This is What Democracy Looks Like

Today's Note From a Madman

Monday, March 13, 2006

A Bush Quote in the Lead


"By their response over the past two weeks, Iraqis have shown the world they want a future of freedom and peace, and they will oppose a violent minority that seeks to take that future away from them by tearing their country apart."

-President Bush, marking the third anniversary of the start of the U.S.-led war in Iraq


Who has shown their "want" for "peace", Mr. Bush? Is ot the Iraqi insurgents who started the ball rolling toward the present Civil War? Maybe it was it the Interior Ministry's "Death Squads" that are the real brokers who "want peace".


Is there anyone still believing this stuff?


-Noah Greenberg

(Cough, Cough - Wheeze, Wheeze)

So Governor Ernie Fletcher (R-KY) and the Republican leadership in Kentucky are going to charge state employees more for their health care coverage if they smoke. This, of course, will allow, in time, health insurance companies to charge more to their smoking Kentucky customers. In case you didn't know, about 28 percent of the Blue Grass state's citizens smoke. (Cough, cough!)

Shouldn't they just ban smoking altogether?

If you're going to create a situation where you treat people differently who obey the law by forcing them to pay a premium if they get sick, perhaps it would be a better idea just to outlaw the thing that is causing them to be sick in the first place.

My fear isn't so much that smokers (Wheeze, Wheeze), who cannot quit a habit that most wish they could, will pay more for their health care coverage, it is that this opens the door to truly sick people with health care coverage to be charged a premium just because they aren't completely healthy. In fact, Kentucky's state employees who smoke, are already asking that very same question. Why not charge a premium for the sick? It seems that they would like to spread their own good cheer to the involuntary sick.

In this world of Bush give-backs to the ultra-rich and global corporations over people that the Bush-ites and the "G"reed "O"ver "P"eople party seem to favor, I don't want a precedent set where only the truly rich AND healthy are covered by a medical plan. Medicine is for the ill as well as the healthy, or are they just trying to thin out the American herd?

It would make sense to me that, the people who grow tobacco in North Carolina and Tennessee and Kentucky and wherever else they grow that stuff, could also grow other crops that feed the American people and the rest of the world. Yes, yes... I'm talking about weaning the American people off of tobacco, generationally. What if we just made the sale of tobacco illegal to anyone born after 1988? Remember even drugs like cocaine, legal at one time, had to be outlawed.

Maybe we should just make cigarettes a prescription drug. The drug companies could "push" them while the insurance companies could charge higher premiums for their users.

It could be that Governor Fletcher does have the best interests of his citizens at heart. It's possible that these "punitive charges" he plans on laying on the state workers of Kentucky is a good start. But this is something that has to be thought out better. Much like other GOP ideas, this one has the potential for disaster. Imagine insurance companies, citing this new "surcharge", decide that diabetics should pay 20 percent more or that cancer patients ought to be charged and extra 50 percent. Maybe they'll even tack on a "per-office visit charge".

These GOP guys and gals just don't think things through, even when their intentions are good.


The problem is that we are the ones who end up suffering.

-Noah Greenberg

"NSA", "Arrests" and "Spies"

I did a search on Yahoo... I did a search on Google... I even searched the New York Times and Washington Post. My keywords were "NSA", "arrests" and "spy". To my amazement I found that there were no arrests made in the three (known) years of the NSA Domestic Spy Program. Now, forgive my naivety, but shouldn't a program designed to catch criminals and terrorists; a program that restricts American Citizens' Civil Rights; have made at least one arrest by now?

No one arrest has been contributed to the NSA spy scandal. Imagine if the FBI, NYPD or any other police organization had that kind of record. Oh-for-everything. What would people think and say?

If a program like the Domestic Spy Program goes on without oversight the potential for abuse is endless. We could actually have a whole industrial complex dedicated to its commercialization. Where and when do people shop; What do people talk about; How do people spend their free time. It's a veritable endless source of consumer information available to the large, global corporations that "G"lobal "W"arming Bush calls his "core constituents".

That's one way to balance the federal budget: Keeps tabs of the American people by spying on them, and then selling that info to corporations. Brilliant!

