Thursday, March 26, 2009

War or Civilization?

At a time when many Americans are losing their jobs and homes, the one safe place to be employed seems to be cable TV news. There is no shortage of talking heads to rehash the same issues over and over. There is seldom any news,
and certainly no actual reporting–just news models, repeating the same things, endlessly. In fact, CNN and Fox News have even given new life to commentators like the virtuous Bill Bennett, and the toe-sucking Dick Morris. Anyone with an intellect higher than that of a sea sponge doesn’t have any expectations of intelligent commentary from Fox, but when did CNN become a Fox clone?

Night after night, a parade of privileged beltway handwringers holds forth on the economy - in particular, the Wall St. economy. They have no interest in what’s happening to real working people. They don’t cover the tent cities that are springing up in warmer climates, or the shocking increase in homeless children. Ali Velshi, with his ooompa-looompa orange make up pontificates nightly on the fate of Wall St, AIG, and the incomes of the wealthy, or at least the still employed – with the assumption that all Americans are heavily invested in Wall St. The real world does not intrude.

The 24-hour cable news cycle creates a sense of dishonest urgency. We hear them screaming about the economy for weeks, and wonder, why hasn’t Obama fixed it yet? None of the banshees are honest enough to point out that what is wrong with the economy actually has its roots in the Reagan administration – 30 years ago. This isn’t going to be fixed overnight. We’ll be digging ourselves out of this mess for decades. Speaking of St. Ronnie – a reminder. Ronald Reagan doubled the national debt and tripled the deficit while he was in office.

The recession/depression has certainly brought about an amazing transformation – Republicans are suddenly talking about fiscal responsibility! For eight long years, they were silent while the Bush Administration did its best to destroy the US economy. In fact, they stood by and applauded while Bush borrowed close to a trillion dollars to pay for the war he shouldn’t have started in the first place. There was no pious talk of the debt we would be saddling our children and grandchildren with coming from them – not then, anyhow.

NH’s own senior US Senator, Judd Gregg is determined to stay in the limelight, after his abortive cabinet nomination. A few weeks ago, he published an op-ed in the Washington Times where he spoke of the proposed Obama budget, “In other words, the president's proposal is a massive and breathtaking document, and it should not be called a budget. Rather, it should be called a blueprint for the France-ification of America, a notebook for nationalization, or a memo for massive debt creation.” Where was Judd for the last 8 years, while Bush poured taxpayer dollars into Iraq without even getting a receipt?

Oh, that’s right -Senator Gregg was busy waving pom-poms in his cheerleader uniform as he worked hard to pass every single Bush budget. Senator Gregg was happy to borrow enormous sums and hand them over to the Pentagon. This is the same Pentagon that can’t pass an audit, or account for some $2.6 trillion in cash and assets. A look at the federal discretionary budget pie chart reveals that over half of the pie goes to the Pentagon. A little tiny sliver goes to education. This illustrates our national spending priorities very clearly. We’re more interested in killing people than educating them.

Still, one has to admire Judd Gregg’s audacity. He can opine about “France-ification” knowing that the media certainly won’t be holding him accountable, in Washington or New Hampshire. It’s even almost understandable. Gregg doesn’t want to make changes to the US health care system. He has excellent health insurance, and that’s all that matters! Those silly Frenchies, those cheese-eating surrender monkeys – why they have the best health care system in the world! France has the healthiest people. You can see why Bootstrap Judd would hate the French. According to GOP gospel, health care is reserved for the deserving and the wealthy. Those socialists in France think everyone should have equally good care. By all means, let’s issue a collective national sneer against that idea.

In looking through statistics to find out what it is that the United States is number one in, these days, I found interesting statistics. Finland is #1 in education; Sweden is #1 in literacy. The US ranks 45th in public spending on education. The Netherlands is #1 in civil and political liberties, followed by Australia, Sweden, Canada, New Zealand, Denmark, and the US in seventh place. Iceland is #1 in DSL access, while the US is 21st. Norway is #1 in gender empowerment, while the US ranks #11.

