No to Steve King’s “Sixth Sense” for Immigrants

I’m such a sucker for these:

From America’s Voice. Sign a petition asking Obama to prevent the enactment of SB1070 here.


Ragheads in Government

From TPM:

On a talk show tonight in South Carolina, State Senator Jake Knotts told listeners “we already have one raghead in the White House, we don’t need a raghead in the governor’s mansion.” Obama is … well, Obama and “raghead” number two is gubernatorial candidate Nikki Haley, who is the child of Sikh immigrants from the Punjab. Knotts later released a statement saying that his comment had clearly been meant in “jest,” which I guess counts as exculpatory in those parts.

Carolina State Senator Jake Knotts

Real American.

Nikki Haley


Hurricane V. Oil Spill!

Hurricane v Oil Spill
The Atlantic hurricane season begins June 1st. You know what that means: Hurricane versus Oil Spill! The battle of the millennium! Man-made disaster versus natural disaster! Grab some cold ones and a seat in front of the couch, because the news media is going to have a ball with this one. Unless, of course, you happen to live in one of the affected areas. Then you’re screwed. You’re probably poor, and even if not you are at least a living reminder of capitalism’s screw-ups, and Big Oil and the government wish you would just go away! This is one problem they’re not going to solve by… solving it. I can’t even imagine Obama or BP planning ahead and having emergency and or (god forbid) preventative measures in place in advance of this collision of terror.

Obama and BP, et al, may get lucky though. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicts a possible outcome of Hurricane v Oil Spill to be that: “The high winds and seas will mix and disperse the oil which can help accelerate the biodegradation process,” or that “A hurricane passing to the east of the slick could drive the oil away from the coast.”

Somehow, Hurricane v. Oil Spill does not strike me as a combo deal that will make the Gulf Coast’s problems magically disappear, though I’m sure that won’t stop our administration from sitting on its hands. No sir, I find some of NOAA’s other predictions more likely:

Storms’ surges may carry oil into the coastline and inland as far as the surge reaches.

Debris resulting from the hurricane may be contaminated by oil from the Deepwater Horizon incident, but also from other oil releases that may occur during the storm.

Hey if this goes on long enough, the “Deepwater Horizon incident” might just turn into “Obama’s Katrina” after all.

I’m sure the MSM will let us know when that happens.

Secret American Preparations for MORE Wars?

Ah, state secrets. I am suspicious of them.

From the New York Times:

The top American commander in the Middle East has ordered a broad expansion of clandestine military activity in an effort to disrupt militant groups or counter threats in Iran, Saudi Arabia, Somalia and other countries in the region, according to defense officials and military documents.

The secret directive, signed in September by Gen. David H. Petraeus, authorizes the sending of American Special Operations troops to both friendly and hostile nations in the Middle East, Central Asia and the Horn of Africa to gather intelligence and build ties with local forces. Officials said the order also permits reconnaissance that could pave the way for possible military strikes in Iran if tensions over its nuclear ambitions escalate.

Apparently these measures are an expansion of Bush’s “clandestine military activities”, to make them more “long term”. Nice. Remind me what is so great about Obama?

For extra fun, the secret directive says these activities are to…

“prepare the environment” for future attacks by American or local military forces…

AWESOME! Now we can finally have that war with Iran that W all but promised us. Bring back Rummy! Why would Obama want to hide joyous tidings like this?

Targeted Killings of Americans Suspected of Terrorism

You know what awesome tots liberal Obama thinks is neat? Assassinations. All assassinations perpetrated by totally non-terrorist US operatives. Even when the assassination target may or may not be a US citizen. Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness? Innocent until proven guilty? No one shall be deprived of life, et al, without due process of law? Amendments 5-8 of the US Constitution?

Not in Obama’s America. NOT IF YOU MIGHT BE A TERRORIST!!! And by terrorist, we don’t mean just anyone who murders unlawfully to create fear in a population. Because that would, ha ha, you know, include the American government. No, Obama has Muslims in mind.

From Raw Story:

In February, Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair announced that the United States may target its own citizens abroad for death if it believes they are associated with terrorist groups.

