Saturday, February 25, 2012

The Idiocy of the Culture Wars

Adam Zyglis - The Buffalo News - War on Women - English - politics, womens rights, contraception, gop, republican, party, santorum, obama, virginia, abortion, choice, freedom, government, women, health, symbol, target, komen, foundation

As the song goes, "War...what is it good for...absolutely nothing!"  Of course, those words sung by Edwin Star in 1969, represented a blatant anti-Vietnam War protest song.  In 2012, we are still fighting wars in other countries while the U.S. continues its wars against crime, drugs, and terrorists. And now the new escalated war on the scene is the 'culture war.'  

While economic problems are a reality for the middle class and poor, the politics of the conservative movement has been focused on social issues. The conservative swing to the far-right has its basis in the religious fervor of those who find moral objection to anything that they believe is not granted in the Constitution or by God in the bible.  This broad spectrum of negatives that are morally objectionable to the conservatives will have devastating effects on public education, science based teachings, women's health care and equal rights for all.

This is apparent in the backlash that has erupted over the legislation that the Tea Party Republican's have recently purposed.  As Lauren Kelley writes, "Ordinary citizens aren't the only ones protesting the GOP's anti-gay, anti-woman measures -- several lawmakers and a judge recently did too."
Political history has repeated itself recently, in a terrible way, with the return of the culture wars. Rather than focus on much-needed steps to improve the economy, Republican lawmakers have been focusing in recent months on efforts to roll back women's rights, including access to abortion and contraception, while homophobia runs rampant among the 2012 GOP candidates.

Activists have responded to these attacks by attempting to dispel hateful myths and draw attention to the harm that could be done with Republicans' social agenda. For instance, about 1,000 activists gathered at the Virginia statehouse earlier this month to silently protest the invasive transvaginal ultrasound bill the state legislature was considering (and has since withdrawn).

But ordinary citizens aren't the only ones protesting these anti-gay, anti-woman measures; several lawmakers and a judge recently made headlines for their creative and inspiring efforts to highlight the absurdities of the new culture wars.

1. Gay judge in Texas refuses to marry straight couples.
Texas judge Tonya Parker takes a very straightforward stance on officiating marriage ceremonies: she won't do it. Why? Because under Texas law, Parker, who is gay, does not have the right to get married herself.
Parker recently told a members of the Stonewall Democrats of Dallas (via the Dallas Voice):
"I use it as my opportunity to give them a lesson about marriage inequality in this state because I feel like I have to tell them why I'm turning them away. So I usually will offer them something along the lines of 'I'm sorry. I don't perform marriage ceremonies because we are in a state that does not have marriage equality, and until it does, I am not going to partially apply the law to one group of people that doesn't apply to another group of people.' And it's kind of oxymoronic for me to perform ceremonies that can't be performed for me, so I'm not going to do it."
Parker has a point -- why should she have to perform marriage ceremonies when she would not be able to waltz into a courthouse and get married to her own partner?

Just last week a second federal judge deemed the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) unconstitutional, paving the way for the law to head to the Supreme Court, and both Washington and Maryland moved to legalize same-sex marriage in the past month. So here's hoping Parker will be able to start performing both gay and straight marriages sooner rather than later.

Watch Parker's speech to the Stonewall Democrats of Dallas:

2. Oklahoma lawmaker sneaks "life begins at ejaculation" amendment into "personhood" bill.
"Personhood" measures that would give legal rights to fetuses are all the rage among anti-choice Republican lawmakers these days, with bills popping up in Mississippi, Colorado, and most recently, Virginia and Oklahoma. The legislation proved to be highly unpopular in Mississippi and Colorado, and was roundly defeated. But personhood could become law in Oklahoma very soon, as it has already passed both state legislative chambers.

Women's rights advocates are obviously enraged at this development, which, as Sarah Seltzer wrote recently:
threaten[s] the legal standing of everything from in vitro fertilization to the morning-after pill to miscarriages to many kinds of birth control -- and this particular bill has no rape or incest exceptions.
In a less legal sense, it pathologizes women who struggle with fertility (are their bodies murderers?), and contrary to its name, makes them into less than full persons. If this bill gets signed into law, it will be the first genuine personhood law that goes into effect.
Democrats in the state are also upset about the measure, and one Dem lawmaker, Constance Johnson, decided to do something about it by inserting the following language into the personhood bill:
However, any action in which a man ejaculates or otherwise deposits semen anywhere but in a woman's vagina shall be interpreted and construed as an action against an unborn child.
Johnson just took the Republicans' logic to its logical extreme: if they want to say life begins at conception, then why not go ahead and say that life begins at ejaculation? It was a wiseass move that wasn't meant to be taken seriously, but what it did do is pretty great. The move garnered headlines and drew attention to the absurdity of anti-choice legislation. Brava, state Sen. Johnson.

3. Virginia lawmaker: if women must undergo an ultrasound to get an abortion, men should have to get a rectal exam before receiving Viagra. 

Another troubling anti-choice legislative trend is the transvaginal ultrasound requirement. Under such measures, many women seeking abortions would be required to undergo an invasive vaginal procedure that is not medically necessary -- in other words, to endure state-sanctioned rape. (At least a few Republicans have poo-poohed the outrage over such measures by arguing, absurdly, that women consented to vaginal penetration when they had sex, so that consent should carry over when seeking an abortion.)

Texas already has a transvaginal ultrasound law on the books, and such measures have also been considered in Pennsylvania and Virginia, where, as mentioned above, more than 1,000 women's rights supporters gathered recently to protest the bill.

Another person who protested Virginia's ultrasound bill was Democratic state Sen. Janet Howell, who introduced an amendment into the legislature that would have required men to obtain a rectal exam and cardiac stress test before they could receive a prescription for Viagra. As Howell told the Huffington Post, "We need some gender equity here. The Virginia Senate is about to pass a bill that will require a woman to have totally unnecessary medical procedure at their cost and inconvenience. If we're going to do that to women, why not do that to men?"

Amid all the outrage, Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell revised the legislation to do away with the transvaginal ultrasound requirement. However, women seeking abortions in the state still would have to undergo a medically unnecessary external ultrasound.

