Friday, June 19, 2015

Remembering the Charleston Shooting...A Very Brief Comment.

First, I'd like to offer my condolences to the survivors, friends, and family members of the nine people killed in Wednesday night's shooting at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, SC.  Keeping you in my thoughts at this time.

Like most of you, the shootings in Charleston, SC has been a punch in the gut.  While most people appear to have gotten that the shooter Dylann Storm Roof was motivated by racial hatred when he killed those nine people I'm troubled (to put it mildly) by those who either want to write Roof's actions of as a sign of mental illness or even worse those trying to claim this the massacre was an attack on religious liberty and Christianity in particular. 

Never mind that Roof reportedly told the people at Emanuel AME that "they had to go" because they were "raping our women and taking over our country."  There are some people that want to claim that it is unknown why this happened (despite what Roof reportedly said).  To claim this as a sign of mental illness is an injustice to those people who may either actually deal with mental illness themselves as well as those that care about them.  In addition, the most known photo of Dylann Storm Roof shows him wearing patches on a military style flight/bomber jacket; patches of the flags of white ruled Rhodesia (now known as Zimbabwe) and apartheid era South Africa.  Add to that a friend's claim the Roof apparently had been planning this attack for six months and hoped to start a civil war and blaming it on mental illness(while comforting to some confused white people who may not want to face the dark side of white privilege) falls apart.

As for the claims (mainly on Fox News but some GOP Presidential candidates have stated it as well [hint, Rick Santorum, Lindsey Graham]) that the attack was a war on religious liberty and an attack on Christians, the only thing this act of domestic terrorism has in common with this claim was it happened in a church.  Roof waited 45 minutes in the church before acting and didn't say anything about religion when he unloaded his weapon.  That the shooter reportedly brought up race, not jus tto his victims but to several of his friends in the time leading up to this, should prove this claim to be built on a foundation of sand.  However, those taking this road only marginally care about the Emanuel AME victims at best and are really trying to spin what this asshat did to make white conservative christians appear to be by proxy victims. 

We must not let them do this.  The shootings on Wednesday night should only be debated on whether they are either a hate crime, an act of domestic terrorism, or both.  They weren't about attacking religion and any talk otherwise should be quickly and unapologetically quashed. 

In the days to come we will likely learn more about Roof's motivations (though I have a feeling we'll learn subtle details of what we already know).  For now, we should look at this horrific event and talk about it for what it is, not what certain people with theocratic or political machinations want it to be.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Net Neutrality Vote today - UPDATED

Today the Federal Communications Commission is set to vote on whether or not to save Net Neutrality on the Internet.  Net Neutrality means that service providers have to allow every website no matter how big or how small equal access to the public. What this means is that someone surfing the net can access any website at supposedly equal speeds.  For example, in this framework a small independent business' website can sell its goods with equal access as a large commerce web sites.

Today's vote will be on whether the Internet will be regulated as a public utility and keep the net neutral, thus allowing every website to be equal rather than the possibility of service providers controlling which websites get faster access to consumers.  While some forces claim this is a government tax that will interfere with the Net, Net Neutrality proponents claim this merely protects the status quo.

What is interesting here is the forces in support of Net Neutrality.  It has fairly wide public support yet is also being supported by large websites, and Internet start-ups.  More importantly it's being supported by those who fund Internet start-ups: venture capitalists who may invest in something reportedly started in a garage but are definitely hoping for a return on their investment.  Because of this crossroads there may be a chance that Net Neutrality is preserved via regulation as a public utility.

I'll likely update this later today once the vote is known.  However, here's some information on what the vote means.  Keeping my fingers crossed on this one, even if it appears likely that NN will be preserved. 

UPDATE: The FCC Panel voted 3-2 in favor of the proposed plan to make broadband a public utility and keep strong Net Neutrality protection.  While some opponents are talking about lawsuits or Congressional undoing, this is still an example of rare good news out of Washington.

