Archive for the ‘Rights and Duties of a Citizen’ Category

Patriarchal Bingo, Wendy Davis and the Texas GOP

June 26, 2013

The Texas Senate Livestream stopped, to be replaced by a message about where to view Senate events.

I am still stunned.

I came late to the event: I arrive home from work about 15 minutes before 10. (California time) I found my twitter feed had gone mad about Texas, but that’s not a first time thing. The fact that the hashtags all mentioned a Wendy was a little odd.

So I tweet my confusion, and then pulled up everything I can on google  and blow through 5 articles on the matter before I find the live feed. I have become livid.

The monstrosity of a bill is bad enough, but by the time I am tuned in, the Senate has voted- after midnight– and apparently think they can get away with voting when they are out of session.

Wendy Davis’s filibuster was voted down by the GOP because apparently sonograms and Planned Parenthood budgets are “not germane” to the discussion and because she had help while putting on a back brace.

Let’s see…

Privileged men becoming very angry when it looks like they might not get their way: check.

Privileged men trying to shut up the woman challenging them: check.

Privileged men breaking laws in order to get their way: check.

Victim blaming (In the form of police force used against at least one protesting woman): check.

And the free middle square of this Patriarchal Bingo?

Bunch of privileged men deciding rules that apply only to women: check.

American Elections: Needs Improvement

November 11, 2012

It’s been 5 days since the American people reelected President Barack Obama, but I’ve been thinking about how we could get more people voting since I read that somewhere on the order of 90 million eligible voters would not be voting this year.

Now, most of these are merely logistical tweaks to make it easier to vote rather than methods of encouraging people to do so, but here’s what I’ve come up with:

  • Election day should be a federal holiday- this should be obvious. In this country we extol voting as the duty of every American, and we have a day off for Columbus (!) but not for voting? This must be rectified.
  • Mail-in-ballots should not require postage. This should be built into the system. If you are sending your ballot through the United States Postal Service to do your civic duty as an American, you should not need to first go out and buy stamps.
  • Public transit should be free on election day. We should be able to vote, even if we don’t have cars.
  • The Electoral College should be replaced with direct popular vote. Currently, if you are in a strongly partisan state, your vote for President has much less value than if you live in a swing state- the awareness of this fact serves to depress voter turnout and reduce engagement even for state and local matters where the Electoral College has no direct effect.
  • Voting machines without paper trails should be eliminated with extreme prejudice. We cannot afford to have either the reality or the appearance of crooked elections.
  • We need to have Citizens United (Orwellian naming schemes, how reassuring) undone. People should not have to compete with multinational organizations for control of the country. I’m not picky about how to undo that ruling: Constitutional amendment could work if the justice system doesn’t clean its own house. (This country was formed after the British Crown taxed the colonialists to make up for a tax break to a too-big-to-fail East India Company, one of the first multinational corporations. Don’t try to tell me that an impartial ruling based on the constitution indicates that the founders wanted companies to be treated like people.)


Please share more ideas in the comments.

Who must give up identity politics?

August 30, 2012

Joe Klein says Democrats must give up identity politics. Excuse me?

Was Todd Akin a Democrat when he attacked women’s right to bodily autonomy?

Was Alan Clemmons a Democrat when he wrote a law which would suppress the voting rights of minorities?

Was Jan Brewer a Democrat when she denied public benefits to young immigrants working in and to the benefit of this country?

Was Peter King a Democrat when he created a panel to persecute American Muslims?

And was the Republican Party Platform somehow hijacked by Democrats where it calls for a constitutional amendment defining marriage as between one man and one woman?

No. Those were all Republicans playing to their monochromatic base of male Christians.

Those were Republicans treating women’s bodies as their property, deciding that the voting rights of poor people, dark people, elderly people and students were not as important as winning an election, deciding that working to make a life in the land of the free should be as hard as the government can make it for immigrants, pissing on the First Amendment by trying to create classes of citizen where Christians are above suspicion while those other religions are the focus of hate and fear, and deciding that the genitalia of an individual matters more than the relationship between two people.

And the same things that motivate those Republicans would motivate those who come after, to come after contraception once abortion was illegal. They would further reduce the number of people who have the right to vote until it is only a few white males with enormous pots of money, own land, and have the good sense to be of the majority denomination. They would profit off of the labor of immigrants while paying them pennies and blaming them for anything wrong in a community. It wouldn’t be enough for it to be a Christian Theocracy after a time: you would have to be the right type of Christian. Which denomination of Protestant are you? Lutheran? You are too quiet for the American Christendom. Better to have been Baptist. And as for gays? Have you noticed that when Christian Republicans quote Leviticus, it always seems to be the same verse?

