Monday, September 03, 2007

Here are a couple of news items from the mid-west that are striking developments for the region. In Iowa, the District Court in Polk County has ruled in a suit brought before it by six gay and lesbian couples and the usual battery of lawyers, with the backing of advocacy groups. Polk County Judge Robert Hanson ruled Thursday that Iowa’s Defense of Marriage Act, which allowed marriage only between a man and a woman, violated the constitutional rights of due process and equal protection of the couples who had sued.

The accompanying photo was taken seconds after Sean Fritz and Tim McQuillan were married by Rev. Mark Stringer, standing at the right, in Des Moines, Iowa.

Opponents almost immediately said they will appeal and the next step is to bring the case before Iowa’s Supreme Court. The state’s governor and legislative leaders have said there will be action in January when the new legislative session opens. But this is Iowa, apparently a bit more liberal than I had thought; Fritz and McQuillan and one or two others were legally married before Judge Hanson’s ruling was stayed to allow the appeal process to begin. The result of the appeal will be worth watching for.

And here’s this from Missouri:

A Missouri state senator abruptly declares himself a Democrat, angrily citing the influence of social conservatives.
By Stephanie Simon, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
September 3, 2007

RAYMORE, MO. -- Talk about a nasty divorce. In an announcement last month that left Missouri politicos agape, state Sen. Chris Koster, a rising Republican star and chairman of the Senate's GOP caucus, abruptly declared himself a Democrat. Not only did Koster join the marginalized minority party in Missouri, but he did so with a thundering speech that lambasted his former colleagues as ignoring the needs of their constituents and slavishly following the dictates of "religious extremists."

The former prosecutor denounced several Republican positions he had once supported, such as steep cuts in Medicaid coverage and subsidized family-planning programs. But Koster reserved his harshest criticism for GOP efforts to overturn a voter-approved constitutional amendment that protects embryonic stem-cell research in Missouri.

"The Republican desire is to criminalize early-stage stem-cell research in our state," Koster said in a speech he repeated three times as he hopscotched across the state. "Go to Boston for your Nobel Prize; come to Missouri for your leg irons. And the Missouri Republican Party not only tolerates this lunacy, but embraces it," Koster said.

Days later, one of his staffers updated his website -- by deleting a photo of Koster shaking hands with Vice President Dick Cheney.

Koster's decision stunned Republicans here in his district just south of Kansas City and across this quintessential swing state. "There's no precedent for it in the state of Missouri," said GOP consultant Paul Zemitzsch. But the move sounded like deja vu just across the state line in Kansas.

Three prominent Kansas Republicans moved into the Democratic column in late 2005 and 2006, voicing similar concerns about the influence of social conservatives. One of those defectors was elected attorney general. Another -- who once chaired the Kansas Republican Party -- now serves as lieutenant governor.

Political analysts don't expect a cascade of party-swappers in Missouri. As political scientist David Webber put it: "I'll be darned surprised if anyone follows [Koster's] example."

But they say the move does point at how effectively social and religious conservatives dominate the Republican Party across several Midwest states -- and how frustrating that can be to self-styled moderates who would prefer to focus on economic issues. "That's been true for a decade," said Webber, a professor at the University of Missouri at Columbia.

Missouri elder statesman and former U.S. Sen. John C. Danforth last year wrote a book on the subject. "Faith in Politics" called on the GOP to shake free of the religious right. Danforth is now trying to translate those words into action by leading a national coalition of GOP moderates called the Republican Leadership Council.

Koster knows that many in Missouri would have preferred it if he, like Danforth, had stayed with the GOP despite his differences. "It's a disappointment to lose him," said former state Sen. Betty Sims, who had her own battles with the religious right but remained Republican. But after three years of feeling out of sync with his own party, Koster, 42, said he couldn't take it any longer.

The final straw, he said, came this spring when his colleagues overturned a state law requiring public schools to give students comprehensive, medically accurate information on sexually transmitted diseases and birth control. Districts may now focus exclusively on abstinence. "I knew at that moment," Koster said. "For me, leaving was the right, the moral thing to do."

We don’t normally hear of Republican disenchantment with religious conservatism and I find it encouraging to hear that there’s a movement away from its tyranny over the opinions of voters, and the consciences of politicians


The framing crew worked only a half day on Friday but did manage to almost finish this piece of work before they headed off for the holiday weekend. It's the top section of the upper roof of the house. A louvered square, copper-topped coupola fits into the top of it to hold the fans and other devices that will control the ventilation of the house. When the guys arrived for the Work and Play weekend, we took them up to the site and walked them through the house, top to bottom. To a man, each one of them told me that there has to be at least one skylight in the attic level because of the spectacular views from up there. We hadn't planned on one, but it does seem like a wonderful idea.

Several of our friends reported seeing the large family of wild turkeys that had been spotted on the property by one of the other residents. There are apparently a dozen turkeys, more or less--one male and the rest females and children. Fritz is pissed because he hasn't seen any of them, ever, and he thinks that as owner of the property they should have shown themselves off to him by now. For the record, I haven't seen them either.

We had a moderate sized list of things to get done but a couple of the items were very big. Cleaning up this big field pine along the road up to the new house requied some skillful chain saw work. Parts of it were dead, and large brancheshad come down and were caught as you see them in the "before" picture.
It would have been nice to save a bit more of its wonderfully sculptural shape, but it's best to get rid of all the dead wood to protect the rest. We also cleared the site for the new septic system of poplar, pine, oak and shagbark hickories in just under three hours on Saturday morning, aided no end by the cool, bright weather.

Another job involved taking an old shag carpet out of one of the break-out rooms on the second floor of the Center and replacing it with a rather more practical broadloom remnant that had to be cut and fitted into place.
More than anything else, cutting and splitting into firewood the big pile of tree trunks we'd felled last year to clear the new road and house site was number one priority. By the end of the weekend we'd managed to process and stack at least a cord and a half of wood in addition to what was already on hand--about 90% of what we need to get throught the winter.

We're blessed with great men in our lives. We worked hard, but also had a good deal of fun and ended the summer in fine style.

You are indeed blessed. What a fantastic house you are about to have. I enjoy your blog enormously,,, Thanks

and wild turkeys are sign of good luck and plenty!
I haven't forgotten you guys! Thanks for the Iowa marriage info.....who would have thought? I'll be this is one of the best months to be in New Hampshire!
It's gorgeous here, Lewis. The weekend had temps in the 70s with clear, dry air and fresh breezes--perfect for the outdoor work and for hot tubbing at night. Today is warmer but still great. The weekend is going to be in the 90s again.

The main trouble is no rain for weeks. Everything is wilting. We had to cancel the Sweat last weekend because building the fire to heat the rocks was way too dangerous, and the Sweat scheduled this month for the 15th will probably also have to be cancelled.

BUT all this clear dry weather has meant full speed ahead on house construction!
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