31 March 2010

Republican hypocrisy over recess appointments

Republicans are upset over President Obama's decision to make some recess appointments to circumvent the Republicans' obstructionism.

Did they expect him to roll over and continue to leave those positions unfilled as a result of the obstructionist games the Republicans have been playing? According to Reuters, by the time Obama decided to proceed, the appointments had already been held up for more than 200 days!

Fortunately, it appears that Obama has finally learned that bipartisanship isn't possible with this crowd, and recess appointments are his prerogative, as authorized in Article II, Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution.

Regarding the Republicans' outrage, I ask one simple question: If recess appointments are so bad, why didn't they complain when George W. Bush did the very same thing?

30 March 2010

Fred Phelps & his Westboro crew to picket Temple U on April 1

When I first learned of "Reverend" Fred Phelps and his Kansas-based Westboro Baptist Church, I thought that their website, godhatesfags.com, was satirical, like The Onion. But, sadly, it's for real.

Phelps and his followers travel the country picketing any public or private event that they think represents gay culture or its effects. They even picket soldiers' funerals because they believe that the war in Iraq is a punishment from God for America's tolerance of homosexuality. Yes, really!

And now they'll be bringing their hate to Philadelphia on Thursday, April 1st, to picket productions at Temple University of RENT and The Laramie Project. RENT is a show about the lives of a group of friends in New York's East Village in the 1980s, some of whom are gay/lesbian and some of whom are HIV-positive. The Laramie Project is about the 1998 murder of gay student Matthew Shepard in Laramie, Wyoming.

This is not their first visit to the City of Brotherly Love. A few years ago, I was walking through the Sunday Out festival which wraps up the annual week-long Equality Forum here in Philly each spring. My local Amnesty International group had an information table there promoting human rights for LGBT persons. By contrast, Phelps and his team set up shop on a street corner in the midst of the festivities and Phelps used a loudspeaker to spew his biblical misinterpretations. Unable to resist, I walked up to Phelps and asked, "Sir, didn't your Jesus say, 'Judge not, lest ye be judged'?" He paused for a moment and then just started spewing more pseudo-religious nonsense. I guess it's easiest to change the subject if you have no real answer.

So I have a feeling I know who the April fools will be this April 1st at Temple U.

29 March 2010

Sarah Barracuda flirts with violence

On March 23, former GOP vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin tweeted to her followers the following message:
Commonsense Conservatives & lovers of America: "Don't Retreat, Instead - RELOAD!" Pls see my Facebook page.
On her Facebook page was a U.S. map marking the locations of 20 House Democrats who voted for the health care bill and who represent districts that the Republicans carried in 2008. The 20 locations were marked with crosshairs. Not red dots or any other relatively benign symbols. No, they were marked with crosshairs.

So, of course, in light of all the recent death threats aimed at Democratic lawmakers by the tea party crazies, Palin has come under fire (no pun intended) for her use of gun-related words and symbols in her recent posts.

And rightly so.

I will give Palin the benefit of the doubt and hope that, being new to Washington politics, perhaps she simply chose her words carelessly and wasn't actively trying to incite violence. But Palin is in the big leagues now, and she needs to learn that words have consequences, and that the tea party crowd cannot be relied upon to separate metaphor from reality.

The bottom line is this: Free speech is one thing, but inciting violence is irresponsible and -- in some cases -- illegal. I hope that nothing bad happens to any of the 20 Dems on her crosshair-marked map. If anything bad did happen to any of them, I would hope that she would bear some of the responsibility. But I would not hold my breath.

Because now it seems to have turned into a game for her. On March 28, she posted the following on her Facebook page under the title Warning: Subject to New Politically Correct Language Police Censorship:
To the [March Madness basketball] teams that desire making it this far next year: Gear up! In the battle, set your sights on next season's targets! From the shot across the bow - the first second's tip-off - your leaders will be in the enemy's crosshairs, so you must execute strong defensive tactics. You won't win only playing defense, so get on offense! The crossfire is intense, so penetrate through enemy territory by bombing through the press, and use your strong weapons - your Big Guns - to drive to the hole. Shoot with accuracy; aim high and remember it takes blood, sweat and tears to win.

