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Monday, January 12, 2009

James Scarantino Comes Out of the Closet

By that I mean that James Scarantino, who writes an op-ed column for the Albuquerque Journal and is a regular panelist on KNME's "New Mexico In Focus," has finally showed his true colors. Over the years, and certainly recently, there have been more than a few hints of Scarantino's real agenda -- and perceived problems with his ethics, honesty and analytical abilities. But, somehow, he's managed to hang onto a patina of respectability -- at least with some figures who populate the punditry and media in the Duke City and beyond.

This time, however, Jim's Mr. Nice and Reasonable Guy mask has fallen away to reveal a truly dishonest, hypocritical persona that puts stirring up unwarranted fear before speaking the truth.

Jim presents himself as a brainy and moderate -- if somewhat pompous -- independent "libertarian." But his latest Journal column shows he's nothing more than another garden variety extremist bent on twisting the truth into a fiction that supports his prejudices and biases.

Progressives = Well-Meaning Fascists
In the column, Scarantino first suggests that today's liberals and progressives are really fascists seeking to limit people's freedom, even if they originally mean well. In making that claim, he refers to the writings of "magic hand of the market" economist and philosopher Friedrich Hayek, who was linked with the Pinochet regime in Chile, the Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan administrations and the unregulated capitalism of Milton Friedman at the University of Chicago.

If you need to know more about Hayek's damaging brand of capitalism, and what it has been used to justify, check out the writings of Naomi Klein. Her latest book, Disaster Capitalism, provides a jarring view of what interpretations of his philosophy have wrought in the real world.

At any rate, in Jim's concocted view, we're the latest in a long line of Mussolini and Stalin lovers, on the march for Communism and a police state. Scarantino's claims may have attracted some true believers in the Red Scare McCarthy era (or in the days before laissez faire capitalism caused us the financial ruin we're experiencing now). These days, however, we're moving into a new era grounded in practicalities and pragmatism -- not convoluted ideologies. Most political thinkers have moved on to more modern, commonsense frameworks. Not Scarantino.

He moves from attacking progressives generally to using his version of Hayek's theories to criticize domestic partnership legislation. Maybe Jim should read this terrific knock down of that line of thought by someone who knows a thing or two about Hayek.

Attacking the Domestic Partnership Bill
Scarantino raises the specter of fascism in response to a little ol' bill that would give couples, straight or gay, the right to buy a civil license of partnership. In this way, they would be permitted to avoid expending undue money or time to secure their rights in terms of routine things like hospital visitation, tax-free inheritance, ER decision-making and family legal protections.

The proposed Domestic Partnership Rights and Responsibilities bill would in no way offer the same rights and responsibilities provided by federally recognized marriages. It would merely provide some very basic civil rights that would primarily benefit gay couples who aren't allowed to marry under civil law, and many elderly and disabled folks who would lose their much needed benefits if they married certain individuals.

Scary, isn't it? In Scarantino's world it is. In his column, he plucks a nonexistent requirement out of thin air and claims it's in the bill:

State Rep. Mimi Stewart has again introduced legislation to extend to same-sex partners the contractual rights enjoyed by married heterosexual couples. For what it's worth, I am on record supporting this concept. In seeking to extend rights to the intended beneficiaries of her legislation, however, Stewart would deprive others of their right to practice a religious faith that condemns homosexuality.

Every major religion continues to reject homosexual unions. In a nation that honors religious freedom as a fundamental principle, these beliefs — regardless of our personal views — must be forever immune from governmental interference. Stewart's legislation purports to recognize that principle. A clause in her bill states that nothing “shall interfere with or regulate the religious practice of any religious body.”

But Stewart's bill does not honor the religious beliefs and practices of individuals. Stewart thus echoes the Mexican progressives who sought to confine religion to temples. Under Stewart's bill, any individual who attempts to observe a faith-based objection to homosexuality outside a church building — say, by declining to provide services to a same-sex ceremony — will be subject to punishment by the state. [emphasis mine]

How Low Can Jim Go?
I can muster some understanding and respect for critics of domestic partnership legislation who may genuinely harbor a misunderstanding of the bill's requirements. But Scarantino certainly knows better. He's a lawyer and knows exactly what the bill would require, and what it would not.

Scarantino knows as well as I do that the bill has nothing to do with forcing church officials to perform domestic partnership ceremonies, and yet he insists -- apparently for the sake of stirring up controversy and anti-GLBT emotions in the community -- that it does.

