Life After DOMA: It Gets Better (And More Real)

August 7, 2013 in LGBT Rights

After DOMA was overturned by the United States Supreme Court in Windsor, a good friend (and extraordinary advocate) Mary Bonauto asked my wife Robbie Kaplan if she felt personally different after the decision.

After DOMA

Robbie Kaplan and Rachel Lavine at the White House

Meaning that, while everyone understands that the overturn of DOMA legally affects every married gay and lesbian individual and couple, granting us a multitude of hitherto withheld economic, social and legal rights, did that legal/social change make Robbie feel differently as a person? Robbie said yes. And I certainly feel yes.

Yes, after DOMA there is the sudden and shocking relief of real rights, real respect.  It’s as if  having been used to living in a cramped, dark, airless space- so familiar it didn’t even feel confining, the door was opened and your sense of dignity and self-worth, which you didn’t even realize had felt imprisoned and distorted, was set free. Because we didn’t know what we didn’t know: we had never received the automatic respect and recognition of our marriages and families that are afforded to all other married U.S. citizens, so we didn’t really understand on a cellular level what it felt like to have that respect withheld from us. We knew what homophobia felt like: what dislike, contempt, disrespect, discrimination, fear, anger, lack of security, anxiety for our children – we all knew what that felt like.

But we couldn’t really understand the inverse: the automatic sense of self, of comfort and safety that is afforded to you and your family when your government and your society recognize you. When it states with its full authority that you and your family are equal, that you are the same as every other American citizen. We just didn’t know what that joy and relief and self-respect would feel like.

Obscure Politics

March 24, 2013 in Environment, Politics, Uncategorized

Rachel Lavine New York State CommitteeObscure politics

of State Committee members are little known to most people but do they count?  In a recent article published by The Villager , Rachel Lavine offered some good examples.  Here’s an excerpt, or click on the link to read the full article.

What does it mean to be the New York Democratic State Committeewoman for the 66th Assembly District, a long title for a political position whose duties are obscure to most voters? It entails two principal duties.

The first is voting for candidates for statewide office at the New York State Democratic Convention; this allows them to bypass the onerous (and expensive) process of collecting the required number of signatures of registered Democratic voters, county by county, throughout the state.

The second duty, equally dear to the hearts of policy wonks like myself, is the drafting, promulgating and passing of resolutions by the 360-member body of the Democratic State Committee. These resolutions help to shape the State Democratic Committee position on current political issues, as well as serve to educate and lobby Democrat leadership, on a range of current concerns, such as fracking.

As the State Committeewoman for the New York 66th A.D., I am fortunate in having a particularly important vote, because in the State Committee not all votes are created equal. Those of us who represent heavily Democratic districts such as ours have the “weight” of our vote correlated to the number of Democratic voters who cast ballots during the most recent gubernatorial election. Since our Assembly District has one of the state’s highest Democratic turnouts, I, thanks to my fellow voters, have one of the “heaviest” votes — equal to or greater in weight than the combined vote of some Upstate counties! Which means that when Democratic candidates for statewide office are seeking to obtain the required minimum of 25 percent of the total State Committee vote, they actively seek the votes of State Committee members such as myself.

I am particularly proud of my role as the major force in getting the State Committee to support, after many years of opposition, first domestic partnership, and then same-sex marriage, many years prior to Governor Cuomo’s historic advocacy of marriage equality and the passage of that important legislation.

My most recent political work has been in opposition to hydrofracking. I have twice drafted resolutions, which I put forward at two separate Democratic State Committee meetings, demanding that there be a ban on hydrofracking in New York. Both resolutions garnered substantial support from the State Committee membership, from both Upstate and Downstate. The first time the resolution was killed in the Executive Committee, based on a voice vote, despite calls for a roll-call vote. As a result, the second time I brought in members of the Sierra Club and of Upstate communities who have been adversely affected by fracking; they explained what the environmental consequences would be, and rebutted some of the economic arguments made about fracking — in particular, the argument that fracking is good for economically stagnant or depressed areas….read more at


Judge to FDA: Get the Pharmacy Off the Farm!

