As the oil leak in the Gulf keeps getting bigger, one has to wonder if Obama administration officials will get their collective heads out of their asses and cancel their offshore drilling plans. Like the Bush regime, President Obama treats Big Oil as if it is one of the few industries in the country worth noticing.
What about fishing? What about tourism?
Then, there´s the whole problem of Global Warming, one Obama still doesn´t take seriously. He hasn´t even tried to start the massive expansion of our cities´ subways systems that is desperately needed to fight climate change and provide lasting green jobs. ¨Drill baby, drill¨ seems to be just as much an Obama slogan as a Sarah Palin slogan.
Can this administration spare us some real change?
As the oil leak in the Gulf keeps getting bigger, one has to wonder if Obama administration officials will get their collective heads out of their asses and cancel their offshore drilling plans. Like the Bush regime, President Obama treats Big Oil as if it is one of the few industries in the country worth noticing.
Michael Bloomberg, a billionaire who has spent hundreds of millions of dollars buying the last three mayoral elections here in NYC, is continuing his jihad against accountability and integrity on Wall St.
He threw a tantrum just because members of Congress made some token efforts to retrive the stolen bonuses of the banksters and brokesters. (New York Magazine 4/21/10)
"I just find it sort of ironic that congressmen, senators who make more than double what the average person working in finance makes — they're the rich ones and they're talking about trying to restrict bonuses and taxing the industries that are our lifeblood," he said back in January. "Maybe we should hold back their salaries for a decade or so and see whether the laws they pass work out."
This is highly misleading, given the fact that the Wall St. goons make astronomical, unearned salaries in addition to the outlandish bonuses they have received for destroying a significant portion of the world economy.
Cracking down on the banksters and brokesters will help our economy here in NYC in the long term. The only things to prevent more events like the Crash of 2008 are ending excessive bonuses based on short term financial gains, massive regulation of the financial disservices industry, and breakups of its biggest corporations.
Bloomberg doesn't care about the long term. His evil media empire preaches short term profits over corporate sustainability and pressures every company to toe the line. He already has many times over the wealth that any one person could possibly earn in a dozen lifetimes, but that doesn't satisfy his insatiable greed or the avarice of so many other speculators.
Our not so Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer isn't exactly strong on getting the banksters and brokesters under control, but even he isn't kissing butt enough to satisfy Daddy Bloombucks (Politico 4/21/10).
In an April 12 meeting in Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s spacious office overlooking the National Mall, Bloomberg said that Schumer has been “AWOL,” that “this is a real problem for New York City” and that “our senators who are normally in the middle of it aren’t there,” according to a Republican senator briefed on the meeting.
Another person familiar with the meeting said Bloomberg was simply agreeing with criticism of Schumer leveled by McConnell and didn’t lash out pre-emptively: “They said that Chuck was not doing anything, that he was very unhelpful, that he wasn’t providing the ballast for New York,” the source said, adding, “Bloomberg didn’t disagree.”
Bloomberg is fond of using the talking point that cracking down on Wall St. is somehow attacking New York. This is typical of a Mayor who has worked tirelessly to drive middle class and poor people out of this city to make it an exclusive gated community of the rich. His attitude is that what is good for the banks, the brokerages, and the speculators is good for New York, or at least for the only people in New York he thinks count for anything.
This is an example of why we need public financing of campaigns and to make it illegal for rich people to buy elections through "self financing" (a ridiculous euphemism if I've ever read one). Plutocrats like Bloomberg must be made to respect real democracy.
Instead, he seems determined to prove Marxist right about class warfare.
Rightist nutjob and general airhead from the UK's Tory Party, David Cameron, was egged. Enjoy the video!
The egg tosser, Tyler Dixon, is my hero.
Religionists are constantly trying to shove religion down the throats of atheists and agnostics, but this is a fairly extreme example.
From American Atheists Press Release 4/21/10:
An Atheist public policy group praised a U.S. District Court Judge in California for defending the constitutional rights of a prison inmate who was compelled to attend religion-based drug and alcohol rehab sessions in order to qualify for parole.
Judge Garland E. Burrell Jr. ruled that California officials erred when they forced 41-year-old Barry A. Hazel Jr. to enroll in Alcoholics Anonymous after serving a one-year sentence for drug possession. Hazel, a computer programmer, demanded that he be given access to an alternative secular program instead, and was mistakenly informed that one was not available. After refusing to participate in the faith-based 12-step regimen, Mr. Hazel was re-arrested and had to serve another three months in jail.
Dr. Ed Buckner, President of American Atheists, praised the court for its finding in this case. "It is outrageous that any citizen be coerced into attending religious services or programs that 'push' religion in any form."
Buckner noted that just weeks after Mr. Hazel protested the violation of his rights, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation issued an order to all parole agents pointing out that they "cannot compel" a parolee to participate in any religion-themed program.
Dave Silverman, Vice President and Communications Director for American Atheists said that "While Atheists and other non-believers make up a very small percentage of prison populations -- by some studies far less than one percent -- violating someone's religious liberty and freedom from religion is not some kind of a numbers game."
