a bird and a bottle

Wait – Do Elections Have Consequences?

The mantra in the six weeks or so since the Supreme Court handed down its truly awful decision in Gonzaels v. Carhart has been that elections have consequences. After Gonzales, that phrase was used to wag fingers at all of those supposed social liberals who voted for Bush. The phrase has also been used to rub Republicans’ faces in the new Democratic congressional gains.

However it’s been used before, I am feeling today like it’s a bit of a silly phrase, lacking meaning. Why? Because a Democratic Congressman, David Obey of Wisconsin, is pushing for an increase in funding for abstinence only programs. Obey, who is part of the Democratic House leadership and the head of the House Appropriations Committee, is supporting an increase in Community Based Abstinence Education (CBAE) funding by $27 million — up to $150 million. CBAE is one of the many abstinence only programs that has been proven to be both ineffective and filled with lies. And yet, a Democratic leader in the House is throwing bad money after bad money in support of abstinence only programs.

I’m sure this is a political move on Obey’s part to placate some of te more conservative members of his home state. I get that politics is a game. But Obey shouldn’t roll the dice when young people’s lives are on the line.

SIECUS has an action alert. Got tell Pelosi and Obey what you think.


Taking Spitzer to Task
May 30, 2007, 10:39 pm
Filed under: activism, civil rights, criminal justice, drug war, muzak, news, video

I’ve never fully understood why people get so angry when famous Hollywood stars throw their celebrity behind an important social issue. That’s probably because they’re usually championing progressive policies with which I agree (well, except for Patricia Heaton who makes my skin crawl). Why not cheer when people who are overpaid and often overhyped actually use their fame for positive ends?

Case in point: Rapper Jim Jones’s recently released single excoriating the drug war and putting pressure on NY Governor Elliot Spitzer to live up to his campaign promises and reform New York’s harsh Rockefeller drug laws. The song, “Lockdown,” which Jones wrote with the help of the Drug Policy Alliance for an upcoming documentary of the same name, highlights the racially imbalanced effects of the War on Drugs . And Jones isn’t coy. He’s released a music video:

And here’s what he has to say for Spitzer:

“This one goes out to the governor. Gov. Spitzer. Eliot Spitzer, you say you want to make change? Well, we waitin’ on it. Matter of fact, we’re dependin’ on it.”

The Rockefeller laws were first reformed in 2004 with the passage of NY’s Drug Law Reform Act, but those reforms, touted as groundbreaking, have meant little practically:

Prisoners sentenced under mandatory minimum Rockefeller drug laws now number more than 13,000, and an astonishing 91% of them are black or brown. The reforms enacted in 2004 have resulted in the release of only 300, leaving thousands of prisoners serving mid-level mandatory minimum sentences still in purgatory.

So Spitzer’s got to keep his promise and push for real change. If not, because of Jones’s song, a lot more people will be ready to take him to task.

Congress to Call off the Ab-Only Hounds

Abstinence only “education” programs are chock full of misogyny and are totally ineffective. This we know.

Yet the Bush administration has allotted more and more money to them at every turn.

That’s the bad news.

The good news? With the help of the new Democrat-controlled Congress, that might be about to change. Jessica’s got the word that Congressional Democrats are planning to let Title V — the main funding stream for federal abstinence only programs like the one Jill wrote about here quietly die.

How’s that for legislative inactivism?

(also at Feministe).

What is a Hate Crime?

Last week, in a flurry of chest puffing and pounding, President Bush threatened to veto the hate crimes bill passed by the House and headed toward approval in the Senate. The bill, sponsored by Rep. John Conyers, would expand the definition of hate crimes to include crimes motivated by the victim’s sexual orientation, gender, gender identity (i.e. trans men and women), or disability. Bush laughably claims that state law already protects the rights of these groups.

The trouble is, the L.A. Times, whose editorial page is usually spot on, seems to have taken the Bush bait. In an editorial yesterday, the paper lauded the bill as it applies to sexual orientation, but claimed that it’s unnecessary to protect people from gender or gender identity motivated violence:

The problem is that the House bill goes further, by including gender and disability in its definition of hate crimes. According to the FBI, fewer than 1% of hate crimes in 2005 reflected a bias against the disabled. Although the FBI doesn’t keep count of gender-bias crimes, California does, and only 1.3% of the state’s hate crimes in 2005 involved “anti-gender bias.”

