Headlines: House Passes $106 Billion War Spending Bill; Obama To Extend Federal Benefits To Gay Couples

Democracy Now Headlines: House Passes $106 Billion War Spending Bill; Obama To Extend Federal Benefits To Gay Couples

Headlines from DemocracyNow.org, a daily TV/radio news program, hosted by Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez, airing on over 650 stations, pioneering the largest community media collaboration in the US.

House Passes $106 Billion War Spending Bill

The Democratic-controlled House has narrowly passed a $106 billion spending bill to expand the war in Afghanistan and to continue funding the war in Iraq. 32 anti-war Democrats voted against the measure as did all but five Republicans. The Republicans opposed a part of the bill to increase funding for the International Monetary Fund. The final vote was 226 to 202. Congressman Dennis Kucinich voted against the war funding.

Rep. Dennis Kucinich: “We are destroying our nations moral and fiscal integrity with the War Supplemental. Instead of ending wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan now by appropriating only enough money to bring our troops home, Congress abdicates its Constitutional authority, defers to the President and asks for a report. That’s right. All we are asking for is a report about when the President will end the war.

Dennis Kucinich also criticized the increased funding for the International Monetary Fund.

Rep. Dennis Kucinich: “There is money too for the IMF, presumably to bail out European banks. Billions for the IMF so they can force low- and middle- income nations to cut jobs, wages, healthcare and retirement security, just like corporate America does to our constituents. And there is money to incentivize the purchase of more cars, but not necessarily from the US because the Buy American Mandate was not allowed. Another $106 billion and all we get is a lousy war. Pretty soon that is all that is going to be about the only thing made in America: war.”

UN: Record Of Number Internally Displaced Persons

The United Nations is reporting a record number of internally displaced persons received UN assistance in 2008. 14.4 million people were registered as living under UN care. Another 11.6 million internally displaced persons were left to fend for themselves or receive assistance from other agencies. The total number of internally displaced persons has increased even more since the end of 2008 due to fighting in Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Somalia.

As Protests Continue In Iran, Ebadi Calls For New Election

Anti-government protesters are filling the streets of Tehran again today calling for last week’s election results to be thrown out. Supporters of opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi accuse President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of rigging the election. On Tuesday backers of Mousavi and Ahmadinejad both held massive rallies Iranian Nobel Peace Prize winner Shirin Ebadi has called for a new election under the watch of international observers.

Obama: U.S. Should Not Meddle In Iranian Elections

In Washington President Obama resisted calls for the United States to take a direct stance on the situation in Iran.

President Obama: “It’s not productive, given the history of U.S.-Iranian relations, to be seen as meddling, the U.S. president meddling in Iranian elections.”

Former Republican presidential candidate John McCain criticized Obama’s handling of the crisis.

Sen. John McCain: “He should speak out that this is a corrupt, fraud, sham of an election. The Iranian people have been deprived of their rights. We support them in their struggle against a repressive, oppressive regime. And they should not be subjected to four more years of Ahmadinejad and the radical Muslim clerics.”

Iranian Government Cracks Down on Foreign Press & Websites

Meanwhile the Iranian government has revoked press credentials for foreign journalists and ordered journalists not to report from the streets. Much of the video footage from Iran is now coming from Iranian citizens who are posting video to YouTube and other sites.

Amateur video posted on the internet earlier today appears to show members of the Revolutionary Guard firing at a crowd of demonstrators from the roof of their building in Tehran on Monday. Iran’s Revolutionary Guard corps said today it will pursue legal action against websites that it claimed were inciting people to riot as well as the people who post material to the websites.

Obama To Extend Federal Benefits To Gay Couples

President Obama is expected to sign a presidential memorandum today to extend benefits to same-sex partners of federal employees but he will stop short of pledging full health insurance coverage. Obama is making the announcement at a time when he is facing growing anger among gay supporters over his administration’s recent decision to file a legal brief supporting the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act. During the presidential campaign Obama called for repealing the Defense of Marriage Act as well as the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy.

Report: Anti-Gay Killings Jump 28 Percent in 2008

Meanwhile a new report from the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs has found that the number of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people killed in bias-motivated attacks increased by 28 percent last year. The group documented 29 killings in 2008, the highest number recorded since 1999.

Obama To Outline Major Financial Regulatory Changes

In economic news, President Obama is expected to propose today the creation of an independent and powerful Consumer Financial Product Safety Commission to regulate financial products such as mortgages and credit cards. The McClatchy Newspapers reports that as part of the proposal, the Federal Reserve and other bank regulators would lose their oversight over mortgages, credit cards and other financial products that are sold to consumers. At the same time Obama is proposing expanding the Feds role as the regulator of the nation’s largest banks such as J.P. Morgan Chase and Goldman Sachs to include other giant financial firms, such as the insurance companies AIG and MetLife.

Report: Unemployment Crisis To Continue Until 2014

Meanwhile a leading economic forecaster is projecting that much of the country will not return to peak employment until at least 2012 and many cities won’t return to recent peaks until 2014 or later. Six million jobs have been lost since the recession began 18 months ago.

Carter: Gaza Residents Are Treated “More Like Animals Than Human Beings”

Former president Jimmy Carter said Tuesday that Palestinians in Gaza were being treated “more like animals than human beings.” Carter made the comment after touring the Gaza Strip for the first time since the Israeli attack.

Jimmy Carter: “Tragically, the international community largely ignores the cries for help, while the citizens of Gaza are treated more like animals than like human beings.”

Jimmy Carter also called for an investigation into war crimes committed by Israel.

Jimmy Carter: “There is no explanation. The responsibility for this terrible human rights crime lies in Jerusalem, in Cairo, in Washington and in the capitals of Europe, throughout the international community. This abuse must cease. The crimes committed against you must be investigated. The walls must be brought down and the basic right of freedom must come to you.”

1979 State Dep’t Ruling: Israel Settlements “Inconsistent With International Law”

Meanwhile new attention is being paid to a State Department opinion issued during Jimmy Carter’s administration regarding Israeli settlements. In 1979 a State Department legal adviser issued an opinion that stated the establishment of Israeli settlements in occupied Palestinian territories is “inconsistent with international law.” The opinion cited Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which states that an occupying power “shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies.” The legal opinion has never been revoked or revised. On Tuesday Israel’s newly appointed ambassador to Washington Michael Oren claimed that Israel does not have the ability to halt all settlement building.

