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This post by Naomi Klein, Noam Chomsky and Neve Gordon tells the story of Ezra Nawi.
Every so often someone comes along who is so brave and so inspiring that you just can't sit by and remain silent when you learn they need your help.
And Ezra Nawi is anything but quiet.
He is a Jewish Israeli of Iraqi descent who speaks fluent Arabic.
He is a gay man in his fifties and a plumber by trade.
He has dedicated his life to helping those who are trampled on. He has stood by Jewish single mothers who pitched tents in front of the Knesset while struggling for a living wage, and by Palestinians threatened with expulsion from their homes.
I really appreciated this statement from my friend, Sheila Kuehl, a former member of the California Legislature.
Prop 8 Ruling: The Measure of a Court
It had been my intention to write my next essay on Prop 1A, not Prop 8, and to analyze poll results from voters who opposed 1A, and to go from there to present some possible approaches to a balanced budget.
But the California Supreme Court ruled this morning that Prop 8 could, in fact, be adopted by a simple majority of those voting in an election. After reading the opinion, I decided to write this essay.
The entire opinion dangled from one very weak premise: that, somehow, even though the Court insisted, in the Marriage Cases opinion last year, that the word "marriage" was so important it couldn't be denied without violating the State Constitution, they suddenly decided, this year, (with the exception of Justice Moreno, writing in dissent) that marriage is nothing but a word and that denying such a word to same sex couples did not represent a "revision" rather than an "amendment" to the Constitution. Below, language from the opinion (which also upheld the validity of the 18,000 marriage performed before the election, creating an interesting apartheid in California) and some thoughts.
Today, the California Supreme Court ruled on the validity of Proposition 8, the measure adopted by California voters last November to add a new section 7.5 to Article I of the California Constitution, as follows: "Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California".
The measure was challenged by a coalition of organizations and individuals who favor the ability of same-sex couples to marry on three bases:
1. That the measure adopted by the voters 52% to 48% was not a simple
amendment to the state Constitution, which may be adopted by a majority
vote, but, rather, a revision to the Constitution, which may not. The
Constitution may only be changed in one of these two ways, and, if the
change is actually a revision to the Constitution, it must either be
passed by a two-thirds vote of each house of the state Legislature and
put to a vote of the people, or proposed through a constitutional
convention and put to a vote.
2. The second challenge theorized that Prop 8 violated the separation of powers principle because it abrogated a previous Supreme Court decision which held that, under Equal Protection and Due Process principles, same sex couples had the same right to marry in California as opposite sex couples.
3. The Attorney General advanced a different theory: that the "inalienable" right articulated by the Court in the Marriage Cases could not be abrogated by a majority vote unless there was a compelling state interest in doing so.
The Court rejected all three, holding that they were required to find that the Constitution could be amended by a majority of voters in any election, even if the amendment abrogated a fundamental right previously articulated by the Court.
How Could They Say That?
The Court set out the legal principle that distinguishes an amendment from a revision: That it must change the basic governmental plan or framework of the Constitution. In deciding whether Prop 8 did, indeed, change the Constitution at such a basic level, the Court decided it did not, and, also, that it did not "entirely repeal or abrogate" the rights articulated in the Marriage Cases.
This is where the Court seriously lost its way.
Marriage is Just A Word....Not
Here's what the majority opinion said, which I think is not only seriously in error, but a cowardly about-face from their language in the Marriage Cases, which is reprinted in the next section.
First: today's decision:
"In analyzing the constitutional challenges presently before us, we first explain that the provision added to the California Constitution by Proposition 8, when considered in light of the majority opinion in the Marriage Cases, supra, 43 Cal.4th 757 (which preceded the adoption of Proposition 8), properly must be understood as having a considerably narrower scope and more limited effect than suggested by petitioners in the cases before us. Contrary to petitioners' assertion, Proposition 8 does not entirely repeal or abrogate the aspect of a same-sex couple's state constitutional right of privacy and due process that was analyzed in the majority opinion in the Marriage Cases - that is, the constitutional right of same-sex couples to "choose one's life partner and enter with that person into a committed, officially recognized, and protected family relationship that enjoys all of the constitutionally based incidents of marriage" (Marriage Cases, supra, 43 Cal.4th at p. 829). Nor does Proposition 8 fundamentally alter the meaning and substance of state constitutional equal protection principles as articulated in that opinion. Instead, the measure carves out a narrow and limited exception to these state constitutional rights, reserving the official designation of the term "marriage" for the union of opposite-sex couples as a matter of state constitutional law, but leaving undisturbed all of the other extremely significant substantive aspects of a same-sex couple's state constitutional right to establish an officially recognized and protected family relationship and the guarantee of equal protection of the laws."
