Saturday, June 30, 2007

Sicko and the Health Insurance Lobby in America

How many Canadians would prefer having an American-style private medical insurance system, rather than our own, national system of univeral health care?

Personally, I've never met one.

With this question in mind, nonethless, view the film below Think of it as a sneak-preview of what the American health insurance lobby's response to Michael Moore's new film, Sicko, is going to look like:

Thanks to Andrew Sullivan, who originally linked to this video. For more on Richard Baker and his company, Timely Medical Alternatives, both featured prominently in the video, see this article from The National Review of Medicine:

"The Canada Health Act will come tumbling down," declares Richard Baker, the president of Timely Medical Alternatives, a Vancouver-based company that sends patients to the United States for faster treatment.

... Mr Baker's company has seen a sharp rise in demand for Canadian patients seeking faster treatment outside the country recently; their revenues have doubled in the last six months and they are seeing more and more patients (including, said Mr Baker, a deputy provincial health minister's wife whom he refuses to name).

A bit of Googling found Mr. Baker to have participated as a speaker in "Miracle Cure: How to Solve America's Health Care Crisis and Why Canada Isn't the Answer, " a September 2004 conference at Washington's Heritage Foundation.
The conference's synopsis:
America has wealth, innovation, and access to the best of everything. So why is our health care system so broken? Why does it cost more than ever and deliver less? How do we solve the problems of the uninsured and seniors who lack drug coverage? And equally important, why is the Canadian system, widely touted as a sparkling example of compassion and universal access, actually a disastrous model to be avoided?
The Heritage Foundation is a Washington-based right-wing think tank, largely financed by conservative billionaire, Richard Mellon Scaife (of Swift-Boat Veterans and Paula Jones financing fame). According to its mission statement:
Founded in 1973, The Heritage Foundation is a research and educational institute - a think tank - whose mission is to formulate and promote conservative public policies based on the principles of free enterprise, limited government, individual freedom, traditional American values, and a strong national defense..
For an example of where the Heritage Foundation stands on health care reform, see its June 2007 research paper, Competition: A Prescription for Health Care Transformation:
America is going to have either a government-run health care system in which politicians and bureaucrats make the key decisions or a consumer-driven system in which key decisions are made by individuals and families. Presented with a clear choice, Americans will support a market-based program that is compatible with their values, particularly personal freedom and personal responsibility.
Based on the company Mr. Baker keeps in Washington, would it be impolite to ask who exactly is financing all of his planned litigation to topple universal public health care in Canada? And for that matter, who financed the video above?
As to the key point in the video, it is well-established that unacceptable wait times for MRI's, consultations with specialists and certain surgeries are indeed the Achilles heal of our current system. I do not want to imply any position otherwise.
Inordinate wait times are one key area, in a health care system that is for the most part a godsend, requiring real attention and increased funding. This shortcoming is rightly a preoccupation in our national, political debate, and must be rectified.
The notion that ours is a "disasterous model", however, is pure spin. Public health care, flaws and all, remains, a source of comfort, pride and security to Canadians.
Let's be clear - there is absolutely zero appetite in Canada for an American-style system, its arbitrary HMO's, children with no medical coverage, and emergency care costs that lead to inevitable bankruptcy.
In any event, with Sicko opening this weekend, and with health care reform expected to be a major issue in next year's US elections, expect Canadian health care to be on the receiving end of relentless, ill-informed and undeserved criticism from the health insurance lobby and its conservative supporters south (and north) of the border.
- Garry J. Wise, Toronto
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Thursday, June 28, 2007

SCOTUS' Right Turn

Writer Linda Greenhouse of The New York Times canvasses the right turn of the U.S. Supreme Court in Even in Agreement, Scalia Puts Roberts to Lash.

The article is well worth reading for its discussion of the internal wrangling among the Court's right-leaning judges.

It’s not every day that one Supreme Court justice, even one as rhetorically unrestrained as Justice Antonin Scalia, characterizes another justice, let alone the chief justice of the United States, as a wimp and a hypocrite.