4. Congresswomen boycott all-male hearing on contraception.
By now virtually everyone has heard about Rep. Darrell Issa's recent hearing on whether employees at religiously affiliated institutions should be required to receive insurance that covers birth control without a co-payment. People were up in arms because the panel debating the issue looked like this:


Not a woman in sight. In fact, when a woman tried to testify, Issa refused to let her participate, arguing that "As the hearing is not about reproductive rights and contraception but instead about the Administration's actions as they relate to freedom of religion and conscience, he believes that Ms. Fluke is not an appropriate witness."

Enraged by the all-male panel, Democratic women present at the Issa hearing staged a walk-out. As Think Progress reported :
Reps. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) and Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) walked out of the hearing in protest of his decision, citing frustration over the fact that the first panel of witnesses consisted only of male religious leaders against the rule. Holmes Norton said she will not return, calling Issa's chairmanship an "autocratic regime."
The good news is that Sandra Fluke got a chance to speak a week later, at an alterna-hearing organized by Nancy Pelosi.

Rather than roll over and admit defeat, these lawmakers, and the judge from Texas, channeled their outrage over the GOP culture wars into creative, meaningful activism. Might we all learn something from them.
This conservative narrative is also apparent regarding other social issues. There is now a movement among conservative think tanks to create confusion and controversy regarding whether or not humans are changing the weather and the issue of public education.
Leaked documents reveal a right-wing think-tank's plans to undermine the teaching of climate science -- and defund public education in the process.

Though the various “reform” proposals these groups support typically involve rhetoric about “choice” and “markets” and “accountability,” when you boil off the vapors what you are left with is nothing more than a plan to take money away from public schools and hand it over to religious academies in the form of vouchers.
A conservative Republican Tea Party platform will continue to fight the rights of women, fight the rights of marriage and equality for all individuals, promote tax cuts to the rich, promote teaching creationism and abstinence in schools as well as defunding welfare, healthcare, medicare, social security and the public schools.  It is a misogynistic, homophobic, fear-based, religious platform.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Mr. Narrow-Minded!

Bill Day - Cagle Cartoons - NOT narrow-minded - English - Santorum, culture wars, primaries, women, abortion, GOP

Rick Santorum does not believe in contraception.  Rick Santorum does not believe in abortion.  Rick Santorum does not believe in insurance fully paying for prenatal tests like amniocentesis which can determine fetal problems in the womb.  Rick Santorum does however, believe in medically induced miscarriage.

Do you know what that means?

That means that Rick Santorum doesn't have to take contraception, get an abortion or any prenatal tests.  It means that his wife's medically induced miscarriage in 1996, was supported by Rick Santorum. It also means that a medically induced miscarriage, by any other name, is an abortion.
In the 19th week of her pregnancy, Karen discovered during a routine exam that the fetus she was carrying had a fatal defect and was going to die inside of her. A long-shot surgery was performed that required cutting directly into the womb. It carried a high risk of infection and was performed not to save the fetus, but to reduce Karen’s complications while she attempted to go full term.

Two days later, she became severely feverish. She was rushed to the hospital and placed on intravenous antibiotics, which reduced her fever and bought her some time, but could not eliminate the source of infection: the fetus.

Karen was going to die if her pregnancy was not ended, if the fetus was not removed from her body. So, at 20 weeks, one month before what doctors consider ‘viability’, labor began as a result of the antibiotics and the infected fetus was delivered. It died shortly thereafter. Once the Santorums had agreed to the use of antibiotics, they believed they were committing to delivery of the fetus, which they knew would not survive outside the womb.[...]

The procedure, whereby labor is induced to remove the fetus before it has any chance of surviving on its own, is considered by Mr. Santorum to be a ‘partial-birth abortion’, and he is correct. He also personally authorized one to save his wife, whom he loves.
But Rick Santorum is now a candidate in the Republican Tea Party primary for the presidency.  He is taking a very strong stand against every other woman's rights to contraception, medically induced miscarriages/abortion, partial-birth abortion and prenatal tests. Now, Santorum doesn't  care if the reason for an abortion is incest, rape or to save the life of the mother. His opinions stem from his belief that these rights were not God given and therefore cannot be given at all. That means he wants to take them away. This is what Rick Santorum has to say on these issues:
ABORTION: I have my own views on these things. They are deeply held beliefs. But not everything that I disagree with morally should the government be involved in. Only where there are real consequences to society or to the rights of individuals do I feel a need to speak out and that's why I do on the issue of abortion, because we have another person involved in the decision. But in the issue of contraception that's certainly not the case.
CONTRACEPTION: The whole conception of sexual liberation, sexual freedom had had its downside — and certainly birth control is part of that — with dramatic increase in sexually transmitted diseases, dramatic increase in out-of-wedlock births and dramatic increase in the number of abortions."
PRENATAL TESTS: One of the mandates is they require free prenatal testing in every insurance policy in America. Why? Because it saves money in health care. Why? Because free prenatal testing ends up in more abortions and therefore less care that has to be done, because we cull the ranks of the disabled in our society."
Rick Santorum is a political operative who sees the issues from his own religious world view. His message is now being championed by his followers and broadcast by the media without in depth scrutiny.  However, when scrutiny is applied, what is left is misinformation, falsehoods and arrogance. The TRUTH:
ABORTION:  This is a difficult decision that is made by a woman who is pregnant. She does have the right to consult others but the decision to abort or have a "medically induce abortion" is hers and hers alone.   When Santorum says there is "another person involved" he is referring to what he believes is a living being inside the mother.  That is his belief and therefore, he should not have an abortion and he alone can decide not to have an abortion, if he ever finds himself pregnant!

CONTRACEPTION: Santorum has a right to his belief system. But Rick Santorum also needs to understand the facts about contraception.  It does not dramatically increase "sexually transmitted diseases." It does not dramatically increase "out-of-wedlock births". It does not dramatically increase the number of "abortions." If properly used, contraception does just the opposite. Maybe Mr. Santorum needs some instruction on the use of contraception!