"There are secular programs for drug and alcohol rehabilitation that are available, and the government has an obligation to respect the rights of any incarcerated individual to refuse religious 'treatment'."
There's also a more pragmatic objection to this kind of religious coercion. A religious rehab program isn't likely to help a freethinker.
I also wonder how many religious rehab programs are queer supportive. Can you imagine be coerced into participating in a rehab program that is viciously heterosexist based on fundamentalist religious beliefs?
Ted Rall's syndicated column on Obama out Republicaning the Goppers is one of the best summaries of what has been wrong with this administration to date. The entire column is worth a read, but the comments on the wealthcare bill are of special interest.
Obama's revamp of healthcare, on the other hand, goes too far, perverting the liberal desire to provide healthcare for all Americans into a transfer of wealth from poor to rich that the hard right never dreamed of.
Buying into the classic, flawed, American assumption that a bad system can't get worse (ask the Iraqis and Afghans), ObamaCare entrusts 30 million new customers, to the tune of roughly ten grand a year each, to the tender mercies of private insurance companies.
ObamaCare pours hundreds of billions of dollars, some from taxpayers, the rest from poor people, into the gaping coffers of giant corporations. Once people find themselves paying even more for visits to the same crappy doctors and hospitals they can't afford now, they'll hold the Dems responsible at the polls. If Republicans stopped to think, they'd love it.
And if Democrats stopped to think, they'd hate it.
Some of us have stopped to think, and we do hate it.
The rightist policies of the Obama administration are going to cause some Democrats to vote Green at least some of the time for years. However, that won't be the biggest impact on the party. Obama, Pelosi, Reid, and their minions are doing a really effective job in persuading Democratic core constituencies that it doesn't matter much who you vote for. This means lower Democratic turnout and less volunteer time. The couch is a more effective rival than third parties, at least so far, and the DINOs in power are giving the couch a huge electoral advantage.
The Democrats are digging themselves in deeper and deeper, and they are too foolish and too bought to see it.
There has been a lot of controversy in Europe about Muslim women wearing the versions of the veil that cover up nearly all the face but the eyes. Some of the objections many Westerners have are based on perfectly legitimate feminist and anti religious critiques of the practice. Some objections are based on disturbing hostility against Muslims as a class of people. Some European fears are based on centuries past Muslim conquests of much of that continent and the way that Muslim rulers mistreated Christians.
However, there is a very basic area of discomfort that doesn't get much discussed, at least in media readily available to Americans. I read this 3/31/10 Guardian article on the efforts in Belgium to ban that kind of veiling which actually touched on this (bolding mine).
Daniel Bacquelaine, the liberal MP who proposed the bill, said: "We cannot allow someone to claim the right to look at others without being seen.
"It is necessary that the law forbids the wearing of clothes that totally mask and enclose an individual. Wearing the burqa in public is not compatible with an open, liberal, tolerant society."
In Western culture, wearing masks has generally served three purposes:
1) A naughty attempt to get outside of oneself while in costume. (In the US, that nearly always means Halloween.)
2) A way to avoid being identified during criminal activity, usually violent.
3) A way to keep warm during really, really cold weather, usually when skiing.
The visceral reaction that one gets to seeing someone whose face is covered up outside of a masquerade party generally is one of alertness and danger. Seeing someone do this on a normal city street during summer automatically sets off alarm bells. Some non Muslims have taken advantage of the burqa to commit robberies in Europe, which speaks volumes on how the Western mind interprets the covered face. This follows in the more common practice of criminals using ski masks when they rob.
The problem isn't limited to this sense of alarms. We communicate very heavily using facial expressions. That is a big part of how we establish trust. Until confronted with such a cultural practice, we don't even think about how much face to face communication means to us.
Westerners have often been criticized with good reason for being culturally insensitive when they travel to other countries and even when they move there (e.g., "ugly Americans"). We aren't used to having people from other countries coming to us and setting off our cultural sensitivities.
Obviously, this isn't the only reason why the facial covering by some Muslim women bothers Westerners. But, it is an important part that seldom even gets discussed.
There is very little that makes sense in the corporate media's discussion of the rape of children by Roman Catholic clergy. That's why it is so important for people outside that corporate bubble to be the media.
FFRF did just that when they discussed the idea by Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens to have Ratzinger arrested if he shows up for his dog and pony show in the UK.
In other news of the week, atheism's eminent spokespersons, Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins, gave the freethought world a chuckle with their eminently sensible suggestion that Pope Benedict XVI be arrested by authorities when he visits the United Kingdom next September. British attorneys have suggested several scenarios. My favorite involves several wealthy Catholic donors who sue the pope for misusing their contributions to defend priests and hush victims.
Dawkins wrote in The Guardian: "Why is anyone surprised, much less shocked, when Christopher Hitchens and I call for the prosecution of the pope, if he goes ahead with his proposed visit to Britain? The only strange thing about our proposal is that it had to come from us: where have the world's governments been all this time?"
Where indeed? As FFRF keeps asking and has asked since 1988: When will a U.S. prosecutor or district attorney finally charge a bishop for coverup and collusion?
The lack of action by our government, like the inaction of so many governments, should be shocking, but it isn't. The Roman Catholic Church is so powerful it gets away with all sorts of terrible things.
