Monthly Archives: August, 2012

Circular Firing Squad

I was gonna stay out of this, since I have to be at work in an hour, but incredibly, even Sarah Palin is piling on…

Sarah Palin slammed GOP Senate hopeful Todd Akin’s decision to continue his bid for the Missouri seat and suggested that she might back a third-party challenger in an interview on Fox News Tuesday night.

“He’s inviting himself back into this general election that’s coming up, and he’s going to get defeated. And that’s unfortunate,” the former Alaska governor said on “On the Record with Greta Van Susteren.” “That is why we have to think pragmatically about this, and we have to think, well, what’s another option? Is a third-party another option? If it is, let’s go. The status quo has got to go.”

Todd Akin’s real mistake was to put in crude terms what will most certainly become the official platform of the Republican Party– a personhood amendment that bans terminating a pregnancy from fertilization on, with no exceptions for rape or any other circumstances.

Since there’s no way to track the moment of fertilization, anti-abortion activists endorse a disproven belief that emergency contraception might prevent implantation of a fertilized egg. Therefore they want to ban the ‘morning after’ pill. (see here for more on the science.)

Emergency contraception is the standard of care for rape victims who come to the emergency room. This standard is not always followed.

In 2008 I wrote a post, Crime and the Politics of Sexual Assault in Alaska, that demonstrates how politics corrupts legal and medical care for crime victims. I never said Sarah Palin wasn’t very smart, and it’s no accident that when she was mayor in Wasilla, AK, rape victims had to pay for their own forensic exam and emergency care. This would give Mayor Palin deniability if she should ever face a challenge from the anti-abortion Right.

There’s really no daylight between Todd Akin and the rest of the Republican Party. Akin disclosed his fantasy that a certain level of physical violence has a contraceptive effect, the Republican party says that’s crude. Both say that a woman’s personhood and agency come second to a pregnancy, or even a potential conception regardless of circumstances. Texas may succeed in closing down Planned Parenthood in the state, no aspect of women’s care matters more than banning abortion. Toward the goal of total purity on that issue, the most extreme would ban all artificial birth control.

This is far from the mainstream of the American public, and no Republican president has been able to fulfill this agenda.

But in Wasilla, in emergency rooms, in times of crisis these policies harm women and abandon those who deserve the protection of law. ‘We’ll pray for those people’ is not an answer.

AND ANOTHER THING: It’s clearly unfair to pile on Rep. Akin’s use of the phrase ‘legitimate rape’. He obviously meant that a woman has no right to claim rape unless she is visibly beat up or threatened with a weapon by a person who has no social status. That’s another outrageous statement, but a whole other blog post is needed to address it.

“I Pray for Them” is Not Good Enough

Congressional candidate Rep. Todd Akin has put a religious spin on his pseudo-science about women having some biological powers that protect them from getting pregnant if they are victims of ‘legitimate rape’. In an appeal to Christians who value forgiveness, he tries to distract from the plain meaning of his words, backed up by his actions in Congress. He has made a campaign commercial for the base…

“Rape is an evil act. I used the wrong words in the wrong way and for that I apologize. As the father of two daughters, I want tough justice for predators. I have a compassionate heart for the victims of sexual assault. I pray for them,” Akin says. “The fact is, rape can lead to pregnancy. The truth is, rape has many victims.”

Akin continues: “The mistake I made was in the words I said, not in the heart I hold. I ask for your forgiveness.”

I would ask Christians to consider that forgiveness doesn’t require voting this man back into Congress. I would ask them to consider that denying a woman emergency contraception to prevent pregnancy after rape is respecting her life. Giving her compassion and praying for her is not enough.

Talking tough is not enough. We have a long history of justice denied for victims despite harsh laws. We have a long history of harsh laws being used to imprison innocent men. Rape has many victims, yes, and one casualty is our peace of mind. If the only answer is death to the rapist then society will refuse to prosecute the husband, the brother, the son. Rapists are not usually so outwardly criminal that they don’t have a circle of people who see them as ‘a nice guy’.

