Friday, January 23, 2004

Roll Over and Be Nice
The Wisconsin legislature hammered another nail in the coffin containing our image as the progressive state last night, as the State Senate voted to override Governor Jim Doyle's veto of a concealed-carry bill. Five Democrats crossed over to vote with the Repug majority. Next up, the Assembly, also controlled by the Repugs--they'll have to find seven Democrats to reach the magic number of 66 for the first veto override here in 17 years. Adding just the right touch of noxious piety to the debate, State Senator Dave Zien says he hoped "God-fearing people would get down on their knees and pray" for the override. He can't imagine why anybody would be against it, although 65 of the state's 72 county sheriffs have said they won't handle the permit paperwork.

Although Governor Doyle earned some progressive props for having vetoed the concealed-carry bill in the first place, we'll take some away for signing something the Repugs insisted on calling the Jobs Creation Act of 2003, which streamlines the permit process for industrial projects affecting air and water quality. The Sierra Club fears the bill will weaken environmental protection--and nobody in the legislature can point to a single job that's likely to be created by the bill, except to suggest lamely that companies might build new plants faster if they could. The bill is mostly symbolic, as its very name proves. It's something for Repug senators and assembly reps to run on come November.

Doyle's been in office a year, and in that time, he's been schizophrenic--sticking to core Democratic principles one day and rolling over to the Republicans the next by making "compromises" that give the Repugs most of what they want and little of what Democrats want. Doyle doesn't seem especially willing to spend political capital to fight on principle. To me, he doesn't seem to have much of a taste for fighting at all.

The presidential fight has moved to New Hampshire, where the polling news gets worse for Howard Dean hour by hour as John Kerry increases his lead. Dean did damage control yesterday, appearing with his wife on ABC and doing the Top Ten List on the Letterman show. But he's not the only one going down up there. Clark and Edwards are dropping a bit too. Nevertheless, Tom Schaller, who's graded last night's debate for Daily Kos, says "Watch out for Edwards." Joe Lieberman, who's staked his entire campaign on New Hampshire, is steady at six percent in the polls. Last night, Lieberman maintained yet again that the United States is safer with Saddam Hussein in custody, but also that Bush has failed in handling the Iraq war. Given the intellectual contortions one has to go through to believe both of those statements at the same time, it's a wonder Lieberman's head doesn't just screw itself off his body.

Recommended reading: advice columnist Dan Savage, explaining why he can't marry his partner of nine years: "Allowing me to marry my boyfriend would imperil lasting, stable heterosexual marriages, like the one Britney Spears enjoyed for 55 hours earlier this month." And also: "Gay people can get married in Canada, in spite of the damage gay marriage does to lasting, stable heterosexual unions. Canadian pop star Celine Dion, to take one example, recently had to flee the country of her birth and take up residence in Las Vegas to save her marriage from marauding gay married couples in Toronto, Calgary, Halifax, and Vancouver." Yep. The only people marauding in the streets if gay marriage were legal would be Republican homophobes.

And finally, I've got a new piece up on the Secular Web, about the usefulness of religion in achieving true peace and justice. Even though I've been published there before, it remains an honor to be in the company of the Internet Infidels.

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