Saturday, April 30, 2005

To My Beltane Baby

mbeltane Happy Birthday to my little girl, who as of today has begun what she terms her "quarter-life crisis."

Dramatic, as usual, my dear.
Tomorrow, we celebrate.

The Destruction Of A Dream

photo1red325 As someone who works in civil rights, I know I could be one of maybe two people in the room who give a shit, given the Bush Golden Age of equal opportunity and now that discrimination has been eliminated and everyone is holding hands and singing "Kumbayah" and all--but I find this sad story to be just typical of the anti-civil rights atmosphere in the White House:
"Citing mounting debt and projected budget shortfalls, the U.S. Civil Rights Commission announced Friday it will close two of its six regional offices, lay off four staff members and request free rent on its office space for one month.
The office also will offer early retirement packages and require remaining staff to take short furloughs, said Kenneth L. Marcus, the commission's staff director.
"It's an extraordinarily difficult process," Marcus said. "We will continue providing civil rights services without pause.""
Rather hard to do that when you're bleeding staff and resources, isn't it, Kenneth? But being hamstrung and undermined is not new to these folks:
"The 48-year-old commission is charged with making recommendations to the government on issues concerning equal opportunity for racial and ethnic communities, people with disabilities and other minority groups. Once called the "conscience of the nation," it laid the groundwork for the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
But the commission's $9 million budget has not changed in 10 years, and it expects to face a $265,000 budget deficit this fiscal year. There are currently 64 staff members, down from 93 in 1996...
With long-term underfunding and inadequate staffing, the problems were inevitable, said Ronald Walters, a political scientist at the University of Maryland who tracks civil rights issues.
"We've got some very serious issues on the table with respect to diversity including affirmative action in higher education and voting rights activities," Walters said. "They need all the resources they can get to enter vigorously into those debates. By cutting back, it's going to cripple their ability to do that.""
Which is exactly the plan. Bushco has no love for the mission of an agency that stands in total opposition for just about everything he has done since stealing office. The sooner it's planted in the ground, the better.

And to that very end, he has been replacing old civil rights fighters with shiny new Clarence Thomases. Not too many people noticed or commented when Bush appointed Gerald Reynolds head of the Commission last year, but that move put a suitably docile Negro into the office who could look good while being counted on to go along with the pecked-to-death-by-ducks destruction of the agency, replacing Mary Francis Berry, who had been far too activist for this administration's tastes. Berry and vice chairman Cruz Reynoso were responsible for sending a letter to Bush last year asking him to read the Commission's bombshell report: “Redefining Rights in America: The Civil Rights Record of the George W. Bush Administration, 2001-2004.” They were fired just days later and Reynolds was in. (The report was removed from the government website, and can now only be linked in cahed form, thanks to some intrepid folks at Pitt's law school.)

Bush hoists his Condi Rices and Colin Powells into highly visible positions, trumpeting his "diverse" appointments and garnering kudos for them, while supporting codified destruction of civil rights for whole swaths of people and starving the very mechanisms that were put into place to eradicate injustices for them. His hypocrisies are not new, but they do grow in magnitude over time, along with his perverse sense of entitlement and pride. What a Christian!

(Cross-posted at corrente.)

Thursday, April 28, 2005

George Bush, Clown Prince

Anticipate light and/or uneven posting through Monday on account of visiting dignitaries to the estate.

Clown In the meantime, if you're looking for a good laugh, search no futher than the inside of the NYTimes, thanks to Bumiller's report on Bush's little plan to put American taxpayers further in hock to the energy industry by insuring nuclear plants (we can afford to insure reactors but not people!) and building more refineries (ask the good folks of Philly how welcome that news should be).
"Mr. Bush also proposed giving the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission the authority to choose sites for new terminals to receive liquid natural gas from overseas."
Like for instance, from the Caspian oil-gas pipeline our industries have had their eyes on for years? Speaking to his usual canned audience of business interests, Bush went on to knock 'em dead with his schtick as a concerned leader interested in a a viable solution to the diminishing energy supply. His ideas on pulling the fangs on regulatory delays on the building of reactors were no doubt particularly well-received, especially, as Bumiller so helpfully notes:
"There has been a shift in opinion in the industry and among some environmentalists toward more nuclear power, because it is clean and far safer than at the time of the Three Mile Island nuclear accident in 1979."
That would explain the near-disaster at the Davis-Besse plant in Ohio in 2002 then, eh?

Imagine all that time spent blathering about energy independence, and not saying one word about alternate forms. I tell you, what a clown he is.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Fear Is The Patriot's Sword

9 Though I'd not intended to write about it, the American Progress Report in my e-mail today reminded me that last week the State Department had
"...decided to stop publishing an annual report on international terrorism after the government's top terrorism center concluded that there were more terrorist attacks in 2004 than in any year since 1985, the first year the publication covered."
The report, titled "Patterns of Global Terrorism", is self-described as a "Congressionally-mandated report from the U.S. Department of State intended to provide a full and complete record for those countries and groups involved in international terrorism." Some officials explained this abrupt cessation of publication by saying that the statistical methodology had been faulty, but the Washington Post went on to say:

"...the U.S. intelligence officials said Rice's office decided to eliminate "Patterns of Global Terrorism" when the counterterrorism center declined to use alternative methodology that would have reported fewer significant attacks.
The officials said they interpreted Rice's action as an attempt to avoid releasing statistics that would contradict the administration's claims that it's winning the war against terrorism. "
The problem was that the stats looked bad--they indicated an increase in terrorist attacks over the previous year from 175 "significant incidents" to 625 from 2003 to 2004 (God, what a quote-ridden post!), which stats didn't even include attacks on American troops in Iraq--and after Dear Leader had identified Iraq as a "central front in the war on terror" just last week. Things weren't going so well for the Chimp, in spite of the draconian homeland security measures, the illegal war, the riding roughshod over other peoples' national sovereignty and endless attempts at bullying and intimidation on a worldwide scale.

But why bring it up now? Well, some folks in Congress uttered plainly uncooperative noises about the info shutdown (I know, I know) for a week after the release of the announcement, until finally Bushco dispatched some damage control in the form of aides to proffer up some patently bullshit excuses. As the Post reports today:

""Last year was bad. This year is worse. They are deliberately trying to withhold data because it shows that as far as the war on terrorism internationally, we're losing," said Larry C. Johnson, a former senior State Department counterterrorism official, who first revealed the decision not to publish the data.
After a week of complaints from Congress, top aides from the State Department and the NCTC were dispatched to the Hill on Monday for a private briefing. There they acknowledged for the first time the increase in terrorist incidents, calling it a "dramatic uptick," according to participants and a letter to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice from Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.)."
Did I tell you Waxman is my hero? Check out his Minority Office Committee on Government Reform. But as the Dead Milkmen said, that's another story.
"Both Republican and Democratic aides at the meeting criticized what a GOP attendee called the "absurd" explanation offered by the State Department's acting counterterrorism chief, Karen Aguilar, that the statistics are not relevant to the required report on trends in global terrorism. "It's absurd to issue a report without statistics," said the aide, who is not authorized to speak publicly on the matter. "This is a self-inflicted wound by the State Department."
Aguilar, according to Hill aides, told them that Rice decided to withhold the statistics on the recommendation of her counselor, Philip D. Zelikow. He was executive director of the Sept. 11 commission that investigated the terrorist attacks on the United States."
That's the Zelikow who was a political failsafe appointed to the Commsission by Bushco to ensure his friends were not too badly singed by the results of the Commission's findings.

The point is this: after all Bush's cock-of-the-walk strutting and puffing about how scary everything was and how he was going to keep us safe with his authoritarian big daddy schtick, what did we get? What anyone with two neurons to rub together could have, and did, predict: more terror! I give you this post from yours truly, back in December, on The Report of the Defense Science Board Task Force on Strategic Communication, released in September 2004 by the Department of Defense. And what did it say, for those of you too busy to look at a link?