It’s an evil act, yes, and an ugly truth. As long as we cling to a past that separates the virtuous women from the impure, the ones whose humanity is lesser because they deserve it, we will give cover to crimes. Predators in society, like predators in the wild, choose the unprotected. It’s necessary to face facts we would rather bury, and defend the rights of people who make choices we would not make. It’s necessary because we are fighting a crime and putting a few individuals in prison is not the whole answer.

Promoting respect for women, because we are equal human beings, is the answer.

I wondered last night if I was making assumptions about Rep. Akin’s religious pandering. Today shows that he’s out there claiming the blessing of forgiveness to hang on to religious voters.

There’s a segment of the religious Right that dwells on forgiveness, but overlooks repentance. It’s like the Ted Haggards who get caught in immorality but think they can reclaim their pulpit and collection plate after a few expressions of remorse. It’s like the many religious groups who found it expedient to cover up sexual crimes in their own community while exhorting victims to ‘forgive’. Anything can be used as spin in politics.

Todd Akin does not intend to change his actions or votes against a woman’s right to terminate a pregnancy, or even to prevent conception after rape. But he has compassion and will pray for those people. He feels real sorry for them.

No woman wants to think that they will ever be in a situation where this will be personal. But if we let law for women be made by men who don’t know and don’t care about reality, and who confuse condescension and pity with respect, we will abandon the women who need real help and the standard of medical care.

Bible Verses for Todd Akin

‘Gaffe’, how did this Frenchified word get into American politics? We needed a way to point out that someone smart who has to meet the public and give speeches for months of sleep-deprived campaigning will inevitably say something regrettable.

Here are the Merriam-Webster dictionary examples of ‘gaffe’…

He realized that he had committed an awful gaffe when he mispronounced her name.
committed a huge gaffe when she started drinking from the finger bowl

A cynic joked that a gaffe is when a politician tells the truth. There are slips, Freudian slips, and entire detailed statements where it’s hard to interpret the words to be anything but what they mean. Congressman Todd Akin’s outrageous statement about rape, and the weird idea that an innocent woman can’t be made pregnant against her will isn’t an accident– it’s a belief with a history in our culture and roots in the more extreme corners of the religious right.

These kinds of beliefs provide cover for rapists who use intimidation and prey on the vulnerable. Tina Anderson was only 15 when she was raped and made pregnant by a much older man in her church.

Fifty-two-year-old Ernest Willis of Gilford apologised on Tuesday saying he was ‘sorry and ashamed for this thoughtless act of sexual misconduct.’
But he did not admit to forcibly raping the teenager.

Miss Anderson, now 29, told The Associated Press she felt vindicated.
She said she was never really believed that the sex was not consensual until a court found him guilty.

The teen was forced to face hundreds of churchgoers at Concord’s Trinity Baptist Church and say sorry for getting pregnant.

She said: ‘I felt completely humiliated. I felt like my life was over.’

The then-pastor of the New Hampshire church, Chuck Phelps, arranged for her to move in with a Baptist family in Colorado and place her infant daughter up for adoption.

She said she believed ‘for years’ what the church leaders had told her which was: ‘The rapes were her fault and she must learn to forgive and forget.’

During cross-examination Anderson lashed out at defence attorney Donna Brown for ‘badgering her’ about discrepancies in her recollection of the sequence of events that summer.

She said: ‘You cannot remember when you are 15-years-old and scared out of your mind. It doesn’t mean I was lying. I felt like my life was over.’

The Old Testament Book of Deuteronomy 22 20 gives instructions on when a husband may have his wife stoned to death for being unable to prove she was a virgin on their wedding night. The penalty for getting raped in the city is death, because presumably the woman failed to call for help.