We now know that the Domestic Spying Program was never intended to create arrests or stop terrorist activity. But like everything else the Bush administration does, it does have a "commercial value".

I wonder how Halliburton could make a nickel (or a few billion nickels) off of this?

-Noah Greenberg

Another Waxing in November Over Abortion

Once again, in the face of plunging poll numbers, a corrupt leadership with multiple members facing prosecution and their general ineptitude in governing it looks like the GOP will score big again in November.

How- the action of the South Dakota legislature in banning abortion.

Larry Sabato, the University of Virginia political scientist, has spun a convincing scenario in which moderate to progressive Catholics leave the Democrats or stay home in sufficient numbers to allow the family values types to swamp us in November.

Sabato even predicts that some moderately pro-Choice GOP candidates will probably appear on the coasts to assure a wedge is drawn again between Dems.

What are we going to do?

Demand that Democratic leaders sign pro-Choice pacts in blood to prove their worthiness of our support?

Rely on a third party pro-choice movement to do for us what the Greens and other third party types have already done to us on defense, the environment and health care? That is, split our votes and provide key GOP electoral victories?

Or are we going to be mature and trust that elected officials who have spent decades publicly defending choice will not cave?

Will we be willing to talk past the GOP ranters to the real issues concerning Americans?

Are we going to panic again in the face of the right or are we going to revive the Democratic coalition based on economic equity and fairness to get ourselves past the GOP assault on women?

-Robert Chapman

by Victoria A. Brownworth
copyright c 2006 Journal-Register Newspapers, Inc.

February 26th the South Dakota Legislature passed a bill outlawing all abortions except when the life of the mother is medically proven to be at risk and the bill was signed into law by Gov. Mike Rounds (R) on March 6. The law makes performing all abortions a felony, including those for pregnancies resulting from rape and incest, except when the life of the woman is proven to be at risk. This means any doctor or other medical provider (midwife, nurse-practitioner, etc.) performing an abortion would be arrested and jailed. The woman herself may also be imprisoned.

The bill was sponsored as a court challenge to Roe v. Wade, the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision that made first trimester abortions legal and second and third trimester abortions legal under certain circumstances.

According to South Dakota legislators, the purpose of the law is to force a decision from the U.S. Supreme Court, where the recent appointments of anti-abortion advocates John Roberts and Samuel Alito have bolstered the perception among anti-abortion advocates that Roe v. Wade can be overturned.

The South Dakota law violates federal law since it invalidates all the facets of Roe as stipulated by the U.S. Supreme Court.

In the 33 years since Roe was passed, abortion has become one of the nation's most volatile political issues. Many states already have severely restricted the tenets of Roe–including Pennsylvania and Louisiana, which have the most restrictive abortion laws in the country after South Dakota and Mississippi, which placed a bill mirroring South Dakota's before the legislature on February 27th and which Gov. Haley Barbour (R), has already pledged to sign once passed. Mississippi already has one of the most restrictive abortion laws: like Pennsylvania and Louisiana it requires parental notification, spousal notification, anti-abortion counseling and a 24-hour waiting period.

Anti-abortion proponents assert that Roe v. Wade stipulates "abortion on demand," but this is not true in any state, even those with the least restrictive policies, New York and California.
Roe became law under the highly conservative U.S. Supreme Court in a 7-2 ruling written by Nixon appointee Harry Blackmun. But Roe v. Wade did not allow all abortion without restriction. Rather it sought to control abortion federally by limiting it to the first trimester. Second and third trimester abortions, which are more dangerous to the woman and in which viability of the fetus is in question, are restricted by the rules of Roe.

Just over 85 percent of all abortions are performed in the first trimester of pregnancy. These abortions can be performed anywhere–a doctor's office, clinics, hospitals–and do not have to be performed by a doctor. The risk to the woman's health is significantly less than in childbirth. Second trimester abortions require a doctor's intervention and permission as the woman/girl must undergo labor and delivery for such an abortion, lasting between five and 24 hours. These abortions by law must be performed in either a hospital or surgical center and the risk to the woman's life and health is far higher than in a first trimester abortion; about the same as in normal childbirth.