…Earlier this month, news reports indicated that Muslim cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, an American citizen, was added to the CIA’s list of alleged terrorists the US has targeted to kill.

Al-Awlaki was born in New Mexico and served for years as an imam in the United States. He has not been charged with a crime, but was linked by US officials to Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, the psychiatrist alleged to have killed 13 at an Army base in Fort Hood, as well as Nigerian Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the so-called “Christmas day” bomber who attempted to detonate a jetliner en route to Detroit.

The instance that brings up this assassination plot is specific. However, the precedent set is general.

An American citizen, not charged with a crime, and definitely with no day in court to face his accusers and argue his case with the help of a lawyer, sentenced to death by the “higher-ups”.

If al-Awlaki had an anglicized name, white skin, and a different religion, yet was suspected of presenting equivalent danger to his own country, would the American government feel so comfortable okaying his assassination? What if Mr. al-Awlaki was replaced with Mr. Ted Jones, a white anti-government Christian fundamentalist plotting to attack US government targets because of their ungodly corruption and high taxes? Would the government feel comfortable ordering his assassination? Would the rest of Americans allow it?

How is America safe if the government can secretly authorize assassinations of its own citizens? How is it that the accusation of “terROriSt!!!!!” trumps what the UDHR and the Bill of Rights declare are fundamental rights?

This is not the first time an American has been targeted for “extrajudicial execution”. Kamal Derwish is the first(?) known American killed through an assassination plot in the “War on Terror”. He was killed while in Yemen in 2002 by a CIA missile strike.

From emptywheel at Firedoglake:

Not only was Derwish accused of being an ongoing threat—the standard purportedly used to put Americans on kill lists now. But he was accused of training Americans in al Qaeda. Which is not all that different than what the government is accusing al-Awlaki of now.

I’m not declaring these guys innocent or guilty. I am declaring assassination plots unacceptable. I actually think all assassination plots are unacceptable, however, being an American citizen myself, I am especially troubled by our elected government targeting its own citizens. I am also heavily suggesting that these assassination plots are only swallowed passively by the public because they are against brown people—Muslims with Muslim-sounding names at that. And finally, I am suggesting that Obama is not awesome. So there.

What do you say to that?

LGBT Americans Can Now Visit Dying Partners in the Hospital

For those readers who are not American I want to inform you that, yes, life partners of dying individuals were banned from hospital rooms for being gay. Whereas your homophobic birth family that you hadn’t seen in decades would be allowed to waltz right in.

Well, at some point between authorizing assassinations and distributing hand-outs to health insurance corporations, Barack Obama dimly recalled he had made certain campaign promises to the LGBT crowd. Having mostly failed on this point, at least, at very least, he has righted a despicable wrong.

LGBT Americans can now visit their dying partners in the hospital.

Wow, look at Obama taking political risks on our behalf. I should send him a card.

Mandatory Infant Circumcision is Weird, No?

The penis shown before the circumcision with the foreskin (left inset) and after the circumcision without the foreskin (right inset).Isn’t it weird to perform permanent elective surgery on the genitals of male infants? Shouldn’t that be something up to an adult to decide on, since it is his body and maybe as an adult he would want to have his genitals intact?

It’s extra weird that birthers are so concerned with whether Obama is circumcised or not. Because not being circumcised is ‘foreign’.

And it is concerning that there are advocates of mandatory circumcision for all male infants born in the US because of a misapplied study on HIV-transmission done in Kenya, South Africa and Uganda. Advocates may soon include the Center for Disease Control… which is scary.  This could actually happen.  Men, time to rise up!

Read what Smile Pretty & Watch Your Back sez.

See the New York Times article.

Why the Health Care Debate Is Also a Race Debate

This is like a Part 2 to Fear of Blacks used by Conservatives to Play Working Class Whites in Health Care Debates.

The post “Race Hostility a Factor in Health Care Debate” on this black sista’s page is right on. Go read it.

Her post enlightened me to this video of Tim Wise on CNN:

…and this brilliant post on Daily Kos also by Tim Wise:

This … writer sought to explain herself further however, just so as not to be misunderstood. When people like her claim they want to return to “what our forefathers started,” she continued, they simply mean the part about being dependent on God, rather than government.

