May 18, 2004

marriage across Massachusetts

Cambridge, Boston, Provincetown, Northampton, and a few other places got top billing, and rightfully so. But there are 351 cities and towns in Massachusetts, and unhyped celebrations were happening everywhere. A good place to revel in this diversity is to go to the Mass newspaper link page at Common Dreams.

Here's a sampling:

From my hometown, Haverhill, and neighboring towns in the Merrimack Valley:
Marcia O'Brien and Terri Desaulniers were the first of three couples through the door at Haverhill City Hall. They said 26 years was a long enough wait to be married.

"We can't tell you how happy we are," said DeSaulniers, who met O'Brien 26 years ago at a softball game in Brockton. "It brings tears to our eyes. This is the happiest day of our lives."

In Methuen, four couples waited for their chance, including Mary E. Washburn, 46, and Alice A. Galloway, 47, who first met at summer camp at age 10.
The Worcester Telegram has some good stories and a slide show.

Here's a great bit from the Fitchburg Sentinel:
The Rev. Edward Greene of Maine, a gay Episcopalian priest, said outside Fitchburg City Hall he's not ready to rush into marriage with his partner, George Van Hazinga of Leominster.

Greene got into a brief argument with a man across Main Street who yelled slurs at about a dozen gay marriage supporters and told the supporters to read the Bible.

"I'm a priest, so put that in your Bible and smoke it," Greene hollered back at the man, who later declined to identify himself. "God bless you."
Here's a nice story from my favorite part of the state, the North Shore.

And how about this twist from the Greenfield Recorder:
No gay couples applied for a marriage license in Leyden Monday, but the town clerk wanted one and had to go to Greenfield to get his because he couldn't issue one to himself.
I'll end with this photo and caption from the Salem News:

[photo temporarily disabled]
Robert Murch, left, embraces his father, Michael Sapol, while his mother, Carol, hugs his partner, Gary Halteman, before their wedding ceremony outside Salem City Hall yesterday morning. (Kira Horvath/Staff photo)

Update: some of the links don't work anymore as the days have shifted. I changed them where possible but in some cases you'll have to navigate to Tuesday's editions.

May 17, 2004

Northampton report

I wasn't able to be in Northampton for the 8:30 opening of the municipal offices; I had to proctor a final exam at UMass. But as I waited for the 7:15 bus at the downtown stop, I saw a woman with a young child videotaping the as yet empty street. She quizzed a bystander about the day's significance: "Do you know what's special about today?" "Yeah. Everybody can get married today!" "Yay!"

When I got back into town at around 10:30, the first thing I saw as I approached City Hall were some balloons in front. Then I saw two ambulances. Before I could engage in any tragic speculation, I noticed that the balloons were tied to the ambulances. Whew. Ok, I figured, it's a gay-friendly ambulance company and they're there to show support. I get there and they have a big stuffed teddy bear strapped to a gurney, and someone in a giant bear suit playing with kids. It took me a second to figure out that this was entirely unconnected to the marriage celebrations.

Then I head toward the office building in back of City Hall. Before I get there some guy hands me a small leaflet advertizing a revival meeting. There's a picture of Jesus and a US soldier and a US flag in the background. I didn't look at it long enough to decipher the message but there were no references to the day's events. Between this and the bears I'm thinking, this is weird, even for Northampton.

Finally I turn the corner and see the line extending halfway to Main Street. There are a bunch more people milling around, some with signs, balloons, or flower necklaces. People taking pictures and video. Lots of kids running around. Every ten minutes or so, a couple emerges with their shiny new certificates, and they're greeted with big cheers and a bit of rice. The overall atmosphere is festive, but not the festive abandon they had in Cambridge the night before. It's more of a July 4th festive, a relaxed good vibe punctuated by the fireworks of the emerging couples. But at the same time you can almost see the realization of the enormity of the occasion sinking in. Some people have been there all morning and have to return to their daily lives but can't pull themselves away.

