The Watering Hole, Monday, April 7th, 2014: Torture

Over the past month or so, there’s been a lot of talk about the Senate Intelligence Committee’s investigation into the previous administration’s CIA torture program (oh, excuse me, “enhanced interrogation techniques”.) Chair of the Committee Senator Dianne Feinstein has accused the CIA of accessing Congressional computers and deleting memos and other evidence. Last week brought the news that Senator Feinstein is pushing to have the results of the report made public, in order to “ensure that an un-American, brutal program of detention and interrogation will never again be considered or permitted…”

Cue the attacks, specifically on FauxNews: First, former CIA Director Michael Hayden questions Senator Feinstein’s possible “motivation for the report” is “emotional.” An excerpt from the ThinkProgress article:

“Citing specifically Feinstein’s line about not using such techniques again, Hayden told Fox News Sunday host Chis Wallace, “Now that sentence that, motivation for the report, Chris, may show deep emotional feeling on part of the Senator. But I don’t think it leads you to an objective report.”

A surprised Chris Wallace asked,

“…You’re saying you think she was emotional in these conclusions?” Hayden did not respond specifically to Wallace’s question, but rather said simply that only portions of the report had been leaked but it did not tell the whole story.”

Despite whatever Hayden believes the “whole story” to be, the portions that have been leaked seem to be quite detailed and very damning, as discussed in this March 31st article from WaPo.

“Officials said millions of records make clear that the CIA’s ability to obtain the most valuable intelligence against al-Qaeda — including tips that led to the killing of Osama bin Laden in 2011 — had little, if anything, to do with “enhanced interrogation techniques.””

It does not seem possible that Hayden’s “whole story” could in any way mitigate the fact that torture was systematically used, both here and abroad at “black sites”, supposedly in the name of our “security.”

From the Washington Post article on Hayden’s “emotional” characterization:

“Former CIA and National Security Agency director Michael Hayden suggested Sunday that Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) might have compromised the objectivity of a report on CIA interrogation techniques because she personally wants to change them…Hayden suggested Feinstein feels too strongly about the issue on an “emotional” level.”

Feinstein struck back at Hayden’s comments later Sunday by calling her committee’s forthcoming report “objective, based on fact, thoroughly footnoted, and I am certain it will stand on its own merits.”

In a statement, Feinstein noted that the committee’s investigation began in 2009 and the report’s conclusions “came from documents provided by the CIA and the result is a comprehensive history of the CIA program. The only direction I gave staff was to let the facts speak for themselves.”

“I believe last week’s 11-3 vote to declassify the report demonstrates that both sides agree that Americans should see the facts and reach their own conclusions about the program,” she added.

Raw Story tells it slightly differently:

“Yeah,” Hayden replied dismissively, noting that a Washington Post columnist had reported that “Sen. Feinstein wanted a report so scathing that it would ensure that an un-American, brutal program of detention and interrogation would never again be considered or permitted.” [Emphasis mine, in that I have been unable to find to which "Washington Post columnist" Hayden is referring, nor any such reporting that Senator Feinstein had directed how "scathing" the report should be.]

“That motivation for the report may show deep emotional feeling on the part of the senator,” Hayden opined. “But I don’t think it leads you to an objective report.”… ““You’re asking me about a report that I have no idea of its contents,” Hayden admitted.

[The notion that Hayden has "no idea of" the report's "contents" seems pretty ludicrous; regardless of his professed ignorance, it didn't stop him from attacking the Senator for one moment.]

Raw Story also provides us with cyborg former Vice-President Cheney’s reaction, which also sparked an invitation from Senator Angus King (I-ME) to have Cheney waterboarded:

“The accusations are not true,” Cheney told college television station ATV last week. “Some people called it torture. It wasn’t torture.”

“If I would have to do it all over again, I would,” he insisted. “The results speak for themselves.”

Sorry, the report’s results do speak for themselves:

“A report that has been completed by the Senate Intelligence Committee, however, has found that the CIA misled the government and misstated the effectiveness of the so-called enhanced interrogation program. The report concluded that the CIA lied when it said it had gotten “otherwise unobtainable intelligence that helped disrupt terrorist plots and save thousands of lives.”

“I was stunned to hear that quote from Vice President Cheney,” Senator King explained. “If he doesn’t think that was torture, I would invite him anywhere in the United States to sit in a waterboard and go through what those people went through, one of them a hundred and plus-odd times.”

And finally Cheney’s spawn, Liz, reliably shouts “Benghazi!” Again from Raw Story:

“Fox News contributor Liz Cheney on Sunday argued that a United States Senate report on Bush-era torture was “political” and that lawmakers should spend more time investigating President Barack Obama’s role in failing to prevent terrorist attacks in Benghazi.

“If you’re going to say that we should not have conducted the enhanced interrogation program, if you’re going to say that we shouldn’t have waterboarded three terrorists, then you’ve got to say that you’re willing to accept the consequences of that,” the former vice president’s daughter said on a Sunday morning Fox News panel. “You’ve got to be willing to say how many American lives would you have been willing to put at risk because you didn’t want to waterboard Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.”

“Fox News political analyst Juan Williams quipped that Liz Cheney was the “good daughter,” but the American people had a right to know what the CIA was doing in their name, and if the techniques were effective.

“I want to start by agreeing with Juan,” Liz Cheney shot back. “That we need more congressional oversight… of Benghazi, for example.”

She added that the Senate did not produce a “fair report” because it was “written entirely by Democratic staffers.”

“The Republicans wouldn’t participate!” Williams replied. “People not only wouldn’t cooperate, [the CIA] tried to spy on the U.S. Senate.”

Liz Cheney concluded by saying that she had “missed Juan” during her absence from Fox News for a failed Senate run in Wyoming.

[Yeah, how'd that work out for ya, Lizzie? Finally found out that no one in your home state likes you?]

A couple of the commentors on that Daily Kos thread could have helped Juan Williams bitch-slap that she-devil:

JW: I got a better idea Liz, why don’t we focus on the 22 embassy attacks that happened under your daddy’s watch.

bplewis24:

[Quoting Liz Cheney] “If you’re going to say that we should not have conducted the enhanced interrogation program, if you’re going to say that we shouldn’t have waterboarded three terrorists, then you’ve got to say that you’re willing to accept the consequences of that,”…Yes. I am fully willing to accept the consequences of that. Reports tend to tell us there are no real consequences of it, but even if there were, that’s the “sacrifice” I’m willing to make in order to live in a civilized world.

I think that I would just go with what Sheppard Smith once blurted out “emotionally”: “THIS IS AMERICA AND WE DON’T FUCKING TORTURE!”

This is our daily open thread–what’s on YOUR mind?

The Watering Hole, Monday, September 2nd, 2013: Whose American Dream?

On a weekend which is supposed to celebrate the lowly worker and his/her hard-fought-for rights, and less than a week after Republicans refused to participate in the celebration marking the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech, hard-core conservatives gathered in Florida to “Defend” a much different “Dream.”

Most Americans, like King, might describe the American Dream as one of fairness, an America where hard work, thriftiness, integrity, compassion, and sharing were among the most admirable characteristics. Most Americans dream of a life of somewhat limited goals, i.e., a nice house in a decent neighborhood, enough earnings to perhaps travel, to afford a few little luxuries, indulge in a hobby – generally, to be content and free from everyday financial worry.

Others trivialize both this type of American Dream and the dreamers who dream it, and hold in contempt those who cannot, through no fault of their own, achieve such a minor goal. To them, the American Dream is one of unfettered greed, and those who do not dream ‘big’ are not worthy of their consideration, let alone assistance. And these dreamers of greed went to Florida to “Defend The American Dream.”

Yes, the “Defending The American Dream Summit” was held in Orlando this past weekend, sponsored by your friendly neighborhood free-market-unregulated-capitalism group “Americans For Prosperity”, along with such proud bastions of integrity as The Blaze, Townhall.com/Townhall Magazine, and Altria. Who, you might ask (as I did) is Altria? From their website:

“For more than 180 years, Altria’s companies have built some of the best-known brands in the world – Marlboro, Copenhagen, Skoal and Black & Mild – that today lead their respective categories.”

Yeah, big tobacco.

The only sponsor that may be non-partisan/bipartisan, (based on its client list), is Tray, Inc., a marketing firm.

From “About The Summit”:

“In this banner event, free-market champions from Main Street to Capitol Hill come together for an unforgettable weekend with a shared desire to advance the time-honored ideals of economic freedom.

All around us a battle of ideas rages, and the very fabric of American prosperity is under attack. Now more than ever, we must be alert, involved, and engaged in the fight for freedom and liberty.”

