about the lack of a voice for gay Republicans in the party right now”.  Jimmy LaSalvia goes even further: “We’re looking at a political landscape where gay Republicans aren’t represented”.  Indeed, for the general public, a gay republican is an absurd oxymoron. Currently Log Cabin is planning a convention… with no full-time staff.  Both LaSalvia and Barron were denied their application for presidency, amidst a rumour that a wealthy gay Democrat donor was behind the organization’s funds. Tim Gill would have contributed as much as $250,000 in the last two years, but this was never officially confirmed. Barron is currently considering creating another gay Republican organization to speak out on “issues that gay Republicans care about, because no one else is”. The intense feeling of rejection is hard to conceal even from the best practised rethoric.

Rich Tafel is more simple in his approach to Log Cabin. A firm believer in the organization’s appeal within the GOP, he is also realistic when it comes to the current climate. “I think inclusion wins and the party needs to come to grips that their strategies won’t work,” he said. “But I’m not sure the party is ready to listen and will likely need to suffer further defeats before it re-brands itself in a more inclusive way.” So is Log Cabin not strong enough as a Republican group, or is it too Republican for its gay affiliations? Tafel continues: “my sense is that those starting a new entity feel that Log Cabin hasn’t been loyal enough within the GOP. My analysis is the other way. I think that it is important to challenge the party because the failure to be an inclusive party will destroy it.”

Challenging the more extreme vision of the Republican Party is something that gay Republicans are accustomed to doing. On March 11 they asked for the chair of the National Republican Committee, Steve Steele, to go back on his anti-gay remarks that homosexuality was a choice one could go against. Steele added in GQ magazine that he would not personally support gay marriage, but recognized that each state was free to make a decision in the matter, and that Proposition 8 should never be made into a constitutional amendment. Obviously Log Cabin pulled some influence as Steele has made himself a reputation being profoundly and obnoxiously against gay marriage; as lieutenant governor of Maryland, he tried to pass measures banning gay marriage, and when asked on the Mike Gallagher radio show whether the party would support civil unions, Steele responded: “what, are you crazy?”

Barron criticized Log Cabin for not issuing a statement regarding what he felt as “the most groundbreaking interview in the history of the RNC.” “I think it speaks volumes about what direction the organization is heading in,” Barron said. “They have absolutely no problem unloading on Republicans when they disagree with something Republicans have said, but are unfortunately mum at this point.” He and LaSalvia issued a statement in GQ out of respect for the other gay Republicans who he feels should “have a voice”, while Log Cabin is standing out for being remarkably prudent, perhaps wrongly so. Whether Barron and LaSalvia will find a home away from home anytime soon is unclear, as Log Cabin’s purpose is currently being reworked – hopefully not to the will of Steele and his cohorts of “non-inclusive” RNC leaders. Is there really a place for gay people in the Republican Party? Is the GOP willing to recognize that even within its ranks lie those they seek to deceive on a daily basis? The seeds for change are already planted – let’s hope the Republican Party will one day see the light of spring and let them grow.


Five former Guantanamo detainees, also Spanish citizens, have claimed to be victims of torture during their stint at the high-security Cuban prison. A supreme Spanish court has pointed the finger at six former Bush administration officials – including former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales – of facilitating the violation of human rights law upon Spanish citizens. The criminal court is said to be focusing on whether the use of torture in Guantanamo Bay can be legally justified, the burden of proof resting on the United States’ officials’ shoulders.

Baltasar Garzon, the judge earning its fame for ordering the arrest of Augusto Pinochet, has been put in charge of the case. He’s already citing John Yoo, the former Justice Department lawyer who firmly believed the President was not bound by the Geneva Convention and could thus overrule its decisions; Douglas Feith, the the former undersecretary of defense for policy; and Gonzales, for a “well-documented role” in controversial interrogation techniques (including rendition) and dubious, overriding and dangerous reading of the 1975 Convention Against Torture.  Spain is once again establishing itself as a leader in the defense of international human rights and shows a courageous and outstanding commitment to upholding international law, regardless of the political standing of its suspects, regardless of the political climate, regardless of the underlying ties that may affect its future leadership. Before being alleged terrorists and Guantanamo detainees, those five plaintiffs and first and foremost Spanish citizens to whom human and civil rights have been denied, without Spain being granted the smallest decisive right in the entire process. This case is based on national sovereignty in the name of freedom – something almost unheard of.

no more tapas for you, Gonzales.

no more tapas for you, Gonzales.