Okay, I suppose. Of course, last time I checked God wasn’t offering to pick up the tab for chemo treatments, organ transplants, or any other medical procedure for that matter. Oh, and not to put too fine a point on it, but the founders actually did foster quite a lot of government dependence: enshrining slavery was about government protecting white people from the competition of free black labor, and white folks becoming quite dependent on that protection. Stealing native land and then redistributing it to white people was about dependence on government-imposed violence. And later, yet still in the supposedly “good old days,” government dependence was at the heart of segregation–which artificially subsidized white people in the job, school and housing markets–and was at the heart of the FHA and VA loans that white families used (and from which black families were all but completely blocked) in the 40s and 50s, which literally built the white middle class.

But I’m guessing that when she uses a phrase like “dependence on government” she isn’t thinking about the white folks who were given 270 million acres of essentially free land under the Homestead Act. Or the 15 million or so white families who got those racially preferential home loans, with government underwriting and guarantees, thanks to programs implemented by liberals and thanks to pressure from the left. I’m thinking she isn’t talking about the white soldiers (but typically not the black ones) who were able to return from World War II and make use of the GI Bill to go to college, or get job training. And the fact that she likely doesn’t think of those kinds of things and those kinds of people as being dependent on government is, of course, precisely the problem, and the point I was trying to make.

And more…. Continue reading

Do Women as a Group Suffer Systematic Abuse?

Women seeking asylum in the US due to horrible and socially condoned gender-based violence in their country of origin are usually denied. The US Homeland Security Department defines a person eligible for asylum as “a person who is unable or unwilling to return to his or her country of nationality because of persecution or a well-founded fear of persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion.”

I have always wondered why sex/gender isn’t a category here. Doesn’t gender-based violence occur around the world? Doesn’t it occur at times in certain locations, such as systematic rape in the Sudan, or systematic female genital mutilation in Guinea, or systematic kidnapping of little girls for the sex trade in northern India, or systematic selling of women as though they were possessions? Are these human rights abuses not predicated on the person’s membership to the female sex? Why is it acceptable grounds for asylum to have been enslaved because you were an ethnic minority, but not because you were female? Why is it acceptable grounds for asylum when your genitals were mutilated because you were a political dissident, but not if yours where mutilated because you were born female?

Well I’ll tell you right now, it certainly mustn’t be because American society deprioritizes and silences violence against women, and has a general history of ignoring or exacerbating women’s problems on the global stage. Definitely Not Misogyny. Oh No. The Horror.

So it must be for some legitimate reason, right? Like when the US denied asylum to Guinean women who had been genitally mutilated in their country of origin, and who had daughters whom they wished to save from that special form of gender-based torture. Those women were definitely terrorists.

Well, President Obama is slightly rethinking this approach.

The Obama administration has opened the way for foreign women who are victims of severe domestic beatings and sexual abuse to receive asylum in the United States. The action reverses a Bush administration stance in a protracted and passionate legal battle over the possibilities for battered women to become refugees.

This was sparked by the case of one Mexican woman, identified only as L.R., whose case is rather extreme: “According to court documents filed in San Francisco, the man repeatedly raped her at gunpoint, held her captive, stole from her and at one point tried to burn her alive when he learned she was pregnant.”

And the Mexican authorities demonstrated their complete lack of interest in protecting her human rights:

Local police dismissed her reports of violence as “a private matter,” the court documents said, and a judge she turned to for help tried to seduce her.

“In Mexico, men believe they have a right to abuse their women because they are like a possession,” she said. With three children born from her involuntary sex with the man, who never married her, she fled to California in 2004.

So yay, that’s good we’re reconsidering our harsh stance right? But women who suffer for their gender outside of domestic relationships, or who have or are threatened with FGM are still not protected. If I understand all this correctly. And I may not, what with me doing my thinking with my irrational Woman-Brain ™. And besides, it’s not even certain that we will accept L.R.’s petition.

