Issue XCVI

21 OCT 2016

Today in History


The Jaw-Dropping Reason Congress Drafted DOMA: 'Moral Disapproval of Homosexuality'


When Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan read aloud from the 1996 Report to Congress that accompanied the passage of the Defense of Marriage Act, there were audible gasps of shock in the courtroom, according to several people who attended oral arguments Wednesday.

"I'm going to quote from the House Report here," Kagan had said "... 'Congress decided to reflect and honor of collective moral judgment and to express moral disapproval of homosexuality.' Is that what happened in 1996?"

"Does the House Report say that?" replied Paul Clement, the attorney defending DOMA. "Of course, the House Report says that. And if that's enough to invalidate the statute, then you should invalidate the statute."

But, he continued, "This Court, even when it's to find more heightened scrutiny ... it suggests, 'Look, we are not going to strike down a statute just because a couple of legislators may have had an improper motive. We're going to look, and under rational basis, we look: Is there any rational basis.'"

In short, he argued, "The House Report says some things that ... we've never invoked in trying to defend the statute"-- and so the court should focus on these other articulated rationales for preserving the controversial law.

Yet the intent of Congress in passing the law, as laid out in the House Judiciary Committee Report to Congress, is hard to ignore. Noted Kagan: "We have a whole series of cases which suggest the following ... that when Congress targets a group that is not everybody's favorite group in the world, that we look at those cases with some --­ even if they're not suspect -- with some rigor to say, do we really think that Congress was doing this for uniformity reasons, or do we think that Congress's judgment was infected by dislike, by fear, by animus, and so forth? I guess the question that this statute raises, this statute that does something that's really never been done before, is whether that sends up a pretty good red flag that that's what was going on."

What was going on, precisely, in 1996? Let's take a look at the section of the report in question, explaining a rationale for DOMA (I've italicized the red flags I see):


There are, then, significant practical reasons why government affords preferential status...

Supreme Court strikes down Defense of Marriage Act, paves way for gay marriage to resume in California


In a 5-4 ruling, the United States Supreme Court justices strike down the Defense of Marriage Act, saying it is unconstitutional. NBC's Pete Williams reports.

In a pair of landmark decisions, the Supreme Court on Wednesday struck down the 1996 law blocking federal recognition of gay marriage, and it allowed gay marriage to resume in California by declining to decide a separate case.

The court invalidated the Defense of Marriage Act, which denied federal benefits to gay couples who are legally married in their states, including Social Security survivor benefits, immigration rights and family leave.

Justice Anthony Kennedy, writing for the majority in a 5-4 decision, said that the act wrote inequality into federal law and violated the Fifth Amendment’s protection of equal liberty.

“DOMA’s principal effect is to identify a subset of state-sanctioned marriages and make them unequal,” he wrote.

Edith Windsor, the 84-year-old woman who brought the case against DOMA, said that the ruling ensured that the federal government could no longer discriminate against the marriages of gays and lesbians.

“Children born today will grow up in a world without DOMA, and those same children who happen to be gay will be free to love and get married,” she said.

In the second case, the court said that it could not rule on a challenge to Proposition 8, a ban on gay marriage in California passed by voters there in 2008, because supporters of the ban lacked the legal standing to appeal a lower court’s decision against it.

The court did not rule on the constitutionality of gay marriage, but the effect of the decision will be to allow same-sex marriage to resume in California. That decision was also 5-4, written by Chief Justice John Roberts.

Lt. Gavin Newsom told NBC News that gay marriage would resume in California within 30 days. Gov. Jerry Brown said counties could begin issuing marriage licenses to gay couples as soon as one formality was taken care of: A federal appeals court had to lift a stay issued by a lower judge.

“As soon as they lift that stay, marriages are on,” California Attorney General Kamala Harris told reporters. “The wedding bells will ring.”

Celebrations around the nation as the Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and declined to rule on California's Prop 8, legalizing same-sex marriage in the state.

The two rulings, released minutes apart, were...


Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine


With Revolver, the Beatles made the Great Leap Forward, reaching a previously unheard-of level of sophistication and fearless experimentation. Sgt. Pepper, in many ways, refines that breakthrough, asthe Beatles consciously synthesized such disparate influences as psychedelia, art-song, classical music, rock & roll, and music hall, often in the course of one song. Not once does the diversity seem forced -- the genius of the record is how the vaudevillian "When I'm 64" seems like a logical extension of "Within You Without You" and how it provides a gateway to the chiming guitars of "Lovely Rita." There's no discounting the individual contributions of each member or their producer, George Martin, but the preponderance of whimsy and self-conscious art gives the impression that Paul McCartney is the leader of the Lonely Hearts Club Band. He dominates the album in terms of compositions, setting the tone for the album with his unabashed melodicism and deviously clever arrangements. In comparison, Lennon's contributions seem fewer, and a couple of them are a little slight but his major statements are stunning. "With a Little Help From My Friends" is the ideal Ringo tune, a rolling, friendly pop song that hides genuine Lennon anguish, à la "Help!"; "Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds" remains one of the touchstones of British psychedelia; and he's the mastermind behind the bulk of "A Day in the Life," a haunting number that skillfully blends Lennon's verse and chorus with McCartney's bridge. It's possible to argue that there are better Beatles albums, yet no album is as historically important as this. After Sgt. Pepper, there were no rules to follow -- rock and pop bands could try anything, for better or worse. Ironically, few tried to achieve the sweeping, all-encompassing embrace of music as the Beatlesdid here.