The New York Times is stressing the importance of the situation by implying that Judge Garzon is not only going to present his case – it may also lead to arrest warrants. Bringing former US public officials to trial in a European country could be a first, capable of paving the way towards a truly respectable and respected international criminal court, where international violations would not be poorly justified by the overheard and overused excuse of “protecting national interest”. Other officials named are other Americans named are William Haynes II, former general counsel for the Department of Defense; Jay Bybee, Yoo’s former supervisor at the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel; and David Addington, chief of staff and legal adviser to ex-Vice President Dick Cheney. Whether Cheney himself might be requested to testify is not known yet, even if his participation in the use of torture in Guantanamo and in Iraq has already been challenged by a Senate Committee on human rights. Spain is taking a drastic step forward from the United Kingdom’s claim that the United States were endangering the lives of several European citizens in Guantanamo Bay last February.

Considering Garzon’s track record in displacing the supposedly irremovable objects placed by the United States Justice Department in Latin America, here’s to hoping the fierce Spanish judge will be as successful in nailing the principles of international conventions into American public official’s heads.

Dr. George Tiller, a Kansas physician, has been brought to trial on nineteen criminal misdemeanor charges all related to terminating late-term abortions.  In a state heavily divided by the debate on abortion, and where passions run high on the topic, the “not guilty” verdict, pronounced by a jury of six men and six women, came as a victory of the law over religious morals.

Dr. George Tiller

Dr. George Tiller

Tiller’s patients were mostly teenagers or very young women; one of them was a ten-year-old starting her twenty-eighth week of pregnancy. Kansas law requires that once the pregnancy runs over 22 weeks, a physician is only allowed to perform an abortion if the pregnancy can cause “substantive and important harm to the mother” – this includes emotional and mental harm – and on on the second consultation of another physician. Tiller worked closely with Dr. Neuhaus, practising in Lawrence, the only one who ever accepted to be Tiller’s referral. In Kansas, like in many other states, the ethics surrounding abortion are more political than they are medical, and in such divided times, decision-making bears heavier consequences than it usually does.

Dr. Neuhaus provided the referrals for Dr. Tiller, and they both saw the patients as his own clinic, as both physicians testified that it was “too dangerous” for them to consult anywhere else. Both doctors experienced the pressure and intimidation techniques favored by anti-abortion lobbying groups, from harassing the prospective patients all the way to their hotel rooms to protesting in front of the clinic, distributing pamphlets with pictures of dead babies. Evidence proved that in the majority of Tiller’s patients, most fetuses proved to medically compromised. Tiller respected the law to the point of challenging it in court – once the second opinion bill was passed, the 67 years old doctor called over a hundred physicians, even retired ones, all refusing to help. He would have taken it to court if a public official hadn’t referred him to Neuhaus. The twist is that Tiller was stuck between a rock and a hard place – saving young mother’s lives and well-being, and respecting the law to keep his licence and his conscience clear, a situation in which no medical practitioner should ever find themselves in.

Rev. Patrick Mahoney of the Christian Defense Coalition, present in court as former spokesperson for Operation Rescue, said he was “disappointed” of the not-guilty verdict, but felt “satisfied it even came to trial”. After assuring all of us freedom lovers we would certainly not be free of their aggressivity anytime soon, the Board of Healing Arts (sic) filed an eleven-charges count – the same ones the Kansas Court found him not guilty of –  against Dr. Tiller that they say is “completely independant” from the criminal trial.  If the Board finds Tiller guilty of these charges, it could result in the suspension or even revocation of his licence to practice. When healing arts  become political, absurdity prevails over formerly sacred oaths in a way that undermines the fabric of trust between patients and their curers. Let’s hope the Board will find it is necessary to uphold the rule of law.

Keeping it classy in Washington, as ever, Republicans have decided to give their archenemy President Obama a break and took on a new prey – his wife. More precisely, they want to make sure she is not going to meddle in the White House affairs any more than she already is, fearing she might sprinkle some marxism on top of the already way-too-socialist Obama cupcake.

