29 April 2011

What if William were gay?

As I sit here watching the royal wedding on TV, I find myself wondering what things would be like if Prince William had been born gay.

If Prince William were gay, would he have been able to come out openly as such and still be promised the throne? Or would he have been pressured into a sham marriage in order to produce the requisite image, heir, and spare?

I suspect the latter. After all, William's father had his own sham marriage, except that Charles's true love was another woman, not a man. Still, a sham marriage is a sham marriage.

I just keep looking ahead to the day when same-sex marriage will seem as outdated as the concept of a monarchy.

28 April 2011

Will birthers ever be satisfied?

Yesterday, the White House released the long-form version of Barack Obama's birth certificate.

Will this one be good enough for the "birthers" who rejected the short-form version that was released years ago?

For some, it probably won't be good enough. For them, I think nothing will be good enough.

Others are asking what took so long.

I just ask why it had to come to this.

The short form was proven valid long ago. And the short form happens to be accepted by the State Department.

If the short form wasn't enough, there were birth announcements in two separate Hawaiian newspapers to document the birth -- with that information having been fed to the papers by the health department, not any private conspirators who might have been thinking 40+ years ahead.

As a friend commented yesterday, he's still black. And so some will still grasp at anything they think could disqualify him from being their president.

Why can't they just get over it?

27 April 2011

Santorum still resents the gays

This is not any kind of big news. We already know that Rick ("Man on Dog") Santorum is a flaming homophobe. But on Sunday he reiterated it on Fox News, and I just had to share my thoughts because he makes me so furious.

In the Fox interview, he implied that gays already have the right to live as they want, and now they just want special privileges.

"It depends what you mean by 'rights'," he said. "Are you talking benefits as far as rights? They have the right to be able to -- employment. I don't know what you mean by rights. What I'm talking about are privileges. Privileges of marriage, privileges of government benefits is a different thing than basic right to live their lives as they well should and can as free Americans."

Um, Rick: They do NOT have the basic right to live their lives as they well should, because they cannot marry the person they love.

Previously in the same interview, Santorum had said, "My feeling is the relationship that should be recognized in public policy that provides exceptional benefit, unusual unique benefits to society is marriage. Marriage between a man and a woman who are there to join together for the purpose of continuing society, which is having children and raising the children in a home with a mom and a dad."

But what about same-sex marriages that do not produce children, due to medical issues, advanced age, etc?

The homophobes never seem to address those cases, or they try to tapdance around them.

What worries me most is that Santorum is thinking about running for president in 2012.

26 April 2011

Greenpeace speaks out for Chernobyl anniversary

Today, April 26, 2011, is the 25th anniversary of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in Ukraine.

Greenpeace representatives just completed a mission there, supported by 70 journalists from 18 countries. According to Greenpeace, "These seasoned journalists asked critical and insightful questions, none of them easily moved. But many of them were deeply disturbed by what they saw and heard – often by the mundane details that were mentioned matter-of-factly by the interviewees."

According to a Greenpeace blog post about the trip, the Ukrainian people continue to experience serious physical and economic consequences of that incident of 25 years ago.

For example:
...[T]ens of thousands of Ukrainian children need to be sent away every year to uncontaminated areas for at least a month, in order to allow the body to get rid of some of the Cesium-137 accumulated through eating everyday food like milk, mushrooms, berry jam, and meat.

...[R]adioactive waste containment and management had become an important sector of the economy, because of the Chernobyl disaster. The original sarcophagus, hastily built in the months after the accident, is meant to only last 25-30 years and now at risk of collapse. Underneath, the destroyed reactor is still on site and cannot be dismantled because of its extreme radioactivity.

... [I]t is considered impolite to ask workers building the new sarcophagus about their personal radiation dose. If it reaches the limit then they cannot work, which means they lose their job.
>> Read the full Greenpeace blog post: Chernobyl: distorted reality and unanswered questions

So how long will they be dealing with the aftermath of this year's nuclear disaster at Fukushima in Japan?

