Thursday, April 30, 2009

I'm Glad I'm a Boy! I'm Glad I'm a Girl!

This book, I'm Glad I'm a Boy! I'm Glad I'm a Girl!, is one of the most awesomely fucked up things I've ever seen.



I guess it's really hard to get a copy, but Emily over at My blahg was able to scan the whole book.

-Click on the link to view the book in its entirety.

Here are the one's I liked the most (in a totally ass backwards sort of way):







Holy shit!

I am so glad no one ever got me a book like this growing up. My mother would have probably hurt them. (I'm not even joking. My mom is scary.)

I thought this comment at Amazon, by Silly Sister, summed it up nicely:
I was thrilled to get my hands on a copy of this very rare book so I could show my daughter the sort of attitudes that were prevalent, not only when I was a girl in the fifties and sixties, but when she was born in 1979.

In the months before I graduated from high school, we were barraged with catalogs and pamphlets and flyers in our homeroom. The boys got enticements from colleges and universities, and recruiting literature from various branches of the military. The girls got unsolicited literature from the local furniture stores showing the many styles of hope chests available, and from jewelers selling engagement rings, china and silver. I kid you not.

When the subject comes up, and I try to tell women younger than 30 about all the obstacles the women of my generation had to hurdle - obstacles both real and perceived, both external and internal, both surmountable and not - I usually get a "so-what" sort of a reaction. They just don't have any idea what we were made to believe our limits were, what our goals should be, and what were the lines we shouldn't try to cross.

The only reason you've come a long way, baby, is because the generation of women, who are now probably looking a bit like the over-the-hill-gang to you, battled it out over attitudes like the ones immortalized in this book. I'll never give up my copy - it will forever remind me of just how far we've come!

Big shout out to feministing for pointing this out.

Stephen Fry's letter to himself

I just read Stephen Fry's letter to his teenage self on The Gaurdian and I just had to re-post it.



It's a little long, but well worth it:

Dearest absurd child,

I hope you are well. I know you are not. As it happens you wrote in 1973 a letter to your future self and it is high time that your future self had the decency to write back. You declared in that letter that "everything I feel now as an adolescent is true". You went on to affirm that if ever you dared in later life to repudiate, deny or mock your 16-year-old self it would be a lie, a traducing, treasonable lie, a crime against adolescence. "This is who I am," you wrote. "Each day that passes I grow away from my true self. Every inch I take towards adulthood is a betrayal."

Oh, lord love you, Stephen. How I admire your arrogance and rage and misery. How pure and righteous they are and how passionately storm-drenched was your adolescence. How filled with true feeling, fury, despair, joy, anxiety, shame, pride and above all, supremely above all, how overpowered it was by love. My eyes fill with tears just to think of you. Of me. Tears splash on to my keyboard now. I am perhaps happier now than I have ever been and yet I cannot but recognise that I would trade all that I am to be you, the eternally unhappy, nervous, wild, wondering and despairing 16-year-old Stephen: angry, angst-ridden and awkward but alive. Because you know how to feel, and knowing how to feel is more important than how you feel. Deadness of soul is the only unpardonable crime, and if there is one thing happiness can do it is mask deadness of soul.

I finally know now, as I easily knew then, that the most important thing is love. It doesn't matter in the slightest whether that love is for someone of your own sex or not. Gay issues are important and I shall come to them in a moment, but they shrivel like a salted snail when compared to the towering question of love. Gay people sometimes believe (to this very day, would you credit it, young Stephen?) that the preponderance of obstacles and terrors they encounter in their lives and relationships is intimately connected with the fact of their being gay. As it happens at least 90% of their problems are to do with love and love alone: the lack of it, the denial of it, the inequality of it, the missed reciprocity in it, the horrors and heartaches of it. Love cold, love hot, love fresh, love stale, love scorned, love missed, love denied, love betrayed ... the great joke of sexuality is that these problems bedevil straight people just as much as gay. The 10% of extra suffering and complexity that uniquely confronts the gay person is certainly not incidental or trifling, but it must be understood that love comes first. This is tough for straight people to work out.

Straight people are encouraged by culture and society to believe that their sexual impulses are the norm, and therefore when their affairs of the heart and loins go wrong (as they certainly will), when they are flummoxed, distraught and defeated by love, they are forced to believe that it must be their fault. We gay people at least have the advantage of being brought up to expect the world of love to be imponderably and unmanageably difficult, for we are perverted freaks and sick aberrations of nature.They - poor normal lambs - naturally find it harder to understand why, in Lysander's words, "the course of true love never did run smooth".

Sexual availability, so long an impossible dream in your age, becomes the norm in the late 70s and early 80s, only to be shattered by a new disease whose horrors you cannot even imagine. You would little believe that I can say to you now across the gap of 35 years that we are the blessed ones. The people of Britain are happy (or not) because of Tolpuddle Martyrs, Chartists, infantry regiments, any number of ancestors who made the world more comfortable for them. And we, gay people, are happy now (or not) in large part thanks to Stonewall rioters, Harvey Milk, Dennis Lemon, Gay News, Ian McKellen, Edwina Currie (true) et al, and the battered bodies of bullied, beaten and abused gay men and women who stood up to be counted and refused to apologise for the way they were. It has given us something we never thought to have: pride. For a thousand years, shame was our lot and now, turning on a sixpence, we have arrived at pride - without even, it seems, an intervening period of well-it's-OK-I-suppose-wouldn't-have-chosen-it-but-there-you-go. Who'da thought it?

I know what you are doing now, young Stephen. It's early 1973. You are in the library, cross-referencing bibliographies so that you can find more and more examples of queer people in history, art and literature against whom you can hope to validate yourself. Leonardo, Tchaikovsky, Wilde, Barons Corvo and von Gloeden, Robin Maugham, Worsley, "an Englishman", Jean Genet, Cavafy, Montherlant, Roger Peyrefitte, Mary Renault, Michael Campbell, Michael Davies, Angus Stewart, Gore Vidal, John Rechy, William Burroughs.

So many great spirits really do confirm that hope! It emboldens you to know that such a number of brilliant (if often doomed) souls shared the same impulse and desires as you. I know the index-card waltz of (auto)biographies, poems and novels you are dancing: those same names are still so close to the surface of my mind nearly four decades later. Novels, poetry and the worlds of art and ideas are opening up in front of you almost incidentally. You spend all your time in the library yearning to be told that you are not alone, and an unlooked for side-effect of this just happens to be a real education achieved in a private school designed for philistine bumpkins. Being born queer has given you, by mistake, a fantastic advantage over the rugger-playing ordinaries who surround you. But those rugger-playing ordinaries have souls too. And you should know that. I know you cannot believe it now. They seem so secure, so assured, so blessedly normal. They gave Cuthbert Worsley the Kipling-derived title of his overwhelmingly important (to you) autobiography The Flannelled Fool: "these are the men that have lost their soul/ The flannelled fool at he wicket/ And the muddied oaf at the goal".

You look down at the fools almost as much as you fear them. The ordinary people, whose path through life is guaranteed. They won't have to spend their days in public libraries, public lavatories and public courts ashamed, spurned and reviled. There is no internet. No Gay News. No gay chatlines. No men-seeking-men personals. No out-and-proud celebs. Just a world of shame and secrecy.

