Wednesday, January 31, 2007

RIP Molly Ivins

Sad News. Progressive columnist/writer/activist/rabble-rouser Molly Ivins Has Died. Molly nicked named George Bush "The Shrub", an example of her wit and how she could use simple, down-home words and phrases to make powerful statements. While right-wing nuts like Rush Limbaugh and Bill O'Reilly pretend to represent ordinary working class people, Molly Ivins was the real thing, and she could put powerful people in their places, often with humor and a smile. I will miss her greatly, and she will leave a big hole in newspaper columns across the country. We will miss you Molly, but we will fight on!

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Thursday, January 25, 2007

The Democratic electorate has spoken.


With all 58 precincts reporting and Early Vote and Absentees listed, here are your final, unofficial numbers in the Senate 30 Democratic Primary:

Beverly Marrero 2810 73.4%

Robert Spence, Jr. 925 24.2%

Kevin Gallagher 88 2.3%

Enough said.

Harold Ford's Gay Marriage Problem

As expected, Anti-Gay Harold Ford Jr. to Chair DLC
The National Stonewall Democrats press release expressing "concerns" with Harold Ford Jr. has made a lot of national news, as one of the few negative takes on the DLC's new chair. because of his support for the Republican anti-gay Federal Marriage Amendment and the similar TN state amendment. Now, I can understand Democrats in conservative southern states not being able to support "gay marriage," but it was not necessary for HFJ to support the FMA. He could have take the same position as John McCain who opposes same-sex marriage, but opposes amending the U.S. Constitution, preferring to leave it up to the states. HFJ took the additional and politically unnecessary step of crossing party lines to support the GOP amendment, condemned by Howard Dean, the DNC, and even the DLC! In July 2004, the DLC called politicans (like HFJ!) who supported the FMA "CYNICAL AND DESPERATE."

HFJ'S office told many of us who contacted him before the 2004 vote that he would oppose it because of the Defense of Marriage Act, but they sent out a different email message to supporters of the amendment, which some of us got by mistake, which said: "While I question whether an amendment to our sacred Constitution is needed at this time, I will carry out the wishes of citizens like yourself who favor a constitutional amendment."

While I'm still angry at HFJ for campaigning against marriage equality for gays and lesbians, I'm not sure it is accurate to call him "anti-gay". In response to my write-in campaign against him in 2004, HFJ issued this statement to the press, quoted in the Memphis Flyer:

"My position on same sex marriage has been clear from the beginning. I am opposed to it. The Defense of Marriage Act--which I suppot--is likely not to withstand a court challenge. To ensure that the institution of marriage remains one reserved for the union of a man and a woman, yesterday I supported the effort to enact a constitutional amendment. However, my support for rights for gay Americans remains strong and intact. I am able to distinguish between marrriage and work place, labor benefits and civil rights protections for gay and lesbian Americans. I am unapologetic in my support of anti-discrimination efforts against gays and lesbians and will remain so. But when it comes to marriage, I differ with friends and allies in the gay and lesbian community."

It may be that HFJ would like to be supportive of gay and lesbian civil rights, short of marriage, and therefore is about as progressive on LGBT issues as most Democratic candidates, and more than most in the south. It is only on the issue of marriage equality that he betrayed us, and used as a political tool to counter GOP accusations that he was too liberal and supported "gay marriage" which they planned to do, and did anyway! I think gays and progressives should push HFJ and the DLC to stand by HFJ's statement of support for gay civil rights, and the DLC's past opposition to the Federal Marriage Amendment. Maybe something good can come out of this, though I personally still have some "anger issues" and find it difficult to rationalize HFJ's political actions against gays in TN the past couple of years.

Still it seems that Harold Ford Has a Gay Marriage Problem

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Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Richard Fields Flyer Ad

To: Citizens of State Senate District 30

From: Richard B. Fields

Re: Robert L. J. Spence, Attorney and Candidate in the Democratic
Primary for District 30

Date: January 12, 2007

My name is Richard B. Fields and I am a civil rights attorney who has practiced in Memphis since 1976. I have worked on cases involving school desegregation, racial employment discrimination involving the Memphis Fire Department, MLGW, and the Sheriff’s Department. I have also served as chairman of the legal redress committee of the local branch of the NAACP for over 20 years. Most recently, I helped stop the installation of a nuclear waste incinerator on President’s Island that would have spewed nuclear waste over South Memphis and downtown. I love this city and the people who live here.

