Friday, October 29, 2004

It's still not easy being Green

Green Party presidential candidate David Cobb was the guest on C-Span this morning, and though many people called to offer him support and to bemoan the sad state of the American election system, there were also callers who just didn't have a clue.

One man, who had never before heard of Cobb, commented that Cobb was the most liberal person he had ever seen, and that if the Green Party's platform were to become law, "we'd all pay 75% of our income in taxes." Cobb calmly explained to him the obvious: that if very wealthy people paid their share, if corporations were fairly taxed, and if the military were built to perform its intended duty, there would be more than enough money to pay for needed social and environmental programs. I wondered what the man thought of Cobb's answer. It is amazing that Americans do not see the many ways they are cheated by the horrors of the tax system.

A woman called in to say that she disagreed with Cobb and thought he shouldn't be on the ballot. He found her comment frightening, as indeed it was. But why would she want the Green Party off of the ballot if there was not something threatening about it to her? Cobb remarked that despite the media's refusal to recognize the Green Party, it just keeps growing. There really are many of us who believe that only systemic change can save America from totally destroying its environment, its middle class, its world status, and its move toward church/state alliance. Poverty, racism, sexism, a lack of health care, and the rapid erosion of civil liberties are major problems in the U.S., but you wouldn't know it from hearing the election speeches.

Monday, October 25, 2004

A really frightening Halloween

In certain less evolved parts of the South, there is an uproar because Halloween falls on a Sunday this year, and some families are forbidding their children dress in costume and go trick or treating. This would be amusing if it weren't so ridiculous.

First of all--if you want to play by the book--Sunday is not the Sabbath: Saturday is. But even accepting the altered modern Christian Sabbath, Halloween--All Hallow's Eve--is part of the religious observance of All Saints' Day. In predominantly Catholic communities, families still bring food to their loved ones' graves on All Saints' Day. This is, of course, part of the ancient observance of Samhuinn, just as Christmas is also derived from an ancient festival of the seasons. But no one is bashing Catholics for toting picnic baskets to the cemetaries, nor is any Southern Christian refusing to let her child go visit Santa or open gifts that are stacked under the Christmas tree.

I am currently visiting Seattle, where they are having a bit of a twist on the Halloween problem. One of the nearby school systems has decided to eliminate the annual public school celebration of Halloween because it disrupts schoolwork, and it may offend Wiccans.

Wiccans are certainly some of the most misunderstood people in our culture, and the annual October emphasis on witches, devils, and goblins does nothing to clear misconceptions about Wicca. However, the two Wiccan leaders who were interviewed by the Seattle news media said they thought letting children celebrate a culturally important holiday was more important than trying to change misconceptions about Wicca. They were not offended by the school observance, they said, and in fact, they themselves costumed for Halloween.

Needless to say, there is some controversy in these parts about the decision to cancel Halloween, just as there is in the Bible Belt about the move to cancel it. First Harry Potter, now this. The desire to snuff out imaginary evil is at a peak, but little attempt is made to get rid of the real thing.

Thursday, October 21, 2004

And Americans think other cultures' values are screwed up?

ABC's new cheeky, black humor-infused primetime soap, Desperate Housewives, is in trouble with the American Family Association because of its sex scenes. The show has already lost a couple of big sponsors, including Tyson Foods. In withdrawing its sponsorship of Desperate Housewives, a spokesman for Tyson said that "The show is not consistent with our core values, which focus on operating with integrity and trust in all we do."

That is such a huge lie that it is all I can do to keep from throwing up while I type. Tyson's "integrity" has made it one of the top animal abusers in the United States, if not the world. The Tyson plants are known for their brutal and horrific practices, which they do not curtail because Americans do not care what kind of sadism and cruelty occurs, as long as they get some fried chicken on their plates.

It is therefore morally wrong for children to see Gabrielle in an erotic embrace with her gardener, but is perfectly fine for them to participate--through consumerism--in the overcrowding, suffocating, starvation, maiming, slashing, and torture of defenseless creatures.

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

There...she goes

ABC has announced that it is dropping the Miss America Pageant after 50 years. The last pageant was viewed by a relatively small television audience of 9.8 million people, which undoubtedly accounts for the decision.

