Monday, August 15, 2005

Democracy Now!: Gaza Pullout, Aceh; Ruth Conniff, Tom Hayden, Arianna Huffington, Norman Solomon, Kathleen Christison ...

Cindy Sheehan Begins Day Nine of Her Protest in Crawford, TX
In Crawford Texas, Cindy Sheehan has begun day nine of her vigil outside President Bush's vacation ranch. Sheehan has vowed to remain in Crawford until the president meets with her. Last year Sheehan's oldest son Casey died in Iraq. He was 24 years old. Hundreds of anti-war activists have now joined Sheehan in a protest that has received international attention. "You know, this is really hard. Not only am I, like, trying to stop the war, but I have to grieve my son every day," Cindy Sheehan said. "Every day I wake up, it's like April 4th all over again. I have to realize that I have to go for another day without my son, and it's really, really hard. And then I do this on top of that." On Saturday, Bush defended his decision not to meet with Sheehan. He said "I think it's important for me to be thoughtful and sensitive to those who have got something to say. But. I think it's also important for me to go on with my life." Bush's comments came before he went on a two-hour bike ride with journalists and aides. In addition, Bush spent Saturday attending a Little League baseball game, having lunch w/ Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, napping, fishing and reading. On Friday Bush attended a political fundraiser. Tensions are also rising in Crawford. One local farmer fired a gun on his property near the protest site. When asked if he was trying to send a message the farmer said, "Figure it out for yourself."

Report: Rove Failed to Tell FBI About Conversation w/ Time Reporter
Conyers' call comes after a new report by investigative journalist Murray Waas that Justice Department officials decided to appoint a special prosecutor in large part because investigators had begun to specifically question the veracity of accounts provided to them by Karl Rove. When first questioned by the FBI, Rove failed to tell FBI investigators that he had talked to Time reporter Matthew Cooper about Wilson's wife. In addition, Rove claims that he learned of Valerie Plame's identity during a conversation with a journalist. But according to Waas, Rove was unable to recall virtually anything to investigators about the circumstances about that conversation including who the journalist was or whether it took part in person or on the phone

Funeral To Be Held For Jet & Ebony Founder John Johnson
And in Chicago, a funeral is being held today for John H. Johnson, the pioneering African-American magazine publisher. He died last week at the age of 87. He was the founder of Jet and Ebony magazines and was one of the most influential African-American entrepreneurs of the past half-century.

The above three items are from Democracy Now!'s Headlines and were selected by Lloyd, Liang and Marica. Democracy Now! ("always worth watching," as Marcia says):

Headlines for August 15, 2005

- Israeli Pullout of Gaza Begins
- Cindy Sheehan Begins Day Nine of Her Protest in Texas
- Bush Administration Lowers Expectations in Iraq
- Bush Warns Iran "All Options Are On The Table"
- Conyers Calls For Investigation Into Ascroft's Role In CIA Leak Case
- Report: Rove Failed to Tell FBI About Conversation w/ Time Reporter
- KKK Leader Convicted of 1964 Killings Released on Bail
- Washington Rally Calls For Mass Prison Reform

Los Titulares de Hoy: Democracy Now!'s daily news summary translated into Spanish

Israeli Settlers Resist Gaza Pullout, Palestinians Call for Withdrawal from West Bank

Thousands of settlers are refusing to leave their homes in Gaza settlements today as Israeli soldiers and police order them to move out. The pullout is seen by some as a strategy by the Israeli state to consolidate its hold over the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Others see it as a necessary step in the roadmap to peace in Israel-Palestine. We speak with a resident of Gush Katif who is resisting the pullout, the director of the Palestinian Center for Human Rights, a journalist who spent time with soldiers and settlers and the founder of Electronic Intifada. [includes rush transcript - partial]

Aceh Peace Agreement Leaves Indonesian Military in Place

A peace accord is signed between the Indonesian government and the Acehnese rebels. The deal disarms only one side, leaving the Indonesian military in place. We speak with award-winning journalist and activist Allan Nairn.

