Monthly archives: June, 2009

Fort Worth Gay Bar Raided on 40th Anniversary of Stonewall

From the Dallas Voice:

Between 150 and 200 people gathered on the steps of the Tarrant County Courthouse Sunday, June 28 — the 40th anniversary of the Stonewall Rebellion — to protest a police raid on a Fort Worth gay bar, The Rainbow Lounge, at about 1 a.m. that day. Gay Fort Worth City Councilmember Joel Burns told the protesters he has called on Police Chief Jeffrey Halstead to conduct a thorough investigation into allegations of harassment and police brutality against bar patrons during the raid. One man remains hospitalized with a brain injury after, witnesses said, several officers threw him to the ground while arresting him.

Sources have said that seven people were arrested in the raid although witnesses at the scene said many more people were handcuffed with zip ties and taken out of the bar.

One man, identified by his sister as Chad Gibson, was in the intensive care unit at Fort Worth’s JPS Hospital with bleeding in his brain after officers threw him to the ground and used zip-ties to handcuff him.

The raid happened on the 40th anniversary of the Stonewall rebellion.

Joel Burns, Fort Worth’s first and only openly gay City Council member, was in Houston for the weekend, but came back to Fort Worth in time for the rally at the courthouse.

“We want all citizens of Texas and Fort Worth to know and be assured that the laws of ordinances of our great state and city will be applied fairly, equally and without malice or selective enforcement,” Burns said at the rally, reading from a prepared statement.

“We consider this to be part of ‘The Fort Worth Way’ here. As elected representatives of the city of Fort Worth, we are calling for an immediate and thorough investigation of the actions of the city of Fort Worth police and Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission in relation to the incident at the Rainbow Lounge earlier this morning,” Burns said.

In an e-mail communication before noon on Sunday, Burns said he had already talked with Fort Worth Police Chief Jeffrey Halstead who had promised an investigation into the matter. Burns also said at that time that Mayor Pro Tem Kathleen Hicks, who represents the district where the Rainbow Lounge is located, and City Manager Dale A. Fisseler were also already aware of the situation.

The suspicion is that “elements of the law enforcement community selectively targeted a recently opened gay and lesbian establishment for selective enforcement and harassment.”

Not much commentary at this point.  I’m just watching this one.

Coleman Concedes; Al Franken to be Sworn In After July 4 Recess

Kudos again to WTAE Pittsburgh for being the first to share the news:

Republican Norm Coleman conceded to Democrat Al Franken in Minnesota’s contested Senate race on Tuesday, ending a nearly eight-month recount and court fight over an election decided by only a few hundred votes.

Coleman announced his decision at a news conference in St. Paul, hours after a unanimous Minnesota Supreme Court ruled that Franken, a former “Saturday Night Live” comedian and liberal commentator, should be certified the winner.

“The Supreme Court has made its decision and I will abide by the results,” Coleman told reporters outside his St. Paul home.

“In these tough times we all need to focus on the future, and the future is that we have a new United States senator,” Coleman said.

Franken’s presence in the Senate would give the Democrats control of 60 seats, enough to overcome any Republican filibuster if they stay united.

A spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said the earliest Franken would be seated is next week, because the Senate is out of session for the July 4 holiday.

After eight months of litigation, hearing Norm Coleman talk about the “need to focus on the future,” sounds a bit disingenuous.

I know, that’s putting it mildly.

Congratulate Senator-elect Al Franken at his Web site, and give him a modest donation to help with the legal bills.

Congratulations, Al!

Time to Seat Senator Al Franken

Once again, WTAE in Pittsburgh beats all other media outlets with the news:

The Minnesota Supreme Court has ordered that Democrat Al Franken be certified as the winner of the state’s long-running Senate race.

The high court rejected a legal challenge from Republican Norm Coleman, whose options for regaining the Senate seat are dwindling.

Justices said Franken is entitled to the election certificate he needs to assume office. With Franken and the usual backing of two independents, Democrats will have a big enough majority to overcome Republican filibuster.

Coleman hasn’t ruled out seeking federal court intervention.