One has to ask, though, what the hell were almost 10 million people doing watching this sexist drivel in the first place? This nauseous cavalcade of parade-wavers with vaseline-polished dentals should have gone out in the 70's, but America just won't give up its image of the "perfect" woman--a creature who doesn't exist, and it's a good thing, if the Miss America ideal is supposed to be the role model.

And speaking of sexism, even a stopped clock--well, you know the old quotation. In this case, the stoppped clock is none other than the relentlessly vicious Karen Hughes, and it pains me to agree with her about anything.

In a moment of really bad memory, Teresa Heinz Kerry remarked that she didn't know if Laura Bush had ever had a "real job." Laura Bush has a master's degree in library science and worked for many years as both a librarian and a teacher. After Heinz Kerry apologized, the First Lady responded graciously, through her spokesman, that it was no big deal and she knows what it's like to give a lot of interviews--stuff happens.

Hughes was quick to point out, however, that even if Bush had never worked in a library or a classroom, Heinz Kerry's remark denigrated the First Lady's job as a mother and homemaker. I agree. How sickening it is to hear men say "My wife doesn't work," or to hear people say to a woman surrounded by her children, "Do you work?" It' s no less insulting if Heinz Kerry says it, and it's just another subtle example of the chronic internalized sexism we all share.

Of course, Hughes is the spokeswoman for the aggressively anti-feminist Bush, so any statements she makes about the dignity of women comprise overwhelming hypocrisy.

Why things aren't going so well

42% of Americans identify themselves as born-again Christians, which means that--with few exceptions--42% of Americans hold some very rigid beliefs about gender roles (in which women always come out as inferior), as well as similar, backward beliefs: that it is sinful to be gay, that non-Christians are going to burn in an eternal fire, that the teaching of evolution is wrong, that parents and other caregivers should whip and humiliate children. that sex is inherently sinful, that people should have any type of firearms they want, and that capital punishment is desirable.

Some political analysts like to point out that many evangelical Christians are African American, and my answer to that is, so what? By and large, the African American community holds extremely conservative views about most issues. It is a miracle that African Americans have ever voted for non-Republicans, given that Republican values mirror their own, and given that the Democratic Party hasn't exactly knocked itself out on behalf of minorities.

42% today will be 50% very soon. One of the hallmarks of conservative, literal-minded religion is conservative literal-minded "patriotism." It really is about God, gays, and guns to a huge portion of the population, and that portion is growing. Considering that over 40% of Americans have elected not to think, why are liberals surprised that there is a frenzy to elect Bush? Take the other sizeable percentage--it is bigger than you or I want to acknowledge--that doesn't pay any attention at all, the people who don't vote or who assume they should "re-elect" a "wartime" president, and you have practically a shoo-in for the Cheney-Bush presidency.

Add to the mix a Democratic Party that goes out of its way to make sure there isn't a candidate (yes, you may read "Howard Dean" or some other name here) nominated who will actually oppose the White House, rather than offering a different version of the administration's agenda. To make matters worse, the Democrats offer a nominee who has remained silent about most of the Bush administration's multiple lies, neo-conservative schemes, and crimes against the American people.

Wouldn't it be nice if Kerry were against the war in Iraq?

Or if Kerry, the "environmental candidate," ever talked about the Clean Skies Initiative, the breaking of Bush's promise to change carbon dioxide emmision standards, or his lowering of lead standards, despite all of the lead-related illness among American children? What if he told the American people what a tiny bit of oil they would get by drilling in Alaska's National Wildlife Refuge?

What if he listed all of the citizens who have been rounded up, humiliated, paintball-attacked, and arrested for exercising their right to free speech, or those who have had their cameras seized by police?

What if the Democratic candidate talked about Valerie Plame? Or Sibel Edmonds?

And what if he took the abortion discussion and mentioned the thousands of abortions that have been performed because of Bush's withholding of money from the U.N. Population Fund? Or the thousands of women and babies who have died because of these withheld funds? What if he reminded women that the Bush administration attempted to hide from them information about their rights in the workplace? And that Bush tried to eliminate contraceptive coverage for female federal employees?

What if Kerry reminded the American people that both the Taliban and the Northern Alliance are suppressing women in Afghanistan as I write this?

