Archive for April, 2010

Oklahoma Abortion Law – Not OK

April 30, 2010

In 1973 the Berger Supreme Court voted 7-2 on Roe v. Wade[1] to protect a woman’s right to an abortion while providing for more restrictive regulation in later trimesters. The argument that brought this ruling to the country was a woman’s right to privacy. The courts determined that the state had no business telling a women what she could or could not do with her body – abortion is considered a personal decision and a woman’s right to choose is to be honored and respected.

Having never personally been involved in a relationship that was involved in an abortion or even a decision to go one way or another with an unwanted pregnancy, I can only imagine how difficult a decision this is for anyone. Friends and acquaintances have gone through this and it is obviously a difficult choice, an unpleasant decision and something that is thought about throughout one’s life. As awful as it is, it is an individual right and not the duty of the government to tell women what to do – it is a personal and private decision.

Roe v. Wade’s role is to prevent the states from creating laws that would prevent women from being able to obtain a safe and legal abortion. Reasonable regulations and restrictions could be enacted at the state level but an out and out prohibition would be clearly unconstitutional and would be overturned at the federal level. This past week in Oklahoma a law was passed by overriding Governor Brad Henry’s veto only a few hours after the veto. The new law in Oklahoma went into effect immediately and will force the few remaining (unconfirmed reports state that there are only 3-4 doctors who perform abortions remaining in the state) doctors who provide this needed service to area women to force the woman to look at an ultrasound screen and even if she closes her eyes she must listen to the doctor describe what he sees. This is a scare tactic and a direct shot at a woman’s intelligence and her right to privacy in an important and personal decision.

Does the Oklahoma legislature truly believe a woman that has the courage to go to an abortion clinic or her doctor has not thought about what she is embarking on? People know what abortion is and what it does – it terminates a fetus and at least a potential life – as horrible as that sounds, many lives circumstances make it so this tough decision is the only viable choice for the individual. Even if one does not agree with this on moral, ethical or religious grounds the Supreme Court stated in Roe v. Wade that a woman has the right to privacy in these matters – apparently this does not matter in Oklahoma.

Tamya Cox, an attorney with ACLU in Oklahoma stated that this law will “scare and intimidate women”[2] from having an abortion. An unwanted pregnancy is traumatic enough – the new abortion law in Oklahoma makes no exceptions to the ultrasound viewing and lecturing from the doctor even in the case or rape or incest. The legislature’s holier than thou attitude is upsetting at best and psychologically damaging to the woman in the worse case scenario. The Oklahoma legislature is using sketchy semantics to influence their conservative views. Regarding the ultrasound viewing requirement bill sponsor Republican Rep. Lisa Johnson-Billy, said “The abortion provider needs to see the position of the baby and make sure she’s pregnant and see the gestational age of the infant.”[3]

Webster’s Dictionary defines an infant as “a child in the first period of life”[4] and a baby as an “extremely young child.”[5] A fetus is what is actually aborted – not an infant and not a baby. Killing a baby or an infant is called murder and has not been sanctioned to be legal and a matter of privacy for a woman. It would be nice to see Rep. Johnson-Billy use the proper language and not words that are designed to terrify an already frightened and distraught woman. In 1973 seven Supreme Court Justices voted to protect women and their right to privacy on a most personal issue imaginable – it is not Oklahoma or any other state’s right to take that right away.

Thank you to all of my readers – I am truly humbled by how many folks have been reading and commenting on my essays. If you like what your read – or even if you don’t please consider subscribing for updates by entering your e-mail address on the right-hand side of my blog page. Thanks again! – Mike


[1] 410 U.S. 113 (1973)

[2] http://network.nationalpost.com/NP/blogs/holy-post/archive/2010/04/29/oklahoma-abortion-bill-called-extreme.aspx

[3] http://abcnews.go.com/Health/okla-abortion-law-exceptions-rape/story?id=10507849&page=1

[4] http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/infant

[5] http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/baby

What Is Arizona Thinking?