...But what was notable about his attacks on Chief Justice Roberts this week was that the two were on the same side. They were in dispute not over outcomes, but over how far and how fast to move the law. As Prof. Jack M. Balkin of Yale Law School wrote on his blog, Balkinization, “It is the difference between bomb throwing and dismantling.”

-Garry J. Wise, Toronto
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The Cheney Chronicles

The Washington Post's much commented-upon four-part series on Vice President Dick Cheney is here.

- Garry J. Wise, Toronto

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Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Judge's $54 Million Pants Suit Folds

We previously reported on U.S. Judge Roy Pearson's ludicrous $54 million dry cleaning lawsuit.

Today, Yahoo! News reports that this sensational case of cases has been dismissed:

WASHINGTON - A judge ruled Monday that no pair of pants is worth $54 million, rejecting a lawsuit that took a dry cleaner's promise of "Satisfaction Guaranteed" to its most litigious extreme.

Roy L. Pearson became a worldwide symbol of legal abuse by seeking jackpot justice from a simple complaint — that a neighborhood dry cleaners lost the pants from a new suit and tried to give him a pair that were not his.

His claim, reduced from $67 million, was based on a strict interpretation of the city's consumer protection law — which imposes fines of $1,500 per violation, per day — as well as damages for inconvenience, mental anguish and attorney's fees for representing himself.

But District of Columbia Superior Court Judge Judith Bartnoff ruled that the owners of Custom Cleaners did not violate the consumer protection law by failing to live up to Pearson's expectations of the "Satisfaction Guaranteed" sign once displayed in the store window.

"A reasonable consumer would not interpret 'Satisfaction Guaranteed' to mean that a merchant is required to satisfy a customer's unreasonable demands," the judge wrote.

Bartnoff wrote that Pearson, an administrative law judge, also failed to prove that the pants the dry cleaner tried to return were not the pants he took in.

Bartnoff ordered Pearson to pay clerical court costs of about $1,000 to defendants Soo Chung, Jin Nam Chung and Ki Y. Chung. A motion to recover the Chungs' tens of thousands of dollars in attorney fees will be considered later.

- Garry J. Wise, Toronto
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Saturday, June 23, 2007

Texas Frozen Embryo Custody Case to be Appealed

This interesting case, reported at Fox News:

AUSTIN, Texas — She got the house and he got the Honda. The problem in Augusta and Randy Roman's divorce came over the little things -- the really little things. Frozen embryos that they once hoped would bring them children. Augusta Roman wants to keep the embryos and try to have a baby. Randy Roman wants them destroyed, or at least kept frozen.

The case of Roman vs. Roman now before the Texas Supreme Court pits her right to have children using the embryos against his right not to have children.

"These are my children," said Augusta, 45. "This is my last chance at being a biological mom."

...A Houston trial court ordered the embryos turned over to Augusta. Randy appealed and won. The case is now before the state Supreme Court, but arguments have not yet been scheduled.

A key piece of evidence is a consent form both signed on March 27, 2002, that said the embryos would be discarded in the case of divorce.

Randy argues the form is binding. Augusta's attorney, Becky Reitz, says Augusta signed it believing she would get to try embryo implantation at least once.

So far, six states and the European Court of Human Rights have ruled in similar embryo custody battles. They have generally upheld the rights of the ex-spouse who does not want to procreate, said David Meyer, a law professor at the University of Illinois and expert in family and constitutional law.

But because such issues are still relatively new, a court may find a way to rule for the person who wants the child. "The law is really still developing," Meyer said.

(h/t -Sandra Bekhor for pointing me to this story)
- Garry J. Wise, Toronto
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Quote of the Day

Digby, on the conservative mind:

Of course, the neocons barely mentioned terrorism prior to 9/11, obsessed as they were with Israeli politics, China, Iraq and North Korea, but after the attacks they suddenly discovered that this had been the animating feature of global politics for decades.

