Monday, August 27, 2012

Live And In Person ~ The WP Speaks!

On Thursday, August 30th, I will be participating in a roundtable discussion for the New York Times. Seems that they think it would be fun to lock Gail Collins and Frank Bruni in a virtual room with a bunch of strangers for discussions on various topics. For reasons which currently escape me, some folks in the editorial room of the Grey Lady thought I would be fun to invite. They are very serious about this, and even sent me a new microphone thingee for the computer link-up. Of course, sending a photographer for a real honest-to-goodness photo shoot in my kichen was beyond cool. I’m doing the war on women. Gee, why ever would they pick me to talk about that? 

Well, I have between now and Thursday at 3:00 pm central time (4:00 eastern) to get all my ducks in a row. On index cards. With silent little rubber bumpers so they can’t hear me shuffling my crib notes. With the ceiling fan off. And the windows open if it’s quiet. And yes, I am very nervous, but you probably discerned that already.

Meanwhile, there's a blog to write and this one has been stewing for a while. Sit back, relax, and let me give it a shot.

Birth certificates. Tax returns. Job growth. Obamacare. All are hot items at the moment and all of them have versions of some truth, semi-truth, and pants-on-fire lies. Let’s be real clear about this: it’s all spin. It’s all crap. And it’s all about what's legal, moral, and ethical. 

The birther business was baloney four years ago and it’s baloney now. Barak Obama could’ve been born on Mars and he would still be a natural born US citizen by reason of his mother’s status. Questioning President Obama's citizenship is absurd, but it's not illegal. Making a joke about it when you're the opposition running for president is in poor taste; continuing to intimate from a podium that he is not a citizen when you know damn well that he is, is unethical. See the difference?

Mitt Romney’s tax returns aren’t really anyone’s business after he provides the minimum required to run for office, but there's this secret handshake kinda thing going on that smacks of “you don’t need to know.” Sorry, anyone running for POTUS does not get to have one of those moments. If the taxable shoe were on the Democratic foot, the Elephant Men would be manufacturing all sorts of African prince scams to lay at the doorstep of the Obamas' house. Instead, they wave their magic wands and tell We, The People not to worry our petty little heads about off shore and Swiss bank accounts. Unfortunately, these tax shelters are perfectly legal; probably unethical, but legal.

Source: Wall Street Journal, Bureau of Labor Statistics
The economy is growing slowly. Housing numbers are improving. Job gains are statistically creeping upward. This is one giant ship of state; turning it any faster is dangerous. Meanwhile, the ToonTown RR keeps pushing trickledown economics as the only way to save the country. Tax cuts for the rich will result in increased employment. Seems we've tried that before. Anyone with half a brain knows it didn't work. Both sides figure we’ll be baffled by the mathematical dog and pony show. Obviously, there's no legality question here...but spinning the numbers until they’re unrecognizable? Well, that’s pretty much unethical... on both sides.

Ah, Obamacare. Face it, it sucks. It’s a half-baked program with more holes than Swiss cheese. But it’s something We, the People don’t have and desperately need. Back in the day, when Senator Ron Wyden (D- Oregon) was working with Congressman Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin) to fashion a bi-partisan plan to shore up the poverty safety net, there was a sense that there was a place in the middle where two sides could meet. This was hailed as a positive step and one that may have offset some of the inherent problems with AHCA. For a brief moment, there was real hope that a bi-partisan agreement could be set in place.

Unfortunately, that optimism didn't last. When Congressman Ryan presented his budget plan, the idea of a national health plan was decimated. Hit hardest of all were those with the least amount of resource to fight for themselves: the recipients of Medicaid. Aid to the poorest of the poor, most especially children, was slashed to nothing in Congressman Ryan's plan. Along with that, was a complete un-funding of Planned Parenthood, the mainstay of family planning, low cost birth control, and health services to women. 