Somehow, as you age, a miracle will be wrought. You will begin by descending deeper into the depths: expulsion, crime and prison - nothing really to do with being gay, but everything to do with love and your inability to cope with it. Yet you will, as the Regency rakes used to say, "make a recover" and find yourself at university, where it will be astonishingly easy to be open about your sexuality. No great trick, for the university is Cambridge, long a hotbed of righteous tolerance, spiritual heavy-petting and homo hysteria. You will emerge from Cambridge and enter a world where being "out" is no big deal, although a puzzlingly small number of your coevals will find it as easy as you to emerge from the shadows. Before you damn anyone for failing to come out, look to their parents. The answer almost always lies there. Oh how lucky in that department, as in so many, you are, young Stephen.

But don't kid yourself. For millions of teenagers around Britain and everywhere else, it is still 1973. Taunts, beatings and punishment await gay people the world over in playgrounds and execution grounds (the distance between which is measured by nothing more than political constitutions and human will). Yes, you will grow to be a very, very, very, very lucky man who is able to express his nature out loud without fear of hatred or reprisal from any except the most deluded, demented and sad. But that is a small battle won. A whole theatre of war remains. This theatre of war is bigger than the simple issue of being gay, just as the question of love swamps the question of mere sexuality. For alongside sexual politics the entire achievement of the enlightenment (which led inter alia to gay liberation) is under threat like never before. The cruel, hypocritical and loveless hand of religion and absolutism has fallen on the world once more.

So my message from the future is twofold. Fear not, young Stephen, your life will unfold in richer, more accepted and happier ways than you ever dared hope. But be wary, for the most basic tenets of rationalism, openness and freedom that nourish you now and seem so unassailable are about to be harried and besieged by malevolent, mad and medieval minds.

You poor dear, dear thing. Look at you weltering in your misery. The extraordinary truth is that you want to stay there. Unlike so many of the young, you do not yearn for adulthood, pubs and car keys. You want to stay where you are, in the Republic of Pubescence, where feeling has primacy and pain is beautiful. And you know what ... ?

I think you are right.

-This is an edited version of an article from the 25th-birthday edition of Gay Times, out now. For more details, go to gaytimes.co.uk.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Swine flu Paranoia

If you agree with this sort of thinking, then please throw yourself off something extremely high:
"Could this be a terrorist attack through Mexico? Could our dear friends in the radical Islamic countries have concocted this virus and planted it in Mexico knowing that you, [Homeland Security Secretary] Janet Napolitano, would do nothing to stop the flow of human traffic from Mexico?" - Michael Savage during the April 24 edition of his nationally syndicated radio show.

The Right wing media's goal of trying to turn the swine flu breakout into an immigrant issue is just ludicrous.

And comparing it to bio-terrorism is especially pathetic.

This clip sums things up nicely:



I hope one day this sort of fear-mongering will be a thing of the past, but at this point I'm not too confident that day is anytime in the near future.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

More SoulPancake Challenges

I've talked about the awesomeness that is SoulPancake before and once again I am loving their different "challenges."

And since I'm bored, I thought I'd post them.

The first one is what you have vs. what you want:
You can't always get what you want. Or can you? What things are filling your soul-pantry these days? Is it junk food for the spirit or super-nutritious, soul-syrupy deliciousness? Don't tell us—show us.

What I have:



What I want:



The most important thing I have is my family. Even though I wouldn't give up this feeling of home I've always wanted, I sometimes wish I could just hop on a bus and never come back. (I think most young parents feel like this sometimes.)

The second is about "facing" your fears:
Are you brave enough to tell the world what you're afraid of? Write your biggest fear(s) on your face. Take a picture and post the link below.

I can't believe I'm going to admit this, but I have a fear that I'm just like everyone else (and yes I totally cheated, but writing on my face didn't sound too fun) :



I don't want to be special the same way everyone else is special. It's a little egocentric, but I just want to know that I'm authentic. And unique.

(Is that really too much to ask? lol)

This is what I love about SoulPancake. It makes you think about things you don't always take the time to think about and then prompts you to tell the world.

It's quite freeing in many ways.

"More and more, for the stupid little kid, that was the idea…

That if enough people looked at you, you’d never need anybody’s attention ever again.

That if someday you were caught, exposed, and revealed enough, then you’d never be able to hide again. There’d be no difference between your public and your private lives." -Choke

Monday, April 27, 2009

Prejean Wows Us Again

I just read an interesting interview of Carrie Prejean by Rex Wockner , a LGBT blogger.



While Prejean didn’t say anything I wasn't expecting to hear, I did think her comments about how being gay is a lifestyle choice were rather ridiculous:
Rex: I understand that you were raised to believe that marriage is between a man and a woman, and I understand that you grew up knowing that you were always going to marry a guy, but you're heterosexual. Um, some people are born gay, maybe, you think?

Carrie: No, I don't think so.

Rex: OK, so now we're getting somewhere.

Carrie: I think it's a behavior that develops over time.

Rex: Why would someone choose it, given that if you choose that, you get discriminated against?

Carrie: Um, because obviously Perez Hilton doesn't think that there's anything wrong with it.

Rex: No, but if being gay is a choice, rather than something you're born with, why would you choose something that's going to lead to your being discriminated against? What would be the motivation?

Carrie: I'm not sure what the motivation would be.

Rex: OK. Me either.


Of course she doesn’t know what the motivation would be because there isn’t a logical one to be found (not that logic’s her strong suit).

To her homosexuality is just a “behavior.” Knowing she honestly believes that people can choose to be gay makes it utterly unsurprising she thinks gays shouldn’t be given marriage equality.

Because there is no room for love in her limited view of gay couples.

To her this so called “behavior” is essentially sexual acts. Her idea of homosexuality is based on what a person does with their genitals and not how they feel.

The really depressign fact is that Prejean is definitely not the only person who feels this way.

One point that people fail to mention when faced with this sort of narrow mindedness is this: If being gay is a choice (which I obviously don’t believe), why does Prejean, or any other person, have the right to decide what sexual decisions of another person are right or wrong?

The answer’s simple: They don't.

I really hope this is the last time I have to post about Ms. Prejean, but I’m worried this is just the beginning.

The Susan Boyle Hypocrisy

I am really annoyed at this Susan Boyle situation.

Because what is the situation? An unattractive, overweight, older woman was judged solely on her appearance. I mean, is that really so shocking to people? When Susan walked out on that stage, all people saw was a plain frumpy woman and assumed she wouldn’t be talented because of it.

That she couldn't be.

As a society we tend to think that beautiful people have their shit more together. We assume they are happy, successful, trustworthy, and talented all because they’re attractive. On the flip side, we tend to think the opposite for less attractive people.

So because Susan is ugly, she must also be untalented. (Just look at the response of far too many audience members when Susan says she would like to sing professionally.) Yet, it turned out we were wrong in this case. And since Susan Boyle does have an amazing talent, we suddenly feel shamed by our quick dismissal of her.

But we are actually sending an even more damaging message in my opinion.

What we're essentially saying, is that if Susan Boyle had gone up on that stage and made a spectacle of herself, we would have been right in our judgments of her. No one would stop to ponder a second about her “inner beauty” or say how we mustn’t “judge a book by its cover.”

We would simply accept our initial ridicule as being correct.

Now don’t get me wrong, I love the fact that Susan defies almost every beauty standard our society imposes on women. She’s not blond, thin, tan, manicured, styled, or young. And we need more real people, escpecially women, in the spotlight if we’re ever going to actually try to tackle body-image issues with our young girls.

But this is only a tiny step in that direction.

So while I’m happy for Susan, I’m also sad for all the people who a little too “fat” or a little too “different” to be considered attractive by society who don’t have an immense talent to temper society’s rejection of them. Susan Boyle is vastly talented and I really do hope she wins. (I was going to say I’m a sucker for the underdog, which is true, but I feel like I’m doing her a disservice by thinking of her in those terms while she is so very talented.)