But I don't think we are talking about policy at all. We are talking about psychology. And it isn't confined to the neocons, although they gave this psychology an intellectual veneer. The conservatives generally, evidently including members of the top military brass, seem to be driven by a primitive fear not of attack or physical violence, but of humiliation. This is what makes them tick and it's the essence of what's gone wrong since 9/11.

Terrorism is a tactic for spreading fear, to be sure, but because it is an elusive, nettlesome sort of warfare, it's also quite effective at tweaking the massive egos of these manly western warriors who seem to have extreme difficulty dealing with the juvenile taunts and sophomoric trash talk that characterizes so much of the Islamic extremist rhetoric. I get why the extremists do it --- chest pounding rhetoric is all they have. But it is unworthy and counterproductive for a great nation to play their game. Yet from the moment George W. Bush stood on that rubble and shouted puerile threats into the bullhorn like the high school cheerleader he was, that's exactly the game we've been playing. The invasion of Iraq was just a massive exercise in preening, unctuous, muscle flexing.

- Garry J. Wise, Toronto

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Harper on Kyoto: "This government has no intention of adopting measures that would be harmful to the Canadian economy and to jobs."

Kyoto - on its deathbed in Canada.

CTV News has the story:

OTTAWA -- Prime Minister Stephen Harper says it is constitutionally impossible for the government to comply with a newly passed law requiring Canada to respect its emissions-cutting commitments under the Kyoto Protocol.

Harper's remarks set the stage for a summer debate, and possibly a court challenge, over whether the government is flouting the will of Parliament.

The private members' bill, introduced by Liberal MP Pablo Rodriguez, gives the government 60 days toprepare a climate plan with measures to ensure that Canada meet its obligations under the Kyoto treaty. These include a six per cent cut in greenhouse gas emissions from 1990 levels by 2012.

Speaking shortly after the bill received royal assent, Harper suggested the bill is invalid because it is not a money bill, yet would involve large expenditures.

"There are strict constitutional limits which decide what you can do with such a bill," he said. "It could impose enormous costs on the Canadian government or on the economy. It's impossible constitutionally.

"This government has no intention of adopting measures that would be harmful to the Canadian economy and to jobs."

- Garry J. Wise, Toronto
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Toronto's Least-Favourite Lawyer?

According to his official biography:
  • He played four professional seasons at the American Hockey League level with the Montreal Canadiens and Ottawa Senators organizations.
  • He was an assistant captain of the 1992 Fredericton Canadiens that won the AHL regular season championship, and was named the team’s “unsung hero” in consecutive years (1991, 1992).
  • He played his college hockey at Providence College where he served as an assistant captain, was an Academic All-American and graduated Magna Cum Laude with a degree in Business Administration in 1989
  • He graduated Cum Laude with the degree of juris doctor from the Suffolk University Law School and was admitted to the Massachusetts State Bar in 1996.

The NHL playoffs are over.

The Stanley Cup has convincingly been won.

Sidney Crosby has been anointed.

And for me, this is the time of year when the real hockey season starts.

The jockeying, maneuvering, trading. The bidding, negotiating, signing and lamenting....

The high hopes and the big ones that get away.

And, best of all, the inevitable recriminations.

Now of course I don't really know if he is actually Toronto's least favourite lawyer. My hunch however, is that if polls were conducted, JFJ's approval ratings might look a lot like GWB's.

(In fact, as underachieving sons of very famous fathers, Jr. and W. might indeed have quite a bit to talk about...)

This, of course, is the make it or break it year for Toronto Maple Leafs General Manager, John Ferguson Jr.

And today, on NHL draft day, the Toronto media is already piling on.

As an example, see this from Steve Simmons of the Toronto Sun:

Learning to lie is part of being an NHL general manager. Doing it for public consumption at a time when your credibility is in disrepute is a questionable practice at best. Ferguson's job as general manager is to make the Leafs better, today and tomorrow.

