Monday, December 23, 2013


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


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.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

48 Hours (give or take a few) 'til Sequestration.....A Few Slightly Connected Thoughts on the Matter!

It's the middle of the last week of February and, due to a temporary delay over the debt ceiling, we have two days before the dreaded "sequester" could possibly go into effect automatically.  If a deal isn't made by March 1st, then $1.2 trillion in budget cuts across the board goes into effect with massive cuts through a hard cap on government spending.that emerged as part of the 2011 Budget Control  Act. 

These cuts will affect a wide range of programs.  From civilian employees at the Pentagon and military bases to teachers, there will reportedly be some jobs lost as a result.  Employees in a number of other government agencies will reportedly be forced to take a day off without pay to save money. In addition, air traffic control towers may be shut down at some smaller airports.  Some pundits worry that the cuts on non military programs may hit the social safety net.  While some sources report that the sequester will be gradually implemented, the fact that we're facing something unfamiliar means we likely don't know what to expect if the sequester goes down.

Some supporters of the sequester claim this will be a minor budget cut and place the blame on President Obama, even accusing him of campaigning (despite the fact that he can't run again).  Opponents claim that it will drastically effect the economy with massive job losses for those working for the government (civilians at the Defense Dept, for example) as well as possibly hitting Social Security and Medicare.  Amongst the rank and file (i.e.: those of us that aren't elected officials) many people view this as a form of partisan bickering and a lack of compromise.  While current polls seem to find the majority of those surveyed would blame the Republicans for the sequester, there are also polls showing it might hit Obama as well.  Putting aside polls and the perceptions given to us by the mainstream corporate owned media, there is one thing about the sequester that a lot of people (including some of those people in Congress) seem to not understand.

This was supposed to be a doomsday scenario of sorts.  The massive cuts on both sides was intended to be something allegedly so horrible that both sides would do their best to make sure it didn't happen.  What Obama didn't count on though was the transformation of the Republicans by the Tea Party into embracing the right wing's worst elements, including a tendency to make the poor sacrifice over problems created by the top 1%.  Expecting this doomsday scenario to be avoidable was one thing when one assumes both sides are trying to be reasonable, but these are different times.  Right now, most of the Republicans are either firmly in teabagger clutches or so afraid of being primaried on the right that any sign of compromise or willingness to meet halfway is considered treason.  In this climate, you have factions in the tea party movement that are taking credit for what's about to happen.

The irony is that this can all be easily avoided.  Since it is a man made scenario, Congress can always repeal it and dodge the bullet that way.  They could also put aside the rhetoric about the deficit and raise the debt ceiling (as was business as usual before the teabaggers decided to make the houses of Congress even more like elementary school than it already is by digging their heels in on this even further). 

What is likely to happen if sequestration happens is that the U.S. enters a form of austerity where a lot of people who are near the bottom of the economic ladder take the brunt of the hits the cuts entail.  Supporters of the sequester will say this is needed to get the deficit under control.  Yet, ironically, the deficit has gone down under the Obama administration.  Also, the job layoffs will hit in areas the right normally seems to have wet dreams about (hint: there are civilians that work on military bases).  While the GOP has wanted to exempt the Defense Dept from the sequester, they have been more than willing to throw everyone else under the bus.

So if this is so horrible why is mostly one side willing to bring things over the cliff to get their way?  Sure, Obama has decided to go forward but when you're facing an opposition that seems hellbent on making sure you get absolutely nothing done (or as Obama might call it, most of his first term in Congress).  Given that many of them went on record as saying their main goal was to make Obama a one term president, I personally wonder if this is a temper tantrum of sorts for not getting the election results they wanted.  I really hope that's not the case but sometimes you have to wonder about that.

We have a day and a half before the sequestration cuts kick in and take the country into unknown territory.  In this time a deal could possibly be made at the last minute to make this much ado about nothing.  However, it's just as likely (probably more likely) that this could go into effect and affect thousands (if not millions) of people in the process. 

I don't know what will happen but I worry about the future if the worst case scenario goes into play.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Feeling Better

My apologies for being out of the running for a while.  I've been recovering from a cold so I haven't been focusing on the computer outside of the paying job.  I hope to catch up to speed quickly. 

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Blog For Choice Post 2013

Today marks the 40th anniversary of Roe v Wade, the Supreme Court decision that ruled that state laws outlawing a woman's right to an abortion were unconstitutional. While the past four decades have seen the ruling under attack on cultural, religious, and political grounds, the ruling remains the law of the land even as access to the procedure becomes even more of a target than ever. In honor of this day participants have been asked to tell why they are pro choice.

