That pesky context. Who needs it?

By virtue of choosing a husband who leans a bit (a lot) further to the right than I do, I have the boundless joy of listening to conservative talk radio when I am in the car with him. Today, I got to listen to Republicans becoming apoplectic (right before my very ears!) over the nomination of Sonia Sotomayor for Supreme Court Justice.

Now, I’ll admit – the whole arena of politics in general gives me the heebie-jeebies, so I’m admittedly not as informed as I should be. So as I listened to them (“them,” today, being Rush Limbaugh and JD Hayworth) rant about Sotomayor’s 2001 speech (in which she stated, “Justice O’Connor has often been cited as saying that a wise old man and wise old woman will reach the same conclusion in deciding cases…. I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn’t lived that life.”), I had to agree that this seemed a concerning statement, but also had to wonder at the context of it. Quote mining is too frequent among all parties, beliefs and other arguments to not be immediately considered when hearing something like this.

So I looked up .her entire speech (available at NYTimes.com) and read through it. The particular quote being bandied about has been interpreted to mean various things, but primarily, conservatives seem to be convinced this means that Judge Sotomayor believes in giving poor favor over the rich, or minorities favor over whites. I will admit, I flinch at her use of the word “better,” but given the context of the remainder of the speech, it seems clear that she is not advocating any partiality. Her speech, to me, is honest and realistic, and the example she uses to demonstrate her point, I think, is valid:

Let us not forget that wise men like Oliver Wendell Holmes and Justice Cardozo voted on cases which upheld both sex and race discrimination in our society. Until 1972, no Supreme Court case ever upheld the claim of a woman in a gender discrimination case. I, like Professor Carter, believe that we should not be so myopic as to believe that others of different experiences or backgrounds are incapable of understanding the values and needs of people from a different group.

Without new attitudes and perceptions, obsolete and unfair laws have a chance to stand. New ideas have the potential to show us how old ideas might be too rigid or biased. Although I don’t think Sotomayor voiced the concept well in her introduction by making the wise old Latina woman “better” (she doesn’t strike me as a very comfortable or polished speaker), I think her support of the claim that different experiences and perspectives bring about new (and potentially) better ideas.

I still have to research her decisions (it seems some are quite controversial) to really know where I land on Sotomayor’s nomination. I am far from decided, because I need to educate myself so much more. It may very well turn out that she is too biased or too liberal. But I have to say, if this is the conservatives’ best argument in defense of that position, they are standing very shakily on a quote taken out of context and molded to meet their need.

Three steps forward, two steps back

America took a few strides forward with last night’s election, with Obama taking approx. 52% of the popular vote. Although there are precincts across the country yet to report, he is projected to obtain at least 338 electoral votes. This is monumental for reintroducing reason and common sense to the country.

Yet, while the majority of Americans are struggling to keep walking forward, there is a chain around our waists, and at the other end of the chain, the religious right does their damnedest to pull us backwards. Glancing through the ballot measures highlighted on CNN’s election page, I noticed that Arizona was not the only state who gave in to fundamentalist prejudice and sense of entitlement to impose morals onto everyone. I’ve already made it clear in previous posts how I feel about the attempts to ban gay marriage, so I’ll spare you the rant now. Let me just say I am exceptionally disappointed in the results of a few measures last night:

Arizona

Arizona Proposition 102: Ban on Gay Marriage

This measure would amend the state constitution so that only a union between one man and one woman would be valid or recognized as a marriage in the state. A similar measure was on the ballot in 2006 but failed

Yes 56%

No 44%

99% precincts reporting

http://www.cnn.com/ELECTION/2008/results/individual/#AZI01

Arkansas

Arkansas Initiative 1: Ban on Gay Couples Adopting Children
This measure would prohibit unmarried “sexual partner[s]” from adopting children or from serving as foster parents. The measure specifies that the prohibition applies to both opposite-sex as well as same-sex couples.