"Short version: We went in like a bunch of ham-handed neanderthals, ruined what little we had going for us, and managed to make a dangerous situation damn near inflammable."
The report simply eviscerates the big fucking War on Terra. All we managed to do was alienate allies and piss off the people we were supposed to be winning over to our way of doing political business. And is this a surprise to anyone who even vaguely understands cause and effect? This is what comes from out anti-intellectual mission to elect people who don't frighten us with their ability to outthink us; we keep putting evil morons in place who couldn't find their asses with both hands and a flashlight, then lie to us straight-faced about the results, for the sake of "national security".

As the original post says, go here if you want to read the Defense Dept. report. It's long and it will take time, but what else do you have? It's not like you're running the country or anything. Not even via your elected officials.

Conscience Claws As A Weapon Of Class Warfare

Great piece by John Belisarus over at Donkey Rising on the Conscience Claws and its elitist/classist undertones:
"Drug store pharmacists may have more specialized education and greater responsibilities then other retail salespeople, but when they package and sell a customer a product they personally consider ethically objectionable their individual moral involvement and responsibility - which is what we are talking about here -- is in absolutely no way greater or more direct then that of a ordinary convenience store cashier who sells condoms of which he or she morally disapproves or a supermarket, gas station or 7-11 cashier who sells cigarettes that he or she personally considers addictive and poisonous and therefore deeply immoral on ethical and religious grounds.
Thus, any proposed individual "right of conscience" for retail sales employees cannot fairly or reasonably be limited to only the men and women behind the pharmacy counter. The people operating the cash register in the drug store may have less formal education then pharmacists and asking for age ID may be less complex then reviewing dosages and double-checking for allergies or incompatible drugs, but as human beings with personal moral and ethical standards, the cashier and the pharmacist are exactly and precisely equal and any new legal rights of conscience extended to one cannot properly be denied the other without violating the fundamental principle of every Americans' right to equality before the law.
In order to disguise this uncomfortable fact -- one which clearly makes the proposed laws constitutionally flawed -- the conservative activists managing the current campaign have resorted to elitist arguments that express a snobbery and contempt for ordinary Americans that can only be described as appalling."
After highlighting a number of quotes illustrative of the point he goes on:
"It is difficult to imagine more blatant and arrogant expressions of snobbish class elitism. "Bright" and "talented" pharmacists - "professionals", after all, not just "garbage men" -- have highly developed moral and ethical consciences regarding the products they sell and therefore deserve special legal rights of conscience. The illiterate morons who work at the cash register, on the other hand, aren't smart enough or good enough to deserve such special consideration.
This is so unfair, so un-American and indeed so contrary to the ethics of most sincere Christians as to be literally repulsive - and its time for the honest participants in this debate to start saying so. Either every single American retail employee who sells products to the public deserves to have a newly created "Right of Conscience" guaranteed by law or else we need to agree that existing laws covering the rights of retail employees, including retail pharmacists as well as cashiers, are appropriate as they are.
This is America. In this country we don't pass laws that say that pharmacists are more valuable and worthy as moral human beings then cashiers. "
Nice. Go read it all.

Monday, April 25, 2005

It's All Fun and Games Till Someone Gets Hurt

This pissed me off so much I decided to cross-post it from corrente:

As a former long-time domestic violence shelter worker with some personal experience with the issue, I hold men who beat women among the lowest form of life. I've been out of that phase of my career for about 10 years now, thinking we were actually evolving as a species in the interim. So imagine my surprise at this story over at Ms. on how one bill in South Carolina to raise the penalty for cock fighting from a misdemeanor to a felony (maximum sentence from 30 days to five years) passed like a dream, while another that would do the same for a second domestic violence offense was tabled-- meaning no action would be allowed on it for the rest of the year. So then what we've got here is:
And when a local reporter, Kara Gormley, questioned state Rep. John Graham Altman about his opposition to the D.V. bill, he gave her a rash of shit about how she was too stupid to understand why he did it, and just in case she was too stupid to understand what he was saying, he told her again and again. This guy is the neanderthal who called the proposed bill "Pop Her Again", and complained that a hate crimes bill would make "white heterosexuals second-class citizens"

South Carolinians! I feel your pain! I have Rick Santorum. But trust me, the sooner you give this clown the heave-ho, the better you'll sleep.

P.S. Did I mention he was a Republican?

A Clarification

ancientofdays Reaction to the last paragraph of my previous post, both here and elsewhere, has been mostly negative. I fear I may not have made my point clear, and also that many of on the left have become so polarized by religious fanatics, religious abuse, and having a specific brand of a specific religion constantly shoved down their throats that it's made it almost impossible for them to have an empathetic discussion about faith.

This is not only sad, it's dangerous, because it drives away potentially sympathetic allies within the community of faith, and creates a breach out of which extremists will create "proof" of the left's hatred and persecution of religion. We can't walk away from this and wash our hands of the dialogue; the stakes are too high, and there are too many good people of faith. They have as much to gain in fighting extremism as the rest of us, but when they are attacked for simply acknowledging membership in a religion or having a faith (as many have been in comment threads or blog posts), they become defensive and alienated, and do indeed feel persecuted, caught between the madness of the Dobsons on the right side and the knee-jerk intolerance of the left.

If we want to create a truly decent future for ourselves, we need to be inclusive and empathetic, reaching out to others who share our dreams. It doesn't mean we have to give up fighting the encroaching theocracy. Nor does it mean turning a blind eye to the outrages the Dominionists and fundamentalists inflict on the nation and the world. It means recognizing that there is a very real difference between those extremists and the vast majority of churchgoing folks who never wanted the Senate invited into their sanctuaries, and who genuinely fear the ascendancy of a fanatical interpretation of their faith that bears little resemblance to the beliefs they hold. witchfinder_general_145 The state religion that Ted Haggard and Pat Robertson would force into the homes of every American is incompatible with most of those Americans' creeds, and after all, one can be labelled a heretic as easily for holding the wrong views as for rejecting all views entirely. Atheists have a dog in this race as much as Methodists and Presbyterians, and more than abortion or any other divisive issue, it seems this should offer us a place to make common cause. We happily welcome the Friends and their anti-war activities---we are glad to see them and make use of their resources, whether we ourselves are religious or not, because the common goal is valued, and in the course of working toward it, we come to value each other, as well. And the most well-know organization of its kind, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, boasts people of all faiths and no faiths among its members.

It would also behoove us to familiarize ourselves with the internal debates ongoing inside modern religion. Try The Revealer, which identifies its goals as "1. Belief matters, whether or not you believe. Politics, pop culture, high art, NASCAR -- everything in this world is infused with concerns about the next. As journalists, as scholars, and as ordinary folks, we cannot afford to ignore the role of religious belief in shaping our lives. 2. The press all too frequently fails to acknowledge religion, categorizing it as either innocuous spirituality or dangerous fanaticism, when more often it's both and inbetween and just plain other. 3. We deserve and need better coverage of religion. Sharper thinking. Deeper history. Thicker description. Basic theology. Real storytelling." Or The Christian Century, with regular writers like Bill McKibben and Garret Keizer. Or The National Catholic Reporter, which wrote so devastatingly on Joseph Ratzinger in 1999, and describes itself as "supporting a full, honest and open exchange of ideas. It works out of a Roman Catholic tradition and an ecumenical spirit. It emphasizes solidarity with the oppressed and respect for all. It understands that peace, justice and integrity of environment are not only goals but also avenues of life." And certainly you should check out Sojourners Magazine, brainchild of liberal evangelical preacher Jim Wallis, whose headline this week is "Tell Bill Frist to Stop Playing the Faith Card!"

Spituality has many faces. For some, it's found in the radio image of a far nebula, for others in the face of a lover. But we all feel it, and we can all talk about it in a way that creates a community of mutual respect and compassion. And that is our first step toward fighting together against the medieval dragons of the right's inquisitors.

