Sunday, May 31, 2009

Dr. Tiller and Survival of Choice

Dr. George Tiller was assassinated just five hours ago as I write this, gunned down while he served as usher at his church, a church he has attended for over a decade. There are so many things to express, to say, about the hole that exists in my body right now.

I've run into Dr. Tiller at fundraising events before, and I know he was getting old. He was 67 and still providing late-term abortions to women from around the country. I knew that someday, probably soon, he would no longer be with us as a provider, and I've wondered what we are to do then. However, I had figured we'd have time to plan. Time for another provider to learn and take his place. Not for "the cause" but for women.

This is not just about an abortion provider assassinated. It's not about the cruelty of someone shooting him down in church. I don't know yet if the shooter is religious or not, but the chances of him being Christian are very, very high. This man walked into a place of worship of his God and shot down a fellow believer. Because they believed differently on a point or two. Everyone in that church suffered today, not just Dr. Tiller and his family.

There are two facilities in the state of Kansas that provide abortions. The other is in the Kansas City area. For Wichitans, that's a three hour drive. For other Kansans, it is quite a bit longer. Kansas has a 24 hour waiting period on abortion. We have to see providers twice. Now, that wait is even longer. Every woman in Kansas suffered today.

Dr. Tiller provided late-term services to women after 21 weeks. He was one of three in the country who did. Over the years, I've read plenty of articles from women about their difficult decisions. Some women who miscarried late in their pregnancy but who still had the dead fetus inside of them were denied life necessary procedures because late-term abortion laws are written in this country in such a way as to put doctors at risk for providing services when a dead fetus doesn't expel itself. Doctors who do not provide abortions are afraid to save women's lives. But Dr. Tiller wasn't. Every pregnant woman in America suffered today.

For years, protesters have stood outside Tiller's clinic and harassed women on their way in. They have taken pictures of women and their families and posted them on the internet. They have followed, harassed, and posted on the internet for all to see the faces, names, and homes of his clinic workers. And they are proud of this harassment as is evident from a 2004 Rolling Stone Magazine article. They did everything they could to take away the choice of women, a difficult choice, a sometimes necessary choice.

Today, choice was taken away from women. Sure, it still "exists," but at what cost? Three more hours to Kansas City? An overnight stay? More harassers camped outside in Kansas City since they don't have to be in Wichita? Knowing these harassers are willing not only to stalk and berate but assassinate ... What choice do I have?

With every assassination, with every attempt, with every hateful word spoken, they take away choice.

God gave humans free will. He gave Adam and Eve the ability to eat the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge. He wanted them to make a choice. How could their hearts be pure if they were not given an option they chose not to take?

This was a political assassination, and it was an attack on women. We cannot choose not to terminate a pregnancy if we don't have the option. Our options to prevent pregnancy are limited. And, now, even moreso. The fear we already felt is greater now.

This is why you are labeled a threat to national security. This is why you are terrorists.

I hope you find yourselves in jail. All of you.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Tiahrt confuses "Muslims found by the Bush administration to be not-guilty" with "Evil terrorists in our backyard"

I know I don't pay much attention to the news. Too much stuff to pay attention to. However, it has entered my eyeline that Todd Tiahrt (KS-04, R/DB) is making up wild acts with scary-sounding names in order to continue the lies started by the Bush administration concerning "detainees". His No Welfare for Terrorists Act sounds perfectly logical by the name. Of course we don't want terrorists running around the streets of small-town America (big-city America is full of liberals and, therefore, terrorists).

What Tiahrt and Newt Gingrich are concerned over is a group of Chinese Muslims called Uighurs. In spite of what Tiahrt and Gingrich believe, it had long ago been determined by the military tribunals at Gitmo that the Uighurs are completely innocent and unaffiliated with al-Qaeda. But Communist China doesn't like them. So Gitmo kept these people because no one in the world wanted them. Albania finally agreed to take five (but not all seventeen), but because no one in the world wants them, they can't leave, can't communicate with their families, and spent a year and a half under lock and key in Albania.

Twelve innocent people remain detained. Because they were found Driving While Muslim. Five more are stuck in Albania. And, for some reason, we're more afraid of Chinese Muslims than being angry at Communist China. We side with China -- of course -- in their human rights abuses. Of course we do when we have our own human rights abuses.

So Tiahrt and Gingrich and their cronnies think Muslims found in Afghanistan, turned in by residents, are terrorirsts, even if they have otherwise been found not-guilty. Let's ship American democracy to the world, buffet-style. Hey, that's what we do with everything, after all!

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Kansas Democratic Party's response to coal deal

Just received this from the KSDP. Thought I should share it.