Huh? I wonder how the FBI and the state of California got those statistics. Because it seems to me that they must have relied on a very narrow understanding of what violence is gender motivated. Take rape, for example. I would argue that rape can be a hate crime (usually against women). But I’m pretty damn sure it wasn’t included in that 1.3%. For perspective, according to the FBI, hate crimes based on sexual orientation account for over 14% of the hate crimes nationwide.

And what about gender identity? According to the National Center for Transgender Equality, while 29 states have laws that protect people based on sexual orientation, only seven and D.C. protect people based on gender identity. Transgender people are estimated to be 7-10 times more likely to be murdered than the national average. Yet gender identity is only implicit in the new hate crimes bill; the bill’s sponsors in the House have indicated that they intend “gender” to cover gender identity, but it’s unclear whether the Senate will agree.

The LA Times is right to point to the importance — necessity, really — of a law that explicitly protects the rights and safety of gay women and men. But by minimizing the need for a similar spotlight on women and transgender men and women, the article plays a part in the continuing normalization of violence against them.

(also at Feministe).

May 3, 2007, 10:30 am
Filed under: 2008, activism, me, news & views, politics

I’ve stayed silent so far on the 2008 presidential election — specifically, on which democratic candidate I will support in the primary. I still haven’t decided.

But I do have to say…it would be an easy choice for Kucinich if I felt he could win (and if he could promise support for abortion rights, which Alon points out has not been his strength).

Exhibit A (via Blue Gal):

Exhibit B:

He and Mike Gravel are the only of the Democrats to even mention the bad policy that is the War on Drugs on their websites.

So here’s the question: support the guy who can’t win the general but is the most inspiring in the primary? Or support the candidate who really has a chance to get a Dem back in the White House after 8 years of Bush disasters?

Taking on Abstinence Only “Education”

Seems that last week’s report that abstinence only “education” programs are totally ineffective has emboldened some of ab-only’s opponents.

Earlier this week, Salon’s Broadsheet reported that the ACLU (full disclosure: where I will work this summer), Advocates for Youth, and SIECUS, hot on the heels of last week’s report, have sent a letter to the director of the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), warning him that if HHS doesn’t comply with federal law (which the groups claim abstinence only programs violate), they’ll file a lawsuit challenging the Federal abstinence programs. Salon tells us that the case would be based on:

evidence that 1) many federally funded abstinence-only programs are filled with medically inaccurate information about condoms, HIV and other sexual health issues and 2) the programs have not proved to be effective in preventing teens from having sex.

But it’s not only the advocacy groups that are getting on the case now. Even the NYT is getting in on the action, though they did bury their editorial in the little-read Saturday paper. In their Editorial this morning, the paper writes:

Reliance on abstinence-only sex education as the primary tool to reduce teenage pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases — as favored by the Bush administration and conservatives in Congress — looks increasingly foolish and indefensible.

I take issue with the fact that the Times is totally hedging here — these programs are not becoming “increasingly” foolish or indefensible. They always have been, but no one was willing to stick out their neck before this report came out and made support of abstinence only a losing game. I appreciate that the Times is helping make this an issue. But their “eh” language won’t help much.

The truth is, it’s on Congress now to defund these programs. Congress has been complicit in their expansion for too long (the Republican Congress, I might add). Now, led by Democrats and changing the priorities, this Congress needs to use the recent report as support for its decision to defund these programs and mandate real, comprehensive sex ed in all our schools.

Stop Moping and Pick Up the Phone
April 25, 2007, 11:21 am
Filed under: activism, feminism/s & gender, reproductive justice

via Jessica

Today is NARAL Pro Choice America’s National Call in Day to Support the Freedom of Choice Act (discussed here). Here’s how it’s done:

Call 202-224-3121 and ask to be connected to both of your senators and your representative. You can even use the following script:

“Please cosponsor the Freedom of Choice Act (H.R.1964/S.1173) to codify Roe v. Wade and guarantee the right to choose for future generations of women.”

Pick up the phone. Stick it to SCOTUS.