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Jesus Wept

"An infinite God ought to be able to protect himself without going in partnership with State Legislatures." --Robert Green Ingersoll

Almost as if it were planned that way, the new edition of Harper's (no, they haven't got the cover up yet) and the "Just Us Sunday" carnival trumped up by the National Religious Broadcasters and the Family Research Council are coming into my home at the same time. I say almost because newly-released mags usually take a couple months to publish, and this Frist-frosted dust-up over the filibuster has only arisen in the last couple weeks. Yet weirdly, Harper's cover piece is actually two stories on the "Soldiers of Christ": one on the New Life Church and its founder Ted Haggard (talks to George Bush every Monday!) done by Jeff Sharlet, and the other by Chris Hedges on the NRB.

And what does Hedges reveal to us about the NRB? He takes us inside their recent convention, a stronghold of about 1600 radio and television affiliates, and introduces us to their president, Frank Wright, who appears proclaiming that the 130 members of the House are now "born-again". He declares the struggle of the country toward cultural and ethnic diversity an attack on Christian truth, and promises to fight to block hate-crime legislation (can't stand in the way of good Christian hate, can we?), and vows to fight the Fairness Doctrine tooth and nail. Too bad no one told him Reagan killed it way back in 1985. Hedges goes on to draw a portrait of a movement that rallies around a fiercely homicidal god, and stirs up its own murderous impulses with plenty of paranoid speechifying about Christian persecution. And then the money quote:
"What the disparate sects of this movement, known as Dominionism,, share is an obsession with political power. A decades-long refusal to engage in politics at all following the Scopes trial has been replaced by a call for Christian "dominion" over the nation and, eventually, over the earth...
America becomes, in this militant biblicism, an agent of God, and all political and intellectual opponents of America's Christian leaders are viewed, quite simply, as agents of Satan."
There are more pleasant elements as well, such as setting up a theocracy in which adulterers can be stoned to death along with heretics, gays, and witches; literal interpretations of the Bible will be required teaching in sciences classes; taxes will be paid to churches; and the government will be "drowned in the bathtub" to merely protecting property rights and enforcing homeland security. It's not going to be enough just to be Christian--one will have to adhere to their brand. Sounds like a Margaret Atwood novel, doesn't it? Surfacing again and again like a money shot on a pornographic closed loop tape are vignettes of the Dominionists' hatred for homosexuals, Muslims, and their cynically opportunistic use of Jewish support. He reminds us that:
"...too many liberals fail to understand the power and allure of evil, and when the radical Christians (come, liberals will) undoubtedly play by the old, polite rules of democracy long after those in power had begun to dismantle the democratic state."
Dismantling the democratic state? Like getting rid of the filibuster rule? Playing by the old, polite rules of democracy, like caving to the Republicans and hoping they play nice in the future?

Hedges also reminds us that prior to World War II, American industrialists, sick of the New Deal, gave support to the fascist Mussolini and flirted with his authoritarian approach to running the country, and that when Hitler promised to restore moral order, the first thing he did upon taking power was to target homosexuals. Everybody else came later.

The first thing we must do is to join with religious progressives across the country, many of whom are the so-called mainstream churches of our childhoods, to stand up against this attempted coup, protect our nation, and protect our nation's churches. It is foolish and self-destructive to take the tack, as so many bloggers and commenters have, that if it says "religion", it's the enemy. If the protective barrier between church and state dissolves, we will all suffer, religious and non-religious alike. People of faith everywhere have been watching open-mouthed as these fascist maniacs have grabbed the mantle from them and declared themselves the only true "christians", and the Christians I know, both friends and family, are appalled. See here, and here, and here, and keep watching. It doesn't always have to be this way.

Saturday, April 23, 2005

When All Else Fails




For Frist's "Just Us" Sunday

Melanie from Just a Bump in the Beltway, and also my blogsibling over at American Street, has begun a new project: Judging the Future

I'll let her explain it:
"The blog is sponsored by Earthjustice and part of a 27 member advocacy group coalition in DC who think that blogs can make change.

The focus this week will be on the Frist nonsense and we're going to be part of a big blogburst to counter the Frist event on Sunday. I'm inviting you to join me in countering Frist's Just Us Sunday. We on the left don't think that faith is only for Republicans. Or that only Republicans have values, ethics or morals. All of those things CAN be derived from a faith tradition, but they can equally be found in the Universal Charter of Human Rights, the Seven Principles of Unitarian Universalism and Bob Fulgham's "Everything I Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten." The right doesn't own the franchise on morals. Or religion.

In my country, the people of faith include Ba'hais, Jains, Jews, Wiccans, Pagans, Muslims, Zoroastrians, Buddhists, Anamists, Methodists and Friends. And that is just part of the official chaplaincy list kept by the Department of Defence. They may have added Scientologists since the last time I checked. In my book, doubt and scepticism rank real high on the list of accepted faiths.

The Christian(ist) evangelical right doesn't have a lock on "faith" as much as they would like to think they do. On Sunday, they are going to hear from Americans of every faith and none at all that this is our country, too. Please join us."
That's right. It's my country, too. Check out the site, and get on over tomorrow to see what she has.

Friday, April 22, 2005

Earth Day. Again.

Birds post-Bush Clean Air Bill4289377

So it's another Earth Day, and the House celebrates by passing a big ol' mess o' corporate welfare disguised as an "Energy Bill". I mean, who else in this country is more deserving of massive tax breaks and general obsequiousness than the largest, richest, most powerful cartel of industrial greedsters in the world? Amusingly, the bill approved shields makers of the gasoline additive MTBE from lawsuits involving the contamination of drinking water, which is just the perfect touch of irony to finish off the whole Earth Day concept.

And how will Bush-Lite celebrate? By visiting the Great Smoky Mountains, where NPR reported this a.m. that problems of smog, pollution, and the resulting decreased visibility and health dangers arising from them, have made a mockery of one of our most beautiful resources, and where he will stand on his hind legs and actually pretend to be concerned with the state of the envirnoment:

"He was to speak at the Cades Cove area near Townsend, Tenn., after some quick restoration work on one of more than a dozen trails that originates there.
"I'm looking forward to getting my hands dirty," Bush, who spends hours during his down time clearing brush on his Texas ranch, told young people awarded for their environmental work at the White House on Thursday. "Looking forward to getting outside of Washington."
Getting his hands dirty? Why, he's spent more than 4 years doing it! His filthy handprints are all over the perversion of government and the handouts to the plutocracy that have been ongoing since he ascended the throne. But for sheer, unadulterated horseshit, you'd have to go pretty far to match this:

"McClellan said Bush would use his speech to emphasize the importance of personal environmental stewardship, volunteerism and cooperative conservation efforts.
"One of the greatest responsibilities in a free society is responsible stewardship of our natural environment," Bush said at the White House ceremony. "All of you have taken that duty seriously. You have set a clear and strong example, and you're inspiring others to do their part."
He's emphasizing volunteerism because he knows this government is sure as hell not going to be doing anything useful to help. As for his "clear and strong example", I'd guess that would have to be his promotion of mountaintop removal mining (nicely ironic touch, speechifying today in mountains that your policies are helping to destroy), his free pass to the meat industry regarding regulation of vast pig farm waste lagoons, his pro-mercury "solution", and so many, many more.

But who needs to worry about what happens to other people's living space, when you're rich enough to maintain a couple thousand acres all to yourself? And who needs to worry about being called to account for your hypocritical lies, when you have such a gloriously supine media to lick your boots and shield your Royal Person.

Happy Fucking Earth Day.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Loonwatch, Ennui Edition

It's been hard to get anything down here at IMCT. Between my other obligations, a general physical fatigue, and some personal bullshit I'm working through, I fear I've let things slide here. It will be better soon. Meantime, loon David Brooks, the left blogworld's favorite whipping boy, has made an ass of himself again with his idiotic charge that Harry Blackmun and the Roe decision are responsible for the imminent collapse of the Senate.