Michael Oren: “This is a country of law, and citizens of the state of Israel have rights under that law and if a person has purchased a house, if a person has taken out a contract for building a house, if a corporation is involved in a construction activity, the Israeli government does not have the right under Israeli law to stop them. If it tries to, they will appeal to the (Israeli) supreme court and, my guess is, the supreme court will view in favor of those appellants.”

The future of the Israeli settlements is expected to be discussed at today’s meeting in Washington between Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman. Lieberman lives in the West Bank settlement of Nokdim.

New Gov’t Report: Global Warming Is Unequivocal

A new report by the Obama administration says global warming is “unequivocal and primarily human-induced.” The Washington Post reports the study details how climate change will affect certain parts of the United States. In the Northeast, the heaviest rainstorms have become 67 percent heavier since 1958, as warmer weather evaporates more water vapor into the atmosphere to feed storm clouds. Around the Great Lakes, snowstorms could get heavier as ice recedes and exposes more open water. By 2100 parts of the South could experience 150 days a year with temperatures higher than 90 degrees.

Peruvian Prime Minister To Resign

Peruvian Prime Minister Yehude Simon has announced plans to resign following the bloody clashes between indigenous activists and the police. Simon has led negotiations with indigenous groups protesting decrees to foreign oil and gas development in the Amazon jungle. Meanwhile the Peruvian Foreign Ministry has announced that it has granted safe passage to indigenous leader Alberto Pizango to leave Peru for Nicaragua, which has granted him political asylum. On Tuesday Bolivian President Evo Morales accused Peruvian President Alan Garcia of committing genocide.

Evo Morales: “I’m convinced that what happened in Peru is genocide caused the free trade agreement. Privatization hands South America and Latin America’s Amazon forests over to multinationals. Now the free trade agreement is causing genocide not just in Latin America, but all over the world.”

In other news from Peru, protesters have blocked access to one of the country’s largest gold mines. Peru is the world’s sixth-largest gold producer.

Mogadishu Police Chief Killed

In Somalia the police chief of the capital Mogadishu has been killed in a day of heaving fighting between government forces and Islamic milittants. More than 250 people have been killed in Somalia over the past month.

Republican Senator John Ensign Admits To Affair

On Capitol Hill, Republican Senator John Ensign of Nevada has admitted he had an extramarital affair with a campaign staffer. Ensign was seen as a potential candidate for president in 2012. Ensign is a born-again Christian who was a member of the Promise Keepers, a male evangelical group that promotes marital fidelity. Ensign had once claimed he never met behind closed doors with women staff members and would not travel alone in a car with a woman who was not his wife. In 2007 Ensign urged Idaho Senator Larry Craig to resign after his arrest in a men’s bathroom for alleged lewd conduct.

Trial of Former Democratic Rep. William Jefferson Begins

The federal trial of former Democratic Congressman William Jefferson of Louisiana has begun. On Tuesday federal prosecutors told jurors Jefferson had squeezed hundreds of thousands of dollars in kickbacks from people who sought his help. Jefferson has been charged with 16 counts, including bribery, racketeering, obstruction of justice and money laundering. In 2005 the FBI raided Jefferson’s Capitol Hill home and found $90,000 wrapped in foil and stuffed in food containers in a freezer.

Pioneering Doctor Leo Orris, 93, Dies

Ad doctor Leo Orris has died at the age of 93. He was a pioneer in environmental medicine, and discovered the causative link between tobacco and cancer in 1958.

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Local and Michigan Headlines: Measure Introduced to Repeal Ban on Same-Sex Marriage; Brother Defends Local Administrator of Racist Website

Here are some interesting articles covering Grand Rapids and Michigan that were published elsewhere on the web in the past couple of days:

  • Byrnes same-sex marriage initiative surprises Mich. Democrats – State Representative Pam Brynes is introducing legislation to reverse the state’s constitutional ban on same-sex marriage. According to Brynes, the time is right with recent polls showing that most Michigan residents support same-sex marriage and even former Vice President Dick Cheney saying that it’s time.
  • Appeals court allows ACLU challenge on public defender system to go forward – A Michigan Court of Appeals in Ingham County has rejected a claim of immunity by the state of Michigan and allowed a challenge filed by the ACLU on behalf of a class of indigent defendants against the state’s public defender system to go to trial.
  • Senate bills would weaken environmental rules, privatize review – Michigan State Senator Judson Gilbert has introduced two bills in the Senate that would weaken environmental laws by taking away the state’s ability to make laws stricter than their federal counterparts. The bills would also require state agencies to review all laws and asses their friendliness to business.
  • Michigan’s Unkindest Cuts – This is a short commentary piece published over at Michigan Liberal that criticizes the state of Michigan’s decision to cut funding for the arts. The author argues that arts funding–always the first to be cut–is a critical means of attracting new residents to Michigan.
  • Man died defending home despite U.S. eviction moratorium – Late last month, local and state police wearing SWAT equipment and using an armored truck showed up at an Allen Park home to evict a man who was living in his house despite its being foreclosed. The man was shot and killed when police shot a barrage of bullets at his house. Now, several weeks after the shooting, it’s still unclear what happened.
  • Most of West Michigan’s federal stimulus money flowing to road work – The majority of federal stimulus money being spent in West Michigan is going towards roads. The Grand Rapids Press has a handy map highlighting the various projects that have received funding.
  • A question of race? Working couple stopped by police – The Muskegon Chronicle has a disturbing report about racial profiling: an African-American couple quit their job distributing phone books in the predominately white town of Grand Haven because they felt unwelcome after two encounters with police.
  • Mike Lloyd: The special privilege of a Press career – Grand Rapids Press editor Mike Lloyd–who is leaving the Press–gushes about his brushes with power over the years. While not particularly newsworthy, it’s a good reminder of why I’m so glad to see him go.
  • Grand Rapids’ Downtown Development Authority: Did members assemble illegally? – Grand Rapids’ Downtown Development Authority used a secret meeting to discuss a controversial spending plan. Unfortunately, it isn’t the first time the DDA has used secret meetings. The Grand Rapids Press has more in this must-read article.
  • Brother defends hate site operator Steve Reimink who has ties to alleged Holocaust Museum shooter – The brother of Steve Reimink–who was tied to a racist website operated by the Holocaust museum shooter–is trying claim that Steve Reimink is just a normal guy with no ties to organized racism. In the article from the Grand Rapids Press, the Southern Poverty Law Center says that is extremely unlikely.
  • Fair Tax plan wins big at convention – Tea Party activists in Michigan–an outgrowth of national rightwing protests against taxes back in April–are considering a ballot measure to implement a so-called “fair tax” that would replace Michigan’s taxes with a single higher sales tax.