Al Franken is a thinker, a true liberal, someone able to grasp complex issues and consider them from every angle.  His radio program on Air America was incredible. We need more like him in public office.

From the New York Times:

The unanimous decision was released after a seven-months long battle over the seat formerly held by Norm Coleman.

Gov. Tim Pawlenty had indicated as late as Monday that he was willing to certify Mr. Franken as the winner once the state’s highest court decided the recount and Mr. Coleman’s battle. On CNN on Sunday, Mr. Pawlenty said: “I’m prepared to sign it as soon as they give the green light.”

As long as Mr. Coleman contests this no further, Mr. Franken will become the Democrats’ much coveted 60th vote. That is the number required to avert filibusters, and with both Senators Edward M. Kennedy and Robert C. Byrd absent due to illness, the Democrats have sometimes scrambled to make sure they had lined up enough votes.

I understand the game Norm Coleman is playing – stall as long as possible, disrupt the balance of the senate, postpone as long as possible the inevitable.  But this has been an incredible disservice to the people of Minnesota.

It’s finally time to seat Senator Franken.

Michael Jackson Tribute: Filipino Prisoners Reprise Cellblock ‘Thriller’ dance

From the Daily News:

Michael Jackson‘s spirit lives on inside a Filipino jail.

Tourists flocked to the prison in Cebu, south of Manila, Saturday for an elaborate tribute performed by hundreds of inmates in orange prison garb who became an Internet sensation in 2007 for their jailhouse "Thriller" performance.

The original performance – featuring 1,500 inmates in matching prison uniforms doing Jackson’s famous 1982 routine – has been viewed more than 24 million times on YouTube.

The original dance began as a exercise routine for the jail birds.

The inmates dedicated the tribute performance to Jackson’s family.

Enjoy the video above. Click through to Turning Left if you’re viewing this via RSS. The tribute is rather incredible.

Michael Jackson’s ‘Gone Too Soon’

Michael wrote this for Ryan White, 1971-1990.

I’m happy to post the song and video here for Ryan…  and Michael.

Michael Jackson’s Thriller, in Honor

It’s only within the last two or three months that I started listening to Michael Jackson again, and found myself beginning to appreciate his talent in a much deeper way than I did when I was young.

He was only 50, just four years older than I am.  What an awesome talent.  What an incredible loss.

Enjoy Thriller, the long version.

Rest in Peace, Michael.

Richie Daley Wants You to Guarantee the Olympics

Got money?  Are you ready to help bail out the Olympics if they fail in Chicago?

Richie Daley thinks you are, and he’s gone rogue making promises on behalf of the people of Chicago and the state of Illinois.

Perhaps the mocking tone isn’t quite appropriate.  This is Mayor Daley, after all.  For all his apparent whining at times, the man is a savvy pol, a one man governmental body, never to be dismissed or underestimated.

But I’m confused, and apparently he is also.  Just what is he promising on behalf of Chicago?  Good luck trying to interpret the Daley doublespeak.

From the Chicago Tribune, June 18:

Faced with losing the 2016 Summer Games to competing cities offering full government guarantees, Mayor Richard Daley made an about-face Wednesday and said the City of Chicago would sign a contract agreeing to take full financial responsibility for the Games.

In a worst-case situation, such as severe cost-overruns or a catastrophic event, the agreement could leave taxpayers on the hook for hundreds of millions of dollars or even more, a scenario Chicago’s bid team acknowledges but insists is far-fetched.

Bid officials said they can offer the guarantee because they plan to add another insurance policy worth a minimum of $500 million to existing guarantees, which they think creates an ample buffer for taxpayers.

The move surprised Chicago aldermen, who wondered why Daley had made a sweeping financial promise without bringing it to the City Council.

Chicago had tried to avoid the full commitment by offering to sign a modified version of the host-city contract with the International Olympic Committee. But Chicago’s package of limited guarantees has been an Achilles’ heel for the bid, since the other finalists — Madrid, Rio de Janeiro and Tokyo — are offering full government guarantees.

On Wednesday, Daley disclosed his change of heart, a move that jeopardizes his long-standing pledge to limit potential taxpayer exposure.