But let’s not pretend our acceptance of her somehow makes up for all the people we choose not to accept.

-If you haven't seen the video yet, you can watch it here.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Daily Obsession - Nothing Compares

I was watching a show last night where Sinead O'Connor performed "Nothing Compares to You" and I was struck by long it had been since I heard it.

I love how music can transport you to an exact moment in your life or bring very specific feelings to the surface.

Every time I hear this song I can't help but think of my mother playing this song after her and my father had broken up (for like the hundredth time).



When I really like a song I tend to listen to it over and over and this song is no exception.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Mistresses

I’m a little ashamed to admit I am in love with the show Mistresses on BBC America.



I’m not usually into these sort of dramas (like Gossip Girl or Desperate Housewives), but this one is just great.

From BBC:
Katie, Trudi, Siobhan, and Jessica are four thirty-something women who've been good friends since college. Their lives have taken very different turns, but they all have one thing in common - infidelity. Their tangled web of love and deceit envelops all four woman with life-changing results. As life and love take them from excitement and happiness to torment and loneliness, the friends are simply struggling to hold it all together.

I like how the show doesn’t try to make having affairs look like a walk in the park like a lot of shows tend to do. (I also like how, even though all the women are mistresses, all of the relationships are set up in different ways.)

All the women are gorgeous, but I like how they aren’t so “perfect.”



It's always refreshing to see women who look and dress like stylish attractive women without looking too Hollywood-ish.

I especially love the actress who plays Siobhan, Orla Brady:



Even though I didn't start watching till episode 7, I am totally hooked (and I'm a little pissed the earlier episodes aren't offered on ON Demand).

Season One on DVD is going to be released tomorrow and I can't wait.



Anyhoo, check it out if you think it looks interesting.

Weekly Address 4/25/09

This week the President reiterates a theme that has been a hallmark of his career, namely that "old habits and stale thinking" will simply not help us solve the new and immense problems our country faces. Listing off several specific changes he intends to bring, he describes his guiding principle: "To help build a new foundation for the 21st century, we need to reform our government so that it is more efficient, more transparent, and more creative."

Friday, April 24, 2009

Olbermann calls Hannity's bluff

In what is sure to be called a slip of tongue, Sean Hannity said he was willing to be waterboarded for charity on his show Wednesday night.

Olbermann has called his buff:


"What a breakthrough it would be if, by having reality literally forced upon him, a buffoon like Hannity were to realize the deadly seriousness of this," Olbermann said. "The searing truth: that the moment of torture automatically makes the presumed bad guy recipient the victim, and makes the torturer into the evildoer."
...
"For every second you last, a thousand dollars -- live or on tape, provided other networks' cameras are there. A thousand dollars a second, Sean, because this is no game. This is serious stuff. Put your money where your mouth is, and your nose. Oh, and I'll double it when you admit you feared for your life, when you admit the horrible truth -- waterboarding, the symbol of the last administration, is torture."

I can't wait to see what excuse Hannity uses to back out of this one.

On a side note: I typed in, "Olbermann offers..." and yahoo recommended, "snarky observations." lol

A little nostalgia – On My Own

I hated high school. There is really no other way to say it. I hated waking up early. I hated homework. I hated having to sit still for hours at a time. I hated being quiet. But most of all, I hated kids my own age.

I had better relationships with my teachers then I did with my fellow students (there are always a few exceptions of course).

I had the get in and get out mentality a lot of people get.

Even though I was in dance, drama, and choir, the only group I really loved being with was our ensemble group (a show choir where you sing and dance).

At the end of the year, each student was required to sing a song of their choosing. My senior year I sang “On My Own” from Les Miserables with classmate Brittney Bailey.

We are both really strong altos so this song was perfect.

Every once and awhile I like to listen to it again. Not only for the memories, but because the song just plain rocks (Lea Salonga is such an amazing singer).

On My Own:


(Starts at 1:37)


My favorite part is still, "I love him, but when the night is over... He is gone. The river’s just a river."

I know it's kind of random, but what can I say? I'm a random kind of person. :)

Thursday, April 23, 2009

The Purity Myth

Feministing is by far one of my favorite sites and the Executive Editor, Jessica Valenti, was on the Today Show to promote her book The Purity Myth.

But instead of allowing her to talk, they turned the interview into a debate with a woman, Lakita Garth, who spewed her abstinence diatribe the entire time.

See for yourself:


I found this interview to be extremely frustrating.

Not only was Jessica allowed little time to speak, but the three women continued to reinforce the exact ideas her book brings to light (that women are only “good” if they’re “pure”) while throwing out bogus information without any sources to back it up.

I also thought it was extremely bad taste for Lakita to liken the people who did the studies on abstinence only sex education to “members of the KKK.”

This is essentially the problem with the abstinence movement: either you’re with them or you’re Hitler. You are pure and abstinent, or you’re a slutty whore who doesn’t deserve happiness.

It’s a movement of shame and obsession over young girls sexuality (which is pretty creepy to me).

For me, the most disappointing aspect of this interview was the hosts behavior. Not only did they continually interject their personal biased opinions, but if they had actually taken the time to read Jessica's book, like they should have, then maybe they could have found something more intelligent to talk about then "giving it up."

Kudos to Jessica for keeping her cool and not allowing the conversation to focus on the standard slut-shaming dialogue abstinence conversations seem to inspire.

Here is part of the introduction from The Purity Myth:
So while young women are subject to overt sexual messages every day, they’re simultaneously being taught—by the people who are supposed to care for their personal and moral development, no less—that their only real worth is their virginity and ability to remain “pure.” So what are young women left with? Abstinence-only education during the day and Girls Gone Wild commercials at night! Whether it’s delivered through a virginity pledge or by a barely dressed tween pop singer writhing across the television screen, the message is the same: A woman’s worth lies in her ability—or her refusal—to be sexual. And we’re teaching American girls that, one way or another, their bodies and their sexuality are what make them valuable. The sexual double standard is alive and well, and it’s irrevocably damaging young women.

The Purity Myth is something I’ve been thinking about for a long time. When I lost my virginity as a high school freshman, I didn’t understand why I didn’t feel changed somehow. Wasn’t this supposed to be, like, a big deal? Later, in college, as I’d listen to male friends deride their sexual partners as sluts and whores, I struggled to comprehend how intercourse could mean one thing for men and quite another for women. I knew that logically, nothing about sex could make a girl “dirty,” but I found it incredibly frustrating that my certainty about this seemed to be lost on my male peers. And as I talked to my queer friends, whose sexual experiences were often dismissed because they didn’t fit into the heterosexual model, I started to realize how useless “virginity” really was.

I started to see the myth of sexual purity everywhere—though in the work I do as a feminist blogger and writer, it wasn’t exactly hard to find. Whether it appears in a story about a man killing his girlfriend while calling her a whore or in trying to battle conservative claims that emergency contraception or the HPV vaccine will make girls promiscuous, the purity myth in America underlies more misogyny than most people would like to admit. And while the definition of “virginity” is fairly abstract (as you’ll see in Chapter 1), its consequences for young women are not. And that’s why I wanted, and needed, to write this book. The Purity Myth is for women who are suffering every day because of the lie that virginity exists, and that it has some bearing on who we are and how good we are. Consider the implications virginity has on the high school girl who is cruelly labeled a slut after an innocuous makeout session; the woman from a background so religiously conservative that she opts to have her hymen surgically reattached rather than suffer the consequences of a nonbloody bedsheet on her wedding night; or the rape survivor who’s dismissed or even faulted because she dared to have past consensual sexual encounters.

