Out for the rest of the week

17 Feb 2016 08:39 am
Posted by: Donna

I’m off to Nevada to volunteer for the Hillary Clinton campaign. See you all next week!

Diligent voters are now the “angriest mob”, per Paul Johnson

16 Feb 2016 01:21 am
Posted by: Donna

johnson top two
Paul Johnson, Open and Honest Coalition

It used to be, not long ago, that voters who never missed any election were known as “good citizens”. But as the country has become more polarized and increasingly ungovernable, thanks entirely to one party (the GOP) being overtaken completely by rabid reactionaries, there is an increasing tendency by the Serious People to blame the voters for what they sat back and allowed to happen for decades*. This has certainly been the strategy of the people behind the Open “Primary”** initiative (AKA Top Two) in Arizona, which is currently getting signatures for the 2016 ballot.

The Arizona Republic has relentlessly promoted Top Two for years now, running numerous favorable articles and editorials on it since the first version (which failed) was introduced in 2012. Last Saturday, there was this softball interview with former Phoenix Mayor Paul Johnson, a main backer of the initiative.

Why did the Open and Honest Coalition form?

The existing system discriminates against the 1.2 million voters who choose to not affiliate with a party, the largest group in Arizona. All taxpayers pay for primary elections, but independents are barred as candidates from those ballots and forced to choose a party ballot which they have already chosen to reject. Arizona had a 30-year record-low voter turnout in 2014 because voters aren’t given the freedom of choice.

Over $15 million in “dark money” was spent in 2014, principally on negative campaigns, which also hurts voter turnout. We must require disclosure of dark money and change the architecture of Arizona’s election system.

There was no push-back on any of that, including Johnson’s claim that Arizona’s record low turnout was due to “lack of choice”. California has had “open” primaries for two elections now and, lo and behold, also a record low turnout in 2014!

But it was at the end of the brief and decidedly less-than-hard-hitting interview that Johnson really lets you know (emphasis mine) the contempt he has for the people who currently vote in primaries.

If we don’t reform our election system where are we headed?

The American experiment, as we know it, will end. Public confidence in our political system is at an all-time low. Unfortunately, this is just the beginning of massive amounts of undisclosed money being poured into the American political system. As people lose faith, more will register as independents. Candidates who scream the loudest and incite the angriest mob will be elected by fewer citizens. The result will be a loss of faith in the republic.

There is a certain amount of anger in the American electorate, but it is most assuredly not evenly distributed between the parties, as you can see here:

anger election

I can’t speak to the possibly elevated anger of Arizona Republicans since I’m a Democrat but I can say that the “angry mob” of Democratic voters in Arizona have a history of nominating mild-mannered and moderate candidates to important offices. In 2014, those included the notably non-rageaholic Fred DuVal, Terry Goddard, Felecia Rotellini, and David Garcia for the statewide offices in addition to several legislative candidates such as Rep. Eric Meyer, who are not renowned for screaming.

Of course, it’s not that anger is always wrong! Those of us outraged by the constant attacks on public education and other necessary government functions by the GOP majority in Arizona are right to be! If you are not outraged, as the saying goes, it is because you are not paying attention. But I doubt that the people who currently vote in primaries in Arizona are primarily motivated by anger and it is dishonest of Paul Johnson to characterize us as an “angry mob”.

There are arguments, of varying degrees of veracity and logic, in favor of the Top Two initiative. The one Johnson is making about it somehow attracting less “angry” voters who will restore “faith in the republic” has no evidence for it and is insulting as hell to people who regularly vote, as good citizens have done since the founding of our republic.

*Especially galling since one of the Top Two backers is none other than Chuck Coughlin, who ushered in the election of Jan Brewer and the rest of the GOP slate in 2010 on the back of the racist SB1070.

**”Open primary” is a misnomer, since the major change the initiative makes is to the general election, when the majority of voters show up, and they would be faced with a very diminished “choice” on their ballots.

In which I compliment Bernie Sanders for what some of his own supporters seem to think is bad for some reason

11 Feb 2016 03:28 pm
Posted by: Donna

Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders had turned in two solid election performances in the first two states of the Democratic Primary. He nearly won Iowa and went on the next week to win New Hampshire decisively. Rather than simply be happy about it, some Sanders supporters (egged on heavily by pundits who really want to keep a “horse race” going for ratings) have taken to taunting those of us who support Clinton with graphics of Sanders’ support with young people (especially women) in Iowa and New Hampshire.

