Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Indiana Republican Says Women Will Pretend to be Raped to get Abortions

Indiana Republicans are the latest to introduce legislation that would heavily restrict abortion. I've been so busy looking at the 18 anti-choice bills offered up by Republicans here in Florida that I haven't had much time to pay attention to the anti-women legislation in other states. So imagine my shock and rage when I saw this title at Think Progress, VIDEO: Indiana GOP Rep Says Women Will Pretend To Be Raped To Get Free Abortions.

Here's the basic story - Republicans introduce a bill banning abortion after 20 weeks. In response, Democratic State Rep. Gail Riecken introduces an amendment that will exempt rape and incest victims, as well as women whose lives would be threatened by pregnancy or who would be caused "serious and irreversible harm" by pregnancy. This seems logical, right? A logical attempt to mitigate the damage of legislation that is SURE to pass. An amendment that will help women retain some rights.

And of course, this amendment is in line with the views of more than 80% of Americans - 81% of Americans believe abortion should be legal in cases of rape/incest.

Of course, allowing women to just make their own decisions with the help of their doctor is the most logical legislation, but the Indiana GOP has no respect for women, doesn't believe they are equal, and in fact believes that the government should insert itself (forcefully) into their vaginas. So much for liberty and freedom!

Here's the video of Republican Rep. Eric Turner responding to this amendment - and the response from Rep. Linda Lawson (D) - who put Turner soundly in his place.

The House voted down the amendment - putting women's lives at risk through forced dangerous pregnancies (regardless of medical opinion or advice), forcing them to carry rapist's fetuses to term, and very likely sending women to the back alley for abortions. Maybe they'll even just commit suicide and then the GOP won't have to worry about paying for their medical care in the ER after they've half bled to death in a bathroom in some hotel.

This is YET ANOTHER example of the decades long history of Republicans supporting rape.

It's rare that anyone offends me. It really takes a lot to push that button, but Republican Rep. Eric Turner hit it today with a huge mallet. Here's my completely uncensored response:
Fuck you, Eric Turner, you pathetic piece of shit. I hope every woman in your life disowns your stupid, sexist ass.
And for every Republican who wants to restrict abortion, ban birth control, and put the government between a woman and her doctor in any way - you are enemies of equality, advocators of medical rape, and supporters of rapists. I've written before about the consequences of anti-choice legislation - dead women. And again, to put illusions to bed, according to Guttmacher,
Prior to the 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade, illegal abortion in the United States was common; some 700,000 to 800,000 abortions were estimated to have taken place annually in the 1950s and 1960s.
It doesn't matter how many restrictions you place on abortion - women will have them anyway. One in three American women will have an abortion in their lifetime and this kind of legislation forces those women into desperate situations and those who vote for it have blood on their hands - the blood of your grandmothers, mothers, sisters, wives, cousins, and daughters is on your hands. You can't wash it off and we will never let you forget that you are responsible for it.

Oregon Senate Passes Bipartisan Bill Allowing In-State Tuition for Undocumented Students

In this era of political polarization, it is rare treat to find true bipartisanship in favor of a piece of progressive legislation. But that is exactly what the Oregon State Senate delivered yesterday when it passed SB742, the Tuition Equity Bill.

The two major sponsors of the Senate version of this measure are Republicans Frank Morse (Albany) and David Nelson (Pendleton). They were joined by Democrats Suzanne Bonamici (Portland/Beaverton), Jackie Dingfelder (Portland), Rod Monroe (Portland), Chris Edwards (Eugene, Santa Clara, and Junction City), Chip Shields (Portland) and fellow Republican Chuck Thomsen (Hood River).

The particularly intriguing story behind this surprising bit of leadership by GOP state senators is that Frank Morse has done a complete 180 on the issue of tuition equity over the past eight years. When this bill first came before the legislature in 2003, Morse voted against it.

What changed his mind was a personal experience with the naturalization process as his daughter's Chinese fiance sought to emigrate to this country.
When procedural difficulties started arising, Morse soon discovered that the United States has “a lack of rational immigration law.”
Today, Morse calls the battle with obstacles in the naturalization process “a horrible experience.”

When the tuition equity bill — SB 742, which would allow college students to pay in-state tuition regardless of immigration status — came up in 2011, Morse found himself morally obligated to sponsor it.
Morse's family experience left him more open to the plight of undocumented students who were brought to this country as children, young people who have never known any country but the United States and who have graduated from Oregon high schools only to find their path to a college education blocked by exorbitant out-of-state tuition requirements. This tends to relegate even the brightest, most talented undocumented students to a permanent underclass status.

Morse asks, “What really is in the best interest of Oregon? Keeping them [at a low economic] level or helping these youths to be the best they can be?”

After considering those questions, supporting SB 742, Morse said, “became a pretty easy thing to do.”
Oregon's legislature is about as close to evenly divided between the parties as you can get, with the House split 30-30 and the Senate 16-14 in favor of the Democrats. So the fact that SB742 passed the Senate 18-11 with one abstention is encouraging. The bill now goes to a committee in the House before it can reach the floor for a vote, but there are two Republican representatives who already openly support it. I'd say the outlook is cautiously optimistic for this to hit Gov. Kitzhaber's desk eventually.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Dennis Kucinich and Anthony Weiner React to Obama's Libya Speech on MSNBC

As I watched Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) last night on Lawrence O'Donnell's "The Last Word," I was struck by one glaring, obvious fact: It didn't matter at all what President Obama said in his speech on the action in Libya.

It didn't matter because Kucinich had his chosen ax already prepared for grinding, regardless. In fact, I'm not entirely convinced that Kucinich even listened to the speech.

Apparently, it doesn't matter that the president acted as part of a broad coalition, that our role has been specific and limited, or that we are turning control of the operation over to other countries. To Kucinich, it's all just black and white, no room for petty realities that fall between those extremes of the spectrum.

At least Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-NY) seems to grasp the difference between (falsely) preemptive, unprovoked war (*cough* Bush *cough*) and military action to prevent genocide.

Here's the video of these two congressmen giving their perspectives. I'll provide a transcript if possible later.

EDIT: MSNBC's transcript of the video is now available.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  Much of the debate in Washington has put forward a false choice when it comes to Libya.  On the one hand, some question why America should intervene at all, even in limited ways in this distant land.  To brush aside America‘s responsibility as a leader and more profoundly, our responsibilities to our fellow human beings under such circumstances, would have been a betrayal of who we are.

Some nations may be able to turn a blind eye to atrocities in other countries.  The United States of America is different.  And as president, I refuse to wait for the images of slaughter and mass graves before taking action.


O‘DONNELL:  In the House of Representatives, a rare coalition of Republicans and Democrats wants to shut down U.S. military intervention in Libya.
Democrat Dennis Kucinich, Pete Stark and Lynn Woolsey, along with Republicans Ron Paul, Walter Jones and Tom McClintock plan to offer a bipartisan amendment to cut off funds for U.S. participation in the NATO enforced no-fly zone.
Did President Obama say anything tonight that would make any of them reconsider?

Joining me now are: Congressman Dennis Kucinich and Congressman Anthony Weiner.

Thanks for joining us tonight, congressmen.



O‘DONNELL:  Congressman Kucinich, did you hear anything from the president tonight that changed your thinking about this?

KUCINICH:  No, I heard an Obama doctrine, which war is an executive privilege.  And I also heard him make statements that sounded eerily reminiscent of George Bush saying he wasn‘t going to wait for gathering dangers.  We all know how Iraq turned out, lest we forget, we were misled into war.

And I‘m very concerned that this new executive privilege for war that‘s being asserted here isn‘t mindful of the fact that the president also admitted that he had 21 days to put together this alliance, but he didn‘t come to the House of Representatives to ask for approval to go to war.  And breaking down the first article of the Constitution, and basically asserting this executive privilege for war actually abolishes the dynamic equilibrium that has protected this country and kept us out of some wars because some presidents thought they had to come to Congress.  Now, we‘re in dangerous territory here.

