Sunday, June 28, 2015

Jeb Bush Outed by Stephen L. Goldstein.

Stephen L. Goldstein is a fire-breathing liberal. Between 1999 and 2014, he was the sole progressive columnist of the South Florida Sun Sentinel; a conservative newspaper in a conservative state. During those years, he was the target of every former student, from one of the worst public school systems in America, who could hold a crayon and scrawl an insult. For fifteen years, Goldstein pounded-out strident, unapologetically liberal columns, that were read by a seething, barely literate mob; until a new, faint-hearted editor asked him to write local “happy news” minus political content. At that, Goldstein took his computer to the developing

Jeb Bush took the oath of office as Florida’s Governor the same year that Goldstein started at The Sentinel. This book is a compilation of articles pertaining to Bush’s performance, seen through a liberal-progressive lens. But, partisan polemics aside, Jeb Bush Outed offers insight concerning the former governor’s true agenda. Bush has been posturing as a moderate Republican. However, people (especially politicians) are far more how they act in the world, rather than what they say about themselves. Here are some of Bush’s actions as Governor:

*In 2003, Jeb Bush had state troopers remove a brain-dead Terri Schiavo from her hospice where her body would be kept functioning on life support. Against the wishes of her husband, Terri was transferred to a rehab facility where her feeding tube was reinserted. This state interference in a legally private family decision, backed by Bush’s anti-Choice supporters, was later defeated in court and Terri was permitted to die. (Goldstein, p. 28).

*In 2003, Bush used state tax dollars to fund the nation’s first “faith-based prison,” violating the separation of church and state. (Goldstein, p. 55).

*Bush repeatedly pushed for a school voucher program that would have given tax dollars to religious schools. The Florida Supreme Court repeatedly disallowed this measure as unconstitutional. (Goldstein, p. 52).

*In 1997, before becoming Governor, Bush signed the “Statement of Principles” created by the neoconservative think tank Project for the New American Century (PNAC). This document encourages the US to fight wars against governments that do not conform to a conservative agenda. (Goldstein, p. 23).

*As part of his conservative foreign policy, Bush spoke as Governor in favor of strengthening the embargo against Cuba. (Goldstein, p. 24).

*In alignment with his anti-Choice beliefs, Bush opposed stem cell research (Goldstein, p. 12).

*Goldstein cites examples where Bush managed the State Treasury by refusing to cut property taxes and middle-class income taxes, while simultaneously funneling those tax dollars to large corporations. (Goldstein, pp 135-163).

However one may feel about Goldstein’s writing, the citations speak for themselves: Bush is not a moderate in his social, fiscal or foreign policy agendas.

A cautionary note: There are different intentions in reading between someone who picks-up a fourth-grade level conservative paper in Florida to scrutinize and react to the words of a liberal columnist, and someone who is so enthusiastic about learning that they peruse non-fiction book reviews to determine what they’d like to learn next. Goldstein was aware of his readers. His style is less contemplative than combative. His patter is a mix of sarcastic humor and blunt liberal agenda. Examples: “Are you up for more war—a lot of it? More invasions of sovereign nations like Iraq…More trillions spent protecting Halliburton’s profit?”  (Goldstein, p. 23). And “The Tallahassee Taliban are at it again: faith-based finagling with your tax money” (Goldstein, p. 51). There is no subtlety or compromise in Stephen Goldstein’s prose. His articles were aimed at a public that was at best apathetic and at worst reactionary, who appeared to him as incapable of making intelligent choices. After all, they elected Jeb Bush twice. Facing such an audience, Goldstein’s manner is not so much a cry in the wilderness as it is a scream.

For the balanced examiner of non-fiction book reviews, these articles offer a learning opportunity on two levels. First, they provide a record of Bush’s performance as Governor that slices through his election-year claims to moderate Republicanism. Second, the book is its own dramatic sociological study of how a liberal writer battled a marginally-educated, conservative audience.

Goldstein, Stephen L. Jeb Bush Outed. Ashland: Grid Press, 2015.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Why Marriage Equality Won.

The myth about the Supreme Court is that it impartially interprets the Constitution despite political pressure and public opinion. Nothing could be farther from the truth. The justices are a part of our society and are as influenced cultural change and political pressure as you or I.

The influence of cultural change is nowhere better illustrated than in the Supreme Court's sodomy rulings of 1986 and 2003. In Bowers vs Hardwick (1986), the Court upheld, in a 5-4 ruling, the constitutionality of Georgia’s sodomy law criminalizing oral and anal sex in private between consenting adults when applied to gay men and lesbians. In Lawrence vs Texas (2003), the court struck down the sodomy law in Texas and, by extension, invalidated sodomy laws across the nation. What happened to the court in the intervening 17 years? It certainly did not become more liberal. The 1986 Burger Court was more judicially liberal than the 2003 Rhenquist court. What changed was the culture and its values. People felt that state and federal governments had no business in their bedrooms, and had become more accepting of  the LGBT community.

In addition to cultural change, there was political pressure. The Supreme Court has a stated role: to interpret laws according to the Constitution. But it also has an unstated role: to maintain stability. To make sure that society remains ordered and calm; to ensure that the rule of law prevails and the legitimacy of the government is upheld. If the population moves towards liberty, and it is too far ahead of the courts, there is a danger of instability and disobedience on the part of the people, which would undermine that legitimacy and authority. So, in terms of Civil Rights, these authorities are consistently seeing where they can stand firm on the way things have always been and where they must accommodate the public will. For instance, in the African American civil rights struggle against Jim Crow laws, the Supreme Court largely remained on the sidelines between the mid-1800s and the mid-1900s. When they did step-in, it was to maintain the current order. In their 1886 Plessy vs Ferguson ruling, the courts upheld that separate but equal facilities were constitutional. They only began ruling against racial segregation laws when there was a movement of African Americans prominent enough to challenge that status quo. It wasn’t until 1954, in the atmosphere of a healthy Civil Rights Movement, that the courts overturned Plessy, in Brown vs Board of Education. Legal change favoring liberty does not happen unless there is a concerted effort by a large enough population advocating for their freedom.

So why did Same Sex Marriage win? It was a historic combination of cultural change and political pressure. The Justices, as people in our society, were influenced by our changing mores. No one who heard or read Kennedy’s majority opinion, could doubt that he is the product of an environment that accepts and upholds the dignity of people of the same sex seeking marriage rights. But the additional political pressure of a popular movement, backed by the 60% of the US populace who favor marriage equality, made it clear to the Supreme Court that the road to stability lay in supporting LGBT marriage rights. This ruling is a testament to a people willing to grow in liberty and a movement persistent in its goals.