So Mayor Daley is apparently ready to throw in everything and the kitchen sink to see the Olympics come to Chicago.  However, Daley muddied the waters earlier today with a news conference that promised, well, we’re not sure what he promised.

From the Trib’s Clout Street:

Mayor Richard Daley today attempted to dampen the political firestorm he sparked while overseas last week when he told Olympics officials that Chicago would financially guarantee the 2016 Summer Games.

His remarks this afternoon, however, only further confused the issue.

The mayor, back in Chicago and addressing the issue locally for the first time today, seemed to contradict his own statements in Switzerland, as well as the public remarks of Chicago 2016 chief Pat Ryan and International Olympics Committee President Jacques Rogge.

“We agreed to sign a host city agreement with the provisions of the city, state and the insurance policy as added on to the host city agreement. That’s what it’s going to be and that is our protection for the taxpayers of the city of Chicago,” Daley said today with Lori Healey, Chicago 2016 president and the mayor’s former chief of staff, at his side.

But that version is markedly different from Daley’s remarks immediately after emerging from his June 17 meeting with the IOC, when he told the Tribune he had just agreed to sign the host city contract “as is.”

In a subsequent interview last week, the IOC’s Rogge confirmed that Daley had agreed to sign the standard contract without modifications.

How much are Chicago and the rest of the state at risk if all of this goes south?

From Clout Street again:

For months, the mayor and Olympic bid leaders had pledged not to sign the blanket financial guarantee that could put taxpayers on the hook if there are cost overruns beyond the $750 million level the city and state already have agreed to cover.

So, which is it?  $750 million is aweful close to $1 billion.  How much can we afford?

Make no mistake: I would love to see the Olympics come to Chicago.  Every town, village and city in Cook County would benefit, financially and otherwise.  As an added plus, the experience would be completely awesome.

Frankly, I’m suspicious of Madrid, Rio de Janeiro and Tokyo.  None of these cities can afford to make outlandish financial guarantees, and the IOC must know this.  Neither can Chicago.

Here’s the problem: Illinois does nothing efficiently, and Chicago is even worse.  We know that Patronage City will dish out completely unnecessary contracts all over the state.  If all goes well and the Olympics in 2016 are a huge success, somehow, someway, Chicago and the state of Illinois will manage to lose an incredible amount of money.

It’s inevitable.  This is Illinois.

There must be a way of landing the Olympics without promising a credit card the size of Mayor Daley’s ego.

Coming Next June: The Summer of Blagojevich

For all of you hungering for All-Things-Blagojevich, next summer you will have your fill.   For those on the 24-hour news cycle, working hard to serve us up mush all day, all the time, there will be more than enough for them to throw on screen.

The Rod Blagojevich Reality Show will be in its final season when the former governor’s trial commences June 3, 2010.

From our friends at the Southtown Star:

A federal judge on Thursday set a June 3, 2010, start date for former Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s trial on charges of scheming to sell or trade President Obama’s U.S. Senate seat and pressure potential campaign contributors.

Defense attorneys said that despite millions of pages of documents still to be read and hours of FBI wiretap tapes still to be heard, they would be ready when the curtain goes up almost a year from now on the second spectacular corruption trial in five years of a former Illinois governor.

“We have the best judge in the entire system – everyone has always told me that – and if he says to be ready by June 3 we’ll be ready by June 3,” Blagojevich’s most outspoken defense counsel, Samuel E. Adam, told reporters about U.S. District Judge James B. Zagel.

Blagojevich is charged with racketeering conspiracy and other offenses. Prosecutors say he schemed to exchange Obama’s former Senate seat for campaign money, a seat in the Obama Cabinet or a lucrative job for himself or his wife.

They say he also illegally plotted to pressure various people – a racetrack owner, a hospital administrator and even White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel – for contributions to the Friends of Rod Blagojevich campaign fund.

Blagojevich has pleaded not guilty.

Gotta love defense attorneys, already trying to make nice-nice with the judge.

So, if you had some doubt that Illinois might drop out of the news except for reports in the national media on Chicago weather, no such luck.  As Cypher said in The Matrix, “…buckle your seatbelt, Dorothy, ’cause Kansas is going bye-bye.”