Who needs to give up identity politics?

Hell, nobody on the side of equality until the actions in the list above are political poison.

Of eligible voters in Pennsylvania, 13.1% think they have a valid ID but don’t

August 3, 2012

A study shows that- because of a law limiting what forms of ID can be used while voting- 13.1% of Pennsylvanians will likely be denied their constitutional right to vote this November:

The results showed an overwhelming majority — 97.8 percent of eligible voters and 98.7 percent of 2008 voters — believed they had a valid ID. In fact, 13.1 percent of eligible voters and 11.8 percent of 2008 voters thought they had a valid photo ID but actually did not.

“For the average person, they do possess some sort of ID card, and they do believe that ID card is valid,” Mr. Barreto said, adding that such a person is unlikely to seek a new form of identification.

The fact that conservative lawmakers are going out of their way to disenfranchise others in the United States of America makes me sick. Over the course of history we have expanded voting rights again and again, and to oppose that progress is fundamentally at odds with the values and ideals of this country.

Found through Political Wire.

When religion is a test for political office.

August 3, 2012

In the Constitution of the United States of America, there is this to say about religious tests for office (emphasis mine):

The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.

But religion has become a de facto test in campaigns as the Christian majority is pandered to by politicians trying to out Christian each other, even when it involves attempts to infringe on the right to free exercise of religion of others.

In Tennessee, two candidates in a Republican primary are in a contest of who opposes the construction of a mosque more. In 2010, district lines were redrawn and so the mosque isn’t even in the district they are running in, but hey: these are Republicans and we can’t expect facts to get in the way of demagoguery.

So, they are opposing the Constitution they are bound to serve, in order to have an unconstitutional de facto test for office which, if more than rhetoric would infringe on the free exercise of religion of a minority group, if the mosque were still in the same district, which it isn’t.

It’s nice that sometimes stupid renders itself impotent.

But what about the underlying issues: the rights of the individual and minorities against possible tyranny of the majority, the right to build religious institutions, the tax exempt status of those institutions?

The Constitutional approach works better than we allow it to: the free exercise of religion including the building of places of worship, the protection of the rights of minorities and individuals is why we haven’t historical had problems with large groups of radicialized extremist minorities.

But- to pick a high profile example- Rep. King with his anti-Muslim panels wants to trample those rights and would increase the likelihood of radicalization, whether he desires that outcome or not.

And in the Bill of Rights this phrase “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion” was used by Jefferson in the sense of a wall of separation where Congress could not pass- not to create a religion, not to create ties to a religion, not to either support or oppose a religion. Madison famously called that wall “absolute.”

I would argue that making churches and other religious organizations tax exempt is in effect a subsidy by the government which violates the Constitution, and is an imposition on all- whether Muslim, Christian, atheist or Buddhist- who don’t want to pay higher taxes to support other people’s churches.

There may be an argument to be had against that mosque- or at least its tax exempt status- but it is the same argument that would apply to churches, and so you won’t ever hear it from someone rallying their Christian Soldiers to vote.

Links found at Political Wire.

In defense of Muslim Americans

July 27, 2012

A handful of Christian Republican Representatives have been calling for governmental persecution of Muslims, for no reasons beyond that A) Muslims aren’t Christians and B) it brings in donations and votes from a certain demographic of Christian Americans who think the end times are a good thing and will be triggered by righteous war by Christians on Muslims.

In response to this call, 42 “religious, secular, interfaith, advocacy, legal and community organizations” have sent a memo to those 5 Republican Representatives. It is very well written, and I recommend reading it, but I have 2 reservations:

The memo starts by listing the Representatives with the address “Honorable” before each. Even putting aside the fact that they are politicians, surely their positions as governmental leaders coupled with their divisive actions stretches such an address as “Honorable” past the point of credibility.

The memo goes on to address them as “Dear Rep.” before each name. Dear to who, other than (possibly) their mothers? My apologies, back to the point.

The United States was founded to be a secular country. This means that everyone has the right to worship or not as their conscience dictates without government interference whether that interference would be hostile or benevolent, desired or not. Ideally that means that nobody has their pocket picked to support another’s church, but at the barest minimum it means you don’t use the government as a club to intimidate those who believe differently than you do.

Muslim Americans have been going through an incredibly rough time in this country since shortly after 9-11, and it is entirely unfair. Do our political leaders suspect every Christian American to be moments away from engaging in shootings or bombings because of attacks on abortion clinics?

No, that would be as ridiculous as… suspecting all Muslims everywhere of being enemies of America. Or a strange cultural belief that equates Arab with Muslim despite there being plenty of Muslims who aren’t of Arab descent and plenty of Arabs who aren’t Muslim.