Third trimester abortions–about 1,500 are performed annually in the U.S.–are extremely dangerous and as the numbers suggest, rarely performed. Although these abortions have been termed "partial birth abortions" by politicians, medically speaking they are complex surgical procedures. They must be, under both the stipulations of Roe and under the rubric of the American Medical Association, medically necessary due to the risk to the mother's immediate and future health. These abortions are performed to protect the life of the mother or because the baby has been found to have irreparable deformities. About half of all third trimester abortions involve fetuses which are anencephalic–they have no brain and thus cannot live. Unfortunately this condition does not usually show up on ultra sound until the third trimester. The majority of other third-trimester abortions involve severe health risks to the mother.
All third trimester abortions must be performed in a hospital with a physician assisting as in a live birth. The risk to the mother's life is as grave as in a high-risk childbirth and some women do die during the procedure.

These realities of abortion in the U.S. are in direct opposition to the emotions regarding abortion. Yet it is emotion and politics, not reason or medical ethics, that spawned the South Dakota and Mississippi bills.

About 1.2 million women have abortions in the U.S. each year. About 150,000 doctors, midwives and nurse-practitioners perform those procedures each year. In addition, according to the FBI, about one in four women and girls in the U.S. is a victim of rape and/or incest.

If the South Dakota/Mississippi laws were to become the law everywhere, would there be enough prison space to hold all the doctors, midwives, nurse practitioners, women and girls who will perform or have abortions? (Currently there are 3 million people in U.S. prisons; add another 1.5 million for performing or receiving abortions and there would need to be twice as many prison beds in the U.S. as are currently available.)

These are the facts. Let's deal with the emotions, because it is the emotions, not the facts, that are driving laws about abortion in the U.S.

I am personally against abortion. Most people are, actually. It's a discomfiting thing, the ending of the possibility of a human life. Even the staunchest proponents of abortion rights would like to see fewer abortions and most, if pressed, would say they would like to see an end to all abortion. Or rather, the need for them.

But while I, like the Governors of South Dakota and Mississippi, consider myself pro-life (although unlike those governors, I am *consistently* pro-life, which means I am also against the death penalty and other forms of killing), I also must consider the circumstances under which the majority of women find themselves wanting or, in the case of late-stage abortions, *needing* an abortion.

Let's consider the 15 percent of abortions that are second or third trimester. Every woman or girl who has one of these abortions has induced labor. She is in extreme pain that goes with giving birth except at the end she has nothing but a dead child, a great deal of bleeding, one or more nights in the hospital, the possibility of severe infection that could lead to infertility in the future and emotional scarring.

Does anyone*really* believe that women or girls who elect to have an abortion in the second or third trimester do so without serious and considered thought? The physical and emotional pain, coupled with the risk to her own life is daunting. Obviously the reasons *for* the abortion outweigh those risks for the woman who chooses it–which means it is ultimately necessary for the life of that mother because she is risking her life to have that abortion.

The other 85 percent of first trimester abortions are not without risk. Surgery is surgery, after all. And with any surgical procedure there is risk: hemorrhage, infection, death and always, depression at the choice the woman/girl feels she must make. Some politicians and anti-abortion activists argue that women use abortion like birth control. There is absolutely no statistical evidence for this nor does it even make sense: why would a woman choose a painful, risky, bloody, emotionally scarring surgical procedure over the relative safety of a pill, diaphragm, patch or IUD? She wouldn't.

It would seem, then, that the abortion debate continues to be not about saving lives, because obviously in at least 15 percent of all abortions the mother's life is being saved directly, but about women's sexuality.

This was made abundantly clear last week when one of the sponsors of the South Dakota bill, Sen. Bill Napoli, (R-Rapid City), told Jim Lehrer of PBS that although the law bans exceptions for rape and incest, exceptions could be made for "virgins."

Napoli said, "A real-life description to me would be a rape victim, brutally raped, savaged. The girl was a virgin. She was religious. She planned on saving her virginity until she was married. She was brutalized and raped, sodomized as bad as you can possibly make it, and is impregnated. I mean, that girl could be so messed up, physically and psychologically, that carrying that child could very well threaten her life." According to Napoli, the severity of her trauma–because she was religious and a virgin–could constitute an exception to the anti-abortion ban under the "life of the mother" protection clause.