I'm too weary to deal with this, but I will say that every time I try to be good and make a promise not to indulge in ad hominem attacks anymore, here comes Brooksie with yet another commentary so utterly knowledge-free, so completely broadbrush clueless,
that I just lose all control and I'm back to hurling obscene epithets.

Please, God, make him stop. Where is Reason?

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

What A Piece Of Work Is Man!

Once upon a time, birth control was illegal. In 1873 Anthony Comstock pushed a bill through Congress which defined contraceptive information as obscene. Then racism came into the picture:
"At the turn of the century a conservative reaction against voluntary motherhood agitation set in, focused on the "race suicide" alarm popularized by President Theodore Roosevelt. Race suicide moralists propagandized against the "selfishness" of women who avoided their maternal duties by using birth control, deploying racist fears (in a period of heavy immigration) that "wasp" dominance would be undermined by the high birthrates of those of "inferior stock."
The long arm of religion was never far from the marital bed, either, and theological influence informed much of the law and opinion against birth control.

But that was a long time ago, and since Griswold v Connecticutt, we've become more enlightened, knowing that control over one's own body and future, as well as one's intimate life is a first principle for a compassionate society, and that access to good birth control is a crucial element in cutting abortions and child abuse.

"What a piece of work is a man! How noble in reason! how infinite in faculty! in form, in moving, how express and admirable! in action how like an angel! in apprehension how like a god! the beauty of the world! the paragon of animals!" Isn't it nice to know how far we've come from those benighted days?

(Snark courtesy The Bard.)

Poetry Month

This is long, so be forewarned.
This is a poem I've loved from youth. The pictures he paints are incredibly sensual, and his story of a great life soon to be over still brings me to the edge of tears.

The Bull--Ralph Hodgson (1871-1962)

See an old unhappy bull,
Sick in soul and body both,
Slouching in the undergrowth
Of the forest beautiful,
Banished from the herd he led,
Bulls and cows a thousand head.

Cranes and gaudy parrots go
Up and down the burning sky;
Tree-top cats purr drowsily
In the dim-day green below;
And troops of monkeys, nutting, some,
All disputing, go and come;

And things abominable sit
Picking offal buck or swine,
On the mess and over it
Burnished flies and beetles shine,
And spiders big as bladders lie
Under hemlocks ten foot high;

And a dotted serpent curled
Round and round and round a tree,
Yellowing its greenery,
Keeps a watch on all the world,
All the world and this old bull
In the forest beautiful.

Bravely by his fall he came:
One he led, a bull of blood
Newly come to lustihood,
Fought and put his prince to shame,
Snuffed and pawed the prostrate head
Tameless even while it bled.

There they left him, every one,
Left him there without a lick,
Left him for the birds to pick,
Left him there for carrion,
Vilely from their bosom cast
Wisdom, worth and love at last.

When the lion left his lair
And roared his beauty through the hills,
And the vultures pecked their quills
And flew into the middle air,
Then this prince no more to reign
Came to life and lived again.

He snuffed the herd in far retreat,
He saw the blood upon the ground,
And snuffed the burning airs around
Still with beevish odours sweet,
While the blood ran down his head
And his mouth ran slaver red.

Pity him, this fallen chief,
All his spendour, all his strength,
All his body' breadth and length
Dwindled down with shame and grief,
Half the bull he was before,
Bones and leather, nothing more.

See him standing dewlap-deep
In the rushes at the lake,
Surly, stupid, half asleep,
Waiting for his heart to break
And the birds to join the flies
Feasting at his bloodshot eyes, --

Standing with his head hung down
In a stupor dreaming things:
Green savannas, jungles brown,
Battlefields and bellowings,
Bulls undone and lions dead
And vultures flapping overhead.

Dreaming things: of days he spent
With his mother gaunt and lean
In the valley warm and green,
Full of baby wonderment,
Blinking out of silly eyes
At a hundred mysteries;

Dreaming over once again
How he wandered with a throng
Of bulls and cows a thousand strong,
Wandered on from plain to plain,
Up hethe hill and down the dale,
Always at his mother's tail;

How he lagged behind the herd,
Lagged and tottered, weak of limb,
And she turned and ran to him
Blaring at the loathly bird
Stationed always in t skies,
Waiting for the flesh that dies.

Dreaming maybe of a day
When her drained and drying paps
Turned him to the sweets and saps,
Richer fountains by the way,
And she left the bull she bore
And he looked on her no more;

And his little frame grew stout,
And his little legs grew strong,
And the way was not so long;
And his little horns came out,
And he played at butting trees
And boulder-stones and tortoises,

Joined a game of knobby skulls
With the youngsters of his year,
All the other little bulls,
Learning both to bruise and bear,
Learing how to stand a shock
Like a little bull of rock.

Dreaming of a day less dim,
Dreaming of a time less far,
When the faint but certain star
Of destiny burned clear for him,
And a fierce and wild unrest
Broke the quiet of his breast,

And the gristles of his youth
Hardened in his comely pow,
And he came to fighting growth,
Beat his bull and won his cow,
And flew his tail and trampled off
Past the tallest, vain enough,

And curved about in spendour full
And curved again and snuffed the airs
As who should say Come out who dares!
And all beheld a bull, a Bull,
And knew that here was surely one
That backed for no bull, fearing none.

And the leader of the herd
Looked and saw, and beat the ground,
And shook the forest with his sound,
Bellowed at the loathly bird
Stationed always in the skies,
Wating for the flesh that dies.

Dreaming, this old bull forlorn,
Surely dreaming of the hour
When he came to sultan power,
And they owned him master-horn,
Chiefest bull of all among
Bulls and cows a thousand strong.

And in all the tramping herd
Not a bull that barred his way,
Not a cow that said him nay,
Not a bull or cow that erred
In the furnace of his look
Dared a second, worse rebuke;

Not in all the forest wide,
Jungle, thicket, pasture, fen,
Not another dared him then,
Dared him and again defied;
Not a sovereign buck or boar
Came a second time for more.

Not a serpent that survived
Once the terrors of his hoof
Risked a second time reproof,
Came a second time and lived,
Not serpent in its skin
Came again for discipline;

Not a leopard brght as flame,
Flashing fingerhooks of steel,
That a wooden tree might feel,
Met his fury once and came
For second reprimand,
Not a leopard in the land.

Not a lion of them all,
Not a lion of the hills,
Hero of a thousand kills,
Dared a second fight and fall,
Dared that ram terrific twice,
Paid a second time the price. . . .

Pity him, this dupe of dream,
Leader of the heard again
Only in his daft old brain,
Once again the bull supreme
And bull enough to bear the part
Only in his tameless heart.

Pity him that he must wake;
Even now the swarm of flies
Blackening his bloodshot eyes
Bursts and blusters round the lake,
Scattered from the feast half-fed,
By great shadows overhead.

And the dreamer turns away
From his visionary herds
And his splendid yesterday,
Turns to meet the loathly birds
Flocking round him from the skies,
Waiting for the flesh that dies

Monday, April 18, 2005

Three Species of Politician Identified By Entomologists

Agathidium_repentinum4 Mssrs. Wheeler and Miller have been busy little Apis mellifera. Last week they named 3 kinds of slime-mold beetle after Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld, or as CNN so pithily put it, "Bush has slime-mold beetle named after him". Much like the human life they are named for, when challenged or threatened they have a characteristic ability to fend off critics:
"...They are also highly contractile and are able to roll themselves up into a virtual sphere."
As Wheeler explained, with an evidently straight face:
""We admire these leaders as fellow citizens who have the courage of their convictions and are willing to do the very difficult and unpopular work of living up to principles of freedom and democracy rather than accepting the expedient or popular,""
Yes. Fellow citizens of parasitic habit who live amidst and ingest decaying fungi and aid in the dispersal of mold spores. I see the connection.

For those looking to keep an eye out for the aptly-named bugs, Elaeomyxa_miyazakiensis.170x125 the site Mold Help notes:
"...Agathidium bushi has so far been found in southern Ohio, North Carolina and Virginia. Rumsfeldi and cheneyi are from south of the border in Mexico."