PRENATAL TESTS:  Prenatal testing does NOT end up "in more abortions."  Santorum's statement implies that the prenatal testing is the 'cause' for the abortion.  In reality it is just the opposite. Prenatal testing is done for a variety of reasons regarding the health and safety of both mother and child.  But many women who have prenatal tests, have already made the decision that they would terminate the pregnancy if the test determined that the fetus had a genetic fetal problem. Many women who would not have an abortion, no matter what the test result showed, might therefore decide not to even have prenatal testing. The test does not determine the decision.  The choice is the mothers!  
Mr. Santorum's conclusions belittle the difficult and painful decision of the mother.  He should know.  His  wife, Karen, was in that situation.  She made the decision by consulting with her husband, as she had a right to do. It was their decision.  No one second guessed them.  No one tried to take away that right. Rick Santorum is now working very hard to take away every woman's right to these individual medical choices.  

So who would vote for him?

David Fitzsimmons - The Arizona Star - Santorum - English - rick santorum, republicans, womens issues

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Fanning the Flames of Culture War

Wolverton - Cagle Cartoons - Pope Santorum COLOR - English - Santorum, Rick Santorum, GOP, Republican, Presidential, Protestant, Mainline Protestant, Biblical, Theology, Obama, Agenda 
The Republican Tea Party presidential primary is in flux.  Rick Santorum had previously been discounted by the politic pundits until he recently started winning among the voters.  Santorum is now the new GOP Tea Party frontrunner.  The most recent Gallup national tracking poll shows Santorum with a 6-point lead over former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney.

In his recent campaign speeches, Santorum is repeating his assertion that President Obama’s agenda is based on a "phony theology."  Santorum is claiming that the Obama administration is anti-church. He was quoted by the New York Times.
“It’s about some phony ideal, some phony theology. Oh, not a theology based on the Bible, a different theology,” he said. “But no less a theology.” 

In later comments to reporters, Mr. Santorum said while there are “a lot of different stripes” of Christianity, he believes that “if the president says he’s a Christian, he’s a Christian.” 

“I’m just saying he’s imposing his values on the church, and I think that’s wrong,” he said, adding that he did not believe Mr. Obama was less of a Christian for doing so. 

But the Obama campaign called the comments “the latest low in a Republican primary campaign that has been fueled by distortions, ugliness and searing pessimism and negativity.”
Assertions that Mr. Obama is not a Christian, or that he is not an American, were rampant in the 2008 campaign. 
Rick Santorum's words are carefully chosen. His ideas are deliberately framed. The effect is knowingly to fuel the flames of a culture war.
Santorum isn’t really advancing a theological argument. He’s fanning the flames of culture war, speaking in a code that is easily deciphered by those determined to paint Obama as something other than a real American, those who want to believe he is a crypto-Muslim, those for whom his birth certificate is less than valid proof of his citizenship.
Santorum has many more novel, unorthodox and narrow minded ideas. He also believes that large-scale public education is an outdated idea.  He believes that any form of contraception is “not okay.” And he has  stated that he didn’t want to “make black people’s lives better by giving them somebody else’s money.”

Of course in true hypocritical Santorum style, he later claimed that he didn't say the word 'black'.  He actually said the word 'blah'.  

Many Protestants may looking at Santorum in a different light once they understand culture war extends to them.  Back in 2008, here is what Santorum had to say about the state of Protestantism.
In a 2008 speech at Ave Maria University, Rick Santorum, a devout Catholic, warned about the dangers of “the NBA” and “rock concerts,” but also said that while Protestants founded America, mainline Protestantism is in such “shambles” that “it is gone from the world of Christianity as I see it”:
We all know that this country was founded on a Judeo-Christian ethic but the Judeo-Christian ethic was a Protestant Judeo-Christian ethic, sure the Catholics had some influence, but this was a Protestant country and the Protestant ethic, mainstream, mainline Protestantism, and of course we look at the shape of mainline Protestantism in this country and it is in shambles, it is gone from the world of Christianity as I see it. [...]
Whether its sensuality of vanity of the famous in America, they are peacocks on display and they have taken their poor behavior and made it fashionable. The corruption of culture, the corruption of manners, the corruption of decency is now on display whether it’s the NBA or whether it’s a rock concert or whether it’s on a movie set.
Listen here: 


Meanwhile, the rest of Santorum’s speech dwells on his now-typical hyper-puritanical warnings about “Satan,” and the dangers of “sensuality,” “rock concerts,” and “the NBA” that sound like they were plagiarized from Dana Carvey’s Church Lady skits on SNL.
To that I say, Rick Santorum is a turd.  Oh, I didn't say turd, I said Rick Santorum is a 'blah!'

Saturday, February 18, 2012

The Phony Arguments

David Fitzsimmons - The Arizona Star - Obama and the church COLOR - English - church, state, church and state, obamacare, birth control, contraceptives, religious liberty 

Garry Wills takes a realistic look at the Republican Tea Party in hi s article Contraception's Con Men.
By a revolting combination of con men and fanatics, the current primary race has become a demonstration that the Republican party does not deserve serious consideration for public office. Take the controversy over contraceptives. American bishops at first opposed having hospitals and schools connected with them pay employee health costs for contraceptives. But when the President backed off from that requirement, saying insurance companies can pay the costs, the bishops doubled down and said no one should have to pay for anything so evil as contraception. Some Republicans are using the bishops’ stupidity to hurt the supposed "moderate" candidate Mitt Romney, giving a temporary leg up to the faux naïf Rick Santorum; others are attacking Barack Obama as an "enemy of religion."

Pusillanimous Catholics - Mark Shields and even, to a degree, the admirable E. J. Dionne - are saying that Catholics understandably resent an attack on "their" doctrine (even though they do not personally believe in it). Omnidirectional bad-faith arguments have clustered around what is falsely presented as a defense of "faith." The layers of ignorance are equaled only by the willingness of people "of all faiths" to use them for their own purposes. Consider just some of the layers:
The Phony Religious Freedom Argument 

The bishops’ opposition to contraception is not an argument for a "conscience exemption." It is a way of imposing Catholic requirements on non-Catholics. This is religious dictatorship, not religious freedom.
Contraception is not even a religious matter. Nowhere in Scripture or the Creed is it forbidden. Catholic authorities themselves say it is a matter of "natural law," over which natural reason is the arbiter - and natural reason, even for Catholics, has long rejected the idea that contraception is evil. More of that later; what matters here is that contraception is legal, ordinary, and accepted even by most Catholics. To say that others must accept what Catholics themselves do not is bad enough. To say that President Obama is "trying to destroy the Catholic Church" if he does not accept it is much, much worse.