Focus on the goal and fight for it. If the gate is closed, go over the fence. If the fence is too high, pole vault in. If that doesn't work, parachute in. If the other side tries to push back, your attitude should be "go for it." Get in their faces and argue with them. (Sound familiar?!) Every possession is a battle; you'll only win the war if you've picked your battles wisely. No matter how tough it gets, never retreat, instead RELOAD!
I can only shake my head and sigh. Because, obviously, she really doesn't get it.

Or does she?

26 March 2010

In death row case, Supreme Court came through but Texas remains guilty

On March 24, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a stay of execution for Texas death row inmate Hank Skinner. The stay will allow the Court more time to consider Skinner's civil rights claim that he is entitled to DNA testing which he believes will prove his innocence. The news came just one hour before Skinner was to be strapped to the gurney.

While this is certainly a relief, it does nothing to address the underlying fact that the authorities in Texas were ready and eager to execute Skinner without testing the available evidence. Apparently it's not important to them to be absolutely sure that they're killing the right guy.

Had the Supreme Court not intervened, Skinner would probably be dead now. And what if the DNA were later tested and proved that he was indeed innocent? We may be close to Easter, but there's no resurrecting an executed man.

This case is especially troubling in light of some other cases suggesting that Texas may have executed the wrong people.

We learned last September that Cameron Todd Willingham, who was executed by the state of Texas in 2004 for the alleged arson murders of his three daughters, was probably not responsible for the fire after all. According to an article by David Grann in the New Yorker, a forensic review of the case led to the conclusion that "a finding of arson could not be sustained." In other words, the fatal fire for which Willingham was executed was probably just an accident.

Nevertheless, last October, Texas executed Reginald Blanton despite numerous flaws in the prosecution's case and the trial itself. Blanton had been convicted of fatally shooting his friend, Carlos Garza, and then stealing $79 worth of jewelry from Garza's home, where the murder took place.

According to Randi Jones of the Campaign to End the Death Penalty, "Reginald's case exemplifies serious prosecutorial misconduct. They systematically excluded African Americans from the jury pool."

Jones also noted that there was no physical evidence linking Blanton to the crime, and that Blanton was forced to rely on an incompetent public defender who failed to present evidence of innocence at the original trial.

As if that's not enough to establish reasonable doubt, Blanton's MySpace page contends that the shoe print on the victim's kicked-in apartment door did not match the shoes Blanton wore on the day of the crime, and that the only two witnesses were forced to sign statements against Blanton under threats of themselves being charged with the crime.

This looks to me like a truckful of reasonable doubt. And there is no excuse to execute someone when there is reasonable doubt as to his guilt.

But Texas apparently doesn't see it that way.

Texas seems to only want to kill.

Hopefully the Supreme Court will go on to allow the DNA testing in Hank Skinner's case. If not, then they will be as guilty as Texas.

25 March 2010

Earth Hour this Saturday (March 27)!

Did you participate in Earth Hour last year? I did, and the vibes felt great. And now we'll have another opportunity this Saturday.

On March 27 at 8:30 pm local time, individuals, businesses, and municipalities around the world will turn off their lights for one hour -- Earth Hour -- in a show of concern for climate change and commitment to finding solutions.

Last year, according to the Earth Hour website, "hundreds of millions of people took part in the third Earth Hour. Over 4000 cities in 88 countries officially switched off to pledge their support for the planet, making Earth Hour 2009 the world's largest global climate change initiative."

Even some major international icons and landmarks around the world have participated in Earth Hour in past years, including the Eiffel Tower in Paris, the Sydney Opera House, and the Acropolis and Parthenon in Athens.

Let's make Earth Hour 2010 even bigger.

To find out more, and to sign up, go to www.earthhour.org.

If enough people, businesses, and cities participate, imagine how dramatic it will look from space as darkness rolls through the earth's time zones one by one!

24 March 2010

Hey Boehner, here's what really ruins the country

My fellow Americans, the sky is falling!

And it's all because the health care reform bill is now the law of the land.

Last weekend, you see, House Minority Leader John Boehner warned us that the health care legislation would "ruin our country". He called it "Armageddon"!

So, after eight years of Bush and Cheney in the White House, caring properly for sick people is what's actually going to ruin our country.

After all those years of unnecessary wars of choice costing billions of dollars and countless lives, caring properly for sick people is what's actually going to ruin our country.

After our Bush-Cheney-led nation resorted to the illegal use of torture in their "war on terror", even though the experts have pointed out that torture is ineffective in producing reliable intelligence, caring properly for sick people is what's actually going to ruin our country.

