February 11, 2010 archive

From the Center of the Circle

Change we can believe in is on the march in America.

Security Guards Do Nothing as 15-Year-Old Girl Is Beaten . . .

The 15-year-old girl thought the three security guards in the Seattle bus tunnel would protect her from attack.  She was wrong.  The guards watched and did nothing as the girl was punched, thrown to the ground, kicked repeatedly in the face and then robbed.  The Seattle Times published an editorial shortly after a video of the beating was released Wednesday condemning the inaction of the guards and questioning the multibillion-dollar contract the transit authority has with private security firms.  The editorial asked, what are the taxpayers paying for?

Private security guards doing nothing, that’s what they’re paying for.  Congressmen and Senators doing nothing, that’s what they’re paying for.  A President doing nothing, that’s what they’re paying for.  Middle class Americans thought their government would protect them, but for 30 years, they’ve been punched, thrown to the ground, kicked repeatedly in the face and then robbed.

It’s called the Two Party System.

It’s the sacred foundation of modern American “democracy” and demonstrates for all the world to see that except for the systemic failure of every institution in America, we live in the most stable and enlightened society on earth.

In Here There Be Monsters, William Rivers Pitt warns about the systemic failure of public school administrators to protect children from beatings and bullying in America’s public schools.  . . .

A fact underscored by a recent story out of my home state of Massachusetts. A 15-year-old girl named Phoebe Prince was mercilessly bullied and tormented by her classmates, until she finally snapped and took her own life.  Hundreds of angry parents, worried teachers and even terrorized kids are reporting ugly episodes of brutal bullying at schools across Massachusetts as the heart-wrenching case of Phoebe Prince continues to expose a painful nerve.  It’s a toxic cauldron of abuse that parents fear could land their children in the same no-win corner as Phoebe Prince.

And, in a constant refrain, they all say nobody in power cares.  “Nobody listens. It seems like you’re talking to the wall unless you have $1 million,” said a Cohasset dad who said his boy is picked on constantly. “Put that on the front page.”  

NOBODY IN POWER CARES.  That banner headline should be on the front page of every newspaper in America.  It should be the lead story in every newscast, the only story in every newscast.  NOBODY IN POWER CARES.  That says it all, the rest is just gory details.

A question for the “realists”:

Why not aim for disaster?

It’s the most “realistic” possibility, after all.

Or, more specifically:

How minimal are your aspirations?

How static is your picture of the future?

(Crossposted at Orange)

Criticizing Indian Affairs: SD Winter Storms

Keith Olbermann tells us (quoted in navajo’s “Dakota’s Rezs Winter Heating Funds Ran Out In December”)


“If anybody wants to go further, the chairman of the tribe tells us the consciousness of politicians is as important as donations right now.

Confusing CBS/NYT ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ Poll

Crossposted at Daily Kos

Do words confuse you at times?  If you’re presented with two words having literally the same meaning, do you react differently to each?  If you answered ‘yes,’ you wouldn’t be alone.

According to a new CBS News/ New York Times Poll, the future of the ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ policy of prohibiting open military service by gays and lesbians may well rest on the choice of a couple of words, with one preferred over the other.

Weather vs Climate — There is a Difference

For our scientifically challenged fellow-citizens, it may hard to understand, but simply experiencing a few record-setting Snow Storms, does NOT automatically disprove the theory of Global Warming (aka Climate Change).  Science doesn’t work that way.  Science takes evidence.  Science takes data.  Science takes experiments – and lots and lots of Measuring. … It takes measuring of those boring things, called Facts.

The theory of Climate Change, views weather events from a long-term perspective.   Climate varies from year to year. Decade to decade.

Climate is a generational phenomenon. (could be why the younger generation “gets it” — more so than the older.)

Weather, on the other hand, changes with the wind.  Weather is a daily event.  Weather is the background noise, upon which we plan our daily lives.

In other words, weather can change – a lot;  over the course of a week, or over a Season. … Weather can even swing wildly over the course of a day sometimes – just ask anyone caught without rain gear, when unexpected downburst rolls in.

Weather is volatile.  Weather is constantly changing.  Climate not so much.

Blue Tigers

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Today WWF issued a report on tigers.  Among other distressing items, there is this:

More tigers are kept in captivity in the U.S. than are left in the wild — and there are few regulations to keep these tigers from ending up on the black market. The largest numbers of captive tigers are in Texas (an estimated 3,000+), but they are also kept in other states

Afternoon Edition

Afternoon Edition is an Open Thread

From Yahoo News Top Stories

1 Haiti quake toll rises to 217,000

by Andrew Beatty and M.J. Smith, AFP

Wed Feb 10, 7:39 pm ET

PORT-AU-PRINCE (AFP) – Haiti raised the death toll Wednesday from last month’s quake above 217,000, while the focus turned to providing shelter for the homeless before heavy rains and the hurricane season come.

“There are people who put forth the figure of 230,000, but we have counted a bit more than 217,000. These are verified figures,” Interior Minister Paul Bien-Aime said.

The government also declared a day of mourning for Friday to mark one month since the quake struck, bringing death and destruction on an unprecedented scale to the desperately poor Caribbean nation.