Rep. Stewart Responds
I spoke with State Rep. Mimi Stewart, the Domestic Partnership bill's sponsor on the House side, and she had this to say about Scarantino's claims about the impact of the bill:

"I am surprised that the Journal would publish an opinion editorial with such falsehoods and misrepresentations, said Rep. Stewart. Jim Scarantino must not have read the Domestic Partner Rights and Responsibility Act because the only penalty in the entire law is a misdemeanor citation only if the domestic partnership is entered into falsely. Here the section in its entirety."

Section 9. MISREPRESENTATION OF DOMESTIC PARTNERSHIP ELIGIBILITY--PENALTY.--Filing an intentionally and materially false affidavit of domestic partnership shall be punishable as a misdemeanor.

Rep. Stewart continued, "I don't understand how any licensed attorney could read this bill and claim it would punish religious officials or others in any manner."

How Can We Fight Back?
I think it's important that Scarantino's knowingly false interpretation of the domestic partnership bill be nipped in the bud right now. I also think Scarantino should be "outed" for what he is -- a dishonest pundit out to cause trouble and muddy the waters about progressive change. Left unchallenged, Scarantino's false claims have the potential to jeopardize a thoroughly justified expansion of our civil liberties -- and create havoc in the lives of those who support domestic partnership legislation.

I hope you'll contact Scarantino, the Albuquerque Journal and the producer and hosts of "New Mexico In Focus." Express your views about the inaccuracies portrayed as the truth by Scarantino, and why you believe he should no longer be provided with print and TV soapboxes to push his distorted agenda.

It's no secret that legislators who support domestic partnership legislation are increasingly the victim of often invective-filled phone calls from people stirred up by dishonest screeds like Scarantino's. Stirring up hate is stirring up hate, whether or not your urgings to narrowmindedness are cloaked in intellectual pretenses. It has to stop. We need honest discussions about proposed legislation in our newspapers and on local TV shows -- not deliberate misinformation meant to appeal to the worst common denominator.

Also see my next post, which answers Scarantino's response to this post.

Other blogs that link to and comment on this post:

New Mexico FBIHOP
Plastic Manzikert
Duke City Fix
'Burque Babble

January 12, 2009 at 03:16 PM in Civil Liberties, GLBT Rights, Local Politics, NM Legislature 2009, Progressivism | Permalink


Thank goodness someone is calling out Scarantino on this one. The rest of the local blogs are so caught up in trying to get a quote in a national publication about Richardson that they are writing about nothing else even if there is no real news we haven't heard before.

There are many other issues at the forefront in New Mexico and this is one of them. Scarantino's take on the domestic partnership bill is a lie plain and simple. I don't know what has happened to him lately but he's been saying nutty things like this. His attacks on Heinrich were just as nutty.

Posted by: Old Dem | Jan 12, 2009 4:00:46 PM

More of the same from Jimmy. Remember when he compared the Alb. Obama rally to religious worship and Nazi rallies saying :I chanted "Heil!" in between their words until my wife made me shut up."

He's a wise ass and a liar. He's for Jim and drawing attention to Jim and that's it.

Posted by: bring in the clowns | Jan 12, 2009 4:06:48 PM

"Under Stewart's bill, any individual who attempts to observe a faith-based objection to homosexuality outside a church building — say, by declining to provide services to a same-sex ceremony — will be subject to punishment by the state."

I don't think he's talking abut religious officials. I think he's talking about the photographer who turned down providing services to a same-sex ceremony and was charged with something. What happened with that?

Posted by: Michelle Meaders | Jan 12, 2009 4:21:12 PM

I don't know what commenter Michelle Meaders is getting at but either way there is no penalty involved in this bill other than for those who file a false affidavit about their partnership.

Posted by: EQ for all | Jan 12, 2009 5:07:16 PM

So, call up his employers, call him names and try to coerce them to take away his job, because you disagree with his position on political, moral and social issues. Deprive him of his livelihood if you can.

And how is that not acting just like he suggests "progressives" act?

Posted by: Don Quixote | Jan 12, 2009 5:08:39 PM

Scarantino is lying and calling names. It is always good policy to express your views on people who are given public platforms when they do not live up to the public trust. There is nothing wrong with that.

Scarantino long ago made his livelihood. This is about responding when lies and extremist innuendos are offered about public policy. I'm glad someone outed him at last.

