Sunday, October 19, 2014

"Taking back your democracy"

So, Stephan Pastis of Pearls Before Swine is at it again...infusing his (excellent) comic strip with truth:

Midterms are notorious for low voter turnout. Everywhere where the GOP has control, they've been working hard to make sure the "wrong kind" of voter (i.e. Democrat) turnout is even lower. Wisconsin is a great example -- where, until this late implementation was halted by the Supreme Court, Walker & co were going to implement a voter ID law that required a state issued ID (and sometimes difficult to attain original documents to get it) two months before the election...despite the fact that the DMV's in some counties wouldn't even be open until after the election or the day of the election (meaning that people without driver's licenses would somehow have to get a ride to a different county, or to the DMV and then the polls the day of the election [where it was open that day]). There are 300,000 Wisconsin voters without ID; the GOP did everything they could to ensure that they couldn't vote. Putting a roadblock -- insurmountable, in some cases (where, for instance, a person lives in the county where there is no open DMV before the election, and they, obviously, cannot drive to one in a different county) because of a non-issue (there has only been one actual case of voter fraud in Wisconsin -- and it involved a Scott Walker supporter) is a blatant attempt at voter disenfranchisement. The Wisconsin GOP's plan is on hold for now, thanks to the Supreme Court.
 But the fact that they tried it at all, that they will implement it for the next election, should speak volumes. Voter turnout is something they fear, so much that they're willing to target it.

And if we sit on our duffs this election, if we stay home because we're tired, or don't think we'll win, or have better things to do...we've done their work for them. If you want to keep your democracy, get out there. Vote. It doesn't matter if your line is long, if it's cold, if you'd rather be somewhere else. Your lines will never get shorter if you stay home because they're too long (the GOP has been cutting voting options nationwide, deliberately making it as unpleasant as possible to exercise your right to vote; that's not going to change if they get back in). And there's very little more important than deciding whether people who want to strip women, LGBT people, and working people of as many rights as possible will be running this country; there's little that's more important than deciding if the government will have your interests, or big business', at heart. These are things that will inconvenience your life far more than standing in line in November could ever do. Even in Wisconsin. So, please, for your own sake and this country's, get out there and vote. Before the REPO man really does show up.

I'll see you at the polls, my friends.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Incredible images from Norway

Rustad Media ( has produced a truly stunning time-lapse video compilation of Norway’s many and varied beauties. The video is the result of 10,000 miles of the photographers' travels, through all 19 counties of Norway. It's just about five minutes long, and covers everything from southwestern fjords to northern snowscapes, countryside to city scenes, waterways to landscapes. It's amazing.

Rustad Media also has an amazing collection of photos up under their photo page. Including these masterpieces. Wow.

Lots more at Rustad Media.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Norwegian-American WWII vet gets Viking funeral

On September 29th, 2014, WWII veteran and Norwegian immigrant Andrew Haines made his farewell journey in true Viking fashion. USA Today reports:
“[Coast Guard] Station Atlantic City fulfilled the final wishes of service veteran Andrew Haines, a New Jersey resident who died in late August at age 89. Haines spent more than a decade planning his own Norse-style send-off, even building a funeral ship to carry his cremated ashes and then be burned.”
Haines had built his 54-inch ship based off of blueprints from Norway, sent by a cousin. The original plans were for a 100 foot long ship, however; Haines worked at scaling the plans down, and eventually created the replica that took him on his final journey.

All of this was done, it should be noted, with one hand: Haines had lost his other arm in an accident in 1975.

Andrew Haines’ Viking funeral 

Andrew Haines was born in Norway, but emigrated to the United States in 1927. He was a child at the time. He then went on to serve in WWII.

Burials at sea are free to military veterans, but notes Atlantic City’s operation officer, Boatswain's Mate 1st Class Christopher Fonseca, “Scattering ashes and flowers is pretty much the norm.” Despite the funeral request being unusual, the Coast Guard worked with Haines’ family to accommodate his last wishes.

And on the 29th, “three miles off the coast…” the Coast Guard “brought the miniature Viking ship down to a recess in their boat, lit the wood shavings inside on fire with a flare and sent it out to sea.

It took about 20 minutes to burn, he said. The family said some last words, and one crew member read a nautically themed Alfred Lord Tennyson poem, Crossing the Bar.”