But what if the rape victim was not a virgin and not religious? What then? Would her trauma somehow be less? Who decides the degree of need for an abortion?

Napoli and others promoting challenges to Roe miss a few salient points: Women and girls desperate to end their pregnancies for whatever reasons–rape, incest, fear, poverty–will find a way. They will cross state lines as they did before Roe when the law in Pennsylvania banned abortion but the law in New York did not. They will ask their friends to help them and take drugs and fall down stairs and scald themselves and all the other old wives's tale remedies that existed back before abortion was legal. They will search the internet for ways to get RU486 and take it well after it is useful and thus damage the growing fetus which will be born with birth defects. They will drink and take drugs and try and forget they are pregnant and give birth in closets and throw their babies away in the trash.

These are realities: they happen regularly even *with* available abortion because women and girls are punished for having sex outside of marriage while men and boys are not. This is why the morning after pill is not readily available, why RU 486 is not readily available, why pharmacists are now allowed to decide whether or not they will fill prescriptions for contraceptives, why in Michigan there is a proposition pending that would stipulate that life begins at conception so that even pharmacies selling the morning after pill would become felonious.

At the center of all this legislation are men. Yet nowhere in this legislation which penalizes women and girls is there any mention of the culpability of men and boys in these pregnancies. These women and girls either had consensual sex with a man or they were raped. Either way they had a partner who is never held accountable by the law.

Personally, I would like to see abortion become a rarity in America. I think having to choose abortion is difficult for women and girls. I believe it is life-altering emotionally and often physically and statistics bear me out.
But *why* are women making these choices? And where are the other partners in the act, the men? Since a majority of women cite finances as the reason they cannot bear the child they are aborting, shouldn't men be held financially accountable? And shouldn't the father of an aborted baby be sent to prison along with the mother and doctor in South Dakota and Mississippi?

Those who claim to be pro-choice need to re-frame the debate over abortion in light of the new law. Men and boys have sex indiscriminately–and proudly and without using a condom–all the time. But men don't get pregnant. There is no obvious result of their actions. And since a majority of men and boys in the U.S. do not take financial or parental responsibility for the children they father, women and girls are left with the sole responsibility for pregnancy. For some women and girls it is a responsibility they do not feel able, either financially or emotionally, able to handle alone.

Which raises another aspect of the abortion debate: economics. Restrictive abortion laws penalize poor women. Middle class and wealthy women will always be able to go to a private doctor for an abortion if they want one. But poor and working class women who are reliant on clinics for abortions will have no options. Women in South Dakota who want an abortion now (there was only one clinic in the state to begin with) will have to travel to another state, which in the rural poverty of the plains, is not easy.

The Republican Party platform endorses a constitutional amendment that would make abortion first-degree murder in all 50 states, which is how the new law in South Dakota and the one pending in Mississippi frame abortion. Many of us, on the left and the right, are against abortion. But are people ready to send their mothers, daughters, sisters and friends to prison for having one?

It's time for those who claim to be pro-choice, like Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA) and Rep. Chakah Fatah (D-PA) to shift the debate on abortion from the vagueries of when life begins to criminalization.

Let's start to talk specifics: demand to know how women and doctors will be punished and why the fathers won't be. How many years in prison? More for a second offense? What about how sexual the woman is– after all, Napoli says virgins get an exemption under the South Dakota law–do sexually active women get stiffer sentences?

If the right to privacy is out the window, if the very difficult choice of abortion is now a wholly political debate rather than a medical, religious or ethical one, then let's put people in jail. Those politicians who are against abortion should have the courage of their convictions and be ready and willing to send their own mothers, wives and daughters (not to mention the victims of molestation by priests) to prison for having abortions.

Abortion is an ugly thing and it would be a better world if there were less of it. But banning abortion never has stopped it. Anti-abortion legislators must be prepared to flood the prisons with doctors, women and girls or rescind these laws that are about appealing to voters, not conscience. Because until men are held as accountable as women for unwanted or dangerous pregnancies, the laws banning abortion hurt more than they help. And in the end, more than unborn babies will die.