The group of speakers touted include some of our favorite rabid righties: Senator Ted Cruz, Governor Bobby Jindal, Senator Ron Johnson, Governor Rick Perry, Michelle Malkin, Governor Voldemort Rick Scott, and total whack-job David Horowitz – more on him later.

From the Summit Agenda, some of the “Defending The Dream” Summit Breakout Sessions”:
-Bully on the Playground: Beat Back the Bureaucrats (Policy Session)
-Get Past the Gotchas: Staying in Control (Social Media & Messaging Session)
-Medicaid Expansion: Breaking the Bank While Cheating the Poor (Policy Session)
-Freedom in Decline: How Big Government is Ruining Your Future (Youth Oriented Session)
-The Green Monster: Subsidizing Failure in Renewable Energy (Policy Session)

One of the “exhibitors” at the DTD Summit is Go For The Heart – yeah, I never heard of it either. The website says ‘About’ itself:

“Go For the Heart, Inc. is a private non-profit corporation
dedicated to defending the principles of a free society
and to training conservative activists, strategists,
legislators and candidates in the art of political war.”

Its ‘Mission Statement’:

“Conservatives do not have a response to the attacks leveled at them during the Election Cycle as the “party of the rich” and “the oppressors of women, minorities and the poor.” Go For The Heart will equip and empower elected officials, candidates, campaign professionals, grassroots activists, and the conservative youth with the messaging tools to blunt the baseless attacks by Liberals and to be successful in winning elections for conservatives, whether Democrats, Libertarians, Republicans or Independents.”

Guess who seems to be in charge at Go For the Heart? Well, the “Go For The Heart in A Nutshell” video features David Horowitz – as do the downloadable publications offered. Yes, David Horowitz, again. [NOTE: I did not have the stomach to watch the video - do you?]

While there has been little reporting on what each speaker said, that little is enough to show just how extreme and divided the speakers and other conservatives really are. Marco Rubio received mixed greetings due to his lack of Tea Party purity over immigration, as reported by The Washington Post as well as at Breitbart.com:

From Breitbart: “Heckling calls of “no amnesty” and “Secure the border” were heard around the room and throughout Rubio’s presentation. In fact, calls of “traitor” were even heard in some corners of the audience. The catcalls proved that few were pleased with Mr. Rubio.”

But, again, that pesky David Horowitz delivered the most ironically delusional fantasy that I’ve heard in a while, calling the president “…the most brazen and compulsive liar to ever occupy the White House…”

“The reason we don’t attack him is obvious, but no one will say it out loud. I will: It’s because the color of his skin is black…It is because Obama is a minority that nobody will hold him to a standard or confront him with what he has done.”

This is no “American Dream” that the Koch Brothers-backed Americans For Prosperity is trying to “defend” – this is any sane American’s nightmare.

This is our daily open thread — go ahead, start your rants!

The Watering Hole, Monday, August 12th, 2013: The Beatings Will Continue Until Morale Improves

Twenty-five years ago this month, I went to the Women’s Health Pavilion in Dobbs Ferry, NY, to have my tubes tied.

Wayne and I were planning to get married in October that year, and had decided that, since neither of us felt that we had the temperament to raise children, having my tubes tied was the best route to go. I had been on the Pill off and on for about 10 years, and didn’t want to be exposed to its possibly harmful side effects anymore.

Even back then, as a fully-grown 32-year old adult, at a facility which catered to both happily pregnant women and unhappily pregnant women and teens seeking abortions, the doctors assumed, despite my protestations, that I might change my mind. They insisted that I have the type of tubal ligation which could be undone, even though they admitted that this procedure was more painful than the no-going-back type (they were definitely right about the pain!) That was the first time in my adult life that a decision about my body and reproductive choice was forced upon me by others.

That seems like ages ago now; but it also seems like ages ago (instead of a mere 17 months) that I began writing about the Republican War on Women (see here, here, and here), and in the meantime the suppression of women’s rights by Republicans just keeps getting worse.

This year, the main spotlight has been on Texas, where it took two “Special Sessions” of their legislature to pass a strict anti-abortion bill that couldn’t get passed in their regular legislative session. The only good thing that resulted from this extended knock-down drag-out fight was that it made a political star of State Sen. Wendy Davis, whose tenacious example and amazing filibuster brought thousands of Texans and millions of American women together in support of both Wendy and women’s rights.

Since then, however, more states have jumped on the he-man-woman-haters-club bandwagon. North Carolina’s Republican Governor Pat McCrory, after promising during his campaign that he would not sign any new abortion regulations, went ahead and did so. Then, adding insult to injury, he offered women protesting outside of his mansion a plate of cookies.

After that, Iowa is now contemplating a bill banning what’s called “telemedicine abortion”, where the doctor can prescribe the abortion pill to a woman online rather than in the doctor’s office.

And most recently, despite the legislation’s failure to pass in Georgia’s legislative session, Governor Nathan Deal(R) “vowed to use his executive power to enact it anyway.”

Lastly, getting back to Texas:

On the final day of the second session, state Sen. Eddie Lucio (D) — the only Senate Democrat who supported the recently approved omnibus anti-abortion bill — filed a measure to require women to complete a mandatory adoption certification course before they may seek an abortion. Lucio has suggested he will attempt to keep pushing that measure during the third session.

It’s hard to find a current answer to ‘how many states now have strict anti-abortion laws?”, but according to answerbag.com (from 2010):

Thirty-eight states have laws that prohibit abortions after a specific point in the pregnancy, except in cases where the late-term abortion might save the woman’s life or protect her health. Sixteen states have laws in effect that do not allow for late-term abortions.

And, according to religioustolerance.org:

At least 16 states still have pre-1973 anti-abortion laws on the books even though they are clearly unconstitutional and nullified under Roe v. Wade.”

Will the attack on women’s reproductive rights ever end? When will Republican women wake up and realize just how much Republican men despise them, want to keep women second-class citizens, and will do anything to control their reproductive health and rights? And when will male Democrats grow a collective pair and denounce Republican men as the ignorant, greedy, hate-filled, misogynistic bullies that they are?

This is our daily open thread — What’s on your mind?

The Watering Hole, Monday, July 29th, 2013: Saint Ronnie? I Don’t Think So!

jimmycarter460
I have always had great admiration for President James Earl Carter. I confess that I did not start voting until 1988, after I married Wayne (so Clinton was “my first.”) But my parents were pretty staunch Democrats who voted for Carter, and in those times we actually did sit down to watch the evening news every night, and I watched the Sunday political shows with my dad each weekend – which, of course, usually ended with me taking a nap. So I was not completely ignorant of political machinations, especially with dad filling me in on the background issues.

President Carter’s administration covered some troubled times, but he always spoke to the nation in a unique combination of down-home-folksy Sheriff Andy and subtly eloquent professor. That he is still, and always will be, derided by Republicans as one of the worst Presidents in history, just proves how little the Republicans respect intellect and integrity.

President Jimmy (as I like to call him) differentiated himself from too many other former Presidents by, after leaving office, continuing for decades to serve his planet, his country, and humanity in general. Jimmy and Rosalynn remain wonderful examples of “public service” at its most noble.

Here’s a selection of interviews, articles, and videos, all from the last year or two, which include President Carter’s views on America’s dysfunctional democracy and the effect of Edward Snowdon’s NSA leaks; his speech at the Carter Center’s “Mobilizing Faith for Women” conference on June 23, 2013; and an interview with CNN’s Piers Morgan from January 2012 on a wide range of topics, but mostly about the Middle East.

And saving the best for last, here’s Part 1 and Part 2 of President Carter’s appearance on The Daily Show, April 9th, 2013.

In my opinion, no other President has acted so Presidential after leaving office as has President Jimmy Carter. The right-wing can criticize and ridicule him all they want, but Jimmy deserves beatification to sainthood much more than their much-vaunted but historically inaccurate Saint Ronnie.

jimmy and rosalynn

This is our Open Thread. What’s your opinion about President Jimmy Carter? Or on anything else, for that matter.

Pro-Life, at any cost.

The American Life League, Inc.’s website reveals their take on abortion statistics:

Total number of abortions in the U.S. 1973-2011: 54.5 million+

234 abortions per 1,000 live births (according to the Centers for Disease Control)
Abortions per year: 1.2 million
Abortions per day: 3,288
Abortions per hour: 137
9 abortions every 4 minutes
1 abortion every 26 seconds

These statistics include only surgical and medical abortions. Because many contraceptive measures are abortifacients (drugs that induce or cause abortions), it is important not to overlook the number of children killed by chemical abortions. Since 1965, an average of 11 million women have used abortifacient methods of birth control in the United States at any given time. Using formulas based on the way the birth control pill works, pharmacy experts project that about 14 million chemical abortions occur in the United States each year, providing a projected total of well in excess of 610 million chemical abortions between 1965 and 2009.

