28 June 2011

Don't underestimate Bachmann

Yesterday in Iowa, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) officially launched her 2012 campaign for the U.S. presidency.

Some on the left seem so quick to dismiss Bachmann's candidacy, calling it a long shot. But I want to remind those skeptics that we thought the same thing about George W. Bush at this stage of the game. And Bachmann is much more articulate than Bush.

If the economy remains sluggish and unemployment remains high, the people will crave change. And they will vote for change (no matter how bizarre the prospects), because they're desperate.

Heaven help us if that happens next year.

25 June 2011

Same-sex marriage now legal in New York

In another big step forward towards equality for all citizens, last night New York became the sixth and most populous state to allow same-sex marriage. Governor Cuomo signed it just hours after it passed the state Senate.

For a while, it looked like the bill might not get through the Republican-controlled Senate, but finally a compromise was reached. The compromise provides that churches and other religious groups will not be penalized if they refuse to perform or bless same-sex marriages.

Fair enough.

I hope other states will see this as an example worth following.

22 June 2011

Man robs bank to get prison health care

Think Progress recently reported on the case of James Richard Verone of North Carolina, formerly a hard-working, law-abiding citizen, who desperately resorted to robbing a store for one dollar in order to go to jail where he would get health coverage for some painful illnesses he was suffering.

This is what our nation has become.

"ObamaCare" might help in some such cases once all of its provisions take effect over the next few years. Unless the Republicans repeal it. And if you can afford to purchase your own insurance under the coming mandate.

America used to be called the land of opportunity.

Now it's where you either voluntarily go to jail or else suffer and die if you cannot afford your health insurance premiums.

Yes, this is what our nation has become.

20 June 2011

In Wal-Mart wage discrimination case, SCOTUS sides with the big corporation

Today, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of the mega-corporation Wal-Mart, saying that a class-action wage discrimination lawsuit, which could potentially involve hundreds of thousands of past and present female employees, could not move forward as a class action.

In the suit, Wal-Mart was accused of a pattern of paying women less and giving them fewer promotions. The evidence of this was, in my opinion, overwhelming. And now it looks like they'll get away with it.

It's a complicated case, dealing with legal criteria under which parties may or may not pursue a class action suit. I am not a lawyer, but in skimming the decision, it appears that the Court decided that the legal criteria were not met. So the decision was based on a technicality, not on the root issue at hand.

A big part of the decision regards the defense that pay raises and promotions are granted subjectively by individual Wal-Mart managers across the company, not though any discriminatory policy at the corporate level. So it appears that wage discrimination cases against Wal-Mart will have to be brought individually, one by one, or where a small group of women can point to the same manager. In other words, ladies, you're on your own.

Justice Scalia wrote the opinion in the case, with Roberts, Kennedy, Thomas, and Alito joining (predictably).

Ginsburg, Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan, joined as to parts I and III of the decision, but not part II.

Read the full opinion of the Court + Ginsburg's partial dissent (PDF)

17 June 2011

Romney pretends to empathize with the unemployed

According to Jeff Zeleny's blog at The New York Times, GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney met with a group of unemployed Floridians yesterday.

And he told them, "I'm also unemployed."

Yes, he really said that. As if he can really relate to their predicament.

Romney, of course, is a millionaire many times over, with a net worth of as much as $250 million.

And his comment shows just how out of touch he is with ordinary Americans who have to struggle to pay the bills.

15 June 2011

A small victory in Prop 8 case (but a long battle ahead)

Yesterday, U.S. District Court Chief Judge James S. Ware denied a motion to throw out last year's ruling that California's Proposition 8, the 2008 ballot initiative which outlawed same-sex marriage in that state, is unconstitutional.

The bigots in this case claimed that last year's ruling by Judge Vaughn Walker should be vacated because Walker should have recused himself from the case because he (Walker) is gay. Yesterday's ruling disagreed.

From the decision:
"After considering the Oppositions to the Motion and the governing law, as discussed below, the Court finds that neither recusal nor disqualification was required based on the asserted grounds. The sole fact that a federal judge shares the same circumstances or personal characteristics with other members of the general public, and that the judge could be affected by the outcome of a proceeding in the same way that other members of the general public would be affected, is not a basis for either recusal or disqualification under Section 455(b)(4).