The basic reason is that I believe that any decision regarding a pregnancy is up to the woman and her doctor. There are a number of reasons which can impact whether a woman feels ready to have a child or not. Whether it's for a medical reason (a sudden illness, the possibility the pregnancy can kill the woman carrying the fetus) or someone surviving an abusive situation or rape or whether one isn't ready financially or emotionally to have a family, the reasons can be as varied as the individual.

Because of this, expecting a one size fits all approach towards whether a woman should carry a child to term is myopic at best and dangerous at worst. Whether its telling a rape victim that her pregnancy is a gift from God or attacking a woman's reasoning in making her decision, there are many variables that factor into whether a woman wants to and can afford to bring a child into this world. To automatically assume that all will be good if she doesn't get an abortion is shortsighted at best and often reeks of an arrogance that doesn't take the other person's situation into account.

I also support a woman's right to reproductive freedom and reproductive justice because of the issue of when life begins. Many people who consider themselves "pro life" have recently moved from claiming that life begins at conception to claiming that a frozen embryo is an actual person. While it is true that a fetus is DNA, the anti choice movement claims that both a fetus and a frozen embryo is a complete human being. People forget that Roe was actually a compromise ruling of sorts that applied before the point of viability rather than actually legalizing abortion on demand. Add to this the current attempts to claim contraception is the same as abortion that the pro forced childbirth contingent is currently pushing to confuse the issue and its apparent that its less about concern for either when life begins or quality of life but as a matter to control women's lives.

Finally I want to bring up an issue that people in the anti choice movement have been trying to frame as common lately. About a year or so ago I was on my way to try and catch the end of a rally to support Planned Parenthood. As I was trying to find a good time to cross the street and get a sign, I saw that one of the anti choice protesters picketing in front of the clinic was holding a sign that said "Women Regret Abortion" on it. Almost immediately (and ever since) when the pro forced childbirth crowd tries to spin the abortion leads to regret angle the following song quote pops in my head...

      "You're taking one thing that one girl does/And you're making it represent all of us." - "Do You Like Me Like That" by Bratmobile off their 2000 album Ladies, Women and Girls.

Those two lines that I couldn't get out of my head that hot Saturday afternoon perfectly nails this use of this angle for people claiming to be "pro life" to the wall. While some women may have some regret over their decision, trying to spin it as every woman who has an abortion will be racked with regret paints women as one mass group who all think and act alike rather than individuals. By ignoring this simple fact, the anti choice movement talks down to women and overlooks the mix of education, experience, and circumstances that informs each person's life overall. The refusal to realize that is one of the main facets of the anti choice/pro forced childbirth movement that I find distasteful.

I realize that the decision on whether to carry a pregnancy to term isn't a simple decision. However, it is because of what's involved in making the decision that I feel it's best to respect a woman's decision whether it's to give birth or get an abortion. Each person has their own reasons and understanding about what they're going through and it is important that a personal decision such as be between a woman and her doctor. If she chooses to let other people know about her choice, that's her right but if she doesn't there's probably a damn good reason for it. In a situation like this respecting said decision is the most prudent thing to do if one wishes to see women as people with agency over their own bodies and their own decisions.

While I feel this barely touches the surface, these are amongst the main reasons why I consider myself pro choice on this issue.

P.S.:  I realize not everyone will agree with me on this issue.  However, if any comments gets especially hateful, abusive, or ignorant I reserve the right to moderate and even delete if necessary.  Consider this a warning in advance.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Pussy Riot Update - January 2013

On January 16, Masha Alekhina of the Russian performance art collective Pussy Riot will get a hearing in the prison where she's being held over whether to postpone her prison sentence on the grounds of her being a single mother of a small child. If ruled in her favor her sentence will be postponed until her son turns 14.  While this is only a temporary especially solution (especially since Pussy Riot should've never faced charges of hooliganism to begin with over their infamous church performance),  it would allow Masha to be reunited with her child.

It's hard to say what will happen in the hours ahead.  While I want to be hopeful, the current situation in Russia seems more about punishing Putin's perceived allies regardless of the costs in the international picture.  In a trail where the three members of Pussy Riot weren't allowed to truly defend themselves and focused more on hurt feelings of religious believers rather than on actual issues (or the fact that similar acts i the past were punished with a fine), Putin and the Russian Orthodox Church took a situation that would've been a footnote and made the three women political pirosners and martyrs in the process.  In a state that was allegedly secular, this shift in power towards a potential theocracy is troubling indeed.

Between tomorrow's hearing and the hearing over allowing Yekaterina Samutsevich (who was released conditionally) to be included as an interested party over the ruling that Pussy Riot's videos are extremist (a decision made after the verdict was already in) on the 24th of this month, one wonders what turn the saga of Pussy Riot will take next. Whatever happens we have to keep the pressure on to make sure the imprisoned members of Pussy Riot are released unconditionally and that Katerina gets an unconditional release as well. 

Only time will tell but it will not go away quietly.