So, this is what the “Pro-Life” crowd wants to prevent, in blocking access to surgical and “chemical” abortions – the addition of over 600 million to the population of the United States in one generation.

The current population of the United States is about 300 million. According to the American Life League, had women been prevented from having abortions, the population would have been amore than 900 million.

Reality Check Time.

More live births do not equal a more equitable distribution of wealth. For 98% of us, three people would have to survive on the resourses/income that one person has now. Put differently, triple the size of your household, without any raise in income. Now provide for your family.

And while you’re pondering that, imagine triple the demand for food, shelter, energy, etc. Nothing like tripling demand to drive up prices. But, with more workers in the workforce, wages are driven lower.

Ending birth control and abortions will cause a population explosion that will create a humanitarian crisis of biblical proportions. The ensuing population growth will be unsustainable, the suffering from abject poverty and starvation unfathomable.

But the “Pro-Life” crowd is incapable of comprehending the logical consequences of their own actions.

The Watering Hole, Saturday, June 29, 2013: Don’t Weep For the White Man

New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg’s NYPD (the largest and most heavily armed police force in the country; the mayor brags that it’s the seventh largest army in the world) has a stop-question-and-frisk program that has generated not just a lot of heavy criticism from civil libertarians, but lawsuits that cost the city hundreds of millions of dollars. The reason for the controversy is that when police figures on how many such stops made were finally released, they showed that not only were the numbers of stops increasing at an alarming rate every year, but that nearly 90% of those stopped were young black or Latino males. And about 90% of those stopped were completely innocent of any kind of wrongdoing. It has gotten so bad that the Justice Department has joined a lawsuit against the city’s policies.

The debate over stop-and-frisk became a focal point for NYPD critics last May after the New York Civil Liberties Union released statistics showing police stops have risen sharply during Bloomberg’s administration – from 160,851 in 2003 to 685,724 in 2011. About half of the 2011 stops resulted in physical searches.

The analysis also concluded that the policy disproportionately targets minorities, and noted that in 2011, NYPD records showed police conducted more stops of black males between the ages of 14 and 24 than the total number of young black males living in New York City. Just 1.8 percent of searches of minority suspects that year resulted in weapons seizures.

The DoJ supports having a court-appointed monitor look over the program, while the Mayor and NYPD vehemently disagree (of course). Proponents of the program claim (as they often do when they exceed their authority under the Constitution) it is a vital part of how murder rates have fallen to historic lows, but the ends do not justify the means, nor does the logic. The murder rate in NYC was on the decline before stop-and-frisk became the policy, and other major US cities have seen their murder rates drop without the use of any stop-and-frisk policies. Proponents also claim that the program is removing guns from the street, but the NYPD’s own statistics do not support that claim – less than 0.2% of all stops result in the seizure of a gun.

You may wonder how such a program could be Constitutional. You would be smart to do so. The mayor claims the program is permissible based on the Supreme Court decision in Terry v. Ohio. But as I read about that case, one striking difference is that the suspects in that case were actually engaging in behavior that any reasonable person would conclude was suspicious. (They walked back and forth in front a store, peering each time to see inside, then Met at the end of the street to converse before going back to look inside again. I think any reasonable person would have suspected that they were casing the joint in preparation for a robbery, possibly even a murder of someone inside. I’m a liberal libertarian and even I would have said the cop had a right to suspect a crime was about to go down.) In many stop and frisk cases there is no real suspicion that any criminal activity is going on at all. But they do have a form they’re supposed to fill put explaining why they made the stop. They also give quarterly reports to the NYC Council, but those reports do not have the same level of detail that the forms do.

The New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU) issued a report in May that suggests, among other things, that the stop and frisk program is less about getting guns off the street and more about making marijuana arrests. While the program got 792 guns off the street, it also resulted in more than 5,000 arrests for possession of pot. In New York State, possession of small amounts of pot not in plain view is a violation punishable by a fine and not a criminal arrest. But cops would insist that detainees empty their pockets, and when a joint or bag of weed comes out, the cops charge them with possessing pot “in plain view.” That is, of course, bullshit, because the pot would never have been visible if the cops hadn’t ordered the detainee to empty his pockets. The cops were, in essence, forcing their detainees to violate the law and then arresting them for it.

So why bring this up now? Because despite all the apparent evidence that minorities are being disproportionately stopped and frisked, Mayor Mike Bloomberg thinks that white people are getting stopped too much and minorities too little. I’m not making that up.

Mayor Bloomberg claimed that people of color should be stopped and frisked more — not less — while whites are stopped too frequently.

“I think we disproportionately stop whites too much and minorities too little. It’s exactly the reverse of what they say,” Bloomberg said on his weekly radio show, in response to the City Council passing two bills aimed at reining in the controversial policing tactic.

His justification for doing the stops is devoid of logic.

To buttress the mayor’s remarks, his office released a set of statistics. The numbers showed that 87% of the people stopped under stop-and-frisk in 2012 were black or Latino, and that 9% were white. That same year, more than 90% of those identified as murder suspects were blacks or Latino; just 7% were white.

Of course, that rationale assumes that every murder or violent crime has a reliable witness. Many crimes don’t have witnesses, which is how the criminals get away. Then there are the crimes that go unreported, which is impossible to measure because you don’t know if a crime has been committed if nobody says anything. Also witnesses do lie. Former Comptroller Bill Thompson, the only black mayoral candidate, said of Mayor Bloomberg, “He basically said that if you’re black or Latino, you’re automatically a murder suspect,” Mr. Thompson said. “It just continues to show how out of touch the mayor is.”

But Bloomberg also ignores the fact that a study found that the white people stopped and frisked were twice as likely to have a gun than minorities. When you couple that with how few stops result in the confiscation of a weapon, where is the justification for Bloomberg’s assertion that white people are getting stopped too much? Too much for whom, the white mayor of New York?

This is our daily open thread. Feel free to discuss Stop and Frisk or anything else you wish to discuss. Please, no weapons.

The Watering Hole: Wednesday, 6/26/13: SCOTUS DECLARES MARRIAGE UNCONSTITUTIONAL!!!

The Supreme Court of the United States just issued its long-awaited ruling on the gay marriage cases pending before it. In a stunning decision that surprised constitutional law scholars on both sides of the aisle, the Supreme Court struck down marriage as unconstitutional.

In a 5-4 decision authored by Justice Scalia, the high court ruled all marriage laws violate the Constitution. “Nowhere in the Constitution is marriage mentioned.” Scalia’s opinion stated. “As a strict constructionist, if it isn’t in the Constitution, the government has no business regulating it.”

“Our founding fathers knew about marriage, and if they wanted to include marriage in the Constitution, they would have. But the Constitution is silent on the issue. One searches in vain through the Federalist Papers and other correspondence written between the founding fathers for any mention of marriage as a Constitutional right.”

“On the other hand, the pecadillos of Ben Franklin are well-known. And that Thomas Jefferson fathered out-of-wedlock children is indisputable.”

“But the case was made, and the point well taken, that marriage is a sacred institution, ordained by God. That being said, the First Amendment compels but one decision, and one decision only. All laws respecting the institution of marriage impermissibly impinge on the First Amendment’s “wall of separation” between church and state.”

“While prohibiting some people from getting married based solely on their gender may be violative of the 14th Amendment’s equal protection mandates, we do not reach that decision today. For today we must reach a different conclusion. And that conclusion is that all laws respecting the sacred institution of marriage are unconstitutional and are hereby declared null and void.”

Justice Thomas concurred, writing, “What he said.”

THIS IS OUR OPEN THREAD, AND WILL REMAIN SO, UNTIL DEATH DO US PART

The Watering Hole, Monday, June 24th, 2013: The Silence of the Dems

Pretty much every single day, Republicans do or say things that make us either laugh at their foolishness or gasp at their political machinations. On the one hand, we hear idiots like Michele Bachmann spout ‘history’ that she pulled out of her ass, or the ignorance of misogynists such as Trent Franks and Michael Burgess, or just about anything out of the mouth of Steve King. On the other hand, Republican governors and congresspersons are busily doing ALEC’s bidding, continuing and escalating their war on women’s reproductive rights, joined by the supposed “jobs, jobs, jobs”-focused Republican-controlled House. It would seem to be easy enough to just sit back and watch the Republican party descend into oblivion.

Yet, while some of their utterances can be amusing, the Republicans’ overall strategy of limiting citizens’ rights, particularly women and minorities, along with their disdain and antagonism towards the poor among us, is deadly serious. But what are the Democrats doing to stop them, or at least to draw the country’s attention to the medieval legislation being proposed and passed by the Republican governors? I, for one, am sick of the “State’s Rights” BS by which Republican governors and Congressmen swear. President Obama has talked about their divisiveness, and a few of the more left-leaning Democratic Senators have as well, but where are the majority of the Democrats?

