Thursday, April 28, 2005

But, George, Do You Think The Children Will Be Safe Without Nana?

How cruel do you have to be to do this to a child?

As a 13-year-old Palm Beach County girl prepared this week to end a pregnancy she says she does not want, the Florida Department of Children and Families went to court to stop her from having the abortion.

The American Civil Liberties Union challenged the state's position Wednesday, saying DCF is overstepping its authority and violating the girl's constitutional rights.

The girl, identified only as L.G., lives in a shelter for abused and neglected teens and found out two weeks ago during a doctor's appointment that she is pregnant. Soon after, she told her DCF caseworker in Palm Beach County that she wanted an abortion.

The caseworker scheduled an appointment for the girl to have an abortion Tuesday and planned to drive her to the office, according to an appeal filed by the ACLU. On the same day, lawyers for DCF filed an emergency motion to stop L.G. from terminating her pregnancy.

In a hearing that day before Juvenile Court Judge Ronald Alvarez, the state argued that Florida law gives DCF authority to prevent L.G. from having an abortion. The state said the girl was not able to make an informed decision because of her age and immaturity, according to the appeal filed Wednesday by the ACLU.


The Supreme Court has established that nobody has the right to determine L.G.'s best interests but L.G. herself, the ACLU argues.

L.G., who is 13 weeks pregnant, does not believe she can care for herself or a child, said Bob Bertisch, the director of Palm Beach County's Legal Aid Society.

The girl has received counseling from a women's health clinic, talked about her decision with responsible adults and knows the medical risks of abortion, the ACLU and Legal Aid Society wrote in the appeal.

The ACLU asked the courts to act quickly. As she moves into the third month of her pregnancy, the abortion will become more risky, they said.

L.G.'s case continues a debate that started in 2003, in the case of J.D.S., a severely retarded women who was raped in a state group home. Gov. Bush intervened in that case, asking that the state be allowed to appoint a guardian to speak for the best interests of the fetus. The courts rejected his efforts as unconstitutional.

J.D.S. ultimately carried the baby to term, and a family adopted "Baby Grace."

Bush's critics argued that the state should have been more worried about how J.D.S. was raped in the first place, and they pointed out that she herself did not have a guardian until the pregnancy.

ACLU attorney James K. Green echoed those criticisms in the case of L.G. Until she became pregnant, the 13-year-old also had no guardian to represent her interests in court.

The state, Green said, should be more concerned with how L.G. was able to get pregnant in state care.

However it happened, Simon said, "forcing a 13-year-old to carry an unwanted pregnancy to term... is just plain cruel. This is what you get when ideology dictates child welfare decisions."

How is Florida wrong? Let me count the ways:

A 13-year-old girl in foster care got pregnant.

A legal medical procedure is being blocked because someone else is morally offended. Sound familiar?

A young woman who wants an abortion, and who has been counselled about it and understands what she is doing, finds the people who are supposed to be caring for her instead trying to force her to have a baby because of her "age and immaturity".

A young woman who recognizes that she cannot care for a child is being told she must have one.

And these assholes believe they're moral why?

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Here's To The Fear Of Being Trapped

Just a reminder of how screwed-up things are in Congress and in America: This AP/Yahoo News story, about the current showdown over the House Ethics Committee, has the charming headline, "GOP Weighing New Concessions On Ethics".

It really isn't much of a stretch to point out the implied context of negotiating one's ethics, is it?

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

It's The Wanting That Keeps Us Alive

One of the great fallacies of the right wing, especially the Free Republic/Little Green Footballs chunk of the blogosphere, is that we on the left want the U.S. mission in Iraq to "fail". As with most of the things those folks say, that is based on an odious and narrow description of success, which ignores things like, oh, we illegally invaded their country under false pretenses, 'n' stuff.

I, for one, would dearly love Iraq to be a peaceful place, ruled and defended by its own people. I'm quite happy with the idea of it not being ruled by Saddam Hussein... it's just that the cut-off-the-face-to-get-rid-of-a-zit method we used to get rid of him still isn't working.

Perhaps a reminder of what's really at stake is in order.

In that spirit, here is a LiveJournal entry with an amazing and beautiful photojournal of an area on the Iran-Iraq border... complete with the occasional chance of sudden, horrible death.

Tragically, there is no way to take back the invasion. Even more tragically, a lot of people still don't realize why some of us wish to God we could. Some of us don't want the damn oil, or the damn political power, or the damn geopolitical strategizing. Some of us aren't trying to position themselves for an invasion of Iran, or the defense or collapse of Israel, or the Rapture. Some of us just want to leave those people and their land in better shape than when we went there.

