August 23rd, 2012

My Update Portrait

Election Insurrection

Submitting a Vote

It has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried. - Winston Churchill

Anybody old enough to remember the presidential election of 2000 will remember the amount of controversy involved with it and the legal wrangling that went along with it. If ever there was a time to cry foul over our election methodology, it would seem to have been then.

[What's happened since then?]

There were some memes with the Black Panthers, ACORN and voting machines that came up, but that didn’t alter the course of our election results. None of these would have changed the outcome of the 2008 election of Barack Obama, however, doomsday alarmists on the right have determined that we need to fuck with our election process. Apparently democracy doesn’t work for everybody.

Despite a 5 year study of our voting methods by the Bush administration to exonerate the highly controversial 2000 election, there has been no evidence that voter identification needs to be proffered at the polls. With the uncontested election of Republican majorities in state houses across the country, artificial methods to discourage voter turnout are proliferating.

According to The Washington Post:

A new nationwide analysis of more than 2,000 cases of alleged election fraud over the past dozen years shows that in-person voter impersonation on Election Day, which has prompted 37 state legislatures to enact or consider tougher voter ID laws, was virtually nonexistent.

The analysis of 2,068 reported fraud cases by News21, a Carnegie-Knight investigative reporting project, found 10 cases of alleged in-person voter impersonation since 2000. With 146 million registered voters in the United States, those represent about one for every 15 million prospective voters.

The News21 report is based on a national public-records search in which reporters sent thousands of requests to elections officers in all 50 states, asking for every case of alleged fraudulent activity — including registration fraud; absentee-ballot fraud; vote buying; false election counts; campaign fraud; the casting of ballots by ineligible voters, such as felons and non-citizens; double voting; and voter impersonation.

The article continues to say that only 44% of the fraud cases resulted in actual convictions. Voter impersonation was the least prevalent of voter fraud. Among all the cases, it was found that confusion was the prevailing reason for voting inconsistencies. The article reports that a voter got 2 notices about their polling places because of an address change. The person voted twice because he thought his vote wouldn’t count unless he voted both times.

All this considered, we could have had up to 10 votes invalidated on election days since 2000 had these voter ID laws been in place at the time. It is clearly obvious the right is creating a cure for which there is no disease.


The GOP's Twisted Sick Game to Legalize Rape and Banning Abortion.

I know it sounds crazy but some day courts may stop prosecuting rape crimes, if at all. The pro-life personhood religious rightwing of the conservative party seems driven to make sure all forms of abortions are banned no matter the cost (yes, that includes rape and incest). They want their view of personhood and life to become the law of the land, and even decriminalize rape and the punishment that subsequently follows with it. Let us start with the issue of "Legitimate Rape", such a statement is a loaded word that tries to give the impression that there are different types of rapes. When Todd Akin went to Mike Huckabee's radio show to explain himself he said, "I was talking about forcible rape," he said. "I used the wrong word."

"forcible rape" is nothing but an attempt to create a legal distinction as a way to circumvent the issue of abortion, a loophole in an attempt to ban abortion.

Quote: Hang on -- "forcible rape"? If that term perplexes you, go back to the 2011 controversy over the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act. The first version of the law created a dilineation between "rape" and "forcible rape," which Nick Baumann noticed first and explained best.

With this legislation, which was introduced last week by Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.), Republicans propose that the rape exemption be limited to "forcible rape." This would rule out federal assistance for abortions in many rape cases, including instances of statutory rape, many of which are non-forcible. For example: If a 13-year-old girl is impregnated by a 24-year-old adult, she would no longer qualify to have Medicaid pay for an abortion.

If you think trying to rethink or create new definitions for rape wont cause serious social issues, then you are ignoring the repercussions and criminal implications that will cause on society if implemented. Back in 1999 Findland introduced a new category regarding rape, what happened next is that it caused that less than half of those convicted of rape ever serve jail time.

Quote: "According to a news report aired by the commercial television network Nelonen on Sunday, courts in Finland have been handing out relatively lenient sentences in cases of sexual assault – even in some which have led to physical injury.

Nelonen examined all sex crime cases handled by Finnish district courts over the past year and found out that prosecutors and courts have considered acts involving injury to the victim, or in which the woman’s home has been violently broken into, and even in which the victim has been kept a prisoner for several days, to meet the definition of “coercive sexual contact”, a category of sexual assault considered less serious than actual rape.

[...]The Nelonen report found that more than half of those convicted of actual rape have to serve real prison time. Less than one in ten of those convicted of the lesser crime have had to serve custodial sentences."

Or how about this quote: "There are three kinds of rape in Finnish law: rape, aggravated rape and "coercive sexual contact". Here is an example of "coercive sexual contact", a lesser crime than rape, from the Nelonen report:

A man, born in 1977, forced a woman to have sex with him in the disabled persons' bathroom of a restaurant by hitting her head into the wall and twisting her arm behind her. The woman could not call out for help because the man held his other hand over her mouth. Earlier that evening the same man had tried to forcibly kiss her in the restaurant. The state prosecutor demanded a sentence for coercive sexual contact, because the violence used was mild and the act was performed under mitigating circumstances. The public court decision does not set out these circumstances. The man was given a seven-month suspended sentence and ordered to pay 1000e in reparations."

So what do the Todd Akins of the world want? Ban IVF, ban contraception, ban abortions, create a new legal definition for rape, and incidentally and technically legalize rape or lower rape convictions.

