Tag Archives: Justice

I must have missed the meeting

downton abbey-Repug versionThe Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) expired last year and has not been reauthorized. The law has been held hostage by the Republican men on the Judiciary Committee over some asinine pretexts that the law might could be used to expand protection of undocumented or LGBT victims and allow tribal governments to arrest paleface abusers.

VAWA is not your everyday-no-big-deal-who-cares-we-can-live-without-it kind of law. This law changed everything for victims of domestic battering, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking crimes. It also changed everything for those who were trying to help – law enforcement, courts, social services and non-profits. VAWA funded local grants, which brought together and coordinated victim response, funded shelters, rape crisis centers, legal assistance and prevention programs. VAWA made domestic violence a federal crime, and for the first time, began protecting victims with disabilities, victims held hostage by their immigration status, Native Americans, teenagers and families. VAWA became law in 1994, written by then Senator Joe Biden and signed by President Clinton, and was reauthorized in 2000 and 2005 with broad bipartisan support. Going back to 1994 is unthinkable.

Last week, the bill reauthorizing VAWA (S. 1925) finally got out of the Senate Judiciary Committee. The vote was 10-8 with all Republican men voting against it. No telling when it could be scheduled for a vote or how many Republican men are planning to try and stop it.

If this isn’t about Republican men versus women, then they need to prove it.

Having spent last week listening to a debate about contraception that would have been out of place in episodes of Mad Men or PanAm, it seems now that the issue may not have been settled, at least not if Republican men have anything to say about it. Catholic Bishops, all men, are also not satisfied with the semantic compromise and now acting as if they wish to debate how their religious freedom extends to their corporate businesses and argue that their church’s freedom is more important than people’s freedom or equal protection.

This “religious” debate is about the minimum standards of coverage for health insurance policies — sort of like the minimum things in peanut butter to be labeled, “peanut butter;” or the minimum things included in a car to make it safe; or the minimum standards for clean air or water. In this case, it is about a list of zero-copay, preventive services and medicines, which have proven – yes, using facts – to lower the cost of health care and save lives. (Author’s note: I personally believe that saving lives is more important than saving souls, but realize there is not a bipartisan consensus on this issue.) Contraceptives are included in the list, not because of politics, but because they have been proven to save lives and money. But this debate is not about cost – inclusion of contraceptives is cost neutral and over time will save money.

There seems to be no “religious” argument about free condoms. Condoms are used by men. Men don’t get pregnant, aren’t at risk to die or endure complications while pregnant, don’t carry or deliver babies, and generally, aren’t even in a child’s life unless they want to be or are required by a court of law.

The “religious” argument is only about those working for corporate businesses owned by churches — churches are exempt from the law. The argument is only about contraception and only about denying access to poor working women, which could save their lives, while, in the opinion of their employer, could at the same time damn them to hell. Okay, it is also about individual privacy. Don’t forget, just last month, the Supreme Court confirmed that ministerial exception extended to church corporate businesses – women who decide they’d prefer to risk hell someday over death now, could easily lose their job without recourse.

If this isn’t about Republican men in cahoots with Religious men versus women, then they need to prove it.

What a time to be a woman? Forty years since ERA passed, but fell short of ratification,* we seem to be going backward. Fast. Traditional women’s issues are really family issues — equality, education, environment, healthcare, childcare, and peace — all under fire from the Republican right.

Also last week, we heard way too much clarification from Santorum, the Republican front runner, of his ideas on women —

On women in combat: “my concern is being in combat in that situation instead of being focused on the mission, they may be more concerned with protecting someone who may be in a vulnerable position, a woman in a vulnerable position.”

On rape: when asked by Piers Morgan, “Do you really believe, in every case, it [sic: abortion] should be totally wrong, in the sense that — I know that you believe, even in cases of rape and incest — and you’ve got two daughters. You know, if you have a daughter that came to you who had been raped.” Santorum responded with, “Yes.”

On unmarried mothers: “The notion that college education is a cost-effective way to help poor, low-skill, unmarried mothers with high school diplomas or GEDs move up the economic ladder is just wrong.”

On stay-at-home mothers: “Respect for stay-at-home mothers has been poisoned by a toxic combination of the village elders’ war on the traditional family and radical feminism’s misogynistic crusade to make working outside the home the only marker of social value and self-respect.’’

