Grassroots voters turn their backs on Republican ideology

Voters turned a skeptical eye toward conservative-backed measures across the country Tuesday, rejecting an anti-labor law in Ohio, an anti-abortion measure in Mississippi and a tightening of voting rights in Maine.

Even in Arizona, voters turned out of office the chief architect of that state’s controversial anti-immigration law. State Senator Russell Pearce, a Republican power broker and a former sheriff’s deputy known for his uncompromising style, conceded the race Tuesday with a look of shock on his face.

…Taken together, Tuesday’s results could breathe new life into President Obama’s hopes for his re-election a year from now. But the day was not a wholesale victory for Democrats. Even as voters in Ohio delivered a blow to Gov. John R. Kasich, a Republican, and rejected his attempt to weaken collective bargaining for public employees, they approved a symbolic measure to exempt Ohio residents from the individual mandate required in Mr. Obama’s health care law.

And while voters in Mississippi, one of the most conservative states, turned away a measure that would have outlawed all abortions and many forms of contraception, they tightened their voting laws to require some form of government-approved identification. Democrats had opposed the requirement, saying it was a thinly disguised attempt to intimidate voters of color.

Which is why I consider yesterday’s polling a victory for grassroots, working class, middle-class Americans. These victories didn’t come from Democrat leadership – they came from groups ranging from local unions to Planned Parenthood to the American Civil Liberties Union.

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Mississippi will vote on the personhood of fertilized eggs

On November 8, Mississippi voters will not only decide who should lead the state, but also indicate whether they agree with the candidates about the status of embryos. The Initiative 26 ballot measure proposes to amend the state’s constitution to redefine ‘person’ as “every human being from the moment of fertilization, cloning, or the equivalent thereof”. If approved, the amendment would effectively bestow human rights on fertilized human eggs, making abortion illegal in the state in most, if not all, circumstances.

“The unborn child in the womb is scientifically proven to be a human being, and when it comes down to it we are a human-rights organization,” says Jennifer Mason, communications director for Personhood USA…Ms. Mason, like most of her peers, is deluded, a hypocrite, a liar.

By defining personhood so broadly, the measure would also have an impact beyond abortion—for example, it could rule out research using human embryonic stem cells and put doctors who offer in vitro fertilization (IVF) in a dubious legal position, because not all embryos created during fertility treatment survive the procedure.

“This is a dangerous and extreme government intrusion into women’s health, women’s rights and families’ health,” says Stan Flint, a consultant to Mississippians for Healthy Families, based in Jackson, which opposes the amendment.

Similar propositions have been put to voters in the United States twice before—during statewide campaigns in Colorado, where the personhood movement first emerged as a strategic challenge to abortion laws. But in both 2008 and 2010, personhood initiatives were roundly defeated, respectively winning only 27% and 29% of votes cast…Mississippi could be very different

The Mississippi vote itself will have little direct impact on human embryonic stem-cell research, because the state is not a major player in the field. The potential threat to reproductive technology is more immediate…

As the campaign for Initiative 26 heads into its final days…defeat of the Mississippi initiative would be a turnaround, but an increasingly vocal opposition movement has thrown predictions of an easy victory for the initiative into question. “Starting from a dead stop at two months out, we have put together a major campaign,” says Stan Flint. “The momentum has swung strongly towards the opposition to this amendment.”

Just as fundraising for organizations like Planned Parenthood were an absolute necessity in the days spent fighting for a woman’s right to choose an abortion, for everyone’s access to birth control – here we are, again, faced with religious nutballs trying to enforce their 14th Century ideology on the Land of Liberty.

That they choose to couch their intellectual backwardness in terminology that includes the word “science” sprinkled here and there is lip service to rare notice of what century we really live in. In truth, many of our politicians are as backwards as the people who elect them to “lead”. I expect as little from them as I do from the huddled clusters of fanatics who say Mississippi is God’s Country.

Thanks, Ursarodina

Palestinians awarded full membership in UNESCO

UNESCO delegates stand and cheer after approving Palestinian membership
Daylife/AP Photo used by permission

Palestine has become a full member of the UN cultural and educational agency in a move that the United States and other opponents say could harm renewed Middle East peace efforts.

The US had threatened to withhold roughly $80 million in annual funding to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) if it approved Palestinian membership. The United States provides about 22% of Unesco’s funding.

Which is about how the average mafia functions. Extortion doesn’t make for lasting politics.

Huge cheers went up in Unesco after delegates approved the membership by 107 votes to 14 with 52 abstentions. Eighty-one votes were needed for approval in a hall with 173 Unesco member delegations present.