From the Aceh story above:

ALLAN NAIRN: Well, it's not really a peace accord, since the Indonesian military and police, which have been the main violators of peace, they retain control, they retain their weapons. Their officers will not be prosecuted. Only one side disarms under this deal. The Acehnese GAM, they get farmland, they get amnesty and they get the right to form a local political party. But in exchange, they in effect take a political vow of silence. The thing that they have stood for, their reason for existence, independence for Aceh, or at least a referendum for Aceh, under which the Acehnese get the right to hold a free vote on their political future, the new GAM political party will not be allowed to call for that under Indonesian law.

Again we'll note Kat's heads up (from The Third Estate Sunday Review's news review):

Kat: If I could, I'd actually like to start with news on John H. Johnson. B.E.T. will have a tribute to Johnson: "Don't miss BET's Mon., Aug. 15 special on the life and legacy of John H. Johnson, 10 p.m. (ET/PT)." They already have a page at their web site offering tributes in video format and text and, to tie this in to music, Nelson George is one of people offering reflections in the video you can watch online.

Lloyd e-mails to note Ruth Conniff's "Kissinger Compares Iraq to Vietnam" (The Progressive):

The tragedy in Iraq is bigger than that in Vietnam, where there was civil war even before the U.S. got involved. In Iraq the President has created the very conditions the war was supposed to fix. Now he argues we must stay to fight the problems our invasion created--terrorists, foreign fighters, spiraling violence and chaos, and a hard core movement of Islamic radicals organized around their hatred of the U.S.

Kissinger's brand of cold-blooded realpolitik can't justify such an unwinnable situation much longer. And even the pro-war zealots in the Administration are beginning to see their fantasy of a peaceful, democratic, pro-American Iraq dim.

If any good can come of this mess, perhaps it will be a more skeptical view of the United States' ability to create free societies by force of arms.

Keesha e-mails to note Tom Hayden's "Cindy Sheehan's War" (The Huffington Post):

Cindy Sheehan inhabits an alternative world of meaning that more Americans need to experience before this war can end. She represents the survivors' need to define a meaning in her son's death - and her life - that is counter to the meaning offered by President Bush. That is why she refuses any condolences, and why she continues to ask the President what was the "noble purpose" for which Casey Sheehan died.

All wars take on a new momentum when the survivors believe that those killed represent a "noble sacrifice" and hear repeated assurances from authority figures that they "shall not have died in vain." The momentum begins to reverse when the survivors question deeply the justification for all the suffering.

Robert Jay Lifton reported this phenomenon among Vietnam-era soldiers and their families. He wrote that "when the alternative survivor mission takes hold, victims become ignoble sacrifices, products of crual deception. Their deaths then have meaning only in serving to expose the grotesque truths of the war. The alternative survivor mission can become one of oppostion to the war, its advocates, and their policies." Lipton writes further: "[we become] survivors of a death encounter, and survivors of all kinds are hungry for the meaning of that encounter - meaning that is inevitably associated with the authority of the dead."

Ned e-mails to note Arianna Huffington's "Russert Watch: Running from Sheehan and the Truth" (also The Huffington Post):

Today Andrea Mitchell was sitting in for Tim Russert -- once again, no mention of that on the Meet the Press web site. If there were any more proof needed of how ensconced this show is inside the D.C. establishment, here is how Mitchell brought up Cindy Sheehan in her interview of Joe Biden: "There is a mother of a soldier who died in Iraq who is protesting down in Crawford and has now been joined by organized anti-war protesters. Do you agree with Cindy Sheehan? Should we withdraw immediately?"

Can you imagine another way of formulating the obligatory question about Sheehan that would more easily have allowed Andrea -- and Biden -- to distance themselves from the grieving mother who wants to meet with the man who sent her son to die in Iraq?

Biden, who is running for president, loved, of course, the opportunity to talk about troop withdrawal rather than a mother's standoff with the president. He ended his answer as far away from Crawford as possible: "When we were in the Balkans, we, in fact, dealt with the Croats as well as the Serbs according to the Dayton accords..."