One possible reason that young people (in states that have voted so far) might be flocking to Bernie that is not exciting, and isn’t about how young Dem primary voters mostly believe Hillary is an evil hellbitch sent from Goldman Sachs to turn them into catfood for vagina voting old hags, is that the Sanders platform includes a proposal for tuition-free public college for all. Which, leaving aside considerations of its feasibility in being passed and implemented, is a great idea! I think progressives/liberals across the board agree on that. But when I and others have raised that as a factor in Sanders’ youth support, some people have become strangely upset over it.

Consider the following scenario:

1. “People on the Left agree that free college is a worthy goal.”

2. “Both Clinton and Sanders have proposed free college, with Sanders’ plan going farther on that.”

3. “Maybe young voters prefer Sanders in part because of the free college promise.”

and then

4. “What??!? Well, I never!! How DARE you accuse young people of supporting Sanders for “free stuff”, you monster!”

It’s bizarre, truly. I say it’s great what Sanders is doing, in making a point about how the government should actually be doing things to improve people’s lives, instead of collecting taxes from us and handing it over to the massive security state and other favored interests while services and infrastructure are starved! Hells yeah to free college! And all kinds of other “free stuff” too! Democrats are going to be accused of being the party of welfare and free stuff anyway so let’s start talking about all the “free stuff” we want to give people!

But instead, I see liberals who on one hand tout Sanders’ democratic socialist platform but on the other are acting like losing Best Supporting Actress nominees – It’s okay, it’s just an honor to be considered! – at the prospect of Democratic voters actually wanting what they are being promised! WTF? It seems to be both an indication of how effective the right wing bootstraps puritanical work-work-work-but-deny-yourself narrative is and also that some Sanders supporters assume everyone who isn’t voting for Clinton just purely hates her as much as they do and any “reasons” they offer are just for show.

On not taking the bait from the Bill Mahers

09 Feb 2016 02:30 am
Posted by: Donna

“Hey, Gratehouse, do you think this Victoria’s Secret catalog is sexist?“, he asked me.

It was twenty some odd years ago and this was in the break room at the torpedo maintenance facility where my interlocutor, Torpedoman’s Mate Third Class Lee, and I worked in Yokusuka, Japan. This was in the dark days before online ordering was the norm and most of the women at the torp shop subscribed to the eponymous catalog. Not because we were lingerie junkies, but because by that time Victoria’s Secret had become a purveyor of a wide range of stylish and affordable women’s clothing, from the famous undergarments to jeans and boots and coats. Basically if you wanted more options than what was on offer the Navy Exchange or at the expensive stores out in town, you ordered from VS.

Needless to say, the frequently arriving catalogs were quite popular with some of the guys in the shop, as they featured (then, as now) the top supermodels of the day in underwear and bathing suits. The guys would pass them around (often without asking permission) and remark loudly on the attributes of the women within. There was more than mere male appreciation of the (very conventionally) attractive female form going on. It was shit like “boy, my wife sure doesn’t look like this!” It was a lot of very loud and very pointed commentary directed at whatever women were within earshot, with the intention clearly to remind us that we mere mortal women had failed to be as boner-inducing as were the Victoria’s Secret goddesses. Not that any of those guys were hot shit themselves but they knew society didn’t demand the kind of physical perfection from them as it demanded from women and they were not going to let us forget it.

Generally we women tried to ignore or laugh off the jerkoff behavior of the guys but every so often the baiting would get to one of us. Well, by “us” I mean “me” mostly, since I was on my way to becoming fiercely feminist by that point. Yeah, sometimes I’d say something. And it usually didn’t go over well (duh) and I’d feel somewhat awkward objecting to their behavior in the first place (because wasn’t I kind of, you know, asking for it by getting that catalog?) but I’d say something anyway sometimes. Because fuck those guys. Then again, sometimes I did say something catty (bad feminist me!) about the “unnatural” thinness of the models, because I was in my twenties and wanted to feel that I was pretty too.