Imagine a woman forced to drink poison because her husband suspects she has been impure. Numbers 5 23:29

23 ‘The priest shall then write these curses on a scroll, and he shall [k]wash them off into the water of bitterness. 24 Then he shall make the woman drink the water of bitterness that brings a curse, so that the water which brings a curse will go into her [l]and cause bitterness. 25 The priest shall take the grain offering of jealousy from the woman’s hand, and he shall wave the grain offering before the Lord and bring it to the altar; 26 and the priest shall take a handful of the grain offering as its memorial offering and offer it up in smoke on the altar, and afterward he shall make the woman drink the water. 27 When he has made her drink the water, then it shall come about, if she has defiled herself and has been unfaithful to her husband, that the water which brings a curse will go into her [m]and cause bitterness, and her abdomen will swell and her thigh will [n]waste away, and the woman will become a curse among her people. 28 But if the woman has not defiled herself and is clean, she will then be free and conceive [o]children.

29 ‘This is the law of jealousy: when a wife, being under the authority of her husband, goes astray and defiles herself, 30 or when a spirit of jealousy comes over a man and he is jealous of his wife, he shall then make the woman stand before the Lord, and the priest shall apply all this law to her. 31 Moreover, the man will be free from [p]guilt, but that woman shall bear her [q]guilt.’”

Imagine the terror that woman would feel, drinking the cursed, dirty water. This is what is known as an ordeal. If she gets sick from the dirt or the power of suggestion– well that proves it. No mention of how many times a husband can demand this ritual, as often as the spirit of jealousy calls to him apparently.

The net is full of better writers than this one, once again explaining that rape is a crime. Brave women are coming out and talking about their own survival. This reminds me of the periodic emergence of Roman Polanski from his European bunker, forcing the woman who survived his assault as a child to once again ask the press to please go away. It should not be necessary to refute these bad ideas over and over, but here we are.

The Republican Party may be racing to distance itself from Todd Akin’s remarks, but it’s important to know that they are not his alone, and do come from an important part of the Republican base. He’s not the first to pass judgment on who is ‘really raped’ and who deserved it. His real gaffe was to expose the contradictions between the wing of the GOP that will frankly say that they would force a woman to continue a pregnancy caused by rape, and the much more moderate American public. When you breach the consistent position that abortion is forbidden in any circumstance, you open the door to circumstantial morality. If you believe, as I do, that life is circumstantial and that there are many hard decisions that belong to the people most affected, you can live with grey areas.

What is contemptible about Todd Akin’s statements is that he won’t face the reality that a rapist is not usually a deranged man jumping out of the bushes. That’s why Ernest Willis was able to prey on a child in a church and engage the pastor in covering up his crime.

And as Black Max at Daily Kos points out, if you believe the pseudo-science that a woman’s body has some contraceptive powers against rape, pregnancy proves that she was asking for it. In the old days, like about fifty years ago, the forces of law and order would just disappear the girls to reform school.

It’s only different now because so many brave women spoke truth in the face of personal destruction. Their witness stands against obstinate ignorance. Like they say, you’re entitled to your own opinions, but not your own facts. If anyone presumes to represent the people, they have to face the consequences when they slander half the population.

AN AGENDA: Emergency contraception is the standard of medical care for victims of rape. Too often this standard is not kept because of a mistaken idea that emergency contraception is a form of abortion. The belief that any victim of a violent crime should have to prove themselves by showing visible injuries, and that only ‘forcible rape’ is real, and that a victim of ‘forcible rape’ can’t get pregnant supports the agenda of denying contraception even in the most dire circumstances.

Here’s more from CNN on Congressman Akin’s views…

Akin, a six-term U.S. congressman, touted his socially conservative values on the primary campaign trail.
He opposes abortion in all circumstances and has said he also opposes the morning after pill, which he equates to abortion.

Believing that no decent woman would ever find herself in an emergency room needing emergency contraception is necessary to make these views seem less than oppressive.