Dayton? The Balkans?

Here is Biden, with pretensions of being a "regular joe" kinda guy who just "goes by his gut" and "connects with the people," and in his one chance to speak about Sheehan, he's off to the Balkans. Andrea lets it drop, and you can almost feel the two of them breathe a sigh of relief, having successfully tiptoed across the minefield of an actual story -- a mother whose sacrifice gives her the moral authority to confront the president of the United States.

Molly e-mails to note Norman Solomon's "Someone Tell Frank Rich the War Isn't Over" (CounterPunch):

On Sunday, the New York Times published a piece by Frank Rich under the headline "Someone Tell the President the War Is Over." The article was a flurry of well-placed jabs about the Bush administration's lies and miscalculations for the Iraq war. But the essay was also a big straw in liberal wind now blowing toward dangerous conclusions.

Comparing today's war-related poll numbers for George W. Bush with those for President Lyndon B. Johnson, the columnist writes: "On March 31, 1968, as L.B.J.'s ratings plummeted further, he announced he wouldn't seek re-election, commencing our long extrication from that quagmire." And Rich extends his Vietnam analogy: "What lies ahead now in Iraq instead is not victory, which Mr. Bush has never clearly defined anyway, but an exit (or triage) strategy that may echo Johnson's March 1968 plan for retreat from Vietnam."

But Rich does not linger over the actual meaning of the "plan for retreat" and the "long extrication" -- which meant five more years of massive U.S. military assaults in Vietnam, followed by two more years of military aid to the Saigon government while fighting continued. The death toll during that period in Vietnam? Tens of thousands of Americans, perhaps a million Vietnamese people. That "extrication" was more than merely "long."

Rich's narrative does not just skitter past five years of horrific carnage inflicted by the U.S. government in Vietnam -- and elsewhere in Indochina -- after the spring of 1968. His storyline is also, in its own way, a complacent message that stands in sharp contrast to the real situation we now face: a U.S. war on Iraq that may persist for a terribly long time. For the Americans still in Iraq, and for the Iraqis still caught in the crossfire of the occupation, the experiences ahead will hardly be compatible with reassuring forecasts made by pundits in the summer of 2005.

[I'll also note this from the bottom of the piece: "Norman Solomon is the author of the new book "War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death." For information, go to:" -- it's a strong book.]

Molly also notes Kathleen Christison's "Camp David Redux" (CounterPunch):

A few months ago, nearly five years after the collapse of the July 2000 Camp David summit at which President Bill Clinton expected to forge an historic Middle East peace agreement, a leading member of Clinton's negotiating team publicly acknowledged that rather than serve as a true mediator in peace negotiations, successive U.S. administrations including Clinton's have acted as "Israel's attorney." Writing on the Washington Post op-ed page in May 2005, Aaron David Miller admitted that Clinton and company followed Israel's lead "without critically examining what that would mean for our own interests, for those on the Arab side and for the overall success of the negotiations." The Clinton team's practice of running everything past Israel first "stripped our policy of the independence and flexibility required for serious peacemaking. Far too often . . . our departure point was not what was needed to reach an agreement acceptable to both sides but what would pass with only one -- Israel." The result was utter failure; in these circumstances, no agreement could possibly meet Palestinian as well as Israeli needs.

Miller is a rarity among generations of senior policymakers who have been unable or unwilling to look back at their own policies and actions with frank honesty. Not surprisingly, the memoirs thus far published by the other policymakers involved in the Camp David collapse exhibit none of Miller's honesty. One should never, of course, take at face value the testimony of those who oversaw a years-long policy that ended in tatters, but these particular retrospectives are remarkably disingenuous. It is obviously difficult for anyone to acknowledge that a policy so patently misguided was enthusiastically pursued through Clinton's two terms (and, in the case of people like Miller and senior negotiator Dennis Ross, through three terms, going back to George H.W. Bush). This is what makes Miller's exposé so telling.