Yes 57%

No 43%

96% precincts reporting

http://www.cnn.com/ELECTION/2008/results/individual/#ARI01

California

California Proposition 8: Ban on Gay Marriage

This measure would amend the state constitution to specify that only marriages between one man and one woman would be recognized as valid in the state. If passed, the measure would trump a May 2008 ruling by the California Supreme Court that legalized same-sex marriage.

Yes 52%

No 48%

91% precincts reporting

http://www.cnn.com/ELECTION/2008/results/individual/#CAI01

Florida

Florida Amendment 2: Ban on Gay Marriage

This measure would amend the state constitution to define marriage as a union between one man and one woman. In order to amend the Florida constitution, 60 percent of voters must vote in favor of the amendment.

Yes 62%

No 38%

99% precincts reporting

http://www.cnn.com/ELECTION/2008/results/individual/#FLI01

With that said, let me present a few ballot measure with promising outcomes:

Colorado

Colorado Amendment 48: Human Life from Moment of Conception

This measure would amend the state constitution to define the term “person” to include “any human being from the moment of fertilization.” This definition would be applied to all aspects of the state constitution, including the provisions that ensure that no person has his or her life, liberty, or property taken away without due process of law. Thus, the measure would essentially have the effect of banning abortion.

Yes 27%

No 72%

87% precincts reporting

http://www.cnn.com/ELECTION/2008/results/individual/#COI02

Michigan

Michigan Proposition 2: Allow Stem Cell Research

This measure would amend the state constitution to permit human embryonic stem cell research with certain restrictions. The embryos must have been created for fertility treatment purposes; they must have been otherwise discarded; and they may not be used more than 14 days after cell division has begun.

Yes 53%

No 47%

99% precincts reporting

http://www.cnn.com/ELECTION/2008/results/individual/#MII02

South Dakota

South Dakota Initiative 11: Abortion Limits

This measure would prohibit all abortions in the state except in cases where mother’s life or health is at risk or in cases of rape or incest for pregnancies of less than 20 weeks. A similar measure that did not include exceptions for rape or the health of the mother was on the ballot in 2006, but was rejected by voters 44 to 56 percent.

Yes 45%

No 55%

100% precincts reporting

http://www.cnn.com/ELECTION/2008/results/individual/#SDI01

Washington

Washington Initiative 1000: Allow Doctor-Assisted Suicide

This measure would allow terminally ill, competent, adult residents of the state to request and self-administer lethal medication prescribed by a physician. The person requesting to end his or her life must be medically predicted to have six months or less to live.

Yes 59%

No 41%

54% precincts reporting

http://www.cnn.com/ELECTION/2008/results/individual/#WAI01

It appears there are some states that can make decisions without the tedium of religiosity standing in the way of progress.

Finally, congratulations to President-Elect Obama. While it is true that only time will show us what your presidency will bring, I believe you represent a great deal of change, and hopefully progression among the more narrow-minded set of our population. It is wonderful to feel such a sense of hope.

Arizonans, vote NO on bigotry

Prop 102 is a proposition to amend the Arizona Constitution to define marriage as a union between one man and one woman.

This is the product of ignorance and bigotry and I hope to see it crushed tomorrow night. The supporters’ web site is chock full of painful and downright stupid comments:

Vodpod videos no longer available.

more about “Media Room – Yes For Marriage“, posted with vodpod

“I think Prop 102 will protect marriage in Arizona from judges.”

Heaven forbid they touch this topic! We must completely bypass the branch of government intended to interpret law.

“It’s preserving the family.”

Whose family? Yours? That’s your job, not a legislator’s. Oh, someone else’s family… then what do you care?