On equal opportunity: “Radical feminists have been making the pitch that justice demands that men and women be given an equal opportunity to make it to the top in the workplace.” — Washington Post

This week’s Republican front runner (Author’s note: at posting the decision had yet to be made whether to recount the Maine caucus results, which could either confirm Romney as the winner and this week’s front runner or make Ron Paul the winner and front runner. Should Ron Paul or Newt officially become this week’s front runner, I will add their hateful statements in an update.), Mitt Romney, is a lifelong member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and once was bishop of his Belmont, Mass., congregation and later president of the Boston stake (Mormon for division or area). While he seldom goes on record, his beliefs on the roles of women are consistent with his church, “woman’s primary place is in the home, where she is to rear children and abide by the righteous counsel of her husband” (McConkie 844), but evolving. Anti-abortion, even at the risk of the life of the mother unless he’s running for Senate and then he’s supportive of women’s rights unless he’s running for the Republican presidential nomination.

Just two weeks ago, the Republican men in the House were, “mounting an assault on women’s health and freedom that would deny millions of women access to affordable contraception and life-saving cancer screenings and cut nutritional support for millions of newborn babies in struggling families. And this is just the beginning…

…include the elimination of support for Title X, the federal family planning program for low-income women that provides birth control, breast and cervical cancer screenings, and testing for H.I.V. and other sexually transmitted diseases. In the absence of Title X’s preventive care, some women would die. The Guttmacher Institute, a leading authority on reproductive health, says a rise in unintended pregnancies would result in some 400,000 more abortions a year.” – New York Times

Even our beloved and trusted, Susan G. Komen for the Cure, took a stand against women before they reversed their decision and asked for another chance.

I keep asking myself, how is all of this possible? If there was an organizing meeting on this war against women, I missed it. Surely this isn’t coming from political consultants. There are more women than men, and more registered female voters. Seems like a political strategy destined to lose. It can’t be totally grass roots — I know some Republican men who treat their wives and daughters as if they were equal. There must be more to it.

The poor are always disproportionately women. How can any Republican person of faith or free thinker (forget that, they couldn’t be Republicans) conclude that good policy is balancing the budget on the backs of the poor? Yes, in the Bible, Jesus says, “ye have the poor always with you,” but that should not inspire Republican men to want to have more in poverty. Surely preventive medical care, adequate nutrition and quality schools costs less than generational poverty, prison and emergency room health care. Or is there more to this? Is it to keep wages low to attract industries and inspire real estate deals?

Or could it be the Tim Tebow corollary – God decides who wins, but won’t necessarily pick you every week?

Could it be that male Republican candidates are just trying to win the favor of God?

Does God really hate women or is the Old Testament God still mad about that garden of eden thing?

Or are Republicans trying to win the favor of religious voters fixated on a time way back when dominating men were relevant, though assholes?

Are Republican elected leaders and candidates really that stupid? How can they be pro-family and anti-woman?

Could the increase in partisan misogyny be a delayed reaction to mothers a generation ago switching from nursing to formula?

Then, I turn on the television. The role models for this type of behavior are all there. The stereotypes. The sexism. The boys club thinking. The wealthy who don’t need two working in a household. The idiotic singles sitcoms. Or Downton Abbey, oh, those were the best of times when all was perfect for the gentry – when roles were right and all others were beaten or jailed – when women could aspire to be a maid, but not a butler. All in prime time. Local news may be worse –  by turning a light on the personal tragedy of the hour and asking the “tough questions” of how battery feels or how could such a fine young man go wrong? And then, of course, there is the cable “news.”

Or is this really just about something Republican men are not able to understand? That women are people, too.

Author’s note:  And that’s just in the US. Around the world, …

*Full text, for those who might have forgotten why the Equal Rights Amendment was so controversial, “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.”) Just for the record, the ERA needed three more states. Here’s a list of those that did not ratify: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Utah, Virginia.

The day the music died

Something sinister must have occurred to start the cycle we are in now.