“Long live Palestine!” shouted one delegate, in French, at the unusually tense and dramatic meeting of Unesco’s general conference.

While the vote has large symbolic meaning, the issues of borders of an eventual Palestinian state, security troubles and other disputes that have thwarted Middle East peace for decades remain unresolved.

Palestinian officials are seeking full membership in the United Nations, but that effort is still under examination and the US has said it will veto it unless there is a peace deal with Israel. Given that, the Palestinians separately sought membership at Paris-based Unesco and other UN bodies…

The US secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, last week called Unesco’s deliberation “inexplicable”, saying discussion of Palestinian membership of international organisations could not replace negotiations with Israel as a fast track towards Palestinian independence.

There is no “fast track” towards Palestinian independence if you think that honorable and ethical negotiations will be forthcoming from Israel’s ruling politicians. They hold power from a commitment to manifest destiny and lebensraum.

There is no “fast track” as long as the train dispatcher deals only in American dollars dedicated to short-term and long-term goals decided essentially by Israeli politicians. There is little or no attention paid to the needs of the displaced nation of Palestine.

History and historic decisions aren’t resolved in press releases from the State Department. Especially those offered in support of imperial occupying armies.

U.S. stocks plunge in biggest retreat since recession bottom

A global rout in equities drove the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index to its worst slump since February 2009, while two-year Treasury yields plunged to a record low amid concern the economy is weakening…The S&P 500 tumbled 4.8 percent to 1,200.07 at 4 p.m. in New York, a 12 percent drop from its April 29 peak and weakest level since November 2010…

Concern the global economy may relapse into a recession has driven investors out of stocks and into the relative safety of Treasuries, the Swiss franc and yen and is spurring speculation the Federal Reserve will start another stimulus program. Japan’s moves to sell the yen, which this week neared a post-World War II record, and expand an asset-purchase fund follows efforts by the Swiss central bank to curb the franc’s gains. The European Central Bank resumed bond purchases and offered banks more cash to stem the spread of the debt crisis.

The mood right now is gloomy,” Mike Ryan, the New York- based chief investment strategist at UBS Wealth Management Americas, said in a telephone interview. His firm oversees $774 billion. “The burden of proof is for better data that show the economy is not falling into recession. Tomorrow’s payroll report is crucial. If we see another disappointment, the stock market will have significant downside from here…”

Gap Inc., the largest U.S. apparel chain, sank 12 percent after sales missed analysts’ estimates. DirecTV, the largest U.S. satellite-television provider, tumbled 5.7 percent after adding fewer U.S. customers than analysts estimated.

“It’s not a flash crash,” Michael Shaoul, chairman of Marketfield Asset Management in New York, said in a telephone interview. His firm oversees $1 billion. “It’s much more orderly and I don’t see any weird prints like we saw that day in individual issues. I still couldn’t tell where this market will bottom. I also don’t think this is 2008 when you saw a genuine failure of global finance to be able to fund asset process. You don’t see money markets going crazy. It’s a plain and simple liquidation of equities and commodities.”

There is little reason for confidence in the US economy – and even less in the European economy taken as a whole. RTFA for details – if you dare.

There is no reason to expect action on the part of Congress – especially the worms who think markets, commerce and finance are something that hasn’t changed since the end of the Civi War. And they would have been on the losing side there, as well.

Halfway measures from the Obama Administration never developed into infrastructure revival which would have produced jobs and employment for some of the “unemployables” stuck into double-digit unemployment. The Tea Party and Republican flunkies on the Right wouldn’t act, today, if called upon to enact the measures jointly agreed upon as bipartisan measures at the end of the Bush administration. I doubt if anyone expects them to join with Obama and the progressive Democrats who were elected while Blue Dogs were made redundant.

Chickens are coming home to roost, folks. If you voted for teabaggers, you’re witnessing the results of that foolishness. If you voted to reelect slugs like Boehner and McConnell, the Coburns and Ryans of Congress – prepare to start shoveling chickenshit, right now. It will be the only job you can get.

ADDENDUM: A few folks have asked “what should I buy on the way down?” I don’t give stock advice at my personal blog. Yeah, with just a little cash at hand, I bought a little bit today – and anyone who knows me really well knows there’s just one more equity I’m waiting to get low enough to grab a little more.

Do I think we’re heading into another recession? Damned if I know. I’ll be happy when my social security check arrives this month. 🙂

Pentagon says women should be allowed to serve in combat

A Pentagon commission on diversity is recommending the U.S. military end its ban on women serving in direct combat roles — a restriction the group says is discriminatory and out of touch with the demands of modern warfare.