Merriam-Webster defines family (highlights are mine):

Main Entry:
1fam·i·ly           Listen to the pronunciation of 1family
Pronunciation:
\ˈfam-lē, ˈfa-mə-\
Function:
noun
Inflected Form(s):
plural fam·i·lies
Etymology:
Middle English familie, from Latin familia household (including servants as well as kin of the householder), from famulus servant
Date:
15th century
fam·i·ly·hood           Listen to the pronunciation of familyhood \-ˌhu̇d\ noun
1: a group of individuals living under one roof and usually under one head : household
2 a: a group of persons of common ancestry : clan b: a people or group of peoples regarded as deriving from a common stock : race
3 a: a group of people united by certain convictions or a common affiliation : fellowship b: the staff of a high official (as the President)
4: a group of things related by common characteristics: as a: a closely related series of elements or chemical compounds
b: a group of soils with similar chemical and physical properties (as texture, pH, and mineral content) that comprise a category ranking above the series and below the subgroup in soil classification c: a group of related languages descended from a single ancestral language
5 a: the basic unit in society traditionally consisting of two parents rearing their children ; also : any of various social units differing from but regarded as equivalent to the traditional family <a single-parent family> b: spouse and children <want to spend more time with my family>
6 a: a group of related plants or animals forming a category ranking above a genus and below an order and usually comprising several to many genera bin livestock breeding (1): the descendants or line of a particular individual especially of some outstanding female (2): an identifiable strain within a breed
7: a set of curves or surfaces whose equations differ only in parameters
8: a unit of a crime syndicate (as the Mafia) operating within a geographic area

Hmmm… I don’t see “man and woman” anywhere in there.

“It’s cut and dry.”

Stupid and thoughtless. Why don’t you just say it? “My opinion is correct and there is no room for discussion of how this could hurt thousands or millions of people. Don’t care, can’t hear you, na na na na na na na!!!!”

“It needs to become an amendment so that the people could have the last word.”

Don’t you mean to add, “the people who agree with me, anyway. The rest don’t matter.”

Here’s hoping the people this will affect most do have the last word. It’s easy for you to stand in front of a microphone with your husband and your traditional, patriarchal family and talk about how simple this is. But the truth is, it shouldn’t matter to you whether or not same-sex partners are married. Just because it hurts your sensibilities and damages your perception of a perfectly ordered world (which I can only assume must be a real bitch to maintain!), doesn’t mean you get to declare who can and can’t be married.

Here’s a news flash. Let’s talk strictly about heterosexual married couples for a second. I can think of several that have ended badly, or are loveless, miserable and suffocating. Why do these people get to be married – doesn’t their misery destroy your perfect ideal of the “family?” Well, it should.

The government has no right to dictate who can and cannot be married. Two hearts committed to each other are married with or without a piece of paper. The paper is only for the purpose of registering a marriage for the sake of spousal rights. Well, it should be, anyway. I was married to my husband long before the officiator signed his name to our license. I was in love with, committed and faithful to him. We shared a deep attraction, a home, dreams, plans.

That is marraige. That is family. If I was born with the mechanism that determines homosexuality, I would not have held that attraction, and I would have found someone else with whom I connected on that level. And I would be married to them, in my heart at least, and ideally, officially, in a state that appreciates the nature of love.

It saddens me that all a defeat of Prop 102 will bring about is avoidance of this egregious bigotry in the state constitution. I wish it meant that people in love are afforded equal rights across the board, regardless of the sex of each of the parties.

Please, don’t impose any idealistic notions of what a family is “supposed” to be on those who don’t share them. It’s not your place. It’s not mine, either. The opportunity should be afforded to a couple to determine that for themselves.

Brainwashing comes home

This weekend, I visited my sister-in-law and her three children. The two oldest kids (13 and 11) were in and out of the room with the adults.

At some point, my 11-year-old niece says, “So who are you voting for?” I should mention here that this family is very conservative Christian, so I was reluctant to respond at all – it as a nice family Saturday, and I didn’t feel like a political argument. But then my other sister-in-law answered that she would be voting for Obama. My niece’s jaw dropped. “But he believes in abortion!” And he wants to take ‘In God We Trust’ off the money!”

So we had a brief discussion about the history of “In God We Trust,” which I had written about before. I was actually able to sit back and watch – the SIL who will be voting for Obama pretty much described what I had written (thanks for listening, A!). The conversation stopped when someone came back from picking up lunch and we moved on to sunnier – and less explosive – topics.

