YET *ANOTHER* FREE SERVICE FROM THIS SITE!

Have you got some blogs you like to follow – but wish you could have just the new stuff delivered to you automatically, when it’s posted? Well, from the same folks who brought you Quickbrowse.com (which has a small but enthusiastic following), now comes the beta of trackle.com. Sure, even with trackle, you’ll still spend a lot of time googling. What would life be without Google? (Or TiVo, or olives, but I digress.) But now, you can set yourself up to be trackled, as well.

BOREALIS UPDATE

Some of us have taken a few dollars we can truly afford to lose and bought shares of Borealis, the preposterous little stock I have written about so many times that will surely go to zero – but that is now around 5 or 6 (so the whole thing is valued at about the same as an 8-bedroom Palm Beach mansion I saw featured in last Friday’s Wall Street Journal). Some of you have recently asked, what now? My advice is to just forget about it for two or three years until it’s worthless or, conceivably, worth way more.

PCL

Peter: ‘You recommended PCL at $26.50 in August – and I did pick some up. Looking to get more now. Do you still like it today at $30.69? I also noticed analysts don’t like it much. (See: here. And the scorecard at quicken.com looks bleak as well.)’

☞ I like that it’s up 15%, and has paid its dividend along the way. Even at this higher, less attractive price, I think it’s a solid long-term holding for pretty much the reasons I laid out in that first column. Could it go down by a third in a tough market? Absolutely. But are the trees likely to keep growing, and is the price of their wood likely to outstrip inflation over the long run? I think so.

If you might need the money in a year or two, this isn’t the place for it – and neither is any other stock. If you’re investing for the next decade or three, I think PCL is quite a good place for some of your money . . . and at the end of the day, it won’t matter that much whether you paid $31 or $26 to buy it.

MARRIAGE

Americans are watching thousands of committed, loving couples get married in San Francisco . . . and they are trying to sort it all out. Many find these unions disturbing. Yet, at the same time, they want to be fair. They are troubled to think that if a gay person dies – even though she had Social Security deducted from her paycheck every week just like everybody else – her surviving partner and children will not get the same survivor’s benefits everyone else’s would. They are troubled that partners – even if they have been together for more than 50 years, like the first couple to get married in San Francisco – don’t have the same inheritance rights as everyone else.

Looking at the joyful faces in San Francisco, many Americans are beginning to wonder whether America’s cherished ‘equal protection under the law’ and “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” might not require county clerks to issue civil marriage licenses to gay couples after all.

Into the breach rides George W. Bush, urging swift, virtually irrevocable action to halt this creeping evolution of equal rights once and for all. Rather than risk that judges will interpret the United States Constitution in a way he doesn’t like, he calls on the country to amend the Constitution itself.

Rather than champion equal rights, he would move decisively to prohibit gay couples from enjoying the same civil benefits and obligations as straight couples (lest we follow the path of such barbarous nations as Canada and the Netherlands, who have already gone down this path).

Imagine this: It is 2006 and an anti-gay marriage amendment has been put on the Massachusetts ballot. In the two years since May, 2004, when gay marriage became legal in Massachusetts, the good people of Massachusetts (let’s just say) have decided it was a nonevent. Life has gone along fine, straight husbands have not decided to leave their straight wives. Teenagers who once would have been obsessed by women’s breasts have not lost interest – they are still obsessed by women’s breasts. And so, seeing that it’s made a lot of people happy . . . and boosted marriage license revenue to the state and catering business and tuxedo rentals (for both the men and the women) . . . and harmed no one . . . they reject Massachusetts’ anti-marriage constitutional amendment, in effect affirming the decision of the Massachusetts Court for gay marriage.

At which point, if George W. Bush’s federal amendment has passed, the federal government tells the people of Massachusetts that, no, they can’t decide this for themselves. Their will is overruled. The gay marriages are invalid. Only straight partnerships are worthy of equal treatment under the law.

Why is this good?