Climate: Who Is Stupider, Repubs or Dems?

Simulposted at Daily Kos

Climate change is here.

Weather patterns are altering, ocean levels are beginning to rise, there are food and water shortages across the globe, the number of climate refugees in Bangladesh is rising and major port cities around the world are making plans to protect themselves as the seas that will slowly…but not slowly enough….engulf their cities rise.

Glaciers, the source of much of the worlds fresh water supply, are shrinking at a truly astounding rate. There are no more glaciers in Glacier National Park.

Every credible scientist not in the pay of the oil and coal corporations agrees, the scientific evidence is overwhelming. Even the Pentagon has called Climate Crisis a threat to our national security.

Is that…”alarmist?” Well every, and I mean every model that scientists have come up with in the past 30 years has been wrong. EVERY model has been shown to be underestimating the scope and speed of Climate Crisis. At what point DO we get “alarmed?”

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Open Barre

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OTW: UPDATED Bienvenidos a Miami Part 2

now also up at Wild Wild Left

QUICK UPDATE: Friday noonish: Just an alert to let y’all know Tess made it by with a comment, see comments! đŸ™‚

Last week, I left you hanging with OTW: Bienvenidos a Miami Part 1. In that Essay, I told you a little bit about my growing up in Miami, Florida, alongside the initial wave of Cuban refugees in the early 1960’s. I also promised you I was going somewhere with this. Yes, I do have a Point. đŸ˜› I will make good on that promise near the end below. And finally, I left you with a cliffhanger with my mention of my Cuban friend, Maria {not her real name}. Well, guess what? I have a surprise for you!

Let’s pick up with a little snapshot phone convo between me and Maria, shortly after college.

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She picks up on the third ring and I immediately lay into her. “Where the hell are you? It’s one o’clock already! Ive been ready for an hour! We’re gonna be late!!”

Maria is ever so casual. “Calmate, we have plenty of time. I’ll be there to pick you up around 2, like I told you. Man! Calm down.”

“But… the invitation says the wedding starts at 2, and it’s a 45 minute drive, at least, up to Hollywood. We are sooooo late. This is so bad.”  I’m whining and pleading now.

Maria assures me and tries to explain. “Bueno, she’s Cuban, remember? Are you kidding me? We would look so stupid if we actually had the nerve to arrive at 2PM. They’d lookit us like we’re crazy.”

“No, no, no, but Maria… he is Jewish! This is just so not done. You don’t get it.”

No, you don’t get it, the bride’s family is Jewban. The groom doesn’t count when it comes to a wedding anyway, ferchrissake. Hang up the phone and go fix your lipstick or something. Ill be there in a bit. Jewbans are on Cuban time, reglas cubanas. lolol

Okay, as culture clashes go,  this one is certainly tame and a little funny, but it did happen, and yes, we were terribly late by the wall clock, with me fretting all the way of course, but it all turned out just fine. Maria was right. lol We arrived just as the ceremony started, at about 4PM, which was just right by the culture clock.

TAG THE COURT!

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(This diary was originally posted as a comment on the Wall Street Journal’s website.)

Chief Justice Roberts’ concurrence with the majority  opinion in Citizens United is extraordinarily simple.

“-the Act violates the First Amendment, because it prohibits political speech.”

http://www.supremecourtus.gov/…

(The “Act” is of course the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002(BCRA))

No prohibition of political speech! And obviously this simple principle applies most directly to the public domain, like public streets and the airwaves. I can wave a sign on the street and corporations can advertise on TV, and so could I, if only I could afford $100K (or more!) per minute to “speak.”

But what I can afford is a can of spray paint, and the facade of the Supreme Court Building, so beautifully designed by Cass Gilbert in the Beaux Arts style in 1932, still belongs to the public, in spite of so much determined effort by Republicans to privatize everything in Washington.

And according to the simple principle so clearly enunciated by Chief Justice Roberts in his concurring opinion, no law can prohibit my “political speech” in the public domain, and in particular, on the facade of the Supreme Court, expressed in flaming orange letters 10 feet high.

“CLARENCE THOMAS IS A MORON!”

“ANTONIN SCALIA IS A TORTURE-PIG AND PERVERT!”

Orange letters 10 feet high!

“DICK CHENEY SHOULD BE HANGED FOR WAR-CRIMES!”

And I’m sure that every reader and employee of the Wall Street Journal will support my “political speech” on the facade of the Supreme Court, because Chief Justice Roberts is always right (FAR RIGHT!) and no law can prohibit “political speech” in the public domain!

ACORN Tactics Applied to Abortion

Recent high profile news events involving abortion rights have revealed that while the omnipresent skirmishing may temporarily subside, it doesn’t take much to stir the issue into a new frenzy.  The latest embarrassing public relations snafu involves the Birmingham, Alabama, Planned Parenthood clinic, which has been placed probation for a year.  Before there was ACORN and young right-wing activists with visual evidence, last year a California-based anti-abortion group employed the services of an UCLA student to secretly videotape instances of wrongdoing.  Posing as a 14-year-old girl seeking an clandestine abortion after getting pregnant with her 31-year-old boyfriend, the tape revealed that the worker she spoke to agreed not to report the matter, in violation of state law, and added that it might be possible to perform the procedure without the knowledge of her parents.  By the time the video came to the attention of the Alabama Attorney General, the statue of limitations had passed, but it did trigger a revealing in-depth investigation via Alabama’s Department of Public Health.    