To disagree with Catholic bishops is called "disrespectful," an offense against religious freedom. That is why there is a kind of taboo against bringing up Romney’s Mormonism. But if Romney sincerely believed in polygamy on religious grounds, as his grandfather did, he would not even be considered for the presidency - any more than a sincere Christian Scientist, who rejects the use of medicine, would be voted for to handle public health care. Yet a man who believes that contraception is evil is an aberrant from the American norm, like the polygamist or the faith healer.

The Phony Contraception Argument

The opposition to contraception has, as I said, no scriptural basis. Pope Pius XI once said that it did, citing in his encyclical Casti Connubii (1930) the condemnation of Onan for "spilling his seed" rather than impregnating a woman (Genesis 38.9). But later popes had to back off from this claim, since everyone agrees now that Onan’s sin was not carrying out his duty to give his brother an heir (Deuteronomy 25.5-6). Then the "natural law" was fallen back on, saying that the natural purpose of sex is procreation, and any use of it for other purposes is "unnatural." But a primary natural purpose does not of necessity exclude ancillary advantages. The purpose of eating is to sustain life, but that does not make all eating that is not necessary to subsistence "unnatural." One can eat, beyond the bare minimum to exist, to express fellowship, as one can have sex, beyond the begetting of a child with each act, to express love.

The Roman authorities would not have fallen for such a silly argument but for a deep historical disrelish for sex itself. Early Fathers and medieval theologians considered sex unworthy when not actually sinful. That is why virgin saints and celibate priests were prized above married couples. Thomas Aquinas said that priests must not be married, since "those in holy orders handle the sacred vessels and the sacrament itself, and therefore it is proper (decens) that they preserve, by abstinences, a body undefiled (munditia corporalis) (Summa Theologiae, Part 3 Supplement, Question 53, article 3, Response). Marriage, you see, makes for defilement (immunditia). The ban on contraception is a hangover from the period when the body itself was considered unclean, as Peter Brown overwhelmingly proved in The Body and Society (1988).

The Phony "Church Teaches" Argument

Catholics who do not accept the phony argument over contraception are said to be "going against the teachings of their church." That is nonsense. They are their church. The Second Vatican Council defines the church as "the people of God." Thinking that the pope is the church is a relic of the days when a monarch was said to be his realm. The king was "Denmark." Catholics have long realized that their own grasp of certain things, especially sex, has a validity that is lost on the celibate male hierarchy. This is particularly true where celibacy is concerned.

There was broad disagreement with Pius XI’s 1930 encyclical on the matter. Pope Paul VI set up a study group of loyal and devout Catholics, lay and clerical, to make recommendations. The group overwhelmingly voted to change the teaching of Pius XI. But cardinals in the Roman Curia convinced Paul that any change would suggest that the church’s teachings are not eternal (though Casti Connubii had not been declared infallible, by the papacy’s own standards).

When Paul reaffirmed the ban on birth control in Humanae Vitae (1968) there was massive rejection of it. Some left the church. Some just ignored it. Paradoxically, the document formed to convey the idea that papal teaching is inerrant just convinced most people that it can be loony. The priest-sociologist Andrew Greeley said that Humanae Vitae did more damage to the papacy than any of the so-called "liberal" movements in Catholicism. When Pius IX condemned democracy and modern science in his Syllabus of Errors (1864), the Catholic historian Lord Acton said that Catholics were too sensible to go crazy every time a pope does. The reaction to Humanae Vitae proves that.

The Phony "Undying Principle" Argument

Rick Santorum is a nice smiley fanatic. He does not believe in evolution or global warming or women in the workplace. He equates gay sex with bestiality (Rick "Man on Dog" Santorum). He equates contraception with the guillotine. Only a brain-dead party could think him a worthy presidential candidate. Yet he is praised by television pundits, night and day, for being "sincere" and "standing by what he believes." He is the principled alternative to the evil Moderation of Mitt Romney and the evil Evil of Newt Gingrich. He is presented as a model Catholic. Torquemada was, in that sense, a model Catholic. Messrs. Boehner and McConnell call him a martyr to religious freedom. A young priest I saw on television, modeling himself on his hero Santorum, said, "I would rather die than give up my church’s principles." What we are seeing is not a defense of undying principle but a stampede toward a temporarily exploitable lunacy. Acton to the rescue!
  This is just another example of religion being used to destroy the freedoms of those who don't agree.

Rob Tornoe - Media Matters - Birth Control Debate - English - Fox News, birth control, contraceptive, contraception, church, catholic, Sean Hannity, women, female, media

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

'Hell No' To Obama on Everything!

Kirk Walters - Toledo Blade - Amen - English - obama,catholic,bishops,amen,birth control,compromise

John Cory sees the outrage that is fomenting by the GOP Tea Party against President Obama is merely a cover up for reality.  Cory accurately says, "Maybe it's just me, but getting lectures on morality from the Catholic Church is like getting cooking lessons from cannibals. The broth smells so good until you realize that you are the prime ingredient." John Cory knows, "What It's All About."
Can we stop the nonsense about contraception and morality and call this crap what it is? Politics.
Attack Obama.

This has nothing to do with a war on religion or religious freedom. This is all about attacking, blocking, and otherwise hindering President Obama from accomplishing anything that could be interpreted as successful or popular with the people. This is politics, and politics trumps God in this country. Mitch McConnell made it perfectly clear when he said that the priority of the GOP was "for President Obama to be a one-term president." Everything else is just tinsel.

These people are shills for their own self-interests and political gain. It's all a scam, a game of Three-card Monte on the corner of Church Street and Pennsylvania Avenue run by Bible-thumping Bunco artists looking to fleece the voting public.

Maybe it's just me, but getting lectures on morality from the Catholic Church is like getting cooking lessons from cannibals. The broth smells so good until you realize that you are the prime ingredient.

Let's be honest, all these voices howling about "freedom of religion" are the same shrill voices that denounce mosques in America. These are the same folks who claim that the religion of a billion people in this world is not a "religion" at all, and see nothing wrong with allowing one group of citizens to vote on whether or not the other citizens should be allowed to build a house of worship in their city. Religious freedom? Really?