I still can’t figure out why admitting that women suffer persecution based on their identity as women (a suspect gender), just as Bantu in Somalia suffer for their identity as Bantu (a suspect ethnic minority) – to name a random example among thousands – is so hard for the US government. What’s the controversy here? Is it because they are afraid of a deluge of abused women applying for asylum? Is it because our government is somehow dimly aware we haven’t cleaned our own house yet?

I’m glad the Obama Admin is opening the door a crack. But I could use some more time ruminating on the deeper implications of American refusal to acknowledge gender as a suspect class, i.e. “any classification of groups meeting a series of criteria suggesting they are likely the subject of discrimination.” More on that here.

Your thoughts?

The GAYTM Is Out of Order.

Please follow Pam’s coverage of the boycott of the upcoming LGBT Leadership Council DNC Dinner. And check out Andrew Sullivan’s piece.

To catch you up: The DNC is holding a big fundraiser and all the rich gays are invited. This is following Mr. “Fierce Advocate” Obama’s series of smackdowns towards the gay community, culminating in a DOJ memo supporting DOMA and comparing same-sex relationships to incest. He, of course, claimed to oppose DOMA when he needed our help on the campaign.

Now the Dems want gay dollars again. Well, as Pam says, the gAyTM is out of order!

What Happens When We Stand Up For Ourselves

Henrietta HughesWhat happens when we stand up for our own human rights to the government? Lately we’ve had some interesting examples of how powerful people respond to we commoners when we stand up to advocate for ourselves.

Case study 1: Henrietta Hughes, an elderly black woman living out of her car, spoke up at an Obama rally in Florida about her unmet housing needs. Donors and government officials, including the wife of Republican State Rep Nick Thompson, stepped in and she now has a roof over her head.

Ty'sheoma BetheaCase study 2: Ty’Sheoma Bethea wrote a letter to lawmakers about the wretched and shameful condition of her school. It eventually made it to the Oval Office, and Obama invited Ty-Sheoma to his “state of the nation” address to Congress in February.

More details from CNN:

…Mark Sanford, announced he wouldn’t use his share of the stimulus money on projects like rebuilding her school. “It’s easy to fall into the trap of we need to fix this one school,” said Sanford, a Republican.

…Taking a stand against government spending, Sanford said he would be willing to use the $700 million in the stimulus bill only if he believes he has discretion to control paying down the state’s debt.

That means Ty’Sheoma’s community is left with its school, whose condition is astonishing.

“The auditorium is condemned,” she said on the tour through the crumbling structure. “They use the stage for storage.”

She looked around and said the walls are peeling off and debris has fallen from the ceiling. The gymnasium is in such bad shape, the basketball coach has to cancel games when it rains.

…Many classes are taught in trailers on the school grounds. But the walls are so thin, teachers have to pause when trains roll by, which happens about five times a day.

The school lies in what’s been called the Corridor of Shame, a stretch of highway with enormously poor neighborhoods that are mostly African-American. Some critics say the state doesn’t want to spend money on black kids.

Ty’sheoma’s got something important to advocate for here. Her basic right to quality education is clearly going unmet. Yet Sanford doesn’t care, because he finds it more politically expedient to stick to his amoral conservative ideology. What does government exist for if not to guarantee the rights of the public? For people like Sanford to get and keep power?

What do you notice about these photos? These two individuals advocating for themselves and others like them, Americans who lack access to reasonable housing and education, are both black women. They are ridiculed and rebuffed by plenty on the right, but yet they risk that to raise their voices against injustice. It isn’t surprising that black women would be the ones to step out and take the lead here. Black women have a long history of advocating for human rights, and feel very acutely the lack thereof. Here are two more such women coming forward and speaking out to power.

I’m glad Obama is listening.

No One Can Live on Only $500K a Year!

On February 4th, Obama imposed a $500,000 a year salary cap on executive pay at financial institutions that are receiving government funding (i.e. taxpayer’s money) to stay afloat.

Bankers and the like have been quite cavalier about receiving bailout funds that are coming from the pockets of ordinary Americans. Bank of America received $45 million in bailout funds, and then held a $10 million Superbowl party. After taking $10 billion in taxpayers’ money and laying of 5,000 workers, Morgan Stanley held a conference in a 5-star hotel in Palm Springs. And etc.