Though it's less horrible than the RCC clergy's rampant rape of children, their constant violation of their tax exempt status results in absolutely no action whatsoever by the IRS. A typical middle class American has plenty to fear from the IRS, but a church riddled with child rapists can flaunt tax laws all it wants.
Administrations starting decades ago all the way up to the Obama administration should have demanded Joseph Ratzinger's extradition. Yet, nothing has happened. Nothing.
Religion is one of the most corrupting forces in society.
From the perspective of liberals, the Obama administration has been downright awful. Obama set the tone for his presidency by involving a misogynistic, heterosexist, and anti American religious extremist, Rick Warren, in the inauguration. From continuing torture in Gitmo, Bagrham, and the rape rooms of Abu Ghraib to pushing financial reforms that are far too heavily weighted in favor of the banksters, Obama has pursued Republican policies that vast majority of the time. We are still in Iraq. Obama's Sec. of State, Hillary Clinton, is doing everything in her power to start a war with Iran and to spark and Arab-Israeli war. This administration may let the Bush tax cuts for the rich expire in the face of a huge deficit, but they are doing nothing to repeal Reagan's tax cuts for the rich. Our bloated military budget keeps growing astronomically. Illegal spying on Americans continues just as it did under Bush, and the Obama administration has continued to follow the previous regime's policy of obstruction of justice for criminals like Bush and Cheney.
Whether this administration is called the third Bush term or the eighth Reagan term, things have been dreadful. And, the string of betrayals found its epitome in the reverse Robin Hood wealthcare bill. Liberals have every reason to be really, really pissed off at President Obama.
Perhaps that's why Obama has been throwing some bones at us lately.
Recess Appointments to the NLRB
Desperate to prove that they are more bought than the Democrats, Republicans have been blocking nomination votes on two appointees to the National Labor Relations Board. Once wealthcare had passed, Obama used his constitutional powers to appoint Craig Becker and Mark Pearce. Having an NLRB with a voting majority and one that isn't biased against workers is important for union organizing. Unions need all the help they can get, especially since the excise taxes on mediocre health plans (as opposed to the rest of the plans which are just plain awful) will weaken their bargaining positions considerably if they go into effect as scheduled by the wealthcare bill in 2018.
Nuclear Arms Agreement with Russia
Many on the left and the right are exaggerating the significance of this arms agreement. Even after it goes into effect, Russia and the USA will both be able to kill everyone on the planet many times over. The main significance of the bill, and it is important, is that reducing the number of nuclear weapons reduces that odds of an accidental nuclear strike or nuclear war.
Visitation Rights Expanded
Obama's record so far on queer issues has been all over the map so far, but this is one case of Obama doing something that is even better than most people have realized so far. From the Gay City News 4/16/10:
In a Memorandum to the federal Health and Human Services (HHS) secretary, President Barack Obama requested that the agency develop federal regulations to ensure that hospitals participating in the Medicare and Medicaid programs — which make up virtually all the nation’s hospitals — allow visitation and medical decision-making by the individuals designated by the patient.
In the opening paragraphs of the two-page memo, released on the evening of April 15, the president said, “Uniquely affected are gay and lesbian Americans who are often barred from the bedsides of the partners with whom they may have spent decades of their lives — unable to be there for the person they love, and unable to act as a legal surrogate if their partner is incapacitated.”
The interesting, and seldom discussed, aspect of this is that the visitation rights and designations for medical decision makers are not limited to lovers, same sex or opposite sex. This directive will get rid of the most heinous examples of discrimination against single people of all sexual orientations and gender identities while dealing with cruel heterosexist discrimination.
Some Regulation of Mountaintop Removal Mining
The Environmental Protection Agency has finally put some regulations on the unethical and environmentally disastrous practice of mountaintop removal mining. The destruction of mountains and the poisoning of drinking water resulting from this demonstrates what a disgusting lie "Clean Coal" is. Regulation of Big Coal on this issue is a positive first step towards what needs to happen in the future: banning this mining practice and phasing out coal entirely.
The hopeful side of me would like to think that maybe Obama realizes that he needs to give Democrats and liberal independents positive reasons to show up to the polls and vote for Democratic politicians. The awfulness of the GOP just isn't enough. I am a bit hopeful, but I'm clear eyed enough to realize that Obama's record in the White House gives us all an overwhelming numbers of reasons for skepticism.
I got this email yesterday:
Hate Crime Against the LGBT Community Center
Hello Center Supporters,
I am writing to tell you about a disturbing incident that happened at the Center. This morning our building staff arrived and discovered a burned rainbow flag hanging on one of the poster display cases outside our building. We called the NYPD, and they immediately dispatched detectives from the hate crimes unit and our local precinct. We also contacted the Anti-Violence Project, and the crime is currently under investigation.
We at the Center strive everyday to be a safe space for our community and a beacon of inclusion and hope for the entire city. It is sad that these incidents still happen in this day and age, but rest assured we will do everything in our power to make sure our community is safe. We have contacted our elected officials and are working closely with them to raise awareness in our community and to unite together against this hate-fueled action.