In its draft report, the Military Leadership Diversity Commission said the military should gradually eliminate the ban in order to create a “level playing field for all qualified service members…”

The draft report said the military’s “combat exclusion policies” do not reflect the realities of the current wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and create institutional barriers to women, who are prevented from getting key assignments that could lead to career advancement.

“Service policies that bar women from gaining entry to certain combat-related career fields, specialties, units, and assignments are based on standards of conventional warfare, with well-defined, linear battlefields,” the report said. “However, the current conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan have been anything but conventional.”

More than 200,000 women have served in the U.S. military in Iraq and Afghanistan. Since those wars began, 132 female service members have been killed, and 721 have been wounded.

Proponents of the commission’s recommendations agree that technology and circumstance have drastically altered modern warfare. They say it is difficult to distinguish between combat and non-combat roles on the front lines of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Fourth and fifth-generation warfare long ago stepped aside from the conventions stuck in muddy brains trying to fight the battles of WW1 and WW2 all over again. Especially from the safe seats in Congress and the fantasy world of punditry.

As women played significant roles in every war for national liberation from Algeria to VietNam, the most backwards elements in Western political thought maintained a tin soldier response to a new world order that never fit 19th Century imperialism.

Why should the United States be among the last to learn from history – and changing times?

Arizona’s death panels challenged by survivors

First, it was distraught patients awaiting organ transplants who protested Arizona’s decision to no longer cover such operations under its Medicaid program.

Now, Arizonans who received such transplants, and are alive and well as a result of them, are questioning the data that lawmakers relied on to make their controversial benefit cuts

When Arizona lawmakers voted last spring to cut some state-financed transplant coverage, they relied on data provided by state health officials showing that the procedures were rarely successful. But transplant experts and some patients who have undergone the now-discontinued procedures question the state’s numbers…

The cure rate for bone marrow transplants cited in the report to the Legislature was either zero or 7 percent, depending on whether that unidentified 14th patient lived. But transplant experts put the actual survival rate, based on national studies, at over 40 percent.

Dr. Jeffrey R. Schriber, medical director of the Blood and Marrow Transplant Program at Banner Good Samaritan Medical Center in Phoenix, has written to Gov. Jan Brewer and state lawmakers telling them that their decisions were based on incomplete data that gave the wrong picture. His data show the success rate for bone marrow transplants covered by Arizona’s Medicaid program at slightly higher than the national average. Of 20 operations performed at Banner in recent years, 9 patients have survived, he said…

Bone marrow transplants are not the only ones in which legislators used questionable data to make their decision, transplant experts say. The American Society of Transplant Surgeons called Arizona’s transplant cuts “decisions with no medical justification.”

Liver transplants for those with hepatitis C, which the state also discontinued, have a survival rate exceeding 80 percent after one year and 60 percent after five years, the transplant group said. Arizona’s study of such procedures was far more pessimistic, saying such transplants “do not significantly affect the diseases they are intended to cure.”

The same liars who invented “death panels” to prop up their opposition to extended healthcare – now, use their own version of death panels to cut off essential medical procedures to stiffen their lame beancounter backbone.

RTFA. Corrupt policies, deceitful, in line with neocon ideology all the way.

Congress called upon to support stem cell research

Seventy-five leaders of the nation’s medical schools [.pdf] signed an ad in the Sept. 3 Washington Post urging Congress to act now to make sure that lifesaving stem cell research can continue in the wake of the Aug. 23 court decision prohibiting further federal funding.

The ad asks that legislators resolve the issue “once and for all” by passing legislation ensuring “continued federal funding for human embryonic stem cell research under the NIH’s rigorous ethical guidelines.”

Scientists and educators respond to the ideology of superstition, those who would halt federal support for stem cell research, an important and growing aspect of modern medicine.

Rightwing churches kickoff campaign of fear

145 evangelical, Roman Catholic and Orthodox Christian leaders have signed a declaration saying they will not cooperate with laws that they say could be used to compel their institutions to participate in abortions, or to bless or in any way recognize same-sex couples.

We pledge to each other, and to our fellow believers, that no power on earth, be it cultural or political, will intimidate us into silence or acquiescence,” it says. The signers include nine Roman Catholic archbishops and the primate of the Orthodox Church in America.