Repairing What Shouldn’t Be Fixed

by Kate Wheeler

November 1, 1878. That was a particularly dark day for American Indians; the day that Captain Richard Pratt opened the Carlisle Indian School in Pennsylvania. His goal: to “kill the Indian, but not the man”–to “fix” Indians by teaching them that everything about being an Indian was wrong, and that Indian children needed to be as much like whites as they possibly could.

The staff at the Carlisle School and many others at schools like it continually represented themselves as working compassionately to “help” Native Americans find their footing in a White world. But the fact was that these schools were founded on bigotry, hatred, and an agenda to neutralize any future threat of Indian uprisings against Whites.

The Damage of Hidden Agendas

When President Hayes questioned whether or not Captain Pratt was needed more as a soldier than a teacher, Pratt snapped back in a letter that he was fighting a war to bring “civilization out of savagery! Industry and thrift out of laziness! Education out of ignorance! Cleanliness out of filth!” His actual feelings about the children he was “helping” is pretty clear in that passage.

Today, Indians throughout North America are still haunted with depression, high suicide rates, and substance abuse that are a direct result of the brainwashing their parents and grandparents endured in these schools, where they were told that nothing about themselves was right; that what was inherent within them needed correction or, better yet, abrogation.

History Repeats Itself

Do any of these techniques and results sound familiar? If you read the news last week, it should be ringing some bells. You would have heard of a dog-and-pony show that’s on its way to West Michigan with a similar message–put on by people who are attempting to create as much damage in the LGBT community as Pratt and his kind wreaked on Native American tribes. Love Won Out, a “reparative therapy” group, is going to be setting up shop at the Sunshine Community Church to help people with same-sex attractions heal themselves of their very natures.

Just like Pratt, Love Won Out, brainchild of the infamous James Dobson, professes public compassion for those who are “affected by homosexuality” and seeks to bring them “into the arms of their Creator.” This kindly language is mirrored by Dobson’s Family Research Council, which states “Compassion, not bigotry, compels us to support the healing of homosexuals.”

Two Faces, A Single Goal

But groups like this sound very different when they’re speaking to their base. Recently, as one example, Exodus International President Alan Chambers stated, “One of the many evils this world has to offer is the sin of homosexuality.”

And so Love Won Out and groups like them come to us with their hidden bigotry and their surface “compassion” and their agenda to kill the homosexual, not the man. And they offer their bizarre treatments, which range from suggesting prescriptions for Prozac to meditating on a tree when one feels same-sex desires to improving one’s hand-to-eye coordination (on the supposition that men who are bad at sports become gay out of pure shame).

Lack of a Scientific Basis

Although they claim a high success rate of turning gays into heterosexuals, the ex-gay industry never offers scientific data or actual statistics–mainly because their successes are mostly failures. These broken results were predicted by the American Psychiatric Association when it stated in 1998 that “the potential risks of ‘reparative therapy’ are great, including depression, anxiety and self-destructive behavior…”

That scenario sounds so similar to the one being played out on reservations that you’d think that there’d be some value in the lessons of history–but apparently not.

Even worse, some ex-gay counselors insist to their clients that therapies to cure homosexuality are routinely used in mainstream treatment, a lie which is repudiated by groups such as the American Psychological Association. This professional organization issued a statement in 2006 which said, “For over three decades the consensus of the mental health community has been that homosexuality is not an illness and therefore not in need of a cure.”

Because the Bible Told Me So

With the force of all of the major mental health professional groups standing against them, how do groups like Love Won Out justify their ongoing march of reparative destruction? Why, because it’s mandated by the Bible, of course. The problem with that argument is that the Bible can be carefully cherry-picked to justify any evil under the sun, and has been. It’s been used as a call to war…as a justification for slaughtering Jews…as an excuse for empire-building and the eradication of native cultures…as a foundation for lynchings…as the rationalization for slavery. Remember that Jefferson Davis said in a famous speech, “Slavery was established by decree of Almighty God…it is sanctioned in the Bible.”

The tactic of Biblical justification for human horrors once prompted Lord Byron to remark, “History is the devil’s scripture.”

When Love Won Out arrives in Grand Rapids, it will be funded by its $146 million budget. It will be fueled with a religious zeal to transform everyone into the same cookie-cutter view of what is acceptable–acceptable in the eyes of James Dobson, if not of God.

But the basis of this group, just like the philosophy of the Indian school educators, is absurdly flawed. Gays can’t be fixed any more than I could fix the fact that I’m straight, or five-foot-three, or that one of the major lines of my family is rooted not in Spain or Germany or Russia but in the Abenaki Nation. These things can’t be fixed because there’s nothing wrong with them.

We are each perfect in the richness of our differences. Someone should try that concept as a reparative therapy for the Reverend Dobson.

Headlines: Supreme Court Rejects Challenge to “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”; Top UN Official Calls for Global Ban on Plastic Bags

Democracy Now Headlines: Supreme Court Rejects Challenge to 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell'; Top UN Official Calls for Global Ban on Plastic Bags

Headlines from DemocracyNow.org, a daily TV/radio news program, hosted by Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez, airing on over 650 stations, pioneering the largest community media collaboration in the US.

CIA: Keep Documents from Bush Era Sealed

The Obama administration is urging a federal judge to block the release of certain Bush-era documents that detail the videotaped interrogations of CIA prisoners at secret prisons. The Washington Post reports CIA Director Leon Panetta said in an affidavit that releasing the documents would benefit al-Qaeda’s recruitment efforts. Panetta said the forced disclosure of such material to the American Civil Liberties Union could be “expected to result in exceptionally grave damage to the national security by informing our enemies of what we knew about them, and when, and in some instances, how we obtained the intelligence we possessed.” Jameel Jaffer of the ACLU said he found it “troubling” for the Obama administration to say that information about purported abuses should be withheld because it might fuel anti-American propaganda. Jaffer said that amounts to an assertion that “the greater the abuse, the more important it is that it should remain secret.”