April 26, 2010

Last Friday Arizona Republican Governor Jan Brewer signed a Republican backed bill into law that will require law enforcement officers to perform documentation checks on people in Arizona. This is the result of Arizona’s frustration with the lack of help from the federal government with the states ever more violent illegal immigrant problem. Arizona has valid points and concerns – recently a rancher was murdered on his property in the border lands and the violence in the Mexican drug cartels has increased. Ciudad Juarez – just across the border from El Paso, TX has become a war zone and businesses have packed up shop and left town. These facts aside, the methods that Arizona has just passed into law are troublesome.

Immigration policy is under federal jurisdiction – this is not something like gambling or motor vehicle laws that are in bailiwick of state government. The United States cannot have 50 states creating their own immigration policies or requiring all sorts of documentation that would allow a person to be legal in one region but not in another. Although Arizona’s new law has safeguards in place to prevent racial profiling it is not difficult to see where this is heading. Officers will be able to stop Latinos at will to “check their papers.” People who have forgot their papers will be subject to arrest and deportation – although it is unclear to this writer how a state can get the power or right to deport. This is the type of harassment that our nation has gone to war over – defeating fascism in World War II and while fighting communism in the Cold War. Of course, we happily look the other way when it is in our “interest” to have a blind eye (Saudi Arabia comes to mind.)

The new law in Arizona is likely to be struck down by the United States Supreme Court if for no other reason than that it is giving the states power in an area reserved for the federal government. Arizona has fired the opening salvo on behalf of the Border States as a wake up call to the federal government – enforce our borders, come up with a new, workable immigration plan or expect the states to try and take the situation into their own hands. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada) has put this topic high on his list of things to get done in the coming weeks. We can only hope that he is serious and plans to work in a bi-partisan way to get this done. There is much doubt that anything will be done – Reid is pandering to the Latino population of his home state and there are so many ideas from the ultra liberal to the ultra strict on how the country should tackle this ever present problem that a compromise with our current set of leaders seems to be a long shot at best. The problem needs to be solved but not at the expense of common sense and individual rights that this country has fought for and defended for over 200 years.

Scott Brown – The Independent Voice…

April 20, 2010

 

…of Partisan/Populist Politics

 Massachusetts voters took part in an election of national significance last fall to replace the US Senate seat formerly head by the late Senator Edward M. Kennedy. The Democrat’s candidate, Martha Coakley ran perhaps the worse campaign in the history of Massachusetts, if not the country. Populist Republican candidate Scott Brown came out of nowhere and seized on the pulse of a lot of angry voters and took an election that was ripe for the taking. Even though a lot of his platform and record did not sit well with over one million voters who voted for his opponent Martha Coakley he won handily on Election Day. Brown promised to be an independent voice of Massachusetts and he told us all he was in favor of small government and would be hard at work for the working family.

 Brown’s long term voting record in the Massachusetts Senate and House has shown him to be all over the place. He has supported pro-life and pro-choice; for animal rights and against animal rights; for labor and against (although he is consistently against government regulation and pro big business.)  Brown believes everything that has happened during our economic downfall is in no need of any government oversight. His love of small government and trimming back spending found him two weeks ago supporting an expensive engine option for a new military aircraft – the parochial Brown supported this as it would create jobs in Massachusetts – the interesting part of this is that this was a rare occasion where the Pentagon had stated that they did not want these engines and they were not necessary. Brown supporters point out that Brown supported a position that Coakley would have supported; this is true – where it becomes disingenuous is when you consider the small government/cut spending platform that Brown rode to victory.

 The Senator appears like a deer in the headlights when he appeared on this past weekend’s news panel show, Face the Nation. When questioned if the nation is heading towards socialism he came back with a disjointed response that was all over the place and did not answer the question. He discussed immigration, the wars and health care then railed on President Obama for not doing anything about jobs. Someone should point out to Brown that he recently voted for a jobs bill supported by the President.[1] In fairness perhaps Senator Brown is just not used to the scrutiny one faces at this level. There is little heat on state reps and state senators – on the playing field he ascended to in January it is an entirely different ballgame – everyone is watching and the cameras are rolling.