O‘DONNELL:  Congressman Weiner, the United States Senate on March 1st, on a resolution sponsored by Senators Gillibrand, Bernie Sanders, your senior senator, Chuck Schumer, Ron Wyden and others, Democrats, they voted unanimously—Senate voted unanimously to call for a no-fly zone in Libya.  The president tonight said that for us to have stood by and watched the slaughter of innocents in Libya by the thousands would have been a betrayal of who we are.  Is that true?

WEINER:  Yes.  I mean, look, what‘s the point of being a powerful country with high ideals if we don‘t ever lift a finger to do anything about it.  You know, I respect Dennis Kucinich, but this really is a false choice.  You can‘t always make the argument that while it is not a bright line, clear example of when we should use force.  They very barely, rarely present themselves in foreign policy.  We have a lot of difficult gray areas.
But I think the president was right to say we want to have to make sure that the Arab states support this, that we don‘t want to be the front edge of every single effort.

And, listen, I agree with Dennis Kucinich, I think the Congress should have been consulted and we should have had a word here.  But let‘s separate the issues.

Then the issue isn‘t whether the president is doing the right thing and exercising the power of our country to try to defend people, to try to be that beacon that we always that we would be in.  I think the president struck that right tone.

Let me just say thing else—you know, you can probably get six people opposed to just about anything President Obama does.  But I don‘t think we should be giving aid to those that are simply oppositionist to the president at all terms.

O‘DONNELL:  Congressman Kucinich, if the president had consulted with Congress, do you believe there would have been an overwhelming voice from Congress saying, “Don‘t do this”?

KUCINICH:  You know, we don‘t know because he didn‘t consult with them.  But I will say this, that the no-fly zone, which is why the president said, you know, he said we got to go in the direction of a no-fly zone, but we‘ve already gone beyond the U.N. mandate.  We‘ve gone beyond to stopping Gadhafi‘s advance, and now to assisting the rebels.  We intervened in a civil war.

And there is no question while the president says he wants regime change but says he doesn‘t want the military involved in that, the military is creating circumstances towards regime change by assisting the rebels and providing cover for them as they advance.  I mean, we have to—we have to understand what‘s really going on here.
And what is mystifying to me is this—you call, I don‘t have any brief for Gadhafi, but you call his government illegitimate.  In 2003, he was involved in dealings with the IMF.  And the World Bank had a broad privatization scheme visited upon Libya which resulted in about 20 percent unemployment in Libya, which is one of the reasons you have a restive population.  Now, there‘s some contradiction here that hasn‘t been reconciled, nor talked about.

O‘DONNELL:  Congressman Weiner, what was the alternative facing the president?

WEINER:  I was just going to say that exact same question.  You know, the 2003 IMF measure means very little to someone having their house blown up or being dragged out of their house and shot by one of Gadhafi‘s tyrants.  I mean, the fact is that this was a very circumstance we were faced it.

I think the president did the right thing.  And Secretary Clinton did the right thing by saying, you know what, we‘ll be involved and we don‘t want to be the entire force.  I think he was right to say here are the parameters by what we‘ll do to get involved and here are the goals we‘re going to move forward on.

Again, I agree, I would have liked to see the House of Representatives dealing with this rather than defunding NPR last week, but I really don‘t think the president had a lot of other options.  And also this, there have to be values that guide when we get involved in military engagements and I think the president articulated them perfectly tonight.

O‘DONNELL:  Congressman Kucinich, the president said, “Some nations may be able to turn a blind eye to atrocities in other countries, the United States of America is different, and as president, I refuse to wait for the images of slaughter and mass graves before taking action.”

KUCINICH:  Well, this is a new Obama doctrine, which is that you act on threats.  Remember, that‘s what George Bush did.  He said we had weapons of mass—that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction.  And so, here we are, $3 trillion later for the long term cost of the war, deaths of thousands of our troops, deaths to millions of Iraqis, civilians have died as a result of the conflict.  And we‘ve got to be careful about slipping into these wars.

And not even to get into the issue for too long, of can we afford it, can we trash our domestic agenda when the Pentagon is already taking over 50 percent of discretionary spending of the United States and we are paying 25 percent of the bill for NATO?  I mean, one, a discount is no good in any event, and we are really at a point here in our country‘s history where we are buying into a form of militarism that could take us anywhere in the world.

It might make us feel good for a few days.  But once a civil war starts and we get enmeshed like we are enmeshed in Afghanistan and Iraq, it‘s not going to feel so good after awhile.

O‘DONNELL:  Congressman Weiner, the president kept stressing phrases, like, “in this particular country,” “at this particular time,” “unique ability.”  He seemed to be making a one-off case here.  He didn‘t seem to be make ago case for doing anything like this elsewhere, unless all those same conditions applied, which they are unlikely to anywhere else in the world.

WEINER:  Well, because I think he was setting up the answer to the question: how is this different from Yemen?  How is it different from the Sudan?
The fact of the matter is, all of these cases are to some degree unique, and I empathize with Dennis Kucinich‘s point.  You know, you would like to never have to use military engagement.  You‘d like to never have to take up arms in another country.

But, you know, I wonder what it is about our country that makes us different, and one of the things is that we stand up and defend certain values and principles.  And I think of something else, I think that when you‘re in an international organization like NATO and when you‘re involved with allies in the Middle East, and we‘re always saying we want to be there to try to be a good friend and neighbor to these countries, when they turn to us and ask for help stopping a massacre, how do you say no?  How do you explain to the world if we say no?

O‘DONNELL:  Congressman Kucinich and Congressman Weiner—thank you very much for joining me tonight.

WEINER:  Thank you.

KUCINICH:  Thank you.

Monday, March 28, 2011

President Obama's Remarks on Libya 3-28-2011 (Full Text)

Here is the text of the speech. We will update with video as soon as it's available.

(Edit: And now, it is available! -- Leanne)

Tonight, I’d like to update the American people on the international effort that we have led in Libya –- what we’ve done, what we plan to do, and why this matters to us.

I want to begin by paying tribute to our men and women in uniform who, once again, have acted with courage, professionalism and patriotism. They have moved with incredible speed and strength. Because of them and our dedicated diplomats, a coalition has been forged and countless lives have been saved.

Meanwhile, as we speak, our troops are supporting our ally Japan, leaving Iraq to its people, stopping the Taliban’s momentum in Afghanistan, and going after al Qaeda all across the globe. As Commander-in-Chief, I’m grateful to our soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines, Coast Guardsmen, and to their families. And I know all Americans share in that sentiment.

For generations, the United States of America has played a unique role as an anchor of global security and as an advocate for human freedom. Mindful of the risks and costs of military action, we are naturally reluctant to use force to solve the world’s many challenges. But when our interests and values are at stake, we have a responsibility to act. That’s what happened in Libya over the course of these last six weeks.

Libya sits directly between Tunisia and Egypt -– two nations that inspired the world when their people rose up to take control of their own destiny. For more than four decades, the Libyan people have been ruled by a tyrant -– Muammar Qaddafi. He has denied his people freedom, exploited their wealth, murdered opponents at home and abroad, and terrorized innocent people around the world –- including Americans who were killed by Libyan agents.

Last month, Qaddafi’s grip of fear appeared to give way to the promise of freedom. In cities and towns across the country, Libyans took to the streets to claim their basic human rights. As one Libyan said, “For the first time we finally have hope that our nightmare of 40 years will soon be over.”

Faced with this opposition, Qaddafi began attacking his people. As President, my immediate concern was the safety of our citizens, so we evacuated our embassy and all Americans who sought our assistance. Then we took a series of swift steps in a matter of days to answer Qaddafi’s aggression. We froze more than $33 billion of Qaddafi’s regime’s assets. Joining with other nations at the United Nations Security Council, we broadened our sanctions, imposed an arms embargo, and enabled Qaddafi and those around him to be held accountable for their crimes. I made it clear that Qaddafi had lost the confidence of his people and the legitimacy to lead, and I said that he needed to step down from power.

