Saturday, June 18, 2011

It's About Suppression, Part 2

Democrat Jay Nixon of Missouri vetoed the efforts of Missouri Republicans to put yet another battleground state under GOP voter suppression rules.

“This [photo ID] mandate would disproportionately impact senior citizens and persons with disabilities, among others, who are qualified to vote and have been lawfully voting since becoming eligible to do so, but are less likely to have a driver’s license or government-issued photo ID,” Nixon said in a letter explaining his veto. “Disenfranchising certain classes of persons is not acceptable.”

A bold and smart move by Nixon.  Missouri Republicans have already gotten in trouble before with Voter ID laws that the courts found to have been clear efforts to disenfranchise poor and minority voters.  They tried again with clever new language and by trading a nine-day early voting period to get Democratic support, but Nixon didn't bite.

“Placing a cloud of uncertainty over ballots cast by qualified voters is inconsistent with an individual’s right to vote and have that vote counted,” Nixon said, later adding that it was “unacceptable to impede or discourage citizens from voting who have lawfully cast ballots their entire adult lives.”

In 2006, Republicans pushed through a photo ID bill that was later struck down by the Missouri Supreme Court. The court ruled that the law amounted to a "heavy and substantial burden on Missourians' free exercise of the right of suffrage."

In Missouri, voters are already required to provide some form of ID before casting a ballot, but the list includes some without a photo, such as a utility bill, bank statement or paycheck.

A 2009 study by the secretary of state's office estimated around 230,000 Missourians are registered to vote but lack a government-issued photo ID. A 2007 study by Washington University found that among blacks, the young and low-income residents -- historically among the most loyal Democratic voters -- about 80 percent of registered voters had access to a government-issued photo ID. This compares to around 90 percent of whites, middle class and middle-aged voters.

A coalition of groups -- including the NAACP, AARP, League of Women Voters and ACLU -- had called for Nixon to veto photo ID legislation. Claims that a voter ID law is needed to stave off voter fraud are ridiculous, critics argued, since there have been no instances of the type of voter fraud this bill aimed to prevent ever occurring in Missouri.

And that's the dead giveaway.  When you hear Republicans say "we need to stop rampant voter fraud with these measures" they can never, ever seemingly name a single case where a voter ID law would have stopped fraud.

Meanwhile, this is the kind of thing Republicans do when they think nobody is watching.

Two aides to former Maryland Governor Robert Ehrlich (R) have been indicted for ordering what officials claim were deceptive robocalls intended to suppress Democratic turnout during Ehrlich's second run for the office last November.

Voters in Maryland started getting mysterious phone calls on election day last year, that told them to "relax" and not bother going to the polls because President Barack Obama and Gov. Martin O'Malley "have been successful."

"Everything is fine. The only thing left is to watch on TV tonight," the robocalls said.

Telling people to stay home and not vote.  Because that's the kind of "freedom" Republicans think you should have.  The GOP argument by the way?  Telling people to stay home and not vote is "protected free speech".

It's good to see Democrats in the position to fight back on the rash of GOP measures for voter suppression nonsense are doing so.  We'll need a lot more before this one dies.

Know When To Holder 'Em

Now that the right has claimed Anthony Weiner's head, the next target appears to be Attorney General Eric Holder.  Naturally, it's the far-right Washington Examiner calling for Holder's head over...well, nobody's really sure, but it involves Darrel Issa's boys and Mexicans.

The ATF put out marked guns into the system to see where and by what routes they were going to the Mexican drug cartels, the equivalent of dye packs in bank robbery money.  The problem is two of the guns in the operation were used to kill a US Border Patrol agent.  Naturally, the Washington Examiner is demanding Holder's immediate resignation.  The right wing noise machine is demanding a lot worse.

What bothers me is that if you mention gun control laws to the right, they screech about the Second Amendment and lie about Obama coming to take Americans' guns from them.  But when the ATF tries to deal with the fact that America has lax gun control laws and guns are pouring over the border into the hands of Mexican cartels, sold to them by US dealers, it's Eric Holder's fault and he's the one who has to be fired.