I meet a friend who was planning to marry her partner today, but they are in the process of adopting, and some states won't release babies to same-sex couples. Single parents are okay. And they say irony died on 9/11. Once the kid gets to Massachusetts there's no problem, but until then they have to wait. It's a downer and a sign of the difficulties ahead, but she's in a great mood nonetheless; she's confidently sporting a balloon that says "We're Getting Married".

It's a picture perfect day and even the orneriest New Englander couldn't find a flaw. Mid-seventies, low humidity, no clouds. I think of Pat Robertson's prophecy of tornadoes and locusts for Orlando a few years back.

My two favorite signs:

Finally! Now all I need is a date.

And they lived equally ever after


On the local evening news, they attempt a "balanced" report by interviewing a single protester (who apparently couldn't be bothered to do much protesting, since he was gone by the time I got there) who mentioned something about an agenda. But in all the tv coverage I saw, from the local folks to the BBC, there was no way they could balance out the positive images beaming out from city halls across the commonwealth. It was like trying to objectively cover a sporting championship; our local reporter was surrounded by cheering supporters and couldn't supress a faint smile herself.

There is plenty more struggle ahead, but today such thoughts were clearly reserved for May 18th and beyond.

mazel tov!

My wife and I were married nine years ago in Cambridge City Hall, a place that will now be remembered as a historic first in the cause of equal rights.

Congratulations to all the happy couples in Massachusetts. Gu ma fada beò sibh, is ceò às ur taigh - May you live long, and smoke from your chimney.

May 13, 2004

Hagerty recap

Several new developments on the Barbara Bradley Hagerty front since my initial post on the subject. Details below, but here are the main headlines:

1. Hagerty, responding through the NPR ombudsman, denies knowing any of the three right-wingers she quoted in the piece.

2. Biblio at Better Angels uncovers evidence refuting this claim.

After Atrios' posts exposing right-wing connections of the "random" parishioners, a flood of people complained to NPR. The ombudsman, Jeffrey Dvorkin, addressed the complaints in his last column. Actually, he doesn't make any pronouncements himself, but rather gives Hagerty's response. Here it is in full:
You pointed out something that many people have called me on in that story: namely, that I did not identify the weekday Mass-goers as more conservative than, for example, Sunday Mass-goers. I was remiss on that point, and it's a mistake I'll not make again. The reason I interviewed people on a weekday is that I was assigned the story on Monday night and it was due on Thursday afternoon, so I had no other option... I stood outside the church last Wednesday morning, and asked everyone who would stop to talk with me. I did not know who they were; I had never seen any of these people before. They identified themselves as "policy analyst," "professor," "union official," etc. Mr. Flynn, who seems to be the most controversial, stopped so briefly that I could not even get his profession, so I had no idea what he did.
This is a classic non-denial denial, since it doesn't directly address any of the most serious problems with her report. The one error she admits to is not pointing out that "weekday Mass-goers as more conservative than, for example, Sunday Mass-goers." Well, perhaps she didn't do that because she never identified the Mass as a weekday Mass in the first place. Check the transcript:
HAGERTY: Surveys from Georgetown University show that the number one issue for Catholics in 2000 was the economy. Taxing, spending and government programs came in second. Moral issues were a distant third.

(Soundbite from a Mass)

HAGERTY: But tell that to the worshipers at the 8:00 Mass at St. Matthew's Cathedral in Washington. All but one interviewed there on a recent morning said they won't vote for Kerry. They said they knew he personally thought abortion was wrong but that his stand on abortion rights had a larger meaning. Here's Philip Monos(ph), Carrie Gress(ph) and Ted Flynn.
The sequence of these two paragraphs makes it clear that the weekday parishioners at St. Matthew's were used to refute the Georgetown surveys. I mean, what impact would this bit have had if it had read like this:
Surveys from Georgetown University show that the number one issue for Catholics in 2000 was the economy. Taxing, spending and government programs came in second. Moral issues were a distant third. But tell that to the disproportionately devout, conservative weekday worshipers at St. Matthew's Cathedral in an affluent Washington neighborhood convenient to several think tanks and politically connected institutions.
Doesn't pack quite the same punch, does it? So it's not just that Hagerty left out a critical piece of information; the story was constructed in a way that made the piece impossible to put in.

