Category: Civil Rights

Accessibility

When someone asks, “Is (X place) accessible?” the answer is “no” if there are any stairs involved in getting there. It doesn’t matter if everything inside X is on one level but there are three “little” steps at the front door, or “just one flight of stairs out front.” Those “little” steps aren’t so little for those using scooter and wheelchairs. The answer is also “no” if there is no wholly accessible bathroom near the main area.

Just once, I’d like to arrive somewhere to find a place truly accessible instead of having someone who’d claimed accessibility say, “Oh, I didn’t think about those little steps!” or “But that’s just one flight of stairs!” or some such stupid thing. Even though I happen to be able to walk most of the time, if I’m using my scooter, there’s a reason for it. If I were to get off of it to walk up those few steps, where am I to store the scooter? A significant investment. Plenty of other people cannot walk up those steps.

Why choose an inaccessible place of business, anyway? Why are builders continuing to build inaccessible residences? It isn’t expensive to build in accessibility in the first place, compared to renovating for accessibility. Has all the talk of the aging of America meant nothing with regards to home design?

Everyone is just temporarily abled in the long run, anyway. If you buy or build a house, it pays to go ahead and consider whether or not it would still suit you if you were injured in some manner. Could you get around on crutches or in a chair? If (shocking thought) you were to want to entertain someone who uses mobility devices to get around, could that person even get in your front door? Any door? I’ve lived in places where the answer would be a resounding “No!” and even if we got the poor soul in through, say, the garage, she couldn’t get up to the living areas.

The Hateful Tea Party, Its True Origins, and President Obama’s Accomplishments

I was challenged in comments on a friend’s Facebook wall yesterday “provide us with a specific example of Tea Party hate ful (sic) speach and some thing good that President Obama has done for our country.” The commenters there also claimed that “THE TEA PARTY HAS NO REPRESENTATIVES IN CONGRESS” and seemed to be under the impression that it is a grass roots movement, which is a claim friends of mine have also made. Rather than post this information in more than one place, I decided to make one post in my blog and refer to it in the future.

First, President Obama has accomplished plenty of things during his term. I started to make my own list, then decided that it’s foolish to reinvent the wheel. The most comprehensive list I’ve found is here: Accomplishments of President Obama. While some people may not think some of those things are accomplishments, I doubt there’s anyone who can argue with all of them. I’d add to the list the fact that Osama bin Laden is dead. That happened during Obama’s presidency. His people were able to keep a lid on the information about bin Laden’s whereabouts and the operation long enough to get that bastard. The fact that the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy in the military is over is pretty damned important, too.

Those accomplishments look much better, too, when you realize two things:

  1. The IMF informed President Bush that they intended to audit the U.S. back in June 2008. Bush just put them off until the end of his term.
  2. While Obama is often blamed for the massive deficit, that’s inaccurate. The 2009 fiscal year began before Obama even took office, and the budget for that year was almost entirely determined by the Bush administration. There was an 88% increase in spending during the years of the Bush administration, compared to only a 7.4% increase during the Obama administration. That’s why Bush inherited a $128 billion surplus from Clinton’s last budget, and bequeathed a $1.4 trillion deficit to Obama.

I know perfectly well that the tea party (no caps) was originally billed as a grass roots movement about fiscal issues and against big government. Yes, gatherings to support Ron Paul’s 2008 presidential campaign were called “tea parties,” and those issues were central to his campaign.

However, there was apparently no talk of a Tea Party (note the caps) during those gatherings, and after Obama was elected, the name was co-opted for anti-Obama rallies by Republican operatives, led by Dick Armey and mouthpiece Rick Santelli. Of course, if they’d said, “We’re organized by lobbyists for big business, because guys like Steve Forbes and the Koch brothers don’t want middle class people to have help paying their mortgages!” then middle class people wouldn’t have been as likely to get involved. So the fiction of a “grassroots movement” was carefully maintained.