But his dubious management of the salary cap, his constant parting with draft picks -- three first-round picks and three second-round picks in four years -- with only two goalies (only one can play at once) and a highly doubtful $2-million winger to show for it -- isn't exactly awe inspiring.

But honestly, we've come to expect nothing more than uninspired choices from a general manager who manages like his contract has run out, when only his credibility has.

The Toronto Star's Damien Cox follows suit:

If there is architectural brilliance here, it is truly elusive.

Instead, Ferguson has created the perception that he has abandoned a long-term vision in favour of taking a stab at some degree of short-term success.

His employers have dangled the possibility of a contract extension in front of him, maybe gone as far as to guarantee it to him, but have yet to actually offer him a new contract.

So blame Ferguson, if you want, for throwing the future out the window here.

But blame the laughable leaders of MLSE even more for putting its hockey manager in a completely untenable position, essentially forcing him to sacrifice everything to take a run at eighth place in the Eastern Conference next season.

Sounds like it might be a long season for Toronto's least favourite lawyer.

Or perhaps, might it be over for him by the All-Star break...?

Let the games begin.

- Garry J. Wise, Toronto
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Meet the British Playfoots: Of 'Purity' Rings and Human Rights

In my mind, the history of human rights advocacy in the West is unshakably associated with the protection of minority interests.

Most readers will likely reflect on the significant progress made in our own lifetimes in protecting minorities against discrimination based on religion, race, gender, disability and sexual orientation.

An assortment of political heroes will also come to mind - the leaders on the vanguard who pushed society forward - gently and not-so-gently - JFK, Martin Luther King, RFK, Betty Friedan, our own Pierre Elliott Trudeau - even Magic Johnson in his own way.

So, as a starting point, before we meet the Playfoots, I will acknowledge that it is for me generally disconcerting when I encounter stories which feature individuals of the Christian majority employing the courts to combat what they claim is institutional religious discrimination.
Often, their logic is at least immediately tempting (if not instantly convincing), with market-researched talking points elegantly spun in the language of the plainly oppressed.

The tyranny of the minority has apparently now arisen.

In this mindset, preventing educators from teaching Darwin and evolution is not about good or bad science - it is about religious freedom. The "balanced approach" of giving Adam and Eve equal billing is articulated as "surely not too much to ask."

Similarly, the self-proclaimed casualties in the annual War on Christmas do not position themselves as advocating for an era in which "secular" Christmas symbols must be found on virtually every corner of the public, urban landscape, irrespective of the sensitivites of others or the traditional separation of church and state.

Rather, they position themselves as fighting the oppression of their expression rights, an oppression that can apparently be remedied only with Christmas trees, seasonal messages and nativity scenes prominently displayed at public premises - side by side, presumably, with the permanent Ten Commandments sculptures they also argue must, as a matter of civil rights, be the architectural centrepieces of courthouses, government buildings and community centres everywhere.

In my mind, there is a rather huge and easy distinction between the objectives of what bloggers have labelled the Christianist Movement and the legitimate goals of traditional minority advocacy.

The War on Christmas crowd fight to keep Christian symbols central in our public square. Minorities have traditionally had to fight their institutional exclusion from that square.
Historically, it hasn't been too difficult to figure out which side the fabled angels have been on in these questions.
But sometimes, I start to think the Christianists might really have a point, as was my first reaction to the British case below from Reuters via Yahoo! News:

A teenage schoolgirl will appeal to the High Court on Friday to overturn a ban on her wearing a "purity ring" at school to symbolize her decision to abstain from sex before marriage.

Lydia Playfoot, 16, from West Sussex, says the silver ring is an expression of her faith and should be exempt from the school's rules on wearing jewellery.

"It is really important to me because in the Bible it says we should do this," she told BBC radio. "Muslims are allowed to wear headscarves and other faiths can wear bangles and other types of jewellery. It feels like Christians are being discriminated against."

Playfoot's lawyers will argue that her right to express religious belief is upheld by the Human Rights Act.