And why do so many people want to continue to build more nuclear plants where these things could happen?

25 April 2011

No, Sharia law is not on its way here

Over the weekend, while out doing my errands, I passed by two older men (in their 70s) who were lamenting the impending takeover of America by radical Muslims and the resultant imposition of Sharia law.

Sounds like something they probably picked up from Glenn Beck.

I wanted to stop and tell them that it's not going to happen. Our First Amendment forbids a government based on a religion. And if the radical Christians haven't fully taken it over yet, the Muslims certainly will not -- even though we have a president with that middle name.

But I knew I would just be wasting my time. So I just went about my own business.

22 April 2011

Things you can do on this Earth Day 2011 (and beyond)

Today, April 22, is Earth Day.

On this day, there are many things you can do to show your respect for the earth and its environment. Here are some ideas, repeated from last year's Earth Day blog post, since they're all still as relevant as ever (and so easy to do):

Say no to plastic bags: There are enough plastic bags in the landfills and in the oceans. If you haven't done so already, please invest in some reusable canvas bags and take them with you whenever you go shopping. You'll look cool and you'll help the planet.

Say no to bottled water: It's less regulated -- and therefore possibly lower quality -- than tap water, and the plastic bottles they come in are a whole other horror story. Instead, invest in a reusable stainless steel bottle, and refill it with plain or filtered tap water. It's better for the planet, better for your health, and better for your wallet.

Go meatless for a day: A 2006 United Nations report called the meat industry "one of the top two or three most significant contributors to the most serious environmental problems, at every scale from local to global." According to the website goveg.com, eating 1 pound of meat emits the same amount of greenhouse gasses as driving an SUV 40 miles. So try going meatless on Earth Day. Then expand it to a once-a-week "Meatless Monday" -- or more.

21 April 2011

An Earth Week insult

I'm used to insults from right-wingers. But this one particularly angered me, given that it happened just a couple of days before Earth Day:

Yesterday I went to my local wine and spirits shop to pick up some vino. As always, I had a reusable canvas shopping bag with me.

After ringing up my wine, the middle-aged man at the checkout counter started putting the wine into a plastic bag. I stopped him and pointed out that I had brought my own bag.

Rather than just saying "OK" and putting the wine in my bag, like everyone else there has always done, this guy had to scowl and ask, "So are you one of them hippie tree-hugging freaks?"

And, sadly, it was clear that he was not joking.

I smiled and replied, "No, just a freak who cares about the planet."

Next time I'm near that shopping center, I think I'll go back to the store and have a talk with the manager.

20 April 2011

A sad anniversary

Today is the one-year anniversary of the explosion at the Deepwater Horizon oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico. The resultant spill polluted the water, killed the wildlife, and put fishermen and other gulf coast workers out of business.

As if that's not sad enough, it seems that no lesson was learned by some.

BP and the Republicans can't wait to get back to drilling off our shores.

Drill, baby, drill!

In other words, kill, baby, kill.

19 April 2011

Where our tax dollars are going

Yesterday was tax day in the U.S. - the date by which all income earners in the U.S. must file our 2010 tax forms with the Internal Revenue Service.

I don't mind paying taxes. After all, my tax dollars help to pay for roads, police and fire departments, libraries, and other common services.

I do, however, resent having my tax dollars misspent.

For example, according to CNBC, 42.2 cents of every income-tax dollar are spent on the military.

At the same time, only 4.4 cents of every income-tax dollar go towards education.

So think about this:

We spend almost 10 times as much on killing and destruction as we spend on educating our young people.

Unlike the GOP, I don't think the answer is to reduce our taxes. After all, they like to cut taxes without cutting "defense" expenditures. (Instead it's the important domestic priorities that suffer.)

The solution: Elect a majority to Washington who will not allow themselves to be bought and sold by the military-industrial complex that (Republican) President Eisenhower warned us about.

But I won't hold my breath, particularly in today's political climate.

18 April 2011

Oil, water, and America's price priorities

As of April 11, the average price for a gallon of gasoline in the U.S. was $3.79. And I hear people complaining about it all the time.

