Around the World

New from around the globe impacting your world.

Gbagbo Captured in Côte d'Ivoire. Laurent Gbagbo, who refused to abide by the results of last year's elections, has been captured  and is now in the custody of opposition forces. His capture came after French forces intervened in the fighting on the ground sending 30 armoured vehicles into Abidjan.  But both the French government and military insist that Gbagbo was taken by troops loyal to Alasanne Ouattara, who won last year's presidential election.

A spokesman for Ouattara told The Guardian: "It's true. Gbagbo has been taken to the Golf hotel by republican forces. Our forces went to the residence this morning and took him out." While the details of the capture remain unclear, it is possible that the French and UN soldiers attacked the building, surrounded it and then waited for Outtara's forces to go in, as France may not have the mandate or legal basis to make the arrest.

Uruguay Set to Enact Marriage Equality. The small South American nation of Uruguay is poised to enact full marriage equality for gays and lesbians by the end of 2011. Uruguay, which in 2007 became the first Latin American country to allow civil unions, is now pressing forward with a more gender neutral definition of marriage. The bill proposes a change to the country's civil code amending laws that refer to “husband and wife” to the more gender neutral “spouses” or “conjugal partner.” The bill is expect to be passed by the end of the year given that legislators report little resistance within the ranks of the center-left leaning majority in the Uruguay Congress. Currently only Argentina and Mexico City offer full marriage equality for gays and lesbians. Uruguay also offers same-sex couple adoption rights and has lifted its ban on gay troops serving in the military. Brazil has also introduced a gay marriage bill but passage there is more uncertain.

Early Results in Nigerian Elections. Nigeria's twice-delayed legislative and state elections were marred by violence that left scores dead and hundreds wounded across the Islamic north. About 74 million Nigerians were registered to vote in this year's general election where 36 Governors, 109 Senators, 360 House of Representative were up for grabs. Early results indicate that the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has suffered a severe electoral setback with numerous opposition parties set to make key gains. A full report from All Africa.

African Union Peace Mission in Benghazi. A delegation of five African presidents has arrived in the Libyan rebel stronghold of Benghazi in a bid to end hostilities and negotiate a way out of the deepening crisis. Jacob Zuma, the South African president, said Tripoli had "accepted" the African Union's plan for a ceasefire which would halt NATO bombing. Al Jazeera has a full report.

French Burka Ban Goes into Effect. The French ban on burkas and niqabs went into effect on Monday. The law imposes a fine of 150 euros ($190). The person breaking the law can be asked to carry out public service duty as part of the punishment or as an alternative to the fine. Forcing a woman to wear a niqab or a burqa is punishable by a year in prison and a 30,000 euro fine. Forcing a minor to do the same thing is punishable by two years in prison and a 60,000 euro fine. The government has called this coercion "a new form of enslavement that the republic cannot accept on its soil." Two women defied the ban in Paris and they were promptly detained.

David Boies: "Discrimination Can't Survive in the Marketplace of Ideas"

On Thursday at the Commonwealth Club here in San Francisco, attorney David Boies, one of the head litigators in the landmark Perry v. Schwarzenegger case, reflected on Judge Vaughn Walker's decision to overturn California's Proposition 8. Mr. Boies argues that opponents of gay marriage rely on slogans, rather than facts, concluding "when you're up on the witness stand, eventually there's no place to hide, and when you can't hide, discrimination falls." 

Mr. Boies noted that "discrimination can survive in the darkness, it can survive unchallenged but it can't survive in the marketplace of ideas." He then added that it was "a great day for all Americans" because any discrimination diminishes all of us.

At times emotional, he said that the country was founded on "a culture of equality" and though imperfect at that start over the long sweep of the nation's history we have expanded the scope of that equality. It is only in the area of gay and lesbians rights that the state still stands in to deny an entire class of people their constitutional rights. Mr. Boies said the ruling being "an important first step" in ending discrimination against Americans on the basis of their sexual orientation.

"Fundamentally, we cannot allow individual rights to be determined by any majority, no matter how large," emphasized Mr. Boies. "If you do then you don't need a Constitution, the whole point of a Constitution is to say there are certain rights that the majority does not have the right to take away from the minority and that we are not going to put, as the Supreme Court said in 1933, fundamental rights up for a vote."

At one point he noted that the "concept of equality is baked into the American soul" but lamented how nations like México, Argentina, Spain and South Africa have moved ahead of us in the "march to equality."