"Further, under Section 455(a), it is not reasonable to presume that a judge is incapable of making an impartial decision about the constitutionality of a law, solely because, as a citizen, the judge could be affected by the proceedings. Accordingly, the Motion to Vacate Judgment on the sole ground of Judge Walker’s same-sex relationship is DENIED."
>> Read the full decision. (PDF)

While this is good news, Prop 8 will probably remain tied up in the courts for quite a while.

And when it gets all the way to the Supreme Court, anything could happen.

Stay tuned, with fingers crossed for equality.

14 June 2011

If a Republican wins

Last night's GOP candidates' debate made a few things very clear:

If a Republican wins the 2012 presidential election, along with a GOP-heavy Congress, health care will be taken away from us ordinary people, and unemployment will remain the norm.

Meanwhile, the rich will get richer via more tax cuts for them.

The climate crisis will worsen as they drill, baby, drill.

And the middle class will continue on our path to extinction.

But I won't count on Fox News to broadcast all this to the sheep who would make it all happen.

13 June 2011

GOP debate tonight

Tonight at 8:00 pm, CNN will broadcast a debate between seven current 2012 Republican presidential candidates. Scheduled participants are Michele Bachmann, Herman Cain, Newt Gingrich, Ron Paul, Tim Pawlenty, Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum.

I haven't decided whether or not I will watch it. While parts of the debate might be amusing, other parts will probably make me want to throw things at the TV.

On the other hand, it's time to get used to them. It's going to be a long and painful road ahead to November 2012.

10 June 2011

Not a good match

I just got an interesting message from a man at Match.com. He describes his political leanings as "Very Conservative" and says his heroes are Ayn Rand and Alan Greenspan.

He expressed concern that I had mentioned in my profile that I am a vegetarian.

He said he wants to meet and hang out with me despite our differences because there are so many things he could teach me.

Yeah, I'll bet.

My response: <DELETE>

09 June 2011

Why do we care about Anthony Weiner's sex life?

The American media just can't get enough of the latest Washington sex scandal - Weinergate, i.e., the revelation that U.S. Congressman Anthony Weiner (D-NY) sent some racy photos to young women via Twitter (and otherwise flirted with them over the course of some years).

I am disappointed in Rep. Weiner for lying about it to the press for a week before finally coming clean, but I disagree with all the calls for his resignation.

His sex life should be a matter between him and his wife. While his flirtations have been going in recent years, he has nevertheless represented his constituents well on the House floor. His sexual behavior has not affected his ability to do his job. So what is the problem?

Some call it an integrity issue, since it took Weiner so long to finally own up to his actions. But what normal person hasn't ever lied about sex?

In Europe, where politicians' affairs are met with disinterested yawns, America surely must surely look like a snickering, emotionally immature, sex-obsessed adolescent.

Kind of like Anthony Weiner.

And kind of like so many Americans who grew up in this puritanical culture.

So should we all be fired?

07 June 2011

Could Santorum win the White House?

Yesterday, Rick "Man On Dog" Santorum, the ultra-conservative, homophobic Republican former U.S. Senator from Pennsylvania, announced that he will run for president in 2012.

It may seem like a long shot. But so did the prospect of a George W. Bush presidency early in the game.

So we have to take it seriously and work accordingly. After all, a Santorum presidency, especially if supported by a strong Republican Congress and Santorum-appointed Supreme Court justices, could roll back social progress by decades.

We cannot let that happen.

05 June 2011

Jack Kevorkian meant well

Dr. Jack Kevorkian passed away on June 3. He died the old-fashioned way - in a Michigan hospital bed while suffering from pulmonary thrombosis. Kevorkian, also known as "Dr. Death", was famous as a proponent and provider of physician-assisted suicide for the terminally ill.

At the beginning, Michigan had no law against assisted suicide. Kevorkian eventually went to prison when he crossed the line and gave a lethal injection to a man suffering from Lou Gehrig's disease. He videotaped the event and provided the video to the CBS program "60 Minutes". Unlike Kevorkian's other patients, the Lou Gehrig's sufferer was unable to administer the lethal drug to himself. Kevorkian was subsequently convicted of second-degree murder. And the Michigan legislature proceeded to outlaw assisted suicide.