And as the Ginsu folks would say, But Wait, There's More. Is it really true that Hagerty "had never seen any of these people before"? In my original post, I noted that Hagerty had attended a conference last December called "Toward an Understanding of Religion and American Public Life" organized by Carrie Gress' employer, the Ethics and Public Policy Center. I've since discovered that she has attended this annual event at least three times, in addition to three other EPPC events, dating back to 2000 (sources here, here, here, here and here). So Hagerty knows the EPPC well, but that of course doesn't prove she knows Gress, the program director of the EPPC's Catholic Studies Program. Well, look at what Biblio found: the list of participants at the December conference. Of the 39 participants, 37 were neither Hagerty nor Gress. 39 people, 3 days, a Key West hotel, yet Hagerty says, "I had never seen any of these people before."

Next, consider the last part of Hagerty's defense: They identified themselves as "policy analyst," "professor," "union official," etc. Mr. Flynn, who seems to be the most controversial, stopped so briefly that I could not even get his profession, so I had no idea what he did.

Notice she doesn't address the fact that in her report, the only person she identified by occupation was the pro-Kerry "union official". Why didn't she use the other titles? Certainly "policy analyst" should have rung a warning bell or two: what kind of policy?

Flynn may be the most controversial in terms of his own politics - of the three wingnuts, he's the nuttiest - but in terms of the plausibility of Hagerty not knowing them or even who they are, he's the least controversial, as he's the least connected to Hagerty's reporting beat. Gress is clearly the most connected, but Muñoz, a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute who has written on religion and politics for the National Review, should perhaps also have been a known quantity.

On a smaller point, the claim that her chat with Flynn was brief conflicts with Flynn's own account, wherein he claims that he gave Hagerty some 9 or 10 useable sound bites. Of course, if he is as crazy as he sounds, he may have ranted for a few seconds and run off. It's possible.

Atrios reader Flyroper received an email reply from Hagerty that he graciously forwarded to me. Part of it matches what was printed by Dvorkin, but there was more, including this bit:
Atrios (I don't know his real name) looked these people up on the internet and found he didn't like their credentials. (And I must say that he misrepresented one person who works at the Ethics and Public Policy Center as "right wing" -- the Center is highly respected and follows policy issues from a Catholic, Protestant and Jewish standpoint. I don't know anything about the others he criticized). My point is, I do not select people for their political or religious affiliations; I beg anyone who has time to talk with me!
Okay, let's parse this piece by piece.

[Atrios] found he didn't like their credentials

More to the point, he found they had right-wing credentials. Author of a New World Order conspiracy book? American Enterprise Institute fellow/National Review author? Not exactly "man on the street" stuff.

And I must say that he misrepresented one person who works at the Ethics and Public Policy Center as "right wing" -- the Center is highly respected and follows policy issues from a Catholic, Protestant and Jewish standpoint

It's not clear if she means he misrepresented Gress in particular or the EPPC in general, but either way it's hard to come to any other conclusion. Gress' own comments to Hagerty reveal her ideological biases, and there's also this article in which Gress says "it was through Christianity that women’s equality to men was acknowledged" while dismissing women's stuggles for equality in the Church hierarchy. And others have already highlighted the EPPC's right-wing underwriters and current and former administrators (including that paragon of ethics himself, Elliott Abrams). But the strangest part of this bit of the email is Hagerty's apparent equation of "a Catholic, Protestant and Jewish standpoint" with "not right wing". It's not like right-wing Catholics, Protestants, and Jews are in short supply in the media pundit/think tank circuit.

My point is, I do not select people for their political or religious affiliations; I beg anyone who has time to talk with me!