Ben e-mails to note Matthew Pascarella's "A Conversation With Sheik Khalesi" (

It was January 30th 2005. Images of Iraqis' bright purple fingers, dyed with ink from voting, were ubiquitous - appearing throughout American television and newspapers. The networks looped clips of English speaking Iraqis praising the United States, some thanking coalition troops, and some even expressing gratitude to President George W. Bush. Far from all of these happenings, far from the curfews and travel restrictions, far from the 15,000 American troops marching patrol in the dusty streets of Baghdad monitoring what had been praised as a "successful election," I sat next to Sheikh Jawad Al-Khalesi as our bus sped along the bumpy highway leading to Porto Alegre.

80 years ago while the British occupied Iraq, a Shia man, a respected Ayatollah, worked to organize Iraqis against the occupation. The man was Sheikh Khalesi's grandfather.

After being in exile in Syria and Iran for 23 years, Khalesi returned to Iraq only two years ago - after the fall of Saddam. Beset but what appeared to be a distinct type of wisdom, the kind gained through years and maybe even decades of struggle, Sheikh Khalesi told me of the situation he was facing at home in Iraq.

"The soldiers can not tell the difference between Iraqis and the resistance, they often kill people in the streets without any reason." Khalesi pointed left, and looked out the window of our bus toward the other side of the highway - he motioned for me to look with him. "There was a time when someone shot at soldiers across the highway - imagine the soldiers are over here." He pointed out the right window of the bus. "Now imagine the shooter was somewhere over here." He looked again out the left window. "There was a large group of people across the road from the soldiers - near where the shots were fired from. They were at the gas station waiting hours to get gasoline for their electric generators and cars ... the soldiers started firing their guns and then blew up the entire gas station, killing everyone."

Kayla e-mails to note Dave Lindorff's "Still Hiding the Bush Bulge" (Extra!):

Pasadena residents didn't get to read about the exploits of local celebrity Dr. Robert Nelson, who, besides being a Jet Propulsion Lab photo analyst who helped present those dramatic photos of Saturn's rings and moons, also gave the lie to White House claims that the bulge seen on Bush's back during the presidential debates was "just a wrinkle."

They didn't get to read Nelson's account of how his photo analysis of Bush's jacket--a story that would have increased speculation that the president was wearing a hearing device during the debates--almost made it into the New York Times before being killed by top editor Bill Keller (Extra!,

They didn't read all this in their local daily, the Pasadena Star-News, because senior editors at that paper
killed the story on Saturday, April 30, right before publication in the Sunday edition--apparently for political, not journalistic, reasons.

The Star-News is the oldest holding of MediaNews Group, a newspaper and television station chain owned and run by William Dean Singleton, one of the U.S.'s more conservative media moguls. Singleton was singled out by Editor & Publisher (1/26/04) as one of several newspaper chain owners who contributed money to the Bush/Cheney re-
election campaign last year. MediaNews Group also owns the Denver Post and the L.A. Daily News.

(Dave Lindorff's earlier article on this issue, January/February edition of Extra!, was "The Emperor's New Hump: The New York Times killed a story that could have changed the election -- because it could have changed the election."]

Brad e-mails to note "the story Amy Goodman mentions on Democracy Now! today" which is Murray Waas' "What Now, Karl?" (The Village Voice):

Justice Department officials made the crucial decision in late 2003 to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate the leak of the identity of undercover CIA officer Valerie Plame in large part because investigators had begun to specifically question the veracity of accounts provided to them by White House deputy chief of staff Karl Rove, according to senior law enforcement officials.

Several of the federal investigators were also deeply concerned that then attorney general John Ashcroft was personally briefed regarding the details of at least one FBI interview with Rove, despite Ashcroft's own longstanding personal and political ties to Rove, the Voice has also learned. The same sources said Ashcroft was also told that investigators firmly believed that Rove had withheld important information from them during that FBI interview.

Those concerns by senior career law enforcement officials regarding the propriety of such briefings continuing, as Rove became more central to the investigation, also was instrumental in the naming of special prosecutor Patrick J. Fitzgerald.