In the face of the world’s condemnation, Qaddafi chose to escalate his attacks, launching a military campaign against the Libyan people. Innocent people were targeted for killing. Hospitals and ambulances were attacked. Journalists were arrested, sexually assaulted, and killed. Supplies of food and fuel were choked off. Water for hundreds of thousands of people in Misurata was shut off. Cities and towns were shelled, mosques were destroyed, and apartment buildings reduced to rubble. Military jets and helicopter gunships were unleashed upon people who had no means to defend themselves against assaults from the air.

Confronted by this brutal repression and a looming humanitarian crisis, I ordered warships into the Mediterranean. European allies declared their willingness to commit resources to stop the killing. The Libyan opposition and the Arab League appealed to the world to save lives in Libya. And so at my direction, America led an effort with our allies at the United Nations Security Council to pass a historic resolution that authorized a no-fly zone to stop the regime’s attacks from the air, and further authorized all necessary measures to protect the Libyan people.

Ten days ago, having tried to end the violence without using force, the international community offered Qaddafi a final chance to stop his campaign of killing, or face the consequences. Rather than stand down, his forces continued their advance, bearing down on the city of Benghazi, home to nearly 700,000 men, women and children who sought their freedom from fear.

At this point, the United States and the world faced a choice. Qaddafi declared he would show “no mercy” to his own people. He compared them to rats, and threatened to go door to door to inflict punishment. In the past, we have seen him hang civilians in the streets, and kill over a thousand people in a single day. Now we saw regime forces on the outskirts of the city. We knew that if we wanted -- if we waited one more day, Benghazi, a city nearly the size of Charlotte, could suffer a massacre that would have reverberated across the region and stained the conscience of the world.

It was not in our national interest to let that happen. I refused to let that happen. And so nine days ago, after consulting the bipartisan leadership of Congress, I authorized military action to stop the killing and enforce U.N. Security Council Resolution 1973.

We struck regime forces approaching Benghazi to save that city and the people within it. We hit Qaddafi’s troops in neighboring Ajdabiya, allowing the opposition to drive them out. We hit Qaddafi’s air defenses, which paved the way for a no-fly zone. We targeted tanks and military assets that had been choking off towns and cities, and we cut off much of their source of supply. And tonight, I can report that we have stopped Qaddafi’s deadly advance.

In this effort, the United States has not acted alone. Instead, we have been joined by a strong and growing coalition. This includes our closest allies -– nations like the United Kingdom, France, Canada, Denmark, Norway, Italy, Spain, Greece, and Turkey –- all of whom have fought by our sides for decades. And it includes Arab partners like Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, who have chosen to meet their responsibilities to defend the Libyan people.

To summarize, then: In just one month, the United States has worked with our international partners to mobilize a broad coalition, secure an international mandate to protect civilians, stop an advancing army, prevent a massacre, and establish a no-fly zone with our allies and partners. To lend some perspective on how rapidly this military and diplomatic response came together, when people were being brutalized in Bosnia in the 1990s, it took the international community more than a year to intervene with air power to protect civilians. It took us 31 days.

Moreover, we’ve accomplished these objectives consistent with the pledge that I made to the American people at the outset of our military operations. I said that America’s role would be limited; that we would not put ground troops into Libya; that we would focus our unique capabilities on the front end of the operation and that we would transfer responsibility to our allies and partners. Tonight, we are fulfilling that pledge.

Our most effective alliance, NATO, has taken command of the enforcement of the arms embargo and the no-fly zone. Last night, NATO decided to take on the additional responsibility of protecting Libyan civilians. This transfer from the United States to NATO will take place on Wednesday. Going forward, the lead in enforcing the no-fly zone and protecting civilians on the ground will transition to our allies and partners, and I am fully confident that our coalition will keep the pressure on Qaddafi’s remaining forces.

In that effort, the United States will play a supporting role -- including intelligence, logistical support, search and rescue assistance, and capabilities to jam regime communications. Because of this transition to a broader, NATO-based coalition, the risk and cost of this operation -- to our military and to American taxpayers -- will be reduced significantly.

So for those who doubted our capacity to carry out this operation, I want to be clear: The United States of America has done what we said we would do.

That’s not to say that our work is complete. In addition to our NATO responsibilities, we will work with the international community to provide assistance to the people of Libya, who need food for the hungry and medical care for the wounded. We will safeguard the more than $33 billion that was frozen from the Qaddafi regime so that it’s available to rebuild Libya. After all, the money doesn’t belong to Qaddafi or to us -- it belongs to the Libyan people. And we’ll make sure they receive it.

Tomorrow, Secretary Clinton will go to London, where she will meet with the Libyan opposition and consult with more than 30 nations. These discussions will focus on what kind of political effort is necessary to pressure Qaddafi, while also supporting a transition to the future that the Libyan people deserve -- because while our military mission is narrowly focused on saving lives, we continue to pursue the broader goal of a Libya that belongs not to a dictator, but to its people.

Now, despite the success of our efforts over the past week, I know that some Americans continue to have questions about our efforts in Libya. Qaddafi has not yet stepped down from power, and until he does, Libya will remain dangerous. Moreover, even after Qaddafi does leave power, 40 years of tyranny has left Libya fractured and without strong civil institutions. The transition to a legitimate government that is responsive to the Libyan people will be a difficult task. And while the United States will do our part to help, it will be a task for the international community and –- more importantly –- a task for the Libyan people themselves.

In fact, much of the debate in Washington has put forward a false choice when it comes to Libya. On the one hand, some question why America should intervene at all -– even in limited ways –- in this distant land. They argue that there are many places in the world where innocent civilians face brutal violence at the hands of their government, and America should not be expected to police the world, particularly when we have so many pressing needs here at home.

It’s true that America cannot use our military wherever repression occurs. And given the costs and risks of intervention, we must always measure our interests against the need for action. But that cannot be an argument for never acting on behalf of what’s right. In this particular country -– Libya -- at this particular moment, we were faced with the prospect of violence on a horrific scale. We had a unique ability to stop that violence: an international mandate for action, a broad coalition prepared to join us, the support of Arab countries, and a plea for help from the Libyan people themselves. We also had the ability to stop Qaddafi’s forces in their tracks without putting American troops on the ground.

To brush aside America’s responsibility as a leader and -– more profoundly -– our responsibilities to our fellow human beings under such circumstances would have been a betrayal of who we are. Some nations may be able to turn a blind eye to atrocities in other countries. The United States of America is different. And as President, I refused to wait for the images of slaughter and mass graves before taking action.

Moreover, America has an important strategic interest in preventing Qaddafi from overrunning those who oppose him. A massacre would have driven thousands of additional refugees across Libya’s borders, putting enormous strains on the peaceful –- yet fragile -– transitions in Egypt and Tunisia. The democratic impulses that are dawning across the region would be eclipsed by the darkest form of dictatorship, as repressive leaders concluded that violence is the best strategy to cling to power. The writ of the United Nations Security Council would have been shown to be little more than empty words, crippling that institution’s future credibility to uphold global peace and security. So while I will never minimize the costs involved in military action, I am convinced that a failure to act in Libya would have carried a far greater price for America.

Now, just as there are those who have argued against intervention in Libya, there are others who have suggested that we broaden our military mission beyond the task of protecting the Libyan people, and do whatever it takes to bring down Qaddafi and usher in a new government.

Of course, there is no question that Libya -– and the world –- would be better off with Qaddafi out of power. I, along with many other world leaders, have embraced that goal, and will actively pursue it through non-military means. But broadening our military mission to include regime change would be a mistake.