Monday, June 30, 2014

A Brief Thought on The Hobby Lobby Ruling

Been at work at the paying job today when I learned that the Supreme Court ruled in favor of Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood that employers can object to covering contraception in their health care plans if it goes against their "deeply held religious beliefs."  Because of that I haven't been able to comment until now.

While I will go into this in further detail in the new print issue (this had to fall into my lap just at deadline time), there are a few things I want to point out.  First, this was based on a claim that brith control is the same as abortion (it isn't).  In addition, until the last few years contraception was required to be covered in health care plans in 28 states since the mid 90s (passed in part out of fairness because of coverage of Viagra in health care plans). 

Does anyone else find it both humorous and fucking nauseating at the same time that these employers feel their beliefs are against something that can stop pregnancy but have no problems with a medication that can lead to creating pregnancy.  I guess a sanctified stiffy is a fucking god given right. 

Disgusting.

Monday, December 23, 2013

PUSSY RIOT ARE FREE - FINALLY!!!

By now I'm sure you 've heard the big news.  Today  Maria Alyokhina (Masha) and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova (Nadia) were released from prison camps in Russia as part of Vladimir Putin's "amnesty."   While the Amnesty was obviously more of a PR stunt for Putin than any actual attempt to correct injustice (especially in their case given they only had a few months left until their sentence was up), I am happy that they are finally out of jail.

A lot has been written already on today (and more will likely unfold with time), I do feel its say to say that whatever Putin and the ROC thought would happen to Masha and Nadia while in prison has backfired.  Instead of breaking them, they left prison even more opposed to Putin and with plans to become human rights activists with a focus on prisoners rights.  While it can be assumed that the powers that be felt that Pussy Riot's memory would disappear once locked up, the International pressure from people from musicians to human rights organizations meant that the machinations of Russia's prison system ended up getting some exposure that wouldn't have happened if Pussy Riot had been given a fine (which before then was the precedent in terms of penalties) or if they'd let the group's Punk Prayer slide.

As Nadia and Masha begin the plans for future programs and connect with the people around them, it's important to realize the story isn't over.  As the story unfolds it will be interesting to see how the work these two ladies do will change the world around them, both in the big picture sense and in how things hope to be run.  In the meantime they plan to fight for their acquittal (which, if achieved, would reverse the injustice that happened when they were convicted and sent to prison in the first place.).

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

PUSSY RIOT AMNESTY

This news has been circulating around the internet but since the details have been a little uncertain, I decided to wait until news was certain.  However, now it can be told.  A proposed amnesty bill has been approved by the Russian that will either cease legal proceedings or release from prison many nonviolent offenders, including those convicted of hooliganism.  A final version that would extend amnesty to those facign trail who have not yet been convicted was approved unanimously today.

While there had been conflicting reports on whether this would apply to them, apparently the imprisoned members of Pussy Riot (Maria Alyokhina and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova) will be released from prison under this amnesty, as well as the Greenpeace arctic 30 (who were awaiting trail on hooliganism charges for an arrest at an Arctic drilling protest). 

While the government has six months to implement the Amnesty, some sources have suggested that Nadia and Maria might be released tomorrow or by the end of the week (I'm cautiously optimistic on this and hope this is the case).  We will let you know when they're released.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

One Week Down - A Couple of Thoughts Regarding The Government Shut Down



As I type this today marks we are entering the second week of the U.S. government shutting down over demands by Republicans in the House of Representative to defund the Affordable Care Act in order to pass a budget.  Put aside the irony of the day we went into shutdown as the exact same day that the website for what's commonly called Obamacare went live (and that several elements of the Act are already in effect) October 1st marked the start of the latest example of governing by crisis, if not chaos.   As the debate over the debt ceiling and the chances of the U.S. going into default in a week or so gets heated there are a couple of things to consider.

First up is the question of who is behind the shutdown.  The obvious answer is a House of Representatives which controlling party (in this case, the Republicans) have been taken over by Tea Party backed candidates, some of whom even ran on a platform that included a shut down.  However, as the week has continued on more of what has gone down behind the scenes has become public.  