Of all the guys in the torp shop, TM3 Lee was the grossest and most obnoxious. He not only made it a point to announce, loudly, that he was about to go ogle the Victoria’s Secret catalog, but he usually did so on the way to the shitter (the literal name for the commode in the Navy, to you civilians). And that one day he emerged from the shitter with the catalog (that no one wanted to touch by then) and stuck it up to my face and demanded to know if I thought it was sexist. There were probably a thousand better answers for me to come up with than the one I did, which as “uh, yes?” but I was caught off guard by the question and (I guess) forgot briefly whom I was dealing with and answered it as if it were a legitimate question and not a “gotcha” one.

I remember that Lee smirked as he walked off, undoubtedly feeling very much the victor of the exchange, and that I felt like a schmuck. Because it wasn’t the Victoria’s Secret catalog itself was sexist, since I ordered a bunch of stuff from it, but rather that it did promote unrealistic images of women to both women and men.

For some reason I remembered that when I watched Gloria Steinem, the 81 year old feminist icon, give her now infamous and cringe-inducing answer to Bill Maher’s badgering question to her, of all people, for why young women prefer Bernie Sanders in the Democratic primary to Hillary Clinton. He was baiting her, and she took it, responding that maybe it was because they wanted to be “where the boys are”. (Facepalm!)

What Steinem should have told Maher was that he should ask young women directly about that, if he was really interested in the answer. But instead she treated it as a good faith question, though there was no reason to think that it was. Bill Maher is a sixty year old wealthy Hollywood “bachelor” and it is not difficult to think of reasons why he might feel that young women are the ones who matter most, despite Hillary Clinton winning decisively among other age groups. In case it’s not obvious, I’ll just recall that Maher recently complimented a female guest nearly a decade his junior that she was still “fuckable at 50″.

Maher has been on quite a tear of late about how Western feminists need to be doing more (god knows what that would be) to combat the treatment of women in strict Muslim cultures. Of course he brought that up to Steinem and she pushed back on it pretty well by reminding Maher that there are active feminist movements in those countries. Steinem also pointed out that young women in America are actively engaged in politics and feminism and that they are dealing with issues now (such as crushing student loan debt) that their feminist forebears didn’t have to.

But she did fuck up with that one answer, wherein she should have instead told possibly the smuggest talk show host in America to stop trying to pit older women against younger ones like a smug dick. Steinem apologized but people are still flipping out about it and acting like it somehow erases all the work she’s done for women’s rights for the past fifty years. Well, if that’s the case then I guess we better all give up on this feminism thing because the forces arrayed against us are never going to stop shoving what are essentially the rhetorical equivalents of TM3 Lee’s shit-encrusted lingerie catalogs into our faces to bait us into “admitting” that it’s all been a mistake. (And sometimes we’ll just say dumb things unprompted! I know I do.)

We feminists are sometimes going to suck at it, often and especially if we are older and white. If younger women are rejecting a Presidential candidate we consider to be a feminist icon (Clinton) then we should find out why from them and not draw our own possibly unfounded conclusions about it. And we need to recognize that some people in the media are trying diligently to draw us into an “old hags vs young bimbos” narrative and resist it.

Bernie Sanders: Candidate of the AZ Democratic “establishment”

08 Feb 2016 12:22 pm
Posted by: Donna

So I have no problem with this per se:

bernie press release

It’s perfectly their prerogative for several Democratic legislators, county supervisors, and council members to endorse the Presidential candidate of their choosing. It’s even alright for the three people who listed their positions in the state or county parties to do so. I’ve never believed anyone was required to refrain from making an endorsement as an individual. What I don’t care for is the double standard. Maricopa County Chair Steven Slugocki tells me that he has been given a very hard time for doing things like simply appearing in a photo with Hillary Clinton supporters or “liking” a positive Facebook post about the Democratic Presidential candidate. I have a strong feeling that the animosity toward Steve goes well beyond disapproval of the appearance of impartiality by a party official or policy differences between the two Democratic candidates. No, it’s looks more like white-hot hatred for Hillary and her supporters.

And again, while there’s nothing inherently wrong with a bunch of Bernie Sanders supporters in, ahem, prominent Democratic elected and party positions putting out a press release and holding a press conference to express their support for Senator Sanders, there is a certain inescapable irony in it. Does it neutralize your being part of the odious Democratic “establishment” when you are supporting the “anti-establishment” candidate? Is that how that works?