The task that I assigned our forces -– to protect the Libyan people from immediate danger, and to establish a no-fly zone -– carries with it a U.N. mandate and international support. It’s also what the Libyan opposition asked us to do. If we tried to overthrow Qaddafi by force, our coalition would splinter. We would likely have to put U.S. troops on the ground to accomplish that mission, or risk killing many civilians from the air. The dangers faced by our men and women in uniform would be far greater. So would the costs and our share of the responsibility for what comes next.

To be blunt, we went down that road in Iraq. Thanks to the extraordinary sacrifices of our troops and the determination of our diplomats, we are hopeful about Iraq’s future. But regime change there took eight years, thousands of American and Iraqi lives, and nearly a trillion dollars. That is not something we can afford to repeat in Libya.

As the bulk of our military effort ratchets down, what we can do -- and will do -- is support the aspirations of the Libyan people. We have intervened to stop a massacre, and we will work with our allies and partners to maintain the safety of civilians. We will deny the regime arms, cut off its supplies of cash, assist the opposition, and work with other nations to hasten the day when Qaddafi leaves power. It may not happen overnight, as a badly weakened Qaddafi tries desperately to hang on to power. But it should be clear to those around Qaddafi, and to every Libyan, that history is not on Qaddafi’s side. With the time and space that we have provided for the Libyan people, they will be able to determine their own destiny, and that is how it should be.

Let me close by addressing what this action says about the use of America’s military power, and America’s broader leadership in the world, under my presidency.

As Commander-in-Chief, I have no greater responsibility than keeping this country safe. And no decision weighs on me more than when to deploy our men and women in uniform. I’ve made it clear that I will never hesitate to use our military swiftly, decisively, and unilaterally when necessary to defend our people, our homeland, our allies and our core interests. That's why we’re going after al Qaeda wherever they seek a foothold. That is why we continue to fight in Afghanistan, even as we have ended our combat mission in Iraq and removed more than 100,000 troops from that country.

There will be times, though, when our safety is not directly threatened, but our interests and our values are. Sometimes, the course of history poses challenges that threaten our common humanity and our common security -– responding to natural disasters, for example; or preventing genocide and keeping the peace; ensuring regional security, and maintaining the flow of commerce. These may not be America’s problems alone, but they are important to us. They’re problems worth solving. And in these circumstances, we know that the United States, as the world’s most powerful nation, will often be called upon to help.

In such cases, we should not be afraid to act -– but the burden of action should not be America’s alone. As we have in Libya, our task is instead to mobilize the international community for collective action. Because contrary to the claims of some, American leadership is not simply a matter of going it alone and bearing all of the burden ourselves. Real leadership creates the conditions and coalitions for others to step up as well; to work with allies and partners so that they bear their share of the burden and pay their share of the costs; and to see that the principles of justice and human dignity are upheld by all.

That’s the kind of leadership we’ve shown in Libya. Of course, even when we act as part of a coalition, the risks of any military action will be high. Those risks were realized when one of our planes malfunctioned over Libya. Yet when one of our airmen parachuted to the ground, in a country whose leader has so often demonized the United States –- in a region that has such a difficult history with our country –- this American did not find enemies. Instead, he was met by people who embraced him. One young Libyan who came to his aid said, “We are your friends. We are so grateful to those men who are protecting the skies.”

This voice is just one of many in a region where a new generation is refusing to be denied their rights and opportunities any longer.

Yes, this change will make the world more complicated for a time. Progress will be uneven, and change will come differently to different countries. There are places, like Egypt, where this change will inspire us and raise our hopes. And then there will be places, like Iran, where change is fiercely suppressed. The dark forces of civil conflict and sectarian war will have to be averted, and difficult political and economic concerns will have to be addressed.

The United States will not be able to dictate the pace and scope of this change. Only the people of the region can do that. But we can make a difference.

I believe that this movement of change cannot be turned back, and that we must stand alongside those who believe in the same core principles that have guided us through many storms: our opposition to violence directed at one’s own people; our support for a set of universal rights, including the freedom for people to express themselves and choose their leaders; our support for governments that are ultimately responsive to the aspirations of the people.

Born, as we are, out of a revolution by those who longed to be free, we welcome the fact that history is on the move in the Middle East and North Africa, and that young people are leading the way. Because wherever people long to be free, they will find a friend in the United States. Ultimately, it is that faith -- those ideals -- that are the true measure of American leadership.

My fellow Americans, I know that at a time of upheaval overseas -- when the news is filled with conflict and change -- it can be tempting to turn away from the world. And as I’ve said before, our strength abroad is anchored in our strength here at home. That must always be our North Star -- the ability of our people to reach their potential, to make wise choices with our resources, to enlarge the prosperity that serves as a wellspring for our power, and to live the values that we hold so dear.

But let us also remember that for generations, we have done the hard work of protecting our own people, as well as millions around the globe. We have done so because we know that our own future is safer, our own future is brighter, if more of mankind can live with the bright light of freedom and dignity.

Tonight, let us give thanks for the Americans who are serving through these trying times, and the coalition that is carrying our effort forward. And let us look to the future with confidence and hope not only for our own country, but for all those yearning for freedom around the world.

Thank you. God bless you, and may God bless the United States of America. Thank you.

Prince William County VA: A Microcosm of the Battles Being Fought All Over the Country

Prince William County, VA is governed by a Board of Supervisors that is comprised of one Supervisor from each of the seven magisterial districts, plus one Chairman elected by the county at-large. The current Chairman is Republican Corey Stewart. Stewart spent the last year fighting for legislation called the "Virginia Rule of Law." Basically, Stewart believes Virginia should follow in the footsteps of Arizona's anti-immigration laws.

Stewart said he is still working on a final draft of his legislation plan, but he wants it to direct Virginia law enforcement officials to ascertain, in any lawful contact, the legal status of an individual. Another key point for the bill, he said, would be to prohibit jurisdictions from calling themselves sanctuaries for illegal immigrants.
Of course, while Corey Stewart has had a laser focus on immigrants - driving up costs for law enforcement and wasting their time and everyone else's, Prince William County has basically fallen into disarray around him. Others might look up once in a while and realize that maybe they need to address some of the other problems, but not Corey Stewart!

Thankfully, for the sake of all those in Prince William County, Stewart has a challenger this year - one who wants to actually solve the many problems facing PWC residents - the problems that Stewart has ignored while he focused all of his attention on immigrants.

Meet Dr. Babur Lateef, an ophthalmologist from Woodbridge who is running to represent "all of the people of Prince William County."

I have served over 15,000 patients across Prince William County and I see the needs of county residents every day. I am a father and a small business owner and I can see firsthand that it's time for a new vision for Prince William County. We need a Chairman interested in getting things done for our businesses, our schools, and our communities rather than getting headlines for himself. If we give Corey Stewart another four years, he won't use it to help our community; he will use it to advance his political career. I want to serve our community because I care about the problems we all face. My only agenda is getting Prince William County back on track. I want to be the Chairman for all of the people of Prince William County.
Dr. Lateef is clearly ready to tackle the real issues, not the imaginary ones. Here's the first web video from the Lateef campaign - making the case (very effectively) that Stewart has failed those he is supposed to represent.

How much worse can those unemployment numbers get? How many more children can be shoved into one classroom? How little money can you pay teachers before the best and the brightest move on to other opportunities? And how can small businesses survive in a poor economy?

Dr. Lateef clearly understands what is at stake here if Stewart wins re-election - and this race is just a microcosm of what we're seeing all over the country.

If you're interested in donating to Dr. Lateef's campaign, click here to do so. The end of the quarter is at hand and early money is important to every campaign. You can follow Dr. Lateef's campaign on Twitter or on Facebook. Hopefully the voters in Prince William County will take a look around and choose their Chairman wisely. Given the track record of Stewart, I would think they would be looking elsewhere for leadership - and Dr. Lateef surely seems ready to lead.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

The Republican Plan For Growing The Economy? Cut Everyone's Wages.