White House Profile

Claude Alexander Allen
Presidential Nomination
Claude Alexander Allen
Position: Judge - 4th Cir
US Circuit Court Judges (176) Department of Justice
Status: Pending
Date of Announcement: April 28, 2003
Date Nomination Sent to the Senate: January 20, 2004

On February 17, 2006, Claude A. Allen, Assistant to the President for Domestic Policy, hosted the White House's Question and Answer session called "Ask the White House". Included was a picture of Mr. Allen.- 

"Claude Allen has been a trusted advisor since 2001. As Deputy Secretary of Health and Human Services, he worked hard to improve the health and welfare of all Americans. During the past year, he has served as my top domestic policy advisor at the White House and has helped develop policies that will strengthen our Nation's families, schools, and communities.

"Claude is a good and compassionate man, and he has my deep respect and my gratitude. I thank him for his many years of principled and dedicated service to our country. Laura and I wish Claude, Jann, and their family all the best."
-President Bush, February 9, 2006,

"Detectives from the Montgomery County (MD) Police Retail Theft Unit arrested a man yesterday for a continuing retail theft scheme.

"Claude Alexander Allen, age 45, of the 7200 block of Cliff Pine Drive in Gaithersburg, was charged with theft scheme over $500 and theft over $500. He was released on his own recognizance."
-The Montgomery County, MD Website, which included a picture of future-inmate Allen

The picture from "Ask the White House" and the Montgomery County, MD Police Dept. were identical.

Just how much is too much for these "G"reed "O"ver "P"eople party members?

-Forwarded by Pat Thompson and commented by Noah Greenberg

Defining the "Clash"

Dr. Wafa Sultan is a Syrian-American woman (and former Muslim) who was recently interviewed on Aljazera Television and then appeared on the cover of the New York Times (March 11). A courageous and facinating woman!

"The clash we are witnessing around the world is not a clash of religions, or a clash of civilizations. It is a clash between two opposites, between two eras. It is a clash between a mentality that belongs to the Middle Ages and another mentality that belongs to the 21st century. It is a clash between civilization and backwardness, between the civilized and the primitive, between barbarity and rationality. It is a clash between freedom and oppression, between democracy and dictatorship. It is a clash between human rights, on the one hand, and the violation of these rights, on other hand. It is a clash between those who treat women like beasts, and those who treat them like human beings. What we see today is not a clash of civilizations. Civilizations do not clash, but compete . . .

"The Jews have came from the tragedy (of the Holocaust), and forced the world to respect them, with their knowledge, not with their terror, with their work, not their crying and yelling. Humanity owes most of the discoveries and science of the 19th and 20th centuries to Jewish scientists. 15 million people, scattered throughout the world, united and won their rights through work and knowledge. We have not seen a single Jew blow himself up in a German restaurant. We have not seen a single Jew destroy a church. We have not seen a single Jew protest by killing people. The Muslims have turned three Buddha statues into rubble. We have not seen a single Buddhist burn down a Mosque, kill a Muslim, or burn down an embassy.

"Only the Muslims defend their beliefs by burning down churches, killing people, and destroying embassies. This path will not yield any results. The Muslims must ask themselves what they can do for humankind, before they demand that humankind respect them."
-Wafa Sultan

-Submitted by Kelly Taylor

In response to "Double Standards", Jenny Hanniver writes:

Your vignette about a father getting caught in Catch-22 was touching, but this scenario has happened to THOUSANDS of poor women since Bill Clinton of the DLC decided to do the Republicans' work for them and finalize the demise of welfare for every poor woman.

She's gotta go to work for paltry minimum wage (no more welfare, remember?), all living costs are steadily rising--including transportation to and from work--, she can't afford a reliable sitter or day care, isn't allowed to bring kids to work, so what choice has she? She leaves her children alone or with an alky, drugged-out, abusive or senile neighbor, something terrible happens, she gets convicted of child neglect, goes to jail. In some "Christian" Southern states, for MURDER. (Ho-hum. Happens everywhere, every day.)

It's how our post-compassion governments--at all levels--put away the poor. After all, we wouldn't want the starving and sick to be seen by the rich in their gated communities and the moral morons of the middle class, would we? How DARE the people who make such rules call themselves "Christian"! I pray every day that this kind of crisis will ultimately befall some of them. It's not a nice, pacifist prayer, but since when weren't we permitted righteous indignation? Read the Prophets!