Kayaks on the River

View from Providence Place Mall

View from Waterplace

This weekend I was invited to kayak on the Narrow River in Narragansett. If even I can do this without drowning it’s truly a day at the beach. We saw herons, gulls, crabs and minnows, grass and speedboats and surfboard type things that people were riding. Next time I’ll try one of those.

Walking home from work today I saw the kayaks of the inner city, first saw them by the railroad tracks under Providence Place Mall. I think that was the Woonasquatucket River, flowing from the green fields of Olneyville. That looks like fun.

Ai Wei Wei — Never Sorry

Chinese artist and provocateur Ai Wei Wei can’t stay away from Twitter.

A documentary about his life and work is showing at the Cable Car Cinema. I never saw that theater full till today at the matinee. Wow. Now I have a big art crush.

Stop Feeding the Monsters

The fastest way to media fame and immortality is to commit a bigger mass murder than the last one. Steven Abell proposes that the news media stop playing along…

Emulate the Governor of Colorado: refuse to say the killer’s name! It may be impossible to know what these murderers actually want, but if there is even a chance that fame, or infamy, is it, we must not give it to them. Neither can we give any hope of it to those who might come after them. Make it clear that such people will wallow in obscurity.

There might have been an excuse for all this breathless searching for ‘a reason’ several mass murders ago, but by now it should be clear that the breathless searching and 24/7 reporting is motive enough in itself. Yes, someone who is ready to take their own life can go out in a blaze of glory, inspiring others to copycat their crime. Why else would these things come in waves?

Jessica Stern, whose fine book ‘Terror in the Name of God’ addresses violence for ideology suggests one strategy. Discredit the terrorists in their own community. We cannot discredit mass shooters as long as we reward them with the attention they crave, and as long as they can admire themselves posing with their guns–imitating the images of power in our culture.

The media would be more responsible to report on the courage of law-abiding Americans like the Sikh community in Oak Creek, Wisconsin or the Unitarian community in Knoxville, Tennessee who are not intimidated from coming together to use their freedom of religion and assembly.

It’s lazy reporting to name the killers and let their victims fade from memory as if their lives and the suffering of their loved ones is not news.

So many news articles on the web named the murderer of the Sikh temple but not the members of the temple whose lives were taken. Here are their names…

Bhai Seeta Singh

Bhai Parkash Singh

Bhai Ranjit Singh

Satwant Singh Kaleka

Subegh Singh

Parmjit Kaur Toor

Here are their faces.

Titillation sells better than grief. Guns are entertaining, wounds not so much. How much truth are we ready to bear?

MORE: Mr.Green says that when some fool runs out onto a football field during a game, the cameras are turned away. No reward for violating the game. With all due respect to a free press, there is a chance that dialing down the attention to wrongdoers and focusing on the people who obey the rules might help bring back some perspective.

Barred from Voting

Last year I had to cash a check at Bank of America. I was expecting them to skim off a ‘convenience fee’ on their own check, because they can, and banks often do. Their own name on the check doesn’t mean anything is ‘honored’. This time the teller only demanded my fingerprint. I was in a hurry, and complied, and felt a little stab of humiliation as I traded some dignity for the money I needed for Christmas presents.

When I hear people use the banks as a model of what bars we should put in the way of voting, I think this is a step in the wrong direction. Voter ID is chasing an imaginary problem with real harm to Democracy…

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — One of the lead plaintiffs in a lawsuit to block Pennsylvania’s new Voter ID law has been granted the identification necessary to cast her ballot despite lacking the documentation required to get the card.

Ninety-three-year-old Viviette Applewhite received her temporary identification card on Thursday, the same day her attorneys appealed a judge’s ruling upholding the law Applewhite sued over.

I was a poll watcher in the last elections. It is not true that gangs of people can wander into the polls and vote fraudulently without being noticed. Where are the outraged citizens who were told they already voted? You’d think there would be some, with all this fear of impersonators stealing the vote.