Remember David Hedison's tiny head screaming "Help me!" at the end of "The Fly"? Good times.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Too Beautiful To Blog

If you live where I do and you can get outside, that is.

I've been taking care of some long-neglected yard work and prepping the place for summer glory. Last Christmas I was given a set of wind chimes by Woodstock Windchimes, specifically, the "Chimes of Tuscany"(scroll down and click to listen), and hung them yesterday. Having listened to them while working over the last 2 days, I think it's safe to say they are absolutely the most beautiful chimes I've ever heard. I constantly hear actual melodies playing when the wind picks them up, and the slightest breeze is enough to set them off.

Anyway, I'm back off to the outdoors, but first, because the issue of the Estate Tax is still pissing me off, I wanted to note that Fred Clark over at slacktivist has a powerful piece up on the Estate Tax and its impact on charities, should the Senate repeal it. And in it he links to Max Sawicky's takedown of the stated defenses used by those benighted who still think that getting rid of it is going to ruin all those family farms (as opposed to, say, Archer Daniels Midland?).

Friday, April 15, 2005

Caduceus-Blogging Friday

What with the government sticking its nose further and further into the doctor-patient relationship, I found it interesting that here in Pennsylvania, Senate Bill 196 is up for consideration. This is a bill that will provide immunity for any doctor who reports that he or she thinks that a patient may have a drug problem.

What this means is that if someone with an addiction needs medical attention for whatever reason, they will be much less likely to seek it if they fear it could lead to a prison sentence. This was a problem that raised its ugly head when the rage to demonize pregnant women who failed to abstain was at its peak.

Further, there is the little matter of the duty of a physician to maintain a confidential relationship with a patient. The AMA's position:

"...AMA's Code of Medical Ethics states that the information disclosed to a physician during the course of the patient-physician relationship is confidential to the utmost degree. As explained by the AMA's Council on Ethical and Judicial Affairs, the purpose of a physician's ethical duty to maintain patient confidentiality is to allow the patient to feel free to make a full and frank disclosure of information to the physician with the knowledge that the physician will protect the confidential nature of the information disclosed. Full disclosure enables the physician to diagnose conditions properly and to treat the patient appropriately. In return for the patient's honesty, the physician generally should not reveal confidential communications or information without the patient's express consent unless required to disclose the information by law. There are exceptions to the rule, such as where a patient threatens bodily harm to himself or herself or to another person."
Really, it can't get much simpler than this.

This is just bad law, all the way around. What's worse, it's just another chink in the protective wall between medical privacy and governmental interference that threatens to keep growing. For those in the Philly area, Stewart Greenleaf's prints are all over this, and he needs to hear about it. Contact info for the others involved in this mess can be had here.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

In Defense Of Cats

Yes, there are a lot more important issues out there. But right now I want to vent about this:
“The fate of feral cats remained uncertain Tuesday in Wisconsin, where tallies show a narrow majority of those who attended statewide conservation hearings back the idea of allowing hunters, farmers and others to shoot stray cats without collars as a way to control their numbers. The proposal passed 6,830 to 5,201 in an advisory vote taken in each of the state's 72 counties Monday evening, with the measure generally finding support in rural areas and opposition in urban ones, according to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.”
Thus begins a series of steps that have to be taken to allow cats designated as feral to be shot. To raise it to the level of law would require approval from Wisconsin’s Conservation Congress, its Natural Resources Board and the state legislature, but already the fight is bitter. Unsurprisingly, the initiator of the proposal is not a cat fan:
Mark Smith, a La Crosse, Wis., firefighter who traps and hunts, made the feral-cat proposal after he was angered by cats that prowl around his home's birdfeeder.
Not the first one. But this guy is proactive:
"If I'm in the woods and see a cat that doesn't have a collar, then I could shoot it," Smith said. "It gives people some leeway if they want to remove cats." He added, "I get up in the morning and if there's new snow, there's cat tracks under my bird feeder . . . I look at them as an invasive species, plain and simple."
Now, first and foremost, this is a crackpot idea. It pisses me off that my neighbors sometimes let their dogs run through my yard and leave little presents, but I’m not about to get out and rustle me up some legislation so I can shoot their eyes out. I'm an amateur birdwatcher who keeps feeders in the back yard, but the fact that the squirrels seem to get most of the seed (despite my ingenious efforts), and then go on to kill and eat their eggs and chicks, does not inspire me to head for the bedroom to haul out the side-by-side---we put out the Hav-A-Heart, enticingly laden with peanut butter, and transport the little bastards to a better home.
And though my husband has been an avid hunter for decades, and we both grew up in rural areas, he does not look on hunting seasons as opportunities to take potshots at wandering domestic animals. The one time he did was when we chased a pack of local pet dogs off a doe they had pulled down in our garden, and a German Shepard came at him. Even then, though he would have been within his rights to shoot the dog dead, he only fired a warning. NRA aside, reaching for a gun and killing something does not have to be first and always the answer to every problem.
My own cats have killed a few birds (and voles, mice, and a rabbit) in our yard, and as sad as it made me, I accepted it as part of their nature, and part of Nature, period. This is not an issue of psychopathic criminality, for God’s sake. This is what these animals do! We may be able to minimize it, and take steps to try to make the feeders we put out less feline-accessible, but a cat, like a dog, is a predator. You can’t turn them into something they aren’t.

Second, when dealing with animals normally kept as pets in and near an artificial construct like a human backyard with a bird feeder, there is no such thing as an “invasive species”. There are species we like, and those we don’t. When dogs run in packs--even when they have collars and are clearly pets--they may hunt down game and may even become aggressive towards people, but they are not an invasive species. A snakefish from China in a Pennsylvania river, eating up all the local fish, is an invasive species.

Third, the article states that:
"A feral cat typically is defined as one with no identification collar that fails to show friendly behavior."
Only since living in the city did I start putting collars on my cats. In the country, a collar on an indoor/outdoor cat can be tantamount to a death sentence, because in their travels they can be entrapped in trees, brush, or fences when the collar gets entangled. On top of that, some cats are simply not as friendly toward strangers as the catkilling contingent thinks they should be--one of mine hides every time visitors come over. If the definition of “friendly behavior” is "being willing to approach a stranger who's carrying a gun and allowing them to put their hands on you", then damned few of us would qualify as friendly.

Finally, where did the data relied on for this jihad on pussycats come from? Well:

"The DNR hasn't studied the issue, but a scientific basis often cited in the debate comes from a University of Wisconsin professor who estimated in 1996 that there were 1.4 million free-range cats in the state, responsible for at least 7.8 million annual bird deaths."
Free-range cats. Don’t they sound delicious? In any case, we now have 1 study from 1 academic about whom we know nothing (including whether he has an axe to grind with felines), on which the whole state has based its preparation for legislation.

This is not about protecting birds. This is about protecting our own feral claim to remaining at the top of the food chain, of retaining our place as the alpha predator, and about trying to maintain backyard fantasies of boutique ecosystems made up of narrowly-acceptable plants and animals steeped in artifice. People like Mark Smith, a hunter who wouldn’t blink at shooting down a pheasant or duck, turn all Jain-like at the idea of a cat having a dinner of bunting. People who yawn and reach for the remote if a story about Abu Ghraib comes on the television, become eloquently exercised over their belief that cats “like to torture” their prey. And people who gladly eat up every Chilean sea bass fillet thay can get their hands on bemoan the impact of cats on the chickadee population. Puh-leeze. Human beings have never lived willingly with other predators, because we do not suffer competition, either from ourselves or other species, and that is the whole genesis of this bruhaha.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Wielding the Holy Hand Grenade of Pleasant Reverie

My Unitarian Jihad Name is:
Sister Immaculate Cricket Bat of Engaged Contemplation

What's yours?

(Thanks to eRobin at Fact-esque for the link to the original story, and Mithras at Fables of the Reconstruction for the link to the generator.)