 Senator Brown is also playing with numbers – does he really think no one is going to look at his facts and closely examine them? Brown stated that the new financial reform measures that are on the table will cost the Massachusetts economy 35,000 jobs. When questioned about his statistic the Senator said he was given the numbers from executives at Mass Mutual – a financial sector employer based in Springfield, MA. When Mass Mutual was questioned by the Boston Globe they replied:

 MassMutual officials initially said they provided Brown with no such estimate. Yesterday, company officials explained that they had given Brown an estimate of how many jobs have been lost in the Massachusetts financial sector since the recession — which they told him was about 33,000 jobs — and said the current legislation could further exacerbate the problem.[2]

Those numbers are for past job losses – not projections. These numbers are disputed by the Department of Labor and Workforce who claim 18,700 financial sector jobs have been lost since the start of the recession.[3]  When you lie with statistics you are supposed to be subtle – a small variation, a graph that does not tell the entire story – not blatant misstatements. The general practice requires that you at least start with some numbers that are at least valid – Brown did not do this.

Senator Scott Brown won an election but if he hopes to win his next election for a full term in the U.S. Senate he is going to have to use real facts, understand the issues and vote for his constituency – not the partisan line and not how the Republican Party powers that be say he should vote. The Senator should be more concerned with the everyday citizens who have had their hopes and dreams pulled out from under them by illegitimate and unsound business practices on Wall Street. Massachusetts and the nation need government oversight and enforcement which will help all citizens, not provincial plans and pork that create just a few jobs to get a few votes. Senator Brown WE are watching you.


[1] http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/04/19/scott-brown-struggles-to_n_543177.html

[2] http://www.boston.com/news/local/massachusetts/articles/2010/04/20/democrats_hit_brown_over_job_loss_estimates/?page=2

[3] http://www.boston.com/news/local/massachusetts/articles/2010/04/20/democrats_hit_brown_over_job_loss_estimates/?page=2

You Gotta Keep ‘Em Separated…

April 15, 2010

Acknowledging the lyrics in the title above from a popular Offspring song are about gang warfare and not the separation of church and state, the sentiment holds true in either situation – one could say the battle of church and state is gang warfare. The founding fathers had sound reasons for constructing the US Constitution’s language regarding religion and the separation of church and state as they did. The history of their forefathers in England, as well as throughout Europe was rife with a horrific history of just what can happen when church and government are either one in the same or are politically indebted to one another. The United State is to be different.

 Today in a federal courthouse in Wisconsin Judge Barbara B. Crabb ruled in favor of the plaintiff, Freedom From Religion Foundation, Inc., against President Obama and his press secretary Robert L. Gibbs. The case revolved around the yearly presidential proclamation of National Prayer Day each May – the White House purported that this was only an announcement to the fact that prayer and religion play an important part of the history of the United States. The plaintiff’s argument hinged on the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment that sets forth that the government cannot endorse a religion or a religious practice. Judge Crabb explained that National Prayer Day is an endorsement of the government to the citizenry to engage in prayer and “its sole purpose is to encourage all citizens to engage in prayer, an inherently religious exercise that serves no secular function…the government has taken sides on a matter that must be left to individual conscience.”[1]

 Many people in our nation pray daily, weekly or when the mood strikes. Many never pray and do not believe. All of these ways of spiritual or non-spiritual life are valid and protected by the First Amendment. The danger arrives when the government begins to endorse religious practice and religion. On the surface it may seem like no big deal – pray if you want – no one is forcing you to. The hard reality is that if the government endorses a prayer day people who do not go along are in danger of being marginalized and not being accepted as full and valid citizens. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor had these well stated words in a concurring opinion in 1989 “government cannot endorse the religious practices and beliefs of some citizens without sending a clear message to nonadherents that they are outsiders or less than full members of the political community.”[2]

 The United States of America was founded on principles of personal liberty and freedom – government endorsement of prayer and religion cannot be tolerated. These deeply personal decisions are just that, they are between the individual and their conscience and the government has no right to be involved in participating in the individual’s decision. 


[1] http://www.wiwd.uscourts.gov/assets/pdf/FFRF_v_Obama_Order.pdf

[2] Allegheny.  492 US 573 at 627

How is a Rat Going to Escape this Zinger?

April 11, 2010

 

The latest news from Vatican City finds the catholic man closest to god on planet Earth more personally ensnared in the ongoing Catholic Church pedophilia scandals. Cardinal Ratzinger was in charge of handling these matters for the Church as the leader of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in 1985, and the years preceding his rise to the papacy.  A letter has come to light that shows his refusal to defrock a known pedophile in a California diocese.