A cycle in which our political center has moved. When being “pro-business” became more politically popular than being “pro-worker.” When being for “free markets” could rally crowds and “consumer protection” would bring on “boos.” When prosecuting a “war on terrorism” stokes jingoism instead of fears of “nation building,” while “presumption of innocence,” “due process” and the “right to counsel” was the treasonous coddling of our enemies. When “gun rights” became more important than “insuring domestic tranquility.” When “faith” could claim a higher standing than “fact,” or “truth,” or “science.” When a call for “tort reform” was politically correct and “rights to redress grievances” became archaic. When discrimination based on “immigration status” became acceptable and mainstream. When clean water and air became associated with our world “competitiveness” and the cost not to pollute became associated with jobs. When “illegal” addiction would become criminalized with three strikes and you’re out while “legal” addiction would be promoted in prime time and on nightly stock market reports. When farm subsidies turned into corporate farm subsidies and small farms began disappearing throughout our hemisphere. When simple charity and kindness came mean “socialism” or worse? When we forgot why we had had anti-monopoly laws, taxed inheritance and regulated trade. Exactly when did “corporations” begin to have the rights of people, but so much more power? When did the music of the great society die?

There are cycles to our young republic that affect individual rights, justice, fairness and equality. Since our beginning we have moved from plutocracy to populism to oligarchy to kleptocracy and back. And forth. From idealism to materialism. From racism, to closet racism, to pragmatic racism. From nationalism, to imperialism, to isolationism, to exceptionalism. From secular, to criminal, to “in god we trust” to “born again” rule. From open immigration toward closed borders. From due process, to no process and interdiction. From hope to fear. Boom to bust. Republican to Democrat. From divided, to united, to polarized. And variations in between.

November 5, 1968.

1968, as years go, was a hellish time. Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy were assassinated. Lyndon Johnson was losing wars, Vietnam and the one on poverty. These wars divided our politics, our families and our generations. The US went off the gold standard. North Korea captured one of our spy ships and held its crew hostage for almost a year. The Civil Rights Act was signed amid protests from last generations’ Tea Party. We installed Saddam Hussein in Iraq. The Pope condemned the use of birth control. Russia re-invaded Czechoslovakia. Tommie Smith and John Carlos raised their arms in a black power salute during the worldwide telecast of the Olympics. NBC cut off the final 1:05 of the Raiders-Jets football game to air the movie, “Heidi.” Airlines were hijacked to Cuba. Yale began admitting women. Jackie married Ari. During a violent Democratic convention, the sitting Vice-President from Minnesota defeated the populist, anti-war Minnesota senator, leaving most of the country wondering where the hell Minnesota was, and why the Democrats would think that we would want four more years of what we’d just lived through. Richard, aka: Dirty Dick, Milhous Nixon, with future felon, Spiro Agnew, became the Republican nominees. And “segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever” former Alabama governor, George Wallace with insane pro-nuke sidekick General Curtis LeMay, ran on the American Independent ticket and went on to garner over 13% of the vote.

November 5, 1968 was the day America elected the former Joe McCarthy inquisitor and former and almost-never-was-because-of-illegal-campaign contributions Eisenhower Vice President, former failed Presidential candidate, confirmed paranoid, anti-semite, homophobe, scare-mongering, foul-mouthed, dirty-campaigning, compulsively obsessed with a war on drugs, FBI and IRS abusing, media manipulating, Southern strategy architect, Bebe Roboso campaign money laundering, wire-tapping, lying, future-Watergate-burglary-conspirator, justice obstructor, power abusing, contempt of Congress, but pardoned, future impeachee, bigot, “I’ve got a secret plan to end the war, but I’m not going to tell you what it is because I don’t have one,” president.

It should be noted, that when Richard Milhous Nixon was elected, most of us didn’t know with certainty that he would one day be impeached for being so mind-bogglingly paranoid that he would do something as stupid as Watergate and actually get caught. The rest, however, was pretty common knowledge at the time.

So, how did this change things?