But it’s not just Republican schemes that the Democrats need to decry: where are they on President Obama’s illegal (in my mind) drone program, or the NSA spying, or the continuation of the ill-begotten PATRIOT Act? While dinosaurs like Diane Feinstein and Chuck Schumer seem perfectly comfortable with spying on Americans, and denounce whistleblowers as traitors, where are the other Democrats speaking up for our rights as citizens? Where are the Democrats when it comes to the apparently untouchable big corporations, banks, etc.?

Since talk of the next round of elections started the moment the general election in November was over, it seems that most liberal pundits are focusing more on the self-destruction of the Republicans than on what potential Democratic candidates will offer as an alternative. Democrats need to start now to distinguish themselves from the Republicans on issues, and they’re going to need to speak loudly and carry a big stick. They cannot simply rely on pointing at Republicans and laughing from the sidelines. The time for them to speak up is now!

This is our Open Thread. What do you have to say today?

Sunday Roast: June 16, 2013 – Where’s the outrage?

I don’t get it. Seriously.

The news about the extensive data gathering by the NSA through Verizon‘s mobile phone records being outshone only a few days later with news about PRISM should have people out in the streets. Seriously.

I am not and have never been overly shy about internet use. I follow the usual dos and don’ts, but I am aware of the fact, that whatever you put out there is in everybody’s domain. If you shout it out on Times Square you have a smaller audience than when you put it on facebook, twitter, you name it. I know that by using it I have, sort of, agreed whatever I’m writing will be no longer private. Fair enough.

I’m fine that every time I read a New York Times article I will see in a sidebar which of my friends have read which article. It shows I have smart friends, not that I haven’t known that before, but still. I am even fine with the fact that for me all websites, be it news or other, which have commercial pop-ups are advising me how to get a flat stomach or how to ward off ageing. I take  the pop-ups as an punishment for having googled about weight-loss and heat-flashes and I stick out my tongue to them and just don’t buy whatever is advertised through them.

What I do not approve of, and I am royally pissed about that, is that a government, any government, is prying inside my personal communications. So I would, of course, go and vote accordingly. No party or candidate ever gets my vote, who supports this degree of spying into the personal communications of ordinary citizens. Period.

Hah! And now, when we Europeans are mad as hell, and believe me, virtually everybody I talk to is spitting mad over here, we’ll just vote them all out of office!!!!!

Wait!

We can’t. We do not have, nor will we ever have any say in this.

This is our Open Thread. Don’t be shy. All yours.

The Watering Hole, Saturday, April 13, 2013 – Why We Should Talk About Kermit Gosnell

Who is Kermit Gosnell? Short answer: He’s a monster. Kermit B. Gosnell, M.D., ran the Women’s Medical Society in East Philadelphia for nearly four decades. He is on trial for, among other charges, murdering eight people, seven of whom were infants killed shortly after being born and one woman who died after having an abortion. Witnesses in the trial have claimed that he really killed many more (possibly as many as 100) infants by severing their spinal columns after their births. According to the grand jury report (WARNING: Contains graphic pictures), Gosnell “overdosed his patients with dangerous drugs, spread venereal disease among them with infected instruments, perforated their wombs and bowels – and, on at least two occasions, caused their deaths.”

…Gosnell spent almost four decades running [the Women's Medical Society], giving back – so it appeared – to the community in which he continued to live and work. But the truth was something very different, and evident to anyone who stepped inside. The clinic reeked of animal urine, courtesy of the cats that were allowed to roam (and defecate) freely. Furniture and blankets were stained with blood. Instruments were not properly sterilized. Disposable medical supplies were not disposed of; they were reused, over and over again. Medical equipment – such as the defibrillator, the EKG, the pulse oximeter, the blood pressure cuff – was generally broken; even when it worked, it wasn’t used. The emergency exit was padlocked shut. And scattered throughout, in cabinets, in the basement, in a freezer, in jars and bags and plastic jugs, were fetal remains. It was a baby charnel house.

The anti-choice people want this story to get more attention than it already has in the mainstream media (as of about a week ago there’s been virtually none), but their versions of what happened isn’t exactly accurate. One such activist in particular, Jill Stanek (WARNING: Contains graphic pictures from the grand jury report), asks “Why would people who believe in legalized abortion want to shed negative light on bad things that happen during legalized abortions?” This is, of course, a very disingenuous question to ask because these were not “legalized abortions,” they were murder. And what went on in Gosnell’s “clinic” had nothing to do with health and everything to do with profits. If anything, it’s less an indictment against legal Abortion and more an indictment against Capitalism.

Republican-controlled legislatures have been working very hard to make it as hard as possible for a woman to exercise her right to have an abortion because they think this will eliminate abortions in their states. But they’re wrong. They will not succeed in stopping all abortions from happening in their states, only safe abortions. Those of us who are pro-choice must make people understand that if these states go through with these laws (most of which ought to get struck down as direct violations of Roe v. Wade), it will lead to more clinics like Gosnell’s. Women who can afford it will travel to another state where they can get an abortion. Poor women will have to risk either mutilating themselves or dying in a clinic like the Women’s Medical Society. And that can hardly be called a “pro-life stance.”

This is our daily open thread. Feel free to talk about Kermit Gosnell, Abortion, Capitalism, or anything else you choose.

The Watering Hole, Monday, March 11th, 2013: From Morons to Marvels

Senator Ron Johnson, R-Wis., has been in the news a lot lately, in part for having been one of the select few Republicans who were invited to the recent dinner meeting with President Obama. In an appearance yesterday on This Week with George Stephanopoulos, Senator Johnson stated,

“If we’re going to really get to an agreement, this is a good step…You have to start meeting with people. You have to start developing relationships. You’ve got to spend a fair amount of time figuring out what we agree on first.”

[Especially when the Republican "leaders" won't tell their flock the truth about what the President has offered, and the flock and the media are too dumb or brainwashed to lift a couple of fingers and check whitehouse.gov!]

The same “This Week” appearance also saw Paul Krugman, in his inimitable manner, school Senator Johnson on the Social Security program.

Prior to that, in the debate over authorizing the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), Senator Johnson was one of a group of “…Republicans [who] have objected to new provisions in the law, including one allowing tribal courts for the first time to prosecute men who aren’t American Indians when they’re accused of abusing an American Indian woman on a reservation. . .”, according to ThinkProgress, which also quotes Senator Johnson as saying:

“the Senate has approved a piece of legislation that sounds nice, but which is fatally flawed. By including an unconstitutional expansion of tribal authority and introducing a bill before the Congressional Budget Office could review it to estimate its cost, Senate Democrats made it impossible for me to support a bill covering an issue I would like to address.”

Coincidentally and fortuitously (or not), when searching for a link on a completely different topic, I ran across this one about Ron Johnson from 2010. It includes a video of Johnson, demonstrating the average conservative’s love of fetuses but not actual children, while “…testifying against the Wisconsin Child Victims Act, which would have eliminated the statute of limitation on lawsuits brought by victims of abuse by priests against the Catholic Church.

Okay, as a palate-cleanser, I believe that there’s something for everyone in these photo slideshows from The Weather Channel.

For all of us who love space science and/or who have experienced various types of mind-enhancement, here’s (now think Muppets “Pigs in Space” voice) “Light Trails from Space.”

Staying in space for the moment, the Comet Pan-STARRS is in the ‘hood, and should start to be visible to the naked eye tomorrow. The chart shown in this article indicates where the large comet can be located (in the western sky at sunset) over the next two weeks or so.

Last from TWC (and getting back to ‘trails’…you’ll see): unusual (and occasionally claustrophobia-inducing) tunnels are highlighted in this feature. Although the first tunnel shown only has the one photo – see below – the rest of them have some amazing shots. Tunnel #18, Shanghai’s Bund Sightseeing Tunnel, described as “senseless, yet fabulous“, could likely induce trails even for persons who have never seen trails before. A youtube video of the entire ride is linked to under the description of the Shanghai tunnel, but I haven’t had the chance to watch it yet. Who’s gonna go first? :)

Enjoy!

Ukraine "Tunnel of Love"

Ukraine “Tunnel of Love”

This is our Open thread – what topic would you like to discuss?

The Watering Hole, Monday, February 18th, 2013: Pope-Pourri

Separated At Birth?

Separated At Birth?

On February 11th, Pope Benedict XVI, aka Joseph Ratzinger, aka Emperor Palpatine, announced that he was leaving the sinking ship giving up the leadership of the “Worldwide Catholic Church” (or NAMBLA), effective on February 28th, 2013. A papal conclave will soon be convened by the College of Cardinals to determine the next Pope, possibly by the end of March.