Outside of the typical plans to push for shutdown emerging shortly after Obama's second term started, it turns out other forces behind the scenes played a part as well.  The Conservation Action Project, a coalition managed by the Heritage Foundation and the Council for National Policy, originally floated the idea of tying finding for the ACA to the budget, working with Tea Party politicians to maintain this goal.  With backing from right wing think tanks as well as elements related to the Koch Brothers, the push to get to where the government is at now was bubbling under the surface and moving further to the surface as politicians who originally refused to negotiate continued to push their demands as the shutdown neared.

While the GOP claimed the battle over the budget was simply over Obamacare, as the shutdown deadline neared they unveiled a list of 21 demands that included approving the Keystone XL pipeline, Stripping the EPA of its authority to regulate greenhouse gases, defunding Planned Parenthood, and removing the employer contraception mandate from the ACA, among other things.  In other words, they went from merely wanting to get rid of a law that was ruled Constitutional by the Supreme Court (still claiming it’s unconstitutional despite the ruling a couple years back) to basically demanding that a good chunk of the 2012 GOP election platform be enacted by the Obama administration 

That the strange coalition between the extremists in conservative Christian culture (a/k/a: the religious right) and their corporatist backers are willing to drive things to a halt over not getting what they want, there was a surprise of sorts.  It was reported that the US Conference of Catholic Bishops wrote a letter to House republicans urging a shutdown unless a CR over the budget allowed private employers to not allow contraception coverage in healthcare plans for reasons of religious conscience.  Given the Conference’s desire to be viewed as a voice for the hungry, their willingness to force people to remain hungry and not get help unless they get their way on an issue many Americans (including a number of Catholics) disagree with them on is disgusting to say the least.

Which leads us to the demands themselves?  Were they really expecting the Obama administration to cave on the ACA in order to pass a budget for the next year?  Yes, Obama had a dirty habit of seeking common ground way more often than he should’ve, but after winning re-election, it should’ve been obvious to the Republicans that their platform wasn’t desired by the majority who voted.  However, the GOP and their tea party/corporatist base still acted as if they had control of everything and that Obama still wasn’t really elected by the people.   With the final list of demands they had to be thinking either one of two things.  One, they’re trying to convince their base that Obama will give the GOP their platform, despite being the minority party in the Senate and not having the White House.  Or, more likely, they knew damn well Obama wouldn’t cave on this and finally would draw a line in the sand; thus leading to a shutdown.  It’s possible that it’s a combination of the two but they had to have known this would happen.

This leads us to the upcoming debt ceiling battle next week in hopes of avoiding going into default.  While the Obama administration finally realized that extreme compromising for the purpose of keeping things functioning may only lead to more demands from the GOP and their tea party backers that leads to constant crisis (including the 21 demands mentioned earlier), what happens here is anybody’s guess.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

A Brief Thought Regarding Syria

Like many of you, I've been concerned over many of the potential ups and downs regarding a possible attack on Syria from the U.S. government over the possible use of chemical weapons against their own people.  While President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry spent the last week or so pushing for a limited military strike against Assad's targets, things may be changing for a couple of fronts as Obama decided late last week to go to Congress before acting on his desire to enact a military strike that seems murky at best as to what their goals are and what may blow back as a result.

In the past day, it appears things may take a different path when an apparent offhanded remark about Syria turning over chemical weapons to international control by John Kerry led to a Russian proposal that Syria reportedly agreed to.  While this has delayed the vote in Congress while the Obama administration reviews the proposal, it has created a possible step away from a seemingly inevitable attack that the majority of Americans opposed to some degree,  Whether this is due to the threat of a military strike (as the Obama administration has claimed) or that the votes simply weren't there in Congress remains to be seen in the long run.

At this point it's hard to say what will happen.  The UN weapons inspectors haven't released their report (which could prove chemical weapons attacks and who used them) so that could impact things.  In addition, the review of the Russian proposal could also change how things unfold.  While this could be a step towards an actual diplomatic solution to the situation in Syria, circumstances could change at any time. 

Right now, things have come a long way but only time will tell what will happen in this situation.