In other words....what's the big deal about the word "marriage"?
As it turns out, quite a bit. Here's what the same Court said about it in the Marriage Cases:
First, it set out the principle it quotes in the new opinion:
"In responding to the Attorney General's argument, the majority opinion stated that "[w]e have no occasion in this case to determine whether the state constitutional right to marry necessarily affords all couples the constitutional right to require the state to designate their official family relationship a 'marriage,' " because "[w]hether or not the name 'marriage,' in the abstract, is considered a core element of the state constitutional right to marry, one of the core elements of this fundamental right is the right of same-sex couples to have their official family relationship accorded the same dignity, respect, and stature as that accorded to all other officially recognized family relationships.
But, then, the Court answers its own question as to the importance of the word Marriage:
"The current statutes - by drawing a distinction between the name assigned to the family relationship available to opposite-sex couples and the name assigned to the family relationship available to same-sex couples, and by reserving the historic and highly respected designation of marriage exclusively to opposite-sex couples while offering same-sex couples only the new and unfamiliar designation of domestic partnership _ pose a serious risk of denying the official family relationship of same-sex couples the equal dignity and respect that is a core element of the constitutional right to marry."
It is a distinction that makes an enormous difference and, therefore, should be seen as a revision to the state's Equal Protection and Due Process requirements.
By hanging its decision that Prop 8 was an amendment and not a revision on the slim and dishonest statement that same sex couples are not denied legal rights by denying them the "word" marriage, the Court errs.
Justice Moreno, in Dissent
Bless his heart and his mind. Here is what he says:
"The question before us is not whether the language inserted into the
California Constitution by Proposition 8 discriminates against same-sex
couples and denies them equal protection of the law; we already decided
in the Marriage Cases that it does. The question before us today is
whether such a change to one of the core values upon which our state
Constitution is founded can be accomplished by amending the
Constitution through an initiative measure placed upon the ballot by
the signatures of 8 percent of the number of persons who voted in the
last gubernatorial election and passed by a simple majority of the
voters. (Cal. Const., art. II, § 8.) Or is this limitation on the scope
of the equal protection clause to deny the full protection of the law
to a minority group based upon a suspect classification such a
fundamental change that it can only be accomplished by revising the
California Constitution, either through a constitutional convention or
by a measure passed by a two-thirds vote of both houses of the
Legislature and approved by the voters? (Cal. Const., art. XVIII.)
For reasons elaborated below, I conclude that requiring discrimination against a minority group on the basis of a suspect classification strikes at the core of the promise of equality that underlies our California Constitution and thus "represents such a drastic and far-reaching change in the nature and operation of our governmental structure that it must be considered a 'revision' of the state Constitution rather than a mere 'amendment' thereof." (Amador Valley Joint Union High Sch. Dist. v. State Bd. of Equalization (1978) 22 Cal.3d 208, 221 (Amador Valley).) The rule the majority crafts today not only allows same-sex couples to be stripped of the right to marry that this court recognized in the Marriage Cases, it places at risk the state constitutional rights of all disfavored minorities. It weakens the status of our state Constitution as a bulwark of fundamental rights for minorities protected from the will of the majority. I therefore dissent."
The Senate on Tuesday backed an amendment that would allow people to carry loaded guns in national parks and wildlife refuges. After spending this past weekend in Zion National Park, it shocks and saddens me to think that twenty-seven Democrats joined 39 Republicans and one independent supported an amendment, which was attached to a bill imposing restrictions on credit card companies. The amendment was approved 67-29.
In the case of Vice Presidential candidate, Sarah Palin, truth is stranger than fiction. On television, both McCain and Palin would play hapless candidates in a race for president. The only problem? No one would believe it.
I cannot believe that the same Bush Administration that got us into this economic mess now wants complete authority to get us out.
Naomi Klein's post today on Huffington Post bears a full reprint here:
I wrote The Shock Doctrine in the hopes that it would make us all better prepared for the next big shock. Well, that shock has certainly arrived, along with gloves-off attempts to use it to push through radical pro-corporate policies (which of course will further enrich the very players who created the market crisis in the first place...).
The best summary of how the right plans to use the economic crisis to push through their policy wish list comes from Former Republican House Speaker Newt Gingrich. On Sunday, Gingrich laid out 18 policy prescriptions for Congress to take in order to "return to a Reagan-Thatcher policy of economic growth through fundamental reforms." In the midst of this economic crisis, he is actually demanding the repeal of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, which would lead to further deregulation of the financial industry. Gingrich is also calling for reforming the education system to allow "competition" (a.k.a. vouchers), strengthening border enforcement, cutting corporate taxes and his signature move: allowing offshore drilling.