These are the Grand Poobahs of Piety and their sanctimonious Sisters of the Smelling Salts running hither and yon as they flap their lips and arms to draw nearer, not to heaven, but to the holy wallet of Our Lady of Campaign Cash in order to vanquish that heathen radical liberal centrist Obama.

This is shadow theatre - sleight of hand and misdirection - with a twofer value. While the holier-than-thou players shout and jump for Jesus onstage, the real show is backstage. Attack Obama and put women in their place. Is God great, or what!

These heroic hypocrites battle big government and valiantly strive to shrink it down to a size that will fit in your bedroom, or more importantly, in a woman's uterus or other lady parts. Of course, they fight equally hard (forgive me) to free penises everywhere in order to preserve a true manly America. Viva Viagra!

The right-wing Christian conservative movement has been courted and embraced by the GOP. United, they move forward to weaken the Violence Against Women Act, push state laws to loosen domestic abuse and defund Planned Parenthood. And, on a subtle and chilling note, consider how Ron Paul recently responded to Piers Morgan when questioned about rape and medical treatment to prevent pregnancy. Paul said: "No. If it's an honest rape, that individual should go immediately to the emergency room ..." And no, Piers Morgan never asked Ron Paul to define what he meant by "honest rape," or what constitutes an "honest rape."

Most Americans have more common sense than the holy trinity of politicians, pundits, and priests. Just look at what happened recently with the Ellen DeGeneres fiasco. If you saw Ellen defend herself on her show, it was a moment of class and humor and humanity. The audience roared approval. Damn those suburban lesbian housewives! Damn tolerance and equality!

JC Penney refused to buckle to the One Million Moms (not really one million), and publicly stated that Ellen shared their values and their employee's values and they looked forward to a successful partnership with Ellen. Fans inundated the One Million Moms with indignation and disgust, so much so that apparently that hateful group has now taken down its Facebook page and skulked off to dark coven meetings in search of their souls. (One Million Moms is not the same as or affiliated with Million Moms Challenge, which is a worldwide health-oriented endeavor to help moms around the world.)

Damn the free-market!

And what about Obama? He announced a compromise on this contraception brouhaha as of Friday. How's that working out? Everybody feel better? Didn't think so.

It doesn't matter what President Obama tries, concedes, or compromises on any issue. The hucksters of hypocrisy will turn out to cast stones because that's what they do. They think that the spelling of G-O-D and G-O-P is divine intervention and not merely the separation by ten letters of the alphabet. It is a heavenly omen that designates them as the only and righteous descendents of power over our world. No one else is ever allowed to touch the throne.

This is about power and greed and the hypocritical call of freedom to force others to live and think and do as instructed by those who have elected themselves as the Chosen. Obey without question. God only speaks to me, and those who fund my politics. You have freedom of choice - as long as you choose the right way.

The fear of true democracy, equality, tolerance and choice has never been so obvious as it is today. There is panic in the golden streets of DC.

Washington State just passed marriage equality. The California courts ruled Prop. 8 unconstitutional. More and more Americans don't believe that one group of citizens has the right to limit the unalienable rights of other citizens or to define them as less than. The military has overturned Don't Ask, Don't Tell. Churches are opening their doors to gay members and allowing marriages.

Women are slowly winning the battle for equal pay for equal work. They are uniting in the belief that they own their own bodies, not the state or the church or the man in the gray flannel suit. Women are finding ways to run for public office and to become part of the political process so they can have an equal say in how this country works.

Let's face it, women have power and should be feared. It was Ida Tarbell who exposed the unfair market practices of Standard Oil and helped force the Trust-Busting of President Roosevelt. Emma Goldman took on the causes of poverty and child labor and union issues. Suffragettes brought women the vote. Harriett Tubman, Rosa Parks, Betty Frieden, Germaine Greer and Gloria Steinem and Angela Davis and Billy Jean King and Oprah. >From 1900 to the present, women have moved American politics and culture and art. Woman Power is real.

And this sends a ripple of fear through the great patriarchal order of things. That is why these yahoos of masculinity and righteousness push so hard for the spiritual enslavement of women while pretending to be the protectors of the feminine citizen.

Power and politics. That's what all this mess is about.

I think America still has more good, more empathy and compassion and tolerance than these guys want us to know. Knowledge is a dangerous thing, my friend.

And there is nothing worse than someone with enough knowledge being able to point at the naked emperor in all his shortcomings and say: That guy is naked! And he's no emperor!

 The true reality is power and politics. "That's what all this mess is about."

Dave Granlund - - Speaker Boehner in charge - English - House Speaker, GOP, Republicans, gridlock, impasse, obstruction, conservative, right, extreme right, tea party, grover norquist, power, leader, elephant

GOP Name Calling

Republicans are good at name calling while claiming that is what Democrats do best. Cenk Uygur from The Young Turks doesn't want to disappoint the Republicans. He says that 99% of the GOP are "corporate whores."

The Conservative Political Action Conference, or CPAC, was chock full of speakers using hateful speech to describe liberals — all while decrying “name-calling” by Democrats. Cenk says, “Two can play at that game. We let them call us all of these names and we don’t fight back. Ninety-nine percent of the Republican party are corporate whores. They service the rich so they can give them more tax cuts. That’s all their objective is. The only thing they care about is how they can pleasure corporations and the very rich. You know what that makes them? It makes them corporate whores. You like name-calling? There it is.” 


The Conservative Acceptance of Racism

Bill Day - Cagle Cartoons - Land of Opportunity - English - bigotry, illegal aliens, gays, occupy movement, debates

Stephen Eric Bronner believes that the Republicans, the Tea Party, Libertarians and other conservative factions are "At Home With the Bigot.