Some people call Kevorkian a murderer and a monster. I call him compassionate. He admirably wanted to relieve the suffering of the terminally ill. He just did so with a bit too much drama. Fortunately, his legacy lives on with a number of right-to-die organizations around the world that are fighting for what I see as the final human right: the right to choose a quick and dignified death over a painful, lingering one.

As a result of the work of these organizations, physician-assisted suicide is now available for terminally ill patients in Oregon, Washington, and Montana, as well as a small handful of European nations. Everywhere else, the terminally ill are forced to endure sometimes horrific pain at the end of life, or end their misery with a plastic bag, a noose, or other undignified means. And those sad, desperate acts will continue as long as so-called "pro-life" factions keep fighting attempts to widen the acceptance of physician-assisted suicide and provide more people with the power to choose a good death over a horrible, slow, painful one.

This is not euthanasia, where some people worry that the disabled will be killed to get them out of the way. Where physician-assisted suicide is legal, the patient must demonstrate a rational and clear-headed desire to die, and must pass medical screenings to prove that they are terminally ill.

Sometimes those on the "pro-life" side point to hospice care as an alternative that would provide palliative care to relieve suffering at the end of life. But the fact remains that modern medical science cannot yet provide adequate pain control for all dying patients, even by the best hospice organizations.

While physicians are sworn to do no harm, is it not harmful to force a dying patient to suffer a slow, lingering death against his or her will, perhaps kept alive artificially with respirators and feeding tubes?

When a pet becomes ill to the point where it is near death and suffering uncontrollably, a veterinarian will not think twice before recommending that the pet be euthanized, to put the animal out of its misery.

So why do we treat our dying pets with more mercy than we treat our dying people?

Dr. Kevorkian saw this double standard and chose to fight it. For that I admire him. May he now rest in peace.

02 June 2011

Pentagon wants to make martyrs

Military officials announced earlier this week that they will pursue the death penalty against Khalid Sheik Mohammed and four other alleged 9/11 plotters via Guantanamo Bay's kangaroo-court-style military commission system.

Don't get me wrong -- I want to see these men prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. But trying them in the heavily criticized military commission system and putting them to death will do nothing to discourage would-be terrorists. Quite the opposite, in fact.

It shows us as being hypocritical in all our talk of human rights and justice. And the death penalty would make martyrs of the defendants, which is exactly what they want.

Doing it this way, the terrorists win.

And the worst part is that they know it -- as do their followers.

Best to drop the death penalty, give them fair trials to show that we are a nation of laws, and then let them sit in an American jail for the rest of their lives. That would be a deterrent.

01 June 2011

SCOTUS says Ashcroft can't be sued over post-9/11 detention

Yesterday, in the case of Ashcroft v. Al-Kidd, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that former Bush administration attorney general John Ashcroft cannot be sued for his role in detaining an American Muslim man without charge after 9/11.

This reversed a Ninth Circuit ruling that the suit could move forward.

As the Washington Post has described the case, "At the heart of the lawsuit is a strategy launched by the Justice Department and the FBI after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Ashcroft, the attorney general at the time, asserted that authorities would take 'suspected terrorists off the street' and engage in 'aggressive detention of lawbreakers and material witnesses' to disrupt possible al-Qaeda plots."

In other words, they just scooped up all the "suspected terrorists" they could find (i.e., Muslim and Middle-Eastern-looking men) in hopes of discovering a theoretical needle in a haystack. That's called racial profiling. It's immoral. It's ineffective. And it's an expensive waste of time.

Will there be no accountability ever in the Bush administration's misguided "war on terror"?

According to a piece by Lyle Denniston at SCOTUSblog, the Court found that "Ashcroft was immune because he had not violated a constitutional right that existed at the time of al-Kidd’s arrest in March 2003."

So apparently universal human rights don't count. Only court-interpreted constitutional rights.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, to which the U.S. is a signatory, states the following:
Article 9.
• No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile.

Article 10.
• Everyone is entitled in full equality to a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal, in the determination of his rights and obligations and of any criminal charge against him.

Article 11.
• (1) Everyone charged with a penal offence has the right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to law in a public trial at which he has had all the guarantees necessary for his defence.
But apparently the "justices" sitting on the highest court in the land cannot be bothered with such considerations.

>> Read more on this case at SCOTUSblog.