What if he actually explained to people the difference between "average" and "median" so that people could understand that the tax cut really benefits a tiny sliver of very weathy people?

But none of that is going to happen. Whether the Democrats are trying to lose the election or whether Kerry has just been programmed to be an issue-less robot is a matter of speculation.

Sunday, October 17, 2004

No lesbians in THIS house

It was Cokie Roberts who first got chewed out by the hypocritical, academic freedom-bashing, anti-feminist activist, lesbian romance-writing Lynne Cheney. In 2000, when ABC's Roberts began a question to This Week guest Cheney about Mary, her daughter who "has declared she's openly gay," Cheney shot back that "Mary has never declared such a thing." She went on to chide Roberts for mentioning such a thing on the program.

Cheney was lying. For years, her daughter had declared her sexual preference in a really big way: She was the Coors liason to the gay community, and she spoke openly about her sexual preference on several occasions. Less than a year before the Cokie Roberts interview with her mother, Mary Cheney told the lesbian magazine Girlfriends, "The reason I came to work here [Coors] is because I knew several other lesbians who were very happy here."

Suddenly, Lynne Cheney is upset by John Kerry's remark about her daughter in the third debate. To be fair, Kerry's remark about Mary Cheney was groan-worthy and not very smart, and he struggled to get out the "L" word, blatantly revealing his own discomfort with it. It made me cringe, especially considering how hard Kerry has worked to make sure people know he is opposed to gay marriage.

Yes, it's true that Dick and Lynne Cheney shoved their daughter as far back in the closet as they could, and then dragged her out again to put her on public display. After the Town Hall debate, people suddenly enthusiastically popped up from the front row of the audience and began hugging Mary as though it were National Good Luck to Touch a Lesbian Day. But calling attention to Mary Cheney's sexual preference is not really a good idea in a society that is still very homophobic and would rather talk about "family values" than bigotry.

But Kerry's awkwardness (and hypocrisy) aside, the Cheney family must have nightmares about having Mary as a daughter. "Where did we go wrong?" they must ask themselves in the privacy of the underground bunker. "Should I have written those hot passages in the novel?"

Even worse than the Cheneys themselves are their thousands of right-wing supporters who are "outraged" by Kerry's remarks--people who are more likely to spit on gay citizens than defend them, but suddenly, very suddenly, Mary Cheney needs defending.

Saturday, October 16, 2004

Here we go again

Police in riot gear fired cayenne pepper paintballs Thursday night to disperse a crowd of protesters assembled in Jacksonvile, Oregon, where Bush was spending the night after a campaign appearance.

About 500 people--Bush supporters on one side of the street and Kerry supporters on the other--stood near the Jacksonville Inn, where Bush was scheduled to have dinner. A city administrator said the gathering was peaceful until a few people pushed police officers. The response (presuming police officers were pushed) was the typical "now we have permission to fire" to which we have become accustomed.

One woman said a policeman shoved her while she was holding her child. One man said he was knocked down by a paintball. Two people were arrested for failing to disperse.

Free speech zones, police in riot gear, multiple arrests for t-shirt wearing and sign-carrying--if this is your kind of democracy, then you don't have to be "undecided" anymore, do you?

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

The clear loser of the third debate

For those who complained about Gwen Ifill (I was not one of them): She's probably looking pretty good to you right now, if you saw Bob Schieffer.

America is faced with poverty, crime, a disintegrating environment, sexism, racism, erosion of the First Amendment and declining civil liberties, so the terminally smarmy Schieffer chose to ask questions about faith-based decisions and whether homosexuality is a choice. It could even be argued that some of the questions were loaded to favor Bush. With all of the problems America has, it certainly seemed illogical to ask two questions about abortion.

Schieffer's first question was especially disturbing. He asked the candidates if our children and grandchildren could ever hope to live with the safety and security that we have enjoyed. I wondered how the thousands of people in the poor, crime-ridden neighborhoods of America have enjoyed their safety and security these past several decades. But this is what you get when you have one rich white man asking two other rich white men about how things are in America.

The moderator's final question was equally offensive--an updated version of 70's self-conscious "Hey, aren't those gals something?" To talk about "strong" women implies that the candidates escaped getting involved with weak women. Can you imagine Schieffer (or anyone) saying to a female candidate "What have you learned from the strong men in your family?"