The New Yorker provides a few-holds-barred critique in John Cassidy’s blogpost “The Disastrous Influence of Pope Benedict XVI“, an interesting read which succinctly summarizes the regressive Papal policies of both Pope John Paul II (with then-Cardinal Ratzinger’s aid) and Pope Benedict XVI. I really recommend this article, as it clearly outlines the conflicting forces within the Church, which currently favor the conservative side.

I wholeheartedly agree with E.J. Dionne’s opinion piece from February 15th in the Washington Post, as he discusses why “The Best Choice for Pope?” is “A Nun.” As a veteran of 13 years of Catholic schooling, I can confirm that the nuns were more responsible for educating us in school subjects as well as religious subjects than any of the priests or the Monsignor of our parish. The nuns also set much better examples of Christ-like ideals and actions, as we all now know.

Yesterday, I signed a petition from Catholics United, urging Cardinal Roger M. Mahony, the former Archbishop of Los Angeles, not to participate in the upcoming papal conclave.

Former L.A. Archbishop John M. Mahony

Former L.A. Archbishop John M. Mahony

From a Catholics-United Press Release on February 14th:

“WASHINGTON – After the stunning news that Pope Benedict XVI will be stepping down effective Feb. 28, Catholics in Los Angeles are urging Cardinal Roger Mahony to stay home instead of participating in the election to determine the next pope. Mahony was recently stripped of his public duties for his part in a sex abuse cover-up while he led the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.”

“It’s the right thing to do,” said Andrea León-Grossman, a Los Angeles member of Catholics United. “In the interests of the children who were raped in his diocese, he needs to keep out of the public eye. He has already been stripped of his ministry. If he’s truly sorry for what has happened, he would show some humility and opt to stay home.”

The Washington Post Editorial Board published a scathing piece on February 13th entitled “The Sins of Cardinal Mahony”; here’s a few excerpts:

“Eleven Americans will be among the 117 cardinals of the Catholic Church heading soon to Rome to select the next pope. One of them, Cardinal Roger M. Mahony…is lucky not to be in prison, for there is no dispute that he orchestrated what amounted to a cover-up of clerical sexual abuse in Los Angeles…the scale of the misdeeds in Los Angeles, the largest archdiocese in the United States, counts as a particular disgrace. And it is Cardinal Mahony, who resigned as archbishop two years ago, who oversaw the whole dirty business. For that he has been publicly censured by his successor.”

In response to his public rebuke, Cardinal Mahony, who has a master’s degree in social work, wrote that nothing in his training had alerted him to the risks involved in the sexual abuse of minors. How about common sense, respect for the law and a basic understanding of human beings?”

And, for the last word on this issue (for today’s thread, anyway), here’s Andy Borowitz.

This is our Open Thread. Your thoughts?

The Watering Hole: Wednesday, January 30 – Mad Men

Cool. Makes you wish for the good old days. Or not? How was it really in the 1960s for:

Women

One in 5 women with children under 6 and nearly one fourth of women whose children were over 16 held paid jobs in the Sixties. Their pay, however, was 60 percent of the male rate.

I guess we are still fighting over that equal pay thing.

Gays

Police activity against gay men was rife throughout the 1950s. Many homosexuals were blackmailed, although only a fraction came to the attention of the police. The film Victim of 1961 brought these issues to a mainstream audience. It starred Dirk Bogarde as a repressed, married homosexual taking on the blackmailers who drove his partner to suicide.

African Americans

On May 2, 1964, Dee and Moore were hitchhiking from Meadville, Miss. and were picked up by James Seale. Seale and other Klansmen took the two men into the surrounding Homochitto National Forest and tortured and interrogated them about a possible influx of guns in Franklin County meant to arm blacks against their white attackers. Later the same day, several of the Klansmen put Dee and Moore in the trunk of a car and hauled them across the Louisiana state line, 100 miles north to a spot on the Mississippi River. Then they dumped the men into the river, weighting their bodies down with a jeep engine block and pieces of railroad track.

Environment

Despite many efforts to keep the environment clean, some 200 million tons of pollutants were filling the air each year, and clean air in many cities had been replaced by smog. The earth, air, and water were deteriorating as construction of highways, malls, and housing developments caused the destruction of fertile, irreplaceable farmland. Disposal of wastes was another dilemma to be dealt with. Burning could release poisonous gases into the air, and burial could cause harmful decay.

People with Disabilities ?

[...]In the mid-1960s, most of the developmentally disabled patients admitted to large state facilities were children under the age of 12. States offered virtually no support to families hoping to keep their sons and daughters at home and no education for those children living outside institutions.

So Mrs. Burns handed over her son to an institution in Gainesville, Fla., two hours from Daytona Beach, where she and her husband were living at the time. He was screaming and crying and clinging to her legs. She was crying, too. He was just 8 years old.

 

We have come a long way since I was growing up in rural Bavaria.To me it was not paradise. I welcome the changes that happened since and am glad that I do not have to refight the battles that got us here and which were only started then. Color me paranoid, but I think shows like “Mad Men” set the atmosphere for taking us back where we do not want to go. I enjoy watching, but sometimes I shudder at the thought.

This is our Open Thread. Add your thoughts!

The Watering Hole, Friday January 25, 2013; Of Geese, Guns, and Slaves

This is today’s open thread . . . speak up, speak out!

Canadian Geese in various poses along the Front Range of the Colorado Rockies in the foothills of the Sierra Mojada (aka the Wet Mountains) of Pueblo County.

Canadian Geese in various poses along the Front Range of the Colorado Rockies in the foothills of the Sierra Mojada (aka the Wet Mountains) of Pueblo County.

Last Sunday (January 20, 2013) was a gorgeous day along the Colorado Front Range. It was bright and sunny, warm (for January), a perfect day for a nice long walkabout. It was close to 2:30 PM and we were homeward bound from our five miler; had less than a mile to go. The stretch of road underfoot was one that meanders across an open patch of prairie — a sizeable swath of treeless grassland with only a handful of houses randomly situated around its periphery; the bulk of it is just grass. The local golf course borders it on two sides, and the local lake is a few blocks up the road. Canada geese are everywhere, but they’re particularly numerous on the lake (naturally) and the golf course where they enjoy the water hazard ponds as well as to wander on the fairways/greens (I’ve asked them why the fairways, but so far no response besides “honk”). Overall, the goose population clearly outnumbers that of humans in this tiny town, probably by at least two to one — a most pleasant factoid given that even though they might honk a lot, nary a single goose owns or drives a damn pickup!

All was peaceful and quiet until suddenly a BLAM!! BOOM!! interrupted the soliloquy. We stopped dead in our tracks and looked around. WTF? About a quarter mile off the road to our left were the only people in sight. They were standing in an open stretch of prairie, maybe a block from the closest house. As we stared and gaped, two geese fell like rocks from the flock overhead; immediately the pair of armed killers (being kind here) quickly picked up the dead geese and carried them away. Not certain as to where they went, maybe to their car or truck parked somewhere on the graveled road nearby. We couldn’t tell for sure, but saw no more of them.

My first impressions were those of anger, of disgust, and even of fear for other living creatures in the vicinity. Such impressions marched in lock step with the enduring suspicion that the perpetrators had to have broken multiple laws, including discharging a weapon within the city limits and within a quarter mile of a residence or occupied building, plus the killing of waterfowl not ‘in season.’ All were incorrect, as I later learned following a few minutes of investigative digging. First of all, this little town is unincorporated and is therefore ‘only’ part of the County and not really a town, so ‘in town’ shooting rules apparently do not apply. (When is a town not really a town? When it’s not formally incorporated – nothing else counts). And of course it’s OK, in unincorporated areas, to discharge a weapon if the shooter is 150 yards or more from any residence or occupied building. That’s 450 ft, or 0.085 miles, about one-third of a quarter mile. Oh, and yes, goose hunting season is in full swing here in Colorado between Nov. 17 and Feb 10, so no violations there. All. Perfectly. Legal. And, on any reasonable plane, also nonsensical. Killing waterfowl for sport, with shotguns, in a residential area . . . an unincorporated residential area . . . means there’s no danger. Obviously. Besides, the Second Amendment says . . . etc.

I couldn’t stop thinking about it. Still can’t. One question lingers: WHY are idiots allowed to own, much less carry or shoot a gun, any gun, at any place, at any time? WHY!? Because of the Second Amendment, most will say. It gives everyone that right, right? Right. If you say so. It reads:

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

Word salad. I’ve long wondered why it was written as it is, with so little definition of, e.g., ‘well regulated Militia,’ or ‘security,’ or ‘free State,’ or ‘Arms.’ What am I missing? What did the author(s) really mean to say?