So no, this is a massive smoke cloud, but there's no fire.  What we need are much stricter controls on firearms, and to stop them from going to the cartels and to US criminals as well.  But try getting that past the Republicans and the gun lobbyists that own them lock, stock, and two smoking barrels.

Smoke Em If You Got Em

Republicans in the House have decided that having the FDA protect children from cigarettes is too much government interference and want to strip the agency of the power to regulate tobacco.  Also, the $290,000 in lobbying money didn't hurt either as GOP Rep Denny Rehberg of Montana is leading the charge:

Among other things, the Rehberg amendment would restrict the FDA’s ability to regulate the use of menthol in cigarettes. The FDA’s Tobacco Products Scientific Advisory Committee in March 2011 issued an exhaustive report that concluded menthol increases the number of kids who start to smoke and reduces the number of smokers who quit. … [And] the addition of menthol is just one example in the tobacco industry’s long history of designing their products to make them more attractive to children and minorities, or more addictive and difficult to quit using. … The tobacco companies add sugars, flavorings and other substances that make their products easier to use and attractive to children. While there may not be evidence that these additives increase the risk of cancer or other diseases, the FDA should be able to stop such actions that make cigarettes more appealing to children and increase the number of kids who smoke.

But hey, who cares about that when the tobacco industry is throwing tens of thousands of dollars at Republican lawmakers?   It's so profitable that in fact Republicans are willing to stab each other in the back over the honor of who gets to please Big Tobacco.

The amendment, whose supporters in the Appropriations Committee accepted almost $290,000 in campaign contributions from the tobacco industry, may fall due to a turf war among Republican committee chairs. House Energy & Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI) is expected to succeed in an attempt to kill the amendment because it attempts to “legislate on an appropriations bill” in violation of the House rules. Such a procedural objection, however, does little to prevent Rehberg’s gift to the tobacco industry from being repackaged in another bill.

Yep, they're fighting over who gets this bill...because they get the money, you see.   That's how Washington works.


(CNN) -- A San Francisco-based advocacy group known as Male Genital Mutilation Bill has collected enough signatures on its petition to ban circumcision that the proposal will appear on the city's November electoral ballot.

This petition will make circumcision a misdemeanor if performed on boys under age 18, punishable by a fine of $1,000 and up to a year in jail. A similar effort is under way in Santa Monica, supported by the San Diego-based MGM, which has prepared anti-circumcision legislation in 46 states.

Some say you must draw the line on parents' rights to make decisions for their children at "bodily mutilation." If that is the case, then they should consider another very common and usually harmless procedure, often performed on infant females: ear-piercing. About 20% of baby girls suffer minor complications from ear piercing; about 3% suffer major ones. Complications include swelling, drainage, infection, bleeding, cyst formation, large scars and trauma. Surely such piercing should be banned before anyone bans circumcision.

Okay, a few things here.  First, circumcision has some clear medical  benefits, including reducing transmission of STDs and UTIs during infancy that can affect kidneys in adulthood.  Ear piercing may be steeped in tradition but offers no practical advantage to babies.

I'm not saying either practice should be required or outlawed.  It makes sense to me that these decisions should be left to the parents to decide, based on their beliefs and choices.  Making this illegal is just an attempt for a small group of people to warp the law to support their beliefs.  That is the crime here, not a surgery performed on a child who will have no memory of the procedure.

That's how I'm calling it, anyway.  As always, I am interested in what you folks think.

Bohemian Rhapsody Revisited

Bohemian Rhapsody is one of my favorite songs of all time.  So much so that I have spent two years practicing the chords and rhythms that would allow a solo violin performance.  Still, no matter how much you study something, there is always the opportunity to learn more.

This article is full of trivia about both Freddie Mercury and the song itself, some of which I have never heard before, some of which I only know because I love Mercury as a musician and have studied his compositions in detail. I included some of the gems below:

Freddie Mercury used a piano as the headboard of his bed. The double-jointed Mercury would awake with inspiration, reach up and back behind his head and play what he'd heard in his dreams. This was how Bohemian Rhapsody began.