We Still Need the Beatles, but…

The Beatles spent an unprecedented four months and $100,000 on their new album, “Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Heart’s Club Band” (Capitol SMAS 2653, mono and stereo). Like fathers-to-be, they kept a close watch on each stage of its gestation. For they are no longer merely superstars. Hailed as progenitors of a Pop avant garde, they have been idolized as the most creative members of their generation. The pressure to create an album that is com plex, profound and innova tive must have been staggering. So they retired to the electric sanctity of their re cording studio, dispensing with their adoring audience, and the shrieking inspiration it can provide.

The finished product reached the record racks last week; the Beatles had super vised even the album cover a mind-blowing collage of famous and obscure people, plants and artifacts. The 12 new compositions in the album are as elaborately con ceived as the cover. The sound is a pastiche of dissonance and lushness. The mood is mellow, even nostalgic. But, like the cover, the over-all effect is busy, hip and cluttered.

Like an over-attended child “Sergeant Pepper” is spoiled. It reeks of horns and harps, harmonica quartets, as sorted animal noises and a 41-piece orchestra; On at least one cut, the Beatles are not heard at all instrumentally. Sometimes this elaborate musical propwork succeeds in projecting mood. The “Sergeant Pepper” theme is brassy and vaudevillian. “She’s Leaving Home,” a melodramatic domestic saga, flows on a cloud of heavenly strings. And, in what is be coming a Beatle tradition, George Harrison unveils his latest excursion into curry and karma, to the saucy ac companiment of three tambouras, a dilruba, a tabla, a sitar, a table harp, three cellos and eight violins.

Harrison’s song, “Within You and Without You,” is a good place to begin dissect ing “Sergeant Pepper.” Though it is among the strongest cuts, its flaws are distressingly typical of the album as a whole. Compared with “Love You To” (Harrison’s contribution to “Revolv­er”), this melody shows an expanded consciousness of Indian ragas. Harrison’s voice, hovering midway be tween song and prayer chant, oozes over the melody like melted cheese. On sitar and tamboura, he achieves a remarkable Pop synthesis. Be cause his raga motifs are not mere embellishments but are imbedded into the very structure of...


Venezuela's Chavez Returns to Power

Triumphant yet chastened, President Hugo Chavez returned to office on the wings of a popular uprising two days after he was ousted and arrested by Venezuela's military, saying he has reflected on his mistakes and was prepared to "make corrections."

"I do not come with hate or rancor in my heart, but we must make decisions and adjust things," Chavez said at dawn, moments after pushing past tens of thousands of supporters to reclaim the presidential palace in Venezuela, the third-biggest supplier of oil to the United States.

Opposition leaders stayed clear of public light on Sunday. Venezuelans struggled to make sense of the dizzying, bloody sequence of events that led to Chavez's brief ouster and stunning return.

Chavez was ousted by his military high command, which claimed he had resigned under pressure after gunmen opened fire on opposition protesters. At least 16 people were killed.

Economist Pedro Carmona was sworn in Friday, only to resign a day later amid widespread street protests, looting and rebellions by several military officers who refused to go along with the plan. Chavez's vice president said Saturday that Carmona and his supporters would be tried.

"I'm sorry, but the pain I feel doesn't let me talk," said one old man, his eyes welling as he stared at his scorched shoestore in a western Caracas slum.

Chavez appealed for calm, and the looting that went on through the night died down. By sunrise Sunday, streets in the capital were empty.

A caravan of Chavez supporters interrupted the silence, speeding through the city in motorcycles and cars, honking horns and chanting, "He's back! He's back!"

The Bush administration, which showed no remorse when the Venezuelan military ousted the country's elected president last week, advised Chavez on Sunday to make good use of his second chance.

"We do hope that Chavez recognizes that the whole world is watching and that he takes advantage of this opportunity to right his own ship, which has been moving, frankly, in the wrong direction for quite a long time," said Condoleezza Rice, President Bush's national security adviser.

In his strongest conciliatory gesture, Chavez announced that a board of directors opposed by executives at state-owned oil monopoly had resigned. The internal power struggle at PDVSA swelled last week into a popular rebellion by the opposition, triggering a general national strike, a huge...

