A House Without Decency

In a scuffle over HR 1227, Gene Taylor had his remarks stricken from the record, and his right to speak for the day rescinded after complaints from Tom Price.  The problem?

Apparently, you aren’t allowed to question a fellow Congressman’s “decency” on the floor of the House. How could we ever abide such harsh rhetoric! What will we tell the children?

Really.  It’s that specific:

He added that he was not aware the word “decency” was not to be used in that context.

During a debate over a bill to provide affordable housing for hurricane Katrina victims, this was deemed important enough to waste time on.  If a senator decided to force the entire house to sit and wait while he got a high score playing unreal tournament, might this not be considered a waste of taxpayer’s money?  Why any less so for whining about accurate criticism?  (Via DavidNYC of DailyKos, From SunHerald):

“Mr. Price, I wish you would have the decency if you are going to do that to the people of South Mississippi, that maybe you ought to come visit South Mississippi, and see what has happened before you hold them to a standard that you would never hold your own people to, and that you failed to hold the Bush administration to.”

David gets to the accuracy of the statement in his opening paragraph:

As we’ve long known, the GOP has no problem writing blank checks for Bush’s indefensible war. But as soon as it comes to domestic spending on anyone but the ultra-rich, they pretend to be the party of fiscal responsibility. Indeed, it’s a pretension they relish whenever it gives them the opportunity to stick it to the less well-off.

Tom Price’s whine-fest aside, the idea that any speech can be stricken from the record, or that your right to speak as a representative can be revoked is repugnant.  The house effectively silenced every citizen Gene Taylor represents because it did not approve of his use of language!

How can a body that purports to represent the American public have the utter lack of decency to resort to such a tactic?


ERA: What the Right is Willing to Sacrifice Women’s Rights For

The Equal Rights Amendment may finally see the light of day.  Shakes has it down to a science:

I’m crying. I’m honestly sitting here crying, reading that line and thinking that it may finally make its way into the Constitution in my lifetime.

That sentence would subject legal claims of gender discrimination to the same strict scrutiny given by courts to allegations of racial discrimination.

…”I think we’ve made a lot of people think about this and say, ‘Yes, this is the right thing to do,’ ” said Arkansas state Rep. Lindsley Smith (D), who sponsored the ERA and has vowed to bring it up again when the legislature reconvenes in 2009. “The question I get most frequently is ‘Lindsley, I thought this already was in the Constitution.’ “

Yeah, I’ve heard that once or twice myself. Probably because most Americans are fucking amazed that it isn’t.

There is no reason in hell why it shouldn’t already be.  That won’t stop the bigoted opposition from trying to stop the amendment (emphasis mine):

Of course, the usual suspects are reemerging to fight it, just like they did last time: “In the 1970s, Schlafly and others argued that the ERA would lead to women being drafted by the military and to public unisex bathrooms. Today, she warns lawmakers that its passage would compel courts to approve same-sex marriages and deny Social Security benefits for housewives and widows.” The real issue buried in all that nonsense is, of course, “same-sex marriages.” Other opponents are all fidgety “because courts in two states have ruled that equal-rights amendments in state constitutions justify state funding for abortion.” Said Arkansas state Rep. Dan Greenberg (R): “The more general language you have in a constitutional amendment, the more unpredictable the policy impact will be.”

Yeah, who knows what will happen when we finally recognize women as equals?! Maybe frogs will fall from the fucking sky!

The same fear of unexpected repercussions was dredged up when Massachusetts began recognizing same sex marriages.  Shakes is right on though, this will be a battle about same sex marriage and abortion, although I expect same sex marriage to play a more prominent role (it is scarier, after all).  I don’t know how successful that strategy will be.  Amanda has some good insights:

I welcome the fight. The only thing that the ERA has against it is that it’s pretty much certain that if it passes, same sex marriage will get legalized in its wake. That’s politically problematic, but as a human rights issue, it needs to happen. Expect that conservatives will return to the issue repeatedly, and denying that this is a side effect is both degrading to gays and lesbians and untrue to boot. But again, this isn’t the 70s. People have become acclimated to the idea of gender-neutral marriage, so that’s not nearly the obstacle it was in the past.

Even so, it will help to frame this firmly as a trade.  As Shakes notes:

Opponents of the WEA are so tired. Their arguments against it are so tired. Waaaaah! Same-sex marriage! Waaaaah! Abortion! They’re willing to deny my equality under the law just because it might open the door to other battles they’re eventually going to lose, anyway.

There is no reason to trade fundamental equality under the law for homophobia.  That is precisely what opponents of the ERA are preparing to do.   It puts them in a weak position.  It comes down to:

“My Rights or Your Bigotry?”

The right to be free from discrimination applies to everyone, not just women.  The fact that it will have the most impact on Women’s Rights is simply sad commentary on our society.  This is a Human Rights issue, and it is past time for the United States to take a strong lead by confirming Equal Rights regardless of Sex.