Well this is of course patently false; she did select these folks for their religious affiliations. I assume she meant only to say "political affiliations". But even if it's true that she doesn't select these people, she can't honestly claim to be ignorant of the likelihood that people with particular political affiliations are going to select her when she's standing in front of a Catholic church after a weekday Mass begging for commentary on John Kerry. And so, even giving Hagerty the benefit of every doubt (including allowing for the possiblity that Carrie Gress skipped the conference and spent the three days hanging out on the beach), it was less than ethical to solicit political opinions from a sample population she knew to be skewed rightward, present them to the public as average Catholic sentiment, and then claim ignorance when found out.

more Berlin bands

Here is the third installment (here are the first and second). Two sideburns bands - what are the odds? Go to the Wicked Sideburns site and you'll see the original photo of the US soldier with the Iraqi kid holding the cardboard sign. Mystery solved!

The 4 Mens Blow
5 Bugs
Braying Boredom
Chicken Hunters
Columbian Neckties
The Flaming Sideburns
Ghost of the Robot
Grubby Things
Huddle Boys
Kutzkelina & the Devils Harmonica
Rockass
Ruperts Kittchen-Funkorchester
Sin City Circus Ladies
Sour Coincidence
Wicked Sideburns

May 04, 2004

paipearan-naidheachd na h-Alba: olc-dèanaran!

Bha mi ag èisdeachd (gu mi-dheònach!) ri Bill O'Reilly fad greiseag an-diugh. 'Se aonar de na h-amadain faramach aig Fox News a th'ann: "right-wing blowhards" mar a their iad. Co-dhiubh, bha e a' gearan an-diugh gu robh paipearan-naidheachd an t-saoghail – gu h-àraid ann an Roinn Eòrpa – a' dèanamh cus sgrùdadh air cràdh nam prìosanach Abu Ghraib, agus a' cur cus coire aig na saighdearan Ameireaganaich. Gu sònraichte, bha e 'gearan mu dheidhinn a' phìos seo le Nìall MacAoidh anns an Sunday Herald, a tha ag ràdh:
Grim images of American and British soldiers torturing Iraqi prisoners have not only caused disgust and revulsion in the West, but could have forever lost Bush and Blair the moral high ground that they claimed to justify the invasion of Iraq.
Bha O’Reilly de’n bheachd gu bheil sin fìor-amaideach, agus bha e 'wonderadh carson nach robh an "Scotland Herald" idir a' sgrìobhadh mu dheidhinn oillteachas Ioslamach. Nise, tha mi cinnteach gu bheil Mghr. O’ Reilly uabhasach trang, a' sàbhaladh na dùthcha bho nàmhaidean an taobh chlì, ach tha e coltach nach robh e cùramach gu leor 'ga leughadh. Bha 10 pìosan ann am mìos 'sa chaidh far an do nochd na faclan "suicide bombers" (mar eisempleir: 68 die as suicide bombers strike in Basra; 'I saw a minibus full of children on fire, my neighbour torn apart'; Cardinal: Muslims not doing enough to condemn terror), agus bho 1998 bha mu 500 pìosan.

Ach ciamar an tèid aig duine cudthromach ùine gu leor ri leughadh 500 artaigilean, bho’n Herald a-mhàin? Neo 's docha nach d’fhuair e iad oir bha e 'sireadh an "Scotland Herald". Ach ’se duine tapaidh a th’ann; bhiodh cuideiginn eile bho Fox a' cantail "Ireland Herald".

May 02, 2004

NPR works in strange and wondrous ways

Atrios has a running analysis (Exhibit A, B, and C) of a story on John Kerry and Catholic voters that ran on National Public Radio's Morning Edition last week. The piece was done by religion correspondent Barbara Bradley Hagerty, who believes that "Journalism informed by a Christian worldview will glorify Christ and make an eternal impact."

There are several problems with the report. First, it is part of a wider pattern of reporting on the issue of Catholic politicians who hold views contrary to church doctrine, but which focus only on abortion (and not, for example, the death penalty or the war in Iraq) and which simultaneously ignore Republican pro-choice Catholics (Rudolph Giuliani, Arnold Schwarzenegger, George Pataki, and Tom Ridge, to name a few).