This book looks great and I can't wait to read it myself.

-You can read the full introduction here.

Torture may be necessary, but it is never legal

I got a little distracted yesterday with the Santa Claus issue, but the reason I initially read the Matt Damon interview was because of a particular comment that I found interesting:
Look, the best line about torture I've heard came from [retired CIA officer turned war-on-terrorism critic] Milt Beardon, Damon says. He said, 'If a guy knows where a dirty bomb is hidden that's going to go off in a Marriott, put me in a room with him and I'll find out. But don't codify that. Just let me break the law.'

Which I think is right. You can't legalize torture. But anybody would do it in that situation. You'd do it to me in that situation; you'd pull out my fingernails if you thought I knew something like that.

At first his comments really bothered me.

All I could think was, "no, anybody would NOT torture another human being based on a perceived threat," because I know I wouldn’t.

I couldn’t.

Maybe that makes me a bad patriot, but so be it. There are plenty of people out there with psychopathic tendencies that would probably jump at the chance to hurt another person for the government.

I’m just not one of them.

But the more I thought about it, the more I got his point.

Which is: sometimes torture may be necessary, but it is never legal.

Even though I would greatly argue that torture is not necessary, his is correct in saying you shouldn’t legalize it.

And really that’s the issue we are facing right now.

The real debate isn’t about the so called validity of torture as an interrogation method; it is about the legality of it.

Does the government have the power to make torture legal?

That’s what this comes down to.

And the answer is NO.

(We did sign a little something called the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which condemns torture and promotes due process. Oops...)

It’s pretty simple to me: If torture is such a useful and important tool, then these people should have no problem going to prison for the better good of this country (the fact that there are people sitting in prison on possession of marijuana charges while these people roam free is pathetic).

By not prosecuting these people we are essentially decriminalizing war crimes.

And that's a truly frightening thought.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Why are we still afraid to use the word "rape?"

I hate talking about rape. It’s unpleasant, heart wrenching and just fucking depressing.

Any yet it must be done.

Why you say?

Because we live in a world that’s afraid to be honest with itself about the realities of rape and violence towards women.

The first step to changing that is by talking about it.

Over and over and over again.

Queensland Times:



A MAN who maintained a sexual relationship with his step-daughter that spanned more than three years was jailed for six years yesterday.

Ipswich District Court heard the 40-year-old had sex with the girl regularly between December 1997 and January 2001, when she was aged between 13 and 16.

Crown Prosecutor Ron Swanwick said the offences occurred while the man was in a relationship with the girl's mother.

The girl was living with her mother at Boonah and later at Ipswich.

Mr Swanwick told the court there had been several instances of indecent touching before the pair entered into a full sexual relationship.

The mother was often working and had left her daughter in the care of the stepfather when the unprotected sexual encounters took place.

The offending stopped temporarily when the victim eventually told her mother, but later continued without her knowledge.

“It was a serious breach of trust...involving sexual intercourse up to four or five times per week,” Mr Swanwick said.

“(The defendant) should have known better - which is something he himself seems to acknowledge.”


Missing something?

The word rape maybe?

The article doesn’t call this rape even once (nor pedophilia, child abuse, sexual assault, or molestation which would have all been accurate).

Saying the, "pair entered into a full sexual relationship," is a travesty and completely unacceptable.

We are talking about a man that raped and sexually assaulted his step daughter four or five times a week for three years (which would be over 500 individual times).

Even if she wanted to have sex with him, which she didn’t, she was only 13 and could not consent, therefore still making this rape.

So why are we so afraid to say it?

The writer of the article, the prosecutor, and even the judge have all failed in this regard.

Considering this child rapist was sentenced to only six years in prison with the eligibility for parole in only two years, I think it's obvious that society has failed as well.

And the sad thing is, it’s this little girl, and all the other children of sexual assault, that were failing.

Moral Implications of Santa Claus

I was reading an interview with Matt Damon and I loved his comments about his daughter and Santa Claus:
…it’s an easier gig than the one he just left, debating the moral implications of Santa Claus mythology with his 10-year-old daughter.

"We don't allow lying under any circumstances,'' Damon explains ruefully, 'and we've always taught her that. But now she's found out the real story on Santa Claus. `So you were lying!' she says. 'But it's like a great cultural lie,' we tell her. No. 'It's everyone,' we tell her. No. 'It's a fun lie.' No. . . . The argument is just not going well."

I know it’s silly, but this is the reason I’m hesitant to convince Holden that Santa is real.

Because I would be lying. And that’s wrong.

You think it would be easy putting your foot down when deciding not to teach your children to believe in any imaginary creatures, but it’s a lot harder then you think.

One of the many joys of parenthood...

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

"If somebody can be water-tortured six times a day, then it isn't torture"

Mr. Limbaugh himself:


LIMBAUGH: The New York Times today has a story that Khalid Shaikh Mohammed was waterboarded six times a day; 183 times, over 200 times total. And their source is a left-wing blogger. Now I'm going to tell you what's going to happen here with the drive-by media. By the way, greetings, folks, and welcome -- Rush Limbaugh back, and broadcast excellence, all yours, three hours, straight ahead. The telephone number if you want to join us today, (800) 282-2882; the email address, elrushbo at eibnet.com.

I'm going to give you the new-media model before I go on to this waterboarding point. The new-media model is going to be this: All these drive-by media outlets -- the mainstream media is cutting back on bureaus and reporters and so forth. And what's going to happen is -- it's already starting to happen. The New York Times, liberal media, TV and radio and newspapers and so forth, are going to start using bloggers as -- left-wing bloggers -- as credible sources for news.

Now, you stop and think about this: 183 times, six times a day, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed was waterboarded. His lawyers never complained. He didn't complain to whatever civil rights organizations there were. And I'll tell you, the bottom -- if somebody can be water-tortured six times a day, then it isn't torture. Can we just establish that? If somebody can go through waterboarding for 183 times, six times a day -- which is a little bit hard to believe anyway, but let's acknowledge -- let's just say it's true for the sake of it, because whatever the left-wing blogs print and publish, the drive-by media is going to say is true anyway. Six times a day, it means you're not afraid of it. It means you -- it's not torture. If you have -- if you've found a way to withstand it, it can't possibly be torture.

I’m torn between being angry and just plain annoyed, but most of all I’m ashamed.

Not that a jack ass like Limbaugh would say something like this (he’s like the Jerry Springer of radio), but that there are people who actually think this way.

I’ve heard people compare water boarding to running through sprinklers and I can’t help but feel angered at the complete disrespect these people are showing towards the victims of torture.

I find it terribly embarrassing and frightening to say the least.

As I think of Limbaugh’s sweaty nasty ass mocking Senator McCain for being outspoken against the use of torture, which he was subjected to himself, I literally want to break something.

And knowing that people not only listen to Limbaugh’s show, but agree with him, makes me want to vomit.

Waterboarding is torture.

Period.

How people convince themselves any different is a mystery to me.

Sen Ted Kennedy:
Make no mistake about it: waterboarding is already illegal under United States law. It’s illegal under the Geneva Conventions, which prohibit outrages upon personal dignity, including cruel, humiliating and degrading treatment. It’s illegal under the Torture Act, which prohibits acts specifically intended to inflict severe physical or mental pain or suffering. It’s illegal under the Detainee Treatment Act, which prohibits cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment. And it violates the Constitution. The nation's top military lawyers and legal experts across the political spectrum have condemned waterboarding as torture. And after World War II, the United States prosecuted -- prosecuted -- Japanese officers for engaging in waterboarding.