Shell Pays $15.5 Million in Niger Delta Case

The oil giant Royal Dutch Shell has agreed to pay a $15.5 million settlement to avoid a trial over its alleged involvement in human rights violations in the Niger Delta. The case was brought on behalf of ten plaintiffs who accused Shell of complicity in the 1995 executions of Nigerian writer and environmentalist Ken Saro-Wiwa and eight others. We’ll have more on the story after headlines.

Peruvian Indigenous Leader Seeks Asylum

In Peru, indigenous leader Alberto Pizango has sought refuge in Nicaragua’s Embassy and is seeking asylum. Pizango is wanted in Peru on sedition charges after leading protests opposing laws that encourage foreign mining and energy companies to invest billions of dollars in the Amazon rainforest. Over the weekend, sixty people died after police tried to break up a blockade. Indigenous activists are vowing to continue to fight for their land.

Indigenous Protester Atilio Pisango: “We have carried on this fight for more than fifty-seven days. The government has killed our indigenous brothers in Bagua. If the government repeals the law, we will lift the strike. Our leader, Alberto Pizango, did not send armed men; it was the army.”

Supreme Court Rejects Challenge to “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”

The Supreme Court has decided not to hear a challenge to the Pentagon’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy that bars gays and lesbians from serving openly in the military. The court refused to hear an appeal from a former Army captain who was dismissed under the policy. The Obama administration had urged the court to throw the case out. In a brief, the Obama administration had said the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy is “rationally related to the government’s legitimate interest in military discipline and cohesion.” While running for president, Senator Obama campaigned to end the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, but he has made no specific move to do so since taking office in January.

Supreme Court Justices Delay Sale of Chrysler

In other Supreme Court news, the court has issued a stay of the sale of Chrysler to the Italian automaker Fiat, delaying Chrysler’s exit from bankruptcy. Judge Ruth Bader Ginsburg announced the court would consider whether to hear the objections to the deal by three Indiana state pension funds and consumer groups. Some analysts say Chrysler could be at risk of going out of business if the court decides to hear an appeal in the case.

Court: Judges Must Avoid Appearance of Bias

In another closely watched case, the Supreme Court ruled that a West Virginia judge should have disqualified himself from an appeal of a $50 million jury verdict against Massey Energy because the coal mining company’s CEO had been a major campaign donor. By a 5-4 vote, the justices held that the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals judge should have removed himself from deciding the case, because Massey chief executive Don Blankenship had spent $3 million to help him get elected to the court.

Court Declines to Hear Case to Save Arizona’s San Francisco Peaks

Also on Monday, the Supreme Court declined to hear a petition from a coalition of Native American and environmental groups to protect the San Francisco Peaks located near Flagstaff, Arizona. The mountains are considered sacred by thirteen Native American tribes. A lawsuit was filed by the coalition to block a private developer from expanding a ski resort on the mountain and from using recycled sewer water to make fake snow.

Clinton Criticizes N. Korea for Secretly Trying US Journalists

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Monday the Obama administration is concerned about the two American journalists being held in North Korea and that they should be freed. The journalists, Euna Lee and Laura Ling of Current TV, were arrested in March working on a story near the border between North Korea and China. They have been sentenced to twelve years of hard labor in a prison camp.

Hillary Clinton: “Obviously, we are deeply concerned about the length of the sentences and the fact that this trial was conducted totally in secret with no observers. And we’re engaged in all possible ways, through every possible channel, to secure their release, and we once again urge North Korea to grant their immediate release on humanitarian grounds.”

US Continues to Hold Iraq Journalist Without Charge

While Secretary of State Hillary Clinton criticized North Korea for trying the journalists by secret trial, the Obama administration continues to hold at least one foreign journalist without charge. Ibrahim Jassam, a freelance photographer for Reuters, has been held in Iraq since September despite objections from the Iraqi government, Committee to Protect Journalists, Reporters Without Borders and Reuters.

Former Guantanamo Prisoner Describes Being Abused

Another former prisoner at Guantanamo has come forward to describe being abused inside the jail. Lakhdar Boumediene, who now lives in France, told ABC News he was kept awake for sixteen days straight, and guards inappropriately used hypodermic needles and IV tubes intended for forced feeding during hunger strikes. Boumediene, who was held for nearly eight years without charge, was interviewed on ABC News last night.

ABC News: “Do you think that you were tortured?”

Lakhdar Boumediene: “I don’t think. I am sure. You think that’s not torture? What’s this? What you can call this?”

NY Times Criticized over Report “1 in 7 Detainees Rejoined Jihad”

The New York Times is coming under intense scrutiny over its recent coverage of what former Guantanamo prisoners have done after their release. On May 21, the Times ran a front-page story titled “1 in 7 Detainees Rejoined Jihad, Pentagon Finds.” Since publication, the Times has had to backtrack from the article’s most serious claims. On Sunday, the paper’s public editor wrote that the article was “seriously flawed and greatly overplayed.” The public editor said the article failed to distinguish between former prisoners suspected of new acts of terrorism–more than half the cases–and those supposedly confirmed to have rejoined jihad against the West. Had only confirmed cases been considered, one in seven would have changed to one in twenty.

First Guantanamo Inmate Transferred to US for Trial

US authorities have brought the first Guantanamo Bay prisoner to the United States, flying him into New York to face trial for his alleged role in bombing the US embassies in Tanzania and Kenya. Ahmed Ghailani arrived early today and was brought to the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Manhattan. He is scheduled to appear in Manhattan federal court later today.

FBI Defends Use of Informants Inside Mosques

FBI Director Robert Mueller has defended the agency’s use of informants inside mosques, despite complaints from Muslim organizations that worshippers and clerics are being targeted instead of possible terrorists. Mueller said, “We don’t investigate places, we investigate individuals.” Several Muslim organizations have publicly complained that the FBI has planted spies in their mosques. Shakeel Syed of the Islamic Shura Council of Southern California accused the FBI of “trying to incite and entrap” law-abiding people.

Cuba Rejects Offer to Rejoin Organization of American States

Cuba has formally rejected an offer to return to the Organization of American States after members of the group agreed to lift the Cold War-era ban on its membership six days ago. Former Cuban leader Fidel Castro has said repeatedly that Cuba had no desire to rejoin the OAS, which he has described as an instrument of neoliberal economic policies and US intervention in Latin America. The official announcement was made on Cuban television.

Cuban Television Announcer Raul Isidron: “Cuba] has values at odds with the neoliberal capitalism and egoism promoted by the OAS and feels that it has the right and the authority to say no to the idea of incorporating itself in an organization over which the United States still holds an oppressive control.”