David Boies is a lawyer and Chairman of Boies, Schiller and Flexner. He has been involved in various high-profile cases in the United States. Following the 2000 U.S. Presidential election, he represented Vice President Al Gore in the lawsuit Bush v. Gore. Together with former Solicitor General Theodore Olson, the opposing attorney in the Bush v. Gore case, Mr. Boies have significantly changed the course and the parameters of the debate over gay marriage.

The full program including all David Boies' remarks is available at Fora TV.

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Gay Tea Partiers

Frankly, it would take too long to debunk why a regressive flat structure is not in society's best interest but that is one of the points these two gay Tea Partiers are missing. It's rather disconcerting that so many Americans continue to buy into the creed of libertarian style individualism over the collective good as these two young men do. They do, on the other hand, argue quite eloquently why the government should not be in the business of regulating marriage. Still the suggestion that we should abolish the income tax is hard to phantom. That would lead to a most inegalitarian society that would threaten the very existence of American democracy. 

It is also amazing to me that conservatives think the world around them comes cheap. They love to complain about taxes but they don't seem to realize to that taxes also pay for things like electric lighting and roads.

From the Wall Street Journal:

Paved roads, historical emblems of American achievement, are being torn up across rural America and replaced with gravel or other rough surfaces as counties struggle with tight budgets and dwindling state and federal revenue. State money for local roads was cut in many places amid budget shortfalls.

In Michigan, at least 38 of the 83 counties have converted some asphalt roads to gravel in recent years. Last year, South Dakota turned at least 100 miles of asphalt road surfaces to gravel. Counties in Alabama and Pennsylvania have begun downgrading asphalt roads to cheaper chip-and-seal road, also known as "poor man's pavement." Some counties in Ohio are simply letting roads erode to gravel.

The moves have angered some residents because of the choking dust and windshield-cracking stones that gravel roads can kick up, not to mention the jarring "washboard" effect of driving on rutted gravel.

But higher taxes for road maintenance are equally unpopular. In June, Stutsman County residents rejected a measure that would have generated more money for roads by increasing property and sales taxes.

"I'd rather my kids drive on a gravel road than stick them with a big tax bill," said Bob Baumann, as he sipped a bottle of Coors Light at the Sportsman's Bar Café and Gas in Spiritwood.

Rebuilding an asphalt road today is particularly expensive because the price of asphalt cement, a petroleum-based material mixed with rocks to make asphalt, has more than doubled over the past 10 years. Gravel becomes a cheaper option once an asphalt road has been neglected for so long that major rehabilitation is necessary.

"A lot of these roads have just deteriorated to the point that they have no other choice than to turn them back to gravel," says Larry Galehouse, director of the National Center for Pavement Preservation at Michigan State University. Still, "we're leaving an awful legacy for future generations."

It was a progressive income tax - the highest tax bracket during the Eisenhower Administration was 91 percent - that built the Interstate Highway System, the largest and most extensive infrastructure ever built, but it is a Reaganite ideology that is undoing the progress we have built so much so that we are forced to turn our asphalt roads back to gravel.

The President Disappoints Again

In the wake of the historic ruling by Judge Vaughan Walker that found the California gay marriage ban unconstitutional because it denies gays and lesbians the due process of law and fails to meet the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, President Barack Obama, a self-professed constitutional scholar, has via David Alexrod, his senior political advisor, reiterated his opposition to gay marriage. What's even more bizarre, and frankly, offensive is that the President in the very next breath claims that he supports "equality" for gay and lesbian couples.

He does not. Unless you support gay marriage, you do not support full equality for LGBT couples. You cannot continue to attempt to straddle both sides of the gay marriage fence. It's a shameful act of political cowardice. 

From The Hill:

President Obama remains opposed to same-sex marriage despite a federal judge's decision to strike down a ban on such marriages, a top White House adviser said Thursday.

Senior adviser David Axelrod said the president supports "equality" for gay and lesbian couples, but did not address directly Obama's position on Wednesday's court ruling, which struck down as unconstitutional California's Proposition 8, a 2008 ballot initiative banning same-sex marriage in the state.

"The president does oppose same-sex marriage, but he supports equality for gay and lesbian couples, and benefits and other issues, and that has been effectuated in federal agencies under his control," Axelrod said on MSNBC.

A line in the sand has been drawn. Either you are on board the equality express or you are just another derailment to overcome and toss aside. Fight for us and we fight with you; equivocate and we look elsewhere or stay home in 2012.