Even for those who might not believe that FreedomWorks, the Koch brothers, etc. have always behind the Tea Party, it must be difficult to deny that “grassroots” certainly isn’t what the Tea Party is about now. Anyone who wants to argue about it has only to look at Michelle Bachmann, Rick Perry, and and their Christian Dominionist views to know that. Of course, Perry also claimed in his book that Social Security is unconstitutional, despite the fact that the Supreme Court ruled otherwise in 1936, and Bachmann signed a pledge that claims that blacks were better off when they were slaves, so their credibility ratings are suffering, as far as I’m concerned. By the way – that pledge thing is pretty darned racist, to me, and the rest of Bachmann’s well-known history gaffes aren’t making things any better.

Michelle Bachmann (head of the Congressional Tea Party Caucus) worked for the IRS as a tax attorney before quitting to be a stay-at-home mom. So she’s never had a job that doesn’t come with a government paycheck, but she’s supposedly against big government? How very hypocritical. Bachmann’s husband runs a clinic that takes federal money to provide a form of therapy to “cure” homosexuality—therapy that isn’t approved by the American Psychological Association or the American Medical Association or, actually, any accrediting board. If anybody wants to truly cut out government waste, then paying for that sort of thing should be stopped right away, and psychologists who file for reimbursement for it should lose their licenses and be arrested for fraud. (Homosexuality was initially suggested for removal from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual as a disorder in 1973, and completely removed by 1986. Dr. Bachmann, if he actually is a psychologist, should know that.) Michelle’s remarks about homosexuality include such lovely bits as saying that it’s “of Satan.” Yes, that’s bigotry.

Steve King (R-Iowa, member of the Tea Party Caucus) has demonstrated bigotry in his attacks against Barack Obama before his election because of his middle name (Hussein) and the fact that his father was Muslim. He has also shown himself to be a racist by making claims that Obama favors blacks—without providing any substantiation, of course. His misogynist voting record speaks for itself.

Louie Gohmert (R-Texas, member of the Tea Party Caucus), is a birther (crazy enough right there), who equated homosexuality with bestiality, necrophilia, and pedophilia during a debate on Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (video clip). He also made a stupidly racist remark when complaining about one particular bit of funding – the infamous “moo goo cat pan” joke that fell flat. (He’s got so much crazy that we could spend a lot of time talking about him. I imagine even the Tea Party would be happy to lose him altogether. Search on “terror babies” and you’ll see what I mean.)

One of King’s buddies in the Tea Party caucus, Phil Gingrey (R-Georgia), went to the Mexican border with King on a fact-finding mission, and put his racist foot in his mouth by claiming that his desire to end birthright citizenship isn’t motivated by xenophobia because, “if I had to choose from immigrants across the globe, my favorite alien would be our Hispanic and Latino residents coming from across the Southern border. On June 22, 2011, Dr. Gingrey, an OB-GYN, said: “Democrats like to picture us as pushing grandmother over the cliff or throwing someone under the bus. In either one of those scenarios, at least the senior has a chance to survive. But under this IPAB [Independent Payment Advisory Board] we described that the Democrats put in ‘Obamacare,’ where a bunch of bureaucrats decide whether you get care, such as continuing on dialysis or cancer chemotherapy, I guarantee you when you withdraw that the patient is going to die. It’s rationing.” He knew perfectly well that he was lying, but Republicans want to control the way the money is spent, rather than to permit a non-partisan board to control it and achieve any cost savings. You would think a fiscal conservative would be in favor of cost savings, but it doesn’t work that when political power is at stake.!

At the state level, we have Alabama state senator Scott Beason referring to blacks as “aborigines.” After opening a speech by saying that “illegal immigration will destroy a community” he closed it by advising his listeners to “empty the clip, and do what has to be done“.

David Barton hangs out with several Tea Party figures—Rick Perry is spending Labor Day weekend with the guy. He claims on his tax records that he is an expert on African-American history, but when questioned about the fact that he regularly addresses white supremacist groups (who adore him) he tried at one point to claim that he didn’t understand their leanings. One of his main claims is that Martin Luther King, Jr. made no significant contribution to the civil rights movement and that he and Thurgood Marshall should be removed from our history books. Newt Gingrich’s spokesman, Rick Tyler, said, “I think David Barton is one of the most knowledgeable teachers on American history.” (Interesting, as Gingrich is a former history professor himself, and Barton is only an “amateur historian.”) He’s popular with Bachmann, Beck, and Mike Huckabee, too.

