Wednesday, March 28, 2012

The Tumbling Down of the Supremes.

I remember in my naive younger years when I believed the Supreme Court existed on an exalted plane in American government. The Supremes made up the Third Branch of government but it was the branch that was beyond petty politics and partisan rancor. Back then, I truly thought they were profoundly serious about accepting their responsibility as the final word on interpreting our Constitution. I imagined them deliberating, discussing, even agonizing,  over the momentous issues that came before them. They were the Oracles on the Mount far above the common herd that made up the rest of us.

Then came Bush v. Gore and my illusions, or perhaps that should be delusions, about the Supreme Court were shattered. Like a prized diamond that turns out to be glass, they were exposed as being as every bit as nakedly partisan as Karl Rove or even, Rush Limbaugh, only couching their pronouncements in more elegant language.

Five to four decisions have become what we expect on the major issues that come before the Court in the 21st century. Four justices invariably side with the Republicans. Four justices invariably side with the Democrats. Poor Justice Kennedy lives in that limbo state between the two but more often, swinging with the Republicans on the most important decisions.

As in Bush v in the United We Stand decision which declared corporations people and essentially, put our elections on the auction block to the highest bidder (as the Republicans wanted).

The Supremes barely even pretend to be neutral anymore. Justice Thomas sees nothing unseemly about his wife heading a Tea Party program that rails against The Affordable Care Act in the media. Justice Alito sees nothing off-putting about being taken to dinner by the opponents of Obamacare shortly before arguments on its constitutionality are to be heard.

So, what do we expect regarding the fate of Obamacare? Well, I'll tell you what I expect. I expect another split decision with the four conservative justices on the anti-constitutional side and four liberal justices on the pro-constitutional side and Justice Kennedy being the deciding voice. Maybe he'll flip a coin.

What is strange about this is that liberals like me pretty much hate individual mandates. We want a universal single-payer health care plan. The individual mandate was the Republican plan! We liberals saw Obama as caving to the other side in going with the individual mandate (although it is better than our current system, at least, not letting our insurance companies pitch us out for pre-existing conditions and allowing our grown children remain on our health care plan and mandating free contraceptives).

In a different universe, the Republicans would be arguing about the constitutionality of Obamacare (only it would be Romneycare or WhateverRepublicancare) and the Democrats would be on the other side. Is there any doubt, that if that were the case, the Supreme Court would also flip and vote just the opposite of what they will vote this time around?


Tuesday, March 27, 2012

"I Will Fucking Shoot You"

I have some sympathy with the Stand Your Ground law because I had to stand my ground once. I was parked behind a mall as it was getting dusk. I'd just come out from Christmas shopping and had several bags hanging on my arm. Two teenage boys, one black and one white, began following me. They moved apart to flank me, one coming from each side. I was sure they meant to mug me and steal my purchases....or worse.

I backed up to a car and fortunately, when I slid my hand in my purse, my gun was right there. I drew it and said, "keep on going, boys, because I will fucking shoot you."

They were two fit young men; I was a plump, gray-haired old lady. I knew, because I was the poster woman for vulnerability, I'd better convince them that I meant it. And I did mean it.

They took off running and I made it to my car. I was shaking so badly, I could barely get the key in the lock.

What would have happened if I had shot one of them, even killed one? They probably didn't have weapons. I was a sheep to their wolves. They didn't need weapons to mug a female senior citizen. They would, of course, have sworn they had no ulterior motive while insisting I over-reacted out of fear.

So, maybe I'd have ended up the bad guy or at least, the misguided guy. But maybe not. Maybe the police would have considered me more credible than two young gangbangers and sent me on my way.

That's not what I would have expected though. I would not have expected the act of killing someone to be treated as lightly as getting a parking ticket. I would have expected to be charged with something. Then the legal system would have taken over and thoroughly investigated the case. Hopefully, I'd have been exonerated in the end. But if you deliberately kill someone, even in self-defense, there should be some serious consequences. Causing a death is a momentous event, no matter why you do it, and should be treated as such. If you aren't willing to pay that price, then don't carry a gun.

I consider my experience a classic example of "stand your ground".