Michelle Obama: not amused by the Donna Reed show.

Michelle Obama: not amused by the Donna Reed show.

Back under the Clinton Administration, Hilary Clinton had been at the center of a Republican-engineered controversy surrounding the Health Care Task Force.  The former First Lady had taken a non-negligeable part in the business meetings and the negotiations as such – a First Lady – which irked the Republicans, who sued in order to get said Task Force recognized as an outside consulting company, with its costs attached, and not a presidential committee. The Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Clintons, arguing that the First Lady is a functional White House staffer, despite not being on the payroll. Put simply, the First Lady does have a role in political affairs, is sort of a “free consultant” to her husband, something that, really, we had all come to assume was the regular, normal way of White House life. However, Laura Bush was hardly any Hilary, and eight years in the White House with a First Lady that was more Martha Stewart than Madeleine Allbright is making Michelle Obama look like the Second Coming.

In order to maintain those First Ladies back where they belong – which is, according to the Republicans, far away from the Oval Office as possible – Californian Congressman Darrell Issa is trying, for the upteenth time, to “restore honor” to the White House with an introduction bill. Granted, his idea is hardly new and thus can’t be targeted at Michelle Obama personally, but is resurfacing in times when it is obvious the First Lady won’t spend her days at the park feeding the pigeons. “We are trying actually to protect the historic role of the first lady. I believe this is open government at its finest.” Issa can not stress enough the fact he aligned his bill on the transparency policy Obama intends on practising throughout his term. The question remains as to how or why would the role of the First Lady be hidden within a pile of paperwork. Barack Obama has never made any secret that Michelle remained his number one advisor. The Harvard graduate and former hospital administrator is qualified enough to give an enlightened and perhaps enlightening opinion on matters that the Republicans might care about – which may be exactly the reason why they are trying to make sure she knows her place.

Next on the political agenda of Republicans who find it hard to actually dismount Obama from his proverbial horse: making sure the presidential daughters no longer attend a school that could teach them “substantive” progressive ideas in the name of “restoring the historical role” of presidential offsprings. (*)

(*) the Kennedys were a blot on US history. The Bushes paved the way.

When you’re feeling down and out and thinking this world has killed every blushing ashes of imagination, take comfort in the fact Israel will always spark up new ideas and acting on them. Taking the concept of mad scientistry to a whole new level, they may now have a new kink in their steel: the creation of a new crime against humanity. Surely that’s something to be proud of.

crimes against humanity vs collateral damage: more than just legal rhetoric.

crimes against humanity vs collateral damage: more than just legal rhetoric.

According to Richard Falk, the United Nations’ rapporteur on human rights in Palestine, Israel’s systematic attempt to gather Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and regularly bomb them, without giving them any chance to flee or to retreat into other areas – increasingly taken over by new settlements – constitute a crime against humanity. “Such a war policy should be treated as a distinct and new crime against humanity, and should be formally recognised as such, and explicitly prohibited,” Falk told the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva on Monday. Under the pretense of attempting to destroy Hamas, allegedly hiding within civilian zones and humanitarian buildings, Israel killed over 1,300 Palestinians last January, in just three weeks.  For the United Nations, this is closing in on genocide a little too much.

Lest we shake in fear for Israel’s Nobel Prize in military strategy: the United States has vehemently reacted to the report, saying it was “biased” and “anything but fair”, which is, really, a case of misunderstanding, as the United States’ Department of Defense has never shown anything resembling, even remotely, fairness and impartiality in the five-decades long conflict that has divided the post-Cold War world in allies and axes of evil. The clash of civilization we all thought we were too evolved to ever experience is now blowing in our faces.  Falk wasn’t the only one to blow the whistle on Israel’s cleansing policies – his commentary on human rights violations were a part of a nine-part report regarding access to health care, food availability, adequate housing and education, adding to legal issue posed by summary executions and the treatment of women. The Gaza Strip is nothing more than what the name describes  – a strip of land covering 40km in length and hardly 10 in width, in which are crammed approx. 1.5 million people. The fear of carpet bombing and Israeli retaliation is just one side of the desperate scheme of their lives.