Top UN Official Calls for Global Ban on Plastic Bags

In environmental news, a top UN official is urging a global ban on plastic bags, in part because plastic is the most pervasive form of ocean litter. Achim Steiner, executive director of the UN Environment Program, said, “Single-use plastic bags, which choke marine life, should be banned or phased out rapidly everywhere. There is simply zero justification for manufacturing them anymore, anywhere.” The campaign to ban plastic bags is gaining steam internationally. China banned plastic bags last year, saving the country an estimated 40 billion plastic bags. Here in this country, San Francisco is the only large city to have banned plastic bags.

Charges Dropped in Dragging Death of Black Man in Texas

In the Texas town of Paris, protesters gathered outside the local courthouse Monday condemning the recent dismissal of murder charges against two white men in the dragging death of a black man. Twenty-four-year-old Brandon McClelland died last year after he was dragged from beneath a truck until his body was nearly dismembered. The two men originally charged in the crime were both friends of McClelland. They were released last week after being held for eight months in jail awaiting trial. Officials said the case had been unraveling in recent months because of a lack of eyewitnesses and physical evidence. Last month, a gravel truck driver gave a sworn statement acknowledging he might have accidentally run over McClelland, who authorities say got out of the car to walk home.

Report Looks at Michigan’s Gay Marriage Ban and the Lessons that Can Be Learned from It

060809-michigan_marriage.jpg

The Center for American Progress–a liberal/centrist think-tank–has released a new report that examines the 2004 ballot initiative that banned gay marriage in Michigan.

The report is titled “The Faithful Divide Over Wedding Vows: A Profile of Michigan’s 2004 Battle Over Marriage Equality” and it takes a comprehensive look at how opponents of gay marriage were able to wage a successful campaign to ban the practice in Michigan. The report looks at the organizing on both sides of the debate to draw lessons that progressives in Michigan and other states can use to inform future organizing.

The report looks at the 7 ballot committees that supported the measure, fundraising efforts on behalf of the ban, and the role that various religious groups played in building support for the amendment. It’s an exhaustive look at the issue that provides some critical analysis and understanding of why the amendment passed.

Given how long it has been since the proposal passed, the most important part of the report are its recommendations for future organizing. Based on its analysis, the Center for American Progress recommends that LGBT advocates build relationships with progressive faith leaders to challenge the anti-gay religious monopoly, that whole denominations not be entirely written off, and that the message of LGBT rights should be framed in a mainstream way. In addition, the report argues that the campaign against Proposal 2 was limited by an ineffective media and organizing campaign.

As always, there is good reason to be skeptical of portions of their analysis, but it’s worth considering, especially with talk about a possible effort aimed at reversing the ban.

Local and Michigan Headlines: Mackinac Center Attacks Organized Labor (Yet Again); Poll Finds Support for Gay Marriage in Michigan

Here’s some interesting Grand Rapids and Michigan headlines from today and over the weekend:

Headlines: New Hampshire Legalizes Gay Marriage; Activist Convicted for Leaving Water Jugs for Migrants

Democracy Now Headlines: New Hampshire Legalizes Gay Marriage; Activist Convicted for Leaving Water Jugs for Migrants

Headlines from DemocracyNow.org, a daily TV/radio news program, hosted by Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez, airing on over 650 stations, pioneering the largest community media collaboration in the US.

Obama Addresses Muslims Worldwide in Cairo Speech

President Obama spoke in Cairo earlier today in a much-anticipated speech aimed at Muslims across the world. Obama defended his decision to escalate the occupation of Afghanistan and refused to apologize for the invasion of Iraq that has led to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people. On the Israel-Palestine conflict, Obama refused to call for a full Israeli withdrawal from the Occupied Territories but said settlement building should stop.

President Obama: “Israelis must acknowledge that just as Israel’s right to exist cannot be denied, neither can Palestine’s. The United States does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements. This construction violates previous agreements and undermines efforts to achieve peace. It is time for these settlements to stop.”

Israelis Protest Obama in Jerusalem

On the eve of his visit to Cairo, dozens of right-wing Israeli protesters demonstrated outside the U.S. consulate in Jerusalem. The protesters criticized Obama’s push for a freeze to Israeli settlements.

Protester: “Yes, it’s important to have good relations with America, but not at the expense of our survival. And today, we are once again-we are going to repeat this over and over again-Barack Hussein Obama-No you can’t. No You can’t.”

Israeli Defense Minister Threatens Iran Attack

Meanwhile, the Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak is again threatening an Israeli attack on Iran over its alleged nuclear activities. Barak spoke Wednesday after meetings in Washington.

Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak: “I’ve already given my opinion and it hasn’t changed even after meeting with the foreign secretary. I repeat what I have always said, Israel still thinks it’s time for engagement and sanctions but Israel isn’t taking any options off the table. But there needs to be a timeframe to how much time we give to these negotiations and if this doesn’t work, Israel will have to look at other options.”

China Increases Censorship Ahead of Tiananmen Square Anniversary

Today marks the 20th anniversary of the 1989 crackdown on student and pro-democracy demonstrators in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square. The Chinese government has increased censorship ahead of the anniversary. Authorities have blocked access to social networking and email websites including Twitter and Hotmail. Foreign journalist have been barred from the Tianamnen square and many activists have been forced to leave Beijng or confined to their homes. Zeng Jinyan, the wife of the jailed AIDS activist Hu Jia, told reporters she’s been barred from leaving her residential community.

Zeng Jinyan: “Many people they don’t care about June 4th. But June 4th is really important for the whole country, for all the Chinese people. So if I have freedom, and I have the ability, I will just do the society education, through human rights education to the public.”

OAS Votes Lift Cuba Suspension

The Organization of American States has lifted its 47-year suspension of Cuba.

The surprise vote came Wednesday after the U.S. won conditions granting Cuba a path to membership if it carries out democratic reforms in line with the OAS’ founding principles. Cuba has rejected re-entry because it no longer considers the OAS a viable grouping.

UN Rapporteur Calls for Probe of U.S. Killings Abroad

A top UN official is calling for a probe into the killings of innocent civilians by U.S. forces and private contractors. Philip Alston, the UN’s Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions said many U.S. military strikes, shootings and drone attacks have killed scores of people without any accountability.