As some of you know, for the past two years there has been an impasse in the Kansas Legislature over the building of coal plants in Holcomb, Kansas. Just five days after taking office, Governor Mark Parkinson has led the effort to end this standstill. Yesterday, the State of Kansas and Sunflower Energy (who originally proposed the plants) signed an agreement that does more than just settle a dispute. This agreement creates a comprehensive statewide energy policy that builds a platform for a renewable energy future in Kansas.

With his action, Governor Parkinson has shown the true spirit of the Kansas Democratic Party. By working to find common-sense solutions that benefit all Kansans, Governor Parkinson has reminded us why we welcomed him to our party two and a half years ago. Kansas Democrats always strive to bring people together, not tear them apart.

Governor Parkinson made a good point in his remarks to the press, when he said that both sides of this issue should feel good about the compromise reached.
Democrats who supported the effort to build coal plants out West will now have a smaller, cleaner and more efficient power plant to supply Kansans with power.

• Democrats who wanted to focus on renewable energy can be proud of the new wind farms, transmission lines, net metering and renewable portfolio standard that are a result of the Governor’s leadership.

• Without the strong leadership of Governor Parkinson, comprehensive energy legislation may never have happened in Kansas. Of course, with every compromise there is an expected amount of disappointment on both sides, but at the end of the day Kansas is better positioned for renewable energy than ever before, and that’s leadership we can be proud of.

This new comprehensive energy policy is a win – win solution for Kansas and one reason why we are pleased to call Governor Parkinson one of our own. While Governor Parkinson led the negotiations to reach this agreement, we can’t forget the work done over the last two years by former Governor Kathleen Sebelius and many Democrats in the Legislature. By insisting that Kansas develop a comprehensive energy strategy that would benefit the entire state, former Governor Sebelius and many Kansas Democrats helped lay the groundwork for the agreement announced this week.

By breaking this impasse, Governor Parkinson has put the winds back in our state's sails. Kansans can now focus their attention not on the politics of division, but on a shared green energy future that starts right here at home with Kansas wind. Renewable energy will not only provide more energy with less pollution, it is an industry that will recharge our economy. It truly is a win-win for us all.

Let's all congratulate Governor Mark Parkinson, and the rest of our state on yesterday's victory.


Larry Gates
Kansas Democratic Party

Monday, May 4, 2009

More Coal in Kansas

While Bagyants sees this compromise as at least partially good (he also gives some details on the deal), I'm not happy with this deal. Feels like the last two years ... *sigh*. Coal is bad, mmkay? I recently wrote an article for the Peace and Social Justice Center of South Central Kansas so I'm going to just post it unedited below. Since I'm not a politician and don't have to make these decisions, I can keep my point of view and express it whole.

Welcome to April! The sun has been shining, the air is getting warmer, snowflakes continue to drop on our cars, and Earth Day approaches reminding us we are a part of the environment, not above it. Living in Kansas, we are keenly aware Nature can and will overpower us and we must be respectful of that in order to survive. Our collective inability to apply this fact to more than tornadoes boggles the mind.

This month, Governor Sebelius vetoed, for the fourth time, a bill that would allow two new coal power plants to be built in Holcomb. As it becomes more difficult for these plants to be built, their parent company in Colorado is beginning to back out of coal and invest in more “green” sources of power. The current recession and a national push for clean energy makes this decision wise. And will allow Kansans to breath a little easier.

Keeping our environment clean may not seem like an issue for the Peace and Social Justice Center. Coal is incredibly danger to mine. Workers in coal mines suffer serious health conditions and put their lives at immediate risk every time they enter the mine. Unfortunately, these mines oftimes provide the only economy for communities, especially throughout Appalachia.

As our demand for energy rises, energy companies try to provide ways to bring us more energy with less money. Surface mining, safer and less expensive than traditional coal mines, destroy all vegetation in their area. Even cheaper mountaintop removal destroys most of a mountain to get at the coal inside. The soil and rock from the mountain is left in the valleys leading to contamination of local water sources. Mountaintop removal drives up unemployment in these areas. McDowell County, West Virginia, is the largest coal producing county in the state with 37% of residents living below the poverty line. While coal in Kansas generally comes from Wyoming which strip mines its coal, all demand for energy affects Appalachia.

Locally, the burning of coal has devastating effects on humans and long-lasting effects on the world around us. Coal plants produce carbon dioxide, mercury, lead, cadmium, thorium, and uranium. The Holcomb plants would require over 5 billion gallons of water a year from the Ogallala aquifer. Ogallala provides water to portions of 8 states, including western Kansas. More water is taken from it than goes into it. As we use more of its water for crop irrigation and public use, the available water drops and complex “water rights” immerge. The addition of these plants would further reduce the amount of water available to western Kansas for food crops.