The Trayvon Martin case is not "stand your ground". When you stalk your victim, you are not standing your ground. When the police tell you to back off and you don't, that is not standing your ground.

Trayvon was a boy with a perfect right to walk through a neighborhood with his tea and Skittles while talking to his girlfriend on his cellphone. He had done nothing wrong. It didn't not matter if he'd been suspended from school. It did not matter that he was wearing a hoodie.

Bill O'Reilly on Fox News suggested that media organizations should not "rush to judgment". He says we should remember that there are two sides to the story.

Perhaps, he's right but how will we know about those sides unless Zimmerman is arrested, (although I'd have no objection to his bonding out while the case moves forward), and the case is investigated? It seems to me that it is the Sanford police who pre-empted the "two sides of the story" debate. They accepted George Zimmerman's side without question.

Even police officers are put on administrative leave and relieved temporarily of their weapon when they shoot a suspect. They know they are in for a huge headache until the shooting is proven to be righteous. You should face a headache when you shoot someone. George Zimmerman didn't even have to take an aspirin.

"Stand Your Ground" should not be an all-purpose, get-out-of-jail free card. It should simply be one element to be considered in the normal legal procedure.

I venture to say that at this point, George Zimmerman wishes that he'd simply had to face those consequences rather than the universal scorn and loathing in which he is now held by millions.

Did the police really do him any favors?


Thursday, March 22, 2012

Two Steps Forward, One Step Back

I have always believed that humankind is on a ever-inclining evolutionary path. Granted, sometimes our progress is so gradual as to be all but invisible but over all, we continue to evolve. We follow Nature's timeline (or God's, if you prefer), not our own. And if anything seems certain about Mother Nature/God, it is that s/he is in no hurry. If it takes eons to arrive at wherever our eventual destination is meant to be, so be it.

I got into a discussion with a friend on a political group I belong to yesterday. She argues that America's greatest years are behind it and that the 60's were the best of times. (She's a liberal but conservatives agree although they believe the "greatest" years were the 50's - I think they are both wrong.)

My friend is just enough younger than me (57 to my 65) to romanticize that era. To the teenager she was then, it was an exciting tie-die decade with the sombre colors of the old culture swirled together with the bright hues of new ideas in an rainbow amalgam of conflicting views.

We were all having our consciousness raised - blacks, women. (Gays, maybe not so much). Although raised conciousnesses are generally good in the long-range scheme of things, you have to be young to get off on a steady diet of drugs and free love and rock and roll. You have to be young to believe that getting blasted with water hoses and beaten with billy clubs and hauled off to jail in handcuffs is fun. It isn't fun for the participants although they willingly put themselves in that position for what they see as a more just society.

We accomplished positive things in the 60's and 70's and some not so positive things. We made gains in civil rights and slightly fewer gains in women's rights. But, as the conservatives proclaim, we weakened the ties of family and while that meant more freedom for adults, it resulted in less security for children. My generation of mothers believed fathers and step-fathers and boyfriends were interchangeable. They're not. Have you ever seen those happy, muddy children on the cover of the Woodstock album? Do you really believe their stoned and naked Mamas were paying much attention to their welfare?

Eventually, as always happens with people, we rode the pendulum too far. Bobby was murdered and so was Martin Luther King. Woodstock turned into death at Altamont. The J's all died of overdose - Janis Joplin and Jimmy Hendrix and Jim Morrison (along with lots of total unknowns). The non-military children turned against their brothers in uniform...until the roles were fatally reversed in Ohio.

We burnt out on all the ugliness and subsided back into the boredom of the 80's. We became Yuppies. Our greatest aspiration to live in a McMansion. Instead of "make love, not war", our new motto became - "hell with that, let's go make some money!" But that's all right. We fought our fight and no matter how much we backtracked, it wasn't all the way. It is never all the way. We took two steps forward in the 60's and then took one step back.

If that were not so, we wouldn't have an African-American president (who, with a few votes more, could just as easily been a woman president). We wouldn't have gay marriage prevailing in state after state.   We wouldn't have an all-volunteer army (even the Bush/Cheney cabal wouldn't have dared to tell America's parents they planned to re-institute the draft).