  • Campaign money. A little background: on this day, campaign contributions were limited by the Federal Corrupt Practices Act (revised in 1925 and several other times), which required Senators and Congresspersons to limit contributions by any single contributor (individuals, unions and corporations) to $5,000 and to report contributions within 10 days of the election. It had never been enforced. After the election of 1968, the Clerk of the House, Pat Jennings, decided to report violators to the Justice Department. The Justice Department, led by should-have-been-a-felon AG Ramsey Clark, and later by, future-felon AG, John Mitchell, ignored it.
    Corruption hardly began with Nixon, but his presidency set a new standard for the accumulation huge amounts of illegal and off-the-books contributions. They raised millions, and actually kept hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash in the White House to fund secret campaign operatives, operations and dirty tricks. Post-Watergate, the rules changed a bit, but the cycle had begun: the quiet corruption changed overnight into an all out assault for campaign money. Everyone did it. Everyone got away with it and still does. And every large corporation knows they can bribe anyone in politics for special tax breaks, limited oversight, limited liability and most anything we don’t want to think about. This tiny event in our history, may have been the seed for most everything in the cycle that followed.
  • The Courts. Richard Nixon was in office for just five and half years, but was able to appoint four justices to the Supreme Court: Warren Burger, Harry Blackmum, Lewis Powell and William Rehnquist. Their appointments set the court solidly conservative as it remains today (Republicans had the White House for 32 of the 42 years before Obama). Combine a solidly conservative Supreme Court with 32 years of a solidly conservative Justice Department and the cycle begins to seem obvious.
  • Farm Subsidies. Yes, blame Nixon and Earl Butz. For corporate farms, monopolistic control of our food supply, genetic mutant seeds; excessive run off, huge pig farms, corn subsidies which have led to high-fructose corn syrup which has helped fuel the obesity problem, corn subsidies, which led to corn-based ethanol ,which sucks all the momentum from efficient alternative bio-fuels, subsidized, unfair trade, which undermined the family farms in our southern hemisphere, and deserves a great part of the blame for our immigration problem. When bread prices shot up before the election in 1972 because of a deal to ship huge amounts of grain to Russia, Nixon called in Earl Butz and told him that this was never to happen again. It hasn’t. The administration changed the subsidy system to stimulate production, resulting in a market glut and continually depressed below what-it-even-costs-a-farmer-in-Mexico-to-produce prices. And those subsidies underwrite the campaign donations to the small states that every year elect two Republican senators.
  • Deregulation. It was Nixon who proposed deregulation of the transportation industry and his appointed successor/pardoner, Gerald Ford, who signed into law the bill that first deregulated trucking and trains. Future Republican administrations continued his phased plan by deregulating shipping and airlines. Then energy, communication and banking. Yes, Nixon is responsible for the cycle that created the mess in airline travel, the mess on Wall Street and the mess in the Gulf.
  • The Southern Strategy. Nixon is most often credited for it, or Harry Dent, but some suggest that Nixon learned of it from George Herbert Walker Bush, who first reached out to the those disenfranchised former Southern Democrats in 1966 to become the first Republican to win a Congressional seat in Houston. The strategy was pretty simple: reach out to the former Southern civil war states with a pro-gun, anti-abortion, anti-women, anti-gay, anti-busing, anti-civil rights, anti-union, anti-hippie/free speech, anti-elite, anti-journalist, anti-evolution, anti-welfare, antebellum states rights message. Basically, the same party of “no” issues we have today.
  • The War on Drugs. Nixon flat out hated drugs. Not because of the pain it causes society or individual addicts, but because he believed deep down in his dark soul that it was in the nature of African-Americans to use drugs and that they sold it to young whites to turn them in to hippies (I’m not making this up). Under Nixon, the drug laws were re-written, which were the basis of the infamous Rockefeller drug laws creating easy prosecution and long prison terms for small amounts of drugs classified with these rules as “narcotics.” Under Nixon, and with the help of J. Edgar Hoover and Elvis Presley, the DEA was created. Under Nixon, we began sending weapons and money to tyrants in South America to execute a war on drugs (and revolution) on our behalf. The groundwork was laid to put a million people a year in prison, disproportionately black – which also, of course, got them off the voter rolls.
  • Anti-Communist Witch Hunts. Nixon cut his political teeth prosecuting Alger Hess and working for Joe McCarthy. His legacy of looking for “pinkos” reverberates on Fox news to this day. It may not be the reason that the “nabobs of negativism” no longer flourish in newspapers across the country, but the stench of the cycle seems to emanate clearly from this day.
  • China Policy. Seems pretty weird that this anti-communist would open up China? For Nixon, this was about his fear of red horde; it was about his legacy, his debt to campaign contributers and global trade. Cheap labor. Political payback to unions and industrialized states. His last snicker.