The A B No-C's of Life in Africa

These women just don't get it:
"The high levels of sexual violence and displacement in Darfur create a risk of increased transmission of sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV/AIDS."
They need to get with the program over in Uganda. After all, it's just a matter of willpower, right?

Police Lie, Liberals Abused, Sun Comes Up

Remember how accounts of police abuse and attacks and false arrests of protesters burbled up around the blogosphere last year? How we were prepped for this by the breathless anticipation of the media for possible violent confrontations and terrorist attacks?

The NYTimes decides it's time to revisit those golden days, since all those dangerous felons were caught on tape and found to be...let's say, less than fierce:

"Dennis Kyne put up such a fight at a political protest last summer, the arresting officer recalled, it took four police officers to haul him down the steps of the New York Public Library and across Fifth Avenue.
"We picked him up and we carried him while he squirmed and screamed," the officer, Matthew Wohl, testified in December. "I had one of his legs because he was kicking and refusing to walk on his own."
And then someone showed up in court with a tape:

"A videotape shot by a documentary filmmaker showed Mr. Kyne agitated but plainly walking under his own power down the library steps, contradicting the vivid account of Officer Wohl, who was nowhere to be seen in the pictures. Nor was the officer seen taking part in the arrests of four other people at the library against whom he signed complaints."
400 people. 400 people were found to have been similarly set up by the cops and arrested on bogus charges. And when simply lying won't do, because the contents of the tape is known, there's always the Hollywood edit:

"Last week, (Alexander Dunlop) discovered that there were two versions of the same police tape: the one that was to be used as evidence in his trial had been edited at two spots, removing images that showed Mr. Dunlop behaving peacefully. When a volunteer film archivist found a more complete version of the tape and gave it to Mr. Dunlop's lawyer, prosecutors immediately dropped the charges and said that a technician had cut the material by mistake. "
Yes, that's credible. Coming from the NY cops, certainly that's credible.

I only have one question: how long has it been since Abner Louima had a plunger shoved up his ass till it burst his intestines?

This and That

The Pot Calls The Kettle A Somewhat Undefined Shade of Gray

Sez Rummy:
"Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld issued a terse warning to Iraq's new leaders on Tuesday, urging them to avoid political purges or cronyism that could lead to corruption and sap confidence in the government...
"It's important that the new government be attentive to the competence of the people in the ministries and that they avoid unnecessary turbulence," he told reporters on his plane before arriving for the unannounced visit."
Yes, we'll be having none of their third-world high-jinks. After all, we've provided them with plenty of help, what with the transparency and accountability of our own example.

Rumsfeld's act was full of these comic gems we've come to expect from such a consummate performer, and he left the crowd begging for more:
"Noting a legal provision allowing a delay of six months in writing the constitution before the next round of elections, Rumsfeld said the United States would oppose such a move.
"If someone wants to hang around waiting for perfection in this business, you are unlikely to find it," he said."
Reports were that the audience leughed till they cried.

And Speaking of Free and Fair Elections...

Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting
reminds us that, as it's too late to avoid corruption here in the states, we might as well export the idea along with our freedom fries.
Via Buzzflash.

Because You Can Never Have Too Many Enemies

The Pentagon expands its range of persons of interest. It's this year's fashionable list to be on.

Monday, April 11, 2005

The Best Care Money Can Buy

Over the last couple months my daughter has been having some pretty rough health problems that have raised issues in her life I haven't had to deal with before: disability payments, surgery options, likely job loss, and permanent impairment. And the elephant in the living room through all of this has been health insurance. Luckily, she had it when her problems began, but she may not have it much longer if she loses her employment status, which is inevitable if she can't return to work at some point.

During the obscenities of the Terri Schiavo extravaganza, I couldn't help bitterly noting how little the concern of the religious right, so public and so vocal on behalf of a woman whose care was never financially in question, extended to those who can't even get a doctor to look at them. All over the country people are ill and dying because they could not afford health care, or couldn't get it in time. They would have been happy to have a clutch of protesters standing over them. They would have been happy to have their governors create special legislation to help them get the care they needed, and to have the president drop his brush-clearing to fly up to the capitol and sign a federal law passed just for them.

44 million people, and who knows how many more, like my daughter, on the brink of losing what they already have? And our system continues to assume that insurance through employers is the best of all possible worlds, when it is exactly because of that, that so many people fall through the cracks.

In the NYTimes today, Paul Krugman is promising a series on the healthcare crisis in America, staring out with this introductory piece:
"In the long run, medical progress may force us to make a harsh choice: if we don't want to become a society in which the rich get life-saving medical treatment and the rest of us don't, we'll have to pay much higher taxes. The vast waste in our current system means, however, that effective reform could both improve quality and cut costs, postponing the day of reckoning.
To get effective reform, however, we'll need to shed some preconceptions - in particular, the ideologically driven belief that government is always the problem and market competition is always the solution.
The fact is that in health care, the private sector is often bloated and bureaucratic, while some government agencies - notably the Veterans Administration system - are lean and efficient. In health care, competition and personal choice can and do lead to higher costs and lower quality. The United States has the most privatized, competitive health system in the advanced world; it also has by far the highest costs, and close to the worst results."
And I will be returning to this issue, too. Not just because it's near to my heart, but because I can't bear the idea of a society that keeps caring more about multi-celled eggs and the living dead than it does about the people who have to live and suffer in its midst.

Friday, April 08, 2005

My Hero

There's been so much discussion about the Pope, and I've tried not to get cranky about it. I recognize he did some good things, and maybe I don't care enough to speak ill of the dead. But I hate the male heiarchy he was a product of, and the compassionless clinging to questionable dogma in the face of common sense.

And because I'm going away for a couple days (hot on the heels of a fairly barren week of posting) I want to celebrate someone who has been my own hero since I was a kid, and who embodies the saintly love of creation and the good works that, to me, go far beyond John Paul's. Leave someone on the blog whose good karma will maybe rub off.


If I could be anyone else,
it would probably be him.


Here We Go Round The Mulberry Bush

(Note: I wasn't going to post this here, but Blogger has been a nightmare and I finally got in after a day of frustration, and I want to see if it works here as well as at Corrente. Note to readers: I was able to post while in IE, but not in Firefox. Also, Blogger's grand new feature, "Recover Post", which appears on the edit screen in Firefox, can't be seen on my screen in IE. Does this have anything to do with it? Search me. Here goes.)

Church to Parishioners: Screw You

Remember Bernard Law, who presided over a Boston diocese riddled with sexual abuse and whose indefensible protection of the perpetrators led to his resignation when the public outcry over 600+ victims became too much even for this mafia-like institution? Seems like just the kind of guy to honor with a special place at the Pope's funeral, doesn't he?
"Cardinal Bernard Law, who was forced to resign in disgrace as archbishop of Boston two years ago for protecting sexually abusive priests, was named by the Vatican today as one of nine prelates who will have the honor of presiding over funeral Masses for Pope John Paul II."
Good job. No doubt the laundries will be opening again soon, too.

Africa Dies; Nobody Cares

At least it feels like it. When is the last time you saw Africa in the news, aside from some fleeting references to Darfur (oh, is that still going on?) The death toll in Angola from the Marburg virus has climbed to over 170 since October, and shows no sign of stopping. Marburg was the precursor to the slightly more lethal Ebola, but the it's just as incurable, and its victims die just as horribly. Oh, and most of them are under 5. Ho hum. It's just Africa.