The other side - those "the 50's were wonderful" people - know they are losing the culture wars which is why they are battling tooth and nail and getting entangled in the web of contraception and Personhood Amendments and anti-gay marriage issues. They are clawing to remain relevant but in the end, they are doomed.

The latest generation has seemed to be sleeping or at least playing video games and texting on their I-phones rather than paying attention to what is going on in society. But, it is time now for them to take their two steps forward. I believe the Occupy Movement is the start of that. Income equality is the next great rallying cry. Women are waking up to the realization that the gains their mothers made for them are under threat and organizing to defeat those threats. This great Awakening will also result in failures along with the successes, just as ours did.

Two steps forward, one step back. That's the way it always goes and though sometimes, it is discouraging, the end result is a steady snail's pace forward.




Thursday, March 8, 2012

Thanks, Rush

Well, a slew of Rush Limbaugh's advertisers have fled his program. I had to laugh a little about that because Rush was simply being Rush. The same misogynistic, over-the-top, anything-for- a-headline, ripping-people-who-don't-agree-with-him asshole that he's always been. Had Sears or Citrix or Proflowers or AOL never listened to Rush before? Was everything he said up to the point of calling Sandra Fluke a slut perfectly agreeable to them? I guess it must have been.

What shocked me most was the Girl Scouts. The Girl Scouts advertised on Rush Limbaugh's show! OMG, as we say on the internets. I realize it was just one regional division and not the national program but how could anyone who had anything to do with young girls believe Rush Limbaugh was an appropriate vehicle for their message? Amazing.

Having said all that, I hate censorship more than I hate assholes. You have to deliberately turn the radio dial to find Rush. No one is forcing you listen. Personally, I'd rather have sharpened pencils stabbed into my ears but that's me. Because on the other side, I love Bill Maher's profane, edgy, occasionally even below-the-belt, humor. I loved George Carlin. I love Lewis C.K.

If anything, I think we go too far in protecting people's feelings. I appreciate satire and sarcasm, even when, yes, I admit, it might be hurtful to its victims. I've laughed at racist jokes and sexist jokes and dirty jokes and blasphemous jokes. I think some are ugly and unfunny but I don't get to decide. You leave my sense of humor alone and I'll do the same for you.

NASCAR fans get into this mindset too. If a driver does something they don't approve of (like knock their driver out of the way on the track or give an official the finger), they fire up and write letters to that driver's sponsors, essentially, trying to cause him to lose his job. I don't get into boycotts much. For one thing, I'm not sure they work. As long as Rush Limbaugh's audience number stays high, he'll find sponsors. As long as Driver X wins races, he'll find a sponsor. But the main reason, I don't care for boycotts is because the next time, opposite-minded consumers might to decide to boycott my driver or people who support my issue.

I think Democrats handled the whole Sandra Fluke issue very effectively. More power to them. They showed the Republicans for the anti-women party they seem to have become in the 21st century. But I hope one of them, maybe Barbara Boxer, advised Sandra before her star turn what she might be letting herself in for. I think they probably did and that she was up for taking on the Republican machine.

I have a bit of experience with this kind of situation myself. I was invited to speak before a Senate Policy Forum by Ted Kennedy (the same as now in that the Democrats weren't allowed to call it a hearing since they weren't the party in power) to speak on unemployment based on an article I had written for Newsweek.

Oh, my, it caused quite a stir just as with Ms. Fluke. Republican spokespeople talked about the polyester slack suit I wore and wondered if I lived in a trailer park. They questioned my intelligence and my integrity. Like Sandra, they stated that I was a deadbeat who wanted "something for nothing" from the government. (See, Republicans have never liked the working classes very well).

Was I heartbroken and hurt by all the criticism? Nope. Because, like Sandra, I had my staunch backers as well and I actually reveled in thinking I, a little old unknown from rural Indiana had caused heartburn enough to my important opponents to force them to speak out against me. Bottom line, if you're going to challenge your enemy to a duel, you have to accept that you might get bloodied a little in the process. She played the victim very well but I think Sandra Fluke understood this. I mean if ever a pot called a kettle black, it was Rush Limbaugh calling Sandra Fluke a slut!