Some of us just want to apologize, make reparations, and clean up our damn mess.

Friday, April 22, 2005

It's A "Pay Before You Pray" Deal

Ah, the horrible oppression of superstitious traitors:
Evangelical Christian leaders, who have been working closely with senior Republican lawmakers to place conservative judges in the federal courts, have also been exploring ways to punish sitting jurists and even entire courts viewed as hostile to their cause.

An audio recording obtained by the Los Angeles Times features two of the nation's most influential evangelical leaders, at a private conference with supporters, laying out strategies to rein in judges, such as stripping funding from their courts in an effort to hinder their work.

The discussion took place during a Washington conference last month that included addresses by House Majority Leader Tom DeLay and Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, who discussed efforts to bring a more conservative cast to the courts.

Frist and DeLay have not publicly endorsed the evangelical groups' proposed actions. But the taped discussion among evangelical leaders provides a glimpse of the road map they are drafting as they work with congressional Republicans to achieve a judiciary that sides with them on abortion, same-sex marriage and other elements of their agenda.

"There's more than one way to skin a cat, and there's more than one way to take a black robe off the bench," said Tony Perkins, president of the conservative Family Research Council, according to an audiotape of a March 17 session. The tape was provided to The Times by the advocacy group Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

DeLay has spoken generally about one of the ideas the leaders discussed in greater detail: using legislative tactics to withhold money from courts.

"We set up the courts. We can unset the courts. We have the power of the purse," DeLay said at an April 13 question-and-answer session with reporters.


Perkins said that he had attended a meeting with congressional leaders a week earlier where the strategy of stripping funding from certain courts was "prominently" discussed. "What they're thinking of is not only the fact of just making these courts go away and re-creating them the next day but also defunding them," Perkins said.

He said that instead of undertaking the long process of trying to impeach judges, Congress could use its appropriations authority to "just take away the bench, all of his staff, and he's just sitting out there with nothing to do."

These curbs on courts are "on the radar screen, especially of conservatives here in Congress," he said.

[James] Dobson, who emerged last year as one of the evangelical movement's most important political leaders, named one potential target: the California-based U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

"Very few people know this, that the Congress can simply disenfranchise a court," Dobson said. "They don't have to fire anybody or impeach them or go through that battle. All they have to do is say the 9th Circuit doesn't exist anymore, and it's gone."

Robert Stevenson, a spokesman for Frist, said Thursday that the Senate leader does not agree with the idea of defunding courts or shutting them down, pointing to Frist's comments earlier this month embracing a "fair and independent judiciary." A spokesman for DeLay declined to comment.

The remarks by Perkins and Dobson drew fire from Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, who charged that the two leaders were more brazen in such private encounters with supporters than their more genteel public images portray.

"To talk about defunding judges is just about the most bizarre, radical approach to controlling the outcome of court decisions that you can imagine," Lynn said.
Let's review.

Two men who control large religious organizations -- whose tenets are not supposed to be forced upon Americans, as detailed in the plain language of the First Amendment -- don't like the fact that [a] courts in this country keep overturning laws which attempt to force those tenets upon Americans, and [b] can't pack the courts with ideologues willing to usurp the law in favor of their dogma.

So they believe that -- in violation of the Constitutional principle of checks and balances -- the legislative branch should cut the funding of the judiciary.

These men are not Americans. They may have been born here, they may have citizenship, they may even be buddies with the Preznit and his flunkies... but Tony Perkins and James Dobson have shown, time and again, that their goal is to undermine our very system of government in favor of a radical theocracy. At the very least, their "religious" organizations should lose their tax-exempt status. At the most... well, sedition charges are a good start.

They're not merely traitors. They're terrorists... of the Osama bin Laden variety.

Monday, April 18, 2005

This Is A Very Simple Game. You Throw The Ball, You Catch The Ball, You Hit The Ball. Sometimes You Win, Sometimes You Lose, Sometimes It Rains

Josh Micah Marshall has some words of wisdom:

For years I've argued that the Democrats' problem on national security issues is not so much that they aren't 'tough enough' or that they lack new ideas. The problem is a now-deeply-ingrained habit of approaching national security issues not so much as policy questions to be wrestled with but as a political problem to be dealt with and moved on from.

That has a host of damaging consequences, the most serious of which is that if you chart your policy course so as to avoid political damage, always casting about for the sweet spot of political safety, you tend to lack any greater programmatic consistency. And that tells voters (as it probably should) that you’re inconstant and unserious. It also muddles effective communication by confusing the communicators themselves about just what it is they are trying to say or accomplish.