It is clear these people have no clue as to how 90% of Americans live their lives. They are demonstrating that they lack any ability to reflect upon how actions like those above will appear to regular Americans who haven’t seen a real wage increase in decades and who are experiencing rapidly-growing unemployment.

Today, Allan Alkin wrote an amusing piece in the NYT about how hard life will be for executives who *only* earn $500,00 a year: Trying to Live on 500K in New York City. (I am currently living on less than 1/20th of that amount, BTW. How do I do it??)

Does [$500K] buy a chief executive stockholders might prize, a well-to-do man with a certain sureness of stride, something that might be lost if the executive were crowding onto the PATH train every morning at Journal Square, his newspaper splayed against the back of a stranger’s head?

The man would certainly not feel like himself on that train, said Candace Bushnell, the author of “Sex and the City” and other books chronicling New York social mores.

“People inherently understand that if they are going to get ahead in whatever corporate culture they are involved in, they need to take on the appurtenances of what defines that culture,” she said. “So if you are in a culture where spending a lot of money is a sign of success, it’s like the same thing that goes back to high school peer pressure. It’s about fitting in.”

Uh oh, somebody call the WAAAAAAAaaaambulance! Read the full article to learn about the full extent of the hardships that will befall [apparently male] executives who may be forced to live on the paltry sum of half a mil a year.

I wish someone would force me to live on $500K a year, come to think of it. Obama? Get on that!

The Republican Party & Race

Michael Steele’s election to be chairman of the Republican National Committee is an amazing step in the right direction for the GOP. The man speaks publicly about race, for christssake! But, just as electing Obama president does not mean we live in Postracial Wonderland, Steele’s election does not mean the GOP has solved its racial problems.

Not like you’d get that impression from reading Republican/conservative blogs. Not only are *some* repubs patting themselves on the back and declaring (again) the end of racism, many are crowing about how eager they are for liberals to lob racial attacks at Steele, and, I guess, thereby making all liberals hypocrites, and making the Democratic Party the true bastion of racism.

I suppose that the GOP has spent less time on racial considerations than the Dems. (NOT as though liberals and Dems don’t have plenty of racial problems as well.) Perhaps they are still getting their sea legs on this matter… perhaps nuance will soon enter their discussions on race.

Or perhaps they just think that with Steele and Obama, discussions of race are moot, unnecessary, so over. Like matter and anti-matter colliding. Which is convenient, since the “race issue” seemed to hurt the GOP at the polls moreso than Dems. Of course they want it to be over.

Conservative pundits don’t want anyone to speculate that their sudden willingness to see more blacks in power may have been influenced by Obama’s amazing campaign and decisive victory, and with the changing demographics of America that indicate old-school bigotry is losing ground. Well, those pundits do want liberal pundits to say those things, so that they can turn around and accuse them of racism.

If Obama was an abysmal failure, if Obama lost to McCain, who would have been elected as Chairman of the RNC? We’ll never know. But I still wonder… are Palin and Steele reactions to HRC and BHO, or would Palin and Steele have appeared so prominently on the political landscape without them? Did Clinton and Obama’s popularity and viability shock them awake to a new reality, or were they already grasping that reality, already looking to support more women and POC in their ambitions to advance through the GOP ranks?

I feel like Steele’s leadership is already causing Republicans to address race through their dialogues with one another and personal reflection. If they no longer need a “Southern Strategy” of dog whistles and coded language to pull in votes, if racist whites are a diminishing bloc of little future import, will it be revealed that the racist white bloc was an excuse for subtler racism up top, or an obstacle to anti-racist GOP leaders who simply had to do what was necessary to win?

Here’s some Republican/conservative chatter regarding race:

Continue reading

Media Coverage of Repeal of Global Gag Rule Is Messed Up

Some major media sources pretty much either 1) flubbed their coverage of Obama’s repeal of the Global Gag Rule or 2) buy conservative misrepresentations of what the Global Gag Rule even is.