But if you wanted to hear really stupid comments, you had to listen to the C-Span call-in after the debate. One caller reminded everyone that Kerry said he was against homosexuality (he said no such thing, but rather, that he supports many gay rights), but wants gays to be able to marry (he said he was opposed to gay marriage). Another said that Kerry said he wants to raise the minimum wage to $10 (Kerry said $7) in just a few years (he said several years).

And best of all--the caller who said that Kerry just spoke a bunch of lies, but the things Bush said were "authentic." "How do you know they're authentic?" the moderator asked? "Because I'm well-read, and because...because he loooks authentic." News to me.

A little too ironic

An employee of a private voter registration firm alleges that his bosses trashed registration forms filled out by Democratic voters in Las Vegas. The accused company, Voters Outreach of America, is the subject of FBI "information gathering," and the Secretary of State of Nevada is also examining what happened in Las Vegas.

Voters Outreach of America, it should be noted, was hired by the Republican National Committee, which vigorously denies that it supports any type of fraud. Similar complaints about the company have been filed in another county in Nevada, as well as in Oregon.

Unfortunately, the man who brought the Las Vegas complaint is an employee who is unhappy because he did not get paid. But much more unfortunate is his admission that if he had been paid, he probably would not have blown the whistle. That makes him even more corrupt than the company, and it speaks volumes about why so many companies get away with so much in this country.

Let's assume, for a moment, that the charges will be proven. So we have the trashing of Democratic Party voter registrations in Nevada, the falsifying of voter registrations in Florida, the kicking and shoving of Democratic campaigners and protesters, the intimidation of African American voters in Florida, and countless thefts of Kerry/Edwards yard signs in several communities.

Obviously, there is some fear that the resident will not be elected. But more important, the people who are committing these crimes are the people who want to see morality in the White House, the people who want a leader with "Christian" values.

Monday, October 11, 2004

Why women can't vote in Saudi Arabia

"What's the point of voting? Even if we did vote, we would go home to the men in our lives who will have the last say in whatever we do."

These are the words of Rima Kahled, a 20-year-old Saudi woman referring to the fact that women will not be allowed to vote or to run for office in Saudi Arabia's first nationwide elections. Some of her peers are outraged, while others--believing that only men have the intelligence to vote--are satisfied with the decision.

Here is the official "reason" women can't vote in the elections: There are not enough women to run women's-only registration centers and polling stations, and only a fraction of the country's women have the photo identity cards that are needed to vote. Few women have the cards because in order to have their photograph taken, they have to remove their face coverings.

Got that? Before you shake your head in total disgust, please bear in mind that during the 1970's in America, women "couldn't" be sports reporters because there no women's bathrooms near the press boxes, and Congresswomen couldn't use the Congressional gym because there were no women's bathrooms. (It makes you wonder what they did with all of those extra Colored Only bathrooms they had to build in the 40's and 50's.)

Begging the question has long been a favorite method for denying people their rights, so it is no surprise that it is now a method of choice in Saudi Arabia.

The administration likes to brag about its international women's rights achivements--even while both the Northern Alliance and the Taliban are continuing to suppress women and girls in Afghanistan. Few nations suppress women's rights as much as Saudi Arabia, whom the Bush administration has identified as our close ally.

Someone with a lot of television time and newsprint space needs to point out the huge hypocrisy in the Bush White House's "commitment" to international women's rights, but don't count on that happening.

Saturday, October 09, 2004

List of lies

Thanks to the folks at Slow Trains, here is a list of documented Bush lies. Scroll down to the entry of August 23, 2004. The documentation is courtesy of The Poor Man.