Here's where the dominoes crash. Left without Planned Parenthood's accessibility, where do these women turn to prevent pregnancy? If low cost clinics are gone and you can't afford to see a  doctor, you can't get  prescription. If you can't get a prescription, you can't get the pills. And if you do become pregnant, the state is now telling them you must carry the baby to term....even in cases in rape, incest, and severe medical condition of either mother or fetus. A woman's right to self-determination is effectively terminated by the government. According to the Ryan plan, this is not illegal. Since these new rules will apply to everyone, it's technically not unethical.

However, the removal of the medical services safety net does not conform to the patterns of conduct in this nation. Since 1965 both Medicare and Medicaid have served as important safety nets for impoverished families as well as senior citizens. Removing that net imperils both groups, and most specifically targets poor women and children. Targeting a specific demographic that is without resources and cannot possibly defend itself is just plain immoral.

For a bunch of guys who wave their religions around like so many American flags on July 4th, there is a marked lack of compassion and neighborly love for those less well-to-do than themselves. For a bunch of guys who claim they want smaller government, they sure are trying to get legislate American bedrooms. And for a bunch who swear on a stack of Bibles that they love America, they sure don't seem to care too much about the land that feeds all of us. The Republicans currently running that party will tell you it's all legal...and it probably is....but it doesn't make it ethical, moral, or just plain right.

Folks, think what you want, but no one, not a single one of us, is exempt from this new version of social engineering. 

Iceberg. Tip. You get the idea.

Wifely Person Tip O’the Week
If a newspaper is coming to photograph you in your home,
dusting before they get there is always good idea.

Monday, August 20, 2012

You Can't Fix Stupid

Steve (z”l) used to say, “You can’t fix stupid.”  I can only imagine what he would say about Missouri Congressman Todd Aikin.

Congressman Aikin seems to be under the impression that not only some forms of rape are OK, he also is of the strange volition that women have magic powers to prevent conception in cases of rape.

                       “It seems to be, first of all, from what I understand from 
                        doctors, it’s really rare. If it’s a legitimate rape, the female 
                        body has ways to try to shut the whole thing down.”

Wow! I don’t know even where to begin with that.  Here, I was all set to write on morals, ethics, and legality but this came along and I confess, I am weak and I cannot pass this up.

IS THIS MAN INSANE??????????????

Apparently not. Despite Mssers Romney and Ryan’s statements of utter disbelief...and kudos to them for managing to get them out without gagging…this guy actually has supporters and defenders. And spiritual leader named Pastor D. James Kennedy who not only supports this nonsense, but goes on to say that women who choose abortion after rape are “hysterical.” His word, not mine. 

What I find particularly hysterical about this situation is that Romney and Ryan have their knickers twisted up over his statements. Hey! Aren’t these the Romney Twins who want to outlaw most forms of oral contraception? These guys are supporting the fertilized-ovum-as-person. And along with that goes in-vitro fertilization and stem cell research. The same guys who want to make ALL abortion illegal, even in cases of rape and incest? 

Dark ages. These clowns are sending us back to the dark ages! I don't know about any of your other hysterical women, but I am totally offended by this dude. Come to think of it, I'm offended by the whole lot of them. But more about this stuff later.

Okay…it’s late. I’m tired. The New York Times sent a photographer to shoot me this afternoon and 2 ½ hours later, I hope she got something usable. Something that doesn’t make me look like a cuckoo-fat-face! 

And if you’re asking why the New York Times sent a photog today….hang on. All will be revealed next Monday. I promise. And right now, I am going to walk the dog!

Wifely Person's Tip o' the Week
Women over 60 should avoid wearing really high heels when dancing.

Monday, August 13, 2012

We, The People ~ The First Amendment

Well, as long as I’m fixating on the Bill of Rights, I need to back up here and talk about #1. It’s a biggie, and it’s pretty much the foundation of We, The People’s expectation for our government. Let’s look at what it actually says:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Whole libraries are devoted to the First Amendment alone, so I’m not going to try to examine the ramification 800 words or less. What I to do is examine the phrase “…abridging the freedom of speech.”