Most importantly, we will not stand for anyone who thinks they can come to the Center and try to intimidate us. Hate and intolerance against LGBT New Yorkers will not be accepted, and we as a community must stand strong and together in the face of these hateful incidents. We are asking anyone who has additional information about this crime to contact the police directly at 1-800-577-TIPS.
Thank you all for your continued support.
For more information and photos please visit our website.
Ms. Testone is the Executive Director of the New York LGBT Center.
This is a hostile environment for queers. The so called "Catholic League" and the Vatican are trying to scapegoat gays for the rampant child molestation in that church's clergy. Never mind the fact that the rape of girls also is rampant among RCC priests.
The economy sucks, and bad economies result in all sorts of scapegoating of minority groups. The Obama administration isn't helping on this area by bailing out the rich while doing very little to help the middle class and the poor.
Our execrable Mayor Bloomberg isn't helping either. Under his "leadership," the NYPD has had a two faced approach to heterosexist hate crimes. If the victim is famous or killed, the NYPD will do something about it. Otherwise, the policy is to ignore it. Bloomberg also has used the NYPD in part of his drip by drop approach to closing gay bars and bathhouses.
Bloomberg also has used the NYPD to engage in a jihad of entrapment against gay and bisexual men.
Queer City Council Speaker Christine Quinn makes impassioned speeches against hate crimes, but she refuses to confront and condemn ultra homophobic Mayor Bloomberg for his roll in causing them.
This is unacceptable.
She did this commercial during her 2008 Green Party presidential campaign. Sadly, she was correct.
House majority leader Steny Hoyer said Tuesday that the body will likely take up the Employment Non-Discrimination Act this year. According to Congressional Quarterly, Hoyer said the legislation, which would institute a federal ban on job discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, is less controversial now than it has been in the past. The bill, H.R. 3017, currently has 198 cosponsors.
From CQ: “Hoyer said most lawmakers already are on the record on the issue because the House passed similar legislation in 2007 to bar employment discrimination based on sexual preference. ‘So it’s not like this is a new issue for the members,’ said Hoyer, D-Md."
The comments are significant as Congress returns to work this week and political observers look for signals from Democratic leadership regarding what type of legislation the Democratic caucus is willing to engage.
I'm a bit concerned that he didn't also mention gender identity. We need to remind our representatives that including trans people and closing this legal loophole is rather important.
In any case, this isn't a call for relaxation. It's a call to action. There isn't going to be a House vote unless we push for it.
Contact Your Representative!
This is a small step forward. Roman Catholics need to do a lot more to stop the rape of their children by their priests, but this is a small step forward. (WHDH-TV 4/13/10)
Reverend James Scahill of St. Michael's Parish in East Longmeadow has been outspoken on the need for accountability among church leaders for a long time.
Now, however, his tough criticism is going straight to the top of the Catholic Church.
Rev. Scahill is demanding greater protection for child sex abuse victims and greater accountability from the Catholic Church Hierarchy.
He says Pope Benedict should step down.
“Anyone that would cover up the abuse of a child or a minor, to me, is guilty of a felony...If it can be established that there was a cover up, then I think they should have the integrity to resign,” Scahill said.
The undemocratic nature of Roman Catholicism created an environment where all sorts of evil have flourished. Obviously, rampant child molestation is the highest profile evil for now, but massive greed, racism, sexism, warmongering, and heterosexism also are consequences of a church whose members have yet to take ownership of it.
The rape of boys by Roman Catholic priests is getting plenty of attention. However, the rape of girls by RCC clerics is not getting the news coverage it should. The accusations against Rev. Joseph Palanivel Jeyapaul have been an exception to this pattern. (New York Times 4/5/10)
A Catholic priest who has been criminally charged with sexually assaulting a 14-year-old girl in Minnesota six years ago is still working in his home diocese in India despite warnings to the Vatican from an American bishop that the priest continued to pose a risk to children, according to church documents made public on Monday.
The documents show that the American bishop warned the Vatican that the priest was accused of molesting two teenage girls whose trust he gained by promising to discuss their interest in becoming nuns.
The Associated Press has reported that two girls in Spain, 10 and 11, were raped. However, this was buried in a story about the rape of boys, and hasn't gotten picked up much, at least in the US media.
SNAP, Survivor Network of those Abused by Priests, does take the sexual abuse of girls by priests seriously. Here are some examples from their website.
Philadelphia: Priest removed after fondling teenage girl
California: Priest molested 12 year old girl
Ohio: Vatican elevated priest after he abused girl
Chicago: 14 year old girl raped by priest
Although the rape of girls by Roman Catholic priests is quite common, coverage of it is less common and less prominent than the rape of boys in our country. The reflects heterosexism and misogyny. Rapes that are viewed as heterosexual just aren't taken as seriously in our society. A culture that values girls less than boys predictably takes sexual abuse against girls less seriously.
We need to put the spotlight on all rape by priests. By not focusing enough on the rape of girls by the Roman Catholic clergy, we are unintentionally aiding Ratzi and his Vatican toadies in their efforts to cover up these crimes against people with two X chromosomes.