It is horrifying that the Administration is offering what is tantamount to a "separate but equal" treatment for gays and lesbians. It is not just unbecoming of the President to do so but it is a moral affront.

John Aravosis has posted an open letter calling on the President to support full marriage equality. It reads:

Dear Mr. President:

We are writing to ask you to come out in support of full marriage equality for gay and lesbian couples.

In 1996, you were in favor of legalizing same–sex marriage. By 2008, your public position had changed.

“Separate but equal” is wrong. It’s time for you to do the right thing, and come out again for full equality for LGBT Americans.

We are on the march towards full equality. Please join us.

It bears reminding that on this issue, Barack Obama is perhaps the only person in the country who has gone in reverse. During his first run for elective office, Barack Obama told Outlines, a local Chicago paper since merged with the Windy City Times, that he favored "legalizing same-sex marriages would fight efforts to prohibit such marriages."

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The Right Wing Reacts to the Overturning of Prop 8

Many of my fellow conservatives have an almost knee-jerk hostility toward gay marriage. This does not make sense, because same-sex unions promote the values conservatives prize. Marriage is one of the basic building blocks of our neighborhoods and our nation. At its best, it is a stable bond between two individuals who work to create a loving household and a social and economic partnership. We encourage couples to marry because the commitments they make to one another provide benefits not only to themselves but also to their families and communities. Marriage requires thinking beyond one's own needs. It transforms two individuals into a union based on shared aspirations, and in doing so establishes a formal investment in the well-being of society. The fact that individuals who happen to be gay want to share in this vital social institution is evidence that conservative ideals enjoy widespread acceptance. Conservatives should celebrate this, rather than lament it.

Theodore Olsen's wrote his heartfelt and moving op-ed making the Conservative Case for Gay Marriage earlier this year as he was preparing along with David Boies to argue the case against the California ban on gay marriage that had been approved by the voters with the passage of Proposition 8. The op-ed is, of course, a testament that many conservatives do recognize the gross injustice against gays and lesbians in denying them the civil right to marriage. As Mr. Olsen noted then "legalizing same-sex marriage would also be a recognition of basic American principles, and would represent the culmination of our nation's commitment to equal rights." Unfortunately, a large number on the right still do not yet concur with that view.

With US District Court Judge Vaughn Walker's historic ruling in the Perry et al v. Schwarzenegger et al that the ban on gay marriage violated the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution, it's clear that very few conservatives are celebrating the landmark decision and many are doing much more than just lamenting it. The right's reaction has ranged from incredulity and disbelief to anger and outright hate peppered with the obligatory doses about judicial tyranny.

Randy Thomasson, the head of the Campaign for Children and Families and of an outfit called Save California, blasted Judge Walker for having "trampled the written Constitution, grossly misused his authority and imposed his own agenda, which the Constitution does not allow" in a statement. 

Tony Perkins, President of Family Research Council, compared the decision to Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision that legalized abortion. "This lawsuit, should it be upheld on appeal and in the Supreme Court, would become the 'Roe v. Wade' of same-sex 'marriage,' " said Perkins. Perkins feared the ruling would overturn marriage bans adopted by dozens of states if it is upheld, a sentiment echoed by others on the religious right.

Perkins told CNN that he will work to make the ruling an issue in this Fall's midterm elections. "This is the age of the Tea Party, where you have people saying government is not listening," Perkins told CNN. "And here you have a judge saying seven million people (who supported California's Proposition 8 ) don't matter."

Brian Brown, president of the National Organization for Marriage (NOM), who is out on his cross country bus tour in the defense of traditional marriage was incredulous and left gasping for words until it came time to beg for more money in order to fight the appeal.

Maggie Gallagher, president of the Institute for Marriage and Public Policy and a columnist for various conservative publications, called the decision "outrageous" and "an extraordinary moment." Gallagher told right wing radio talk show host Lars Larson, "here you have an openly gay judge, you can read the Constitution and you cannot find in it any endorsement  of the idea, our Founding Fathers created no rights to gay marriage." She added that the decision was "intellectually absurd" and that "what we're seeing is an outrageous exercise in judicial tyranny." She noted that the decision "will mean that gay marriage advocates will use our Constitution to impose gay marriage on all of us whether we like it or not" — a somewhat ironic choice of words echoing San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom's prophesy several years back.

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