Of course, there are much more sophisticated ways to steal votes than to run around recruiting fake voters. Voter ID is just a way to make it more difficult to vote.

Many Americans worked, marched and died to give us this right. Don’t ever surrender your vote. And keep an eye out unless you want to hand over a fingerprint and a convenience fee next time you go to the polls.

A Nation of Grinning, Gun-Loving Fools

For almost anyone, anywhere in our country, a gun is easier to get than treatment for mental illness…

(CNN) — The gunman who killed two others before police ended his life in a shootout near Texas A&M University had been battling mental health issues on and off for years, his mother said.

Police say Thomas Caffall, known to his family as “Tres,” killed a constable and a bystander and injured four others Monday before police fatally shot him.

His mother, Linda Weaver, said the family became worried after Caffall quit his job in January and announced that he would never work again.

“We had been very concerned about him,” Weaver told CNN.

Caffall had withdrawn from the family, and the fear was that he might attempt suicide, his mother said.

There are many parents who fear for a child who can’t get help anywhere. It’s rightly difficult to involuntarily commit a person who refuses treatment, and the abuses of the past are something we shouldn’t repeat. But the bar to help is more financial than legal. Decades of cuts to health care have reduced the options for people with mental illness and strained the organizations that offer help.

On the other hand, decades of lobbying by the NRA have removed restrictions, such as the assault weapons ban, from anyone who wants to be their own loose-cannon militia.

Jesus’ General, a satirical site that tracks the extreme right, posts page views from Thomas Caffall’s Facebook page. Did anyone who knew him see this and figure out where he was headed? It’s all too clear now.

Where are we headed, a nation served violent images– real and dramatized– every day from every screen. We’re promised war without sacrifice, where the volunteer military suffers the wounds and our smart weapons kill only the ones who deserve it.

We’re at a point where stay at home spectators get to play war games on a new reality show– a concept so imperial that a group of Nobel Peace Prize laureates have petitioned NBC to cancel this embarrassment…

Signers of an open letter to the network include Nobelists Desmond Tutu, Dr. Shirin Ebadi, Adolfo Perez Esquivel, Jose Ramos-Horta, Jody Williams, Mairead Maguire, Oscar Arias Sanchez, Rigoberta Menchu and Betty Williams.

“That might seem innocuous since spectacular, high budget sporting events of all types are regular venues for airing new products, televisions shows and movies,” the Nobelists’ letter explains. “But ‘Stars Earn Stripes’ is not just another reality show. Hosted by retired four-star general Wesley Clark, the program pairs minor celebrities with US military personnel and puts them through simulated military training, including some live fire drills and helicopter drops. The official NBC website for the show touts ‘the fast-paced competition’ as ‘pay[ing] homage to the men and women who serve in the U.S. Armed Forces and our first-responder services.’

“It is our belief that this program pays homage to no one anywhere and continues and expands on an inglorious tradition of glorifying war and armed violence. Military training is not to be compared, subtly or otherwise, with athletic competition by showing commercials throughout the Olympics. Preparing for war is neither amusing nor entertaining.”

Glenn Greenwald at Salon brings back some journalistic cautions from the Iraq War, and the circular relationship between bombs and ratings. And a voice from the past…

Experiencing great fun and pulsating entertainment from sending one’s military off to war is hardly unique to our time. Adam Smith lamented this warped dynamic back in 1776 in his Wealth of Nations:

In great empires the people who live in the capital, and in the provinces remote from the scene of action, feel, many of them, scarce any inconveniency from the war; but enjoy, at their ease, the amusement of reading in the newspapers the exploits of their own fleets and armies. To them this amusement compensates the small difference between the taxes which they pay on account of the war, and those which they had been accustomed to pay in time of peace. They are commonly dissatisfied with the return of peace, which puts an end to their amusement, and to a thousand visionary hopes of conquest and national glory from a longer continuance of the war.