Over the past few months, we've watched as the newly-elected Republicans have conducted a wide-spread assault on women's rights, unions, Social Security and Medicare, education, and other programs to help those in need under the cover of cutting government spending. Although they said that job creation was the first priority back in November, what they've been focusing on is rolling back progressive achievements, and reducing "big government."

How do they think this is helping the economy and creating jobs? There's an article over at the National Journal which looked through Boehner's explanation of how that would work.
The paper makes the party’s anti-Keynesian case that fiscal consolidation (read: spending cuts) can spur immediate economic growth and reduce unemployment. But in making that case, the Republicans may also have given Democrats some political ammunition.
For example, the paper predicts that cutting the number of public employees would send highly skilled workers job hunting in the private sector, which in turn would lead to lower labor costs and increased employment. But “lowering labor costs” is economist-speak for lowering wages — does the GOP want to be in the position of advocating for lower wages for voters who work in the private sector?
Apparently, yes. The justification for why they would believe that this would work is that they looked at some countries which cut government spending to reduce their deficit, and the economic growth that they experienced. The problem with their analysis?
To establish that spending cuts can lead to near-term growth, the study looks to the experience of several small European countries. Some economists say the nations cited don’t provide a useful model to the United States because those countries took steps to blunt the impact of cuts — such as devaluing their currency to promote exports — that are improbable in America, especially with monetary policy already stretched to the limit.
“Much of this study relies on the growth performance of a few (very) small open economies — Sweden, Canada, New Zealand, notably — after 1994,” said University of Texas economist James Galbraith, who was executive director of the JEC in the early eighties. “It’s easy to look good if you are a small country with a freshly devalued currency selling into a world boom. The ‘lessons’ will not apply to the United States, which cannot just contract domestically, devalue the dollar (sacrificing our reserve-currency position) and expect the rest of the world to bail us out by buying our exports.”
In other words, just cutting government spending to reduce the deficit is not going to increase the economy by itself. There's a set of actions - and specific circumstances - that have to be in place for that, and it does not apply to this country. Ezra Klein takes a hard look at this as well:
That said, the IMF report does say two things that back up conservative preferences: 1) cutting deficits by cutting spending does appear to be better for the economy than cutting deficits by raising taxes, so it’s not crazy to want to see spending cuts predominate over tax increases, and 2) over the long-term, cutting deficits does help the economy. Unfortunately, over the short-term they do real harm: “A fiscal consolidation equal to 1 percent of GDP typically reduces GDP by about 0.5 percent within two years and raises the unemployment rate by about 0.3 percentage point.” If you were to take this evidence seriously, you’d wait a few years to start cutting deficits, but when you did it, you’d prefer spending cuts to tax increases.
But, as he also points out, taxes in those countries were higher (much higher) to begin with than they are here, so the effect of raising taxes might be quite different. It's also worthwhile to point out that all the countries mentioned as examples by the Republicans have a much greater social safety net - including universal healthcare programs - than does the the United States. The National Journal article points out that economists and the bond market don't agree with the Republicans:
Ultimately, the argument comes down to what policymakers see as the key problem in the economy. Is growth slow because businesses and consumers fear higher taxes or because businesses don’t have enough demand for their products to expand? Republicans are arguing the former, but many economists — and the bond market — believe the latter is closer to the truth. Moody’s bond-rating agency warned on Thursday that the U.K. is in danger of having its debt downgraded due to worries about slow growth resulting from consolidation.
In order to "grow the economy," the Republican plan will reduce demand, increase the unemployment rate, and drive down wages. We already know that they're not too fond of the minimum wage. It turns out that they don't just think that government workers make too much money. They think everyone (who is not them) makes too much money.

What's the Republican plan to make America competitive with other countries? Turn us into one of the countries that businesses sent manufacturing to: Poorly educated, low-paid, no regulation, and no protections. With the wealthy in charge, of course.

Friday, March 25, 2011

The Next Republican Target? The Elderly.

One of the ironies of the 2010 election was that a solid percentage of the votes for Republicans came from senior citizens.
For example, senior citizens who comprised 24 percent of the total electorate supported Republicans much more strongly on Tuesday than they did two years ago, the exit polling showed. According to the data, 39 percent of senior citizens voted for Democrats, compared with 49 percent in 2008, while 58 percent supported Republicans, compared with 49 percent two years ago.
In addition, senior citizens are one of the more reliable groups of voters. That is, they are the most likely to show up at the polls in any election. In 2010, they shifted their votes to Republicans, or were already committed Republicans, and they provided one of the principal voter blocks that enabled the Republicans to regain control of the House.
Senior citizens turned out in force, with the number of ballots cast by voters over 65 increasing by 16 percent. While making up only 13 percent of the U.S. resident population, Americans in this age group constituted 21 percent of 2010 voters. This age group also significantly increased their support of Republican candidates, from 49 percent in 2006 to 59 percent in 2010.
Now, in the normal political scheme of things, this would constitute a constituency that Republicans would want to cater to. But since the rise of the Tea Parties, that has changed, and now seniors are in their crosshairs. Right after the election, a number of Republicans voted against a payment of $250 to SS recipients because there was not going to be any cost-of-living increase in Social Security. Then, once Republicans took office, they began rolling out new proposals. First up? Medicare.
The proposal would shift risk from the federal government to seniors themselves. The money seniors would get to buy their own policies would grow more slowly than their health-care costs, and more slowly than their expected Medicare benefits, which means that they'd need to either cut back on how comprehensive their insurance is or how much health-care they purchase. Exacerbating the situation -- and this is important -- Medicare currently pays providers less and works more efficiently than private insurers, so seniors trying to purchase a plan equivalent to Medicare would pay more for it on the private market.
Medicare would, for all intents and purposes, cease to exist under the Republican plan. While they're working on that, they're also indulging in a little payback. One of the groups which came out in favor of the Affordable Care Act was AARP. Whatever one thinks of them, they are the largest and most influential lobbying organizations for seniors. Which is why the Republicans didn't like it that they came out in favor of ACA, and now they're "investigating" them.
The Ways and Means health and oversight subcommittees are hauling in the seniors lobby's executives before the panel for an April 1 hearing on how the group stands to benefit from the law, among other topics. Republicans say AARP supported the law's $200 billion in cuts to the Medicare Advantage program because it stands to gain financially as seniors replace their MA plans with Medicare supplemental insurance — or Medigap — policies endorsed by the association.
The hearing will cover not only Medigap but "AARP’s organizational structure, management, and financial growth over the last decade."
Anyone who doesn't think that this is payback isn't paying attention to what the Republicans have been doing since the beginning of this year. But the pattern is now clear. It's not just the poor and the unions that are the target of Republicans. They're after the elderly as well.

That's where the irony comes in. Many of them voted for Republicans, because they bought into the notion that government spending was out of control, and that there were too many people getting entitlements - "sucking off the government teat," as it were - who didn't "deserve" them. What they didn't realize was that they were among "those people." They voted against their own interest, and it's going to be interesting to see when they realize that.

Republican Governors and Presidential Hopefuls Have Problems

Haley Barbour is often mentioned as a potential Presidential candidate for the Republican Party. Although he hasn't announced yet, his schedule of speaking appearances before various right-wing groups and news show appearances suggest it. In fact, he's done it so much that it's starting to draw scrutiny.
Taking the state's jet for a mix of personal and state business is nothing new for Barbour, who says he will make a final decision on a presidential bid in April. He racked up more than $300,000 in taxpayer-funded travel bills in 2010, spending all or part of at least 175 days outside the state, according to the Clarion-Ledger newspaper in Jackson, Miss.
Yes, that's right, he spent almost half the year outside of the state he was supposed to be governing. That, in itself might raise questions, but Politico points out some other issues:
And through a quirk in Mississippi law, whenever the governor is out of state, Mississippi must pay the lieutenant governor a salary differential as acting governor.
When Politico looked at the flight logs for the state, it turns out that:
The flight logs obtained by POLITICO indicate that Mississippi has spent more than $500,000 over the past three years on Barbour's air travel. That total does not include security and other logistical costs associated with his trips.
But it's official state business, he says, because he conducts state business while away!
Some of Barbour’s travel may well have been worth it to Mississippi, a state that is heavily dependent on federal funds. But much of the time, he has used the plane to go to fundraisers for himself and other Republican candidates and committees, to football games and to at least one boxing match — travel that has a less obvious connection to what Barbour, a former top lobbyist in Washington, has cast as his lobbying on behalf of his state.
What did he say in his latest speech to CPAC? "Our problem is not that we tax too little," Barbour told the gathering. "It's that we spend too much." Apparently spending over $500,000 of taxpayer money traveling in a luxury jet is not "spending too much," except to everyone who is not Haley Barbour.