After our Bush-Cheney-led nation broke existing laws to spy without legal warrant on American citizens, caring properly for sick people is what's actually going to ruin our country.

Maybe he's right, if the country to be ruined is the version that Bush and Cheney created.

This country is supposed to be a nation of laws. So let's ruin the law-ignoring version of the previous administration and return to the America that respects the Constitution that our founding fathers established for good reason.

Let's return to the America that respects the rule of law -- including the newly established law that provides health care for most Americans.

And let's return to a compassionate America. After all, a chain is only as strong as its weakest link. And if we don't take proper care of our weakest -- i.e., our sick -- then how strong are we really as a country?

23 March 2010

The far-right fringe: Armed, bigoted, and dangerous

Things have gotten really ugly in the tea party world.

It was scary enough when some people showed up at town hall meetings last summer with loaded guns. But those seemed like isolated incidents. Now, however, even the unarmed tea partiers are resorting to more and more extreme displays of bigotry and hate.

Over the weekend, tea partiers gathered outside the Capitol to protest the health care reform bill. Only this time they weren't just hurling ill-informed talking points. This time they were hurling hate speech -- and worse.

In the Huffington Post, Sam Stein described the scene as follows:
Preceding the president's speech to a gathering of House Democrats, thousands of protesters descended around the Capitol to protest the passage of health care reform. The gathering quickly turned into abusive heckling, as members of Congress passing through Longworth House office building were subjected to epithets and even mild physical abuse.

A staffer for Rep. James Clyburn (D-S.C.) told reporters that Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.) had been spat on by a protestor. Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), a hero of the civil rights movement, was called a 'ni--er.' And Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) was called a "faggot," as protestors shouted at him with deliberately lisp-y screams. Frank, approached in the halls after the president's speech, shrugged off the incident.

But Clyburn was downright incredulous, saying he had not witnessed such treatment since he was leading civil rights protests in South Carolina in the 1960s.
Is this behavior really all a reaction to the fact that insurance companies will no longer be able to rip us off based on pre-existing conditions? That, I think is unlikely.

While a lot of this behavior is surely based on their mindless acceptance of the right-wing fear-inducing propaganda, I suspect it has even more to do with the fact that we now have a black man in the White House -- a black man with an exotic name in charge of this country. It scares the hell out of them.

The problem is that some bigots can be very, very dangerous, especially when they are frightened. And that is even scarier than the fact that they can vote.

22 March 2010

Health care and the new Obama

Last night, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the health care reform bill that was previously passed by the Senate. It will now go to President Obama's desk, where it will be signed into law. This is the most monumental legislative achievement that I've witnessed in my adult life, and I am thrilled.

Up until a month or two ago, I had all but given up hope on seeing this happen. It seemed that President Obama was more focused on the hopeless tail-chasing exercise of seeking Republican cooperation than with keeping his campaign promise of health care reform. But then suddenly he apparently learned his lesson and grew a spine. Or, rather, he stopped playing the community organizer and started playing the role of majority party leader.

And he -- along with the Democratic leadership in Congress -- played a very big role in last night's victory.

The Obama who made this happen is the Obama I voted for. I hope this is the start of a new trend for Year 2.

19 March 2010

Health care by the (alarming) numbers

This Sunday, the U.S. House of Representatives will likely be voting on the health care bill.

The Republicans keep claiming that health care reform will be too costly. However, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office disagrees, estimating that the bill, if passed, would actually reduce the federal deficit by $130 billion over its first 10 years, and by $1.2 trillion in its second decade!

Meantime, here are some other -- more important -- numbers to consider, summarized (and slightly edited) from the White House website's "Health Reform by the Numbers" blog section:
$1,115 -- The average premium for employer-sponsored family coverage per month in 2009. Annually, that amounts to $13,375, or roughly the yearly income of someone working a minimum wage job.

• And if nothing is done to reform our broken health care system, a recent survey found that over the next ten years, out-of-pocket expenses for Americans with health insurance could increase 35 percent in every state in the country.

8 -- The number of people every minute who are denied coverage, charged a higher rate, or otherwise discriminated against because of a pre-existing condition.

8 -- Also the number of lobbyists hired by special interests to influence health reform for every member of Congress in 2009.

625 -- The number of people who lost their health insurance every hour in 2009.