Lydia's father, Phil Playfoot, said his daughter's case was part of a wider cultural trend towards Christians being "silenced."

"What I would describe as a secular fundamentalism is coming to the fore, which really wants to silence certain beliefs, and Christian views in particular," he said.

How can a small ring on the finger of a teenage girl be so big an issue that a school must take action? It doesn't make sense.
I presume the school policy is calculated simply to eliminate austentatious displays of wealth and glamour from its corridors. But still, it's only a ring..
Then, however, I read the "fine print" in this story:
Lydia Playfoot's parents help run the British arm of the American campaign group the Silver Ring Thing, which promotes abstinence among young people.
And I caught on.
So here's my question:
Is this really a case about "silencing beliefs," to use Mr. Playfoot's words?
Or is this an example of extremist parents using their child as a pawn in a campaign to promote their personal politico-religious agendas, via the Courts?
Perhaps this BBC story on the same case, (with a great deal of additional background not in the Reuters version), will illuminate:

But headteacher Leon Nettley, said the school was applying a basic uniform policy, which "has the overwhelming support of pupils and parents".

He said her ring was "not a Christian symbol, and is not required to be worn by any branch within Christianity", adding that Lydia was free to display her faith in other ways.

Lawyers for the school will insist that it is not operating a discriminatory policy because allowances made for Sikhs and Muslims only occur for items integral to their religious beliefs.

It argues that a Christian pupil would be allowed to wear a crucifix.

In freely choosing the school, lawyers will also say that Miss Playfoot and her parents voluntarily accepted to adhere to the uniform code.

So a crucifix is not prohibited by the dress code - just jewellery, with exceptions to this rule for true religious symbols.
And when they enrolled Lydia in this private school, the parents signed a contract agreeing to abide by the school's uniform policy.
That doesn't sound so much like discrimination to me, any more.
So why is this case in court at all? I wondered.
Then, finally, it all became clear to me...

...But her father Phil, who is a pastor, said she wanted to pursue the case because of its wider significance for all Christians.

"I think there's something bigger at stake here," he said.

... The case is being funded through individual donations gathered through the LCF's sister group Christian Concern for our Nation.

Personally I'd like to hear what young, Lydia Playfoot has to say about all this in a few years.
For now, it's pretty clear to me that this case is about the parents' agendas, not their child's rights or best interests.
And on that note, I am not sure of the wisdom of setting one's daughter up at age 16 as an international poster-child for virginity and abstinence.
Sometimes, I am convinced religious dogma is to psychotherapy as candy is to dentistry.
- Garry J. Wise, Toronto
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This excerpt below from the comments section of another thorough article on the Playfoots at, adds a further, interesting viewpoint:

I am a committed Christian and its great that this girl and her friends want to wear her ring but it does not symbolise her Christianity like a veil symbolises a Muslim's faith or a bangle represents a Hindu's beliefs. I think her parents should not have supported her because she appears to be stubbornly wanting her own way - to stick it to the teachers - under the guise of the ring being so important. I've seen it happen over and over again - I'm a teacher in NZ. Its not the issue - its the issue of getting her own way.

Ingrid, Auckland NZ

Guantanamo hearings flawed: Army Officer


An Army officer with a key role in the U.S. military hearings at Guantanamo
Bay says they relied on vague and incomplete intelligence and were pressured to declare detainees “enemy combatants,” often without any specific evidence.

His affidavit, released Friday, is the first criticism by a member of the military panels that determine whether detainees will continue to be held.

Lt. Col. Stephen Abraham, a 26-year veteran of military intelligence who is an Army reserve officer and a California lawyer, said military prosecutors were provided with only “generic” material that didn’t hold up to the most basic legal challenges.