This was all kind of depressing, so I dug deeper, to find a couple of areas where the US is doing very well. We’re #2 in child poverty! Mexico is #1, but the increase in joblessness and homelessness may well push us over into first place. We can all go forth and trumpet our pride at being Number One in teen pregnancies! Abstinence only sex ed has been a success after all. We'RE NUMBER ONE!!

The US spends more on defense than all other countries in the world, combined. As a result of that kind of prioritizing, we are increasingly less healthy, less educated, less literate, and less free. It would be worth discussing that, as we attempt to rebuild the US economy.

“Probably, no nation is rich enough to pay for both war and civilization. We must make our choice; we cannot have both.”
~Abraham Flexner

Published as an editorial in the Conway Daily Sun on March 27, 2009


Friday, March 20, 2009

Using the Children

On Thursday, March 26, the NH House will be voting on HB436 and HB415 on Thursday, March 26.
HB436 is a bill making marriage equality the law in our state. We've had civil unions for over a year, and the sky didn't fall, toads did not fall from the sky, and there has been no plague of locusts. Just happy couples, joined in ....union. It's time to take off the training wheels, and give our gay brethren the same rights heterosexuals enjoy.

HB415 defines gender identity and expression, and will protect transgendered persons from discrimination. This is just common sense.

As the vote gets nearer, and the GOP becomes increasingly unhinged, an out of state group called The National Organization for Marriage has spent a bunch of money on radio ads that are airing in NH.

audio clip

The ad uses children's voices to make points about marriage equality:

"Grandma, my teacher said if Grandpa was a girl, that's okay, you could still be married."

"If my dad married a man, who would be my mom?"

"I want a mommy and a daddy."

Could this be any more sleazy? They are using children to push their agenda of hate and bigotry. Someone told those children what to say, and recorded their voices.

In addition to the despicable use of children in this ad, the other message the ad sends is that the tax and spend liebruls are wasting time on issues like CIVIL RIGHTS, when they should be cutting the budget and making sure that NH provides as poor an education as possible.

The folks at NH Freedom to Marry have made it easy to contact legislators: to send an email asking them to vote for HB436 and HB415. Obviously it carries more weight if you contact your own representatives directly, to tell them how you feel.

Send a clear message that this group - who is so vile that they would put their hate speech in the mouths of children - that this group does NOT speak for the people of NH.

h/t to Dean at Blue Hampshire for the audio clip.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Just Say Yes

The war on drugs was declared on June 17, 1971. President Richard Nixon declared that drug abuse was
“public enemy number one in the United States.” In 1976, Jimmy Carter advocated the decriminalization of marijuana. Then, in 1984, Nancy Reagan (a dedicated pill-popper herself) gave us the “Just Say No” campaign. Ronald Reagan signed the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986, giving us mandatory minimum penalties for drug offenses, and filling US prisons with drug offenders, some with 20-year sentences.

Republican presidents have given us two unwinnable wars. The war on drugs and the war on terror: both at a cost of approximately a trillion dollars thus far–and counting. The United States has spent over $10 billion in the war on drugs this year. It costs us approximately $1000 per second to fight this losing war.

We humans are creatures of habit. We do many things without ever questioning the reasons why. Daylight savings time is a classic example. We force students into a particular schedule; because that’s the way it’s always been done. We don’t question the fact that the US spends more on defense than all other countries in the world combined. We don’t ever question our spending priorities. Imagine what we could do with the billions we’re wasting on the war on drugs this year?

California will never be able to cut out enough state employees and services to balance the budget. Imagine if they were reaping the tax benefits of the state’s largest cash crop? At some point, we would be wise to face the truth that is staring us in the face – prohibition isn’t working.

This past week, the NH House heard testimony on HB648, a bill that would permit the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes, if prescribed by a physician. People who are dealing with a variety of illnesses including cancer, multiple sclerosis, and muscular dystrophy asked state legislators to approve this bill, and allow them to legally use marijuana to ease their symptoms and side effects. Every one of us who knows someone who has cancer knows that at some point, the chemo and radiation can cause nausea. So, these people who have no immune systems lose weight alarmingly fast because eating makes them sick, or because everything tastes bad to them as a result of the chemicals. One way to combat that is smoking marijuana, which does give smokers an appetite.