Up until that point, the investigation had been conducted by a team of career prosecutors and FBI agents, some of whom believed Ashcroft should recuse himself. Democrats on Capitol Hill were calling for him to step down, but he did not. Then on December 30, 2003, Ashcroft unexpectedly recused himself from further overseeing the matter, and James B. Comey, then deputy attorney general, named Patrick J. Fitzgerald as the special prosecutor who would take over the case.

The Justice Department declined to publicly offer any explanation at the time for either the recusal or the naming of a special prosecutor--an appointment that would ultimately place in potential legal jeopardy senior advisers to the president of the United States, and lead to the jailing of a New York Times reporter.

During his initial interview with the FBI, in the fall of 2003, Rove did not disclose that he had ever discussed Plame with Time magazine correspondent Matthew Cooper, according to two legal sources with firsthand knowledge of the matter. Federal investigators were also skeptical of claims by Rove that he had only first learned of Plame's employment with the CIA from a journalist, even though he also claimed he could not specifically recall the name of the journalist.

Keith e-mails to note Grace Lee Boggs' "Detroit Summer" (Michigan Citizen, via The Boggs Center):

Detroit Summer was founded 13 years ago as an intergenerational, multicultural youth program/movement to rebuild, redefine and respirit Detroit from the ground up.
Since then, its July Summer Intensive has included Community Gardening, Mural Painting, and weekly Inter-generational Discussions.
Seven years ago Detroit Summer started rehabbing two houses in Art Park to provide emergency housing for teenage mothers attending Catherine Ferguson Academy. Five years ago it created Back Alley Bikes, a used-bike repair program to begin transforming the motor city one bike at a time.
Spread thin by these programs, which also required paid staff, the Detroit Summer Collective, which provides the leadership for teenage volunteers, decided it was time to scale down the projects, and become "smaller, more focused and hopefully more meaningful for everyone who participates,"
according to Jenny Lee, a member of the collective.
So this year they decided not to paint a mural, not to work in Art Park, and
to spin off the highly successful Back Alley Bikes as a year-round program.

From the land of fantasy, Howie Kurtz:

Washington, D.C.: I'm very disappointed in the media's lack of coverage on passing on John H. Johnson the publisher of Ebony and Jet magazines. I understand all the tributes to Peter Jennings (was an editorial about Jennings in The Post really necessary?) but I really feel Johnson deserved equal consideration and coverage. His contributions deserved more of than the short shrift they got last week.

Howard Kurtz: John Johnson was a very important figure, and I'm glad that The Post ordered up an appreciation to run alongside my piece on Jennings even though we didn't learn of Johnson's death until about 5 p.m. last Monday. But due to the power of television, Peter Jennings was one of the most famous people in the world, while most Americans would have had trouble identifying John H. Johnson. As a magazine publisher, he played a behind-the-scenes role; as a network anchor, Jennings played the most public of roles.

Jennings played the most public of roles? A) Get out of your limited and apparently very white world, Howie. B) The press decides what gets emphasized. The press needs to take some responsibility and saying, 'Peter Jennings was on TV!' really isn't taking responsibility. And as Kendrick points out, Malcolm Forbes's "death was talked and talked and talked" about and he wasn't a TV anchor.

Kendrick: If Howard Kurtz was a Black man, I wonder if he'd be so dismissive of Mr. Johnson or so ho-hum about the way Mr. Johnson's death didn't play out in the media last week?

The reality is that the press determined whom to cover. The reality is the press made one passing "noteable" and the other an aside. To Howie, Johnson "played a behind-the-scenes role . . ." but that's not the sentiment of everyone in this country, so possibly Howie, like a lot of others, needs to leave his restricted (highly restricted) comfort zone. And note, Kurtz is speaking of the mainstream media not just the Washington Post. Howie, critic of all media, says that someone on TV's passing is more noteable than someone not on TV* -- an attitude that appears to endorse the beliefs of the character Suzanne Stone Maretto (Nicole Kidman's character in To Die For):

You're not anybody in America unless you're on TV. On TV is where we learn about who we really are. Because what's the point of doing anything worthwhile if nobody's watching? And if people are watching, it makes you a better person.