The rise of reactionary activists.
Republicans and their conservative allies insist that racism is a thing of the past. But their party still serves as the bastion of anti-gay, anti-immigrant, anti-black, and anti-feminist activism. Not since the Great Depression has its lower-middle class base experienced such disorientation and disruption. President George W. Bush left them with two failed wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the bursting of the sub-prime housing bubble and the crashing of the derivates market in 2007. And then, on top of it, came the electoral defeat in 2008 that produced the first black president of the United States. Military miscalculation abroad, economic collapse at home, and burning political humiliation fueled the stubborn radicalism and small-minded resentment of what would become the Tea Party. Coming from non-urban areas mostly in the South and the Mid-West, but also from white immigrant enclaves in some big cities, its members have their own forms of moral cognition. They have little use for globalization, the welfare state, new social movements or the "adversary culture" inherited from the 1960s. Wearing revolutionary garb and tricorn hats, disrupting town meetings devoted to healthcare and other social issues, bullying progressive congressional representatives and holding rallies of their own, they constitute a new generation of reactionary activists calling for "revolution" - though, naturally, only one that will protect their privileges and interests.

The coming together of Libertarians, bigots and religious fanatics in to the Tea Party.
The Tea Party meshes libertarian capitalists preaching the gospel of the free market and reactionary populists intent upon rehabilitating "family values," rehabilitating religion, and a parochial vision of community. Over the last century, for the most part, these trends were diametrically at odds with one another: Libertarians had little use for rabble-rousing bigots, religious fanatics or the like, while populists hated big business, open markets, and the scientific culture of modernity. Ronald Reagan initially brought these contradictory trends together. He blended the anti-union and de-regulating interests of elites committed to the classical principles of the free market with the cultural conservatism and hyper-nationalism of the old "moral" majority and burgeoning religious movements. George W. Bush built on that coalition. But there was new urgency for an organizational alliance between liberations and populists following the economic collapse of 2008 and subsequent presidential victory of Barack Obama. Fears of dramatic state intervention into the economy blended with horror over the symbolic implications of having a black president for the image of community associated with old television shows like Father Knows Best, Leave It to Beaver, and Happy Days. Out of this alliance and these anxieties, indeed, the Tea Party was born in 2009.

The GOP embraces and then succumbs to the Tea Party.
The GOP was quick to recognize its importance. Seasoned operatives of the Republican Party were soon offering their advice and leadership. They originally thought the Tea Party might be manipulated. But the opposite took place: the tail wound up wagging the dog. There is an old saying: styles make fights. The new rhetoric was supplied by Fox News and a score of feral media demagogues, among whom Glenn Beck and Michael Savage were merely the most venal. Evangelicals and far-right groups associated with them and others like them, and the Tea Party routinely began referring to President Obama as the Anti-Christ and as an Imam. The bigot applauded. Advertisements compared him and his family to chimpanzees, portrayed the White House with rows of watermelons on the lawn, and implied that the president is a crack addict. But the problem apparently was not the bigot's friends who supposedly hate blacks: it was rather Obama who clearly hates whites. The new president was seen as the advocate of the (black) welfare cheat, the (Latino) immigrant, the anti-Christian (Arab) terrorist, the supposedly overpaid (lazy and shiftless) union worker, and anti-family (feminist and gay) forces. The Tea Party channeled the bigot's prejudices. It would become easy for him to identify with the (white) business elite whose (seemingly color-blind) policies attacking the bureaucratic welfare state appeared intent upon recreating a patriarchal world of white privilege.

Capitalist fundamentalism.
Lingering economic recession, fear of radical social and economic reform, and fanatical mobilization (coupled with disillusionment of those expecting yet more radical changes by the new regime) brought about the sweeping victory of the far right in the Congressional elections of 2010. Now it was the Republicans' turn to applaud. The Tea Party was not simply nuts. Challenging the seemingly sacrosanct image of FDR and the New Deal, whatever its racist and intolerant elements, the Tea Party had become the agent of what might be termed capitalist fundamentalism. This meant highlighting the "invisible hand" of the market and the individual (not the accumulation process and class) as the units of social analysis. The state budget could now be equated with a household budget and everyone would now echo the mantra of Margaret Thatcher: "There is no society, there are only individuals." The welfare state would now be condemned (once again) not merely as wasteful - but immoral. Hard work brings rewards. Individuals are responsible for themselves, not others. Lack of ambition and foresight by individuals are the causes of unemployment and poverty. No free rides! Evangelicals know the "truth": no abortions, no condoms, and no gay marriage - women back to the kitchen and gays to the closet.

White is Right!
With the increasing influence of the Tea Party upon the Republican Party, indeed, the once modest home afforded the bigot turned into a mansion. Rooms would prove available especially for someone who is neither white nor male and who seemingly represents the less privileged. Women like former Republican vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin or Congresswoman Michelle Bachmann (R-Minnesota) reaffirm the house-wife or the "soccer mom" in the face of an economy in which the single breadwinner has become an anachronism. A gay couple (two male earners) is trotted out occasionally to congratulate the Tea Party for its libertarian values. There is the Latino Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fla), who is apparently terrified by the immigrant mob threatening to invade from South of the border. The bigot has also made friends with an African-American or two. Hermann Cain received his applause for insisting that Blacks were "brain-washed" into supporting the Democratic Party, thereby confirming the bigot's old belief that they are too stupid to favor egalitarian and redistributive policies on their own. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas champions tough love while his (white) wife champions the Tea Party. Then there is Congressman Allen West (R-Fla), whose idea of tolerance is to tell liberals "to get the hell out of the United States" and then identify the Democratic Party with the Nazi propaganda machine. This cast of characters, it should be noted, is not simply useful for propagandizing the undecided: it also reinforces the bigot's idea of what makes a real person of color or a real woman. These political figures validate the benevolent image of a bygone America in which taxes were low, government was small, women were in the kitchen, and the only important color was white.

US low among nations for Social Justice.
The clock has already been turned back. A study released on October 29, 2011, by the Bertelsmann Stiftung showed that the United States has plummeted into the bottom five among the thirty nations comprising the industrial world in "Overall Social Justice Rating," "Overall Poverty Prevention Rating," Overall Poverty Rate," "Child Poverty," and "Income Inequality." Libertarian economic policies championed by the Tea Party endanger democratic deliberation, diversity, and cosmopolitan ideals. New socio-economic burdens and constraints also threaten disadvantaged groups. People of color will disproportionately suffer from a flat tax as well as other regressive attempts to shrink the tax base and, subsequently, bankrupt the welfare state. African-Americans and Latinos will be disproportionately impacted by attempts to demand photo-ID, literacy tests, and the like in order to vote. Redistricting and racist zoning regulations are recreating segregation while the uncurbed use of private money in election campaigns is disenfranchising the working people and the poor. Privatizing the prison system has sharply increased incarceration, especially among minority groups: people of color constitute 70% of inmates, nationally, and one in three African-American males is currently either awaiting trial, in jail, or on parole. Since convicts cannot vote, hundred of thousands of primarily African-Americans and people of color are currently being disenfranchised by what has been called the "new Jim Crow."