America, as Aaron Sorkin once scripted, is advanced citizenship:

You gotta want it bad, 'cause it's gonna put up a fight. It's gonna say "You want free speech? Let's see you acknowledge a man whose words make your blood boil, who's standing center stage and advocating at the top of his lungs that which you would spend a lifetime opposing at the top of yours. 
The American President  

Think skinhead Nazi parades and you get the picture. You are not required to like, support, or even observe their political activity, but you must defend their right to hold an event and even display their literature and views. No matter how abhorrent a position may be to you personally, the individual has the right to not just hold it, but to express it.

There are statutes addressing incitement which is clearly prohibited, and false statement of facts which are addressed in laws dealing with libel and defamation. But let’s put those two aside and ask a different question: where is the line between free speech and hate speech?

There should be an easy answer, but there is not and we are struggling mightily with it in Minnesota at this very moment. We have a congressional candidate whose ads are so visually repulsive and verbally skating along the edge of libel that some stations are running disclaimers with the ad itself.

See, there's this guy, Gary Boisclair, who calls himself a Democrat/Tea Party candidate, running against Keith Ellison who just happens to be the only Muslim in Congress. The ads Boisclair are running border on hate speech.

No. They are hate speech. And what does one do for or about that?

Rep. Ellison taking the oath
There are three ads, all of which are pretty graphic and disturbing on a variety of levels,but it's the anti-Ellison ad that makes one second guess why we allow this stuff on television. In the ad, Mr. Boisclair said,

“Congressman Ellison swore an oath to uphold the Constitution on a Koran. The Koran says Christians and Jews are infidels…..”

He goes on to state that the Koran says Christians and Jews should be killed, maimed, and crucified. In the background, gruesome black and white photographs run with Sura chapter:verse numbers and what appears to be English translation.  Except the English quotes don’t match up with the Koran if you go looking for the actual verses. Bad translations taken completely out of context, they are no more violent that just about anything you can find in the Five Books of Moses dealing with non-Israelite people like Moabites or Amalekites.

But that’s not the point.  Mr. Boisclair goes on to say,

“Do you really want someone representing you who swears his oath on a Koran, a book that undermines our Constitution and says you should be killed? I’m Gary Boisclair and I approved this message. “

Can you imagine the outcry if Gary Boisclair said, “Jews use the blood of Christian babies to make Passover matzah,” or “Catholic priests seek out young boys for demonic rituals?” Would a television station run that ad?

Well, apparently they would have to. My call to KARE-11’s news desk confirmed what I suspected to be true: no matter how disgusting they thought the ad was, they were required by law to run it. I asked the nice guy who answered the phone, “When does it constitute hate speech?” He didn’t know…and said they were asking the same the lawyers.

Which brings me back to the original question: when does it officially become hate speech? Well, there actually is an answer. The National Telecommunications and Information Administration, in a report called The Role of Telecommunications in Hate Crimes, defines hate speech as:
§  Speech that advocates or encourages violent acts or crimes of hate.
§  Speech that creates a climate of hate or prejudice, which may in turn foster the commission of hate crimes.

Based on the second definition, we might have a winner in Mr. Boisclair.

The FCC, however, would disagree. The FCC does not permit television stations to edit the content of ad for candidates running for federal office.

Statutes and Rules on Candidate Appearances & Advertising 
Section 315 [47 U.S.C. §315] Facilities for candidates for public office.
(a)    If any licensee shall permit any person who is a legally qualified candidate for any public office to use a broadcasting station, he shall afford equal opportunities to all other such candidates for that office in the use of such broadcasting station: Provided, That such licensee shall have no power of censorship over the material broadcast under the provision of this section. 

For better or worse,  Mr. Boisclair’s ad falls under the protected speech category. The only thing we can do is sit back and wait to see if this takes root, and what it spawns.

I would defend to the death the right of free speech. I believe that without it our nation would stagnate and we would never grow. I may not share a belief but it is your right to have it. To assemble. To parade. To have a website. To do just about anything…..except yell fire in a crowded theater. In the end, this is really all about The Constitution: what it says, what it means, and ultimately what relationship it has to the fabric of America. 

Meanwhile, back at the electoral ranch, Romney has chosen Ryan as his running mate. Let the games begin!