What the last year has taught me -- both in good ways and bad -- is that this malady isn't limited to the national security domain but applies to Democrats pretty much across the board.

We hear a lot today about framing or being tougher or being united or dumping the failed consultants. But while each of these prescriptions has some element of merit, each also recapitulates the existing problem -- only dressing it up in clothes -- because each mistakes the disease for the cure.

When it comes to strategy and tactics, the current Democratic party is like a drunk in the early stages of recovery or a man or woman who keeps ending up in the same bad relationship again and again with different people. For folks like that, strong medicine is required. Indeed, they usually require steps, correctives, lists of dos-and-don'ts more drastic than anybody would ever need who didn't have a problem.

Today we hear Democrats asking whether they should take a hard line on Social Security or a soft line, stand in opposition or come up with a contending plan. Here's what I propose whenever Democrats have a question about just what stance to take on the Social Security debate.

One question ...

What is the actual policy outcome that would be most preferable on Social Security (to protect, preserve or augment it -- whatever) and how important is it that it take place in this Congress?

That's the first, second and third question.

That answer should drive everything else.

If add-on accounts are important to preserve Social Security or expand opportunities for middle class families to save for retirement, and if it’s important enough on the merits to make it a priority in this Congress, then let’s do it. Otherwise, I’d say forget it. Stick with opposing phase-out and take it to the voters. End of story.

If the demon rum of optics or tactical too-clever-by-halfism tries to slither its way back even into second or third, slap your wrist and get back with the program.

I'm not saying that the Democrats need to get in touch with their political or ideological roots or hold to orthodoxies. Nor is this a argument for political purism. My point is entirely agnostic on what the policy should be -- only that it should drive the politics.

I think he's got it almost exactly right, but there's an even larger point I think he's missing or at least not saying, the one that in many ways is the entire purpose and focus of this blog.

Government of the people, by the people, for the people.

So very much done by our elected officials -- on every level, local, state, federal -- has nothing to do with making the city, the county, the state, the country, the world better. It doesn't even have to do with taking care of immediate problems, except for the ones that have become so egregious that they can't be ignored any longer.

I don't know about you, but I sure as hell would like clean air, clean water, a stable economy, health care I can afford, a chance to get a decent job with a decent wage, our soldiers not in an unnecessary war, and the sense that our country isn't looked upon as a crazy dropout drunk with a loaded gun. I would like not to have God thrown in my face all the time. I would like to be proud of my country again.

Instead, I feel as if our elected officials, our representatives, believe they are playing a big ol' game. The Republicans are winning right now; the Democrats hope to get back in the game next year. Each side attacks the other constantly; every once in a while, the turn of a card or the roll of a die throws a random event into the mix, like the Schiavo circus, or Eric Rudolph, or something. New strategies are tried all the time -- Social Security, same-sex marriage, inflationary fears, the War on Terror, the bankruptcy bill.

Listen up, asses. Your "playing pieces" are our lives.

Most people would like to be frickin' left alone, and not have The Culture War shoved down all of our throats. They'd like to know there's help out there when they need it, but they'd like more not to feel like they need it. They want to feel safe without feeling smothered. And, although it's not necessarily something they think about a lot, I bet most of them want those things without screwing up someone else's life in trade.

Instead, politically, economically, and culturally, we are more divided than we have been at any time since the Civil War. And literally every day it gets worse.

Bob Herbert today reminds us of the long-term plans of Franklin Delano Roosevelt. I'd update it to include more specifics about protecting the environment, but there's really not much to argue with -- nothing I think anyone could really say they're against, many things people are actively in favor of.

None of which are being pursued by our "government".

At core, it's a very simple theme. Government is supposed to do the things individual people can't do for themselves. As Brendan Behan put it: "I have a total irreverence for anything connected with society except that which makes the roads safer, the beer stronger, the food cheaper and the old men and old women warmer in the winter and happier in the summer."

If our elected representatives can't get back to that... then We The People ought to start asking ourselves the really hard questions of Why? and What to do about it?

And I don't think our elected representatives will like our answers.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Just When I Thought You Couldn't Get Any Dumber, You Go And Do Something Like This... And Totally Redeem Yourself

I apologize for not blogging at all the past several days. I've been working on some paying gigs, and I simply didn't have time. I'm still trying to catch up, but, meanwhile, I really have to recommend this delightful play-by-play of Jeff Gannon at the National Press Club, courtesy of densityland at The Daily Kos.

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