Pesky Post Humans: Convert or Die!

Dave takes a nother look at some choice eliminationist crazy talk from the right (quoting Mark Steyn):

It’s getting harder not to conclude that parts of Europe are evolving into a kind of post-human society.

“Post-human”? The clear implication of this coinage is that these people are also sub-human, or in any event non-human — and by extension, fully worthy of extinction or elimination.

Mark Noonan continues the crazy talk:

And then Mark Noonan at Blogs for Bush picked it up and ran with it, extending the reach of these “post humans” to America as well, and concluding thus:

There are two things which can stop this slide into barbarism and death: the conquest of the west by people who believe in something, or the revival of a west which has returned to its moral and intellectual roots. Those are the choices – be conquered by Moslems (who at least believe in something higher than themselves and their personal pleasures), or become Judeo-Christian. Death or conversion, take your pick.

It isn’t too hard to see the basic theme of palingenesis running through this analysis — which, combined with the ugly eliminationism, makes this meme possibly the most definitively fascist talking point to proceed from the “mainstream” right yet.

If you click through to Mark’s post, it just get’s worse:

We’ve been energetically going away from these roots for more than a century and a half, and our result of this is cannibalism, incest and infanticide. There’s a word for all that: barbarism.

Mark is placing the West’s “moral and intellectual roots” at opposition with the barbarism of ‘”modern” thinking’.  There are a host of problems with his rant:

  1. During whatever “golden age” Mark is imagining,  does he really think that cannibalism, incest and infanticide did not exist?  Or is he faithfully pointing to the theocratic Dark Ages as a model of human decency?
  2. The “moral and intellectual roots” Mark is pointing to is clearly religion, specifically Christianity.  That, in conjunction with his dictum “Convert or Die”, is bringing back the blood and the suffering of the inquisition and other forced conversions throughout history.  It is painting the shame of the West as its glory.
  3. It assumes that a few violent cases represent the morality of an entire society.
  4. It assumes a those accused in said crimes are not religious.
  5. The forced conversion advocated is in no way compatible with the founding principles of this country.  I suppose this is to be expected from a “Blog for Bush”, but some pretense of care for the constitutional separation of Church and State would have been nice.

As a prescription for America, Mark’s advice would throw out our freedom in exchange for a bloodless past that never existed.  When Americans are called imperialists and crusaders, it is this kind of thinking that builds that perception.

This is an end we should all reject.

German Politician Called a Whore for Wearing Gloves

I must be missing something very central to German politics.  In this country there is this awful tendency in the press to focus on a woman’s fashion sense as a direct correlate of her political sense.  However in Germany the underlying misogyny is right out in the open:

A German politician who helped to topple Bavarian premier Edmund Stoiber has been attacked by her colleagues for posing in latex gloves for a magazine.

Pauli, who also wears a wig in the pictures, lashed out at the magazine for placing the photographs under a headline reading “Sankt (saint) Pauli.” The term is well known in Germany as the name of a Hamburg red light district.

Amanda has an old post of interest on the subject:

But as soon as I thought of that, I thought to myself, “But sluts are held in contempt by the patriachy because they are bold and unapologetic about having sexual urges.”

Even if Pauli did dress in a boldly sexual manner, how is that wrong?  Why should politicians lock parts of themselves away from the public?  Or are the Germans just as afraid of Sex as Americans are?  From the article (emphasis mine):

Politics needs to have a certain degree of respectability and Ms. Pauli has damaged this,” Norbert Geis, a national member of parliament in the CSU, told the Mitteldeutsche Zeitung paper.

“Her behavior is beyond the pale. She has brought this on herself,” said party colleague Peter Uhl.

Politics is, after all, such a proud and serious business.  But note the frame here.  A women wearing gloves, specifically a woman who dresses in a way that men find sexual, is outside the realm of respect.  Also note the use of blame:  “She has brought this on herself”.  She is to blame for the way male politicians perceive her, and by extension for the way they act towards her (publicly criticism).

The criticism of Gabriele Pauli is such thinly veiled misogyny, you would think the politicians going on the attack would have opened themselves up to a severe verbal counter.

Oddly Enough, Reuters and Women

An article on France tackling the issue of grossly underweight models is up on Reuters.

It falls under the Oddly Enough section.  Right next to articles on April first pranks and “stolen mummy hairs”.  Is this an editorial prank, or does Reuters really believe women’s health belongs in this section?  The article itself has a serious tone:

Designers, model agencies and others in the fashion industry have been widely attacked for promoting an emaciated look which critics say contributes to eating disorders in young women.

“We must take a stand. When the girls weigh a kilo too much they are seen as failures,” Paris town councilor Violette Baranda told Le Parisien newspaper. “There are some twisted designers who are making women thinner and thinner.”