..."What were purported to be specific statements of fact lacked even the most fundamental earmarks of objectively credible evidence."
- Garry J. Wise, Toronto
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Thursday, June 21, 2007

The Conrad Black Trial

With closing arguments now wrapping up, the three-month trial of Canadian media magnate Conrad Black is drawing to a close in Chicago.
Black faces numerous charges of fraud, obstruction of justice and racketeering in connection with his role as CEO of Hollinger International.
Those looking for a primer as to the charges against Black and the factual defences he has raised will find a good summary here and extensive coverage here from CBC News.
Also worth checking out is Toronto Life, which has a running blog of Black trial observations and commentary, tagged as a "daily digest of courtroom activity for avid observers."

- Garry J. Wise, Toronto
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More Judge Seidlin

Associated Press reports today that Judge Larry Seidlin (of Anna Nicole Smith reknown) may soon be coming to you via a TV screen in your own home:

The crying judge in the Anna Nicole Smith case is developing a court show expected to debut on television next year.

The story in Broadcasting and Cable came one day after it was announced that Larry Seidlin would resign as a judge by the end of July.

Broadcasting and Cable reports that Seidlin will tape a pilot next month in Los Angeles.

He'll be working with the same company that's responsible for the top two court shows, Judge Judy and Judge Joe Brown.
-Garry J. Wise, Toronto
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Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Deportation in Store for Missing Soldier's Wife?

Unfathomably, CBS News is reporting that the wife of kidnapped US soldier, Army Spec. Alex Jiminez, faces deportation, even as the search for her missing husband continues:

While the U.S. military searches for a soldier missing in Iraq, kidnapped by insurgents possibly allied with al Qaeda, his wife back home in Massachusetts may be deported by the U.S. government.

Army Spec. Alex Jimenez, who has been missing since his unit was attacked by insurgents in Iraq on May 12, had petitioned for a green card for his wife, Yaderlin Hiraldo, whom he married in 2004.

Their attorney, Matthew Kolken, said 23-year-old Hiraldo illegally entered the United States in 2001 to reunite with her husband, whom she had met in her native Dominican Republic and later married at his New York State Army base in 2004.

Her husband's request for a green card and legal residence status for his wife alerted authorities to her status, Kolken said.

She now faces deportation, reports CBS station WBZ correspondent Beth Germano, and would be barred from applying for a green card for 10 years.

It is hard to imagine a more colossal, bureaucratic bungling than this.
- Garry J. Wise, Toronto
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Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Saturday at the Creation Museum

A narrated "tour" of Ken Ham’s Creationism Museum in Kentucky, as documented by Kentucky blogger, Blue Grass Roots:

Early in the museum, the visitor is given advice on the proper mind frame to have for your visit: “Don’t think, just listen and believe.”

... Human Reason is the enemy and God’s Word is the hero.

Judge for yourself.
- Garry J. Wise, Toronto
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Mildred Loving - 40 Years Later

I will begin this post with a brief backgrounder from Wikipedia:

Loving v. Virginia, 388 U.S. 1 (1967), was a landmark civil rights case in which the United States Supreme Court declared Virginia's anti-miscegenation statute, the "Racial Integrity Act of 1924", unconstitutional, thereby ending all race-based legal restrictions on marriage in the United States.
And, now 40 years later, Mildred Loving's recent statement, in full:

Loving for All
By Mildred Loving*

Prepared for Delivery on June 12, 2007,The 40th Anniversary of the Loving vs. Virginia Announcement

When my late husband, Richard, and I got married in Washington, DC in 1958, it wasn’t to make a political statement or start a fight. We were in love, and we wanted to be married.

We didn’t get married in Washington because we wanted to marry there. We did it there because the government wouldn’t allow us to marry back home in Virginia where we grew up, where we met, where we fell in love, and where we wanted to be together and build our family. You see, I am a woman of color and Richard was white, and at that time people believed it was okay to keep us from marrying because of their ideas of who should marry whom.

When Richard and I came back to our home in Virginia, happily married, we had no intention of battling over the law. We made a commitment to each other in our love and lives, and now had the legal commitment, called marriage, to match. Isn’t that what marriage is?