Meanwhile, in Indiana, another governor who is often mentioned as a potential candidate is having a problem. He's fighting with IBM.
Daniels canceled a 10-year $1.37 billion contract with IBM to update the state's social services system three years in after numerous complaints and critical articles about its effectiveness. Indiana then sued IBM to recover over $400 million it had already paid.
Which IBM didn't appreciate. They counter-sued, claiming the state still owes them $100 million dollars, and they want to depose Governor Daniels.
The latest in the case: whether Daniels should give a deposition. The state recently requested a protective order that would bar Daniels and his chief of staff from being deposed. But IBM’s lead attorney argues that Daniels was a key player in the project and that he has a duty to share information.
According to the lead attorney for IBM:
“Gov. Daniels talks all the time about openness and transparency,” Chicago-based attorney Steven McCormick, who’s representing IBM, said after a hearing this afternoon. “Why, after this was his personal project, would he shy away from coming and being heard on the record? We just don’t understand that.”
And, of course, the Indiana Democratic Party has a position on this:
"Mitch Daniels has no right -- absolutely no right -- to hide behind immunity when he came up with the privatization idea, awarded the contract to his buddies and then watched them drive the bus off a cliff at a tremendous cost to our neediest citizens," Indiana Democratic Party Chair Dan Parker said in a statement this week. "The court needs to understand that there's a huge difference between a Governor being dragged into every lawsuit and a Governor single-handedly creating the basis for the lawsuit through his reckless actions."
In other words, he started this project, and then canceled it, and is trying to get out of giving a deposition as to why he did it. Which is something he'd have to explain while trying to persuade voters that he'd be a good candidate for President, if he chooses to run. But if I were him, I wouldn't count on any campaign donations from IBM.

So now we have two potential candidates for the Republican nomination that have demonstrated that their "concern" for the taxpayers, good government, and careful control of spending is a sham. It's going to be very interesting watching them try to explain that when the time comes.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Government Shouldn't Pick Winners & Losers! Since When?

One of the usual complaints you hear from the conservatives is about "government subsidies." Usually, when they make those complaints, they're talking about government giving subsidies to some industry or initiative that they don't approve of, or that may not be in favor with established businesses. If you listen to them, you'd come away with the idea that only the free market should matter, that in the past government didn't subsidize industries, they were built by bold entrepreneurs who risked their own money to do so. Sometimes it's phrased as "The government shouldn't be picking winners and losers." It's a compelling tale, alright. It's also complete bullshit, as any study of history or a look at the present day would tell you. There are very few major economic sectors, along with the major players in it, that do not owe their start to government incentives and subsidies, and there are a considerable number which continue to receive them.

What do I mean by that? Consider railroads. We've seen any number of stories in print and on film about the building of railroads in this country, including the transcontinental railroads. Great fortunes were made (and lost) during the building of them, and, from a conservative point, you'd think it was a story of people risking their money to build them in the hopes of making those fortunes. There's an element of truth in that, but there were also some serious government incentives provided. Principally, the Pacific Railroad Act of 1862, and of 1864. What was the incentive?
At that time, the Union Pacific and Central Pacific railroads were granted 400-foot right-of-ways plus ten square miles of land for every mile of track built.

The 1864 Act gave them twenty square miles plus mineral rights to the land. In other words, to get the railroad built, the federal government gave the railroad companies a lot of land. In effect, the railroad company also became a real estate company. There was also a bonus and backdoor incentive to grow another industry in there. The requirement was that they had to use American steel for the rails, so domestic steel companies were also benefiting from the expanded (and captive) market.

That isn't the only case. Settlement of the West? The Homestead Act, which transferred a lot of federal land into the hands of private citizens. Mining? The General Mining Act of 1872, which not only codified the procedure for establishing mining claims on federal land, it set a price which is still in effect, hence, any mining company gets a considerable subsidy to find and extract minerals from federal land. Airlines? The early ones got their start as mail carriers who added passengers.

That's just a short list, not by any means complete. Many of these established industries still do get subsidies from the government. Oil and gas companies? Listen to the fight about protecting their tax breaks, and fight to keep from paying royalties on oil and gas produced from federal leases. Mining companies lobby frantically to keep Congress from modifying the 1872 Act. Ranchers fight to keep federal land open for grazing. The agricultural sector screams every time their subsidies get brought up. Over and over again, established industries, the "proponents of the free market," fight tooth and nail to keep their federal subsidies, and Republicans are more than willing to help them do it.

That attitude promptly changes when it comes to deciding to give incentives to new industries. Then the conservatives catch the free market fever, and get the figurative vapors over the thought of the government aid. Solar and wind power? Oh, no! Why, if it was a good idea, the free market should decide, not the government! Why, that's the way other businesses worked! Except for the federal money which built electrical distribution networks, dams, hydroelectric plants, and made sure that most people have electricity. High speed rail? Oh my goodness! Why can't it be done with private money? After all, the airlines, roads, and early railroads didn't need government to do it! Except for the mail contracts, the land grants, airport construction, air traffic control, and the road tax money that were given out all over.

The point is that the conservatives' talking point that industries in the past didn't need or get government subsidies is a fiction. Right from the beginning the government has used preferences, tax breaks, and outright subsidies to encourage new industries. Government "boondoggles," or "wasteful spending" on projects that "weren't needed" ended up being critical to the nation's development, or are major parts of the economy today.

There is nothing new about the government giving preferences and support to new industries. What the conservatives haven't answered is this question: If they're so much against the government picking winners and losers, then why are they so in favor of continuing to have the government support supposed "winners"?

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Ohio Governor Kasich's Approval Rating Takes a Nosedive

Ohio voters are showing signs of buyer's remorse regarding their 2010 election of tea party Republican Gov. John Kasich. A new poll by Quinnipiac University finds that Buckeye State voters polled disapprove of Kasich's job performance 48-30 percent, with 28 percent undecided.

This is somewhat unremarkable, given the level of controversy Kasich's budget proposals have generated.
Since taking office this year, Kasich has proposed making deep cuts to the state budget, cuts which critics argue would have the most impact on the state's poorest families. He has also pushed to strip the state's public employee unions of their collective bargaining rights with a bill that, unlike one in Wisconsin, would not exempt public safety and fire unions.
And it can also be argued that, hey, this is only Kasich's second month in a four-year term, so he has plenty of time to climb out of the hole of public opinion, right?

Well, that's true. However, it's certainly interesting to look at how far the governor's approval rating has fallen since the first time Quinnipiac polled Ohioans on his job performance, one week after he took office in January.

Now, I realize that opinions of someone's performance only one week into a term are almost guaranteed to be based entirely on party affiliation or some other bias. But that's just what makes this statistic interesting to me, because as you can see, the percentage of people who approve of Kasich's performance hasn't changed a smidge - he still has the same 30 percent who like what he's doing. However, the percentage of people who disapprove of him two months later has risen dramatically - from just 22 percent in mid-January to 46 percent today. And the percentage of people expressing no opinion has been cut in half.

Even more edifying is looking at the party/ideological breakdown of the job approval question, then and now. Here's what we had in January:

Unsurprisingly, one week into Kasich's term, Republicans approved of his performance 55-6 percent (with 39 percent undecided) and Democrats disapproved 35-14 percent (with 50 percent undecided). Independents were clearly giving him time to prove himself, approving 31-18 percent and 51 percent undecided..