Philip Alston: “The government has failed to effectively investigate and punish lower-ranking soldiers for such deaths, and has not held senior officers responsible under the doctrine of command responsibility. Worse, it has effectively created a zone of impunity for private contractors and civilian intelligence agents by only rarely investigating and prosecuting them.”

Altson says the U.S. should establish a national commission of inquiry and appoint a special prosecutor to investigate the killings of innocents abroad.

Judge Dismisses Spying Suits Against Telecom Companies

A federal judge has dismissed more than three dozen lawsuits against telecommunications corporations that aided the Bush administration’s warrantless spying. On Wednesday, Northern California U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker ruled the companies including Verizon and AT&T are protected under the retroactive immunity granted in last year’s Democratic-backed surveillance act. The Electronic Frontier Foundation and the American Civil Liberties Union say they plan to appeal on the grounds the retroactive immunity is unconstitutional. In a related ruling, Judge Walker rejected Obama administration efforts to dismiss a case from a defunct Oregon-based Islamic charity that says it was the target of illegal spying.

Justice Dept. Restores Legal Rights for Deportees

The Justice Department has reversed a Bush administration ruling that immigrants don’t have a constitutional right to proper legal counsel during deportation proceedings. On Wednesday, Attorney General Eric Holder restored the right of immigrants to appeal deportations on the grounds of attorney incompetence. But Holder also said he would leave intact existing government cases based on the rescinded Bush administration principle.

Katrina Victims to Remain in Trailer Homes

The Obama administration has announced it will let thousands of Hurricane Katrina victims remain in trailers they had been told to leave by the end of last month. The White House says the Gulf Coast residents will be allowed to purchase their trailers for nominal fees of $5 dollars or less. And it says it will give the more than 3,400 families living in trailers priority for $50 million dollars in housing vouchers. The eviction plans had come under wide criticism because almost none of the housing destroyed by Katrina has been rebuilt or replaced.

New Hampshire Legalizes Gay Marriage

New Hampshire has become the sixth state to legalize gay marriage. On Wednesday, Governor John Lynch signed legislation okaying same-sex marriages after winning exemptions for churches who choose not to officiate.

Activist Convicted for Leaving Water Jugs for Migrants

In Arizona, a human rights activist from the group No More Deaths has been convicted for leaving plastic jugs for undocumented immigrants crossing near the US-Mexico border. The activist, Walt Staton, says the water jugs were left to prevent migrants from dying of dehydration. On Wednesday, Staton was found guilty of ‘knowingly littering’ in the Buenos Aires Wildlife Refuge. In a move criticized by defense attorneys, the jury was ordered to reach a verdict after initial deliberations ended in a deadlock. Staton is a member of No More Deaths, which has worked for years to provide migrants with humanitarian aid. Over the past decade, nearly 2,000 men, women and children have died while trying to cross the border into Arizona. In a statement, No More Deaths said: “By penalizing life-saving work, the United States is showing callous disregard for the lives of our neighbors to the south, whose only crime is to seek a better life.”

Lawsuit Reinstated Against Shell Subsidiary in Nigeria Killings

A federal appeals court has reinstated a lawsuit against the Nigerian subsidiary of the oil giant Royal Dutch Shell over the 1995 killings of Ken Saro-Wiwa and other Nigerian activists. The case against the Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria was initially dismissed in March 2008. The suit is separate from another case brought directly against Shell over the Nigeria killings. On Wednesday, that case was again adjourned indefinitely after its initial delay last month.

Baucus Meets Single-Payer Advocates

On Capitol Hill, Senate Finance Committee chair Max Baucus met with backers of single-payer health care Wednesday after excluding them from last month’s hearings on health care reform. Baucus reportedly expressed regret for refusing to hear their voices and said he would seek the dismissal of charges against thirteen single-payer advocates he had thrown out of the hearings after they protested their exclusion. But the advocates say Baucus expressed no willingess to reverse his principled opposition to single-payer. Dr. David Himmelstein, co-founder of Physicians for a National Health Program, said activists will need to continue protesting Baucus and other lawmakers who support for-profit health care.

Obama Signals Support for Mandatory Health Care Program

In other health care news, the Obama administration has indicated it could support establishing a health care system that would require Americans to purchase health insurance. President Obama opposed a similar plan from Hillary Clinton during their race for the Democratic nomination. But on Wednesday, Obama said he would consider the plan if it includes a waiver for low-income Americans.

Inspector: Aviation Officials Ignored Warnings on Plane Model in Buffalo Crash

And a federal inspector has revealed aviation officials ignored his warnings about a twin-engine aircraft model more than a year before one flown by Colgan Air crashed near Buffalo in February. The inspector, Christopher Monteleon, told the New York Times he found pilots had flown the plane faster than manufacturer specifications allowed. Monteleon says Colgan Air refused to report the breaches and have the plane inspected for damage. He says he was then suspended overseeing sections of Colgan Air’s operations after he reported his concerns to Federation Aviation Administration superiors. Fifty people were killed in the crash of Continental Flight 3407 on February 12th. The victims included Alison Des Forges, one of the world’s foremost experts on Rwanda, and Beverly Eckert, who had become an advocate for 9-11 families after losing her husband in the attacks on the Twin Towers.

Ex-Gay Conference in Grand Rapids to be met by Panel, Protest

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I received a disturbing email earlier today about an “ex-gay” conference at Sunshine Community Church here in Grand Rapids. For those of you who haven’t heard of them, “ex-gay” ministries are rightwing religious/political ministries that operate with a homophobic/anti-gay agenda that says that homosexuality is a mental illness that can be “cured” by prayer and/or “reparative therapy.”

This particular conference is sponsored by a group affiliated with Focus on the Family called Love Wins Out. It’s part of a multi-million dollar industry of rightwing ministries focused on repressing LGBT people. The conference features sessions outlining “the family dynamics that can lead to the development of same-sex desires,” how lesbians are a result of “emotional dependency,” how to raise children “toward a healthy heterosexual identity,” and how to pursue legislative efforts aimed at stopping LGBT equality.

If anything good came out of the news, it’s that there is already serious organizing going into the countering the hateful message of the program, with Grand Valley State University organizing a panel discussion on ex-gay ministries and a protest at Calder Plaza.

An email from GVSU’s LGBT Resource Center provides some background information and outlines the events:

Dear members and friends of the LGBT community,

Focus on the Family is bringing their anti-gay seminar “Love Won Out” to Sunshine Ministry Church on Saturday, June 13th. This program has a “pray away the gay” philosophy.