Bigotry is accepted by the Tea Party GOP.
There is hardly a policy proposal forwarded by the GOP that does not disadvantage people of color, women, and working people - and, worse, there is hardly a single major Republican politician willing to publicly challenge the rhetoric or the proposals of the far right and the Tea Party. The mainstream has justified the extreme. All candidates for the Republican presidential nomination of 2012 seem to worry about a "disappearing white majority" as they take turns in attacking the Civil Rights Act of 1964, "food stamp presidents," and critics of religious dogmatism (as well as the Crusades). White supremacists of varying shades try to recruit and mix with luminaries of the Republican Party at conferences like that hosted by the American Conservative Union. Fragments of half-baked conspiracy theories float around in the minds of many grassroots activists in the Tea Party. Obama may look like he is in charge but (especially since he is black) the more paranoid insist that he is being controlled by more powerful interests and organizations like the Bilderberg banking group, the Trilateral Commission, Freemasons, Islamic terrorists, or Jews - or all of them working in concert. Conspiracy theory is common currency in the Tea Party and, again, there is hardly a single Republican willing to condemn it. Such talk makes no sense and thus frustration grows, resentment increases, and rage intensifies. It is taken out not merely on African-Americans but on other outsiders as well: gays, immigrants, Arabs, and Jews. Bigotry has become a commonplace of political life in the United States. The jargon of prejudice, sometimes veiled and sometimes not, is now so prevalent that most people simply shrug their shoulders. And the Tea Party has been in the vanguard. The influence of their words on action may be indirect: but it is, nonetheless, palpable.

"Racism is alive and well in the United States."
Everyday violence (that mostly goes unreported) against homosexuals, immigrants, and minorities is simply a routine fact of American life. Doctors performing abortions outside the larger cities do so at their own risk. The virtual obsession of the Tea Party with the right to own firearms (including AK-47s) does not merely express a desire to hunt ducks. Mainstream politicians of the Republican Party again fall into line. Sure: explicit calls for the use of violence come only from the margins. Just as the conservative mainstream has helped legitimate the Tea Party, however, the Tea Party is giving new hope to fanatics who stand even further on the right. The Republican Party has lacked the courage to take on the bigots in its own ranks - and its toleration of the Tea Party validates precisely what its ideologues wish to deny: racism is alive and well in the United States. And, all the while, the bigot is smiling. The approving winks that he gets are evident everywhere. What one reaps is what one sows. The prejudices of times past have not disappeared. One just needs to know where to look. Talk about the "end of racism" has become a bad joke. Conservative politics attests to its continuation. The Tea Party will probably find itself in the trashcan of history once Republicans suffer some serious electoral defeats. But its mass base will undoubtedly survive and take new organizational forms as it always has in the past - from the "Know-Nothings" to the KKK to McCarthy to the "Silent Majority" and the "Moral Majority" and God knows what other fringe groups. For the foreseeable future, however, the bigot has no need to worry. With the Republican Party, indeed, he has once again found himself a happy home.
The lesson that needs to be acted upon is that voices of protest against bigotry, racism, hate and disenfranchisement need to be loud, strong and now!

Jimmy Margulies - The Record of Hackensack, NJ - Holocaust Memorial hate crime - English - Holocaust Memorial, Hate crimes, White supremacists, Anti-semitism, Bigotry

Monday, February 13, 2012

Mass Transit: the new Tea Party GOP Target...

The Tea Party GOP is waging a war against mass transit. Yes, mass transit.  Here is why!
In the week since House Republicans introduced their proposed transportation bill, one thing has become clear: it has virtually nothing to do with fiscal responsibility.

The Tea Party soared to power on the notion that it was the antidote to wasteful government spending. It’s now clear that reigniting the culture wars was a top priority, too. From guns to abortion, the extremist wing of the Republican party has fought to turn back the clock on many socially progressive ideals.

Mass transit is their newest target.

“Federal transportation and infrastructure policy has traditionally been an area of strong bipartisan agreement,” says Aaron Naparstek, a Loeb Fellow at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design and founder of “Now, it seems, Republicans want to turn cities into a part of the culture wars. Now it’s abortion, gay marriage and subways.”

House Republicans seek to eliminate the Mass Transit Account from the federal Highway Trust Fund. The Mass Transit Account is where public transportation programs get their steady source of funding. Without it, transit would be devastated, and urban life as we know it could become untenable.

And there’s the rub. “The Tea Party leaders and the Republicans who pander to them do not care about cost-effectiveness in the slightest,” wrote blogger Alon Levy in a comment about the bill on The Transport Politic. “They dislike transit for purely cultural and ideological reasons.” To the Tea Party, transit smacks of the public sector, social engineering and alternative lifestyles.

How do we know this is a cultural battle and not an economic one? Because transit spending is far more fiscally fair than spending on roads and highways. Transit riders subsidize roads to a greater degree than drivers subsidize transit. And cities, which are the chief engines behind the American economy, rely on buses and trains to function. “The economic future for states hinges largely on the performance of their metropolitan economies,” determined a recent Brookings Institution study.

Tea Party leaders know all of this. But they also knew that defunding NPR wouldn’t help balance the budget, and they voted to do it anyway. They knew that by law no federal money can go toward abortion services, yet they voted to defund Planned Parenthood too. The Tea Party is superb at disguising cultural battles as the pursuit of responsible thrift. And mass transit exists at the vortex of many of their number-one ideological targets. It’s brilliant, when you think about it.

Defunding transit is how you smack down urbanites, environmentalists, and people of color, all in one fell swoop. It’s how you telegraph a disdain for all things European. It’s how you show solidarity with swing-state suburbanites who don’t understand why their taxes are going toward subways they don’t even use. And it’s how you subtly reassure your base that you’re not concerned about the very poor.