People like to think of waterboarding as “simulated drowning” (like that’s no big deal), but they’re wrong. It’s real drowning that simulates death.

Evan Wallach:
That term is used to describe several interrogation techniques. The victim may be immersed in water, have water forced into the nose and mouth, or have water poured onto material placed over the face so that the liquid is inhaled or swallowed. The media usually characterize the practice as "simulated drowning." That's incorrect. To be effective, waterboarding is usually real drowning that simulates death. That is, the victim experiences the sensations of drowning: struggle, panic, breath-holding, swallowing, vomiting, taking water into the lungs and, eventually, the same feeling of not being able to breathe that one experiences after being punched in the gut. The main difference is that the drowning process is halted. According to those who have studied waterboarding's effects, it can cause severe psychological trauma, such as panic attacks, for years.

I think this statement by Henri Alleg, a Frech journalist who was tortured with water boarding by the French military in Algeria in 1957, during an interview is as elequent a summation as I’ve ever heard:
Well, I have described the waterboarding I was submitted to. And no one can say, having passed through it, that this was not torture, especially when he has endured other types of torture—burning, electricity and beating, and so on. So I am really astonished that this is a big question in the States about this, because the real question is not waterboarding or not waterboarding, it’s the use of torture in such a war, and this use of torture, torture in general.

But to answer precisely your question, it is a terrible way of torturing a man, because you’re bringing—you bring him next to death and then back to life. And sometimes he doesn’t come back to life. So, the use of torture, in my opinion, is a way of making all people fear that if they fight, if they join the fighters against Algeria, they would undergo such a treatment. So it’s the use of terror against the people who fight. It’s not a way of getting whatever information; sometimes they get it, but most of the time it’s useless. So it is not a way of winning a war, even if the people who lead this war say that they have—it’s an obligation for them to use this method if they want victory at the end of the war. That’s my opinion.

…You feel that you’re going to die. Of course, you don’t want to die, and in the same time you don’t want to accept the conditions that they make around you to let you live. So, finally, at this third time, before I fainted, I was really decided to die and not to answer at any cost.

But once again, I’m really surprised that this is the big question put before the American opinion now and not another question: Is such a war a war that can be accepted with such—in such conditions and with such tools? Is it a civilized country that can use such things? And is the fact that this way of fighting—as some military say, it can’t be otherwise—is it acceptable? I think it is not acceptable, especially that the way to legalize such a way of fighting, some military say, we cannot do otherwise. It has no meaning at all. The people who lead a fight for freedom and liberty, even if some of them accept the conditions of the people who torture them, they help hundreds and thousands of other people to join the fight, because it appears to them as something that cannot be accepted by any man who thinks that his fight is honorable and justified.

It seems that the people who have actually been subjected to waterboarding have different feeling towards it then Mr. Limbaugh.

Harry Shear, at the Huffington Post, brought up two really good points:

1. If waterboarding is so instantly effective, why in the world would it need to be administered almost two-hundred times within a one-month period?

2. Abu Zubaydah was not the Al Qaeda mastermind advertised by the administration. Arguments about the wisdom of the techniques need to be informed by the fact that the United States radically overstated the importance of a man it subjected to what is widely believed to be torture almost 100 times.

For me this is a black and white issue.

Torture is wrong and no amount of propaganda or rationalization will change that reality.

Because this is more then an opinion. This is a moral measure of a person's character.

And far too many fail the test.

A Downpour of Gay People

This is just awesome:

Meghan McCain wants conservatives to be more... liberal?

I just read this article by Meghan McCain.

(It's actually an address to the Log Cabin Republicans Convention—a group that promotes gay issues within the GOP.)

Most of the speech she talks about herself, but I found this quote to be a little odd. She is talking about the future of the Republican party:
It would be easy to say my generation views politics very differently from others. Maybe we’re more progressive, socially liberal or just hate arguing in lieu of actually solving the problems at hand. But what I’ve learned though my experiences is that these feelings are not contained to one age group. They’re the growing beliefs and desires of people of all ages, races, genders, faiths, persuasions and political parties.

So tonight, I am proud to join you in challenging the mold and the notions of what being a Republican means.

I am concerned about the environment. I love to wear black. I think government is best when it stays out of people’s lives and business as much as possible. I love punk rock. I believe in a strong national defense. I have a tattoo. I believe government should always be efficient and accountable. I have lots of gay friends. And yes, I am a Republican.

Conservatives are allowed to wear black and listen to punk music?

Shocking.

I don't know about you, but I hate when people use a bunch of words while essentially saying nothing.

And that’s exactly what Meghan is doing here.

The reality is that social issues are an important factor in choosing a political party. (For the most part, I’d say it’s the most important.)

To talk about being “socially liberal” while claiming to be conservative in the same breath is just silly.

I’ve heard Meghan say time and time again what she doesn’t like about the Republican party, but I have yet to hear a rational example of what she does like.

Monday, April 20, 2009

“You can choose same sex marriage or opposite marriage.”

I didn't watch the Miss America competition last night, but this clip is golden:



My favorite Miss America moment is still the "such as" incident, but I did get a giggle out of Miss California's idiocy.

(I think the statement "you can choose same sex marriage or opposite marriage," is a pretty clear signifier of her intelligence.)

Perez says it all:



Update: Reading the comments on youtube is always a bad idea. Even though I know that most of the comments are ridiculous, I can’t help but get angry.

So let me make this perfectly clear in case someone not capable of rational thought stumbles upon this: This is not about politically correctness. This is not about her decision to believe what her parents told her about gay marriage. This is not about her having a different opinion then me.

This is about her inability to answer a question about state power. This is about her pathetic attempt to speak articulately. This is about her decision to malign a whole group of people who are being denied equal rights under the law.

This is about her ignorance (because we do not live in a country where "you can choose same sex marriage or opposite marriage.")

Marriage is a RIGHT and it’s being denied to a whole group of people based on uninformed ideas and perpetrated by a Bronze Age text.

And it’s WRONG.

My bleeding heart has dried up

Seriously?



I must be a masochist, but let’s see what bullshit this article throws at us.

From the Wall Street Journal:

Ellen Parnell and her husband, Donald Parnell Jr., seem like the kind of well-off couple President Barack Obama has in mind when he suggests raising taxes on families earning more than $250,000 a year. A surgeon at Fort Sanders Sevier Medical Center in Sevierville, Tenn., he drives an Infiniti. They vacation at a beach resort every year.

Yet, right now he is working seven days a week. The car is more than a decade old, the vacation home in Sandestin, Fla., comes at a moderate weekly rate because members of Ms. Parnell's extended family own it. Her family of five would like more room than they have in their 2,500-square-foot home, yet they can't afford anything larger. The downturn has them skittish about paying for renovations.

"I'm not complaining, but the reality is Obama may call me wealthy, but I thought we were just good old middle class," says Ms. Parnell. "Our needs are being met, but we don't have a load of cash to cover wants."

First of all, is anyone else having trouble feeling sorry for these people?

Yes it sucks that he has to work 7 days a week, but I’m sorry if I don’t fall over to help a family because their car is “more then a decade old.” (My bucket is a 1989 Honda Accord with a bad axel and a leaky sunroof. I would be happy to trade.)