 As per the usual fare, Rome is denying any wrong doing in this matter. The strictly hierarchical church is now stating that it was the California bishop’s responsibility to discipline the bishop, and that Rome was not responsible. It is interesting that in matters like birth control and allowing women into the priesthood the Vatican has plenty to say to the American bishops, but in matters of child rape and torture they simply wash their hands of it and say it is a local, parochial issue that needs to be tended to by the local bishop.

 In 1985 Ratzinger responded to the inquiries from Oakland with “Consider the good of the Universal Church.” As we have seen repeatedly, this is how the allegedly pious, holy men deal with the children of their faith; it is more important to protect the name and title of a felonious priest and the saintly church than it is to protect a helpless child from a savage attacker. This organization that spends so much time and concern with inane ideas like sainthood for past Popes should look into canonizing these innocent victims as the true martyrs of their church.

 The church has one sure fire way to end this crisis, save face and move on – hand over all of the accused pederasts and the evidence to the civil authorities. The organization must stop harboring and protecting these criminal and face the fact that the hierarchy is complicit in the cover up of the crimes and the endangerment of others with their policies of transferring the offenders quietly. A hypothesis as to why they do not do this is because the accused priests have information that is damning to the powers in the Vatican.

 This past week I was horrified to find out two of the priests at the church my family went to when I was a child were among the many guilty priests. As far as I know there were never any issues with child molestation at St. Joseph’s in Ipswich, MA but the Father’s Kane and Cotter were listed as offenders; not that you can rank these crimes in order of disgust, but Cotter was a particularly heinous case and was part of a monstrous settlement between the church and victims. John Cotter had the good fortune to die in 1989 and escape public scrutiny. I was done with this horrid organization around 1981 – if the church does not step up and really get involved in the seriousness of the situation it will not be long before there is nobody left for them to preach to. 

  Information from the AP was used in this piece: http://m.apnews.com/ap/db_16029/contentdetail.htm?contentguid=vclWXski

 To learn about abusive priests:

http://www.bishop-accountability.org/

America the Butifull

April 7, 2010

The spelling error in the title is a deliberate error – unlike the unintentional errors we see everyday in our once great nation. We have moved from being a nation of dreams and achievement and become a country of complainers, screamers and worriers who are ready to jump on any bandwagon without thinking critically. The loudest screams and the greatest complaints rarely come from any valid point or research and are rarely supported by facts. People are all too eager to jump on a bandwagon or cause and follow it along blindly – often against their own best interests.

The grammar and spelling atrocities that were on display this past week all of over the Internet in a “Teabonics” http://www.flickr.com/photos/pargon/sets/72157623594187379/ slide show were simultaneously funny and disturbing. Too many people are quick to follow a cause because a media or political windbag waves their arms and yells to make a point. It is sad to see mainstream America bamboozled in this manner.

Many people are legitimately well-served by the platform of the GOP – most of these people are highly educated, professional and wealthy. They are also not the people you see at Tea Party gatherings. It is disturbing to see so many of the working poor and the unemployed buy into the false pretenses that the conservative political machine best serves their needs. The people that get riled up the most by Beck, Coulter, Hannity and Limbaugh are by and large not wealthy and do not benefit from a national conservative agenda. In our modern age these media talking heads wield a great deal power at outlets like FOX News and on the Internet.

The working family gets caught up in the hoopla of the mantra of anti-regulation/pro-business, Christian Nation, anti-abortion and traditional values that they do not realize they are being bamboozled. Thomas Frank’s excellent book, What’s the Matter with Kansas? How the Conservatives Won the Heart of America (Metropolitan Books, New York, 2005) show many examples of the working class blindly following the above lines and really getting nowhere fast. Frank points out that abortion rights have remained the same, de-regulation/pro-business has costs tens of thousands of jobs nationwide – the values of the GOP are not providing the new morality that they promised and they are taking jobs away from people who need them in the name of corporate greed. The lowest common denominator is fed to these people with no facts, rhyme or reason on a daily basis through the likes of Beck, Hannity, Coulter and Limbaugh. These conservative talk show hosts are very wealthy and certainly benefit from a conservative political agenda – the people they are yelling at every night do not. Coulter is particularly interesting as she is from an “elite” New England town and has three college degrees – it would sound like she is so often criticizing herself.[1] Hannity[2] and Limbaugh[3] both dropped out of college, and Beck interestingly was granted admission to Yale[4] and dropped out after one class – I guess he knew everything already.