Still, they don't think twice about spending much more per gallon for bottled water.

During a recent visit to a local sandwich shop, I noticed that 20-ounce bottles of Dasani water were selling for $1.75 each. That's $11.20 per gallon. Those bottles of water were practically flying off the shelf during the busy lunch hour. And I didn't hear a single customer complain about the price of the water.

Why the double standard?

Perhaps some people think that bottled water comes from purer sources than tap water, and is actually worth the price. But such an assumption is naive. In fact, the Coca-Cola Company has admitted that Dasani is nothing more than filtered tap water. And, with the wide availability these days of home water filtration systems, filtered water pitchers, and filtered water bottles, purified water is available to virtually everyone for pennies - not dollars - per gallon.

Perhaps some people believe that bottled water is healthier and safer than tap water. This, too, is naive. In fact, bottled water is less regulated - and therefore possibly lower quality - than tap water.

Perhaps some people see bottled water as a status symbol. But is your own personal (perceived) social status, as reflected in a bottle of needlessly expensive water, really worth the cost to the planet and its inhabitants?

The website BottledWaterBlues.com sums up the environmental impact of bottled water in these four points:
• 60 Million plastic bottles a day are disposed of in America alone!

• Massive amounts of greenhouse gases are produced from manufacturing the plastic bottles.

• Millions of gallons of fuel are wasted daily transporting filtered tap water across America and around the world.

• It requires 3 times as much water to make the bottle as it does to fill it... it is an exceptionally wasteful industry.
So, even if you recycle your own Dasani or Poland Spring bottles, there are all those other factors to negate that well-intentioned gesture.

Finally, and most importantly, if you buy and drink bottled water, you are supporting the privatization of something that is supposed to be a natural resource. And, in willfully paying corporations for something that you could otherwise get for free, you are compounding the problem. If water is something we have to pay for, then the poor will not be able to afford it. And, without clean water, it is impossible to survive.

Do you want that on your conscience?

15 April 2011

President Santorum?!

Rick "Man On Dog" Santorum, the ultra-conservative, homophobic Republican former U.S. Senator from Pennsylvania, is reportedly taking the first steps towards a 2012 run for the White House.

I shudder at the possibilities.

We the voters of Pennsylvania threw Santorum out of the U.S. Senate in 2006. But now he's competing at a national level, and the Tea Party has already demonstrated that there are enough far-right voters out there to make a difference in Washington.

Fingers crossed for some sanity.

14 April 2011

Pap time at Walgreens, ladies!

As Stephen Colbert recently reported (and righteously mocked), the zany crew at Fox & Friends recently informed us that we don't need Planned Parenthood, because women can get Pap smears and breast exams at Walgreens pharmacies!

I can't wait to see how they react when I walk into my local Walgreens and ask for a Pap smear.

I can see it now:

Young man at counter: How can I help you, Ma'am?

Me: I'm wondering if I need to make an appointment for one of your Pap smears, or whether you take walk-ins. And can I use my Blue Cross card for my Pap?

Young man at counter: We give flu shots, but not Pap smears. You'll have to call your doctor for that.

Me: Yes, you do give Pap smears. They said so on Fox News! May I speak with your manager?

I'm tempted to do it.

In fact, I'm thinking of how awesome it would be if thousands of women across the U.S. all did this in the next few days, just to make a statement.

If you've got the guts, let me know how it goes.

13 April 2011

If men could get pregnant

In sifting through the usual hate mail from the right in response to my recent column about their war on Planned Parenthood, a thought occurred to me:

If men could get pregnant, they'd probably fund Planned Parenthood more heavily than they fund the Pentagon.

And abortion would not be an issue.

12 April 2011

On Equal Pay Day, ask your members of Congress to support the Paycheck Fairness Act

Women's rights have come a long way over the past century. We can vote. We've got effective contraception. More than half of us are in the labor market, with many of us the primary breadwinners in our households. But we've still got a long way to go to achieve true socioeconomic equality with our male counterparts.