Western Kansas has been in the grips of economic uncertainty for many years. Job creation continues to be the chief argument proponents use to move forward the building of the plants. But with the known health, environmental, and agricultural effects of these plants, is this the best option? And what are the long-term monetary costs?

The best solution for all of us is to reduce how much energy we use. While we all know this and do this in our own homes, we also must encourage businesses and government to take this to all corners of our lives. We must find effective, just, and economical ways to provide our energy, care for poverty-stricken communities, and provide the Earth as much as she has provided us.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

The MAD Voter -- Freedom to Marry

(Originally published in the Liberty Press in May 2008)

So much has happened in the month, I hardly know where to start. The Iowa Supreme Court ruled to uphold the August 2007 District Court ruling saying denying same-sex couples the right to marry was unconstitutional. Starting April 27, Iowa couples can begin marrying again.

A few days later, Vermont’s legislature decided to finish what they started in 1999. The first state with civil unions voted twice to expand marriage, overriding the governor’s veto. This marks the first time a state legislature made this decision without a court order.

New York governor Mark Patterson asked the New York State Assembly to expand marriage rights. Talk is happening in Maine, New Hampshire, and New Jersey. This is quite exciting!!

This forward momentum exists in stark contrast to the anti-marriage movement of the past few years. Between 2004 and 2006 alone, 22 states passed constitutional amendments barring same-sex marriage with 29 states barring it constitutionally and an additional 13 states barring it through law alone. But don’t look at the United States Supreme Court to take up this issue anytime soon.

LGBT rights organizations, civil rights organizations, and community advocates disagree over how exactly we should work to expand marriage to include same-sex couples. Generally, working through the legislature is preferred over working through the courts. However, early victories usually come through courts. So-called activist judges aside, protecting our rights through the judicial system is part of our rights as Americans and key to any civil rights struggle.

Take, for example, Brown v. Topeka School Board of Education. This Supreme Court ruling ended school segregation ruling separate but equal schools neither provided the same level of education nor protected the rights of African-American students. In some southern states, National Guard troops had to enforce this ruling at schools.

In the 1950s, many people disagreed with using the courts to force desegregation, yet today, few dare talk about “activist judges”. In fact, the Kansas Statehouse has a section dedicated to this decision. Our legislature recognizes the importance of the judiciary on protecting citizens.

Vermont wanted to expand marriage rights badly. The first vote moved quickly through both houses and was sent via messenger to the governor to sign. Using a messenger instead of normal services required an additional vote by the Vermont Senate. After the veto, both houses voted the same day to override, managing more votes than they had to pass the law.

Iowa’s story is more dramatic. 24 hours after a District Court judge ruled denying same-sex couples from marriage was unconstitutional, he stopped licenses from being issued but not before one couple married. One Iowa, the state’s largest LGBT rights organization, points out on their website Iowa’s long history of civil rights guaranteed by courts.

In Kansas, we won’t see changes anytime soon. The two bills introduced in Kansas this year have stalled. Hospital visitation never made it out of committee. Non-discrimination was voted back to committee. But the re-affirmation of Iowans’ right to marry does affect us.

Iowa, being a Midwestern state, has more impact on Kansas than California. Victories on the coasts impact LGBT rights nationwide, but advancements closer to home shows it’s not a Coasts-v-Midwest mentality but that Midwest values include equality for LGBT people.

So let’s help Iowa. One Iowa, the largest LGBT rights organization in the state, tells me the best way we can help is to go to their website, OneIowa.Org, to stay engaged in the struggle, all from your own home in the Heartland. They have recently released ad, “What does Marriage Equality mean for Iowa?”

April has certainly showered us with goodness. Being active in Iowa means helping Kansas in the future. As schools in the state protect gay and lesbian students, as states around us adopt protections for their citizens, and as we continue to stay engaged, the struggle for our rights will succeed.

The Mad Voter combines a bit of anger, a bit of crazy, and a bit of passion to Make A Difference (MAD) through simple actions and “armchair activism”. This column provides ideas to be involved and to know why. Follow @themadvoter on Twitter for faster updates!
Wow. Just ... wow. For a blog that claims to be issue instead of candidate-oriented, those two certainly don't do it. However, it is refreshing to see the right-wing nutjobs appreciate the genitalia humor. Usually, their inane drivel is completely bonkers in other ways. Sure, I'm new to reading blogs regularly, but I certainly am glad to see the teabaggers believe the Supreme Court of the United States are the balls they suck on. The right is really obsessed with sex, aren't they?

And as much as I could try to go onto something serious about the importance of diversity and seeking out women and minorities, I don't think starting the post with fuzzy balls is quite the way to get into a serious discussion on how there are qualified people who aren't white, straight, married, male, and likely with money falling out of their pockets and into their mistress's hands.


I feel dirty. Any women out there wanting to make me feel less dirty?