When I set out to write this, I wanted to find out what had happened to us. What had turned a generation so idealistic that we wouldn’t trust anyone over 30* to one that seems powerless and motionless on issues so similar today and of such heart-wrenching importance. What was keeping us from marching. What turned us so cynical. What changed us that we are quiet on the spewed and tainted politics and injustice of today.

Was there a moment? A point in time when we gave up and walked away? I kept coming back to the election of Richard Nixon as the moment when this terrible cycle began. There are plenty of others who built on his legacy of paranoia, division and hate – devil spawn of Reagan, Gingrich, Bush, Bush and Cheney. But I have drawn a line from that day to this one and feel it is time he acknowledged for his accomplishment.

Since the beginning, our cycles have always been connected to our wars, and to some degree, to our prosperity. I pray that some years from now, November 4, 2008 will be recognized for the beginning of the next cycle and that our wars will end.



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*Updated, we shouldn’t trust anyone over 75 – When Jack Weinberg was quoted by a San Francisco Chronicle reporter in 1965 saying, “Don’t trust anyone over thirty,” he was being sarcastic. Weinberg was a 24-year old activist at Berkeley and had been asked if the Free Speech Movement was being manipulated by outside adults. Unlike most of the rest of us, Weinberg kept believing, speaking, and, often getting arrested demonstrating. He dropped out of graduate school to work for civil rights in the South. In 1969, believing that societal change couldn’t occur without blue collar America (it was the time of the “silent majority”), he moved to the Midwest, working in automotive and steel plants and being active in the unions. It was in Gary that he’d spend five years working to see that a nuclear power plant would never be built. An economic downturn took him to Chicago where his involvement in the environmental moment turned into a full time job with Greenpeace, where, at 70, he’s still active today, but even Jack, hasn’t been arrested for demonstrating for while (almost 10 years, Manila).

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*Note: the story was edited to reflect a couple of mindless mistakes that are noted in the comments.

Fine Them Then Kill Them

Perp Walk Example

This week from the People’s Court in Shijiazhuang, China: in last fall’s milk cut with melamine case that killed six babies and made 300,000 sick – executives were ordered to pay multi-million dollar fines; three death sentences; two life-in-prisons; six terms of five to 15 years; and more cases pending (source: Bloomberg). The judge was not specific as to whether the sentences were a result of babies’ suffering or government embarrassment.

Let’s compare that to American justice in a similar case: the case of the greedy bankers and fund managers who conspired to water down the mother’s milk of main street with a toxic contamination that has resulted in death, hunger, sickness and government embarrassment around the world. I suggest we let the Chinese courts handle these cases. I know. I know. I know that we shouldn’t outsource precious jobs at the time when American attorneys have no real estate deals or junk-bond-funded mergers to close (if the Fed would pay the legal fees in bankruptcy cases, it would go a long way to solving the financial crisis in the legal system). But we-the-people desperately need someone we can blame to get their what’s-coming-to-them and restore our faith that sight has again been removed from the Bush days of “Justice-in-name-only” Department that couldn’t convict terrorists so we jail them for the next administration to deal with, allowed Ken Lay to die of natural causes, upheld Cheney vs. the rest of us, etc.

Eric Holder has yet to be confirmed and we desperately need our Skillings, our Kozlowskis, our Ebbers and our “Scooters.” Sure we have Bernie “Made-Off,” but the chances of his body parts being auctioned on eBay are almost nil. We cry out for justice. We need Nancy Grace to cover the Chinese perp walk of John Thain, no-Angelo Mozilo, Daniel Mudd, Franklin Raines, Richard Syron, John Mack, James Cayne, Richard Fuld, Martin Sullivan, Stan O’Neal, Kerry Killinger, Kennedy Thompson, Charles Prince (quick reference: CEO Crooks) and others in oversight and government way too long to list. We need to believe that justice will be done.

One last note of author’s privilege: I am and will always be anti-death penalty and anti-body-part-mining and don’t really believe we should outsource “justice,” but do imagine that as a society, we would feel better.