The purpose of this letter is to warn the voters of District 30 of the danger of electing Robert L. J. Spence, Jr., to the state senate seat. Although I have championed black candidates for all political offices and have been a life-long Democrat, I felt compelled to write this letter because I have followed Robert’s career over the years and I am alarmed at the legal decisions he made and the resulting millions of dollars lost by the City of Memphis because of his faulty advice and his personal pursuit of wealth to the detriment of the citizens of Memphis. Ironically, I supported Robert when he was appointed City Attorney and signed a petition for him in his race for school board of the behest of some of my close friends. I now apologize to the citizens of Memphis and this letter is part of my repentance for not recognizing earlier Robert’s inability to work for the public good.

Some of the outrageous examples of Robert’s legal advice include:

1. Robert advised the City of Memphis not to settle with Bellsouth concerning a franchise tax that was declared invalid by the Tennessee Court of Appeals and review was denied by the Tennessee Supreme Court. The estimated liability to the City of Memphis could be as high as $25 million.

2. Robert approved a contract with the architectural firm hired for overseeing the Cannon Center construction who ultimately caused a cost over-run of $16 million – with the contract only providing for $1 million in malpractice coverage on a $25 million project.

3. Robert tried to get Mayor Herenton to sign an open-ended contract when he set up a law firm pending his retirement for a fee of $300 per hour for all outside work for the City of Memphis. The Mayor commissioned Lucian Pera, the coordinating attorney of the new Tennessee Rules of Professional Conduct, to review the contract and the arrangement Robert proposed. Mr. Pera found that Robert’s actions were a conflict of interest. The law firm was never formed, but Robert was able to retire with an immediate lifetime pension of over $30,000 per year.

4. An associate of Robert’s wrote in the Memphis Bar Association Journal about Robert’s involvement as chief negotiator for the City in the FedEx Forum contract negotiations where he allegedly worked for 4 weeks at 18 hour days to finalize the contract. We later learned that he approved that the City use $6 million of state transportation money for the bus terminal that was not built. As recently as December 13, 2006, he denied that he advised the Mayor to sign a contract that was in direct conflict with another contract promising the Grizzlies use of the $6 million for parking places. His signatures were on both contracts. The City has now had to defer building roads and streets in the amount of $6 million and the FBI is investigating the contracts.

5. Finally, after Robert retired from the City Attorney position in 2004, he began to represent RACE, a company who proposed to build a nuclear incinerator on President’s Island, blocks away from neighborhoods in South Memphis and a few miles away from downtown Memphis. At the same time, Robert was general counsel to the Riverfront Development Corporation whose purpose is to preserve and develop the Downtown riverfront. His wife Dorcelle, who also serves as an executive for the Riverfront Development Corporation at a salary of $100,000 per year, sent an email supporting the nuclear incinerator.

Fortunately, a coalition of black and white citizens from Downtown and South Memphis organized and stopped construction of the incinerator.

This letter is my own opinion. Since there is only one other candidate in the state senate democratic primary, Beverly Marrero, I urge all citizens to vote for her. This special primary election is on January 25, 2007. Early voting is taking place now.

I have always subscribed to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s powerful words that some day people will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. Robert L. J. Spence, Jr.’s character is flawed as he puts his own interests over those of the black, white, Hispanic, Asian, and other citizens of Memphis. I have taught my children (who are biracial and black) that when you go out in the world no one knows your father is a white attorney. You must treat all people fairly as you want to be treated regardless of skin color. With that in mind, if Robert’s children had attended the daycare that was within blocks of the proposed nuclear incinerator, would he have so passionately defended the company that proposed to put it there?

Please distribute this letter to your friends and neighbors so they can make an informed choice in the State Senate District 30 Democratic Primary.

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Monday, January 15, 2007

MLK, Liberalism and Gay Rights

It's hard to believe that there is STILL opposition (mainly in the South) to observing the Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday. I travel to Hernando MS as part of my job, and I noticed the the sign on the courthouse door said that the courthouse would be closed Jan. 15 to observe "ROBERT E LEE & MARTIN LUTHER KING" holiday. Robert E. Lee?? (They also have a Conferderate Veterans Day down in Mississippi!) Yikes!

Anyway, it is also funny that even conservative Republicans (& Dixiecrats who have not yet moved over to the GOP) now give lip service to Dr. MLK, when back when he was alive they villified him as anti-American and communist. Most of the media and political leaders today only honor MLK's work for the civil rights for African-Americans. Even many in the black community have forgotten or did not understand that MLK's "dream" went beyone racial justice, he was part of a broader struggle for economic and social justice. And he was outspoken in his opposition to the Vietnam War! MLK preached against militarism. He was a proud LIBERAL who advocated economic justice, peace, and cutting military spending to increase spending on social programs. Why won't today's "liberals" speak the truth to power as MLK did?