Anti-choicers want dead fetuses to supersede live women

04 Feb 2016 02:45 am
Posted by: Donna

Some of them really do earnestly describe themselves as “abolitionists” and, yes, they do want to treat “suspicious” miscarriages as murder.

The Arizona Legislature is in session and, as sure as the sun rises in the east, the GOP majority has some anti-choice bills in the hopper. One that warrants highlighting is SB1474, put forth by the famously fetus-fetishizing Senator Nancy Barto. It would prohibit the use of fetal tissue for any research purpose, even if it were donated fully free by the woman the abortion was performed upon:

36-2302. Human fetus or embryo; prohibitions; definitions
A. A PERSON MAY NOT USE A HUMAN FETUS OR EMBRYO OR ANY PART, ORGAN OR FLUID OF THE FETUS OR EMBRYO RESULTING FROM AN ABORTION IN ANIMAL OR HUMAN RESEARCH, EXPERIMENTATION OR STUDY OR FOR TRANSPLANTATION, EXCEPT FOR EITHER OF THE FOLLOWING:
1. DIAGNOSTIC OR REMEDIAL PROCEDURES FOR THE PURPOSE OF DETERMINING THE LIFE OR HEALTH OF THE HUMAN FETUS OR EMBRYO OR THE MOTHER OR FOR PRESERVING THE LIFE OR HEALTH OF THE HUMAN FETUS OR EMBRYO OR THE MOTHER.
2. A PATHOLOGICAL STUDY.
B. A PERSON MAY NOT EXPERIMENT ON A HUMAN FETUS OR EMBRYO WHO IS INTENDED TO BE ABORTED.
C. A PERSON MAY NOT PERFORM OR OFFER TO PERFORM AN ABORTION FOR WHICH PART OR ALL OF THE JUSTIFICATION OR REASON IS THAT THE HUMAN FETUS OR EMBRYO OR ANY PART, ORGAN OR FLUID OF THE HUMAN FETUS OR EMBRYO MAY BE USED FOR ANIMAL OR HUMAN RESEARCH, EXPERIMENTATION OR STUDY OR FOR TRANSPLANTATION.
D. A PERSON MAY NOT KNOWINGLY SELL, TRANSFER, DISTRIBUTE, GIVE AWAY, ACCEPT, USE OR ATTEMPT TO USE ANY HUMAN FETUS OR EMBRYO OR ANY PART, ORGAN OR FLUID OF THE HUMAN FETUS OR EMBRYO RESULTING FROM AN ABORTION IN VIOLATION OF THIS SECTION.
E. A PERSON MAY NOT AID OR ABET THE SALE, TRANSFER, DISTRIBUTION, OTHER UNLAWFUL DISPOSITION, ACCEPTANCE, USE OR ATTEMPTED USE OF A HUMAN FETUS OR EMBRYO OR ANY PART, ORGAN OR FLUID OF THE HUMAN FETUS OR EMBRYO RESULTING FROM AN ABORTION IN VIOLATION OF THIS SECTION.
F. FOR THE PURPOSES OF THIS SECTION:
1. “ABORTION” HAS THE SAME MEANING AS PRESCRIBED IN SECTION 36-2151.
2. “EXPERIMENTATION” MEANS THE USE OF A HUMAN FETUS OR EMBRYO OR ANY PART, ORGAN OR FLUID OF THE HUMAN FETUS OR EMBRYO RESULTING FROM AN ABORTION IN ANY TRIAL, TEST, PROCEDURE OR OBSERVATION CARRIED OUT WITH THE GOAL OF VERIFYING, REFUTING OR ESTABLISHING THE VALIDITY OF A HYPOTHESIS. EXPERIMENTATION DOES NOT INCLUDE A PATHOLOGICAL STUDY OR A DIAGNOSTIC OR REMEDIAL TEST, PROCEDURE OR OBSERVATION THAT HAS THE PURPOSE OF DETERMINING THE LIFE OR HEALTH OF THE HUMAN FETUS OR EMBRYO OR PRESERVING THE LIFE OR HEALTH OF THE HUMAN FETUS OR EMBRYO OR THE MOTHER.
3. “PATHOLOGICAL STUDY” MEANS THE EXAMINATION OF BODY TISSUE FOR DIAGNOSTIC OR FORENSIC PURPOSES.