Now even the taxes don’t inconvenience us, unless we are of the class that is taxed by cuts in ‘entitlements’ like disability, education, and, yes, mental health.

‘Stars Earn Stripes’ cynically pretends to be a tribute to ‘our troops’. It’s better for ratings to have a celebrity wave a gun than to interview a veteran, as
Nicholas D. Kristof does in this past Sunday’s New York Times…

IT would be so much easier, Maj. Ben Richards says, if he had just lost a leg in Iraq.

A car bomb in Iraq in May 2007 left Ben Richards, then a captain, with a severe concussion. A second concussion left him with debilitating injuries.

Instead, he finds himself losing his mind, or at least a part of it. And if you want to understand how America is failing its soldiers and veterans, honoring them with lip service and ceremonies but breaking faith with them on all that matters most, listen to the story of Major Richards.

For starters, he’s brilliant. (Or at least he was.) He speaks Chinese and taught at West Point, and his medical evaluations suggest that until his recent problems he had an I.Q. of about 148. After he graduated from West Point, in 2000, he received glowing reviews.

“Ben Richards is one of the best military officers I have worked with in 13 years of service,” noted an evaluation, one of many military and medical documents he shared with me.

Yet Richards’s intellect almost exacerbates his suffering, for it better equips him to monitor his mental deterioration — and the failings of the Army that he has revered since he was a young boy.

The fact that ‘homeless veteran’ is a cliche says a lot about how we support our troops.

Just like the war tax went under the radar to be exacted in the most destructive way– eroding the foundation of social equality– the cost of war falls on a volunteer military. Traumatic brain injury is the signature wound, mental illness the invisible scar. And every year less help and more guns.

For anyone who follows the links, Salon and Jesus’ General,the picture of gun-waving celebrities grinning like fools is interchangeable with Thomas Caffall’s Facebook page. These violent outbreaks are not random and not unexplainable.

Cranking up the fear helps to sell guns, helps to build walls, helps hate groups and extremists justify their invitation to circle the wagons and retreat from a free and open public life.

Whether there’s intention, or toxic philosophies growing in a toxic spin of addiction to violence, we need truth tellers to remind us that it is a violation to put a bullet into a human being, and that war is not glorious for those who know firsthand the cost.

Kiersten Marek:

Diane Ravitch exposes the money trail of right-wing corporate funding for the parent trigger laws.

Originally posted on Diane Ravitch's blog:

The money behind the “parent trigger” movie comes from the rightwing.

It’s a shame to see mainstream movie stars and musicians fooled into thinking this movie “honors” teachers.

The parent trigger is a transparent attempt to fool parents into seizing control of their public school and handing it over to corporate charter chains.

So, the game is to fool the Hollywood crowd and to fool parents with deceptive packaging.

Read this about funding by Walton (Walmart) family, whose money supports vouchers and charters. It is known for its anti-union views.

And then there is the film’s producer, Walden Media, owned by billionaire Philip Anschutz, who funds libertarian and far-right think tanks and anti-gay activism. And, it may or may not surprise you to learn that his energy company is involved in hydrofracking, a technique opposed by environmentalists everywhere. In New York, Anschutz is fighting a small town named Dryden

View original 32 more words

Strong Words from Mitt Romney

An officer and a citizen were killed in the latest random assault weapon murder, but let’s get our priorities straight…

MIAMI (AP) — Mitt Romney says gun laws are not the answer to the recent string of mass shootings.

Romney says it’s not about the weapons used in the attacks, but about the individuals who choose to commit violence against others.

The Republican presidential candidate spoke hours after a police officer, a gunman and a third person were killed in a shooting near Texas A&M University.

Romney says “thoughtful consideration” is needed about what can be done to prevent violent attacks. But he says he isn’t calling for any particular legislation.

Rest in peace, County Constable Brian Bachmann. No one has your back.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 992 other followers