Trampled by elephants

There were so many elephants in the living room at both presidential debates, it's a wonder anyone could move around. Some of the things that are yet to be mentioned by the Democratic candidate:
  • Abu Ghurayb
  • Bush's selection of an alleged terrorist to be the leader of Iraq
  • The deaths of thousands of Africans, many of them babies and children, because of Bush's withholding of U.N. Population Fund money
  • The thousands of abortions estimated to be caused by this withholding of funds
  • Carbon dioxide, mercury, and lead
  • National Security Advisor Rice's assertion that "I don't think anybody could have predicted that they would try to use an airplane as a missile..."
  • Bush's months of obstruction againt the September 11 Commission
  • The fact that airplane cargoes are not inspected (Kerry did mention that) because Bush vetoed the entire budget for doing the inspections
  • The assault on the Constitution known as "free speech zones," and the resulting punishment and humiliation of those who attempt to exercise their First Amendment rights outside of the zones
  • Valerie Plame
  • Sibel Edmonds

Throughout the debates, I have fantasized that Bush had to face the people I wish were debating him: Howard Dean, Dennis Kucinich, Carol Moseley Braun, Al Sharpton, Jimmy Carter, Maxine Waters, Margaret Cho, Bill Maher, Arianna Hufffington, Ralph Nader, Katrina vanden Heuvel, Henry Waxman...

But there will be no discussion of major world-threatening issues. The third debate will be like the other two: Honest to God, I'm not a flip-flopper v. I won't let anyone tell me how to defend Amurica.

Friday, October 08, 2004

Questions I'd like to hear Town Hall attendees ask Bush tonight

  • You said you were opposed to nation-building and you are attempting to create a new regime in Iraq.
  • You said you support the troops, yet you've made heavy cuts in veterans benefits.
  • You said you would regulate carbon dioxide emissions, then you refused to do so.
  • You said you were committed to getting first responders what they needed, then you rejected millions of dollars worth of grants for first responders.
  • You said you were dedicated to port safety, then you vetoed the entire budget for container security
  • You said fiscal responsibility was one of your priorities, then you threw us into the biggest budget deficit in history.
Would you call this giving the American people mixed messages?

If being president is such hard work, why have you spent 40% of your time at three presidential retreats?

When you were a candidate in 2000, you didn't know what the Taliban was, and you thought it was the executive branch's job to interpret the law. Have you attended any civics classes since then?

You said you would punish any nation that harbors terrorists. What type of punishment have you exacted on Saudi Arabia?

It is estimated that--because of your withholding money from the U.N. Population Fund, and your blocking attempts to use generic AIDS drugs in Third World countries--hundreds of thousands of fetuses have been aborted, thousands of women have committed suicide, and thousands of babies and children have died. Could you discuss this in terms of compassionate conservatism?

Iyad Allwi is said to have masterminded bombings that killed several children. Not long ago, he executed half a dozen prisoners. Why do you think he is a good choice to bring peace to Iraq?

You tried to shut down the Department of Labor's Network of Women's Bureaus, which informs women of their rights in the workplace. You have stated that gender discrimination isn't as serious as racial and ethnic discrimination. By withholding U.N. funds, you have contributed to the deaths--through disease and suicide--of thousands of Third World women. You sought to eliminate required contraceptive coverage for female federal employees. You appointed to the FDA's Reproductive Health Drugs Advisory Committee a doctor who refuses to prescribe contraceptive drugs to unmarried women, and who prescribes prayer for the relief of menstrual pain. You have repeatedly appointed or tried to appoint federal judges whose agenda is to overturn Roe v. Wade. Could you please explain how "W is for Women"?

And finally...
Mr. President, I want to make sure you hear my question. Would you take that thing out of your ear?

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

They really don't need that kind of help

The White House has selected the right-wing, anti-feminist Independent Women's Forum to--get this--train Iraqi women in political participation and democracy. My irony meter exploded over this news and can never be used again.

The IWF doesn't say how big a piece of the $10,000 training grant it has received. The Washington-based group uses its agenda of "common sense" to attack basic feminist principles, and attacks those principles by calling them "radical feminism" (not that there's anything wrong with radical feminism, but using the term is a scare tactic, if ever there were one). So while White House members are on television with their women's-rights-in-Iraq-blah-blah-blah, they are making sure that anti-feminists are sent to Iraq to help.

Of course, there are plenty of feminists in Iraq who could mess up the administration's indoctrination plans. Just like there are plenty of feminists in Afghanistan, the place Laura Bush likes to talk about, where women have such a great life now that we have "liberated" them.

Imagine my surprise

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement is currently investigating 1,500 Leon County student voter registration forms that were altered to register the students as Republicans. The majority of the students had not selected the Republican Party, but Republicans in Florida would never let a little thing like that get in their way. Remember the newly naturalized Americans who suddenly became Florida Republicans when they took their oaths?