America's Guns Laws Prove Adequate Once Again

In Delaware, a guy straps on some body armor, grabs a movei's worth supply of ammo and a 9 mm, and goes shopping:
"Weston, shot in the face, could not run. His was the first killing in a rampage that over 45 minutes would reach down into Maryland and leave two dead and four others wounded -- victims apparently chosen at random.
During the violent spasm, which shook the small towns in its path, the gunman stole a car and then hijacked an SUV and killed its driver, authorities said. He littered the streets of the Eastern Shore with bullets as he fired at passing vehicles, homes and dogs, they said."
This is a gentleman with a history:
"...on Wednesday, Norman failed to appear in Wicomico County Circuit Court, where he was due to answer handgun charges. A judge issued a $10,000 bench warrant for his arrest, Court Clerk Mark S. Bowen said."
He had been telling people he was planning on doing this, too. Now, the NRA would tell you the only thing wrong with this scenario was that the folks he shot and killed didn't have their own guns in hand when he went off. When will America ever learn?
But Jeb Bush would understand. Why stop the epidemic of weaponry when you can just give the imprimatur of deadly force to everybody?

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Great Moments In Dangerous Idiocy



George Bush, math whiz:
""A lot of people in America think there is a trust -- that we take your money in payroll taxes and then we hold it for you and then when you retire, we give it back to you," Bush said later in a speech at the University of West Virginia at Parkersburg. "But that's not the way it works. There is no trust fund, just IOUs that I saw firsthand," Bush said."
Yes, he's out there doing the only thing he does well: trying to scare America:
"Using a government filing cabinet as a prop, President Bush yesterday played to fears that the Social Security Trust Fund is little more than a stack of worthless IOUs."
Government bonds? Pure fraud! In fact, you may just want to start putting your money in an old sock under the floorboards, since his statements yesterday have the implication that the entire financial system of the United States is a gigantic hoax. As Charles Rangel pointed out, the ability of the government to even insure bank accounts is being called into question, let alone the questions this could raise in the minds of foreign investors about our ability to meet our obligations to them and the impact their resulting fears could have on our whole economy. Bush used the image of the papers in a file cabinet to underline the perilous lack of substance in the trust fund, a classic Rovian tack. But he won't lead you to obvious extrapolation...that the investments he wants people to make on Wall Street in place of SS are also just pieces of paper, as the suicidal investors of 1929 found out. Never mind. It's all good if it helps the Dauphin get his way.

Dems Grow Spine; Stem Cell Technology Suspected

Wow. Leaked to Raw Story, a memo from dissenting House Judiciary Committee Democrats on the Barriers to Bankruptcy bill currently before them, that starts out with this:
"Reform of the bankruptcy system, and the principle that every debtor should repay as much of her debt as she can reasonably afford, is a sound and uncontroversial idea. Were the legislation reported by the Judiciary Committee to bear any remote relationship to that laudable goal, this legislation would be wholly uncontroversial. Instead, by pressing legislation that is unbalanced and tilted toward specific special interest groups, the proponents of S. 256 have created a bill that would: impose monumental costs on the parties in the bankruptcy system, including the government; subject the “honest but unfortunate debtor” to coercion and loss of their legal rights; force businesses into unnecessary liquidation; and favor certain creditors over others."
The memo makes a great number of trechant points, including this:
"Means Testing and the Other Consumer Provisions Will Harm Low-
and Middle-Income People"

"The Consumer Provisions Will Have a Significant, Adverse Impact on Women, Children, Minorities, Seniors, Victims of Crimes and Severe Torts, Victims of Identity Theft, and the Military."
The memo is lengthy and contains too many gems to go into here. Read this important document and get a clearer understanding of the pain S 256 will cause. The vote on the bill has been postponed due to the Pope's death and the desire of a number of the legislators to attend his funeral, so it's not likely to take place until next week at the earliest. This means there is still time to make your voice heard. Here is the Judiciary Committee. Find contact info for your representative here.

While the belief is that the bill is sure to pass, what do you have to lose by fighting up to the last minute? It's only a phone call or fax away.

(cross-posted at corrente)

Sunday, April 03, 2005

Conflicted? Try Displacement Activity!

The Pope is dead. Long live the Pope.

I'm of several minds about the man. I know he did plenty of good works, as Cozmo Kramer at The Airing of Grievances and Graham at The Agonist have pointed out. I also know he held back women's rights in the church and failed to address issues which, as Norbizness and eRobin note, have led to gross inequity and the deaths of countless people.

Lucy Returned  8/02 Conflicted as I am about this,
I'm following the lead of my cats
and will spend the rest of the day
licking my coat.

Update: In spite of the fact that she took my lede AND blames women for their under-representation on the so-called dominant link heirarchy, Amy Sullivan has a decent piece on the Pope over at Salon, with some swipes at the Christian right/Bush theocrats. Sitting through the commercial this time isn't too bad--West Wing's 4th season coming out on DVD tomorrow.

Saturday, April 02, 2005

The New "Separate But Equal"

As the tales have spread of women seeking birth control at pharmacies only to be refused, the American Pharmacists Association has stepped up to the plate and reassured the public that so long as patients can be served elsewhere, this is not a problem. This is uncomfortably close to the reasoning used by the Supreme Court in its famous Plessy v Ferguson decision that led to generations of Jim Crow laws: as long as the Negroes can get their (food, drinking water, bathroom needs, education) someplace else, whites need not fret about having to rub elbows with them. And it worked out spledidly for them, didn't it?

Well, for once (at least it feels like "for once") a state government chooses to legislate against an inequity, instead of codifying it. In the NYTimes today I see that:

"With a growing number of reports of pharmacists around the country refusing to fill prescriptions for birth control and emergency contraception, Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich on Friday filed a rule requiring Illinois pharmacies to accept and dispense all such prescriptions promptly.
"Our regulation says that if a woman goes to a pharmacy with a prescription for birth control, the pharmacy or the pharmacist is not allowed to discriminate or to choose who he sells it to or who he doesn't sell it to," Mr. Blagojevich, a Democrat, said. "No delays. No hassles. No lectures."
Chalk one up for the Democrats! This was in response to a couple of incidents recently where women seeking to get birth control at an Osco in downtown Chicago were refused service. Osco, bless its wizened little corporate heart, didn't bother to comment. But Susan Winckler of the American Pharmacists Association did, invoking that time-hornored straw man of conservatives everywhere, the "slippery slope":

"The association, she said, believes that pharmacists should be allowed to "step away" in cases where they feel uncomfortable dispensing a particular drug - so long as their customers can still get their drugs from alternative sources.
Ms. Winckler said she also worried that Governor Blagojevich's new rule might reach beyond the question of a pharmacist's own moral sensibilities, and require pharmacists to dispense all prescriptions, even those that were "clinically inappropriate" for patients. Such cases might include ones in which a pharmacist discovered a customer's allergy or a potential drug interaction that a prescribing doctor had missed."
Even a grade schooler could be made to understand the difference between refusing a legal prescription on grounds that have nothing to do with a patient's welfare, and warning a patient about a potentially lethal drug allergy or interaction. I'd guess the adult world could be expected to grasp it as well.

This an important issue, one that can have even more wide-reaching effects than the end-of-life issues arising out of the Terri Schiavo madness, because so many women use birth control pills or other prescription contraceptives. Worse, the number using them has actually decreased, in part due to cost and lack of availability. So this growing phenomenon threatens to exacerbate the problem, and what happens when more and more women become accidentally pregnant? Abortion goes up.

Many of the recent denials of service have been made because of emergency contraception. The ethical arguments against pharmacists denying service on grounds of conscience are made persuasively here, in a New England Journal of Medicine aricle that looks at both sides of the debate, "The Limits of Conscientious Objection--May Pharmacists Refuse to Fill Prescriptions For Emergency Contraception". Among the points it makes are:

  1. Pharmacists have fiduciary responsibilities--they voluntarily enter the field and adopt its corresponding obligations, including that if their objections directly and detrimetally affect a patient's health, the patient should come first.
  2. Emergency contraception is not abortifacient--it does not affect an establsihed pregnancy, and acts by more than one mechanism,; thus the Catholic Health Association could reconcile itself to a mandate in Washington state to provide such contraception to rape victims.
  3. Religious and moral objections should yield when they detrimentally affect a patient's ability to obtain timely medical treatment--such refusal could place a disproportionately heavy burden on the poor and rural.
  4. Refusal has great potential for discrimination and abuse--pharmacists with moral objections can choose from an ever-greater number of drugs for refusal based on their perceptions of the kinds of people using them and the reason for use (i.e., HIV drugs for someone perceived as immoral or suffering "God's judgement").
Because I feel this is such a crucial issue for examination and dialogue, I am re-posting below 3 related pieces I've done on this subject. I'd be interested in seeing this get a wider audience, and feedback from readers and bloggers alike.