Enter Thom Hartmann. Last week I ran across an essay by Mr. Hartmann posted on truthout.org and entitled, The Second Amendment was Ratified to Preserve Slavery. Bingo. On came the lights, poof went the darkness, and suddenly the true intent of the Second Amendment became clearly visible. Mr. Hartmann sums it all up in his opening statement (emphasis added):

The real reason the Second Amendment was ratified, and why it says “State” instead of “Country” (the Framers knew the difference – see the 10th Amendment), was to preserve the slave patrol militias in the southern states, which was necessary to get Virginia’s vote. Founders Patrick Henry, George Mason, and James Madison were totally clear on that . . . and we all should be too.  

He continues his exploration of the thesis and in the process draws heavily on statements written by prominent Virginians including Patrick Henry, James Monroe, and George Mason who were concerned that Article 1, Section 8 (Clauses 15 and 16) of the proposed Constitution might well endanger the ownership of their ‘property’ to the extent that one day, slaves might even be freed. Horrors. The clauses read:

[The Congress shall have Power . . .]

Clause 15: To provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions;

Clause 16: To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining, the Militia, and for governing such Part of them as may be employed in the Service of the United States, reserving to the States respectively, the Appointment of the Officers, and the Authority of training the Militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress;

Scary stuff, right? Patrick Henry voiced his concern(s) over these provisions as expressed in the new Constitution when he said,

“If the country be invaded, a state may go to war, but cannot suppress insurrections. If there should happen an insurrection of slaves, the country cannot be said to be invaded. They cannot, therefore, suppress it without the interposition of Congress . . . . Congress, and Congress only, can call forth the militia.”

Henry later voiced his concern to Founder (and slave owner) James Madison who was, at the time, writing (at the behest of fellow Founder and slave-owner Thomas Jefferson) amendment drafts. Henry said,

“In this situation, I see a great deal of the property of the people of Virginia in jeopardy, and their peace and tranquility gone.”

The “property of the people” Henry thought to be “in jeopardy” was, of course, the slaves.

So today we’re left with an amendment that was written to help cover the collective asses of slave owners in Virginia and elsewhere in the South, to essentially “protect” them from already drafted clauses in the Constitution which they found to be extremely worrisome because the ‘power’ to manipulate and use state Militias would now be delegated to the Congress rather than to the individual states.

In consequence, this day virtually ANY nutcase can own any gun he wants to own, buy as many bullets as he can afford, and kill anything he cares to kill . . . from school children in Connecticut to movie goers in Colorado to members of a Congresswoman’s staff in a public outdoor meeting in Arizona to a black teenager in Florida who was thought to be a ‘threat’ because he wore a hooded sweatshirt to wild birds in flight along with all unprotected wild critters anywhere . . . and ANY effort to restrict or control the tools of such nonsense is met with screams of ‘unconstitutional!’ and ‘treason!’ And the murderous beat goes on, and on, and on as we the people honor the legacy of language designed only to offer comfort to slave owners.

Meanwhile, the Thirteenth Amendment (1865) specifically states that:

Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.

And while it’s true that the Thirteenth Amendment did, indeed, retroactively and permanently do away with slavery and involuntary servitude (in the USA), it unfortunately did NOT also correct and clarify the Word Salad of the Second Amendment. Any killer can still own a gun. And use it whenever his ‘pleasure’ demands. Therefore, I do herein and hereby offer free of charge my recommendations to overwhelm the Second Amendment’s Word Salad, to make it speak in crystal clear fashion the original intent of the Framers:

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to  control the antics of uppity Negro slaves and thus ensure  the security of a free State, the right of the  white male slave-owning  people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

There. Fourteen words added, no more Word Salad. Ratify, and problem(s) solved.

A final statement:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERATo all victims everywhere of needless gun-enabled bloodshed; to each and every creature lost in fashion cruel, in violence due solely to the gift of political privilege entrusted by our Founders to 18th-century slave owners:
Requiescat In Pace
R.I.P.

This is My Body, Not Yours

Transcript:

This is my body.
I do what I want with it.
This is my body.
I make my own choices.
This is my body.
I use it as a canvas, tattoo it, decorate it, and pierce it.
I take medicine if I want to and only undergo medical procedures I choose.
I eat what I want, exercise for my health, and wear what I like.
I fall in love with whomever, fuck/sleep with whomever and marry whomever I choose.
I decide when and how to become a mother.
This is my body, not yours

These decisions have nothing to do with you. If I’m not hurting you or stopping you from pursuing your inherent right to happiness, it’s none of your business. This is my body, not yours.

Almost one in eight women in the United States will have breast cancer, the most invasive cancer for women worldwide. If I am black or white, rich or poor, married or single, gay or straight, formally educated or not, I have the right to be screened for this killer of women, whether I go to my doctor or rely on the services of clinics like those run by Planned Parenthood. Your desire to stop the funding of abortions has nothing to do with my right to defend myself against cancer. This is my body, not yours.

If I choose to have sex, I have the right to birth control and to be spared your demeaning insults you’d never want leveled against your daughter or mother. My pursuit of orgasm is neither unnatural nor dangerous nor scary nor an infringement of your religious liberty. My sexual activity is for my benefit, not your pleasure. And it’s never my fault if you rape me. I am done being excluded from decisions about my sexual and reproductive health. This is my body, not yours.

I determine who or what goes inside of my vagina and when. I make all decisions regarding my pregnancy. I will access prenatal care whether or not you agree with the choices made resulting from that care. I have the right to an abortion without facing intimidation, harassment, burdensome parental consent laws, or prejudicial taxes. If I decide to have an abortion, I will not undergo unnecessary, invasive medical procedures for the purposes of your moralizing and personal edification. I’m entitled to all health information from my doctor. And allowing myself to be penetrated once doesn’t assume your right to do it again on your own prerogative, for your own reasons. This is my body, not yours.

It is time for you to accept that I am fully aware, capable, and accountable for myself. I don’t need a hero or saving because I’m not in distress. I’m not defined by my need of a man or partner, but I have the right to be made happy by one, in a safe and supportive relationship. I’m not defined by my weight, hair, make up, skin color, or breast size. I do not exist to be your play toy. I won’t wait my turn nor be quiet nor heed you. I know my physical and mental strength and I do not fear you. I’m beautiful, despite what you think, with or without your approval. This is my body, not yours.

This is my body.
I’m through with legislators telling me what to do with it.
This is my body.
Keep your salacious, aggressive, sexist insults to yourself. I’m not listening.
This is my body.
I have the right to marry my partner, woman or man.
To equal pay
To health care
To education
To divorce
To safety
To protection of the law
To respect and dignity
To complete equality
This is my body, not yours.

Do not be afraid of a world in which women know themselves, their voice, and their power. That world has arrived.

————

Don’t like it?  We aren’t asking you if you like it; we’re telling you how things are.

Sunday Roast: International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women

By resolution 54/134 of 17 December 1999, the United Nations General Assembly designated 25 November as the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, and invited governments, international organizations and NGOs to organize activities designed to raise public awareness of the problem on that day. Women’s activists have marked 25 November as a day against violence since 1981. This date came from the brutal assassination in 1960, of the three Mirabal sisters, political activists in the Dominican Republic, on orders of Dominican ruler Rafael Trujillo (1930-1961).

On 20 December 1993 the General Assembly, by resolution 48/104, adopted the Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women.

In the United States, we had the Violence Against Women Act — also passed in 1993 — written by the current Vice President, Joe Biden.  The Act currently up for re-authorization, which would seem like a no-brainer, but it’s hung up in the Republican controlled House, which favors a reduction of such services to undocumented and LGBT women.

Because undocumented and LGBT women aren’t quite women?  Violence up to a certain level should be acceptable?  Maybe if these women get beaten and raped enough, they’ll mend their evil ways.  That could be it.

This is our daily open thread — posted by the late, late, very late Zooey.  LATE AGAIN.  Sorry!!

Thanksgiving, Rockwell Style


When one thinks about Thanksgiving, what image is the first conjured up in one’s mind? Obviously, Norman Rockwell’s iconic painting, which we think of nostalgically as a representation of Americana from almost-bygone times. But in an article from this morning’s Berkshire Eagle, writer Chris Newbound says:

“Norman Rockwell characterized his own work as an idealized version of American life. He and others would often say that his images represented the way he wanted life to be, not necessarily the way life was.”

Mr. Newbound goes on to describe the “Thanksgiving” painting:

“The “Freedom of Want” painting was originally part of a quartet of works inspired by Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s “Four Freedoms” speech (his State of the Union address) in January 1941. This particular painting is the Paul McCartney of the group: the sunniest, and arguably the most popular of the foursome. The other three works — “Freedom of Speech,” “Freedom of Fear” and “Freedom to Worship” — are decidedly more somber, more Lennon than McCartney.”