There is simply no letting up of either the disorganization or the cheating in Florida's voting system. Last week it was revealed that Governor Bush had yet to implement the recommended reforms needed for the 2004 election.

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

Reform THIS tort...

You may recall that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce called Mississippi a "judicial hell hole" because of all those attorneys filing all those frivolous lawsuits there. A couple of years ago, George W. Bush went to Mississippi and declared a medical crisis because there weren't enough ob-gyn's to, you know, practice their love with the women of that state.

But the Biloxi Sun Herald could find no data to support claims that doctors were leaving Mississippi to practice their love elsewhere. The newspaper also found that Mississippi's malpractice insurance rates were no higher than that of several other states, and that Mississippi was below the national average for personal injury awards, malpractice awards, and claims per doctor. The Mississippi Medical Association could provide no data at all to support any of its claims.

And now we have some new information: A survey of 2001 case filings in Mississippi show that businesses there were 5.8 times more likely than individuals to file lawsuits. The study also looked at Arkansas, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and Cook County, Illinois. All showed similar results. In addition--and more interesting--the study found that federal judges exact penalties on businesses for tying up the courts with frivolous claims more often than they punish trial lawyers representing individuals.

And finally, in Cook County in 2002, insurance companies filed 35 times more lawsuits than individuals, and in 2003, those companies asked to be exempted from a court reform bill that would have restricted filings.

Tort reform may be needed, but not the kind the White House and the insurance industry is trying to hoist on us. The news media is, of course, silent on this issue.

Monday, October 04, 2004

How many dead babies will satisfy the White House?

Bush has done it again--withheld another $25 million from the United Nations Population Fund. According to the agency, the money could have prevented 1.5 million unwanted pregnancies and 588,000 abortions worldwide, but the White House needed to throw some red meat to its right-wing Christian base.

The Bush administration has now denied over $90 million to the fund because of reports that the fund is connected to a Chinese program that forces women to have abortions. The U.N. has denied any such connection.

This latest act is just part of an overall scheme that denies funding to any facility in which abortion might be mentioned as an intervention for women and girls. Unwanted pregnancies because of rape (which is rampant in some of the cultures in question) and the horrific spread of AIDS do not move either the White House goons or the Christian fundamentalists who support them.

If you want to talk about morality, here's a good jumping-off point, a piece originally published in Online Journal.

Saturday, October 02, 2004

Find out what it means to me

Yesterday, Bill O'Reilly announced that Senator Joe Biden and former Senator Bob Dole would never again be guests on The Factor because they were showed no respect to the program's staff. I have no idea what happened, and it doesn't take much stretch of the imagination to imagine either Biden or Dole behaving rudely, but that's hardly the point.

O'Reilly's preaching respect for others is a laugh riot. This is the man who walked out of the studio while Terry Gross was interviewing him on Fresh Air. The man who decried name-calling, and then immediately called his guest an idiot. The man who yelled "Shut up! Shut up!" to Jeremy Glick, whose father had just been killed in the September 11 attacks.

Now Biden and Dole have been taught a lesson, and can never again enjoy the privilege of having an on-air chat with a hypocritical thug. You have to feel for them.

Friday, October 01, 2004

If you want to get a picture of one of the things that is most fundamentally wrong with this country, all you have to do is take a peek at last night's debate. I'm not talking about the fact that "debate" doesn't exist in this country anymore, or the fact that one of the participants was a lying idiot.

I'm talking about something maybe even more serious--that behind the podiums were two rich white men. And when you tune in on Tuesday to see the vice presidental "debate," you'll see two rich white men.

In the 21st Century, positions of leadership are the entitlements of wealthy white males. When I see all of these Democratic women and people of color fawning over John Kerry and John Edwards, it sickens me. The only way that women and minorities can truly be represented is by having power, and that power isn't going to be handed to us by those who have it. The only solution is to vote them out of office and put in people who are more representative of American culture.

But to accomplish that, there first has to be a new consciousness-raising, an antidote to the internalized misogyny and racism that pervades the culture. The result would not necessarily be an increase in liberalism, since many ethnic and racial minorities are very conservative, but it would at least be reflective of the real makeup of America.