41 -- The number of leading economists -- including three Nobel Prize winners -- who sent a letter to President Obama and Congress last week urging the swift passage of comprehensive health insurance reform to curb skyrocketing health care costs.

41 -- Also the percentage of adults under the age of 65 who accumulated medical debt, had difficulty paying medical bills, or struggled with both during a recent one-year period.

1 in every six dollars in the U.S. economy is spent on health care today.

• If we do nothing, in 30 years, 1 out of every three dollars in our economy will be tied up in the health care system.

• If you’re an American under the age of 65, there’s roughly a 50/50 chance that you will find yourself without coverage at some point in the next decade.

9 -- The number of states and the District of Columbia where there is still no specific law that makes it illegal for insurers to reject applicants who are survivors of domestic violence by citing the history of domestic violence as a pre-existing condition.

3 million -- The decrease in the number of middle-income earners who obtained health insurance from their employers from 2000 to 2008.

• And 3 times is how much faster health care premiums are rising compared to wages.
>> Read more about these numbers.

And now I'll add my own number to the list:
100 -- The percentage of Americans who deserve high-quality, affordable health care.
After all, health care should be considered a human right, not a privilege reserved for the wealthy.

18 March 2010

Will Texas execute an innocent man next week?

Imagine, for a minute, that you are sitting on Texas Death Row for a murder you say you did not commit. There is DNA evidence that might exonerate you, but Texas refuses to do the DNA testing. They'd apparently rather risk the possibility of executing the wrong person. I guess that's less embarrassing than admitting that they may have prosecuted, persecuted, and convicted the wrong guy. But it's not what I call justice.

Such is the case of Hank Skinner, who is facing a March 24th execution date. That's next Wednesday, folks. That's just six days from this writing. And sadly -- inexcusably -- the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals has just denied a request to halt the execution. Where is the justice in that decision?

At this point, it appears that Skinner's only hope is intervention by the U.S. Supreme Court, the Texas Board of Pardons & Paroles, and/or Texas Governor Rick Perry.

How you can help:

Click here to urge Governor Perry to order a stay of execution so DNA testing can proceed.

And stay tuned for updates. Fingers crossed in hopes that they'll all be positive.

17 March 2010

Pennsylvania state bigotry bill dies in committee

Good news from Harrisburg: Yesterday, the Pennsylvania State Senate Judiciary Committee voted to table SB 707, the so-called "Marriage Protection Amendment". This discriminatory bill would have written bigotry into the state constitution by banning same-sex marriage in Pennsylvania.

The bill was tabled via a bipartisan vote of 8-6, so it will not move to the Senate floor at this time.

Let's keep our fingers crossed in hopes that this bill does not get resurrected in the future.

16 March 2010

In memory of Rachel Corrie

Today, March 16, 2010, marks the seventh anniversary of the death in Gaza of American student and peace activist Rachel Corrie. This brave and compassionate young woman died at the age of 23 when she was crushed by a US-made Caterpillar D9 military bulldozer in Rafah while acting as a human shield, trying to stop the unlawful demolition of a Palestinian home. The Caterpillar's driver, working for the Israeli occupation, refused to stop.

"Rachel took it as self-evident that no Israeli soldier or bulldozer driver would dare kill the citizen of a country from whom Israel was requesting a $11 billion aid package," noted Morgan Guyton in a CounterPunch article two days after Rachel's death. Sadly, if that was indeed Rachel's assumption, she was wrong. Dead wrong.

And now, seven years later, Israeli forces, still funded by our tax dollars, continue their human rights abuses against innocent Palestinian families and international sympathizers.

Meanwhile, a civil trial is now in progress in Haifa in which the Corrie family is suing the Israeli government. According to the British newspaper The Guardian, the family's lawyer will argue that "her death was due either to gross negligence by the Israeli military or that it was intended." I hope that justice will be served in this case.

Learn more:

In 2004, Amnesty International published a comprehensive report on the Palestinian home demolitions from a human rights perspective. Download it now: Israel and the Occupied Territories: Under the rubble: House demolition and destruction of land and property

15 March 2010

Jihad blondes prove racial profiling a waste of time

We recently learned that a Philadelphia area woman who had dubbed herself "Jihad Jane" was indicted on charges of helping Islamic jihadists carry out attacks in Europe and Asia.