I also don’t like the fact that they consider themselves middle class even though they make more then 98% of Americans. It may be factually correct (I have no idea), but it just rubs me the wrong way.
It is a tricky situation in which some Americans find themselves after a long boom: They are by no means struggling, compared with the 98% of Americans who make far less, but depending on where they live and the lifestyle choices they have made, they don't necessarily feel rich, either. Worse, in their view, they are facing the same tax rates as those making millions. Some of the expenses are self-inflicted -- like private-school costs and conspicuous consumption. Others, though, are unavoidable, like child-care costs, larger health-care deductibles and education expenses, especially college.

Lifestyle choices have an impact on money matters? What a novel idea.

And I love how they try to sneak this “conspicuous consumption” right by us by mixing it in with the “unavoidable expenses.”

What this article fails to recognize is the fact that the 98% making less then $250,000 dollars a year generally can’t afford these “unavoidable expenses.”
Under Mr. Obama's budget proposal, two of the highest tax brackets would see rates rise, and deductions would be reduced for households earning more than $250,000 annually. President Obama said Wednesday, "We've made a clear promise that families that earn less than $250,000 will not see their taxes increase by a single dime."

By any statistical measure, that income level is at the top of the bracket. But for those closest to the line, the money might be less a sign of affluence than it is of the industry of dual-income couples. It is possible, say observers, that veteran civil servants could fall into the higher tax bracket.

The political calculation is dicey. The White House needs the additional revenue to cover some of its ambitious policy agenda, especially a health-care revamp. But some polling data suggest households that earn above $200,000 went heavily for Mr. Obama in November.

Until more details of the tax changes are disclosed, it is unclear whether people making big six-figure sums will be affected at all. They may, for example, be able to avoid tax increases if any number of deductions pull them below the threshold. But that isn't stopping those who earn near the threshold from worrying about it.

Already, many members of Congress are seeking to scale back some of the proposed tax increases, which call for raising the top federal tax rates to 36% from 33% on households earning $250,000 or above.

First off, I’m sorry that some couples near the threshold are worrying about how the new tax increase will affect their family.

But no one is exempt from having to stress about money.

And while they may be stressed about cutting their beach vacation down to only a week, many families are cutting out a meal a day or going without medical treatment when sick.

And I also like the way the writer tried to sneak in “many members of Congress are seeking to scale back some of the proposed tax increases” without specifying anyone or what political party they’re with.

Probably because people would be less sympathetic when they learned it’s the same Republicans who always want tax breaks for the rich.
Wealth and comfort "depends on where you're coming from," said Lois Avitt, a sociologist and founding director of the Institute for Socio-Financial Studies in Charlottesville, Va. To a family earning $50,000, $250,000 is well off, but for the family earning $250,000, rising college and medical costs and dropping home values make the perception debatable.

The reasons for the insecurity are that net worth is declining at the same time that expenses like education and health care, two of the biggest concerns cited by members of that income group, are going up faster than wages and income, says Heidi Shierholz, an economist at the Economic Policy Institute in Washington. "Those are the biggies. They are huge parts of the set of middle-class aspirations, and the prices of those have increased way faster than income." The bursting of the housing bubble makes that more stark.

Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody's Economy.com, says data show that over the last 10 years, education costs have risen 5.91% annually, and health- care expenses have gone up 4.16% annually, while wages and income have risen only 3.7% over the same time span. That means many families are seeing a greater percentage of their income going toward those two areas.

Education costs, which are far outstripping wages and income, are especially worrisome for this income bracket because upper-income earners are much less likely to receive the kind of financial aid that lower income levels can expect.

The drop in net worth has been staggering. The Federal Reserve, in a recent report, found that U.S. households' net worth dropped by $11 trillion, a decline of nearly 18%, during 2008. That wealth includes everything from home values to mutual funds and life insurance, college and pension funds. The decline equaled the combined output of Germany, Japan and the U.K.

I want to point out that these rising costs and drops in household worth affect everyone across the board and are harder for the lower class to deal with because they have less savings and disposable income then these “middle class” families.
Changes to the tax code don't generally make adjustments for high costs of living in particular areas of the country.

San Jose, Calif., Mayor Chuck Reed calls a family living in Silicon Valley earning $250,000 "upper working class." That is about what two engineers working at a technology firm can expect to make, but "a family earning $250,000 a year can't buy a home in Silicon Valley," he said.

James Duran owns a human-resources company in Silicon Valley and is president of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce in California. He supported Mr. Obama, but is worried about the tax proposals. He has laid off some employees in recent months and has been wondering how he can fund an extension of those workers' health-care benefits.
Mr. Duran said he and his wife earn about $400,000 annually, but "I'm barely getting by." They have high property and state taxes, as well as college tuition and savings to cover. "I'm an Obama man, but this side of him is a difficult pill for me," he said.

I can actually understand where this guy is coming from.

I doubt that I’ll ever be able to afford a house in San Diego. And knowing that is difficult and upsetting. But sometimes you got to suck it up and do what needs to be done for your family.

Why in the fuck do you think I’m Utah?

Because it’s more affordable.
For the Parnells, their perception of themselves is based on the math. The value of their house is down $60,000. Ms. Parnell says the couple's gross income last year was about $260,000. Taxes, premiums for medical care and deductions for Social Security and their 401(k) contributions cut the gross to about $12,000 per month. The family tithes $1,300 a month at their church. Their mortgage, second mortgage and payment on land they bought is nearly $4,000 a month. Other expenses, including their family car payment, insurance and college funds, as well as basics like food, utilities and donations to charities, leave them with about $1,200 left over each month.

"I'm not after sympathy. We are blessed. What I want is a reality check on what rich means," Ms. Parnell says. "I can pay my mortgage and I can buy some clothes. I'm not going without, but I'm not living a life of luxury."

I’m glad they’re not after sympathy cause it would be a cold day in hell before they got any from me.

This second to last paragraph really bothers me because it highlights the differences between classes.

They may have to pay a lot for healthcare, their 401(k)s, and college tuition, but many people would be overjoyed to have the money to cover these so called “unavoidable expenses.”

It’s just ridiculous.

This article is essentially propaganda against the tax rises. It may not be as heavy handed and ridiculous as most, but it’s aiming for the same goal.

The fact is, the American upper class pays the lowest amount of taxes out of all western countries for their tax bracket and yet benefit the most from the government.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

I'm Pretty Much Awesome

I have had an eventful day today.

Not only did I got to the most wonderful of all places, also known as Ikea, but I made my first pair of earrings (I tried to take a picture wearing them, but they're too hard to see):



I LOVE them to say the least (I made them using shrink plastic).

This is the first time I've tried to make my own jewelry (excluding my crazy "candy kid" phase in high school). It's not nearly as hard as I thought it would be and I'm excited to keep trying to new things.

I also altered a pair of boots that I had neglected (to say the least):



It's okay if your jealous. ;)

Weekly Address 4/18/09

With the process of going through the budget line by line in full swing, the President uses his Weekly Address to give some examples, big and small, of how the Administration is working to cut costs and eliminate waste. The President also announces two new key appointments, Jeffrey Zients as Chief Performance Officer and Aneesh Chopra as Chief Technology Officer, who will be invaluable in streamlining the way government functions through efficiency and innovation.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Stop Crying Your Heart Out

I think I'm gonna go buy this cd right now:



Oh yes...

A Handshake and The Middle Finger

The internet is buzzing about President Obama's decision yesterday to release the "torture memos."

There are so many great articles out there, that there's really no point adding to the heap (I've included the best one I've read so far at the bottom).