Then there’s just about everything Glenn Beck says – the man is anti-semitic, racist, homophobic, misogynistic, you name it. He seems to adore comparing any little slight against himself or Fox News to the Holocaust. If his manicurist slips up an causes discomfort, she’s probably accused of being Mengele in disguise, or at least a descendant of his. He has stooped so low as to attack the president’s children and refer to the First Lady as the president’s “Baby Mama.” Anyone who cares to do so can find plenty of videos of him anywhere, but I refuse to link to them. I don’t think there are any clips in which he opens his mouth that aren’t offensive.

Matthew Vadum is a columnist who is extremely supportive of the Tea Party. He recently published an article claiming that “Registering the Poor to Vote is Un-American“, equating voter registration to giving the poor “burglary tools.”

By the way, if you haven’t seen all the signs carried at Tea Party rallies depicting the President as a monkey, or a witch doctor, or Hitler, then you haven’t been paying attention. There are plenty of places where I could find more, but I’ve had enough more than enough exposure to nastiness for one day.

Anyone who reads this post can no longer say that they’ve never heard of anyone associated with Tea Party saying hateful things, or that they’re not aware of anything that President Obama has accomplished during his presidency.

Where do first amendment rights go when you enter a courtroom?

I’m not even talking about the rights of defendents or plaintiffs, but those of people who are otherwise present in a courtroom who aren’t being disruptive. How much control do judges actually need in order to maintain order in the courtroom? At what point are they simply being petty tyrants? Read more

Oh, he was obviously such a terrorist!

Dr Peter Watts, Canadian science fiction writer, beaten and arrested at US border
Obviously, science fiction writers are scary people. And his reason for being in Nebraska in the first place (helping a friend move) was highly questionable, so it makes total sense that the border patrol would search his vehicle. Getting out of the car to ask a question was obviously a terrorist act, so the border batrol beat him, pepper sprayed him, and threw him in jail. After his wife paid his bail, they tossed him out in his shirt sleeves (obviously, his coat had to be impounded along with his car, computer, and other belongings as a threat to national security) in the middle of the night, after charging him with a felony, claiming that he struck a federal officer (both the author and the passenger in his car state that never happened). Now the man has to return from his home in Canada to face felony charges in Michigan.

Why make an exception for rape and incest?

I always look forward to Dr. Marty Klein’s Sexual Intelligence newsletters, so I was tickled to see one in my inbox today. But one of the headlines took me by surprise: End Rape & Incest Exceptions to Stupak Abortion Ban. Dr. Klein always has excellent analyses, and this one is no exception.

If you’re against reproductive choice for so-called “moral reasons” (as if anyone getting an abortion or supporting its legality isn’t “moral”), be consistent. If killing a fetus or even a fertilized egg wandering around a woman’s body is the same as killing a person (the position of every anti-choice activist), why should it matter how the fetus or fertilized egg got there? Why is a fetus’ right to live diminished because its father was a rapist or a sadist? After all, we don’t say the children of such men have fewer rights than other children.

Stupak is back! Time to call your legislators again!

This time it’s in the Senate, folks. In case you just crawled out from under a rock, I’m talking about the Stupak-Pitts amendment to the Affordable Health Care for America Act that was originally introduced in the House of Representatives by Democratic Representative Bart Stupak of Michigan and Republican Representative Joseph Pitts of Pennsylvania, along with a long list of Congresspersons. The bill tried to keep any federal funds from being used to pay for an abortion, but was also worded in such a way that it would have prohibited women from purchasing private coverage to cover abortions. That’s a ridiculous restriction on the reproductive freedom of every woman who needs health care, and an even further economic restriction on what private citizens can purchase with their own funds. Women would be losing coverage they have now!

The letter I sent to my Senators last month was, like everything I send to Senator Isakson, not read as far as I could tell, because his office just responded with a form letter babbling about his religious beliefs. That’s a bit better than Senator Chambliss’ office, at least, which doesn’t even do that much. Still, that form letter was something of a straw breaking this particular camel’s back, and it inspired me to write another letter back to Senator Isakson, one that he hasn’t responded to at all. I’m not terribly surprised, as I asked that he not respond at all if his only response was going to be another form letter. Still, writing it prepared me, to a certain extent, to respond to the alert going out about the renewed Stupak amendment, which is why I mention it here.