Not long after our wedding, we were awakened in the middle of the night in our own bedroom by deputy sheriffs and actually arrested for the “crime” of marrying the wrong kind of person. Our marriage certificate was hanging on the wall above the bed. The state prosecuted Richard and me, and after we were found guilty, the judge declared: “Almighty God created the races white, black, yellow, malay and red, and he placed them on separate continents. And but for the interference with his arrangement there would be no cause for such marriages. The fact that he separated the races shows that he did not intend for the races to mix.” He sentenced us to a year in prison, but offered to suspend the sentence if we left our home in Virginia for 25 years exile.

We left, and got a lawyer. Richard and I had to fight, but still were not fighting for a cause. We were fighting for our love.

Though it turned out we had to fight, happily Richard and I didn’t have to fight alone. Thanks to groups like the ACLU and the NAACP Legal Defense & Education Fund, and so many good people around the country willing to speak up, we took our case for the freedom to marry all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. And on June 12, 1967, the Supreme Court ruled unanimously that, “The freedom to marry has long been recognized as one of the vital personal rights essential to the orderly pursuit of happiness by free men,” a “basic civil right.”

My generation was bitterly divided over something that should have been so clear and right. The majority believed that what the judge said, that it was God’s plan to keep people apart, and that government should discriminate against people in love. But I have lived long enough now to see big changes. The older generation’s fears and prejudices have given way, and today’s young people realize that if someone loves someone they have a right to marry.

Surrounded as I am now by wonderful children and grandchildren, not a day goes by that I don’t think of Richard and our love, our right to marry, and how much it meant to me to have that freedom to marry the person precious to me, even if others thought he was the “wrong kind of person” for me to marry. I believe all Americans, no matter their race, no matter their sex, no matter their sexual orientation, should have that same freedom to marry. Government has no business imposing some people’s religious beliefs over others. Especially if it denies people’s civil rights.

I am still not a political person, but I am proud that Richard’s and my name is on a court case that can help reinforce the love, the commitment, the fairness, and the family that so many people, black or white, young or old, gay or straight seek in life. I support the freedom to marry for all. That’s what Loving, and loving, are all about.

(h/t - Positive Liberty via Andrew Sullivan)
Quite a remarkable story, and a perspective well worth listening to, as our current era's same-sex marriage debate draws toward its own similarly overdue, and well-deserved sunset.
- Garry J. Wise, Toronto
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Thursday, June 14, 2007

Andrew Sullivan on the Republican Propaganda Machine

Andrew Sullivan once again hits the nail on the head.

I don't often do this, but I am reproducing his entire post below:

The Unseriousness of the "Pro-War" Right
13 Jun 2007 12:33 pm

Is this truly
the consensus on the Bush-Cheney right? Money quote:

Most Americans will not see a connection between the ideology of the head-drillers and head-loppers we are fighting in Iraq and those who try to do even worse at Fort Dix and the Kennedy airport.

How to unpack this? First off, it is not clear that we are in fact fighting all the head-loppers and head-drillers in Iraq. Many of the head-drillers are allies of the government we are supporting. Both the head-loppers and head-drillers have been empowered, not stymied, by our clueless occupation - and they have multiplied in numbers. And there are plenty of extremely unpleasant characters among the Sunni tribes we are now supporting to defeat a different strand of head-loppers in Anbar. Then one has to ask: is Hanson actually saying that the Shiite death squads and Qaeda wannabes in the Caribbean are part of the same movement? In the past, successful wars were often conducted under the aegis of "divide and conquer." The Bush policy, guided by the genius of strategists like Hanson, seems to be "unite a splintering enemy and lose to them."

Then there's this rubbish: "Do even worse" than what's happening in Iraq at Fort Dix and JFK? Is Hanson serious? Or has defending the indefensible finally forced him off the deep end?