"Jane", whose real name is Colleen LaRose, is a 46-year-old woman with blonde hair and light skin -- not exactly most Americans' mental image of a terrorist.

A few days later, we learned that "Jihad Jamie" Paulin-Ramirez, a Colorado woman, also with blonde hair and light skin, had been detained on similar charges.

Will these cases finally convince the knee-jerk, race-obsessed folks on the far right (and their pliant followers) that terrorism is not synonymous with brown skin or an exotic accent?

Oh, never mind. That, unfortunately, will have to remain a rhetorical question.

Because these are not the first cases to prove my point.

I've written much over the years about the fact that ethnic profiling is both ineffective and counterproductive in the so-called "war on terror". It distracts law enforcement personnel from paying more attention to what people are doing than what they look like.

And, perhaps worse, it implies that people of a certain ethnic appearance are more prone to criminality than others.

To be realistic, we must remember that terrorists come in all colors and genders. We must remember that Jose Padilla, the so-called dirty bomber, is an Hispanic American. We must remember that Richard Reid, the shoe bomber, is a British citizen of West Indian ancestry. We must remember that Umar Farouk Abdul Mutallab, the would-be Christmas bomber, is a black man from Nigeria. We must remember that Adam Gadahn, an American al-Qaeda spokesman, is a white kid from California. We must remember that Timothy McVeigh, Eric Rudolph, and the Unabomber were all white Americans. And we must remember these new jihad blondes.

Fortunately, the authorities seem to understand this, as illustrated by the arrests of these individuals. Still, despite so many cases that back up my claim, a recent poll shows that a majority of Americans still think that ethnic profiling a good idea in law enforcement.

Or maybe this just shows that a majority of Americans really don't think much at all.

And maybe that's what the real terrorists are counting on.

12 March 2010

Good riddance to the Hummer

General Motors recently decided to discontinue production of the rude, hulking, gas-guzzling monstrosity called the Hummer.

Now all those selfish folks with big, fragile egos and something to prove will need to find a new prop with which to do so.

To GM: On behalf of the earth and its environment, I thank you for this decision.

11 March 2010

The Dems must create jobs -- or else

Obama has been president for more than a year now. Still, the official unemployment rate continues to hover at around 10%, with the real rate significantly higher.

Obama's stimulus plan doesn't seem to have stimulated the job market much. And, while legislation aimed at creating new jobs is working its way through Congress, many are saying that it's not nearly enough.

The bottom line is this: If they don't find a way to create jobs before November, I think the 2010 elections could be worse for the Democrats than they otherwise would be.

Americans voted for change in 2008. But we've seen little change, if any, in our everyday lives.

I won't vote for Republicans because I know that they would make things even worse. But I don't think the average middle-of-the-road voter in Middle America sees things the same way.

And, sadly, I must admit that the Dems in Congress will likely get what they deserve.

10 March 2010

Did child labor build your iPod?

Technology giant Apple recently admitted that some of its suppliers used child labor. Other labor violations were also discovered during supplier audits conducted in 2009.

The Associated Press reports:
Apple said it found 17 "core" violations, the most serious type.

Those included three cases of underage workers being hired; eight instances of workers paying "recruitment" fees that were above the legal limits in those countries; three cases in which suppliers used non-certified vendors to dispose of hazardous waste; and three others in which the companies gave false records during the audits.

In the cases involving underage workers, Apple said three facilities had hired a total of 11 workers who were 15 years old in countries where the minimum employment age is 16. Apple noted that the workers were no longer underage or weren't working for the facilities anymore when the audits were undertaken.


In 2006, Apple found that workers in a Chinese iPod factory were in many cases exceeding the company's limits for overtime. Apple ordered the factory to comply with its limits. Apple was responding to news reports at the time that workers at the factory were paid as little as $50 a month and were forced to work 15-hour shifts.
As liberal radio talk show host Thom Hartmann reported last week in his blog, "Apple [...] said it asked suppliers to end a practice 'where wage deductions were used for disciplinary purposes.'"

Fine, but Hartmann then proposed a better idea, quickly tempered with a reality check:
"How about instead Apple simply moves all its manufacturing to the United States of America and employs union labor? Or would that endanger their executive salaries? And, even worse, encourage hundreds of other high-tech manufacturers to do the same?"
Yes, it's all about profits vs. people. Why pay U.S. union workers a decent wage when you can pay people $50 a month in other parts of the world? It's this kind of attitude that deserves much of the blame for our 10% unemployment rate.