Read more

YAY!

We were fairly sure of this right after I finally had my Social Security hearing last month based on the very positive statements from the judge, but I didn’t want to jinx anything. We got the official letter in the mail today, saying that the decision was “fully favorable!” SQUEE!

It will still take some time for that decision to bounce around the bureaucracy and get monthly payments started, much less get the back pay from the SSA. Because the onset date was years ago, I should be eligible for Medicare right away, but I’ll need to talk to the attorney about that on Monday.

I really needed some good news, so the timing is marvelous.

This process has been an insane endurance contest. The fact that the SSA has been absolutely obstructionist throughout (and I know my experience is far from unique!) is ridiculous. The system demands that people who are most in need of help are least likely to get it in any timely fashion, because it takes so much persistence, jargon, and inside knowledge to get anywhere. If you can do all those forms and gather all the records and so on by yourself, I don’t know that you should count as disabled! Even people with good support in other ways don’t always have someone willing, able, and persistent who can and will spend the hours and hours of time to push a claim through.

I started the filing process for one reason: I needed stable access to healthcare so that I could get well enough to go back to work. Five years down the line, I’m not at all sure that I will be able to return to work, because my health has deteriorated so much that it may not be possible to get back to an “abled” state. How many years of productive lives are being in the U.S. wasted for lack access to healthcare?

I get annoyed every time I hear a talking head refer to plans to “insure” everyone. That isn’t what we need! Plenty of people have health insurance and still don’t get the actual health care they need because they can’t afford the co-pays, or the insurer won’t cover a particular drug or therapy, or there are pre-existing condition problems, or…

We need health care. Not divided up by age (this for kids, that for seniors, something else for working age people, oh, right, the disabled here) by universal car, the same care for everyone, for the whole body, cradle to grave. (Who ever decided that eyes and teeth should be separated out, anyway? That’s stupid.)

I read an artcle about San Francisco’s health program last week–if I can find a link I’ll add it later. It does just what I described, from what that article says. I don’t know how much it costs to join, but apparently there’s a lot of outreach to people who are otherwise uninsured. There are no pre-existing conditions.

Does anyone know of programs like San Francisco’s elsewhere in the U.S.?

WTF? Georgia Senate Threatens to Secede!

Georgia Senate threatens dismantling of USA
They really did, by a vote of 43-1. On April 1, but it wasn’t an April Fool’s joke.

The resolution goes on to endorse the theory that states have the right to abridge constitutional freedoms of religion, press and speech. According to the resolution, it is up to the states to decide “how far the licentiousness of speech and of the press may be abridged.”
(snip)
Finally, the resolution states that if Congress, the president or federal courts take any action that exceeds their constitutional powers, the Constitution is rendered null and void and the United States of America is officially disbanded. As an example, the resolution specifically states that if the federal government enacts “prohibitions of type or quantity of arms or ammunition,” the country is disbanded.

You better believe that I’m writing to our state senator right away. Yes, this nonsense was slipped in on day 39 of the 40 day legislative session, but that is absolutely no excuse. Our representatives have no business voting for anything they haven’t thoroughly read, understood, and debated. That’s their job!

Yet another reason I don’t want to live in Georgia any more. I seriously think this is a backlash against our election of a black Democrat to the presidency. I’m looking at blue states now.

Civil Rights Win in Florida

Months ago, I posted about Ponce de Leon High School in Florida banning the wear or display of any kind of gay pride symbols or words, claiming that they indicated involvement in an “illegal organization.” I later found out that the problem started last fall, when a lesbian student complained that she was being harassed. Instead of investigating or trying to stop the harassment, the school administration cracked down on any show of support for her. The principal later said that he was sure that gay pride symbols would cause students to visualize gay people having sex, leading to disruption.Damn, those are powerful rainbows! Wonder what kind of porn they’d find in a raid of his house?

Anyway, Florida managed to get something right, or at least one judge there did so. Oh, wait–he was a federal judge, not a state authority. Anyway, on May 13 he issued a permanent injunction against the school! He told them that they must stop their unconstitutional censorship of expressions of support for gay people, and warned them not to try retaliating against anyone involved in the case.