Ms. Maddow found a creative way to ridicule Sen. Coburn's rather childish attack against her. I think she could have an acting career if she wanted it. (Hat Tip for both videos: Genocide for Jesus)
Ms. Maddow later took apart Coburn on a more substantive basis.
Rachel Maddow is so fabulous. She's almost worth getting cable back.
The American public's position on the RCC's child rape scandal is evolving as more information becomes available to them. The Pew Center for the People and the Press have released some data from early April polling confirming this.
Amid new revelations of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church, Pope Benedict XVI’s job ratings for handling the scandal have plummeted. Only about one-in-ten (12%) say the pope has done an excellent (3%) or good job (9%) in addressing the sex abuse scandal; 71% say he has done a poor (44%) or only fair (27%) job.
The pope’s ratings for addressing the continuing scandal have declined sharply since April 2008, shortly after his visit to the United States. At that time, 39% said he had done an excellent or good job in dealing with the abuse scandal, while 48% said he had done only fair or poor.
This certainly represents progress, but it also is a bit disturbing too. If you have followed the story of the Vatican protecting child raping priests, you may be surprised that only 44% if those polled rated Ratzinger's behavior as poor. It's important to understand the factors involved in this.
1) Media Bias:
The wealthy owners of corporate media know that religion keeps people docile and pliable in the overwhelming majority of cases. So, they will slant their coverage to protect and promote religion at almost any opportunity. Also, Ratzi is extremely rightist, even for a RCC pontiff. The corporate media try hard to protect their far right political allies.
2) Demonization of Critics of the Church:
Roman Catholic extremists like the "Catholic League" have tried to demonize people who criticize or even report on the rape of Roman Catholic children as "anti Catholic bigots." They even attack victim groups. This gives some everyday Roman Catholics a rationalization for denial on just how bad things are.
3) The Vatican's Sophisticated Public Relations Campaign:
Ratzi's minions have been effective in reducing criticism by treating this as a series of incidents, ignoring the obvious pattern of behavior within their church. Ratzi has yet to issue a general, global apology because that would contradict the Vatican's carefully constructed narrative. The Vatican also has been aggressive about issuing denials about what they have done, and they have consistently tried to portray themselves as fighting the abuse, rather than covering it up.
4) Naive Views About Clergy Being Especially Moral:
Despite all evidence to the contrary, there is this huge sense in our society that members of the clergy, almost regardless of faith (excepting Islam at the moment), are morally superior to the rest of us. No amount of sex scandals among televangelists, shocking greed and power mongering at megachurches, and child molestation among the RCC clergy seem to change that among so many in our country. Even blatant heterosexism and misogyny by most clergy haven't convinced most queers and women to chuck the silly notion that preachers are more moral.
This false association between religion and perceived morality that causes so much bigotry and discrimination against atheists. It also leaves victims of clerical criminals more vulnerable.
Everybody's playing this game. So, I thought I would join in. The numbers are meant to be a general, relative weighing of how much the major variables will play in the outcome.
They will help GOP voter turnout, but they also will mobilize Democratic voters who find them frightening and reprehensible. Their behavior is excellent fodder for campaign ads that will legitimately frighten independent voters. In the primaries, the teabaggers are also pushing for even more extreme GOP candidates than usual, who will be less electable in the November.
The wealthcare legislation will hurt the Democrats in a variety of ways. The secretive way such an important piece of legislation was passed was one of many reasons why the legislation was unpopular. Most Democratic voters wanted single payer, yet the Democratic politicians were too corrupt to even include a public option. Even worse, the more you know about what's actually in the legislation, the more clear it is that it is a rightist, de facto Republican piece of legislation whose overall effect is to take care and money away from the middle class, the poor, and the elderly and give money to the HMOs, the health insurers, and the rich speculators who own stock in them. This will be a bigger problem for the Democrats in 2014 and 2016 when some of the more draconian aspects of the legislation take effect, but it will be a major problem for the Democrats this year. Many Democratic voters will stay home, and some will vote Green. Democrats who are partisan enough to rationalize the wealthcare bill show a lack of enthusiasm for it. Independent voters got the same old shit from the Democrats in terms of process and outcome instead of some actual change. The Goppers get to see legislation they love passed and get to blame the Democrats for it.
Both parties will try to blame the other. Both parties deserve to be blamed, but the Democrats deserve to be blamed for different reasons than the ones commonly cited by the corporate media. Obama, Reid, and Pelosi did a long, dragged out push for the wealthcare bill to wear down liberal insistence on the public option. They were so obsessed with giving out a huge financial payoff to their contributors in Big Pharma, the HMOs, and the health insurers that they held legislative action on other issues hostage to a pathetically bad piece of GOP style legislation. A lot of otherwise liberal groups in DC went along with this because the Democrats made it clear that they would get nothing on the single issues they were working on until wealthcare passed. Gopper obstructionism was loud, boisterous, and showed a lack of subtlety. Their inability to quietly obstruct while publicly looking like they were trying to work with the Democrats will reduce the mileage they will get out of this issue. The GOP has really squandered much of its advantage here by behaving in such a childish manner. However, when things go wrong in Washington, voters blame incumbents.