They want to signal to the Obama administration and to Congress that they are still a formidable force that will not compromise on abortion, stem-cell research or gay marriage. They hope to influence current debates over health care reform, the same-sex marriage bill in Washington, D.C., and the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which would prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation…

Ira C. Lupu, a law professor at George Washington University Law School, said it was “fear-mongering” to suggest that religious institutions would be forced to do any of those things. He said they are protected by the First Amendment, and by conscience clauses that allow medical professionals and hospitals to opt out of performing certain procedures, and religious exemptions written into same-sex marriage bills.

Have to watch out. There might be a Death Panel hiding under your bed.

More realistic. These paranoids have enjoyed a disproportionate measure of power from political opportunists and cowardly media. Their fears are those of discredited reactionaries everywhere. They thrive on an ignorant public accepting of their lies.

Certainly, their paranoia is laughable. But, automatic acceptance by an ignorant and ill-informed public perpetuates bigotry as thoroughly as any compliant legal system.

Powell confronts Cheney on the future of Republican Party

Colin L. Powell challenged Dick Cheney on the legacy of the Bush administration and the future of the Republican Party on Sunday, declaring that Republicans should not bow to “diktats that come from the right wing.”

The remarks by Mr. Powell, a former secretary of state, amounted to a public rebuttal of Mr. Cheney, the former vice president, and Rush Limbaugh, the conservative radio commentator, who have questioned Mr. Powell’s Republican credentials and suggested that he should leave the party.

Rush will not get his wish,” Mr. Powell said Sunday on “Face the Nation” on CBS. “And Mr. Cheney was misinformed. I am still a Republican.”

Mr. Powell’s appearance underlined an extraordinary public struggle among Republicans over the future of the party and the legacy of the Bush administration, particularly on national security. Mr. Powell broke with Mr. Cheney on the prison camp at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, saying that he agreed with President Obama that it should be closed and that Mr. Cheney disagreed as much with his former boss as with Mr. Obama.

“Mr. Cheney is not only disagreeing with President Obama’s policy,” Mr. Powell said. “He’s disagreeing with President Bush’s policy. President Bush stated repeatedly to international audiences and to the country that he wanted to close Guantánamo. The problem he had was he couldn’t get all the pieces together…”

Mr. Powell infuriated many in his party last fall when he endorsed Mr. Obama for president. His appearance on “Face the Nation” comes two weeks after Mr. Cheney, appearing on the same program, said he believed that Mr. Powell “had already left the party. I didn’t know he was still a Republican…”

He made clear that he thought a major threat to the party were suggestions by Republicans like Mr. Cheney and Mr. Limbaugh that there was no room for Republicans like Mr. Powell…

Though I respect the views of traditional American conservatism – goodness knows there are enough of them in my extended family – I’m glad to see the nutball Right battling to stay in charge of the party. I’m just as pleased to see proto-fascists narrow their base, affront that portion of the American populace who respect democracy and collective political freedoms.

Let them paint themselves into the corner where racists and bigots, war-lovers and chickenhawks alike, the professional haters jostle each other into uselessness. The party of “NO’ indeed.

Is Texas ready to turn back the clock on evolution?

Stalwarts of Texas-style education return home
Daylife/AP Photo by Matt Slocum

The latest round in a long-running battle over how evolution should be taught in Texas schools began in earnest Wednesday as the State Board of Education heard impassioned testimony from scientists and social conservatives on revising the science curriculum.

The debate here has far-reaching consequences; Texas is one of the nation’s biggest buyers of textbooks, and publishers are reluctant to produce different versions of the same material.

Many biologists and teachers said they feared that the board would force textbook publishers to include what skeptics see as weaknesses in Darwin’s theory to sow doubt about science and support the Biblical version of creation.

“These weaknesses that they bring forward are decades old, and they have been refuted many, many times over,” Kevin Fisher, a past president of the Science Teachers Association of Texas, said after testifying. “It’s an attempt to bring false weaknesses into the classroom in an attempt to get students to reject evolution.”

Even as federal courts have banned the teaching of creationism and intelligent design in biology courses, social conservatives have gained 7 of 15 seats on the Texas board in recent years, and they enjoy the strong support of Gov. Rick Perry, a Republican.

The chairman of the board, Dr. Don McLeroy, a dentist, pushed in 2003 for a more skeptical version of evolution to be presented in the state’s textbooks, but could not get a majority to vote with him. Dr. McLeroy has said he does not believe in Darwin’s theory and thinks that Earth’s appearance is a recent geologic event, thousands of years old, not 4.5 billion as scientists contend.

Business leaders, meanwhile, said Texas would have trouble attracting highly educated workers and their families if the state’s science programs were seen as a laughingstock among biologists.

Being a laughingstock is a Texas specialty – not limited to biology.