To present another side to that conversation, Grand Valley State University will host a panel discussion on religion and homophobia that will feature national and local experts.

“Religion and Homophobia: Spiritual Violence in Our Community” is set for Thursday, June 11, from 7-9 p.m. in the Eberhard Center, Room 215, on Grand Valley’s Pew Grand Rapids Campus at 301 W. Fulton St. The event is free and open to the public.

Wayne Besen, executive director of Truth Wins Out, will begin the discussion with a presentation about the nature, validity, and impact of “ex-gay” reparative ministries or therapies. Truth Wins Out is a national nonprofit organization dedicated to defending the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community against anti-gay misinformation campaigns.

Panel members will include the following:

• John Corvino, Wayne State University professor, author and lecturer;

• Milt Ford, director of Grand Valley’s LGBT Resource Center;

• Judith Snow, Grand Rapids area forensic therapist and author;

• Doug Van Doren, pastor of Plymouth Congregational United Church of Christ;

• Josh Sleutel, GVSU student, previous reparative therapy patient.

Join our Facebook group, “Religion & Homophobia: Spiritual Violence in our Community” The National Organization of Women is planning a protest response to “Love Won Out” on Saturday, June 13 at noon – Calder Plaza. Join their Facebook group at “Grand Rapids NOW Takes Action!

The event is sponsored by Grand Valley’s Division of Inclusion and Equity, Dean of Students Office, LGBT Resource Center, Women’s Center, Women and Gender Studies Department, Office of Multicultural Affairs, Liberal Studies Department, Allies and Advocates, and the LGBT Faculty and Staff Association.

For more information, call the LGBT Resource Center at (616) 331-2530. Tell your friends!

Headlines: Pro-Ethanol Dems Threaten Climate Bill; California Supreme Court Upholds Gay Marriage Ban

Democracy Now Headlines: Pro-Ethanol Dems Threaten Climate Bill; California Supreme Court Upholds Gay Marriage Ban

Headlines from DemocracyNow.org, a daily TV/radio news program, hosted by Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez, airing on over 650 stations, pioneering the largest community media collaboration in the US.

Obama Nominates Sotomayor for Supreme Court

President Obama has nominated federal appeals court judge Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court. If confirmed, Sotomayor would become the nation’s first Hispanic justice. Speaking at the White House Tuesday, Obama hailed her experience and background.

President Obama: “After completing this exhaustive process, I have decided to nominate an inspiring woman who I believe will make a great justice: Judge Sonia Sotomayor of the great state of New York. Over a distinguished career that spans three decades, Judge Sotomayor has worked at almost every level of our judicial system, providing her with a depth of experience and a breadth of perspective that will be invaluable as a Supreme Court justice.”

The 54-year old Sotomayor is the daughter of Puerto Rican parents who raised her in a public housing project in the Bronx. If confirmed she would become the nation’s 111th justice and the third woman to hold a seat on the court.

Sotomayor is Obama’s first appointment of a new Justice since taking office. The vacancy opened up with Justice David Souter’s pending retirement at the end of the Supreme Court’s term next month.

GOP Sen.: Nominee Could Be Influenced by “Race, Gender”

At least two Republican lawmakers have already cited Sotomayor’s race and gender in questioning her nomination. Congressmember Lamar Smith of Texas said he’s concerned Sotomayor has already displayed “personal bias based on ethnicity and gender.” Meanwhile, Senator James Inhofe of Oklahoma said: “It will be important for those of us in the U.S. Senate to weigh her qualifications and character as well as her ability to rule fairly without undue influence from her own personal race, gender, or political preferences.”

California Supreme Court Upholds Gay Marriage Ban

California’s Supreme Court has upheld a ballot measure banning gay marriage. Last November, a slight majority of California voters approved Proposition Eight, which defines marriage as solely between a man and a woman. On Tuesday, the court rejected lawsuits arguing Proposition 8 was not simply a constitutional amendment, but a constitutional revision requiring legislative approval. In San Francisco, around 175 people were arrested after blockading traffic to protest the decision.

Protester: “I am more determined than ever now that the court has said that Stuart and I have a fully legal marriage in the state of California after twenty two years together that I am more determined than ever to make that a reality for every loving, committed couple in our state.”

The court did rule to preserve the 18,000 same-sex marriages that took place while gay marriage was legal in California.

Army Chief: U.S. Could Remain in Iraq for 10 Years

The top U.S. Army officer says the U.S. is prepared to remain in Iraq for a decade despite an agreement to withdraw all forces by 2012. Speaking in Washington, Army chief of staff General George Casey suggested the U.S. could remain in Iraq longer than pledged because of global events. Casey said: “Global trends are pushing in the wrong direction. They fundamentally will change how the Army works.”

Group: Gitmo Prisoner Was Likely 12 When Jailed

In Afghanistan, a human rights group is claiming an Afghan prisoner at Guantanamo Bay was only twelve years old when he was jailed–not 17 or 18 as the Pentagon claims. Mohammed Jawad has been jailed at Guantanamo for more than six years. Many poor Afghans don’t know their exact ages because of a lack of accurate records. The Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission says interviews with his family show Jawad likely wasn’t even a teenager when he was captured. The group also says Jawad suffered repeated torture in both Afghan and U.S. custody.

Montana Town Offers to Jail Gitmo Prisoners

A small town in Montana is offering to hold Guantanamo Bay prisoners should President Obama go ahead with his vow to close the military jail. City officials in Hardin have offered up a recently-built prison that has yet to house a single prisoner. Hardin is in Montana’s poorest county and had built the prison in the hopes of reviving its economy.

Around 30 Killed in Pakistan Bombing

In Pakistan, about 30 people were killed and another 250 wounded in an attack earlier today. Armed gunmen opened fire on police and intelligence offices in the city of Lahore and then set off a car bomb when government forces returned fire. It was one of the deadliest attacks in Pakistan this year and the third to hit Lahore in several months. Government officials say it could be retaliation for the U.S.-backed offensive that has displaced hundreds of thousands in Pakistan’s Swat Valley.

168 Killed as Cyclone Hits India, Bangladesh

At least 168 people have been killed in a deadly cyclone in eastern India and Bangladesh. The toll is expected to rise as rescue workers reach areas cut off by deadly mudslides. Thousands of people have been displaced following heavy storms that destroyed their homes.