August 23, 2012 in Agriculture, Food, Health, Nutrition

Image from:

Drug-free meat for all sounds like the punchline of some David Brooks’ joke about neurotic, upper-middle-class professionals.

And it’s true that such meat is often exorbitantly expensive and hard to access, except at whole paycheck-like grocery stores or a farmer’s market with an affluent customer-base.  But unfortunately, adding antibiotics to livestock feed – to promote rapid growth, as well as to counter-act inhumane and unsanitary farming conditions – is now common practice.  And that’s a threat to human health, because when we eat antibiotic-saturated meat, those drugs are far less effective when we really need them to treat, say, pneumonia or tuberculosis.
The FDA’s enforcement of current regulations restricting the use of such drugs in livestock feed has been tepid at best.  Instead it has looked to the meat industry to self-regulate, with predictable results.
A federal judge finally got fed up, and told the agency to stop expecting the foxes to guard the hen house.   Healthy food for all: it’s shocking that something so basic has been defined as something that is either a luxury or a radical demand.


August 17, 2012 in Journalism

A shout out to Soledad O’Brien for exposing John Sununu’s truth-laundering. 

A new journalistic meme? Reporters actually fact-checking statements made by campaign proxies (and principals), and challenging them on their “inaccuracies” aka dishonesty.  Hmm, defending campaign statements on their own merits – that may stretch some unused political muscles.  I’m inspired to single-out Soledad O’Brien for standing up to John Sununu’s bullying bluster during a recent scintillating exchange about a supposed $700 million Medicaid budget discrepancy.  Sununu’s a practiced Republican hatchet man and it’s not easy to stay unflustered:




Steve Benen

Steve Benen

Steve Benen has a rather despairing (and great) piece on the Maddow Blog about the pernicious effect of Romney’s “post-truth” campaigning. Analyzing the topic of Military voting the right wing’s code phrase for their voter suppression cover-up in Ohio, as an example of Romney’s completely casual and constant lies about things small and large, Benen posits that the ubiquity of Romney’s lies  are narcotizing the press corp.  Benen argues “it’s as if words no longer have any meaning, and Americans politics has become so blisteringly stupid, candidates believe they can say literally anything and get away with it.” I would add that it’s as if the press and public are so bored by egregious lying – whether by political candidates, financial institutions, or newspapers, that they have relinquished responsibility for paying attention to the actual issues.



On the subject of voter suppression in Ohio, you might want to see Rachel Maddow’s stunningly thorough coverage of the last 10 years of voter suppression in Ohio – for anyone with patience enough to absorb the WHOLE issue (Sorry about the obligatory opening commercial)

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy


Garance Franke-Ruta

Garance Franke-Ruta

In a thoughtful piece “What To Do with Political Lies” in the current issue of The Atlantic Monthly, Garance Franke-Ruta also addresses the potency of a great political lie, and why current reporting methods are ineffective in checking their proliferation.


Alec MacGillis

She quotes Alec MacGillis’ self-lacerating critique of his fellow journalists’ refusal to call Romney out on his dishonest rhetoric on Obama’s Welfare Reform  position.  MacGillis observes that “one of the more depressing parts of the job of being a political reporter is watching an audience fully absorb a blatant and knowing lie … Romney just keeps using it at stop after stop, ad after ad.”  Asks MacGillis, “How can this be possible? Well, maybe because very few of my colleagues in the press seem all that troubled by it.”

Rather than relying on fact-checking “in a news environment where every story lives an independent life on the social Web,” Franke-Ruta argues instead for equally repetitive truth-telling. Or as she puts it, “basic, simple, factual, boiler-plate” which is inserted into every related story.

Dull, perhaps, but then the truth so often is. Unless Soledad O’Brian is doing the story.