Today, April 12, is Equal Pay Day 2011. This is the day on which the average woman's wages finally catch up with what the average man earned in 2010. This implies that we're worth less. And that's just bull!

What you can do:

Today, some members of Congress will reintroduce the Paycheck Fairness Act, which would make it more difficult for employers to get away with wage discrimination.

The Act passed the House during the last Congress and came just a few votes short of moving forward in the Senate. It's time to try again.

Click here to ask your members of Congress to co-sponsor the Paycheck Fairness Act.

11 April 2011

The war on Planned Parenthood is a war on poor women

The Planned Parenthood organization is under attack from the right. With ACORN out of the way, I guess they needed to invent a new bogeyman to distract us from their failure to create all those new jobs they promised us during the 2010 campaign season.

But their war on Planned Parenthood is a threat to the health and wellbeing of low-income women everywhere. And, sadly, I don't think the GOP gives a damn about that.

Fortunately, the Republicans were not successful in their attempt to defund Planned Parenthood during the recent budget fiasco. But I don't think they'll stop trying, either at the national level or within the states.

Last year in New Jersey, for example, Governor Chris Christie successfully vetoed a bill that would have provided $7.5 million for women's health clinics around the state. As a result, facilities throughout the Garden State have had to tighten their belts at best. Planned Parenthood of Southern New Jersey had to close a clinic in Cherry Hill, and services had to be scaled back at those that remain open.

Anti-choice zealots call it a victory for "the babies". But in saving those "babies", the GOP is endangering so many more lives.

First of all, as Ezra Klein recently pointed out in his Washington Post blog, pregnancy termination represents only three percent of Planned Parenthood's services. The other 97 percent of their time and resources goes towards women's health and family planning - contraception counseling, cervical and breast cancer screening, STD prevention and treatment, and even vasectomies. (I wonder how many of the male Planned Parenthood opponents have had vasectomies of their own.)

As Planned Parenthood loses its funding, low-income women who rely on Planned Parenthood for their gynecological services will suffer. I was one of those women when I was a young adult working for $4.00 an hour with no health insurance. I could not afford to pay for the services of a private gynecological practice. So I relied on Planned Parenthood for my routine cancer screenings and contraceptive needs. And I've never had an abortion. Indeed, it's perhaps because of Planned Parenthood's contraceptive services that I never had to make that choice.

But, if the GOP gets its way, other low-income women might not be so fortunate. As clinics close or reduce their hours or services, some women will need to travel farther to get the medical and family planning services they need. And, depending on their locations and other circumstances, that could be difficult or impossible.

This could result in an increase in cervical cancer due to harder-to-obtain Pap smears. It could result in an increase of sexually transmitted disease due to reduced availability of STD education and treatment. It could result in more unwanted pregnancies due to harder-to-obtain contraception and family planning education. And, ironically, more unwanted pregnancies would lead to more abortions - safe ones or otherwise, as available.

I wonder: Is that really what the Republicans want? (Of course, they would probably just respond with a call for abstinence - as Sarah Palin taught to Bristol. Enough said on that.)

08 April 2011

800,000 political pawns

I'm on proverbial pins and needles. One of my dearest friends is a government employee. She is one of some 800,000 who are likely to be furloughed unless the House GOP grows up today and stops playing politics with the lives and livelihoods of the government employees.

The Tea Party Congresscritters who are causing this budget crisis were voted into office because the American people were frustrated and wanted a change. But I don't think this is the kind of change those voters had in mind.

People voted for them because they were fed up with the high unemployment rates. And now these newly elected Tea Partiers may cause 800,000 more people to lose their jobs.

Sadly, I think the irony is lost on too many people.

07 April 2011

Glenn Beck is leaving his Fox "News" show (but Fox will still be Fox)

Yesterday, Fox "News" and Glenn Beck's production company announced that Beck will be leaving his 5:00 pm television program later this year.

Some are speculating that the split is a result of the fact that literally hundreds of companies have pulled their advertising as a result of some of Beck's more controversial statements.