It would be a grave mistake to underestimate the right's ability to use this crisis -- created by deregulation and privatization -- to demand more of the same. Don't forget that Newt Gingrich's 527 organization, American Solutions for Winning the Future, is still riding the wave of success from its offshore drilling campaign, "Drill Here, Drill Now!" Just four months ago, offshore drilling was not even on the political radar and now the U.S. House of Representatives has passed supportive legislation. Gingrich is holding an event this Saturday, September 27 that will be broadcast on satellite television to shore up public support for these controversial policies.
What Gingrich's wish list tells us is that the dumping of private debt into the public coffers is only stage one of the current shock. The second comes when the debt crisis currently being created by this bailout becomes the excuse to privatize social security, lower corporate taxes and cut spending on the poor. A President McCain would embrace these policies willingly. A President Obama would come under huge pressure from the think tanks and the corporate media to abandon his campaign promises and embrace austerity and "free-market stimulus."
We have seen this many times before, in this country and around the world. But here's the thing: these opportunistic tactics can only work if we let them. They work when we respond to crisis by regressing, wanting to believe in "strong leaders" - even if they are the same strong leaders who used the September 11 attacks to push through the Patriot Act and launch the illegal war in Iraq.
So let's be absolutely clear: there are no saviors who are going to look out for us in this crisis. Certainly not Henry Paulson, former CEO of Goldman Sachs, one of the companies that will benefit most from his proposed bailout (which is actually a stick up). The only hope of preventing another dose of shock politics is loud, organized grassroots pressure on all political parties: they have to know right now that after seven years of Bush, Americans are becoming shock resistant.
In her Nation article, New Orleans: The City That Won't Be Ignored, Naomi Klein argues that Hurricane Gustav has helped John McCain's bid for the White House because Barack Obama has run away from New Orleans since the start of his campaign.
Klein writes "that In the combination of New Orleans and hurricanes, we have the most powerful argument possible for the necessity of "change." It's all there: gaping inequality, deep racism, crumbling public infrastructure, global warming, rampant corruption, the Blackwater-ization of the public sector. And none of it is in the past tense. In New Orleans whole neighborhoods have gone to seed, Charity Hospital remains shuttered, public housing has been deliberately destroyed--and the levee system is still far from repaired."
With John Edwards in hiding during this political season, we have lost one national voice for the poor. As we count down to November 4, will we hear our Democratic ticket speak to the hopes and aspirations of the poor in New Orleans or Pescadero or Chicago?
As John McCain lines up to review emergency preparations for Hurricane Gustav, Blogger Bob Geiger reminds us that McCain "spent the months to follow leading the Republican charge against every Senate bill that would have actually helped Katrina victims or mandated investigations on how the Bush administration could have blown disaster response so thoroughly."
My hometown of Pescadero is home to many exciting organic farms. Last year, I enrolled in a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) with Green Oaks Farm. This year, my boxes come from Blue House Farm. They share a ranch stand with Pie Ranch (see my review on CHOW.com). Each Saturday, I pick up my box, still warm from the field and say hello to the folks that grow and harvest the food. I stop by Harley Farms and pick up my weekly supply of goat-cheese ricotta. And often, On Saturday, I go to the farmer's market in Half Moon Bay, and buy whatever Orlando and Aaron have to sell that week. As the rest of the country worries about spinach or tomatoes or jalapenos, I rest easy knowing the hands at the farms that grow my food.
This week, I went and picked up my half-share of a grass-fed cow that was raised just miles from here in San Gregorio from the Markegard Family. I now feel a different kind of connection with the meat that I'll eat this year.
Every day, my work at Puente brings me in relationship with dozens of Latino farmworkers.They pick artichokes and brussel sprouts and leeks that are often sold far from here. Many of them are out of work because the high price of fuel is making planting and farming even less profitable for farm owners who then are unable to hire. Even at the best of times, no farmworker makes enough money to live with any comfort in our county. I know firsthand the pain that our failing economy causes in our region and the havoc that it causes in the daily lives of countless men, women and children.
As our country debates its economic policies, I remember that the strawberries I eat, the fennel, the lettuces, the artichokes and beets are inextricably connected both to the fragile lands around me and those that grow my food.
Inspired by his previous work with will.i.am on the viral web video "We Are The Ones," acclaimed music producer Andres Levin has united many leading figures of the Latin music and film community in an all Spanish language video in support of Barack Obama. I love it.