But a couple of house later, my nephew (the 13-year-old) came in and asked the same question. All but one of hte five adults in the room (his mother was the one) indicated Obama. He freaked out, citing almost precisely what his sister had, adding that Obama was a Muslim who wanted to ruin America’s Christianity.

His mother asked him who told him that, and he replied, “Mr. Powers.” She said she didn’t want to talk about politics, and told him not to bring it up again. (She wasn’t in the room when my niece asked the question, or she may have stifled discussion then, too).

So here’s the deal. These kids go to a Christian private school. So naturally there’s already a focus on religion there. But I am appalled that this Mr. Powers is uttering such inflammatory political statements in front of kids who are old enough to begin considering their own opinions and ideas, given a full cache of facts. There’s a reason they’re not old enough to vote, but they’re surely old enough to be taught to think critically, not just to spew out what’s been uttered by trusted adults.

This is disturbing. I love my sister-in-law and her family. They have been very happy since they found this church, but she has also become very conservative and – as demonstrated in the interaction Saturday – stifling. She’s not open-minded, and I’m not interested in starting a family feud. But I am gravely worried about these kids. They are not choosing their beliefs, they are mimicking their mom’s. They are not presented with other potential world views. They are given the information needed to keep them “in the fold.”

They’re not my kids; it’s barely my business. But I feel like this is injurous to their mental growth, and they are both extremely bright, with great potential in this world. I want to help them find a way to use that potential for the greater good, not for pushing an ancient and manipulative agenda.

An ad from outside the asylum

This should be the rule, not the exception.

Vodpod videos no longer available.more about “Barack Obama“, posted with vodpod

This is what a campaign should be.A candidate should tell us what he plans to do to drive change, not tell us why we shouldn’t vote for the other guy. A smear ad says to the voters, “Vote for me; I’m the least of the evils.” It’s cowardly to surround an entire ad around the opponent’s faults; it tells us that even you don’t believe you’re good enough for the job… just that you know you’re better than him.

It’s insulting to the voters and citizens of this nation to ask us to make such an important choice based on who has managed to dig deepest into the other guy’s skeletons.

It’s fine to tell us that you think your opponent is wrong. But – [listen up candidates!] – can you please give us enough credit to know that you don’t agree? If you did, it wouldn’t be much of a choice for us, would it? So – spend more time telling us why we should elect you, instead of why we shouldn’t vote for the opponent.

I just want to add that, by posting this ad from the Obama camp, I in no way am trying to indict only John McCain in this mud-slinging. It’s come from both sides. But I have to admit, I have yet to see an ad from the McCain campaign that doesn’t skewer Obama in some way. At least one side knows how to put together an ad that at least suggests he has the right idea, and directs viewers to a site with more detailed information.

I’m just trying to say.. a standard ad should focus on the positive, not the negative. It doesn’t have to be all butterflies and rainbows, but can we please have fewer black clouds and ominous voiceovers?

cross-posted at myspace

Well, it was a night for the monsters to play

Susan Nagel, of Grosse Pointe Farms, MI, decided to turn the tables on the ghouls that showed up at her door, and refused candy to children who either support Obama, or whose parents suppot Obama.

It seems clear this woman is motivated by hatred of her candidate’s opponent, not any true desire to ensure her candidate receives support. Seriously, what could she hope to gain by targeting children?

Yes, yes – it’s her right to give out her candy to whomever she pleases. Presumably, she bought it with her own hard-earned cash. Fine. Whatever. But she’s not teaching the kids who come to her door any lessons. First of all, an educated guess would assume that 99% of them aren’t eligible to vote, and won’t be for the next 4 to 14 years. So she’s not making any impact at the polls.

Second, she’s certainly not offering these kids any grass-is-greener potions, is she? I mean, the ones who are affected at all are going to remember this nasty Republican woman, and want nothing to do with her kind.

She makes a nice little effort, though – hadning out McCain/Palin pamphlets, although only with the candy she gives to the good little ghosts and goblins. What a waste of paper, right?