Second, Hagerty left the impression that her interviews were conducted in an average church after an average Mass. But as Atrios and his readers have determined, the church (St. Matthew's) is convenient to all the high-powered think tank-type places in DC, and, more importantly, the Mass in question was not a Sunday Mass, thus attracting the extra-devout (and thus representative of only a small percentage of US Catholics).

Third, of the four "average parishioners" she quoted, the only one who was pro-Kerry was the only one whose occupation she identified: Charles Loveless, an official with the AFSCME union. The obvious implication is that a "true" Catholic could only have an ulterior motive for supporting Kerry.

But now it seems that the other three people interviewed have their own ulterior motives for saying nasty things about Kerry. Atrios reader e matched the names of two of the three: Ted Flynn, author of a Pat Robertson-esque New World Order conspiracy book, and Carrie Gress, program director of Richard Mellon Scafie's (of Clinton witchunt fame) Ethics and Public Policy Center. Later, reader patience matched the phonetically-rendered "Philip Monos" with Vincent Phillip Muñoz of the American Enterprise Institute. Still later, reader Bolo emailed the above three, and all of them have confirmed that they were the ones interviewed.

Finally, doing my own bit of googling, I found that Hagerty has at least a superficial connection to Gress and the EPPC, participating in their annual seminar in Key West (also mentioned here). She also interviewed another EPPC official, Michael Cromartie, for another piece for NPR. This hardly proves that Hagerty and Gress are in cahoots, but it does seem unlikely that they were unacquainted.

In any case, not identifying the right-wing partisan affiliations of the three "random parishioners" is either bad or duplicitous journalism.

leaves, damn leaves, and statistics

According to an Ipsos-Reid survey for the Tea Association of Canada, caffeinated tea is the most popular form of tea in Canada. Some other fascinating results:
Tea drinkers in B.C. (36%), Ontario (30%) and Atlantic Canada (41%) are more likely mention that they enjoy drinking tea than are tea drinkers in Quebec (21%).

...

Non-tea drinkers’ main reasons for not drinking tea are generally not liking tea (34%) and disliking the taste (25%). Preferring coffee (12%) is also an important factor for non-tea drinkers. There are some who have never tried tea (3%) and others who have no reason for not drinking it (5%).
And yet, the biggest questions went unasked. Round bags or square? Nope. Milk first or tea first? Nuh-uh. Cooking the tea while it steeps? Forget it.

A spokesperson for the North American Horlicks Foundation dismissed the poll, saying, "The real poll takes place at the checkout lane."

May 01, 2004

the O’Canada Factor

Explaining the genesis of The Producers, Mel Brooks said: "If you stand on a soapbox and trade rhetoric with a dictator you never win. That's what they do so well; they seduce people. But if you ridicule them, bring them down with laughter–they can't win. You show how crazy they are."

John Doyle and Heather Mallick, two columnists for the Globe and Mail, have taken that approach with Fox News and Bill O'Reilly. prettypolitical has all the goods; here is a tantalizing excerpt from the Doyle column that started it all:
Me, I've seen the Fox News Channel on visits to the United States. It is a splendid thing entirely. You have no idea how funny it is. The Fox News Channel is a kind of live theatre of the airwaves, with right-wing pundits playing journalists in an ongoing soap opera. In this soap opera there are good guys and bad guys. The bad guys are the Democratic Party and a dark force that is sometimes known as The Liberal Media Elite and sometimes known as The Loony Left.

...

I'm telling you, we would adore it up here. Rick Mercer would never need to do another Talking to Americans routine. Watching Fox News would be a 24-hour, seven-days-a-week version of Talking to Americans.
In response, O'Reilly and his henchmen are doing their best to whoop up some Canadophobia, even going so far as to threaten a boycott (which worked so well against France). All Bill has to do now is gain a few pounds and grow a beard, and he'll be just like John Candy's character in Canadian Bacon.

"There it is, men. Toronto."