US coup against Hugo Chavez of Venezuela, 2002

Jacobo Arbenz, Cheddi Jagan, Fidel Castro, João Goulart, Juan Bosch, Salvador Allende, Michael Manley, Maurice Bishop, Daniel Ortega, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, Hugo Chávez … all Latin American leaders of the past half century, all progressive, all condemned to suffer the torments of hell for their beliefs by the unrelenting animosity of the United States.

Chávez had been elected president by a wide margin in 1998, breaking a lock on power by the two establishment parties that had dominated Venezuelan politics for decades. He repeated the strong electoral showing in 2000. But in the eyes of Washington officials, Chávez was no more than a man guilty of the following offenses:

He branded the post-September 11 US attacks on Afghanistan as “fighting terrorism with terrorism”, demanding an end to “the slaughter of innocents”; holding up photographs of children said to have been killed in the American bombing attacks, he said their deaths had “no justification, just as the attacks in New York did not, either.” In response, the Bush administration temporarily withdrew its ambassador.  When she returned to Venezuela, she had what one US official called a “very difficult meeting” with Chávez, in which she told him “to keep his mouth shut on these important issues.” 

He was very friendly with Fidel Castro and sold oil to Cuba at discount rates or in exchange for medical and other services. Chávez called for an end to the US embargo against Cuba.

His defense minister asked the permanent US military mission in Venezuela to vacate its offices in the military headquarters in Caracas, saying its presence was an anachronism from the Cold War. 

Chávez did not cooperate to Washington’s satisfaction with the US war against the Colombian guerrillas. 

He denied Venezuelan airspace to US counter-drug flights. 

He refused to provide US intelligence agencies with information on the country’s large Arab community. 

He promoted a regional free-trade bloc and united Latin American petroleum operations as ways to break free from US economic dominance. 

Chávez also opposed the Free Trade Area of the Americas, a globalization program high on Washington’s agenda.

He visited Saddam Hussein in Iraq and Moammar Gaddafi in Libya. Secretary of State Colin Powell testified to Congress that Chávez visits...


What is Palestine’s Land Day?


On this day in 1976, thousands of Palestinians marched in towns and villages across the Galilee region, in the north of present-day Israel, to protest Israel’s expropriation of vast tracts of land as part of its openly declared policy to “Judaize” the area at the expense of the indigenous population.

No Zionism without “evacuation” and “confiscation”

“Following the Zionist tenets, Israel has systematically and callously followed an intricate and continuous process of Arab land expropriation through the promulgation of new laws, the circumvention of existing laws, harassment and duplicity. Recognizing the naked truth, Y. Ben-Porat, a known ‘hawk’ wrote ‘One truth is that there is no Zionism, no settlement, no Jewish state without evacuation of the Arabs and confiscation and enclosure of their land,’” anthropologist Khalil Nakhleh wrote in The Journal of Palestine Studies in 1976.

Frustration and anger at Israel’s land theft from, and discrmination against, Palestinian citizens of Israel had been mounting for years.

Nakhleh adds: “To protest against the essence of this process and orders for new expropriations, the Arab population declared a general strike for 30 March 1976. In an effort to preempt the strike, army and border police, including armored units, were dispatched to the most affected Arab villages. Violent confrontations ensued, and left behind six Arabs killed, tens wounded and hundreds arrested. March 30 was commemorated as Yawm al-Ard or the Day of the Land.”

Israeli violence

“On that day, quiet demonstrations in the villages of Sakhnin, Arabeh and Dir Hanna were confronted by an aggressive police and army presence which later turned on them in violent confrontations,” historian Ilan Pappe writes in his book The Forgotten Palestinians.

Already, on 28 March, “the Minister of Police declared that his forces were ‘ready to break into the Arab villages’ – he used the Hebrew word ‘lifroz,’ which is usually employed to describe assaults on enemy lines and bases,” Pappe explains.

Pappe gives the names of those killed as Khayr Muhammad Yasin from Arabeh, Raja Hussein Abu Riya, Khader Abd Khalil and Khadija Juhayna from Sakhnin, Muhammad Yusuf Taha from Kafr Kana and Rafat Zuhairi from Nur Shams refugee camp, who was shot in Taybeh.


A Jewish Twist on ‘Land Day’


A new twist on “Land Day” – 3,327 years ago today on 10 Nisan the People of Israel crossed the Jordan River to enter the Land of Israel promised to them by God, in accordance with His Commandment.

Also on the tenth of Nisan – just as an additional note – we commemorate the passing of Miriam, sister of the Biblical Moshe and Aharon.

In addition, on this date in ancient times the selection of the Paschal lamb was carried out, in preparation for the holiday which begins four days hence.


Clearly, this is the date which should be celebrated as“Land Day”– and it should be held as a joyous national holiday by the Jews!!

Take a walk outside today and greet a neighbor and wish them a happy Land Day!

Author’s Note: Hat tip to columnist Michael Freund, whose article in The Jerusalem Post sparked the idea of promoting this day as a national holiday. I agree wholeheartedly!