Today, however, it's rather a different story:

It's no shock that Democratic disapproval almost doubled in the past two months, but look at the Republican disapproval - it's tripled, rising from 6 to 18 percent, while Republican approval only increased by 8 percent. But that's not the most telling statistic. For that, you have to look at the shift in opinion among independents, over half of whom were undecided two months ago. Today, only 25 percent are undecided, with disapproval nearly tripling from 18 percent in January to 49 percent now.

Why is this significant? Well, Kasich didn't exactly roll into the governorship on a massive voter mandate. He defeated incumbent Ted Strickland by a narrow 3 percentage points. In a race that was heavily polarized along party lines, support from independents definitely tipped the scales toward a Kasich victory. Now it appears that a lot of those independent voters are less than happy with the results they are seeing thus far.

As a Democrat, I'm happy to see that the bloom has fallen from the Kasich rose bush so quickly and emphatically. As a realist, I'm fully aware that these are early days yet, and it's entirely possible the governor will reclaim some support as time moves forward.

But as a human being, I mostly feel a compassionate sadness for the people in Ohio who are being or will be hurt by Kasich's reign over the state. You see, Ohio doesn't have any legal provisions for recalling its governor, or any other elected state official. It doesn't matter how much damage he does to working people or the poor or the economy of the state. It doesn't matter how much further his job approval plummets or how angry he makes independent voters, or even his own Republican voters. Ohio is stuck with John Kasich for four long years.

And while regular readers are probably tired of reading this sentiment on this blog, I'm going to say it again and again for as long as I think it's helpful: This is why elections matter. This is why it's important to vote. Even when you're disillusioned. Even when you're unexcited. Even when you think it's a choice between the lesser of two evils.

If you don't vote, and you end up in a plight like that of Ohioans, you have to bear responsibility for making that happen. And you might wind up being responsible for four years of regressive, abusive political carnage.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Republican Attempts to Weaken Unions Continue in Florida

A bill that will prohibit payroll deductions of union dues for public workers is moving through the State Senate and the House here in Florida. The legislation also requires union members to approve the use of dues for political purposes on a yearly basis. Given the fact that the Republicans own the State Senate, the House, and the Governor's King's Mansion, this legislation is sure to pass swiftly - taking away some political power here for unions. That's exactly the plan, of course.

Chris Dorworth (R-Lake Wales) is the sponsor of the legislation -

Dorworth said he doesn't believe governments should be in the business of handling payroll deductions for union dues. That can be taken care of by private vendors, he said. And the written approval for political expenditures, he said, gives individual union members control over how their money is spent.
And the most important question?

"How many jobs is it going to create? How is it going to reduce our deficit? What is the public good that's going to be served by this bill?" asked Franklin Sands, a Democrat from Weston who earned applause for calling Dorworth's proposal a "union busting" bill.

House Democratic leaders Ron Saunders from Key West pledged to make a stink about the politics at play when the bill comes up for debate on the House floor. "Why are we here on a bill that is supposedly to protect union members and not a single union member has spoken in support of it?" Saunders said. "I don't see the reason for this bill."

This legislation won't create jobs. Union members do not support it. The sole purpose of the legislation is to weaken union political power because union members tend to vote for Democrats instead of Republicans.

There are more than 1.1 million unemployed Floridians right now. We have an unemployment rate over 12%, but Republicans are focused on doing the biggest damage to their political opponents - teachers, police officers, fire-fighters, and all of the other public workers who are union members. Don't accuse Republicans of having the wrong priorities though - because in their mind, they absolutely have the right priorities - themselves.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

FL Republican Blames 11-Year-Old Gang Rape Victim

Florida's politicians were hard at work today. They've got a lot on their plates - taking the right to due process away from the state's teachers and basing their year's pay on one single test score, forcing women to have ultrasounds before an abortion, banning local governments from restricting or regulating the use of phosphate fertilizers (which are polluting our drinking water and causing dead zones in the Gulf), attempting to ban abortion except in cases of rape, incest, or a woman's life, and of course there's the all important House bill - HB 61 - Code of Student Conduct. This bill is also known as the "sagging pants" bill.
"This pro-family, pro-education, pro-jobs bill provides each school district ... adopt a student dress code of conduct, a policy that explains to each student their responsibility," she said. "This would make for a better school district and more productive students."
This bill isn't shocking or anything - it's just a bunch of politicians telling kids to pull up their pants (the focus here is on young black males, just in case you didn't know), and that they shouldn't wear clothes that are "vulgar." Of course, the passage of this legislation will immediately result in increased test scores and grades for each student and apparently create jobs! What is shocking (besides the potential harassment of young black men, which probably bothers few of the white legislators in Tallahassee), is the response of one Republican legislator, Republican Kathleen Passidomo.
"There was an article about an 11 year old girl who was gangraped in Texas by 18 young men because she was dressed like a 21-year-old prostitute," she said. "And her parents let her attend school like that. And I think it’s incumbent upon us to create some areas where students can be safe in school and show up in proper attire so what happened in Texas doesn’t happen to our students."
No one made a comment on this appalling statement - to the shame of every member of the Committee.

A reader at Think Progress notes Passidomo's response when asked about this statement:
"Thank you for your concern, I was not referring to my own opinion to the cause of the rape, but to the cause implied by a March 8th article of the New York Times."
And yet, a simple reading of her statement makes it abundantly clear that Passidomo does indeed believe that this 11-year-old girl was raped because she wasn't in "proper attire" - and that we should pass laws to regulate what kids wear so that we can protect them from themselves and their parent's awful fashion sense which somehow results in violence.

The 11-year-old in question was gang raped by at least 17 men and teenage boys - maybe as many as 28. Her family has had to relocate due to threats and she has been placed in a temporary foster home for protection, but I'm sure a school uniform would have prevented this horrific event where more than a dozen "men" decided to rape a little girl. Of course, the defense for three of the rapists wants us to know that this really isn't just a "little girl."

Over the next two days, the recordings went viral around school. One student who recognized the girl and several of the young men, including star athletes, in the videos, alerted school authorities and triggered the investigation.

So far, 17 suspects have been charged, ranging in age from a middle-schooler to a 27-year-old. Seven are high school students, including two members of Cleveland's state-ranked basketball team. Another is the 21-year-old son of a school board member. Several have prior criminal records for drug sales, aggravated robbery and manslaughter.

James D. Evans III, an attorney who represents three of the defendants, insists: "This is not a case of a child who was enslaved or taken advantage of."

The message we're supposed to take away is basically summed up like this - because this 11-year-old girl was determined to be a few years older than she really was, due to makeup and slutty clothes, and because she tried to act older on her Facebook page, it's perfectly okay for 17 to 28 men to gang rape her while taking photos and video.

Blaming the victim of rape is a very common occurrence, especially with a focus on what the victim was wearing, but blaming a child? That's new to me and particularly sick.

Women's History Month: "Amazing Grace" Hopper

The world of computer technology is often seen as a male-dominated field. Most people, when they think of "computers" and the history of computing, they think of the men who did it. But there is a pioneer who is not a man. One of the great women in this nation's history. If you've ever used the term "computer bug," "debugged" a computer, or said "It's easier to ask forgiveness than it is to get permission," you've quoted her. She was one of the earliest computer scientists, and developed the programming language on which even today much of the world's business runs. Her name? Grace Murray Hopper.