She’s playing dirty – although she’s more than likely acting independently, she’s following in the well-worn McCain trail: dirty tricks and mean-spirited tactics. This was not a night for political positioning. These poor kids, whether they have an opinion on the election or not (and if they do, a majority of them probably only hold their parents’ opinion), are only out for a bit of candy and night with their friends and family.

It is of note that the story linked here, deriding Ms. Nagel, is a Fox affiliate. Even they don’t approve of how low she stooped. That should say something right there.

Use a calculator much?

I only have a few minutes, but I HAVE to get this off my chest… I’ve seen this email 3 times in the last 3 hours:

Hi Pals,

Just letting you know I’m against the $85,000,000,000.00 bailout of AIG.

Instead, I’m in favor of giving $85,000,000,000 to America in a We-Deserve-It Dividend.

To make the math simple, let’s assume there are 200,000,000 bonafide U.S. Citizens 18+. Our population is about 301,000,000 +/- counting every man, woman and child. So, 200,000,000 might be a fair stab at adults 18 and up.

So divide 200 million adults 18+ into $85 billion that equals $425,000.00.

My plan is to give $425,000 to every person 18+ as a We-Deserve-It Dividend.

Of course, it would NOT be tax free. So let’s assume a tax rate of 30%. Every individual 18+ has to pay $127,500.00 in taxes. That sends $25,500,000,000 right back to Uncle Sam, but it means that every adult 18+ has $297,500.00 in their pocket. A husband and wife would have $595,000.00.

What would you do with $297,500.00 to $595,000.00 in your family?

Pay off your mortgage – housing crisis solved.
Repay college loans – what a great boost to new grads.
Put away money for college – it’ll be there.
Save in a bank – create money to loan to entrepreneurs.
Buy a new car – create jobs.
Invest in the market – capital drives growth.
Pay for your parent’s medical insurance – health care improves .
Enable Deadbeat Dads to come clean – or else.

Remember this is for every adult U S Citizen 18+ including the folks who lost their jobs at Lehman Brothers and every other company that is cutting back. And of course, for those serving in our Armed Forces.

If we’re going to redistribute wealth, let’s really do it instead of trickling out a puny $1000.00 ( “vote buy” ) economic incentive that is being proposed.

If we’re going to do an $85 billion bailout, let’s bail out every adult U S Citizen 18+!

As for AIG – liquidate it. . . .Sell off its parts.

Let American General go back to being American General. Sell off the real estate. Let the private sector bargain hunters cut it up and clean it up.

Here’s my rationale: We deserve it and AIG doesn’t.

Sure it’s a crazy idea that can “never work”, but can you imagine the Coast-To-Coast Block Party!

How do you spell Economic Boom?

I trust my fellow adult Americans to know how to use the $85 billion We-Deserve-It Dividend more than I do the geniuses at AIG or in Washington DC.

And remember, this plan only really costs $59.5 Billion because $25.
5 Billion is returned instantly in taxes to Uncle Sam.

Ahhh…I feel so much better getting that off my chest.

I’m all for alternative solutions to getting us out of this mess. I honestly appreciate efforts to brainstorm… But, um, every calculator and spreadsheet program at my disposal says that $85,000,000,000 (that’s eighty-five billion) divided by 200,000,000 (that’s two hundred million) people only comes out to $425 each. If I have a choice, I’ll take the $1000 incentive.

So if this email crosses your path, I’m begging you, please – stop the insanity. If you forward it, please do so only to share a warning about how far off base it is. Your local and national politicians are not failing you for ignoring it as an option. They’re actually doing you a favor.

Wait, huh?

New press release from the Catholic League today, in which Bill Donohue declares a Ramadan event honoring Iranian President Ahmadinejad “obscene.” Donohue says:

“Catholics need to stand with their Jewish brothers and sisters in protesting this obscene event. Ahmadinejad is a menace to freedom-loving people the world over, and the sight of religious groups embracing him is nauseating. The Catholic League is proud to take part in this rally and we encourage people of all religious groups to have a contingent represent them on Thursday evening.”