UN Officials Calls for Sri Lanka War Crimes Probe

A top UN official is calling for a war crimes probe in Sri Lanka’s internal conflict between government forces and Tamil Tiger rebels. U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay says both sides “grossly disregarded the fundamental principle of the inviolability of civilians.” Last week, the Sri Lankan government declared victory after a twenty-six-year war and a recent spike in fighting that displaced some 300,000 people.

Bolivia, Venezuela Dismiss Uranium Accusations

The Bolivian and Venezuelan governments are dismissing Israeli accusations they’ve supplied uraninum for Iran’s nuclear program. On Monday, a leaked Israeli intelligence document said both Bolivia and Venezuela have aided Iran’s nuclear development. Bolivian Presidential Minister Juan Roman Quintana ridiculed the charge.

Juan Roman Quintana: “Really, it forms part of the anthology of stupidity. If there’s something that characterizes our policy as a government, it’s the policy of peace.”

Bolivia says it hasn’t produced uranium in more than twenty-five years.

Trial over Shell Allegations in Niger Delta Delayed

Back in the United States, a landmark trial against oil giant Royal Dutch Shell’s alleged involvement in human rights violations in the Niger Delta has been delayed until next week. Shell is accused of several abuses including complicity in the torture and execution of Nigerian writer and environmentalist Ken Saro-Wiwa and eight other activists.

Pro-Ethanol Dems Threaten Climate Bill

On Capital Hill, a group of Democrats are threatening to derail a landmark climate and emissions bill to address concerns by the nation’s Ethanol producers. The bill would cut greenhouse gas emissions 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020 and 83 percent by 2050. House Agricultural Committee Chair Collin Peterson says he’s gathered 40 Democrats to oppose the measure unless it counters a recent EPA finding that “indirect land use” must be taken into account when calculating ethanol’s carbon footprint.

Burris Pledged to Donate Money While Seeking Senate Appointment

A newly-released FBI recording shows Senator Roland Burris promised to donate money to then-Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich at the same time as he was seeking a Senate appointment. Blagojevich appointed Burris to President Obama’s vacated Senate seat just weeks after Blagojevich was arrested on corruption charges. Burris has previously claimed he never discussed the Senate seat with Blagojevich or anyone acting on his behalf.

Report: Paul Farmer in Talks for Top Aid Post

And the activist medical anthropologist Paul Farmer is reportedly in talks for an appointment by the Obama administration to run U.S. health projects overseas. The Boston Globe reports Farmer told colleagues of the potential appointment earlier this month. Farmer is founder of the charity Partners in Health, which provides healthcare for people with HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria and other conditions in Haiti, as well more than eight other countries around the world. He has vocally criticized U.S. de-stabilization efforts in Haiti as well as major U.S. corporations that have pursued profit at the expense of global health.

Grand Rapids Press Interviews Rich DeVos, who Generally Proves that he is an Anti-Gay Jerk

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As part of its three days of coverage on Amway and its 50th anniversary, the Grand Rapids Press published an interview today with co-founder Richard DeVos (he co-founded the company with Jay Van Andel. Here at MediaMouse.org, we’ve long been critical of Richard DeVos, looking at his political activism, his “charitable” contributions, and his role in funding the religious right.

In the interview, DeVos basically proved everything that we have been saying all along. His comments are awful–he basically says he is right to be against gay marriage (although he claims to have gay friends, so that must mean it’s OK) and that he can do whatever the heck he wants with his money.

Usually I try to shy away from just quoting extensively from The Grand Rapids Press, but there really isn’t much to be said. DeVos proves himself to be a completely awful human being.

Here’s his thoughts on gay marriage:

Q: You gave $100,000 to the effort to defeat the recognition of gay marriage in Florida. Why did you choose to put money behind that cause?

A: Because I believe in it. That’s just a sacred issue of respecting marriage. It was not an anti-gay thing.

I have been hung in effigy by the gay community for a long time, from when I was on President Reagan’s first AIDS commission.

Q: How does that tie in with the gay marriage issue?

A: From that point on, that’s when they were hanging me in effigy because I wasn’t sympathetic to all of their requests for special treatment. Because at that time it was always somebody else’s fault. And I said, “You are responsible for your actions, too, you know. Conduct yourself properly,” which is a pretty solid Christian principle. You’ve got to take responsibility for your actions. It went from there to a series of requests for special treatment.

I would say, “I understand who you are. I accept who you are. Live your life. I will respect you. But don’t keep asking for favors.” Don’t ask for a concession on the marriage issue, which is not vital to them, in my opinion. They’ve made it a vital issue because they want to.

Q: Is there a solution? A compromise you would support?

A: Call it something else. Call it anything you want to. But marriage is a sacred document, OK? A sacred sacrament in the church and in the world. Don’t mess with it.

Go do something else. I deal with a lot of wonderful gay people. I hire a lot of them. I use a lot of them. I respect them. They’re terrific. I am good friends with them. But you live your life the way you want to live and I’ll live mine and I won’t stick my nose in yours. But don’t keep trying to change things. That’s all.

Q: Do you think it’s a winnable fight, long term?

A: For them? They’ve won a lot of fights. They’re a tough bunch. They keep asking for concessions all their lives. I don’t put anything past their ability to adjust things to their way on some equality basis. That’s all fine until you start dealing with sacred issues.

And on his wealth:

Q: There were a lot of people who thought: “Well, here’s a billionaire and he went over to England and bought a heart.” The average person who is in his 70s would not be able to afford to do that and may not have been able to have that same opportunity.

A: That’s true.

Q: How do you respond to those people? How does that make you feel?

A: I guess my quick reaction, my cute reaction, is: “That’s the benefit of making money, isn’t it? That’s the benefit of being industrious.”

I look at that as the hand of God. What happened in my case, there’s no other explanation for it. There are too many little things that occurred.

I’ve always been greedy. But never to the point where I corrupted the system. The normal desire to make money is always there. But it was never so powerful in the building of the business that it overcame those things.

Unfortunately, this really only touches the surface. DeVos has been a huge benefactor to the religious right and many of its key institutions over the years. He was instrumental in developing the modern conservative infrastructure and has given considerable money to Republican candidates and the party as a whole.

He isn’t simply a guy who “made it” and is spreading his money around–he’s actively pursuing a specific ideological agenda. Sure, he might give some money that benefits some in this community, but even those contributions have ideological underpinnings (for example, contributions to Christian schools).