This is the big question mark for 2012. The economy is rotten now. If the election were held today, this would put the Democrats in serious trouble. Many voters would still blame Bush for causing the problem, but they would still be dissatisfied with Democratic efforts to fix the problem. However, the overall trends in job losses vs. job growth are very positive. If employment trends continue (admittedly a big if), the voters will see an economy that is getting better with Democrats in charge while it was in a downward spiral under the GOP. The only question then will be how much a positive direction in a still weak economy will be enough to sway voters.
Midterm elections generally are bad for the party in power. Aside from the economy, things look really, really bad for the Democrats. However, the economy probably will change in the next seven months. It looks like the GOP will pick up quite a few seats, but they will have squandered an opportunity to get a 1994 style win by their own obnoxiousness and extremism. To gauge the outcome, look at the unemployment numbers. That's the only major variable in play.
Whitman, the front-runner for the Republican nomination for governor, will announce today that she contributed $20 million more to her war chest late Monday, the Mercury News has learned.
That means the former eBay chief executive has donated $59 million to her campaign so far, with two months to go before the primary and seven months left before the general election.
The $39 million Whitman donated previously had already set a California political record for self-funding. But her ubiquitous radio and TV ad campaign led to her spending $27.2 million in the first 11 weeks of the year — an average of $358,439 a day. So her campaign kitty had been running on empty.
Whitman has vowed to shell out as much as $150 million in her quest to become California's next governor. The current record for political self-funding is held by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who ponied up $108 million of his own money for his 2009 re-election bid.
When Whitman was CEO of the infamous EBay, the corporation allowed scam artists to keep doing auctions because sellers were the one who paid the fees. Now, she is trying to turn the California governor's race into a sleazy EBay deal.
I'm surprised that she isn't paying for the governorship on the EBay subsidiary, PayPal.
Here in NYC, we have seen what a pathetic excuse for a Mayor Michael Bloomberg is. All he does is cut services and fine the middle class and the poor so he can give city money to his rich friends. He hasn't made a significant contribution to any of the biggest problems facing the city: inadequate public transportation, poverty, AIDS, and the housing shortage. With housing, he has shifted money that was supposed to go to building affordable housing towards subsidizing luxury condos that were going to be built anyway.
Rich people who buy offices use them as their personal playthings, trying to enhance their social standing among their rich peers, screwing over the rest of us in the process.
One mistake that advocates of healthcare reform made was not to discuss the corruption of HMOs and health insurers and the deadly consequences. We need to educate people on why these corporations need to go.
Religious extremists do a lot of evil things. Here's one I didn't know about: missionary dating. Here's a description of it from ExChristian.net.
Missionary dating is a term used in evangelical Christian circles to describe a tactic certain believers use to win new converts.
It involves a believer becoming romantically involved with a nonbeliever, with conversion of the nonbeliever being a priority goal for the believer. A quick Google search of the term returns well over 100,000 hits on the subject. Peruse a sampling of them, and you'll find that the majority of sites addressing the topic are Christian sites discussing why missionary dating is a bad idea... for Christians.
Interestingly enough, I have yet to come across a page or site that has anything to say about the impact of missionary dating on its non-Christian victims. There's plenty out there about the damage missionary dating can do to Christians who do it (it can cause backsliding, violation of one's own convictions, doubts, stress, and so on), but nothing on what it's like for someone on the receiving end. No word or thought anywhere, no suggestion that any Christian has ever paused for a moment to consider how a nonbeliever might feel, or what they might think, when they discover that their loved one has been dating for Jesus.
The post goes on to say how it feels from the perspective of one of the victims of one of these scams, though any thinking person with empathy should be able to figure out how awful it is. I'm trying to figure out if this borders on or surpasses the way emotional abuse is defined in domestic violence educational materials. Either way, there just isn't any excuse for it.
As religion slowly fades out from this society, religious extremists are getting more desperate and vicious in their efforts to preserve their failed faiths. Some of them will stop at nothing, morals and ethics aren't even a consideration to them.
1. Tell Barack Bush You Don't Want Any More Offshore Drilling
Now that Barack Bush has announced that he will open up parts of America's coastline to Big Oil and big oil spills, people need to take action. Sarah Palin may like the idea of "drill, baby drill," but responsible people know that we need to end our habit of drilling for more oil instead of building more trains. A lot of the coverage of this focuses on the danger to the beaches and the tourism industry. Those problems are very real, but we also need to keep a focus on impacts on climate change.
People who care about the environment, unlike our President, are urging that he reverse this shocking and disgusting decision. If you aren't familiar with the issue, the Center for American Progress has ten reasons why the drilling shouldn't happen.
Sign 350.org's Petition!
Sign Firedog Lake's Petition!
Also, you can join the Facebook Group Against the Offshore Drilling. (not affiliated with Firedog Lake)
2. Tell the House and Senate to Pressure the World Bank not to Subsidize Global Warming
Friends of the Earth is working on the following campaign:
The World Bank is expected to vote April 8 on whether to approve a $3.75 billion loan to help South African electricity company Eskom build a massive new polluting coal plant. South African civil society groups are demanding clean energy instead and organizing to fight this loan. They've asked for our help.