Ironically, if the U.S. unemployment rate remains high, soon no one except the very rich be able to afford any more iPods, iPhones, or MacBooks.

09 March 2010

The American people voted for health care reform

Yesterday, President Obama came to the Philadelphia suburbs to promote health care reform.

He challenged his Republican critics as follows, as quoted by the Philadelphia Inquirer:
"I got all my Republican colleagues out there saying, 'Well, no, no, no, we want to focus on things like cost,'" the president said. "You had 10 years. What happened? What were you doing?"

The Republicans keep saying that the American people don't like the current health care bill. But is that because of what's actually in the bill, or what the Republicans have scared them into thinking, with their silly talk of "death panels" and such?

The fact is that the American people voted in 2008 for the candidate who promised health care reform. The American people voted for the candidate who promised to crack down on out-of-control insurance premiums, denial of coverage due to pre-existing conditions, and dropped coverage when you get sick.

The Republicans, it seems, would rather keep us sick and broke. Then big business can have its way.

08 March 2010

On International Women's Day, call for sponsorship and passage of I-VAWA

Today, March 8, is International Women's Day.

As UN Secretary General Ban K-moon noted last November, "Violence against women and girls will not be eradicated until all of us -- men and boys -- refuse to tolerate it."

But too many today are tolerating it. As Amnesty International (AI) reports, the statistics are shocking and totally unacceptable:
"One out of every three women worldwide has been physically or sexually abused during her lifetime with rates of domestic violence reaching 70 percent in some countries. Violence committed predominantly against women ranges from rape to domestic violence and acid burnings to dowry deaths and so-called honor killings. Violence against women and girls is a human rights violation, a public health epidemic, and a barrier to solving global challenges like desperate poverty, HIV/AIDS, and conflict. Violence and abuse devastates the lives of millions of women, knows no national or cultural barriers, and most importantly, it must be stopped."

As AI stated in its blog Human Rights Now, "Real men are not afraid of women’s empowerment!" But then, most violence is ultimately rooted in fear, isn't it?!

The International Violence Against Women's Act (I-VAWA) aims to address the issue of violence against women on a global level.

According to AI:
"The International Violence Against Women Act (I-VAWA) is the first comprehensive piece of legislation in the United States aimed at ending violence against women and girls around the world. It would improve our government’s response when women are victims of sex trafficking and rape during war and would provide aid to women’s groups on the ground working to help survivors of domestic and sexual violence. It would focus resources on prevention and ensure that dollars are used in the most effective ways possible. In some countries, it truly could mean the difference between life and death for a woman or girl."
I-VAWA was introduced last year in the 110th Congress, but never came to a vote. Fortunately, on February 4, 2010, it was reintroduced in the 111th Congress by bipartisan teams in both the House and the Senate. Hopefully it will get farther this time.

How you can help:

>> Urge your members of Congress to co-sponsor I-VAWA today.

Get more info:

>> Summary Flyer (PDF)

>> Issue Brief (PDF)

>> I-VAWA Model Programs

>> Q&A: Basic I-VAWA

>> Q&A: Legislation

05 March 2010

Republicans just voted against tax cuts

This is how contrary the Republicans in Congress have become:

Yesterday, most of them in the House voted against a bill that would give tax breaks to businesses that hire workers. This bill is intended to reduce unemployment.

Usually the GOP calls for tax cuts as the solution to everything. Apparently, however, it doesn't count if the tax cuts are supported by the Democrats.

04 March 2010

Stars sell their souls to Polanski

Movie director and convicted sex offender Roman Polanski just completed a new film, The Ghost Writer. It is currently in limited release in the U.S. and some European markets.

As much as the film's synopsis appeals to me, I will not see it. That is because I will not support Roman Polanski's work while he is on the lam avoiding accountability for a sexual assault that he admittedly committed against a 13-year-old girl in 1977.

Polanski pled guilty to sexual assault against a minor in a plea bargain. In other words, he admitted to his guilt. But then he fled the country to avoid his prison sentence. In other words, he is officially a fugitive. He doesn't want to pay the price for his crime. And so far he has gotten away with it.