Senior Lecturer in English at UCL and Queen fan Matthew Beaumont says: "The architecture of Bohemian Rhapsody - and it is an architecture - is self-consciously, ostentatiously baroque. It is rich in ornate, curious details, occasionally Moorish in provenance. Also in soaring, sometimes dizzy-making, shifts of register and in a lachrymose emotiveness that is almost impossible to resist."

It's also impossible to resist seeking something autobiographical in the lyric. Paul Gambaccini told Kirsty Young: "Tim Rice has this theory that it's to do with [Mercury] coming to terms with being gay, and I think there's a lot in that - the resignation, the abandonment of a previous role." The allusions to persecution and secret love in Galileo, Figaro and the rest don't hurt this theory, but not everyone agrees.

Indeed, it's the language in the court scene that arouses most curiosity. There's a touch of Italian culture: Scaramouche is a buffoonish stock character in commedia dell'arte; Galileo was a Florentine astronomer found guilty of heresy by the Inquisition and Figaro is the title character of Rossini's opera The Barber of Seville, in which he helps true love to prevail.

Some hypothesize that this song is a testament to Mercury's coming to grips with being gay.  It speaks of loneliness, sadness, acceptance and pain, all realities for a gay man in his profession and period of time.  Some say it was just a musical masterpiece waiting to be born, and I find myself falling into this train of thought.  Freddie wrote a lot of music, and the one thing that always carried from song to song was a classically sound musical experiement.  He knew what worked, and he wasn't afraid to leave his comfort zone to try something new.  That is how I think of him, and I of course realize I am not alone in that regard.

What do you guys think?  It is just headbanging good fun, or an attempt to say something through a clever blend of musical styles?

Orange Julius Threatens To Pull The Plug On Libya

It seems House Speaker John Boenher is now saying Republicans will look into eliminating funding for operations in Libya unless Obama plays ball.

House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) isn't buying the White House's "Libya War isn't really a war" explanation of why they're not in violation of the War Powers Act.

Next week, he says, the House may be prepared to take action to block the administration's intervention -- and one option he's looking at is cutting off funds.

"[T]he ultimate option is the House in fact -- the Congress has the power of the purse," Boehner told reporters at a Capitol press briefing. "And certainly that is an option as well."

Boehner was unsatisfied by the explanation the White House offered in a report to Congress Wednesday, explaining their compliance with the law.

Gosh, remember when Democrats defunded Bush's war in Iraq and Afghanistan?   Oh wait, that didn't happen, and those who tried were derided by Republicans as traitors and terrorist sympathizers who were surrendering to our enemies.  But put a Democrat in the White House, and suddenly the Republicans are all about defunding the warmongers.

Funny how that works.

Fuel For Thought

It's looking like there's an increasing push in the Senate to end energy subsidies, starting with ethanol subsidies that are pushing up corn prices.

The Senate agreed Thursday to do away with an ethanol tax credit, a pivotal sign of waning support for industry subsidies amid mounting concerns over deficit spending and the nation's mounting debt.

The 73-27 vote to advance the proposal drew support from across party lines as farm state senators found little backing for the tax break that government accountants have called duplicative and unnecessary.

Still, ending the ethanol credit is unlikely to happen soon, as the legislation was attached to a stalled economic development bill.

Despite pressure on Republican senators not to allow a tax hike by eliminating the nearly $6-billion annual subsidy, a majority of GOP senators gave their support in yet another signal of their willingness to do away with some tax breaks – a point that has become a critical factor in deficit-reduction talks with the White House.

The end of ethanol subsidies appears to be the price paid to end oil and other energy company subsidies as well.  Getting 73 votes in the Senate is no easy task, and the message is clear to all involved.  Oh, the Heritage Foundation and other far right outfits are crying foul, saying Republicans are breaking their "no new taxes" pledge by doing this, but the country's overwhelmingly for ending tax breaks for companies who are making billions in profits, and no amount of spin is going to sell that in this economic maelstrom.

Even the Senate can see the writing on the wall here.  Of course, this just means the energy companies will have to get their money through some other means, and they will.

StupidiNews, Weekend Edition!

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