Nearly triple the number of votes…

August 15, 2012 in NYC Elections

Mayoral Candidate Christine Quinn

Mayoral Candidate Christine Quinn. Photographer: David Shankbone from Wikipedia Project

Christine Quinn, who would be New York’s first woman and first openly gay Mayor is leading her competitors by a significant margin according to today’s Wall Street Journal Metropolis blog and just released figures from Quinnipiac University Polling Institute.

Wow, NYC might finally have a female Mayor - and it only took until 2013.

Upstate Judge Rules Dryden Can Ban Hydrofracking

February 24, 2012 in Environment, Health

On February 21st, Justice Phillip R. Rumsey of State Supreme Court ruled that state law does not preclude a municipality from using its power to regulate land use to ban oil and natural gas production.  See full coverage in The New York Times and here.

Enjoy the local WBNG news coverage


On Being That Kind of Liberal…Rachel Lavine

February 14, 2012 in Agriculture, Environment, Feminism, Food, Health, LGBT Rights, Nutrition, NYC Elections

That Kind of Liberal

Eleanor Roosevelt Biography by Blanche Weisen Cooke

Yet another political blog?!  Why, you might ask.  The answer is that I could not find any other voices that fully speak from my perspective as a pragmatic liberal, a lesbian mother and wife, longtime grassroots Democratic party, and feminist and environmental activist.  So following the advice of a revered political leader, I decided to be the change that I seek.

The name of this blog is derived from speeches given in New York by two eminent liberals. Franklin D. Roosevelt first described himself as “that kind of liberal” during a speech to the New York State Democratic Convention in 1936:

The true conservative seeks to protect the system of private property and free enterprise by correcting such injustices and inequalities as arise from it. The most serious threat to our institutions comes from those who refuse to face the need for change. Liberalism becomes the protection for the far-sighted conservative ... In the words of the great essayist, “The voice of great events is proclaiming to us. Reform if you would preserve.” I am that kind of conservative because I am that kind of liberal.

And John F. Kennedy later defined what a “Liberal” was and was not, while proudly claiming that identity when accepting the 1960 Presidential Nomination of the New York State Liberal Party:

If by “Liberal” they mean, as they want people to believe, someone who is soft in his policies abroad, who is against local government, and who is unconcerned with the taxpayer’s dollar, then the record of this party and its members demonstrate that we are not that kind of “Liberal.” But, if by a “Liberal,” they mean someone who looks ahead and not behind, someone who welcomes new ideas without rigid reactions, someone who cares about the welfare of the people – their health, their housing, their schools, their jobs, their civil rights, and their civil liberties – someone who believes that we can break through the stalemate and suspicions that grip us in our policies abroad, if that is what they mean by a “Liberal,” then I’m proud to say that I’m a “Liberal.”

FDR  - and Eleanor Roosevelt – and JFK were all that kind of liberal. They answered the voice of great events. They made bold structural change. They understood the mechanics of real power. They saw the lives and needs of middle class Americans and the poor, of political minorities and the socially disenfranchised. They had a clear understanding of the individual propensity for self-interest and self-deception, as well as the human capacity to transcend the smallness of the self and to support a social good that benefits more than oneself.

And yes, sometimes they over-valued the end game, redefined as necessary what was in fact only politically strategic, stalled and temporized when they should have acted and demanded. Sometimes what they saw as absolute political limitations were only self-imposed ones. They were imperfect, sometimes egregiously wrong but they tried: that kind of liberal.

The focus of this blog is mostly local and specific, and enumerates my own immediate – and varied – interests: New York City and State politics, LGBT rights and community, boys and schools, Israel and the calumny of pink washing, food and environmental politics, feminism and parenting, the need for radically fairer economic and social structures. Sometimes the blog will stray and wander, grazing other, lighter subjects. Like myself, this blog is evolving.

I hope that this blog will become a place where people can engage in thoughtful and challenging conversation. I welcome discussion and debate. I respect – and often admire – the passion animating deeply held opinions, and support robust dissent or disagreement. However, I reserve the unilateral right to remove posts that I find offensive or obnoxious for any reason. Name calling and mean spiritedness debilitate good conversation, and usually mask a weak or incoherent argument.

Thank you.