Rear Admiral Grace Murray Hopper (December 9, 1906 – January 1, 1992) was an American computer scientist and United States Navy officer. A pioneer in the field, she was one of the first programmers of the Harvard Mark I computer, and developed the first compiler for a computer programming language. She conceptualized the idea of machine-independent programming languages, which led to the development of COBOL, one of the first modern programming languages. She is credited with popularizing the term "debugging" for fixing computer glitches (motivated by an actual moth removed from the computer). Because of the breadth of her accomplishments and her naval rank, she is sometimes referred to as "Amazing Grace"

It was during World War II that she left her position as a Professor of Mathematics at Vassar to join the Navy. She stayed in the Naval Reserve until she retired in 1966. A few months later, they asked her to spend 6 months on active duty - which stretched into 5 years, before she retired again. This didn't last long either, they brought her back, and for the next 14 years she served on active duty, being promoted to Rear Admiral.

She retired (involuntarily) from the Navy on August 14, 1986. At a celebration held in Boston on the USS Constitution to celebrate her retirement, Hopper was awarded the Defense Distinguished Service Medal, the highest non-combat award possible by the Department of Defense. At the moment of her retirement, she was the oldest commissioned officer in the United States Navy (79 years, eight months and five days), and aboard the oldest commissioned ship in the United States Navy (188 years, nine months and 23 days)

Retirement didn't slow her down. She was immediately hired by DEC as a consultant, and gave lectures around the world. One young journalist interviewed her:
I made the required phone calls and was granted an audience at 9:00 p.m. on a Wednesday night. Swell. That's past my bedtime, and I was absolutely certain it was past lights out for a 70-year-old-plus, admiral or not.

As I look back on that night, I don't know what I really expected. Whatever it was, it was light years away from what I got.

True to my profession, I did my homework. Armed with a tape recorder, spare tapes, pad of paper, two pens and well-prepared, pre-sanctioned questions, I arrived at the designated audience chamber, the lobby of the Hotel Radisson, well ahead of the appointed hour. Promptly at 9 o'clock, the elevator door opened, and the lady emerged. Shaking my hand she said, "So you're the new Chips editor. What makes you think you can do the job?"

The interview didn't go downhill from there, but it sure established who controlled whom. We talked; I asked my questions. She talked; I changed tapes. She talked some more; I changed tapes again. She smoked; I took notes. She started asking me questions; I ran out of tape. She was winding up; I was winding down.

I had expected the usual 30-minute interview. So much for anticipation. My bedtime was now well behind me, and I was sagging. Around 10:45, I noticed a gaggle of young people. However late the hour, these kids were listening to Hopper lecture me and were waiting for a small audience of their own. Hopper didn't disappoint any of them. It was nearly midnight when I tottered to my car, leaving her still holding court with her fan club. The next morning I took a few editorial liberties with my starting time, arriving at the conference around 9:00 a.m. No sooner had I cleared the portals of the Pavilion Convention Center when my boss, panic clearly showing in his eyes, rushed up to say, "Admiral Hopper wants to see you. You left last night before she was finished."

Her passion was teaching, particularly the young:

Her favorite age group to address was young people between the ages of 17 and 20. She believed they know more, they question more and they learn more than people in what she called the "in-between years", ages 40 to 45. She always placed very high importance on America's youth. Hopper often said, "working with the youth is the most important job I've done. It's also the most rewarding." This seems perfectly natural since she spent all her adult life teaching others.

Although her early achievements in computers would have cemented her a place in history, she was a major figure in pushing the technology throughout her life. Today, there are a number of awards named after her. The Grace Murray Hopper Award from the Association for Computer Machinery, awarded to the outstanding young computer professional of the year, selected on the basis of a single recent major technical or service contribution. This award is accompanied by a prize of $35,000. The candidate must have been 35 years of age or less at the time the qualifying contribution was made, and the Government Technology Leadership Awards are known as "The Gracies." The Navy honored her by naming a ship after her: The USS Hopper, only the second warship ever named for a woman from the Navy.

This month is Women's History Month. This post was created on a computer, stored on another, and sent to yours where you're reading it now. One of the people who made this possible, who not only created the technology, but mentored and pushed others, who hated the phrase "we've always done it this way" is responsible for it. Amazing Grace, indeed.

Obama Commemorates Women's History Month, Vows to Keep Pushing Paycheck Fairness Act

On Friday, March 1, President Obama issued a taped address about Women's History Month and the progress that American women have made in the last fifty years. He also mentioned the report on the status of women in this country issued earlier this month by the White House Council on Women and Girls, which the president commissioned in early 2009.

Obama also pledged to continue pushing for passage of the Paycheck Fairness Act, legislation that would bring tougher penalties for gender-based pay inequities and make it easier to prove gender discrimination in salaries. This bill was passed last year by the U.S. House but blocked by Republicans in the Senate on the grounds that it would impose an undue burden on businesses to pay women as much as men make for the same or comparable work. (I'm paraphrasing, of course.)

I'll be writing more on the Council on Women and Girls' report later. In the meantime, here's a video of the president's address, followed by a transcript.

EDIT: Also be sure to check out this post by Eclectablog, in which he reproduces an anecdote from "a little old lady" reader about her childhood experience of being paid less than boys for better work. It's well worth the read.

March is Women’s History Month, a time not only to celebrate the progress that women have made, but also the women throughout our history who have made that progress possible.

One inspiring American who comes to mind is Eleanor Roosevelt.  In 1961, the former First Lady was unhappy about the lack of women in government, so she marched up to President Kennedy and handed him a three-page list of women who were qualified for top posts in his administration.  This led the President to select Mrs. Roosevelt as the head of a new commission to look at the status of women in America, and the unfairness they routinely faced in their lives.

Though she passed away before the commission could finish its work, the report they released spurred action across the country.  It helped galvanize a movement led by women that would help make our society a more equal place.

It’s been almost fifty years since the Roosevelt commission published its findings – and there have been few similar efforts by the government in the decades that followed. That’s why, last week, here at the White House, we released a new comprehensive report on the status of women in the spirit on the one that was released half a century ago.

There was a lot of positive news about the strides we’ve made, even in recent years.  For example, women have caught up with men in seeking higher education.  In fact, women today are more likely than men to attend and graduate from college.

Yet, there are also reminders of how much work remains to be done.  Women are still more likely to live in poverty in this country.  In education, there are areas like math and engineering where women are vastly outnumbered by their male counterparts.  This is especially troubling, for we know that to compete with nations around the world, these are the fields in which we need to harness the talents of all our people. That’s how we’ll win the future.

And, today, women still earn on average only about 75 cents for every dollar a man earns.  That’s a huge discrepancy.  And at a time when folks across this country are struggling to make ends meet – and many families are just trying to get by on one paycheck after a job loss – it’s a reminder that achieving equal pay for equal work isn’t just a women’s issue.  It’s a family issue.

In one of my first acts as President, I signed a law so that women who’ve been discriminated against in their salaries could have their day in court to make it right.  But there are steps we should take to prevent that from happening in the first place.  That’s why I was so disappointed when an important bill to give women more power to stop pay disparities – the Paycheck Fairness Act – was blocked by just two votes in the Senate.  And that’s why I’m going to keep up the fight to pass the reforms in that bill.

Achieving equality and opportunity for women isn’t just important to me as President.  It’s something I care about deeply as the father of two daughters who wants to see his girls grow up in a world where there are no limits to what they can achieve.

As I’ve traveled across the country, visiting schools and meeting young people, I’ve seen so many girls passionate about science and other subjects that were traditionally not as open to them.  We even held a science fair at the White House, where I met a young woman named Amy Chyao. She was only 16 years old, but she was actually working on a treatment for cancer.  She never thought, “Science isn’t for me.”  She never thought, “Girls can’t do that.”  She was just interested in solving a problem.  And because someone was interested in giving her a chance, she has the potential to improve lives.

That tells me how far we’ve come.  But it also tells me we have to work even harder to close the gaps that still exist, and to uphold that simple American ideal: we are all equal and deserving of the chance to pursue our own version of happiness.  That’s what Eleanor Roosevelt was striving toward half a century ago.  That’s why this report matters today.  And that’s why, on behalf of all our daughters and our sons, we’ve got to keep making progress in the years ahead.

Thanks for listening.

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