Wifely Person Tip O'the Week
Take a moment and read the Bill of Rights
It really is exciting stuff.

Monday, August 6, 2012

The Second Amendment ~ part 2

Misha Siegfried and His Band
Late Saturday night, I headed to downtown Saint Paul with my friends Bill and Elaine to hang out in a bar to hear music. This wasn't just any bar or just any gig. Misha Siegfried and His Band were playing at Wild Tymes in downtown Saint Paul.

Let's just say the gig was great and I got home at 2:30 AM. Of course, as band mom,  I'm biased. Just a bit.

Sunday afternoon, just as we finished band brunch (band moms always supply food to starving musicians; it's a rule) and the band was getting ready to head back to Milwaukee, we heard about the shooting at the Sikh Temple. Everything stopped in my house and all eyes were glued to the television.

Now, let me pause here to tell you what happened Saturday night right before the gig. We were sitting on the patio of the club and St. Paul's finest swarming down at the other end of said patio. Several cruisers were also present. From where we were sitting, we watched them approach, get him to his feet, and then handcuff him. Amazingly, this was all done in relative silence. No drama, no shouting, just about no sound. Later found out he was a gun-pointing kinda robber and the cops had actually been tailing him. 

Now,  back to Wisconsin. The first thing I wanted to know was what kind of weapon was he using, and oddly, no one said a word about what he was packing. He wasn't identified until this morning, and the information said he had a single 9 mm semi-automatic hand gun, and later in the day, reports said the gun had been purchased legally and recently.

Walther TPH .22 lr
Okay, for those of your who haven't mastered your gun basics yet, this means that the thing has an easily removable/changeable magazine. That means you can re-load faster and on the fly if necessary. On a website called, I found a whole page devoted to helping one select one’s piece of choice, and the following explanation why one might choose a semi-automatic handgun:

· Holds more rounds than a revolver. Normally a semi-auto magazine    holds 8 to 10 rounds, but there are magazines capable of holding 15 to 30.
· Faster reloads from previously loaded magazines.
· Due to popularity, there is a wider choice of accessories such as holsters available.
· Easy carrying of spare ammunition via preloaded magazines.
· Usually easier to conceal for a similar caliber gun due to thinner action than a normal revolver.

These all sound like great reasons…except, unless one is participating in sport shooting event at a firing range, why on earth would one need one? Why does one need to consider the speed at which one can change a magazine …unless one has nefarious purposes in mind. If you’re looking for a gun for defense, would a tidy little revolver do the trick?  

And why would anyone doing a background check sell a semi-automatic gun to a guy who is actively involved with a neo-Nazi/white supremacist movement? If the Southern Poverty Law Center knows the guy is a racist nut, why doesn’t the gun shop owner figure that part out in a background check? (Note: the tats might've been a hint)

Now, I have no idea what kind of heat the robber on the patio was packing, and I don’t want to know. What interests me is how he got the gun, and whether or not there was any moment during the time we were sitting there sipping our beers that we were in danger.

Tucson, Aurora, Wisconsin, what’s next? And what will it take to begin a serious discussion about gun laws and gun availability in this country. Two massacres in public places in the space of two weeks, and it’s beginning to sound more like Afghanistan than America.

This is not what the Second Amendment is about. The Second Amendment is about the right the security of the state, a militia, and the right to bear arms for that cause. It is not about the right of bearing automatic assault rifles and semi-automatic hand guns for the heck of it. Definitely not what the Founding Fathers had in mind. 

Any politician that doesn’t want to have this discussion RIGHT NOW is bought and paid for by the NRA, an organization so opposed to gun control that they ultimately put every citizen of the United States at risk. You would think when a nutball shot a Congresswoman and her constituents at a community meet’n’greet that you would realize our gun laws are ineffectual and out of date.

Republican and Democrat alike: Tell the NRA their moment in the sun is over. It’s time for a sensible discussion about guns, gun availability, and gun sales. Period. It has to happen.

Now would be an excellent time to start. 

Wifely Person Tip O'the Week
Sometimes, staying out really, really late is really, really fun.