Check it out:

BBC: Obama Lifts Ban on Abortion Funds
Fox: Obama Lifts Ban on Overseas Abortion Funding
MSNBC: Obama Reverses Abortion-Funds Policy
Yahoo News: Obama Reverses Bush Abortion-Funds Policy
CNN: Obama Reverses Abortion-Funds Policy
ABC: Obama Reverses Bush Abortion-Funds Policy
New York Times: Obama Reverses Rules on US Abortion Aid

You think that’s bad? Check out the religious right news headlines:

Life News: Obama Officials Confirm He Will Fund Foreign Abortions
Right Side News: Taxpayer Funds for International Abortion, Obama Priority One?
WorldNetDaily: Fed Coffers to Be Opened for Worldwide Abortions
Black-Listed News: Obama to Fund Forced Abortions

What’s wrong here? US FUNDING FOR OVERSEAS ABORTION IS STILL PROHIBITED. The Mexico City Policy, a.k.a. Global Gag Rule, just extended funding prohibitions to all agencies and health clinics that performed, made referrals, or even talked about abortion in any context, even when that work was funded by their own money. Strange how so many prominent news sources got this wrong and wrote headlines that strongly implied or outright stated that America will now fund abortions overseas.

Because that is false. But deliberately so, or mistakenly, I’m not sure.

Women in Developing Countries Get Reprieve from Reagan’s Mexico City Policy

That’s how I feel right now!

The Global Gag Rule, a.k.a. the Mexico City Policy, has been repealed (again). Thanks President Obama!

Reagan first instituted this rule at a conference in Mexico City in 1984. Clinton repealed it in 1993. G.W. Bush reinstated it in 2001. And now, in 2009, it has been re-repealed.

Why so much political monkeying? That’s not hard to guess: it has to do with women. Women of color. Poor women of color. You can see there’s trouble brewing…

Here’s what this rule did: “In order to be eligible for family planning funding from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), NGOs may not use their own funds to provide any services related to abortion, including counseling or referrals, even if abortion is legal in their country. They also may not lobby to make or keep abortion legal in their own country.”

To let you know how much money is at stake, USAID’s 2009 budget allocates almost $7 billion to health and AIDS initiatives.

And, Did You Know, there’s already an earlier law (1973) called the Helms Amendment in place forbidding the use of US funds to pay for abortion in other countries.

So what the Mexico City Policy means is…

1. Even if a clinic or agency uses its own funds (i.e. from other sources) for counseling, referrals, or performing abortion or providing post-abortion care, they will get all their USAID funding cut.

2. Since the USAID funding already wasn’t going to abortion, when USAID funding gets cut, all the health programs at the affected clinics are hurt: pre- & post-natal care, birth control availability, HIV/AIDS work, etc.

3. If a clinic accepts USAID funds under the Mexico City Policy, they cannot be honest with their patients about all the reproductive options available to them. They can’t even refer their patients to another clinic that does, because that would be an abortion referral. Their patients no longer have a choice.

4. Staff at clinics and agencies who accept USAID funds under the MCP cannot speak publicly about the need for legal and safe abortion. They cannot lobby against laws that criminalize all abortion or imprison women who have abortions. This is why women’s advocates call it the Global Gag Rule.

Of course, all of this was taking place in developing countries until today, when Obama repealed this nonsense. What a bunch of political hooey- a crappy policy that doesn’t actually lower the rate of abortion, but does harm reproductive-age women, their children, HIV/AIDS sufferers, and their communities, all for the sake of self-righteous political posturing.

Here’s what women in developing countries have said about the effects of the MCP:

“I think they are killing these women, just as if they are pointing a gun and shooting. There is no difference,” said Hilary Fyfe, chair of the Family Life Movement of Zambia. Her organization opposes abortion, but still lost approximately $30,000 in U.S. funds for telling adolescents and young adults that unsafe and potentially fatal abortions are one possible consequence of unprotected sex and unwanted pregnancies.