As usual, victimization seems to be the only response to factual accusations based on statistic and empirical evidence.  The only answer Aharon Leshno Yar, Israel’s ambassador the United Nations council, could come up with is a year-old badly rehearsed speech on how Hamas destroyed South Israel with their rockets; obviously, and obnoxiously so, this appeared as a legitimate ground to completely legally bomb and destroy Palestinians, falling into the collateral damage category as human shield between a vehemently belligerent party and a state that has never known the rule of law. Political chaos and legal values pushed aside in the name of national pride has driven Palestinians outside of their own homes, that is, if they had any to begin with. 40% of the Gaza population are unemployed, and 72% are living under the poverty threshold.

In this context, common sense is hardly ever common, and absurdity prevails. Richard Falk, pressured by the United States to justify himself on a topic that should be self-explanatory, explained that if Israel is not capable of differentiating military targets from civilians, then it shouldn’t strike at all. In Gaza’s case, “the attacks [are] inherently unlawful, and would seem to constitute a war crime of the greatest magnitude under international law”, Falk underlines with the greatest possible emphasis on the legal side of the coin, which he believes should have a stronger appeal to nation states than “simple” and perhaps “biased” visions of human rights. Taking as much distance as one possibly can in such circumstances, appealing to reason and objectivity, Falk is basing his conclusions on what he witnessed first-hand, empirical information given to him not as a human rights fighter, but a United Nations rapporteur, in all the complexity and respectability the position entails. In return, Falk has been expelled from Israel, who didn’t really appreciate Falk’s interpretation of international criminal law.

Under international criminal law, as defined by the article 6 of the Rome Statute, crimes against humanity consist in “particularly odious offences in that they constitute a serious attack on human dignity or grave humiliation or a degradation of one or more human beings.”  Law precises that “[…] political, racial, or religious persecution and other inhumane acts reach the threshold of crimes against humanity only if they are part of a widespread or systematic practice.” If the term was first coined in 1915 to describe the Armenian Genocide, crimes against humanity entered international law with the Nüremberg Trials, where officiers of the Nazi regime were judged for crimes against humanity and genocide against the Jewish population in Europe.

America has found a new hero. Bill Kristol has taken up arms against the weak-minded peacemakers ruining America’s best military intentions in the Middle East and beyond by calling them “embarrassing”. In a column written for the Weekly Standard, Kristol makes an unabashed and unashamed diatribe against those who have so desperately and distressingly fought for justice and human rights. The meek might inherit the earth, and Kristol is not too happy about that.

Bill Kristol: happily living in his three-way marriage with botox and neoconservatism.

Bill Kristol: happily living in his three-way marriage with botox and neoconservatism.

In his address to Iran on the event of the Persian New Year, Barack Obama celebrated Persian history, its great civilization and the “continuous strain” on their relations with the United States for the past three decades. Bearing great expectations on Obama’s willingness for change, spiritual leader Ayatollah Al-Khomeini remains unimpressed with Obama’s reinforcing statement on the need to address tough issues sooner rather than later. An adviser to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad commented: “We welcome the wish of the US President to put away past differences. But the way to do that is not by Iran forgetting the previous hostile and aggressive attitude of the United States. If Obama shows a willingness to take action, the Iranian Government will not show its back to him.” Confusing commentary on top of a very slow and tense shuttle diplomacy: is that strong-headed and macho enough for Kristol, or should they compare the size of their baionettes too?

Last Sunday, on Fox News (where else?) Kristol has mocked Barack Obama continuously, fueling presenter Hume’s pan who then added that the speech implied “U.S. has now joined the rest of the world and practicing the diplomacy of talk.” The diplomacy of talk is a new Fox News-coined term describing diplomats talking instead of, say, overriding United Nations resolutions. Probablyignorant of the usual ways in which diplomacy operates, FoxNews is reinventing the century-old profession and giving it its own spin. We couldn’t be happier that such a reliable and valuable news source has decided to make a foray into a vision of foreign policy it never has, or never will, possibly understand. FoxNews is to diplomats what the mentally challenged bully was to the smart kid in grade school – punching you in the face for having an extended vocabulary. It didn’t make sense then and it surely doesn’t make sense now.