Pharmacists For Strife

(Originally published on 3/31/05 @ The American Street.)

...Jamison Foser posted this excellent piece on Media Matters yesterday, and it sheds further light on this post I did Tuesday about the growing number of "conscience clauses" and Pharmacists for Life's involvement in that growth. (This has been an interest of mine for a bit.)

Not only does he explore the background of the group's founder, Karen Brauer, he slams CNN, who interviewed her Tuesday, for their pitiful display of journalistic skills therein. (Is it any wonder National Press Club invites James Guckert to a panel on journalism?)

"...Bill Hemmer teased the segment as a report on the tension between "pharmacist beliefs" and "women's rights," (but) Pharmacists for Life president Karen Brauer appeared by herself to discuss the topic, with no one presenting an opposing view. Further, (interviewer Carol) Costello failed to point out the serious questions about Pharmacists for Life's credibility, ask Brauer about her own credibility problems, or ask Brauer obvious questions about the appropriateness of pharmacists refusing to fill prescriptions. CNN's treatment of Brauer, though, is consistent with several other news reports that have mentioned her or her organization without explaining their background or giving readers and viewers a full picture of them. "
There's also an interesting tie-in to the Schiavo controversy (yes, PFL is in on that, too), and a revealing bit on Brauer's refusal to fill, not only birth control prescriptions, but those for diet pills, too. And just in case you think they were satisfied with just withholding pills, he wraps it up with this:

"And a caption on a photo accompanying a February 2 Santa Fe New Mexican article suggests that Pharmacists for Life's agenda may go well beyond pharmacies. The caption reads:

GRAPHIC: 1. Sen. Bill Sharer, left, R-Farmington, meets Tuesday with supporters of his bill defining marriage in New Mexico as only between a man and a woman. Meeting with Sharer are representatives of the Pharmacists for Life and Life League of New Mexico, Abran Gabaldon, former Sen. Tom Benavides of Albuquerque and Manuel Rodriguez. "
Go read!

Conscience Claws

(Originally published on 3/29/05 @ The American Street.)

Sometime ago, here at American Street, I noted the Conscience Clause trend amongst pharmacists. Withholding prescriptions most often because they assert birth control pills kill embryos, they have become a worriesome growth industry of the religious right. Legislatures across the states are working on ways to deal with it; some more interested in protecting the pharmacists, some the patients. As usual with this sort of thing, women are the victims, and especially women in sparsely-populated rural areas with few alternate options.

And here they come again:

"The American Pharmacists Association recently reaffirmed its policy that pharmacists can refuse to fill prescriptions as long as they make sure customers can get their medications some other way.
"We don't have a profession of robots. We have a profession of humans. We have to acknowledge that individual pharmacists have individual beliefs," said Susan C. Winckler, the association's vice president for policy and communications. "What we suggest is that they identify those situations ahead of time and have an alternative system set up so the patient has access to their therapy."
The alternative system can include making sure another pharmacist is on duty who can take over or making sure there is another pharmacy nearby willing to fill the prescription, Winckler said. "The key is that it should be seamless and avoids a conflict between the pharmacist's right to step away and the patient's right to obtain their medication," she said."
Sounds reasonable enough. Unless your transportation problems make it difficult to go to another pharmacy, or there is no other pharmacist on duty, or time is of the essence. But even that is not satisfactory for some:

"Brauer, of Pharmacists for Life, defends the right of pharmacists not only to decline to fill prescriptions themselves but also to refuse to refer customers elsewhere or transfer prescriptions. "That's like saying, 'I don't kill people myself but let me tell you about the guy down the street who does.' What's that saying? 'I will not off your husband, but I know a buddy who will?' It's the same thing," said Brauer, who now works at a hospital pharmacy."
It might be time to visit the pharmacists' Code of Ethics . Here's a few points:

I. A pharmacist respects the covenantal relationship between the patient and pharmacist.
...a pharmacist promises to help individuals achieve optimum benefit from their medications, to be committed to their welfare, and to maintain their trust.
II. A pharmacist promotes the good of every patient in a caring, compassionate, and confidential manner.
...A pharmacist is dedicated to protecting the dignity of the patient. With a caring attitude and a compassionate spirit, a pharmacist focuses on serving the patient in a private and confidential manner.
III. A pharmacist respects the autonomy and dignity of each patient.
...In all cases, a pharmacist respects personal and cultural differences among patients.
VI. A pharmacist respects the values and abilities of colleagues and other health professionals.When appropriate, a pharmacist...refers the patient. A pharmacist acknowledges that colleagues and other health professionals may differ in the beliefs and values they apply to the care of the patient.
VIII. A pharmacist seeks justice in the distribution of health resources.When health resources are allocated, a pharmacist is fair and equitable, balancing the needs of patients and society.
But obviously those things don't apply to people on a first name basis with God.

Trust me on this: they will not rest until they own you.


(Originally published 2/15/05 @ The American Street)

David Brooks has been on a roll for years, babbling ever-more-ludicrous inanities on social matters about which (as his rhetoric usually reveals), he seems to have little or no direct knowledge. The lefty blogs have had great fun at his expense, dogpiling on each nugget of dumbth that sifts out of the grit of his NYTimes page, but one of the most interesting of them was his lamentation over the tragic lack of fecundity displayed by white American womenfolk and their wayward mates. His conclusion was that this could all be rectified if only women would leave the work force and stay home, possibly enticed by those irresistable Republican mainstays, tax credits. Never mind the broad body of evidence on factors that seem to impact reproduction in our species: stress, fear, overwork, education, self-interest. Axes must be ground! The heterosexual Christian white middle-class is under seige, and their subtle self-genocide must be thwarted!

Although I've been following this development for awhile, it took some deeper digging for me to finally locate the pithy proper noun being used by pundits and ideologues to pin down the trend: Pro-Natalism. That is, "an attitude or policy that encourages child-bearing". Based on events shaping up so far, this is apparently a pet project of the anti-family planning Nouveau Regime. One of Bush's first budget-cutting stunts was his proposal in 2001 to eliminate birth control coverage for federal employees. An amendment saved the coverage, but now it has morphed into a faith-based,Roman Catholic-friendly proposal for coverage (remember "rhythm"?)

And in keeping with his record of utilizing ideologues in place of scientists, his appointments reflect his agenda. Dr. W. David Hager, appointed to the FDA reproductive health panel, refuses to prescribe birth control to his patients and prescribes prayer for menopause and PMS. Tom Coburn, appointed to the Advisory Council on AIDS/HIV, is on record as opposing condoms. The manipulation and distortion of scientific information has become so blatant that even The Union of Concerned Scientists cries out for relief.

His minions in the Ninth Circle have been a big help, too. Rick Santorum won't go so far as to ban birth control himself, but has no problem letting the good folks in the next state do it:
"There is no constitutionally based right to privacy, (Santorum) says, arguing that it is a phony legal concoction foisted on the country by liberal judges. As it happens, the 1965 case which declared the existence of privacy rights legitimized contraception. He calls that case, and others that followed it, a "massive usurpation of power by the judiciary." "Would I ban contraception in the states as a state legislator? No way. Would I do it as a federal official? No way." Even so, he said, each state should be free to legislate the matter on its own. If that means the banning of contraception (or, presumably, adultery or premarital sex), then so be it. "It should be the same with sodomy laws," he said. "Texas should have had the right. People should have had the right."
(As usual, Rick's definition of others' rights is rather circumscribed by his own preferences.)