John A. MacDonald of The Birmingham News has the whole story.

Perhaps the most damning allegation is that the clinic has come under increasing scrutiny and fire due to new charges which allege that workers a negligently refused to report obvious instances of childhood sexual abuse.

In that potential abuse case, a 13-year-old girl reported that she became sexually active at 12 and came in for two abortions within four months. She was not asked by staff about potential abuse, and her case was not reported to authorities.

“If she was being abused, you give her a chance to be rescued from that situation,” said Rick Harris, director of health pro­vider standards for the Alabama Depart­ment of Public Health.

This matter only throws hot water onto an already overheated issue.  Aside from the immediate emotional appeals, explosive revelations like these reveal that local government often fails to adequately police itself internally and to follow rudimentary protocol.  As for why these seemingly basic rule were not followed, perhaps the worker or workers in question at the clinic might have sought to protect at least two young women, and likely more, from the stigma and emotional turmoil of prosecution and a trial by jury.  Indeed, our own initial responses might be to cover up or skirt past tragic situations like these out of sympathy for the victim or out of our own desire to not have to think about them.  Some may consider tactics like those tantamount to cowardice or sloth, and there is an strong argument to be made for that as well.  But no matter what justification and rationalization may be provided, state law does require those who observe cases of flagrant child sexual abuse to report them immediately to the proper channels.  So many of these cases are not reported enough already and this is, in part, the reason why these sorts of offenses are shockingly prevalent in our supposedly civilized society.

In nine out of nine cases tested, the clinic did not get girls ages 13-15 to authenticate the signature of the parent providing con­sent for the abortion. In one case, the person who signed the consent for a 15-year-old girl provided an expired driver’s license of a person with a different last name and address from the girl’s. A subsequent review of Alabama birth records showed that person was not listed as a parent.

The pattern that emerges here is that of gross incompetence and dereliction of duty rather than some sort of willful desire to broach protocol and skirt the law.  I doubt that anyone holds such a radical agenda that they would choose to violate parent notification rules and in so doing, fail to adequately check identities before proceeding.  While I have always believed that requiring parental consent before an abortion can be performed unfairly restricts a woman’s right to choose, ANY woman’s right to choose, I am deeply uncomfortable with the notion of civil disobedience at the workplace in this context.  There is lots of blame to go around, but I point the finger at the system itself.  I think the most likely is that what transpired over time is that women would arrive without the necessary paperwork to move forward and after observing much delay in extracting the necessary signatures and confirmation in prior cases, clinic workers eventually overlooked them to expedite the process and make their own jobs easier.

One can form any number of conclusions based on the available information.  Anti-choice proponents will surely use this story to  confirmation of their own views in this and those of us who are pro-choice may, as I do, find it hard to easily make sense of this.  I seek not to be an apologist for this kind of behavior, specifically because it makes women’s reproductive rights and abortion services agencies look foolish and incompetent.  But what it does highlight, however, is how uncomfortable we are when it comes to frank discussions about abortion.  We can screech and yell about baby killers or those who murder abortionists, but we rarely really talk about the lives of individual women who find themselves faced with a grave situation—presented with the unenviable option of either terminating their pregnancy or bringing a child into the world.  If we, as part of our 9-5 job, sat across the desk from a child whose pregnancy clearly resulted from a case of incest or rape, it would be tempting to wish to spare her from any subsequent trauma.  Since a strong taboo already is in place regarding these sorts of crimes, it would be easier to simply take the path of least resistance.

The story also implies that sad tales like these are hardly unusual.  To this I add that anyone who has dealt with our convoluted legal system knows that justice, assuming it eventually arrives, is not exactly a precise, timely affair.  Court dockets have long been swelled past capacity, trials routinely last weeks on end, and moreover the emotional stress involved with lawyers, fees, strategies, and the massive amount of hoops to jump through make the process thoroughly exhausting for everyone involved.  Though I do not absolve the Planned Parenthood workers for refusing to follow their job descriptions and adhere to the letter of the law, I do recognize that often existing systems are so ridiculously complex and set in place to patch a hole, not for the ease of implementation.  After a time this encourages people to take short cuts.  If we ever really wished to devise a world that was fairer and more efficient, we’d adopt a system whereby the only rules we imposed were those absolutely necessary.  As it stands now, if one person breaks a rule, everyone else is punished by having to adhere to a new regulation or restrictive standard.  Good management punishes, and if need be, removes the individual offender, not the collective body.  Pushing aside for a moment our own passionate defenses, we can learn from ACORN and Planned Parenthood if this pushes us to closely re-examine whether rules, regulations, standards, and statutes really make our lives easier, or burden us to the point that we’d just as soon ignore them wholesale.

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