I am disappointed and angry at the film industry which enables Polanski to continue making lots of money despite his fugitive status. And I am disappointed in the stars like Pierce Brosnan, Ewan McGregor, and Kim Cattrall, who star in his new film and who traveled abroad to do it because Polanski would be immediately arrested if he were to set foot in the U.S.

They are selling their souls to this fugitive rapist in the name of art, and it is not right, because that art is tainted by Polanski's disgusting crime.

If this were a no-name director who had committed the same crime, I suspect he would have been forced to serve his time. And, once that time is served, make movies again! But until then, justice requires that you serve your sentence.

But Polanski's superstar status somehow wins him the sympathy and support of much of the public and far too many in Hollywood.

It's criminal. Literally.

>> If you have any questions or doubts about what occurred on the evening of the crime, read the court transcript of the victim's testimony. And remember: Polanski pled guilty.

03 March 2010

Seattle blogger launches gay engagement initiative

A same-sex couple in the state of Washington recently placed their engagement announcement in their local newspaper, The Kitsap Sun. The announcement is worded similarly to a traditional engagement announcement, but with a couple of twists:
Karl Urseth and Michael Maria, both of Bremerton, WA, formally announce their 23-year engagement to marry.

Mr. Urseth is the son of the late Loren Urseth and Eloda Henry of Portland, Ore.

Mr. Maria is the son of Donald and Joyce Maria of Mount Shasta, CA, and Charles and Babe Huber of Elk Grove, CA.

The couple plans to marry as soon as marriage equality is extended to all citizens of the state of Washington.

According to an article at Advocate.com, the couple placed the announcement in response to a commentator at the website of the Seattle newspaper The Stranger, who encouraged readers to do so.

What a great idea!

I would like to see similar announcements in newspapers in every state where same-sex marriage is not yet legal.

And I wonder how many newspapers might refuse to print this sort of thing.

02 March 2010

How to help the earthquake victims in Chile

It wasn't very long ago that many of us contributed whatever dollars we could to help the earthquake victims in Haiti. Now it's time to put our charity dollars to good use in South America.

As you probably have heard by now, a major (8.8 magnitude) earthquake struck Chile on Saturday morning.

Several relief agencies are on their way to provide aid, but they need funding.

Below are some reputable organizations that you might want to consider helping out with a few of your charity dollars. Click the link for each organization for info on what they're doing and how to donate.

American Red Cross

Chilean Red Cross

Doctors Without Borders

Habitat for Humanity

International Medical Corps

Operation USA


Save the Children


Or donate $10 instantly from your cell phone:

Text "REBUILD" to "50555" and automatically donate $10 to Operation USA's disaster relief efforts in Chile. Operation USA was a co-recipient of the 1997 Nobel Peace Prize, so we know they do good work.

01 March 2010

The truth about tort reform

The Republicans seem to think that tort reform is what's needed to improve our health care system. To the Fox News audience, it might seem like a good idea -- cracking down on those greedy trial lawyers, as they like to spin it.

But those are just code words for limiting medical malpractice lawsuits by implementing federal caps on non-economic damages for pain and suffering.

In reality, it's not about the trial lawyers. It's about the legal rights of everyday people who suddenly find themselves victims of preventable medical errors.

It's about the man who had the wrong leg amputated.

It's about the woman who had an unnecessary mastectomy because of a false cancer diagnosis.

It's about the baby who will have to live with cerebral palsy and mental retardation because of a mismanaged labor and delivery.

It's about the 98,000 patients who die each year as a result of medical negligence or wrongdoing -- the sixth leading cause of death in America.

And, as Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) pointed out during last week's Health Care Summit in Washington, it's about the additional 4,800 people who will die each year if the Republican malpractice proposal were implemented, as estimated by the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office.

The Republicans are apparently too busy pandering for votes from the big hospital conglomerates and physicians' associations to care about the victims.

And they are apparently too busy pandering for those votes to care about the real problems at the core of the health care crisis.

It's all about protecting the medical-industrial complex from those who might suffer from its mistakes.

It's all about protecting the rich from being held accountable.

And that cannot be called health care reform.

The American Association for Justice sums up the real malpractice issue quite well on its website 98000reasons.org: "The best way to have fewer medical malpractice cases is to reduce the number of medical errors. If less people need to seek legal recourse, that means patients are getting safer. Patients that are safer also means lower costs to the health care system. Everyone can support this."

Well, everyone except the Republicans, it seems. They are obviously looking at a very different bottom line.