Buchanan And White Nationalist Brimelow Argue For English-Only Initiatives at ‘Conferenece’

Hats off to Think Progress for finding this one:

On Saturday, Pat Buchanan hosted a conference to discuss how Republicans can regain a majority in America. During one discussion, panelists suggested supporting English-only initiatives as a prime way of attracting “working class white Democrats.” The discussion ridiculed Judge Sotomayor for the fact that she studied children’s classics to improve her grammar while attending college. The panelists also suggested that, without English as the official language, President Obama would force Americans to speak Spanish.

One salient feature of the event was the banner hanging over the English-only advocates. The word conference was spelled “Conferenece.”


Pat must be thinking, “Oy,” about now.  Right, Pat?

Please visit Think Progress and thank them.

Weekly Address – President Obama Highlights Tough New Consumer Protections, June 20, 2009

Washington, D.C.–(ENEWSPF)–June 20, 2009. As we continue to recover from an historic economic crisis, it is clear to everyone that one of its major causes was a breakdown in oversight that led to widespread abuses in the financial system. An epidemic of irresponsibility took hold from Wall Street to Washington to Main Street. And the consequences have been disastrous. Millions of Americans have seen their life savings erode; families have been devastated by job losses; businesses large and small have closed their doors.

In response, this week, my administration proposed a set of major reforms to the rules that govern our financial system; to attack the causes of this crisis and to prevent future crises from taking place; to ensure that our markets can work fairly and freely for businesses and consumers alike.

We are going to promote markets that work for those who play by the rules. We´re going to stand up for a system in which fair dealing and honest competition are the only way to win. We´re going to level the playing field for consumers. And we´re going to have the kinds of rules that encourage innovations that make our economy stronger – not those that allow insiders to exploit its weaknesses for their own gain.

And one of the most important proposals is a new oversight agency called the Consumer Financial Protection Agency. It´s charged with just one job: looking out for the interests of ordinary Americans in the financial system. This is essential, for this crisis may have started on Wall Street. But its impacts have been felt by ordinary Americans who rely on credit cards, home loans, and other financial instruments.

It is true that this crisis was caused in part by Americans who took on too much debt and took out loans they simply could not afford. But there are also millions of Americans who signed contracts they did not always understand offered by lenders who did not always tell the truth. Today, folks signing up for a mortgage, student loan, or credit card face a bewildering array of incomprehensible options. Companies compete not by offering better products, but more complicated ones – with more fine print and hidden terms. It´s no coincidence that the lack of strong consumer protections led to abuses against consumers; the lack of rules to stop deceptive lending practices led to abuses against borrowers.

This new agency will have the responsibility to change that. It will have the power to set tough new rules so that companies compete by offering innovative products that consumers actually want – and actually understand. Those ridiculous contracts – pages of fine print that no one can figure out – will be a thing of the past. You´ll be able to compare products – with descriptions in plain language – to see what is best for you. The most unfair practices will be banned. The rules will be enforced.

Some argue that these changes – and the many others we´ve called for – go too far. And I welcome a debate about how we can make sure our regulations work for businesses and consumers. But what I will not accept – what I will vigorously oppose – are those who do not argue in good faith. Those who would defend the status quo at any cost. Those who put their narrow interests ahead of the interests of ordinary Americans. We´ve already begun to see special interests mobilizing against change.

That´s not surprising. That´s Washington.

For these are interests that have benefited from a system which allowed ordinary Americans to be exploited. These interests argue against reform even as millions of people are facing the consequences of this crisis in their own lives. These interests defend business-as-usual even though we know that it was business-as-usual that allowed this crisis to take place.

Well, the American people did not send me to Washington to give in to the special interests; the American people sent me to Washington to stand up for their interests. And while I´m not spoiling for a fight, I´m ready for one. The most important thing we can do to put this era of irresponsibility in the past is to take responsibility now. That is why my administration will accept no less than real and lasting change to the way business is done – on Wall Street and in Washington. We will do what is necessary to end this crisis – and we will do what it takes to prevent this kind of crisis from ever happening again.

Thank you.