Congress controls the World Bank's purse strings, which means that your members of Congress have the power to hold the World Bank accountable.
Ask your representative and senators to take a public stand against dirty coal and urge the U.S. to vote “no” on this loan.
Watch the Friends of the Earth Video
3. Tell Congress to Block Clearcutting Effort in Alaska Rainforests:
The Wilderness Society and Care2 have a petition against clearcutting in Alaska. The effected rainforests capture a lot of CO2, and the planet can't afford to lose them now.
Legislation currently working its way through Congress could give a single corporation, Sealaska, the green light to log some of the best, oldest and most biologically-rich areas left in Tongass National Forest in Alaska.
The Tongass is one of the last remaining, largely intact temperate rainforests in the world -- home to all five species of salmon, black and brown bears, wolves, whales and rare birds. With more than half of the largest trees clearcut, protecting what is left is of paramount importance.
Sealaska Corporation, which has a history of clearcutting its lands, is seeking ownership of some of the most ecologically and biologically diverse parts of the Tongass National Forest. In fact, the lands targeted by Sealaska have more than ten times the habitat value of other Tongass forest land!
A House hearing is scheduled for March 17th and a Senate Committee could soon decide the fate of the Tongass National Forest. Send a letter to Congress and urge them to protect the Tongass from expanded logging and commercial development.
Their main concern is protecting plant and animal species. My main priority is fighting global warming. Regardless of which is more important to you, the conclusion is the same.
Please Contact Congress!
There some big battles on climate change, but there are lots of small ones that need to be fought to. Trying to keep our species from thoroughly trashing this planet is a big job.
Swim - Jack's Mannequin
In case you wondered why the wealthcare bill didn't make it legal for people to buy cheaper drugs from Canada and why it didn't include medical marijuana provisions...
From National Journal 3/17/10:
Under his tenure, PhRMA has spent well over $100 million on ad drives backing health care reform legislation, a strategy that grew out of a deal Tauzin struck with the White House and key Democrats in the Senate that's provoked some criticism from parts of the drug industry. Early this year, Tauzin announced he would be departing PhRMA after five years at its helm and a search is underway for a replacement. Tauzin earned $4.5 million in 2008, according to IRS documents.
PhRMA is the trade association that lobbies for the drug companies.
If you have seen an ad promoting the wealthcare bill, chances are better than 50/50 that they paid for it. We need public financing of campaigns as much as we need single payer.
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand's opposition to my inalienable right as a crime victim to gun control is one of the most important reasons why I will never vote for her for any public office. New York deserves a Democratic Senator who supports the policies of New York's Democratic voters.
I encourage you to learn more about Jonathan Tasini's primary challenge against Ms. Gillibrand.
Last week, President Obama went to Iowa, which always has been friendly territory to him, to market his wealthcare plan. If you look at the text of the speech, it's amusing to see just how much bullshit he included with it. Let's look at some of the lies.
"If people like their plan, they will keep their plan."
The wealthcare bill will seriously damage the plans of at least two groups of people with coverage now. The plans won't be even close to the same.
1) People on "Medicare Advantage" (the HMO version of Medicare) will face dramatic reductions in services because of funding cuts. Even worse, the HMO version of Medicare is a trap. Once people are in that version, they can never go back to regular Medicare. The tradeoff of a lack of premiums and lower quality care already existing in "Medicare Advantage" mean that the population of seniors most likely to be hurt by these cuts are the elderly poor.
2) People With Mediocre Plans, which the corporate media call "Cadillac Care" (they must really, really hate Cadillacs) will face cutbacks in care, higher premiums, and higher copays when the excise taxes on those plans go into effect in 2018.
"The days of the insurance industry running roughshod over the American people are over."
1) The insurance companies and HMOs wrote this bill. They already have started discussing the loopholes they put into place which will keep them from having to cover sick children.
2) The regulations in this bill require sick people and their families to enforce them. If they are relatively lucky, they can go to court. The HMOs and insurance companies have all the best lawyers in the field. However, if the contract for the HMO or insurance company requires arbitration, then people are forced to go to an arbitration system that is completely rigged in favor of the corporations.
"And so if you already have insurance, this reform will make it more secure and more affordable."
Every time insurance companies have managed to get laws passed making any kind of coverage mandatory, they have shot premiums through the roof.
Lie: (worded differently in different parts of the speech)
"And costs will come down for families, businesses, and the federal government, reducing our deficit by more than $1 trillion over the next two decades."
"But we have built into the law all sorts of measures to assure that in years to come, health care inflation, which has been rising about three times as fast as people's wages, will start slowing."
This cynically ignores the fact that instituting heavy fines for not buying defective insurance will cause premiums to go up dramatically.
"And I want seniors to know: despite what some have said, these reforms will not cut your guaranteed benefits."
This bill will result in cutbacks for many in benefits not guaranteed by law. (This is a trick more than a direct lie, though the intent to deceive is the same.)
Two Lies in One Sentence:
"Once this reform is implemented, health insurance exchanges will be created, a competitive marketplace where uninsured people and small businesses will finally be able to purchase affordable, quality insurance."