With the way that Republicans have talked about “taking our country back” one would think that the “Four Freedoms” as embodied in Rockwell’s paintings would be etched on a plank of the Republican’s platform. But that would require agreeing that every American has a right to “Freedom from Want” and “Freedom from Fear”, which we liberals believe in. In conservative lexicon, “Freedom” simply means “you’re on your own”, leaving those Four Freedoms “Ours To Fight For.”

Happy Thanksgiving to all Critters and Zoosters, great and small.

This is our Open Thread. What’s everyone up to today?

Picture of the Day- November 15, 2012

This kid is 10 years old and was protesting against cuts to education in Italy. Poor thing. This is a hard way to learn, that the ruling class doesn’t pull any punches. He deserves a huge hug from mommy.

(Source: I segreti della casta di Montecitorio on Facebook)

The Watering Hole: October 26 – 5 signs racism still rules politics (and much of this country)

Salon, by David Sirota

The double standards that exist in this country in regard to President Obama — and really, other people of color — is just crazy-making.  David Sirota has an article out pointing out just five examples, but there are SO many more.  Read his whole article at the link above.

1. Joe Biden Is almost never called a socialist or a Marxist.

I know, right!  I don’t remember any president in my lifetime being called “socialist.”  Joe Biden is on the ticket with the President, but people aren’t railing against him as a socialist.

Despite a Senate voting record and presidential policymaking record that align him with moderate Republicans from a mere decade ago, Obama is regularly derided as a socialist, a communist or a Marxist. By contrast, Obama’s own white running mate, Joe Biden, has as liberal — or at times even more liberal — a voting record as Obama, but (save for the occasional Newt Gingrich outburst) is almost never referred to in such inflammatory terms.

2. Romneycare is Obamacare, yet the latter is criticized.

It’s all fun and games until the black guy does it.  Then we’re dooooooomed!

Nonetheless, under the first African-American president, the very same healthcare model the GOP championed is now being held up by the GOP as a redistributionist boondoggle.

3. A white president would never be criticized for these statements about Trayvon Martin.

After the incident, Obama said “When I think about this boy, I think about my own kids, and I think every parent in America should be able to understand why it is absolutely imperative that we investigate every aspect of this, and that everybody pulls together.”

How dare the President speak compassionate words after a tragedy?  And who does he think he is, saying anything about any possible investigation?

4. America would neither ignore nor laugh off a young black male relative of Obama publicly fantasizing about violence against a presidential candidate.

Oh my god, Fox would never talk about another topic.  EVER.  The nerve!

As I reported last week, Romney’s son, Tagg Romney, cheerily riffed on his fantasies about committing an act of violence against a sitting president of the United States…if a young black male relative of Obama went on a radio show and publicly said he wanted to “jump out of your seat (and) rush down to the stage and take a swing” at Mitt Romney” — it would be an instant national outrage, replete with headlines about an imminent race war and Romney’s desperate need for beefed-up personal security.

5. If one of Obama’s teenage daughters was unmarried and pregnant, it wouldn’t be considered a “private” matter.

Oh wait, Fox would stop talking about an Obama male relative wanting to take a swing at Romney for this.  Ohhhh, just imagine the glee with which they would throw around terms like “ho,” “baby daddy,” and “welfare queen wannabe.”

When Sarah Palin was put on the Republican ticket in 2008, Bristol Palin’s pregnancy did not initiate a national discussion about the issue of teen pregnancy, unprotected sex or promiscuous fornication outside of wedlock. Instead, conservative leaders insisted it was off-limits as a topic…

Of course, the Obamas, knowing that this hypothetical daughter was pregnant, would never have exposed her to such treatment, because they would have politely declined a VP offer — because they have class — and because they don’t have access to white privilege.

There is a shameful ugliness in this country.  Electing Barack Obama as President in 2008 didn’t cause it, but it sure brought the racism many Americans had hidden so well — even from themselves — to the surface.  I, for one, am no longer willing to simply be embarrassed for these people, while saying nothing.  I will look them in the eye and say, “I don’t know if you’re a racist, but what you just said was a racist/bigoted statement.”  I’ll be willing to discuss why something is racist or bigoted, and how that sort of thing divides us as a country and as human beings, but I will not hang around for blustering denials or counter-accusations of racism — no matter who I’m speaking to. I will simply walk away, because I won’t have that sort of person in my life — no matter who they are.

The hate is not going away because we laugh at their ignorance and their stupid signs, but enough of us eject that sort of person from our families and circles of friends, it might have an effect.  Enlightened ones are always welcome back.

This is our daily open thread — yeah, I haz a rant.

Sunday Roast: The Death of a Butterfly

by Chris Streich

The New York Times

There was a suicide bombing in Afghanistan the other day.  So far away…the other side of the world.  It means so little in our daily lives.  What does it have to do with us anyway…?

At 8 years old, with freckles and a penchant for frilly dresses and soccer cleats, Parwana was just as I was at that age: equal parts tomboy and little princess. In the last few weeks, she had begun to wear a head scarf, but she clearly was not willing to grow up completely just yet. She was the undisputed ringleader of the little girls, and enough of a spitfire to give the bigger boys as good as she got.

She could belong to any one of us, really.  But she doesn’t.  She doesn’t belong to anyone now…except maybe our consciences.  We hear of another suicide bombing on the other side of the world, and think “Not again,” for about 10 seconds, and then it’s gone.

But this time, we see a face.  We can’t un-see her.  Because sometimes in this world, heroes come in the form of an eight year old child and her friends, who, beside skateboarding, loved nothing more than standing up to a big “bad boy.”

Her name was Parwana, which means “Butterfly” in Dari.  She gave all she had to give, and it has everything to do with us.

This is our daily open thread.

The Watering Hole, Monday, September 10th, 2012: Romney’s Ramblings

I’ve been reading through the transcripts of Mitt Romney’s campaign speeches, and I’ve noticed that he has several recurring themes and lies about President Obama:

- “President Obama sees a different America and has taken us in a different direction.”

- “A few months into office, he travelled around the globe to apologize for America.”

- “Ronald Reagan rallied America with “Peace Through Strength.””

- “We must pass a torch to the next generation…”

- “It’s really an election about the soul of America.”

- “Three years ago, Candidate Obama promised to address the problems of illegal immigration in America. He failed. The truth is, he didn’t even try.”

- “American strength rises from a strong economy, a strong defense, and the enduring strength of our values. Unfortunately, under this President, all three of those elements have been weakened.”

- “This President’s first answer to every problem is to take power from you, your local government and your state so that so-called “experts” in Washington can make those choices for you. And with each of these decisions, we lose more of our freedom.”

This particular speech from January, 2012, in New Hampshire, probably has the most out-and-out lies of all the speeches I’ve read so far (read for yourself.)

Here’s the most hypocritical lie (and one that he reiterated at the RNC):

- “At the time, we didn’t know what sort of a President he would make. It was a moment of crisis for our economy, and when Barack Obama came to office, we wished him well and hoped for the best…”

I’ve also run across various and sundry WTF? lines:

- “As President, on Day One, I will focus on rebuilding America’s economy. I will reverse President Obama’s massive defense cuts. Time and again, we have seen that attempts to balance the budget by weakening our military only lead to a far higher price, not only in treasure, but in blood.”

- “Barack Obama has failed America. It breaks my heart to see what’s happening in this country. These failing hopes make up President Obama’s own misery index. It’s never been higher. And what’s his answer? He says this: “I’m just getting started.”

- “If a couple has a baby, the government will actually give them more support—in the form of food stamps, welfare, or other benefits—if they do not marry than if they do. Our safety-net programs penalize the decision to marry, instead of rewarding it. That’s just wrong. And that’s why I will eliminate these marriage penalties.”

- “God did not create this country to be a nation of followers.”

Romney’s campaign speeches also contain myriad Republican-hot-button-buzzwords, repeated ad nauseum, such as “freedom”, “opportunity”, “exceptionalism”, “entitlements”, “failure”, etc. In addition, Romney makes plenty of promises to uphold or strengthen various rights: States’ rights; corporations’ rights to conduct their businesses unfettered by Federal regulations; and, of course, the overarching rights of a collection of zygotes.

However, thus far in my research (ten speeches), one very important topic stands out which Mitt Romney completely ignores: Women’s issues and rights. Romney’s only mention of women:

- “We live in the most powerful nation that ever existed. And it all goes back to a few men and women who had the courage to stand – and even die – for their belief in liberty and equality.”

and

- “…I will hold fathers financially responsible for their child, whether or not they have married the mother.”

As I mentioned, I’m only ten speeches into a collection of about forty-five, so there’s a possibility that Romney may have discussed support for women’s rights in a later speech. But I’ve got the feeling that that possibility is slim-to-none.

This is our daily open thread — What would YOU like to ramble about?