So, Rush didn't get hurt, he's a shock job, for God's sake. It's what he does and he only got even more publicity than usual for his statements. And Sandra Fluke didn't get hurt. And the Democrats certainly didn't get hurt. So, who did?

Well, that would be the Republicans, first because they brought the whole issue of contraception up in the first place. Usually, they hide it behind abortion. This time they tried to hide it behind religious freedom. It didn't work. We all know now that the issue is contraception!

And secondly, the Republicans lost because none of their milk-toast candidates had guts enough to make even a weak protest about Rush calling Sandra Fluke a slut and a prostitute and saying women who got free birth control should make videos of themselves so he and others of his ilk could watch. They couldn't even bring themselves to flatly say they disapproved of a oh-so-powerful man beating up on a not-at-all-powerful woman (which is really the whole issue in a nutshell, isn't it?) Ah, such courage and character...NOT! They came across as spineless and who wants a spineless president?

So, thanks Rush for doing the Democrats a favor.



Saturday, March 3, 2012

Sluts and Prostitutes and Whores...Oh, My!

Well, now we know, don't we, thanks to Rush Limbaugh, what this brouhaha about the mandated contraceptive coverage in Obamacare is all about? It isn't about the Republicans reverence for fertilized eggs. It isn't about their deep concern for religious freedom. It is about sex - pure and simple. It is about these mostly older, mostly white men who truly seem to believe that if they don't keep us clamped down, women will turn into animals driven by our lust into God knows what depths of depravity. It is the same way they feel about gays and the meme they spread for so long about African-Americans who were, we were told, prone to engaging in randy, rutting sex at every opportunity.

God forbid! It appears to the small assemblage of moral purists (and their Stepford Wives...paging, Mrs. Santorum), that their ship of fools is about to be swamped by all the dirty, rampant sex washing across their bow, thanks to women, blacks, gays and Democrats!

Oh, how they miss the glory days when they called all the shots - those wonderful years when gays were closeted, negroes were intimidated and women were submissive. I'm sure they wish they'd never given their wives the privilege of voting because how can people who obviously aren't bright enough to make family planning decisions be intelligent enough to vote on issues like war and taxes?

Because you know how we women are? Give us a little freedom from the fear of pregnancy and our natural inclination is to turn into sluts and prostitutes, as Rush Limbaugh sees it. We want sex, lots and lots of sex, and if we're going to make men like Rush Limbaugh help pay for our birth control, why, we should at least be willing to film ourselves and provide the tapes on the internet. Give good old boys like Rush, a little cheap thrill for their contraceptive buck, so to speak.

It makes you wonder, doesn't it, how Rush managed to keep any of his four wives from getting pregnant? Is he impotent or sterile? Are all his marriages really platonic relationships, giving Rush cover so as to look normal? Or did his wives perhaps use birth control? 9Because, geez, who would want to be the mother who brought a Rush, Junior into the world?) If they did, did he even know it? I thought, on hearing his rants, and as Rachel Maddow illustrated so brilliantly on her show, that Rush doesn't know jack shit about how contraceptives work. He seems to believe that the more sex you have, the more birth control you need. How could you be married four times and bill yourself as the smartest man in the world and not even know simple biology? It boggles the mind. Would it be too much to ask Rush, before he expounds on these moral issues, to learn enough to know what the fuck he's talking about? Well, after all these years of Rushbo-ignorance, I guess it is.

Rush also didn't seem to know that Sandra Fluke, the Georgetown law student he slandered, wasn't even testifying of her personal experience with sex. She was speaking about a friend who had been prescribed contraceptive, not for birth control, but to prevent a serious medical condition. Because she was unable to afford her pills and because Georgetown refused to provide them, she ended up with a tumor that cost her an ovary. So, let's see - the Catholic priests want all of us to have baby after baby but by not providing this girl the medicine she needed, they may have prevented her from ever having a baby. A bit of a sticky wicket, huh? But I'm sure Rush and the Republicans believe God thinks it is a small price to pay to keep women in their places where they belong. Sometimes, sacrifices have to be made. Of course, those sacrifices are lots easier when you are ordering other people to make them.

I'm 65 years old. I've already fought this fight and yet,here we are again, brought back by the Republicans' way-back machine. Discouraging.