“In one breath the U.S. is telling my government to promote human rights, good governance. In the other breath it says take away the rights of women to know about all the issues that surround their reproductive health and one of [these issues] will be abortion.”
— Nkandu Luo, Former Minister of Health of Zambia, Society for Women and AIDS in Zambia

“My country has the third highest maternal mortality rate in the region. I cannot even discuss this with legislators in my country due to the global gag rule. And of course I am unable even to stand here in your country — where you so value free speech — and discuss openly the reasons that high maternal mortality and unsafe abortion rates continue to impact so many Peruvian women. I do not want to endanger funding for the thousands of women our project is serving”
— Susana Galdos Silva, co-founder of Movimiento Manuela Ramos and executive director of ReproSalud

“In the case of family planning services, prenatal and postnatal care, these services used to be available for a low cost. After the gag rule, people paid more. It is definitely some of the very poor and economically weak who are affected.”
— Staff, Nepalese NGO

“It is one thing what the law says—it is another thing altogether how it is interpreted and applied…I’m afraid to even mention the term ‘sexual health,’ forget even ‘sexual rights,’ because no one knows how this will be interpreted.”
— Asociación Dominicana Pro-Bienestar de la Familia spokeswoman, Dominican Republic

“The Global Gag Rule does not make sense. It is not applied to the United States. Instead, it is applied to countries that are the poorest … that have the highest rates of maternal mortality.”
— Staff, Kenyan government agency

Health and family planning clinics have shut down or reduced services in Latin America, Asia and Africa because of this rule. It might seem neat to pander to a certain set of single-issue voters by misrepresenting this issue (since 1973 US law has forbade US funds being used for abortion overseas). However, those who feel the effects are the poorest of the world’s poor who desperately need the services available at these clinics, including children. Would supporters of the MCP still support it if they truly understood its real-world effects?

Obama has done the right thing. But will it only stand until the next Republican president has a “base” to pander to?

Information and quotes obtained at:
Population Action International

Women’s Enews

Planned Parenthood

It’s Roe Day!

Today is the 36th anniversary of Roe v. Wade.

We all have our own ways of celebrating. For example, one man in Minnesota celebrated by smashing his SUV into a Planned Parenthood this morning.

h/t Alas.

The 32-year-old man was arrested and is expected to be charged Friday on suspicion of aggravated assault, said police spokesman Peter Panos.

“We think it’s intentional because of Roe vs. Wade,” Panos said. “He’s not saying much. He was praying or chanting when the officers arrived.”

…[T]he SUV hit the front door of the clinic two or three times, damaging the clinic’s front door and surrounding stonework.

When Di Nicola arrived at the clinic, she said the man had gotten out of the SUV and was pacing around it, holding a crucifix and chanting. “He was agitated and he was saying, ‘shut down this Auschwitz,’ ” she said.

I appreciate this man’s sincere concern for the preservation and sanctity of life, as evidenced by his actions.

Other people celebrate differently. For example, our President wrote a statement:

On the 36th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, we are reminded that this decision not only protects women’s health and reproductive freedom, but stands for a broader principle: that government should not intrude on our most private family matters.

I remain committed to protecting a woman’s right to choose.

Why thank you President Obama! I appreciate your respect for my rights.

Wow, is this how America’s going to be now? Incredible.

Can Fairness Be Forced?

Television coverage of the inauguration gave me some food for thought. I was on CNN and MSNBC, and I noticed that during the inauguration coverage, both stations chose to display many images of specifically black faces when they showed individuals from the audience listening to the proceedings- something they haven’t done so prominently before.

Obama himself chose a diverse cast of characters to surround the proceedings. Straight white anti-gay mega-church pastor Rick Warren, openly gay white bishop Gene Robinson, black civil rights leader Rev. Joseph Lowery, black poet Elizabeth Alexander, Aretha Franklin, and others.

Apparently, Obama’s identity as an African-American is having major ripple effects in the status of blacks on the national political stage and in less public circles of influence. The Washington Post reported that suddenly, the DC elite are trying to prove their inclusiveness by adding blacks to their party invite lists.

With a black first family in the White House and a diverse group of appointees and Cabinet nominees, the all-white dinner party feels all wrong. Certain hosts are suddenly grappling with a new reality: They need some black friends. Overnight, black politicians, lawyers and journalists are hot properties, receiving engraved invitations from people they never got invitations from before.