Either George Bush truly believes it is necessary to amend our most sacred document to prohibit people like his own Vice President’s daughter from ever receiving a civil marriage license . . . or, far more likely, he and his handlers see this as a way to energize their base for the upcoming election and shift the focus of debate away from jobs, health, education, and the way we have squandered the world’s good will post 9/11.

Either way, it’s un-American. To quote Bob Barr, of all people – the conservative Georgia Republican who wrote the Defense of Marriage Act – ‘A Constitutional amendment is both unnecessary and needlessly intrusive and punitive.’ (Washington Post, August 21, 2003.)

Kate: ‘This is a letter from dearmary.com which is urging Cheney’s daughter to speak publicly about the Constitutional amendment. I’m not sure I approve, but many of the letters there are thoughtful and thought-provoking. As a heterosexual married person, I don’t experience the problems gay couples run into. I and my other legally married counterparts ought to at least understand those problems – and this one presented a new situation to me. I thought it was heartbreaking and might push any undecided person to understand why marriage really has to be a matter of love and not government. Here it is:

Dear Mary:

I’m a 28 year old American woman living in exile. Two years ago I left my hometown of Miami Beach, FL with my partner of 6 years (a German citizen who had been studying in the States) because her studies were over, her student visa had run out and there was no possible way for her to stay in the US legally.

We had just heard the news that in Germany the laws had changed and we could get “married” there and she could sponsor me for a residency permit as her “spouse,” something that I could only dream about doing for her in the States…so knowing that I could not imagine my life without her, I decided to give up everything I had at home and leave the States to chase the simple dream of being married to the one I love.

I quit my job, sold almost everything I owned and we moved to Berlin to marry. That was 2 years ago and I can’t say I’ve ever looked back with regret. Life for me has never been more serene or free. I am living my dream and learning to love a new culture and life.

My parents are getting older though, Mary. And sometimes I wonder who will take care of them if they become ill in their old age…Sometimes, I am afraid that a point will come when they will need me to be there again, more permanently, when I may have to move back to care for them…

What will become of my marriage then, what kind of life could my wife expect to lead in the States? She wouldn’t even be recognized as my wife; I couldn’t even sponsor her for a green card, so that she could work. What would we do? Would we have to live apart during this time? What would happen to the children that we are bound to have?

I just need to know why your father thinks it would be OK to break up my home, to tear through my heart? We have never hurt anyone by being in a loving and committed union. If anything we’ve only brought beauty into the world through it.

Someday, I want to come home, Mary, with my wife by my side. I want to walk quietly, but proudly with her hand in mine down my beloved stretch of beach at home, where before I had always dreamed that our wedding would someday be.

Please, Mary, ask your father and his friends to reconsider. It’s urgent.

Best, Anna in Berlin, Germany

Here’s one that trackle.com sent me from the blog of conservative (gay) columnist Andrew Sullivan yesterday. (Andrew’s been getting some e-mail, too.) Empasis, mine:

Another gut-wrenching email: “I organized my life around four institutions: my family, the Presbyterian Church, the Boy Scouts and the Republican Party. They summed up what seemed to me a sensible view of life and the world, embodying loyalty, unconditional love, a quiet, thoughtful exercise of faith, a commitment to ethical behavior, and a limited government that did the things it needed for the public good but otherwise left people alone to be all they could become and savor the victory of having done so.

‘Then I came out, and one by one those four institutions turned their backs on me.
My parents were embarrassed by me and stopped nearly all communication, though they said they loved me and in some way considered me part of the family.

‘Then my church got a new minister who had hardly arrived before he started preaching on the marriage issue and rooting out gay staff members. Commissioned a Stephen Minister, I was told I would never be assigned anyone to walk with in their troubles. But of course the church loves me and in some way considers me part of the family still.

‘Then the Boy Scouts went to court and said that even though I am an Eagle Scout, people like me are not good role models for the program and cannot be leaders. But of course they consider me a Scout still and are happy to ask me for my money.