The bill is obviously in response to the (now thoroughly discredited) “sting” against Planned Parenthood conducted by anti-choice zealots last summer. Anyone found in violation would be guilty of a Class 5 felony, which carries a minimum prison sentence of six months. In itself, this is a cruel bill because research on fetal tissue is vital to the development of a wide range of medical advances. AZ Republic columnist EJ Montini was appalled enough by it to characterize it as “anti-life”.

But this is also part of an ongoing effort by anti-choicers to elevate dead fetuses over the lives and health of living women. A few weeks ago there was a disturbing story out of Pasadena, TX, where a high school student allegedly had a miscarriage or stillbirth (length of the pregnancy was unknown) in the school’s bathroom. The fetus was found by a janitor and an investigation ensued.

It was unclear whether the authorities were focused on the girl’s well-being or on punishing her but, on her Facebook page, well-known abstinence advocate Pam Stenzel and several (though not all, thankfully) commenters minced no words about their own assumptions about the girl. She was a heartless, selfish, callous, probably murderous whore as far as the (obviously) anti-choice people commenting on the situation were concerned.

To many anti-choicers, a young woman who is terrified, wracked in pain, and probably in shock should know exactly the correct protocol for what do while she’s in the midst of miscarrying a pregnancy and she should definitely prioritize the treatment of the recently expelled contents of her uterus over her own safety and health. Because of course she should, and if you think I’m exaggerating, behold this model legislation from Americans United for Life (emphasis mine):

Section 1. Title.

This Act may be known and cited as the “Unborn Infants Dignity Act.”

Section 2. Legislative Findings and Purpose

(a) The [Legislature] of the State of [Insert name of State] finds that:

(1) Deceased unborn infants deserve the same respect and dignity as other
human beings
.

(2) The laws of the State of [Insert name of State] do not ensure that
miscarried, stillborn, or aborted infants receive proper burials or final
disposition

…(b) Based on the findings in subsection (a), the purposes of this Act are to:

(1) Ensure that the mother of a deceased unborn infant is given the
opportunity to bury or dispose of the bodily remains of her infant with
dignity and respect;

(2) Require institutions where deceased unborn infants are delivered or where
unborn infants are aborted to provide a dignified final disposition of the
bodily remains of these infants
;

(3) Require fetal death reports for all fetal deaths as defined in this Act;

(4) Ensure that parents of all stillborn infants are offered the opportunity to
obtain a [Certificate of Birth Resulting in Stillbirth];

(5) Prohibit the sale, transfer, distribution, or other unlawful disposition of an
infant, an unborn infant, or bodily remains resulting from an abortion;…

Some of that language seems to be about compassionate concern for grieving parents of lost babies and it’s certainly a nice idea to offer such people death certificates and other services. But the parts I have put in bold are how they telegraph the intention to criminalize both abortion providers and women who fail to make “dignified” arrangements for whatever the anti-choicers deem to be a “baby”. They’re going to get you one way or another.

DiCiccio walked right into the trap the Satanists sprung for him

02 Feb 2016 02:05 pm
Posted by: Donna


Someone’s being politically correct about this and it’s probably the guy looking in the mirror at you, Sal

Those wily Satanists have struck again! This time, they have requested to lead the prayer at the Phoenix City Council chambers. Mayor Greg Stanton and Councilwoman Kate Gallego have, smartly, not opposed them but other members of the Council have not been so prudent. Councilman Sal DiCiccio has taken it on as his personal mission to demonstrate clearly the point the Satanists (who openly admit to not being true believers in Satan) are making about what a farce “religious liberty” is, as publicly practiced by conservatives. It’s difficult to argue that you’re not favoring certain religions, and even going so far as to establish them as “official” religions (contra the First Amendment) when you deny some religions access to a public prayer because you don’t like their message.

Of course, consistency has never been a strong suit of reactionary conservatives, which is why we get garbage decisions like Hobby Lobby, where a boss’s butthurt over uh I mean “sincerely held religious objections to” female employees using birth control gets codified into law. But if you want a clue as to why people, especially youth, are abandoning organized religion in droves, look no further than the way conservative politicians have hypocritical conniption fits whenever the Satanists show up. Sal DiCiccio et al should try taking a chill about it instead.