Hmmm… well, as scary as it is, I’m inclined to agree with the threat-to-freedom part. But, hey, Bill…? What about the threat to freedom that Catholicism and all religion in general pose? Weren’t you just screaming, purple-faced and pop-eyed about the great intolerance of PZ Myers’ own demonstration of protestation? If you’re going to rant about your right to respect from others, maybe you should observe this right for others. You don’t get the monopoly on respect from people. You have to practice giving it, too.

McCain’s American History 101

Oh, this is frightening. I get that it’s been a while since McCain’s picked up a history book, but he is either seriously mistaken about the history of our country, its founders, and its constitution, or he is pathetically pandering to the enormous number of Christian voters. Either way, any modicum of respect I might have mustered for my home-state’s senator (not much to begin with) flew out the window when I saw this video.

Some of the more disturbing quotes from this two-and-a-half minute spiel (for a real party, read the full transcript):

I would probably have to say yes, that the Constitution established the United States of America as a Christian nation.

Um, hi. Yes, Senator McCain – did you ever pick up a copy of the Constitution? Would you mind pointing out the section that declares our nation to be Christian? They seem to have left that out of the history books I read when I went to school… (Incidentally, the question posed was: “A recent poll found that 55 percent of Americans believe the U.S. Constitution establishes a Christian nation. What do you think?”)

We welcome the poor, the tired, the huddled masses. But when they come here they know that they are in a nation founded on Christian principles.

If so, then someone has been severely misinforming our immigrants. If that’s the case, why don’t we send them to Christian-principles training, rather than taking the time to deal with all the cultural-sensitivity nonsense, huh?

From the transcript (didn’t make the cut in this particular video version):

We were founded as a nation on Judeo-Christian principles. There’s very little debate about that.

Way to keep your finger on the pulse of the nation, there, Senator. I thought I’d been hearing quite a bit of rumbling about that, but it must not be coming from anyone important or any voters that matter. After all, if it’s in the Constitution, what debate can there be? So, where is that article again?

Also from the transcript:

Our Founding Fathers believed in separation of church and state and they stated it unequivocally. But, they also continued to emphasize the Christian principle. In God We Trust or [all men are] created equal—every statement that they made had to do with the belief in a Divine Creator

First of all, Thomas Jefferson – and many of the founding fathers – was a deist. Deists were not – and are not – Christians. Deists believe in a God or Creator, but they do not believe that this Being has any oversight in human lives. Something like how a mansion’s architect will probably never have to deal with the broken-down dishwasher twenty years after the house is erected, but still has appreciable skills visible in the design of the house nonetheless.

Second, “In God We Trust” never even showed up on our currency until after our Founding Fathers were in the ground. This is according to the U.S. Mint’s History of “In God We Trust” page:

The Congress passed the Act of April 22, 1864. This legislation changed the composition of the one-cent coin and authorized the minting of the two-cent coin. The Mint Director was directed to develop the designs for these coins for final approval of the Secretary. IN GOD WE TRUST first appeared on the 1864 two-cent coin.

It didn’t even show up on paper money until nearly a century later:

The first paper currency bearing the motto entered circulation on October 1, 1957.

This was in response to the phrase being [regrettably] made our nation’s official motto in 1956. Until then, the de facto motto (which also appears on most currency, and on the nation’s official seal) was E Pluribus Unum, Latin for From Many, One. Isn’t it sad how contradictory those to statements are?

Anyway… moving on. A little more from McCain:

But I think the number one issue people should make [in the] selection of the President of the United States is, ‘Will this person carry on in the Judeo Christian principled tradition that has made this nation the greatest experiment in the history of mankind?

Shouldn’t the number one question be, “Will this person make the best decisions for America’s residents and future, regardless of the person’s faith?” I can think of a few people who profess to live by Judeo-Christian principles that I would most certainly not ever want to see leading this country.

I am concerned that McCain will only be making decisions for the population that worships his God, and has little interest in the cultural and religious melting pot that is America.