He also fails to address the issues raised -- as well as the question regarding was an editorial necessary on Jennings? To which I'd add, "If an editorial on Jennings was necessary, why wasn't one necessary on Johnson?"

The Third Estate Sunday Review has two features on this topic:

  • A Tale of Two Deaths
  • World News Tonight's hard hitting reporting (a parody)

  • [Note: I assisted Jim, Dona, Ty, Ava and Jess with the above as did " Mike of Mikey Likes It!, Elaine subbing for Rebecca at Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitude, Cedric of Cedric's Big Mix, Betty of Thomas Friedman is a Great Man and Kat of Kat's Korner."]

    *Howie: "But due to the power of television, Peter Jennings was one of the most famous people in the world, while most Americans would have had trouble identifying John H. Johnson."

    Is that what dictates coverage? The news exists to feed us what we already know? "Most Americans would have had trouble identifying John H. Johnson." Does he mean most white Americans? Again, Kurtz needs to move out of his restricted comfort zone.

    The excuse that "Jennings was on TV and known!" is no excuse at all. The press is supposed to inform us of passings and the press made the decision that Johnson's death wasn't worth noting in depth. That decision was made. For those who see racism as the basis for the decision, Howie's simple-minded and dismissive reply backs it up.

    Let's step back into the real world and go to Susan (Random Thoughts: Unfair and Unbalanced) who's running down some of the recent passings and notes this:

    John H. Johnson, founder of Ebony and Jet magazines, died the other day at the age of 87.

    The media swarm over the death of Peter Jennings buried news of the death of this publishing pioneer.

    Johnson was also the first African-American to make the
    Forbes 400 list of richest Americans.

    (Trey e-mailed to note Susan's comments).

    Martha notes that Danny Schechter's News Dissector today is "a must read primer on the Middle East" and that he expands on Friday's comments:

    On Friday, I wrote a personal rumination/rant to ventilate a bit. I wanted to try to clarify our mission and discuss what I think I am doing. I wanted to solicit comments, get some feedback, and see if we can build a community of readers to become more active with Mediachannel in the spirit of the thousands of Wikipedians who have rallied behind Wiki media.

    I figured I might get a few responses.


    I have had about 25 pages (!) of responses. And they are still coming. Some of you volunteered time, others money. Many offered suggestions -- including that I go get sloshed. Many of you -- and from all parts of the world -- wrote movingly about what the site and my efforts mean to you. I appreciate your appreciation so much, but we need to find ways of working together so that this site will survive.

    The response was very heartening. When I worked at ABC, they used to say that for every 5,000 viewers, only one or two will ever write. It is especially amazing for August, when many folks are away from their computers.

    Your comments are still a coming in, and I still haven't read them all yet.

    We will design a page for these comments, and I intend to write back to as many as I can.

    Let's see if we can develop a volunteer network for editorial input, outreach and fundraising. We need your contributions, skills, energy and suggestions.

    We used to kid about building a media "army." Heck, now maybe we can. We have a mission. We have motivated people. All we need is a movement.

    From BuzzFlash, we'll note "Evan Woflson Brings a Lawyer's Clarity to the Discussion of Same-Sex Marriage 'Rights' and 'Rites:"

    It's 2005, and yet we're still talking about same-sex marriage? Yes, evolution is indeed slow. BuzzFlash believes Americans are ready to get past demonizing and discriminating against our fellow Americans who happen to be gay or lesbian, but it's difficult when you have someone like George W. Bush and the right wing putting the emergency brake on social progress. Our fundamental rights are guaranteed to ALL Americans -- not some, not most. The Constitution doesn't give George W. Bush and the Republican Party the power to pick and choose who gets their rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness -- we're all entitled to those rights.