Monday, October 13, 2014

Some of the more clueless things you'll see this Columbus Day

Compliments of the right wing religious clowns at The Political Insider:

Genocide? Slavery? Rape? Don't worry, it's all cool: Columbus found "sweet consolation" in his god. He's forgiven, it's cool. Happy Columbus Day!

And this isn't the stupidest thing I've seen emanating from the right today. No, that dubious honor goes to professional crackpot Allen West, for turning Columbus Day into an opportunity to get back to...Islam!
But, today we celebrate and remember this Italian explorer who realized the world needed a new trade route because of Islamic conquest — and just so you know, the Umayyad caliphate was followed by the Abbasid caliphate. And here we are today, some 1400 years later, still confronting Islamic conquest by violence, displacement of other indigenous religions by Islam, and the establishment of a caliphate.

We thank Christopher Columbus, but now the world needs another Charles Martel.
I swear, it's like six degrees of Kevin Bacon with West: except six is probably way  more than he needs, and it's all about Islam.

Scott Walker's women's outreach: shutting clinics, repealing equal pay, mandating ultrasounds and more

Ardent women's rights advocate, Governor Scott Walker
During the first 2014 Wisconsin gubernatorial debate, Scott Walker wanted to assure voters that he's very reasonable in regards to abortion, and really just has women's health in mind. He's pro-life, but he can't imagine the difficulty of the situation; he just wants to make sure women are safe. Ultimately, the choice is hers. That's what he says. Turns out, he's a liar.

Come on now, pick yourself up off the floor, sit back down, and let's go over his women's outreach strategy for the past four years. What Scott Walker says and does when he's in power -- not just the month before the election.

First, there's the repeal of equal pay protections. Like many of his other controversial measures, signed into law right before the weekend. It's almost like he doesn't want voters -- women, and men who give a damn about women -- to know that he's making gender based wage discrimination easier. Because, as champion of the repeal, Wisconsin State Senator and village idiot Glenn Grothman argued, "money is more important for men." Walker was happy to do Grothman's and other misogynist Republican's bidding, signing the repeal.
Item One on Scott Walker's Women's Outreach Program: limit women's recourse for gender-based pay discrimination

Of course, withdrawing funds from (leading to the closure of) health clinics that primarily serve women is another win for Walker. Not women, but who cares if they need cancer screenings, birth control, wellness screenings, etc.?  This, of course, was part of his anti-abortion vendetta. The kicker? Some of the clinics that had to close didn't actually provide abortions. (Nevermind that limiting family planning options leads to more unplanned pregnancies, and consequently more abortions). Oops!
Item Two on Scott Walker's Women's Outreach Program: close multiple Planned Parenthoods (even clinics that don't perform abortions) because he hates abortion

Speaking of abortion, part of Walker's women's outreach includes the goal of making abortion illegal. In every circumstance. Even if the mother's life is on the line. Walker talks about abortion being a woman's choice (notably, in the present tense -- that is, it is "today it's her choice") now, during the election. But in the past he's proudly owned his radical views. To Scott Walker, a woman's very life is inconsequential, if she's carrying a zygote, embryo or fetus. As he has made clear.
Item Three on Scott Walker's Women's Outreach Program: outlaw abortion, even for rape and incest victims, and even if the woman's life is on the line

While we're on the topic, Governor Walker decided to boost his appeal to women and decent human beings in general by mandating ultrasounds for women seeking abortions. And, again, this was signed on a weekend, this time in private and quietly announced on a Friday (sensing a pattern here?). So, now women who need abortions have to get ultrasounds. They can be external, if the fetus is large enough to be picked up. But if it's too early, you know what that means: mandatory transvaginal ultrasounds. Thanks to Wisconsin's own gyonotician-in-chief.
Item Four on Scott Walker's Women's Outreach Program: mandate invasive, costly and medically unnecessary procedures as a prerequisite to attaining an abortion

Still on the topic (yup, the governor's all about it being the woman's choice...) the same mandatory ultrasounds bill, Walker signed into law a requirement that abortion providers must have admitting privileges at a hospital. This is an absurd requirement, as complications are extremely rare; and one you do not see applied to any other comparable set of providers. This follows a nation-wide pattern by extreme anti-choice governors and legislators, in forcing abortion clinics to shut their doors by erecting too many hurdles to their continued operation.
Item Five on Scott Walker's Women's Outreach Program: erect more hurdles to safe abortions