Strengthened by his newfound asset, the diplomacy of talk, Barack Obama is actually doing what he does best – preemptive verbal war, ie, dividing and conquering with the simple power of rhetoric. By calling to the Persian history and the strong identity of a pre-religious revolution in Iran, Obama is dividing Ahmadinejad’s electorate. Where George W. Bush diplomacy of non-talk had united Iran against the United States, regardless of Ahmadinejad’s rights to pursue the nuclear weapon, Obama is lending a hand to whomever is willing to listen and restore Iran to its deserted seat of culturally enlightened and historically rich nation – as well as turning his back on shameless leaders tricking the international community into believing they are not actively chasing destruction when it has been on their agenda the whole time. Expert Karim Sadjadpour tells the New York Times, “Obama […] is accentuating the cleavages in Iran,” Mr. Sadjadpour said. “It makes the hard-liners look increasingly like they are the impediment.” Peacefully strip a leader of his already doubtful legitimacy and you’ll gain the popular support you need for progressive change, something Rumsfeld and his other Bush aides never understood.

As ThinkProgress puts it, Kristol seems “happily wedded to neoconservatism”, a sentimental and romantic tie that probably stops him from seeing the quite obvious light at the end of the diplomatic tunnel. Well, we’ll keep on walkin’ the diplomat talkin’, yeah. We’re getting a divorce, Kristol. You keep the diner.

Our former beacon of hope, Senator John  Kerry, has requested Barack Obama’s help in a gay rights situation he believes beyond the debate on overturning the federal law prohibiting same-sex marriage. This “humanitarian situation” concerns Genesio Oliveira, who has been separated from his husband Tim Coco since 2007 when his request for asylum was denied. Coco is a US citizen – but Oliveira, whose marriage to Coco is not officially recognized by the United States, had to go back to Brazil, where he was once attacked and raped by a physician because of his sexuality.

Barack Obama and John Kerry: dream team

Barack Obama and John Kerry: dream team

John Kerry has taken upon himself to defend this case as the issue of civil liberties pertaining to gay marriage goes way beyond a traditional or conservative vision of society – it is an ideological decision regarding the overall policy on civil liberties that the United States are expected to uphold. Not only are gay couples not allowed to visit their lovers in hospital, because they are not recognized as a family member, gay couples united through a civil union or married in the states allowing it are now facing separation if one half of the couple is not granted citizenship.  In Oliveira’s specific case, Kerry’s calling has been labeled as “outrageous” by the judge in charge of the case – Immigration judge Francis L. Cramer – who claimed that Mr. Oliveira were not “physically harmed” by his attacker. We are pleased to announce that under US law, rape no longer constitutes physical harm. Every new sunrise is bringing a new defaming and degrading jurisprudence.

It was only natural, under this outrageous, insulting, offensive and legally ignorant comment made by a judge (!) that John Kerry by-passed the traditional hierarchy and appealed to fellow Democrat Barack Obama to plead in favor of Oliveira’s situation. Under the infamous and controversial Defense of Marriage Act (sic), Oliveira can not appeal for citizenship on the grounds of his marriage to Tim Coco. Kerry, who co-sponsored a bill that could possibly override certain regulations of the Defense of Marriage Act, believes that Oliveira and other foreign residents engaged in a same-sex partnership with US residents, should be granted asylum by the United States.  The couple, who met in 2002 and got married three years later,  appealed on Friday.

When so-called “family values” are defended by Immigration judges who are as in touch with their human side as a cockroach, we understand Senator Kerry’s frustration and his plea to the President (who has yet to respond to the appeal). It only goes to show the level of inhumanity to which judicial leaders are willing to stoop in order to defend a bill that was defying logic and compassion in the first place.

EDIT: it appears that Judge Cramer was never supposed to be more than Mister Cramer.  Texas attorney Bob Kraft reported on a Washington Post article in his blog that Cramer was indeed illegally appointed to his position of immigration judge in Boston, MA – and had only made his way to the top thanks to his connections. This explains why Cramer doesn’t seem to be in touch with laws and regulations at all.  The article reads: “Cramer’s bid for a seat on the tax court foundered after the American Bar Association’s taxation section wrote a rare letter to the Senate Finance Committee, saying: “We are unable to conclude that he is qualified to serve.” OH I SEE!

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