    So BuzzFlash decided to talk to Evan Wolfson, the author of an incredibly thorough and accessible new book, Why Marriage Matters: America, Equality, and Gay People's Right to Marry (a BuzzFlash premium). A review in The Oregonian said it best: "Armed with Wolfson's arguments, you could sell anyone with an IQ over room temperature on the wisdom and humanity of marriage equality."

    Evan Wolfson is the Executive Director of Freedom to Marry, the gay and non-gay partnership working to end marriage discrimination nationwide. Citing his national leadership on marriage equality and his appearance before the U.S. Supreme Court in Boy Scouts of America v. James Dale, the National Law Journal in 2000 named Wolfson one of "the 100 most influential lawyers in America." In 2004, he was named one of Time Magazine's "100 most powerful and influential people in the world."

    BuzzFlash spoke with Evan Wolfson about "framing" the same-sex marriage debate, the hypocrisy of some African-American ministers on discriminating against gay people, and whether winning civil rights for all gay Americans is inevitable.

    * * *

    BuzzFlash: Marriage is understood by many Americans as a religious act, and for many people their marriage ceremony reflects their spiritual beliefs. But as you point out in your book, Why Marriage Matters, in reality, all marriages are civil unions, meaning that marriages are social contracts recognized by the state. It doesn't matter whether you get married in a church or city hall, whether you walk down the aisle or not, or whether a judge or rabbi or priest conducts the ceremony. What matters is that the state recognizes the benefits to society of having two individuals committing their lives to each other, and rewards that social contract with certain benefits and legal protections. Why do you think Americans are "married" to such a narrow definition that marriage is inherently a religious rite, when it's just not the case?

    Evan Wolfson: I don't think Americans are so wed to a narrow idea of marriage. In fact, I think public opinion continues to shift in support of ending this exclusion from marriage and recognizing that same-sex couples who've made the commitment in life deserve an equal legal commitment to match, and that commitment is called marriage.

    If you look at the Pew Research Center's recent poll, it showed that public support for the freedom to marry has now returned to where it was in roughly July of 2003, before this huge barrage of right-wing attacks attempting to demonize gay people and scare people about marriage equality began. Despite the fact that it will not happen overnight, and that it will occur in a patchwork of advances -- just as every other civil rights struggle -- we are seeing people move toward fairness on this question.

    But you're absolutely right about the distinction between civil and religious marriage. As I argue in the book, there's a big difference between the religious rites -- R-I-T-E-S -- of marriage, which are up to every faith tradition to decide for themselves without government interference, and the legal right -- R-I-G-H-T -- to marry, which is regulated by the government. This involves getting a marriage license from the government, and people can exercise this "right" without ever setting foot in a house of worship. About 40% of all marriages in America take place in front of a judge or a clerk or a captain at sea, and do not involve any kind of religious ceremony.

    There's a great deal of effort to blur the line and confuse people, from the President right on down. But when you have a conversation with people and remind them of what they know in their heart -- that there is a difference here between a civil and religious marriage -- people can understand that. And what we have to do is just have more of that conversation.

    BuzzFlash: The influential linguist and framing expert from Berkeley, George Lakoff, says that if you poll Americans and ask if marriage should be defined and limited to the union of one man and one woman -- a significant number of Americans would say they would support that policy. But, as Lakoff argues, if you change the question and ask Americans "Should the government be sticking its nose in our private lives and say who we can and cannot marry?" the numbers reverse and Americans overwhelmingly support same-sex marriage. Is this simply an issue of framing and perception?

    Evan Wolfson: Well, George Lakoff's concept of framing is more than just word choice. What he means by framing is to be very clear about the values and real vision of what you stand for, and make an honest case for it with the right language, with persistence, and even the right messengers and repeated messages over time. In that sense, it is very important that we frame this discussion -- in an authentic way -- that this is about the values of love and commitment, and fairness and freedom. These are American values. It violates those values for the government to discriminate against committed couples who seek to marry.

    Click here to continue reading and here to check out Evan Wolfson's book.

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