I can’t believe this even needs saying, but: Muslims are just individuals like any other individuals trying to make their way in the world. Yes, just like other religions, there are extremists:

But the United States does not have a problem within its population with extremists from minority religions. Due to the bill of rights guaranteeing freedom of religion, people of minority religions have tended to be much happier here than in other countries. What we have is a problem with political extremists produced from frightened majorities with feelings of threatened entitlement.

Found through Friendly Atheist.

Americans should be led, not driven by fear.

July 26, 2012

We have some serious issues in the United States:

We are embracing majority rule while turning our backs on individual rights.

We are complacent in the status quo and frightened of the other.

Our media and culture is trained to ignore the harm done by familiar institutions, while focusing on the harms of unfamiliar institutions.

We are told that immigrants will take our jobs – despite economics telling us immigration is a net good and emigration the net harm- and we are told that established multinational chains wouldn’t do anything to harm us because of the invisible hand of the market.

We are willing to give up our rights of privacy and freedom from bodily search for the sake of – not security – but the mere illusion of security.

We have public monies going to prop up a thousand intellectually bankrupt dogmas, and schools sacrificing scientific understanding in our children to the shrine of “teaching the controversy”: a controversy which only exists in culture, not in scientific fields.

We have the middle class and small businesses taking on a disproportionate share of taxes, while the ultra rich and mega corporations keep their money in tax havens and get the lion’s share of subsidies and services. And this is cheered on by those who cannot face the fact that they are more likely to get hit by lightening twice than to ever win that lottery which would still not make them of the 1%.

The American Dream still exists, but few can see it for fear.

Bush Senior Opposes Norquist’s “No Tax Pledge”

July 13, 2012

President Bush Sr. opposes Grover Norquist’s “No Tax” Pledge.

Bush Senior, he of the phrase: “Read my lips, no new taxes.” Why?

“The rigidity of those pledges is something I don’t like. The circumstances change and you can’t be wedded to some formula by Grover Norquist. It’s — who the hell is Grover Norquist, anyway?”

Former President George H.W. Bush

And that is exactly right. To govern effectively, you have to be able to respond changes in circumstances.

To sign the Grover Norquist Pledge – or any pledge that compromises your oath to serve as an officeholder- is an abdication of responsibility.

It is an admission of failure of the imagination, and a betrayal of reason.

It is taking a false refuge in fantasy rather than having the bravery to face reality.

Found through Political Wire.

Snyder rejects anti voting laws

July 7, 2012

Michigan Governor Rick Snyder (R) voted against bills to restrict voter registration drives and to require a photo ID for absentee voting as well as a mandated ballot box affirmation of citizenship. I just want to say: well done for this little bit of sanity.

The bills proposed in Michigan were similar to bills popping up almost everywhere Republicans are worried they might lose if everyone votes.

Such as in Pennsylvania, where Republicans have just disenfranchised the 9.2% of the population who don’t have an ID from the State Transportation Department- if you live in Pennsylvania, get your ID!
Or in Mississippi where you need a birth certificate to get a  voter ID, and you need a photo ID to get a birth certificate.

Please, please- oppose these bills making people jump through hoops to exercise their right to vote, and please make sure you have whatever your state currently requires… and then vote.

Link appreciation to Political Wire and Political Irony.

Patriotism vs. Nationalism

July 2, 2012

With an eye on the 4th of July, I feel I should honor the revolutionary spirit which created the United States and which drives us to create a more perfect union.

The revolution was not merely a trade of one authority for another, but rather a hostile response to the very concept of an absolute authority.

We did not trade one king for another: we said “Good riddance” to monarchy and created a system of checks and balances which was meant to ensure that no unopposable authority would arise.

We did not trade one state religion for another: we said good riddance to religious authorities having direct governmental power.

If we were Tories, we would not have done these things. We would have questioned the patriotism of those who did, and we would have trumpeted our own patriotism while clinging to the status quo.

But I say that despite becoming rebels, the founders were truer patriots. They strove to do what was best for their country. They tried to appeal to their Parliament and reform before they came to the conclusion that the best thing for their land and people was to become a new nation.

And so, I argue against nationalism which says that our country is perfect as it is. It is a mask which pretends patriotism and tries to reap the benefits of such a reputation. But patriotism is hard: it requires hard work and sacrifice.
It is not replaced by the smug complaisancy of nationalism.

We must keep our eyes open and unclouded. We must see the defects in our system and correct them. We must defeat the control of our country by an oligarchy of corporations and the rich, and we must rid our system of its inequalities. We must commit to the education of our citizenry, for without an educated citizenry our democracy is flawed at its core.

We must do this in order to have government of the People, by the People, for the People. We must do this to make a more perfect union.