To those who try to demonize liberals and liberalism, we should just quote Martin Luther King. Will they call this hero anti-American? Let's put a face on liberalism--MLK. Ghandi, even "jesus christ" were all "liberals" in that they stood for social justice, peace, economic equality and against war and militarism.

And for those who don't see the connections between all forms of social injustice, and exclude gays and lesbians from "civil rights" and family values, hear Dr. Kings widow explain it:

Coretta Scott King, Civil Rights Leader
"I still hear people say that I should not be talking about the civil rights of lesbian and gay people and I should stick to the issue of racial justice. But I hasten to remind them that Martin Luther King Jr. said, 'Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.' I appeal to everyone who believes in Martin Luther King Jr.'s dream to make room at the table of brother-and sisterhod for lesbian and gay people." (Reuters, 3/3/98)

Or check out this essay Martin Luther King Jr. and Gay Rights by Rev. Gilbert Caldwell, an associate of MLK's who participated in several of his marches for civil rights.

MLK inspired many oppressed groups to organize and demand equality--we are all human beings and deserve to be treated equally regardless of race, sex, gender, social class, religion or sexual orientation.

Let's honor and remember MLK by continuing to fight for his dream: peace and social & economic justice for all.
What would MLK say today? STOP THE WAR, FEED THE POOR, "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere."

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Sunday, January 14, 2007

Whew! The Bears SURVIVE..

Photo courtesy Reuters

Wow. After playing a great first half, the Bears eke out an overtime win over the Seahawks in OT, 27-24. Their reward? Hosting America's Team, the New Orleans Saints, next Sunday at 2 PM on Fox13.

As for the other game, only Tom F. Brady could win a playoff game by throwing an interception. Patriots-Colts. AGAIN.

Will this insanity never end?

No one ever is to blame

Joe Lieberman doesn't want Hurricaine investigations to turn into a "witch hunt."

From the Peskipedia:

Witch Hunt (n): Once used to describe a state of moral panic and hysteria "Witch Hunt" is now most commonly used to describe any attempt by an official body to determine accountability among elected officials.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

STOP Harold Ford Jr. from leading the DLC!

Just saw this article in the Commercial Appeal:
Stonewall Democrats Leery of Ford--Gay, lesbian group at odds with possible DLC chair"
Accroding to the article by Bartholomew Sullivan, who didn't contact the Memphis Stonewall Democrats for a reation, the Stonewall Democrats, a group of "homosexual" Democrats expressed "deep concern" at the propsect of former Memphis congressman Harold Ford Jr. chairing the Centrist Democratic Leadership Council.

I've been hearing/reading about the DLC courting HFJ or probably more the reverse, and it seems likely that HFJ will probably be the next leader of the "centrist" Democratic group that is trying to move the Democratic Party to the "center" (i/e. RIGHT). The conservative policies advocated by the DLC fit nicely into HFJ's political strategy to become a U.S. Senator by appealing to the Christian Right, especially the anti-gay ones, by opposing the civil rights of gays and lesbians for political power. It may work in Tennessee.

But I'm glad the National Stonewall Democrats have spoken out in opposition to Harold Ford Jr. leading the DLC. Even the DLC has been somewhat more supporting of LGBT rights than HFJ. As Stonewall Democrat Communications Dir. John Marable points out, even the DLC opposed the anti-gay marriage amendment.

As many of you know, I ran two write-in campaign against HFJ because after he continually crossed party lines to support the GOP and Bush on issue after issue, he broke my camel's back when he LIED to Memphis gay activists by telling us he would oppose the GOP anti-gay Federal Marriage Amendment, and then turned around and voted FOR it, being the political coward he is. His campaign for the U.S. Senate was more evidence that HFJ will do or say anything to get elected, he has no principles, and he does not support equality for gays and lesbians, and more important, he does NOT support the separation of church and state! So I have set up a STOP HAROLD FORD JR! Harold Ford Jr. should not be leading ANY Democratic Party organization, perhaps he could go join Joe Lieberman's Party or start a TN for Harold Ford Jr. Party and quit pretending to be a "Democrat".

UPDATE: here's the Press Release by the National Stonewall Democrats:
Stonewall Concerns over Harold Ford Jr.