Whatever the reason, it's good that Beck will no longer be spewing his nonsense to the 5:00 pm audience.

On the other hand, Fox still has Hannity, O'Reilly, etc.....

>> Read the official Fox News announcement.

06 April 2011

GOP wants to pull the plug on Grandma

Republicans like to criticize President Obama's health care reform by claiming (incorrectly, of course) that it will set the stage for pulling the plug on Grandma.

But now the GOP wants to "reform" (i.e., destroy) Medicare. In other words, they want to really pull the plug on Grandma.

Ironic. And despicable. And frightening.

05 April 2011

Oil and nukes: Lessons never learned

After trashing the Gulf Coast last year with an oil spill of spectacular proportions, BP wants to resume drilling there. Fool me once, shame on you!

And now, despite Japan's nuclear crisis, pro-nuke folks are defending the use of nuclear energy technology rather than espousing safer power sources. Let's see... Three Mile Island... Chernobyl... Fukushima... And all those less publicized nuclear "accidents"... Fool me -- how many times?!

04 April 2011

Extreme right-wing symbolism sparks more violence

When Jared Lee Loughner opened fire at a Tucson shopping center in January, killing six people and seriously wounding U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords, he might or might not have been directly influenced by Sarah Palin's map that marked Giffords' district in crosshairs. And we might never know. Nevertheless, the map clearly represented a culture of violent talk that has become all too pervasive in Tea Party circles and the right-wing media that influence them. Each and every act of violent symbolism encourages a violent mindset that can all too easily incite the mentally unstable to violent action.

And it can also inspire our enemies. This was sadly demonstrated by deadly protests that have played out in Afghanistan in recent days in response to the ceremonial burning of a Koran by Florida preacher Terry Jones. Dozens have died so far in those protests, including several United Nations staff members.

Jones, mimicking Sarah Palin's defensiveness on the Tucson shootings, insists that he is not to blame for the Afghan protests. Denial, as they say, is not just a river in Egypt.

Violence begets violence. And so does violent symbolism.

A rational person cannot stir up her followers with tweets like "Don't Retreat, Instead - RELOAD!" and then expect them to react calmly and peacefully. Calm and peaceful is not how the right wing works.

And a rational person cannot hold a public burning of the Koran and not expect the Muslim world to see it as an act of Holy War - because, in a sense, it is.

Violence begets violence. And so does violent symbolism.

And these are not two isolated cases.

During the 2010 campaign season, Senate candidate Sharron Angle (R-NV) suggested "Second Amendment remedies" if the elections didn't turn out as the Tea Partiers would hope.

In September of 2010, a male Sharron Angle supporter pushed a female Harry Reid supporter and then punched her female friend in the face at a Nevada Senatorial debate. Coincidence?

Violence begets violence. And so does violent symbolism.

Then, in October, a defenseless female MoveOn.org volunteer was assaulted outside the site of a Kentucky Senatorial debate. While engaged in street theater trying to get Rand Paul's attention, Lauren Valle was pushed to the ground by some of Paul's supporters, and then one of them stomped on her head. She ended up with a concussion.

I tend to think it's no coincidence that the right-wing media are constantly bashing MoveOn.org, at least rhetorically.

Violence begets violence. And so does violent symbolism.

In cases such as these, one has to ask: Who are the real terrorists?

01 April 2011

On Monday, April 4, stand in solidarity for workers' rights (in memory of Dr. King)

Monday, April 4, is the anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. He was shot while defending the rights of sanitation workers in Memphis.

Today, workers' rights are still under serious threat from the corporate overlords. So, on Monday, events will be held around the U.S. to stand in solidarity to protect workers' rights. The events are sponsored by the We Are One coalition of labor unions and progressive groups.

Learn more and find an event near you: http://local.we-r-1.org/

"If we will join together, we will be able to speed up the coming of the new world in which ... men will no longer take necessities from the masses to give luxuries to the classes; a world in which all men will respect the dignity and worth of the human personality."
-- Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.