Republicans haven’t pretended to care about cities for decades. In January, none of the candidates showed up to the annual Conference of Mayors. (Two of them didn’t even RSVP.) And even just a month ago, you could argue, as this web site did, that “today cities are more ignored than attacked” by Republicans. But the calculus just changed. The transportation bill sends an aggressive message: “Tea Party to Cities: Drop Dead.”

It doesn’t matter to the Tea Party that Ronald Reagan, in 1982, created the Mass Transit Account that Republicans now want to kill. Reagan was no friend to cities. But even he earned a respectable share of the vote in New York, Philadelphia, and San Francisco. Things hadn’t yet gotten so personal.

That era is over. Over the past couple decades, the GOP has found that bashing “elites” can translate into victory at the polls. And by “elites” they don’t mean folks with Chevy Tahoes and McMansions in the exurbs. 

They mean urbanites, no matter what their net worth. When they tar Nancy Pelosi as a San Francisco liberal, or Barack Obama as a Chicago politician, they’re not just referencing those cities’ stereotypes. 
They’re referencing the stereotypes of city culture itself: full of swindlers and gays and blacks and other suspect types. Calling Obama the “food stamp president” conjures up images of housing projects. Sarah Palin calling small-town folks “real America” states unequivocally that urbanites aren’t real Americans. The offensiveness of that statement still boggles the mind.

The Tea Party plan to decimate transit is no less explicit a statement. “House Republicans are, essentially, declaring war on cities in the federal transportation bill,” tweeted Naparstek. It’s not just that they know they can’t expect many votes from urban dwellers — that at least would be political calculus. It’s that they despise cities in general. They see “smart growth” principles as a U.N. plot, gun control as fascist, and funding for transit not just as wasteful, but un-American. Don’t like it? Get a car like the rest of us.

The House transportation bill will not become law, but that doesn’t make it benign. Like the debt ceiling battle, it could become a political bargaining chip, or reframe the national debate: Maybe cities are getting more than their fair share? Are we overspending on transit? Why should I help fund some far-away bus system? It plants these questions in voters’ minds.

This is why transit advocates are apoplectic, and why Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood (a former Republican congressman) called it “the worst transportation bill I’ve ever seen in 35 years of public service.” If conservatives have truly decided that transit is next on their culture war hit list, anyone who believes in the importance of cities had better start firing back right now.
 The year to fight back is 2012!

It's a "Medically Induce Miscarriage," Stupid!

 Rick Santorum: “Our Abortion Was Different”
 Whenever you see the word 'Abortion' replace it with the words "Medically Induced Miscarriage."
Rick Santorum’s wife, Karen, had a second trimester abortion in October 1996. The Santorum’s, however, don’t like to describe it as an abortion. Instead, they call it a "medically induced miscarriage." Yet for many, this is a distinction without a difference.
That's right folks, they like it to sound as if they had no choice! But it was an abortion, which Karen chose to have to save her life
So from this day forward, remove the word 'abortion' and replace it with the words "medically induced miscarriage." 

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Waging a War on Drugs is Misguided 

Portugal decriminalized all drugs 10 years ago.  Now drug abuse in Portugal is down by half
Drug warriors often contend that drug use would skyrocket if we were to legalize or decriminalize drugs in the United States. Fortunately, we have a real-world example of the actual effects of ending the violent, expensive War on Drugs and replacing it with a system of treatment for problem users and addicts.
Ten years ago, Portugal decriminalized all drugs. One decade after this unprecedented experiment, drug abuse is down by half:
Health experts in Portugal said Friday that Portugal’s decision 10 years ago to decriminalise drug use and treat addicts rather than punishing them is an experiment that has worked.
"There is no doubt that the phenomenon of addiction is in decline in Portugal," said Joao Goulao, President of the Institute of Drugs and Drugs Addiction, a press conference to mark the 10th anniversary of the law.
The number of addicts considered "problematic" — those who repeatedly use "hard" drugs and intravenous users — had fallen by half since the early 1990s, when the figure was estimated at around 100,000 people, Goulao said.
Other factors had also played their part however, Goulao, a medical doctor added.
"This development can not only be attributed to decriminalisation but to a confluence of treatment and risk reduction policies."
Many of these innovative treatment procedures would not have emerged if addicts had continued to be arrested and locked up rather than treated by medical experts and psychologists. Currently 40,000 people in Portugal are being treated for drug abuse. This is a far cheaper, far more humane way to tackle the problem. Rather than locking up 100,000 criminals, the Portuguese are working to cure 40,000 patients and fine-tuning a whole new canon of drug treatment knowledge at the same time.
None of this is possible when waging a war.

Decriminalization does not result in increased drug use.
Under Portugal’s new regime, people found guilty of possessing small amounts of drugs are sent to a panel consisting of a psychologist, social worker, and legal adviser for appropriate treatment (which may be refused without criminal punishment), instead of jail.

Critics in the poor, socially conservative and largely Catholic nation said decriminalizing drug possession would open the country to “drug tourists” and exacerbate Portugal’s drug problem; the country has some of the highest levels of hard-drug use in Europe. The recently realised results of a report commissioned by the Cato Institute, suggest otherwise.

The paper, published by Cato in April 2011, found that in the five years after personal possession was decriminalized, illegal drug use among teens in Portugal declined and rates of new HIV infections caused by sharing of dirty needles dropped, while the number of people seeking treatment for drug addiction more than doubled.

It has enabled the Portuguese government to manage and control the problem far better than virtually every other Western country does.

Compared to the European Union and the US, Portugal drug use numbers are impressive.

Portugal’s 10 year experiment shows clearly that enough is enough. It is time to end the war on drugs worldwide. We must stop criminalising drug users. Health and treatment should be offered to drug users – not prison. Bad drugs policies affect literally hundreds of thousands of individuals and communities across the world. We need to provide medical help to those that have problematic use – not criminal retribution.
There is a lesson to be learned. When will we learn it?

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Cool Pics

Botanical apartment therapy in Phuket, Thailand.

Stone VW in a field in Ithica, NY. Built in 1976 by a Cornell art class. 

Roof detail of Gaudi's Sagrada Familia, in Barcelona.