 While Governor Walker isn't busying himself specifically targeting women, he tends to take stances that disproportionately (and negatively) impact women. His dismissal of setting a minimum wage that covers basic living expenses, for instance, has a highly skewed impact on women. Wisconsin women are more than twice as likely as men to work in low-paying jobs. Scott Walker's solution? Save up for an education with your minimum wage earnings. Nevermind that an income below a living wage means no extra cash lying around for tuition; nevermind that Scott Walker cut education so steeply that 40,000 + people are on a waitlist for financial aid in this state. Nevermind that many of the women working these jobs are working mothers -- meaning their dollar, and time, has to stretch that much further.
Item Six on Scott Walker's Women's Outreach Program: deny working people, overwhelmingly women and mothers, a chance to earn a living wage

Blaming the poor because they don't have the money to improve their situation in life is Walker on a good day. Otherwise, it's full-on demonizing. "My belief is we shouldn't be paying for them to sit on the couch, watching TV or playing Xbox," Walker told cheering campaign volunteers recently, as he promised to pursue drug testing for food stamp recipients. This is straight up Heritage Foundation-esque propaganda, in the Republican effort to convince their base to kick downwards, at the over-privileged and undeserving poor. (Also? Illegal. Federal law prohibits it. It's just pandering rhetoric, meant to incite hate against the poor "other"). And how does that impact women? Because women are, as noted above, more than twice as likely to work low paying jobs than men, and twice as likely as men to need foodstamps at least once.
Item Six on Scott Walker's Women's Outreach Program: demonize poor people (overwhelmingly, women and their children) who need food assistance

So there you have it...our illustrious governor, working hard to infantilize, restrict and limit women by cutting recourse for wage discrimination, cutting healthcare options and availability, mandating unnecessary medical procedures, limiting educational opportunities, demonizing the poor, etc., etc. Whether it's directly targeted at women, or if women are mere collateral damage, Scott Walker's impact on Wisconsin women has been demonstrably harmful. We have fewer healthcare options, less legal protection when facing discrimination, more barriers to access and care, and a governor who completely disregards us -- except to implement patronizing, patriarchal laws.

That is Scott Walker's women's outreach. 

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Wisconsin sinking millions into failed private schools

Long before Scott Walker was governor, he was a proponent of voucher schools; since becoming governor, he's continued to expand public monies for private schools. I've mentioned specific examples of failure before, discussed why funneling public money to religious schools is a bad idea, and pointed out that the vaunted private schools are actually doing worse than their worst public peers.

Turns out, Wisconsin taxpayers have been pouring millions of dollars into failed voucher schools.
Wisconsin taxpayers have paid about $139 million to private schools that ended up being barred from the state's voucher system for failing to meet requirements since 2004, according to a newspaper report.

State Department of Public Instruction data shows more than two-thirds of the 50 schools terminated from the state's voucher system in the last 10 years had stayed open for five years or less...Eleven schools, paid a total of $4.1 million, were terminated from the voucher program after just one year.
Of note, Scott Walker's campaign refused to answer questions or agree to an interview on the subject. Challenger Mary Burke, however, "said the spending data on terminated schools illustrates the need to scale back the program."
"I'm shocked that the program has continued to be expanded without the type of accountability that really needs to be there," said Burke.
I guess we can file this under yet another brilliant Scott Walker plan gone awry...

Matt Walsh implies that Brittany Maynard is a coward

In my latest piece on Friendly Atheist, I discuss the tragic case of Brittany Maynard -- 29, recently married, trying to start her family, when diagnosed with advanced brain cancer -- and the despicable reaction from chronically-wrong Matt Walsh. You may remember, I've covered Matt Walsh's terrible and vitriolic anti-choice arguments twice before. This one is no better. Indeed, it's much worse.

Conservative Christian blogger Matt Walsh, guest posting at The Blaze, goes so far as to declare her choice “the exact opposite of courage.” He can’t quite bring himself to utter the word “coward,” but he does everything short of it throughout his piece:
"We are given life, we take part in life, we participate in life, but we do not own our lives. We can’t take possession of our lives like a two-year-old grabbing a toy from his friend and shouting ‘Mine!’ Our lives are bigger than that, thank God."
Walsh bemoans people’s support for Maynard and her decision, calling her a “martyr for the cause of self-destruction [in] our modern enlightened society.” He is “terrified to think that [his] children will grow up in a culture that openly venerates suicide with this much unyielding passion.” He also believes that anyone who says Maynard is brave is implying that those who choose otherwise are not.

My responses, and more detail, at the link.