All I can say is kudos on one hand.

And "wtf?" on the other.

Olbermann's Special Comment sums up my displeasure nicely:



"And yet he has gone but halfway..."

Glenn Greenwald from Salon:
Numerous commentators are objecting to the idea that Barack Obama deserves credit for his release of the OLC torture memos yesterday in light of his accompanying pledge that CIA officials relying in good faith on those memos won't be prosecuted. Chris Floyd is one who articulates that objection quite well and, as is always true for Chris, his criticisms are well worth reading. Many others -- including Keith Olbermann, Jonathan Turley, John Dean and Bruce Fein -- yesterday lambasted Obama for his anti-prosecution stance. Since I gave substantial credit to Obama yesterday for the release of the memos and believe even more so today that he deserves it (despite finding the anti-prosecution case as corrupted and morally bankrupt as ever), I want to return to the issue of Obama's actions.

Purely as an analytical matter, releasing the OLC memos and advocating against prosecutions are two separate acts. It's perfectly coherent to praise one and condemn the other. There is an unhealthy tendency to want to make categorical, absolute judgments about the persona of politicians generally and Obama especially. A politician who does something horrible yesterday can do something praiseworthy tomorrow. Generally bad people can do good things (even if for ignoble reasons) and generally good people can do bad things. That's why I care little about motives, which I think, in any event, are impossible to know. Regardless of motives, good acts (releasing the torture memos) should be praised, and bad acts (arguing against prosecutions) should be condemned.

Beyond those generalities, I think the significance of Obama's decision to release those memos -- and the political courage it took -- shouldn't be minimized. There is no question that many key factions in the "intelligence community" were vehemently opposed to release of those memos. I have no doubt that reports that they waged a "war" to prevent release of these memos were absolutely true. The disgusting comments of former CIA Director Mike Hayden on MSNBC yesterday -- where he made clear that he simply does not believe in the right of citizens to know what their government does and that government crimes should be kept hidden-- is clearly what Obama was hearing from many powerful circles. That twisted anti-democratic mentality is the one that predominates in our political class.

In the United States, what Obama did yesterday is simply not done. American Presidents do not disseminate to the world documents which narrate in vivid, elaborate detail the dirty, illegal deeds done by the CIA, especially not when the actions are very recent, were approved and ordered by the President of the United States, and the CIA is aggressively demanding that the documents remain concealed and claiming that their release will harm national security. When is the last time a President did that?

Other than mildly placating growing anger over his betrayals of his civil liberties commitments (which, by the way, is proof of the need to criticize Obama when he does the wrong thing), there wasn't much political gain for Obama in releasing these documents. And he certainly knew that, by doing so, he would be subjected to an onslaught of accusations that he was helping Al Qaeda and endangering American National Security. And that's exactly what happened, as in this cliché-filled tripe from Hayden and Michael Mukasey in today's Wall St. Journal, and this from an anonymous, cowardly "top Bush official" smearing Obama while being allowed to hide behind the Jay Bybee of journalism, Politico's Mike Allen.

But Obama knowingly infuriated the CIA, including many of his own top intelligence advisers; purposely subjected himself to widespread attacks from the Right that he was giving Al Qaeda our "playbook"; and he released to the world documents that conclusively prove how that the U.S. Government, at the highest levels, purported to legalize torture and committed blatant war crimes. There's just no denying that those actions are praiseworthy. I understand the argument that Obama only did what the law requires. That is absolutely true. We're so trained to meekly accept that our Government has the right to do whatever it wants in secret -- we accept that it's best that most things be kept from us -- that we forget that a core premise of our government is transparency; that the law permits secrecy only in the narrowest of cases; and that it's certainly not legal to suppress evidence of government criminality on the grounds that it is classified.

Still, as a matter of political reality, Obama had to incur significant wrath from powerful factions by releasing these memos, and he did that. That's an extremely unusual act for a politician, especially a President, and it deserves praise. None of this mitigates any of the bad acts Obama has engaged in recently -- particularly his ongoing efforts to shield Bush crimes from judicial review by relying on extreme assertions of presidential secrecy powers -- but, standing alone, his actions yesterday are quite significant.

As is obvious from everything I've written over the past three years, I think the need to criminally prosecute those who authorized and ordered torture (as well as illegal surveillance) is absolute and non-negotiable (and, as I wrote earlier today, in the case of torture, criminal investigations are legally compelled). A collective refusal to prosecute the grotesque war crimes that we know our Government committed is to indict all of us in those crimes, to make us complict in their commission.

Criticisms directed at Obama and Holder for advocating immunity for CIA officials who relied in "good faith" on DOJ memos (a mere subset of the government criminals) is absolutely warranted. But, it is not Obama's sole responsibility -- or even his decision -- to prosecute. As a strictly legal matter, that is a decision for the Attorney General, independently, to make; it is Eric Holder who has the obligation to enforce the law, independent of anything Obama wants or says and regardless of what public opinion demands.

But more crucially, it is also the responsibility of the citizenry to demand that this happen. What Obama did yesterday -- whether by design or not -- provided the most potent tools yet to create the political pressure for prosecutions. As Kevin Drum makes clear, no decent human being reading those memos would be anything other than repelled by what was in them. Polls already found that large percentages of Americans, majorities even, favor investigations and/or prosecutions for Bush crimes. The onus is on those who believe in the rule of law to find ways to force the government to criminally investigate whether they want to or not (this petition demanding that Holder appoint a Special Prosecutor is a very good place to begin, though it will require much more than just petitions).

The most criticism-worthy act that Obama engaged in yesterday was to affirm and perpetuate what is the single most-destructive premise in our political culture: namely, that when high government officials get caught committing serious crimes, the responsible and constructive thing to do is demand immunity for them, while only those who are vindictive and divisive want political leaders to be held accountable for their crimes. This is what Obama said in affirming that rotted premise:

"This is a time for reflection, not retribution. . . . But at a time of great challenges and disturbing disunity, nothing will be gained by spending our time and energy laying blame for the past. Our national greatness is embedded in America's ability to right its course in concert with our core values, and to move forward with confidence. That is why we must resist the forces that divide us, and instead come together on behalf of our common future."

That passage, more than anything else, is the mindset that has destroyed the rule of law in the U.S. and spawned massive criminality in our elite class. Accountability for crimes committed by political leaders (as opposed to ordinary Americans) is scorned as "retribution" and "laying blame for the past." Those who believe that the rule of law should be applied to the powerful as well as to ordinary citizens are demonized as the "forces that divide us." The bottomless corruption of immunizing political elites for serious crimes is glorified in the most Orwellian terms as "a time for reflection," "moving forward," and "coming together on behalf of our common future."

Regardless of the reasons, it is clear that Obama will not single-handedly eliminate the immunity from the rule of law which the political class and other elites have arrogated unto themselves. If anything, as his comments yesterday reflect, he is likely to affirm and defend that immunity (and, obviously, he personally benefits from its ongoing vitality). Demanding that political leaders be subjected to the rule of law -- and finding ways to force the appointment of a Special Prosecutor -- is what citizens ought to be doing. Either we care about the rule of law or we don't -- and if we do, we'll find the ways to demand its application to the politically powerful criminals who broke multiple laws over the last eight years. Obama's release of those torture memos yesterday makes that choice unambiguously clear and enables the right to choice to be made.

What it comes down to is this: If President Obama doesn’t prosecute these war crimes, he becomes an accessory to torture.