The new lie contradicts the fact that HMOs and health insurers don't provide quality insurance. They provide something which is universally known to be a defective product. Even with the subsidies, the insurance won't be affordable for the overwhelming majority of the uninsured. Insurance will become more expensive for people who already have it.
(I should note that, in this sentence, Obama reminds me of one of the hucksters who sell crap products on cable TV as "affordable, quality" products. They leave out that the junk they are selling is "not available in stores" because the stores don't want to deal with the returns.)
I'm not going to pretend that I'm surprised by a politician lying. But, what really is surprising is that so many liberal blogs aren't calling President Obama on it. This is the same wealthcare proposal Bush and the Republicans would have pushed through if they were in power, and the sales pitches would be only modestly different.
Politics isn't team sports. Policies have very real impacts on peoples' lives, and that has to be taken a lot more seriously than many blogs on the left are doing so far. We need to stop cheering on the donkeys vs. the elephants and pay attention to what's actually going on.
This is a submission to the annual Blog Against Theocracy blogswarm.
There are a lot of things about the Vatican that don't get the attention they deserve. One of them is the fact that it is a pure theocracy. It has a dictator, the Pope, who is selected by a group of Cardinals appointed by previous Popes. That dictator has absolute power over the Vatican's foreign and domestic policy.
Because the Roman Catholic Church claims that their dictators are infallible, any Roman Catholic who questions the dictates and behavior of that pontiff is automatically suspect and sinful in the eyes of her or his church.
Under these circumstances, it isn't that difficult to see how difficult it is to root out any kind of corruption from such a structure. The area of Vatican corruption that is finally getting some of the media attention it deserves is the Vatican's coverups of the rampant child molestation in the Roman Catholic clergy.
Revelations of Vatican coverups are popping up all over the world. One of the most recent ones was the discovery that a now dead Bishop in Tuscon tried to get child raping priests fired only to have the Vatican block him. This is terrible, but it is equally commonplace.
Theocratic corruption is hardly limited to the Vatican. The Taliban sold heroin and banned all music they couldn't make money off of. We know about the litany of corruption among televangelists who would like to set up America as their own private theocracy.
People are correctly concerned about the dangers to human freedoms posed by theocracy. What gets lost is that in theocratic governments, dissent is suppressed and people are brainwashed into thinking they are evil when they question anything. This sets up a system where any kind of corruption that humans are capable of inventing can take hold. It also creates an environment where it is incredibly difficult to stop those corrupt practices, whether they be financial or physically brutal. This problem is by no means limited to the Vatican.
Terrible spin efforts have happened before, but I never thought a Vatican propagandists would sink this low. From the NY Times 4/2/10:
Father Cantalamessa quoted from what he said was a letter from an unnamed Jewish friend. “I am following the violent and concentric attacks against the church, the pope and all the faithful by the whole world,” he said the friend wrote. “The use of stereotypes, the passing from personal responsibility and guilt to a collective guilt, remind me of the more shameful aspects of anti-Semitism.”
Putting these words in a letter from a phony "Jewish friend" only makes it more heinous.
Of course, there hasn't been any violence in response to the heinous acts of violence committed by Roman Catholic priests against children of that faith. However, that lie is nowhere as unconscionable as the comparison. Even the most imaginative critics of the RCC couldn't make this shit up.
I really don't know how those fuckers sleep at night.
The more I learn about the wealthcare bill that the Obama administration pushed through Congress on behalf of the HMOs and health insurers, the worse it gets. From the Washington Post 3/27/10 (Hat Tip: No Blood for Hubris):
The bill restores $250 million over five years for states to sponsor programs aimed at preventing pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases by focusing exclusively on encouraging children and adolescents to avoid sex. The funding provides at least a partial reprieve for the approach, which faced losing all federal support under President Obama's first two budgets.
"We're very happy to see that funding will continue so the important sexual health message of risk avoidance will reach American teens," said Valerie Huber, executive director of the National Abstinence Education Association, a Washington-based lobbying group. "What better place to see such an important health issue addressed than in the health legislation?"
Now we know the other reason why Bart Stupak voted for the wealthcare bill. The better known reasons were the woman hating restrictions on abortion in the Senate version of the bill and President Obama's misogynist Executive Order on abortion.
This is disturbing for so many reasons. These "abstinence only" scams promote teen pregnancy, and the kind of unsafe sex that causes pregnancy also spreads HIV. This action by Obama is typical of an administration that treats AIDS as one of its lowest priorities.
Also, these fraudulent "sex educations" programs represent deliberate religious indoctrination in the public schools. This violates the Establishment Clause, and it discriminates against atheists. Obama and the "Democrats" in Congress have had a really lousy record on state/church separation issues thus far, and it doesn't look like it will be getting better any time soon. I wonder if the same groups that will get funding for "abstinence only" scams also will get money under Obama's expanded hate based initiatives.
Is it too much to want actual Democrats in Congress and the White House?
Sadly, it's not an April Fools Day joke. There's a lot of rightist venture capital behind Facebook too. (Hat Tip: The Peace Tree)
It's all pretty sobering.
This article from the Electronic Frontier Foundation shows how to hide your Friends list from the entire world.
I would still recommend using a pseudonym if you go on Facebook at all.