It took an extraordinary black man to set in motion this turn of events.

Though she didn’t make the cut, a similar effect can be seen from Hillary Clinton’s run for the presidency. She was the only primary candidate party of either party to actually have (slightly) more female campaign staffers than male- the first time this has ever happened, I believe. Several candidates who ran in the primaries had very few women involved in their campaigns at all (Giuliani, Thompson), which has been the norm, historically speaking. It took an extraordinary woman to overcome this imbalance.

I also believe that Obama’s and Clinton’s prominent candidacies in the Democratic primaries had a lot to do with McCain’s choice of a woman for his running mate. He must have been well aware of the nature of criticisms he would receive if he picked yet another elderly white man after the Democrats managed to produce an unusually diverse pool of candidates. I do not believe Palin was picked *only* because she was a woman- she clearly appeals to part of Bush’s “base” that McCain didn’t appeal to. However, I think he and his advisers knew that they had little chance if they couldn’t show the tiniest bit of diversity on their ticket.

From the above, we can see that prominent, powerful, and visible members of traditionally-oppressed groups in society have an enormous ripple effect upon American society. It makes me wonder if an extraordinary individual from a traditionally-oppressed group who manages to achieve prominence against all odds doesn’t have a greater effect on societal inequality from above than careful work at the grass roots level to slowly build equality (gender, racial or otherwise) and to slowly encourage candidates to run at local, then state, then federal level. It seems like a lot of problems that “bottom-up” organizations face are instantly improved, if not ameliorated, when an extraordinary individual reaches prominence.

But is it fair or strategic to wait for an extraordinary individual, someone who is not only intelligent, charming, and ambitious, but who can overcome the extra disadvantages of membership in an oppressed group and who is ready to bear the burden of equality not just for hirself, but for hir entire demographic? Even if the ‘extraordinary individual’ scenario moves the fight for equality along faster than the bottom-up approach, it requires submitting ourselves to pure chance.

You know what this makes me consider? Quotas. 99 countries already have quota systems in place for positions of political power, including countries from Sweden, South Korea and Poland to Palestine, Tanzania, and Kazakhstan. I am aware that India has quotas not only for women, but for disadvantaged castes. Could quotas work here?

Could it be a way to move faster than the bottom-up approach, but yet without depending on the occasional appearance of extraordinary individuals to carry much much more than one person’s burden? I.e. can we simply force fairness?

Your opinions are welcome.

Inauguration Day Leaves Town Hall Petulant

Can someone tell me what this means?

Star Parker, writing for the extremely sullen Townhall at inauguration time:

…[F]ew seem to appreciate that moral problems lie at the root of our faltering economy.

Sanctity of life and sanctity of property are cut from the same cloth of eternal law.

In the view of many, including me, it’s this law that defines our free country.

Our new president, who sanctions both abortion and massive government intrusion into our economic lives, sees things very differently.

What does this mean? Anyone? What is this cloth of the eternal law? I get the feeling this is some coded reference to an ideal Theocratic States of America that exists in Parker’s head. What evidence do we have that Parker’s mystical (invisible?) eternal law is the true law of of this country? ‘Cause I got plenty of evidence that the true laws of this country are in the Constitution and written in our federal and state codes.

And what the hell is the equation between “sanctity of life” and “sanctity of property”? Is my record collection worth lives? How many, one per record? Why are fetuses involved in this petulant tantrum?

Perhaps I could cut an eternal dress from the eternal cloth, which probably has a print pattern of fetuses and private jets. Then I would wear it in honor of every time Big Government intrudes on my life with abuses of my freedom like product safety standards and refusing to allow people to deny me jobs based on my race, religion or sexuality.

Do conservatives really think that fetuses and personal property like cars and golf clubs are similarly valuable, and similarly under attack by Obama? Somehow, I doubt “many” actually subscribe to Parker’s worldview. But it is fun to speculate. However, is it not true that for some, conservatism is about returning to tradition, i.e. resisting change? I guess that makes it a hard pill to swallow indeed, to be conservative upon inauguration of a president who ran on “change.”