PS: If the child dilemma happened to more men, maybe something would get done to change things. Of course, in this administration of selfish slobs, forget it.

And Casey Sweet writes:

The double standards around death and crime in this country are astounding and often revolve around who you know, how important you are, and who you can afford to hire. My ex-sister-in-law’s son from another marriage sits in jail in NH because at the age of 19 during a drinking party he and a good friend were fooling with a gun and he accidentally shot the friend. No one let him wait until the next day. No letting another person at the party report the accident and what they saw. No one was allowed to characterize it in a more positive light for him.

To the contrary, he got an incompetent, non-criminal lawyer because his family could not afford better. The lawyer promised that one thing would be said in court, but not to worry because in actuality a lighter sentence would be agreed to outside the public eye. The parents of the dead boy were so distraught and filled with guilt because they had recently kicked him out of their house that they felt someone should have to pay dearly for the accident. Apparently they felt the drunken behavior of their son was not an influence, but the shooter’s drunken behavior should be treated as criminal and the harsher the better. Makes one wonder where their compassion was when they kicked the son out to move from couch to couch of friends. They testified that they wanted a long jail sentence for the shooter to pay his debt for this accident. No advisers or PR people stepped in to remind the public and parents that it was just an accident. Instead they decided to make an example of him.

This young man who committed the accident, like the father who left the 5 year boy alone, felt horrible and continues to grieve what happened – they were close friends. Did he get to grieve at home or get a slap on the wrist? No, he got 8-15 years and is in about his 5th year. Fortunate for him he is making the most of his time getting his GED and learning chef skills so he can be productive when he gets out. Often when he speaks to his Mom he says he knows he is responsible and must pay for his behavior and has to serve the time. Now, if all the Cheney’s of the world could be as personally responsible as this 19 year old man learned to be at his young age…

And, in response to the same article and "Imagine if this boy's father had Dick Cheney's 'pedigree', which includes alcoholism", Pat Thompson writes:

Both of our "sort of elected" leaders are alcoholics, and both have been convicted of drunk driving. Sure is comforting to know that men with their hands on the nuclear button are such stable people -- and that those who decide where to start bombing and make a new war, such as in Iran, are of impeccable character and temperament.

In response to "Besides, if the Northeast secedes they might start burning women at the stake again, like they did in the old days when anyone not a puritan (fundamental Christian) was declared a witch," Pat Thompson writes:

That was more than three centuries ago. A lot of evolution has taken place since then. They were still lynching black men in the south 70 years ago.

A Rant Continues

Thanks for printing my WMD rant and responding to it.

I'd like to say this in response...

What I was getting at was the hypocrisy involved in saying that WE can own WMD and other nations cannot. I don't think ANY nation should own them--and that includes the DIS-United States. I think Bush is just as crazy as those other leaders and I don't trust him any more than I trust any other leaders. The bomb is just too lethal. As long as we have WMD, though, we are perpetuating a climate of fear that makes other nations want to have them too. So if we want other nations not to have WMD, we have to get rid of ours.

And, in addition, no nation should be using nuclear power even for peaceful purposes--remember Chernobyl and Three Mile Island...?

Our family had a summer home in Suffolk County in Long Island and I loved picking all the 4-leaf clovers I used to find in our lawn. But many, many, many years later I realized that those clovers were the result of living near the Brookhaven Laboratories, who were doing G-d knows what. So if our lawn was throwing up those clovers, what was my family exposed to?

Re: Rhian's comment about the secession. How did she get witch burnings out of secession? I cannot make the connection. What does it mean? Who would burn what witches where? And why? How do witches figure in this? I don't remember reading about any witches in the Civil War. But I agree with you, Noah, that it's the mentality I'd like to get away from. Bush didn't write the antiabortion law in South Dakota, for example.

And finally in this very scattershot note, here's a movie that is highly recommended: "Good Night and Good Luck" about Edward R. Murrow--a true patriot. This was a person who remained unafraid to speak his mind and face-off with anyone. We need more of that today.

-Billie M. Spaight

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-Noah Greenberg