HB648 has an interesting array of sponsors from both sides of the aisle. Representative Evalyn Merrick of Lancaster bravely came forward and spoke about her own use of marijuana during cancer treatment a few years ago. Representative Merrick is hardly a stereotypical pothead. She is a brave woman who dared to tell the truth. The cures for cancer are sometimes worse than the disease. Medicinal use of marijuana can alleviate some of the worst side affects.

Attorney General Kelly Ayotte, a Benson appointee who was recently re-appointed by Governor Lynch sent an Assistant AG from her office to register her disapproval of the bill. Karin Eckel, speaking for Ms. Ayotte, said that until federal regulators decide that marijuana is safe and effective, it’s too risky to encourage its use. She said that Ayotte is also concerned that the medical use of marijuana might increase the general use. Given that Ayotte is the NH AG, appointed by Governor Lynch, we can assume that this is his position, being filtered down through subordinates. I find the idea that medical use of marijuana will increase general use to be patently ridiculous. Medical users aren’t going to be selling it to kids on the playground. Cancer patients get much better drugs for pain, drugs that retail on street corners, or to Rush Limbaugh’s housekeeper, for a whole lot more money.

This is another example of how we do things by rote, without challenging our views. We’ve crammed so much “just say NO” into people’s heads that they really don’t even know what it is that they’re saying no to.

Thirteen states have legalized medical marijuana: Alaska, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington. The sky has not fallen in any of those states. Reefer madness does not seem to have taken hold. What has taken hold is a far more compassionate way of looking at the treatment of long-term illnesses. We treat sick or dying pets with more compassion and dignity than we treat dying humans.

NH has a chance to move forward and show compassion to people who are sick and suffering. Attorney General Ayotte is tacitly suggesting that sick people who use marijuana should be treated as criminals. Contact your state legislators and urge them to just say YES to H648.

"Let us reflect again on how cynical and how dark it is to even contemplate sending someone to prison for a year, when they may not even have that much time left in their life.”
Congressman Dennis Kucinich

Drug war clock

30 year drug war timeline

h/t to for the image

this was printed as an editorial in the March 13, 2009 issue of the Conway Daily Sun.

© sbruce

Sunday, March 01, 2009

The Danger of Global Communication

Since Crow Dickinson’s ill advised- remarks about Starting Point (remarks he apologized for) he’s become the hero of the men’s movement!

Angry, woman-hating men in the US and Canada have latched on to Crow Dickinson as a symbol. They think poor ole Crow is being oppressed by women. Mean, feminist women who don’t want to talk about how mean they are to men they’re divorcing, and denying parental rights to. Mean woman who don’t understand or care about how often heterosexual men are abused. They don’t care at all about gay men who are abused. I can’t decide if they’re homophobes, or if they ignore gay men because they don’t have female partners to hate on. In any case – their concern is for heterosexual men. Their concern manifests itself in anger against women, and feminists in particular. These angry, whiny, men are pillorying me in two countries now. It seems I’m a (Oh the horror) FEMINIST! A Canadian blog accused me of seeking my 15 minutes of fame by publicizing this issue. This is the kind of stupid crap that ensues when you leap on an issue, because your leader (Glenn Sacks who re-printed most of my editorial, without my permission) tells you to. None of these clowns did any research – especially into their new messiah, Crow. Not a one of them has asked themselves why it is that there isn’t a local outpouring of male support for Selectman Dickinson. They're embracing Crow Dickinson with the same fervor that the Republican party embraced Joe the Plumber - and with the same level of sense.

They don’t care about Starting Point. They’re happy to completely ignore the issue of funding the shelter, or what is right for the town, as their leader, Glenn Sacks said right on his forum. They just want to canonize Crow for “speaking the truth” about the evil female harpies they all seem to be acquainted with.

A group of them is planning to invade the deliberative meeting on Monday, at Kennett, to show their support for Crow. The very serious business of town government is about to be turned into a side-show, by a bunch of out of state freaks. That’s the power of global communication, a lesson I hope Dickinson learns. Apparently he is teachable - after that incident in 2003, he’s never again tried to bring a loaded gun on an airplane.

It’s been a long winter. Grab the popcorn – the circus is coming to town.