Posted by: Josie | Jan 12, 2009 5:13:16 PM

I have complained to In Focus about Scarantino on other issues. He is uninformed and allowed to express his views without any form of validation or fact. I almost hate to watch the show because of him!!!

Posted by: Charlotte | Jan 12, 2009 5:19:54 PM

Remember when Scarantino was claiming Martin Heinrich was in cahoots with "eco-terrorists"? How about his obnoxious Alibi column ridiculing supporters of wolf reintroduction.

I don't care what he says but he is not honest and he pretends to be someone he's not. He works hard to push right wing causes using lies and then pretends he's on the up and up. We see you, Jim!

Posted by: bopper | Jan 12, 2009 5:27:31 PM

Jim has taken advantage of the incredible dumbth of people he has other reasons to dislike, but he's not a liar or a fool. He's a mean-spirited jackass who gets attention for displays of sophomoric 'contrarian' reasoning, and that's why I no longer watch In Focus.

He does have a point, though. As proven by an unbelievably short-sighted and frankly stupid lawsuit brought under the Human Rights Ordinance


NM law has already been interpreted to trump any refusal of any service to any same-sex couple for religious reasons.

I don't, of course, believe that the photographer who sent a letter documenting her unwillingness to shoot a lesbian not-wedding was innocent and offended; she was a plant whose church had taught her how to be a hero to the religious right.

Our heroic LGBT League of Justice, the same lawyers who refuse to sue for marriage equality because it might piss off someone in the Dem Party, took the bait.

So instead of telling her wanna-be clients that this type of suit has terrible, lousy, horrible, very bad optics, the lovely and talented Julie Sakura set us all up to have to defend either the person expressing religious bigotry or the same-sex couple. Brilliant.

So the debate over the DP bill will take place in the context flowing from a successful Prop 8 campaign that relied on a real, documented case of a state enforcing the law against religious objections that was created here in NM. Jim Scaratino is doubtless an asshole...but he didn't load the gun, he just fired it.

Posted by: PhoenixRising | Jan 12, 2009 6:12:58 PM

Here's my response: http://www.newmexicoliberty.com/forum/topics/fascism-for-new-mexico

The pertinent Hayek work to read, for future reference, is "The Road to Serfdom." As far as I know, no has has done substantial damage to the thesis of that book, based upon personal observations of similarities between fascism and progressive socialism.

Posted by: Jim Scarantino | Jan 12, 2009 7:16:31 PM

My reply to your response is contained in my next post above. I didn't want to join the forum so I couldn't comment there.

I am well aware of the concepts explored by Hayek in "The Road to Serfdom." Even he refuted a number of the theses put forth in that book later in his life. And as I pointed out in my original post, this piece does a good job of responding to Hayek's arguments as you apply them to this issue:


Posted by: barb | Jan 12, 2009 9:09:11 PM

Yes, I've noticed how progressive measures like an 8 hour work day, a 5-day work week, paid vacations, safety on job sites, sick days, prohibitions against child labor and the banning of poll taxes has resulted in fascism. I also see how those measures have, so sadly, stopped employers and bigots from having their freedom to work people to death with no regard for their humanity or to keep African-Americans from voting.

What universe is Scarantino living in?

Posted by: cinnamon girl | Jan 12, 2009 9:33:41 PM

Phoenix Rising: So should photographers also be able to blatantly and publicly refuse to photograph African-Americans, the disabled, those with mental retardation or mixed race couples because their religious beliefs might not find these people acceptable and "without sin?"

Posted by: legal mind | Jan 12, 2009 9:40:17 PM

Let's not muddy the water here, folks.

The new domestic partnership law doesn't contain any provision that has anything to do with the photographer issue. Jim was wrong to conflate the two issues, and so are some of the commenters on this thread.

They're totally different and unrelated in any reality that exists outside of the overheated anti-gay imagination.

Posted by: sophie | Jan 13, 2009 8:04:35 AM

I agree Sophie. Apples and oranges.

Posted by: JJ | Jan 13, 2009 10:35:25 AM

I never said it was okay with me for public accommodations to be segregated.

I said that this particular suit was undertaken at the wrong time. The hearing and decision, in response to a family that deserves equality being baited by a trained member of the VRWC, worked perfectly for the photographer and her colleagues in bigotry.

The result of this thoughtlessly conceived suit was a set of facts that were the basis for a PR campaign against equality in CA, and will continue to be used against us.

Posted by: PhoenixRising | Jan 13, 2009 10:53:21 AM

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