The Watering Hole: September 7 — We take care of our own

Did you see the President’s speech accepting the Democratic nomination for President?  Did you, huh huh?  It was fantastic!

No going all complaisant now, we still all need to make sure we get into that voting booth and VOTE.  And we need to do all we can to help our friends and neighbors get to their polling places — no matter who they’re planning on voting for.

This is our daily open thread — Happy happy Friday!!!

Stone cold Paul Ryan

HT:  Huffington Post

Yes indeed, Paul Ryan, rape is one “method of conception,” isn’t it?  Wow. Way to totally dismiss the terror and violence of having one’s body violated by another, you soul-less bastard.  Rape is an event that changes who you are forever.  Just look at his face as he’s speaking; he doesn’t even seem to realize that what he’s saying is so disgusting.

As if the trauma, fear, injuries, and horror at losing personal autonomy during the rape are not enough, then, if the woman becomes pregnant as a result of rape, Paul Ryan and his fellow pro-forced birthers will happily extend the torture for another nine months — at least.

But we shouldn’t really be all that surprised that Paul Ryan could say something so abhorrent.  He’s a lifelong Ayn Rand devotee (when it suits him), so basically, as long as he’s not the one being raped, he doesn’t care.  That’s your problem, honey.  Although I really doubt he gives a flying flip if a woman has an abortion or not, Ryan parts company with Ayn Rand when it comes to pregnancy as a result of that rape, because it suits him to pander to the rabid forced birth crowd.

This is what I find so disturbing about Paul Ryan — he doesn’t care about this country or the people, he cares about what Paul Ryan wants.

Haven’t we had about enough of that kind of political candidate?

The Watering Hole, Thursday, August 23rd, 2012: Roe v. Wade, “Personhood” Laws, and Colonial Times

What I started out researching for today’s thread, and what follows, bear little relation to each other. I had wanted to explore the history of Presidential nominees whose campaigns included promises to repeal Roe v. Wade, and any resulting attempts at legislation. That effort met with little success (though there was plenty of other fascinating information, too much for me to do more than a cursory scan), but luckily I got distracted by this bright shiny object: Footnote Number 6 on Wikipedia’s Roe vs Wade page:

Wilson, James, “Of the Natural Rights of Individuals” (1790–1792): “In the contemplation of law, life begins when the infant is first able to stir in the womb.” Also see Blackstone, William. Commentaries (1765): “Life … begins in contemplation of law as soon as an infant is able to stir in the mother’s womb.”

So, am I wrong in interpreting those quotes as: before the American Revolution, and continuing after the establishment of the United States of America, life in a woman’s womb did not legally begin until the fetus starts moving?

WebMD says, “You should feel your baby’s first movements, called “quickening,” between weeks 16 and 25 of your pregnancy. If this is your first pregnancy, you may not feel your baby move until closer to 25 weeks. By the second pregnancy, some women start to feel movements as early as 13 weeks.”

Even if one uses the figure of 13 weeks, or let’s say even 12 weeks, it appears that it was settled law, way back during the era of our Founding Fathers, that an embryo was not legally a living human being until three months into the pregnancy. Hmmm…if this was the generally accepted definition of ‘when “life” begins’ back in the 18th century, how can the Teapublicans in Congress reconcile this with their (false) claim that the United States was founded as a Christian nation, and should therefore be ruled by the Bible? How can they justify – or even implement – “Personhood” legislation? And just which exactly is the United States citizen, the woman or the not-legally-”life” zygote or embryo? Which comes first in the hearts of those Teapublicans, their Oath to their country, or their Old Testament god?

Footnote Number 6 led me to more fascinating reading in James Wilson’s “Of the Natural Rights of Individuals.” Here’s some excerpts:

“The opinion has been very general, that, in order to obtain the blessings of a good government, a sacrifice must be made of a part of our natural liberty. I am much inclined to believe, that, upon examination, this opinion will prove to be fallacious. It will, I think, be found, that wise and good government — I speak, at present, of no other — instead of contracting, enlarges as well as secures the exercise of the natural liberty of man: and what I say of his natural liberty, I mean to extend, and wish to be understood, through all this argument, as extended, to all his other natural rights.”

“…what [my description of] natural liberty is:
“Nature has implanted in man the desire of his own happiness; she has inspired him with many tender affections towards others, especially in the near relations of life; she has endowed him with intellectual and with active powers; she has furnished him with a natural impulse to exercise his powers for his own happiness, and the happiness of those for whom he entertains such tender affections. If all this be true, the undeniable consequence is, that he has a right to exert those powers for the accomplishment of those purposes, in such a manner, and upon such objects, as his inclination and judgment shall direct; provided he does no injury to others; and provided some publick interests do not demand his labours. This right is natural liberty.”

If this description of natural liberty is a just one, it will teach us, that selfishness and injury are as little countenanced by the law of nature as by the law of man. Positive penalties, indeed, may, by human laws, be annexed to both. But these penalties are a restraint only upon injustice and overweening self-love, not upon the exercise of natural liberty.

“Let the constitution of the United States…be examined from the beginning to the end. No right is conferred, no obligation is laid on any, which is not laid or conferred on every, citizen of the commonwealth or Union — I think I may defy the world to produce a single exception to the truth of this remark. Now…the original equality of mankind consists in an equality of their duties and rights.

Duties and rights” – note that he puts “Duties” first. An idea which the Teapublicans either have deliberately abandoned, or are too ignorant or oblivious to understand. Or perhaps both. (sigh)

This is our daily open thread — got something to say about something?

The Watering Hole, Monday, August 6th, 2012: You Said It, Sister!

As some of you know, I have been invited to start my own blog on the local ‘Patch’ online newspaper. Before getting set up in my ‘new digs’, I thought I’d take a look around at the other blogs on the Patch site, to see what they looked like, what personal info showed, etc. While doing so, I ran across a blogpost from the Fourth of July, written by M. Doretta Cornell, RDC, of the Sisters of the Divine Compassion, and thought it well worth sharing.

While I do not agree with 100% of the good Sister’s sentiments, she makes excellent points, based on her interpretation of her faith, the Constitution, and in science. A few excerpts:

Our founders were declaring independence from rule by birth, by a class of people whose only claim to that rule was their parentage. No test of ability or morality or vision for the country and its people was necessary, only birth into the “right family.”

Hmm, sounds like a recent Republican President and a current Presidential hopeful we all know.

In our current economic crisis, we have much to reflect on:
- How faithful are we to this basic tenet of our country that all people are created equal and have equal rights to life, justice, ability to make a decent living – even happiness, as our founders claimed?
- How can we reform our laws and policies to create a nation in which all could prosper?
- What are we doing to close the rifts between races that are still deep in our culture, in spite of all the scientific evidence that race is a superficial characteristic?
- What are we doing to close the newer abysses that have been created between people of different religions, particularly since September 11, 2001?

Sister Mary Doretta certainly sounds like quite the liberal – just as so many of us believe Jesus would have been. Personally, I believe that today’s “Christians” would, at least figuratively, crucify him if he showed up now.

“Another aspect of independence that comes to my mind is that, for many people, independence today seems to be synonymous with egocentric individualism: the feeling that no one has contributed to this person’s achievements, and therefore that person has no responsibility for anyone but him—or herself.”

(Psst…Republicans, faux-Christians, and Libertarians, listen up, I think she’s talking to you. C’mon, even the god of the Old Testament got pretty pissed when Cain asked “Am I my brother’s keeper?”)

“…along with Independence, we must also celebrate today our Interdependence! Interdependence—not subservience. Subservience is what our founders were rebelling against in founding this new nation: the belief that some are inferior and others superior by nature, and therefore people have different rights.

Interdependence says that we all have the same “inalienable rights” and that these rights are intertwined, as are all elements of our very existence.

And here’s what I found most impressive and inspiring about Sister Doretta’s piece:

Over the last few decades, we have been learning just how deep our interdependence is, at microscopic levels of ourselves and of the world around us. Astronomy and cosmology teach us that each molecule of our bodies is inherited from one pool of matter, each breath we take is dependent on the exhalations of trees and other plants. Even the tiniest shift in temperature, or chemical makeup of the air, position of the sun, or radiation in the atmosphere would render Earth unable to support human life. We are all interdependent—people, animals, grasses, stars, Earth.

Independence, then, demands that we reflect on and adjust our understanding to the interdependence of all things and all people on each other. It also demands that we learn to act in ways that support that interdependence—ways all our moral and religious educations have taught us. And, as Jesus taught, “the greatest of these is love,” and understanding of the essentialness of each creature to the enterprise we call life.

If more Christians were this enlightened about the role of their faith’s principles and their implicit responsibility to each other and the planet that we call home, this world, or at least this country, would be an infinitely better place.

This is our daily open thread — Got anything you feel like discussing?