‘And now the head of the party I’ve stuck with through thick and thin for 36 years says the prospect of my being able to marry is so threatening to society they have to ban it in the Constitution. But the president says God loves me and I got an email from him today telling me about his campaign kickoff speech. So I guess in their compassionate conservative way the administration still thinks of me as sort of a Republican.

‘I don’t. You can only feel the love of people and institutions who fend you off with a barge pole for so long. Today I changed my registration from Republican to independent.”

– 8:21:11 PM

A SHIFT? Another emailer puts his finger on it: “We’ve witnessed a shift in Republican politics. The Republican establishment used to pay lip service to religious conservative interests while openly courting independent voters with moderate policies because it knew it could get the religious conservative vote regardless (who were they going to vote for, Clinton!?). But now, it seems Bush is paying lip service to independent interests while openly promoting religious conservative policy. Who are we going to vote for, Kerry? Well, yes.”

He’s not alone.

Enough conservatives, here’s what Ted Kennedy had to say (again, bolding the key points):

By endorsing this shameful effort to write discrimination back into the Constitution, President Bush has betrayed his campaign promise to be “a uniter, not a divider.”

The Constitution is the foundation of our democracy. It reflects the enduring principles of our country. We have amended the Constitution only seventeen times in the two centuries since the adoption of the Bill of Rights. Aside from the Amendment on Prohibition, which was quickly recognized as a mistake and repealed thirteen years later, the Constitution has often been amended to expand and protect people’s rights, never to take away or restrict their rights. By endorsing this shameful proposal, President Bush will go down in history as the first President to try to write bias back into the Constitution.

Advocates of the Federal Marriage Amendment claim that it will not prevent states from granting some legal benefits to same-sex couples. But that’s not what the proposed amendment says. By forbidding same-sex couples from receiving “the legal incidents of marriage,” the amendment would prohibit state courts from enforcing many existing state and local laws, including laws that deal with civil unions and domestic partnerships and other laws that have nothing to do with such relationships.

Just as it’s wrong for a state’s criminal laws to discriminate against gays and lesbians, it is wrong for a state’s civil laws to discriminate against gays and lesbians by denying them the many benefits and protections provided for married couples. The proposed amendment would prohibit states from deciding these important issues for themselves. This nation has made too much progress in the ongoing battle for civil rights to take such an unjustified step backwards now.

We all know what this issue is about. It’s not about how to protect the sanctity of marriage, or how to deal with “activist judges.” It’s about politics – an attempt to drive a wedge between one group of citizens and the rest of the country, solely for partisan advantage. We have rejected that tactic before, and I hope we will do so again.

The timing of today’s statement is also a sign of the desperation of the President’s campaign for re-election. When the war in Iraq, jobs and the economy, health care, education, and many other issues are going badly for the President and his re-election campaign is in dire straits, the President appeals to prejudice in this desperate tactic to salvage his campaign.

I’m optimistic that Congress will refuse to pass this shameful amendment. Many of us on both sides of the aisle have worked together to expand and defend the civil rights of gays and lesbians. Together, on a bipartisan basis, we have fought for a comprehensive federal prohibition on job discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. We have fought together to expand the existing federal hate crimes law to include hate crimes based on this flagrant form of bigotry.

I hope we can all agree that Congress has more pressing challenges to consider than a divisive, discriminatory constitutional amendment that responds to a non-existent problem. Let’s focus on the real issues of war and peace, jobs and the economy, and the many other priorities that demand our attention so urgently in these troubled times.

BLAME IT ON STEVE GILBERT (I DO)

Stephen Gilbert: ‘You and I exchanged e-mails less than four years ago in which I said there was no difference between Bush and Gore. I even voted for Nader then. Okay, here it is: I WAS WRONG. But unlike Ralph Nader, I am capable of change.’

☞ And so is the country, which makes Steve a great man and America a great country.

 

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