-Copy of the memos here.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

A Citizen's Guide

This article by Robert Reich is just awesome:

A Short Citizen's Guide to Kooks, Demagogues, and Right-Wingers On Tax Day

No one likes to pay taxes, so tax day typically attracts a range of right-wing Republicans, kooks, and demagogues, all of whom tell us how awful we have it. Herewith a short citizen's guide (that is, a citizen's guide that's short rather than a guide for short citizens) responding to the predictable charges:

1. "Americans pay too much in taxes." Wrong: The United States has the lowest taxes of all developed nations.

2. "The rich pay too much! The top ten percent of income earners pay over 72 percent of all income taxes!" Misleading: The main reason the rich pay such a large percent is they've become so much richer than the bottom 90 percent in recent years. If you look at what they pay as individuals -- the percent of their incomes over and above the highest rate below them -- you'll see a steady decline over the years. When Republican Dwight Eisenhower was president, the marginal rate on the highest earners was 91 percent (after deductions and tax credits, closer to 50 percent); by 1980 it was still up there, at 70 percent (an effective rate of closer to 45 percent); under Bill Clinton, it was 38 percent (an effective rate closer to 28 percent).

Look at the after-tax earnings of families and you'll see what's really going on. Between 1980 and 2000, the after-tax earnings of famlies at the top rose more than 150 percent, while the after-tax earnings of families in the middle rose about 10 percent. The Bush tax cuts of 2001 and 2003 raised the after-tax incomes of most Americans by a bit over 1 percent -- but raised the after-tax incomes of millionaires by 4.4 percent.

3. "The bottom 60 percent pay only 3.3 percent of the taxes!" Misleading again. Most Americans are paying more in sales taxes than they ever have. Property taxes have also been rising at a steady clip. And Social Security taxes have also risen (thanks to the Greenspan Commission), while earnings over about $100,000 aren't subject to Social Security taxes. So-called "sin" taxes (mostly beer and cigarettes) have also skyrocketed. All of these taxes take a bigger bite out of the paychecks of people with lower incomes than they do people with higher incomes.

4. "Obama is raising your taxes!" Wrong. Obama is cutting taxes for 95 percent of Americans, by about $400 per person a year -- not a whopping tax cut, to be sure, but not a tax increase by any stretch. Only the top 2 percent will have a tax increase, but even this tax increase is modest. Basically, they go back to the rates they were paying under Bill Clinton (their deductions will be limited to 28 percent, which is only fair). And they won't start paying this until 2011 anyway.

5. "The huge debts we're wracking up will cause your taxes to rise!" Wrong again. When it comes to the national debt, as I've said before, the relevant statistic is the ratio of debt to the gross domestic product. The only sure way to bring that debt down and make it manageable in future years is to get the economy growing again -- which requires that, in the short term, the government spend a lot of money (because consumers and businesses won't). In the long term, the biggest source of concern is rising health-care costs. And that's something Obama and Congress are aiming to tackle.

6. "We have a patriotic duty to stand up against Washington taxes!" Just the opposite. We have a patriotic duty to pay taxes. As multi-billionaire Warrent Buffett put it, "If you stick me down in the middle of Bangladesh or Peru or someplace, you'll find out how much this talent is going to product in the wrong kind of soil. I will be struggling thirty years later." President Teddy Roosevelt made the case in 1906 when he argued in favor of continuing the inheritance tax. "The man of great wealth owes a particular obligation to the state because he derives special advantages from the mere existence of government."

An acquaintance from law school, now a partner in one of Washington's biggest and wealthiest law firms, explained to me one day over lunch how he and his partners use tax rules to create offsetting taxable gains and losses, and then allocate the gains to the firm's foreign partners who don't pay taxes in the United States. That way, they keep the losses here and shelter their income abroad. I noticed he had an American flag lapel pin. "You're supporting our troops," I said, referring to his pin. "Yup," he replied, entirely missing my point.

True patriotism isn't cheap. It's about taking on a fair share of the burden of keeping America going.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Crazy Talk

I had this in the sidebar (Crazy thoughts of the conservative right), but I've decided to just turn it into a semi-regular post instead cause I felt the sidebar was kind of cluttered.

So let's kick this party off with no other then Mr. fucktard himself, Glenn Beck:
"OK, so anyway, I was talking about ugly people. Ugly people, if you're a guy, you can get past it. I don't think you can as an ugly woman. I don't -- no, I don't. If you're an ugly woman, I apologize. Oh, you've got a double cross, because if you're an ugly woman, you're probably a progressive as well."

Yes, because only ugly women have the capacity to care for the progress of their own gender.



*sigh*

Snow Flakes

I love when it snows in really big flakes.

My back yard


View from my front window


Even better, it's not cold enough for the snow to stick (it's 37 degrees) so we don't have to worry about the down side to snow.

We can just enjoy sit back and enjoy. :)

Tea Anyone?

I just don’t get it.

Did the conservative right really think this was a good idea?

I get the concept of what they’re trying to achieve, but the moment they started “tea bagging” this whole situation became a joke to most people capable of rational thought.

Dave Johnson at Huffington Post sums it up nicely:
A number of people I have spoken with are planning to attend a "tea party" tomorrow, so I thought it might be a good idea to write about this. They are not what they claim to be. They are not "spontaneous" or "grassroots." They are another corporate-funded campaign to trick people into supporting more cut taxes for the rich.

The "tea parties" are promoted as a "grassroots uprising" against "high taxes." Tea stands for "Taxes Enough Already." However, 95% of Americans will received a tax cut in the next year if the upcoming Obama budget passes. Only Americans with incomes above $250,000 will receive a small tax increase -- and even then their taxes will be much lower than almost any time in the last 80 or so years. This increase on the top incomes will help pay for some of the Republican-caused economic damage as well as reduce the budget deficits that the country has faced ever since the same income group received tax cuts after George W. Bush was elected. (This is similar to the tax increase in first Clinton budget that led to the great economy of the 1990s and large budget surpluses.)

The other complaint from tea party organizers is that President Obama is "spending too much." The increased spending in the stimulus package and upcoming budget funds education, unemployment checks, efforts to ward off foreclosures and other programs designed to help bring us out of the recession and provide jobs. These are programs that benefit regular people instead of big corporations and the rich.

So regular people who go to these corporate-organized tea parties are asking the government to undo their own tax cuts and reduce their own government services in order to keep taxes low for the very rich . I wonder if people have really thought this through?

I think it's pretty obvious that they haven't thought anything through (otherwise they'd be democrats lol).

I’m not gonna lie, I do think it’s great that Americans are taking the time to stand up for something they believe in.

(We were given the right to assemble for a reason.)

I just can’t understand why these “teabaggers” have decided to embrace the very party that got us into this mess, or why poor people always feel the urge to “fight” for the rich.

Joe “the plumber” is the perfect example.

What Bill Maher so pointedly brought up on a previous show, was how Joe decided to side with John McCain out of the hope that he would earn enough money to be in the tax bracket that was getting so much concern over the election (those earning 250,000 or more a year).

So he essentially voted against his current financial situation, and for the financial situation he may or may not one day be in.

I can’t be the only one who sees how asinine that is.

And when I see pictures like this, I want to hang my head in shame for the ignorance of America:



Cause how in the hell can anyone think this is socialism?

I shouldn't be surprised. The only excuse I can think of for the blatant disregard for most of these protesters best interests is ignorance and maybe just downright boredom.

That and maybe the “herd mentality” most people have.

Cause what rational excuse is there?

None.



You know it's a sad day in the GOP when they decide their message is not only "tea bagging," but that they had to steal even that from the libertarian party.