New York City: Disney world on the Hudson

The context of an earnest conversation about what New York City is turning into. The author of the Op-Ed is Jeremiah Moss, who maintains a fascinating photographic blog called " Jeremiah's Vanishing New York. " This follows-up on a recent article about even walk-ups ("walk-ups" are older buildings, that have no elevator but are up to five or six stories tall, and are typically more affordable because they don't have elevators or door men) are being purchased by real estate developers, and jacking up the rent by nearly 2/3. The average rent in NYC is over 3000 a month. But I think this conversation about what is happening to New York City is paralleling our national conversation about economic fairness and wealth too.

[More behind the cut]

For background: the High line is an elevated rail spur that facilitated the moving of goods in midtown Manhattan, down to the meatpacking district. Rather than tear it down, it was suggested that it be instead turned into a park by the city.

I'm an old fart. My father was born and raised in Canada, served in the RCAF, and moved to the United States (Virginia, mostly to get away from the snow and frigid temperatures). So I have a lot of memories of family vacations going to Montreal, including stop-overs in New York City. The city then was in extremely bad shape during the mid 1970s. A series of fiscal disasters had it teetering near financial ruin (in part due to the lowered tax base facilitated by "white flight" to the suburbs. Infrastructure was falling apart-- bridges and the subway system were in serious disrepair. The Manhattan Bridge was crumbling into dust. Times Square which had been the crown jewel of Broadway was a shadow of its former glory. High crime rates, adult theaters, peep-show arcades, prostitutes, and pick-pockets made it a risky area for many tourists to wander around. Any available surface was covered in graffiti. I remember my father being a bit down about what the city had turned into. Things got so bad, New York had to ask the United States for money, to which the President Ford said "No."

New York Daily News infamous front page (President Ford changed his mind later).

When I arrived in 2000, the city seem very different to me. The first thing I noticed was how much cleaner everything was. Times Square was a vibrant place that was pretty safe, all kinds of new Broadway musicals and plays were filling theaters. Restaurants were bustling with patrons. But even the attitude was different. The city had recaptured its pride. Bridges were being repaired, the subway system was modernized, and no graffiti. In the 1970s if you said you lived in New York a typical reply would be "God, how do you survive there?" In 2000, when I told friends about my move, "Hey, when can I come up for a visit!?"

But over the time I've been here, a lot of the uniqueness has vanished. Neighborhoods are much safer true, but housing is pretty much unaffordable in those areas. The unique shops, bookstores, clothiers, have been muscled out by expensive chain stores, or stores that cater to very high end customers (pet clothing stores, designer clothes for toddlers, health spas, etc). The music scene has died in a significant way because there aren't venues for bands to learn their craft, those bars and lounges have been priced out by high rents and are now luxury condos. It's so bad, when Patti Smith was asked if it was possible for musicians to come to NYC to start a life in music she said no, saying "New York has closed itself off to the young and the struggling. But there are other cities. Detroit. Poughkeepsie. New York City has been taken away from you. So my advice is: Find a new city." There are very few new Broadway musicals or plays anymore, new productions are revampings or remakes of either movies, or plays or revivals or painful vehicles excuses for performing Top 40 hits. Broadway orchestras have been reduced in size, while ticket prices are insanely expensive (I checked on two tickets to see the Spider-man production. Nearly 425.00) Bakery shops, bodegas (little grocery stores where you can buy a single cigarette for a dollar even ;), they're all vanishing as you will discover when you look through Mr. Moss' blog.

What the subway USED to look like:

I've noticed an increasing resentment about NYC's gentrification and "hipster-fication" that seems to have gained momentum, in large part to Mayor Bloomberg's indifference to financing building projects that favor middle class families, especially when he recently made a proposal for 300 sq. foot apartments that would rent for 3000.00 a month:

This micro apartment will rent for 3000.00 a month

The West Village along Christopher Street which has had a large gay population since the 1950s is even feeling the growing pains of gentrification. As rising rents make it impossible for working class gay men to live there, and as straight-hetero families move into the neighborhood, the inevitable complaints about gay bars being too loud due to their late hours and all the yelling and dancing and singing and smoking under their windows.

Personally, while I am very happy the city is a lot safer, cleaner, and has made some infrastructure improvements, I worry about at what cost and many of the unique things that New York offers are vanishing, as I have seen this firsthand. And this is not unique to New York for anyone that lives in a large urban center in the US. Some of the comments in Mr. Moss's echo my own sentiments, and the debate gets very lively. I agree, I don't see the loss of "Gasoline Alley" as a huge loss for Manhattan. But then, I don't drive a car here either. Mostly because of the expense.

Vintage video of what Times' Square used to look like:

  • dwer

Who built it?

So ever since President Obama talked about how it takes a society to build things that business uses to do things like deliver goods, send data, etc, the GOP has been hammering him for being "unamerican". Apparently, subscribing to American Exceptionalism requires the believer to refuse to acknowledge any possibility that an innovator or "job creator" might have had help.

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edit: requesting a "you didn't build that" tag, and "Mitt Romney's Enduring Hypocrisy" tag.
Quaero togam pacem.
  • mahnmut

What's your place like?

Since some time ago I was told by someone I used to know that I don't know jack shit about Amurrkka and therefore I "don't understand Amurkka", I decided to embark on a grand voyage and delve deep into the national psyche of this strange place called USAnia... so I ended up reading these:

An interesting couple of writing pieces by any means! It's got charts & maps too, yo! Well, these have made me ponder about the various cultures and subcultures that make up a nation so diverse as yours, my dear Amurkins. So, in order to "understand" ya'll even better, how about I make a small amateurish survey around here? My question will be simple. Which type of place/region/town/county do you live in?

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So, 3, 2, 1... GO! Tell me about your place!