The issue was back on front pages this week after Donatella Versace, who owns part of one of Italy’s most famous fashion houses, said her daughter was suffering from the eating disorder anorexia.

What is Reuters thinking?

Candidates: Stand Tall and Roar on Health Care!

Why won’t any of the front runners endorse single payer health care?

CCR on CounterPunch via Commie Curmudgeon (II):

Polls indicate that the majority of the American people want single payer.

But who will deliver?

On Saturday, the Center for American Progress Action Fund and Service Employees International Union (SEIU) sponsored a forum in Las Vegas for presidential candidates to discuss health care.

No Republicans accepted.

Seven Democrats accepted.

All the candidates at the forum agreed that universal health care was the goal. (Even the Business Roundtable and the insurance industry now say they want “universal health care.”)

But only one – Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) – accepts the only answer that will work – single payer.

Chris Truscott weighs in, and it is his closing comment I want to highlight:

In 1961, when President John F. Kennedy announced his plan to put a man on the moon by the end of the decade, he didn’t sugarcoat things. He called on Congress and the American people to do better; to accept the greatest challenge; to make a “firm commitment to a new course of action.”

As we know, Americans responded.

Nearly a half century later we can do the same thing on health care. But before we do that, our political leaders must find the courage to lead and meet this great challenge.

Health Care is a clear win issue.  Moving to single payer will cut costs, increase health, and save lives.  Americans want this.  This is the kind of issue that gets new, dedicated voters into the booths on election day.  It is the kind of issue that turns voters into volunteers.

Democrats are heading into 2008 strong.  The Republican candidates are weak, and burdened by Bush’s legacy.  However if the Democrats want to do more than win the White House by a small margin, we need to take bold action.  There are three policy areas where we are very strong, and an aggressive offense will leave the Republican party smoldering:

Democracy – On everything from verified voting to constitutional rights.  The Bush administration has either neglected or actively attacked the political foundation of this country.  Who will step up and defend it?

Security – We need to go after the terrorists without making new ones.  Perhaps even find a way to turn terrorists into sympathizers, sympathizers into moderates, and so on.  We need to recognize that disaster preparedness is part of security, and that over-extending our resources makes us vulnerable.  This applies to soldiers, it applies to loans, it applies to good will.

Health Care – This is a big three issue.  Our lives, and the quality of our lives, are profoundly affected by health insurance.  The economy is affected when people factor in health insurance into the jobs they choose and the money they spend.

On all three issues, candidates can take strong positions that will sweep state and federal candidates into office along side them.  To do this, we must have candidates who take those positions and hold them in the full fury of the right wing media machine.  Deflect pundit criticisms with the sharp  point of reality.  Beat back insurance industry lobbying with youtube virals (“Your Health, Your Right!”).  Strike down every false policy position on the big three with one hand, and with the other present a bold alternative immediately.  We can do this.  Imagine looking back on 2006 and realizing we were just warming up.

If the candidates can do this, they will be surprised at the power in their voices.  That will be us, joining in.  People Powered Politics is much much more than just a slogan (emphasis mine):

In 1961, when President John F. Kennedy announced his plan to put a man on the moon by the end of the decade, he didn’t sugarcoat things. He called on Congress and the American people to do better; to accept the greatest challenge; to make a “firm commitment to a new course of action.”

As we know, Americans responded.

We will again in 2008.

Corporate Checks and Balances

When we discuss corporations, we need to recognize them as governments.  When you look at the start of the Labor movement and the tragedies that spurred it forward, the argument for organized labor and government regulations crystalizes.

Take Ilyka’s post over at Pandagon:

Sheila O’Malley reminds me that today marks the 96th anniversary of the Triangle Factory fire. Sheila has a link up to some pictures, or you can visit Cornell’s Triangle Fire web site.

If a government had been responsible for this tragedy… If it had been our own government, how would we react?  When libertarians argue passionately for a totally free market, it is as if each tragedy occurs in a vacuum, and history never repeats itself.  (Nevermind the possiblity that regulation could be thought of as part of the free market in itself).

Just as our government is supposed to have checks and balances, so should corporations.  One check is government oversight.  Another is citizen oversight.  The Public Relations industry didn’t spring up without a severe power to respond to: the public.

It is why fake grassroots organizations and efforts are viewed with such naked lust by corporations.  Broad public support is a marketer’s dream.  How would we think of fake websites if it had been the US Government instead of Sony?  There was some outcry over the Bush Administration’s efforts tackling mainstream media sources.  What if we found out a prominent right wing blog was run by a PR firm for the administration?

We have a right and an obligation to keep corporations in check, just as it is our right and obligation to keep our government in check.  Corporations can be as rigid and authoritarian as they like.  But in the end?  They are subject to our democracy.  They are subject to us.