Big Stuff December 14, 2009March 16, 2017 Not to jinx it, but I think that, when the first full year of this Presidency is over, people will be able to look back on a remarkable, transformative string of accomplishments. Much of it has already happened – the sea-change in the way billions of our neighbors, and their leaders, see us; the impetus for stem cell research that may literally save our lives one day; the initiation of a much-lauded educational “race to the top”; the credit card reform act that will shortly take effect; the acceleration of increases in fuel-efficiency “CAFE” standards; the lifting of the global “gag” order on family planning information; passage of a long-stalled law that gives the FDA broad new authority to regulate tobacco; the extension of health insurance (over the “nay” votes of 80% of Senate Republicans) to millions of previously uninsured children; passage (over the “nay” votes of 90% of Senate Republicans) of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act that, apart from its practical implications, sends a signal of respect to women; confirmation (over the “nay” votes of 77.5% of Senate Republicans) of the eminently qualified Justice Sonia Sotomayor that, apart from its practical considerations, sends a signal of respect to Hispanic Americans; passage of the Matthew Shepard Act (with the support of just 5 Senate Republicans) that sends a signal of respect to millions more. Plus billions of dollars in funding to stimulate alternative energy production – under the auspices of an Energy Secretary who is a Nobel-Prize-winning physicist, not CEO of one of the nation’s worst polluters. Oh – and we avoided economic collapse, despite virtual 100% Republican opposition to the various components of the bail-outs and stimuli required to do it. And more. And now, with five or six weeks still to go, things are heating up: Health care legislation that wins praise from such serious reformers as Howard Dean and Congressman Anthony Weiner may actually be headed toward enactment. It will not be perfect (and may still get derailed). But it will be a tremendous step forward if it gets done. Likewise, the financial regulatory reform that just passed the House.* Both of these are huge. The former, among much else, would mean you don’t have to worry about losing your health insurance. The latter, had it been in place a decade ago, would like have averted much of the housing bubble and last year’s near-collapse of the financial system. They’re not done yet, and they’re not perfect. That’s the nature of legislation in a democracy – not least because reasonable people may disagree on what perfect is. But this is shaping up to be one remarkable first year. *H.R. 4173 – The Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2009. One of its many features is a Consumer Financial Protection Agency. The Republicans voted unanimously for an amendment to kill it, but Democrats carried the day. If you are a consumer, this is good news. Click here to see how your Representative voted. MEANWHILE . . . Move over Paris and Berlin (and Winnipeg and Providence and Portland Oregon) – now Houston has elected an openly gay mayor, too. Ten gallon hats off to Annise Parker. And guess what? John Perez, who also happens to be gay, was just elected Speaker of the California Assembly. And if you think that’s a big deal, THE VATICAN may even be softening. A little. According to this: Scott Long of Human Rights Watch reported today that The Vatican said it opposes discriminatory penal legislation against gay people during a United Nations panel discussion on sexual orientation. Long says the people in attendance were “stunned.” According the Vatican’s statement, delivered by Father Philip Bene, legal attaché to the Holy See’s UN mission: “Thank you for convening this panel discussion and for providing the opportunity to hear some very serious concerns raised this afternoon. My comments are more in the form of a statement rather than a question. “As stated during the debate of the General Assembly last year, the Holy See continues to oppose all grave violations of human rights against homosexual persons, such as the use of the death penalty, torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment. The Holy See also opposes all forms of violence and unjust discrimination against homosexual persons, including discriminatory penal legislation which undermines the inherent dignity of the human person. “As raised by some of the panelists today, the murder and abuse of homosexual persons are to be confronted on all levels, especially when such violence is perpetrated by the State. While the Holy See’s position on the concepts of sexual orientation and gender identity remains well known, we continue to call on all States and individuals to respect the rights of all persons and to work to promote their inherent dignity and worth.” ☞ So condemn me to hell . . . but may I please have equal rights until I get there?