The modus operandi of the modern conservative talk show host is to yell and scream and wave your arms in a frenzy about an issue that your viewers or listeners can latch on to. The issue itself, and the facts associated with the issue do not matter in the least – just toss the dogs a bone and go with it. This yelling and fist pumping practice is counter productive, tedious and reminiscent of the caveman dating method. Many people in the Tea Party movement are being harmed daily by the conservative agenda, and yet over 70 percent of the Tea Party members are Republicans or are in step with the GOP.[5] These folks are living and surviving off of the government benefits they are against.

The Democrats do not get off free in this diatribe either. I admire President Obama’s work towards health care – the actual package we got leaves a lot to be desired and the reconciliation method used to pass it was deplorable. However, when faced with the GOP’s “lock step” methods of refusing to talk, debate and create better legislation he was left with no other choice. Something that is as fundamentally unsound as our health care in the United States deserves the full attention of all of our elected officials – not just one party and a few voices. As voting constituents we were all cheated and I hope people consider this on both sides of the aisle when voting in this year’s elections. Our leaders are elected to lead – and debating key issues of the day is part of their job – playing partisan politics – and they are all guilty – is childless and gets us no changes; no improvements; no progress. This once great nation would never have lifted off the ground if our founding fathers were so unwilling to debate issues and work together. People need to hold these politicians accountable and everyone should seriously ask themselves which candidate best serves my needs and my countries needs.

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anne_Coulter

[2]. Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved April 7, 2010.

[3] Paul D. Colford. The Rush Limbaugh story: talent on loan from God: an unauthorized biography. New York. St. Martin’s Press, 1993.

[4] Alexander Zaitchik (September 23, 2009). “Glenn Beck rises again: Getting clean, getting Mormon, getting talk radio — and going to Yale, with the help of Joe Lieberman”. Salon Magazine. http://www.salon.com/news/feature/2009/09/23/glenn_beck_three/print.html.

[5] http://www.nowpublic.com/world/tea-party-republican-party-new-polling-data-shows

Vatican: Sin City

April 3, 2010

The church has rotted to the core and at the very least has significantly atrophied. The churchgoing base in the United States, Canada and Europe has fallen back and many of the once faithful now have to come to terms with their own personal faith and what this means to them. The critical thinker has seen that this organization preys upon the weak and tries desperately to cover its own tracks. The crimes and cover ups now reach to the highest offices in the church. The true scoundrels of religion are now hiding behind the fact that the Vatican City is a state and their leader is immune from prosecution.

 Much like Timex, the church will take “a lickin’ and keep on tickin’” (no pun intended.) Their respect and prestige is likely tarnished forever – or at least for a generation or two. In the era of 24/7 media coverage and easy access to information it is unlikely that this scandal (scandal really is a euphemism for criminal enterprise in this case) will escape them. When faith enters the equation reason is dismissed – people of faith will look the other way when the charge is against the church when they would never look the other way if the perpetrators of these crimes were teachers, politicians or businessmen.

 I am an atheist with little tolerance for any religion. I was raised catholic and quit in my mind by age 13. I feel bad for the faithful and the loss of respect of their church and community that has befallen them because of so many bad apples (it really is more than a few – there are thousands of victims worldwide) and embarrassingly corrupt and inept leadership. If the church had only had chosen for its future (i.e. the innocent children who were victimized) and not for protectionism of felons they would have a rosier (rosaryier?) future. In my own family I have a devout father who will no longer participate at the parish level – he has found a peaceful chapel at a convent where he goes to pray. My sister and her husband are both catholic and have chosen to forego religious education for their children in light of all of these scandals.

 As this scandal grows like a cancer each week brings newer, more disturbing and surreal news to the headlines. This past week priests and missionaries in Africa have been charged with raping nuns and other women and then paying for their silence and abortions. Now we have multiple sins going on and approved use of abortion, one thing the church has consistently abhorred. Just yesterday church officials equated the presses coverage of pedophile priests with the Holocaust – that is brilliant spin – the priests and the church are now the victims.