If the risible, unformed, half-baked plots to "storm" a military base (with a handful of religious nutcases) or dream about blowing up JFK (while having the capacity to do nothing of the kind) are "even worse" than the genocidal Shiite death squads and Sunni cells of Iraq, then we really are in a pickle. I can't belief VDH believes this, unless there is some massive amount of evidence about Fort Dix and JFK that he is privy to and the rest of us aren't. So what's the point here? To conflate both sides in the Iraq civil war as being indistinguishable from Caribbean losers and 9/11? To reduce every conflict in a welter of conflicting fundamentalist claims to a single meme, "Islamist terrorism" and to urge that it be "fought" with the same finesse that we have brought to Iraq? Or to scare us into not thinking at all? Hewitt sums up the moronic convergence here:

A great deal of Campaign 2008 will be fought over this ground, with the GOP's nominee arguing that Afghanistan and Iraq are connected to Iranian nukes, Gaza and Fort Dix and terrorism in London, Madrid, Beslan and across the globe, and Democrats arguing that the world's problems come from a 140,000 Americans waging a campaign against Islamists in Iraq.

Those are the choices? Is it not possible to make, you know, empirical distinctions between various threats? To see that Islamism does indeed fuel Sunni and Shia violence, but that these forces are also fundamentally at war with one another? To see a distinction between Ahmadinejad's Shiite apocalyptics and Bin Laden's Wahhabist caliphate - a distinction any halfway competent war strategy would exploit, not deny?

When you see how evidence-resistant a propagandist like Hewitt can be, you begin to realize how important it is to keep these people away from power. They are much less interested in defeating al Qaeda than they are in using al Qaeda to defeat Democrats. This is what Hewitt really cares about: the GOP. Look what damage his ilk have done to the West's security since 9/11 because of their pathological partisanship. Look at how their refusal or inability to see any nuance, complexity or variety in the many threats we face makes our defeat more likely. We just cannot afford to tolerate these Republican propagandists any longer. There is a war on. And they simply aren't serious about fighting it.

- Garry J. Wise, Toronto
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Tuesday, June 05, 2007

D.C. Judge Takes Dry Cleaner to the Cleaners with $54 Million Lawsuit

From Yahoo! News:

WASHINGTON - A judge who was seeking $67 million from a dry cleaners that lost his pants has loosened the belt on his lawsuit. Now, he's asking for only $54 million, according to a May 30 court filing in D.C. Superior Court.

...Roy L. Pearson, a District of Columbia administrative law judge, first sued Custom Cleaners over a pair of pants that went missing two years ago. He was seeking about $65 million under the D.C. consumer protection act and almost $2 million in common law claims.

He is now focusing his claims on signs in the shop that have since been removed. The suit alleges that Jin Nam Chung, Soo Chung and Ki Chung committed fraud and misled consumers with signs that claimed "Satisfaction Guaranteed" and "Same Day Service."

- Garry J. Wise, Toronto

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Is Ritalin Being Over-Prescribed to Children of Divorce?

This Canadian study, reported by Reuters, might lead one to wonder:

TORONTO (Reuters) - Children from broken marriages are twice as likely to be prescribed attention-deficit drugs as children whose parents stay together, a Canadian researcher said on Monday, and she said the reasons should be investigated.

More than 6 percent of 633 children from divorced families were prescribed Ritalin, compared with 3.3 percent of children whose parents stayed together, University of Alberta professor Lisa Strohschein reported in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.

The study of more than 4,700 children started in 1994, while all the families were intact, Strohschein said. They followed the children's progress to see what happened to their families and to see what drugs were prescribed.

"It shows clearly that divorce is a risk factor for kids to be prescribed Ritalin," Strohschein said.

...Ritalin, known generically as methylphenidate, is a psychostimulant drug most commonly prescribed for the treatment of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder in children.

There is a big debate in much of the developed world over whether it may be over-prescribed -- given to children who do not really need it. In March, a University of California, Berkeley study found that the use of drugs to treat ADHD has more than tripled worldwide since 1993.

- Garry J. Wise, Toronto
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