Thursday, February 09, 2012

Birth Control as Political Theatre

I try not to be too surprised/disappointed by the ridiculous rants which pop up in American politics - history shows us absurdity often holds momentary sway. But I was surprised/disappointed when I began reading the hysterical wails about contraception and if it should be covered by health insurance (conversely, I seldom hear complaints about Viagra being covered by health insurance).

The contraception debate is rather old (Congress passed the Comstock Law in 1873 to criminalize birth control) - it roiled up in the 1960s to hysterical levels too -  movies, television, books, news companies all provided endless worrying and satire about The Pill, all while sales and usage skyrocketed. Pill protest rallies, support rallies and more swirled and faded since personal control over whether or not to become pregnant should so obviously remain a personal decision. End of debate ... until recently.

While I began pondering how best to explain this idiocy, the always reliable Southern Beale sums it up really well:

"America’s Goofy Other Party is desperate to attack the Obama Administration on something — anything. With the economy improving and Osama bin Laden at the bottom of the ocean, what have they got? Culture wars, of course."

And after providing information about how Catholics already allow for coverage via insurance for birth control, SB adds:

" ... let’s be honest here: most American Catholics use birth control. Sorry, church leaders can whine about it and complain about it but we all know it’s true. They lost this battle somewhere around 1977 and I’m just not going to get dragged into some church battle that the leadership lost 30 years ago."

And she winds up with:

"What the Catholic bishops are trying to do is get the federal government to enforce the church’s anti-contraception doctrine because they have failed to do so on their own. This isn’t an “assault on religious liberty,” it’s the exact opposite: it’s getting the government to enforce a church rule that no one has followed in decades."

So just read her post, end of debate.

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Occupy Nashville Not Really Protesting, Say State Leaders

The state legislature is swiftly acting to pass a new law aimed at removing, fining and jailing the Occupy Nashville protesters. Legislators actually have to see this group, hear complaints about them being there, and as Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey says - these folks aren't really protesting, so there are no "free speech" concerns to worry with. 

"Average protesters, usually on some defined day centered around a specific issue, march or congregate en mass to demand redress of a specific grievance. Normal protests can get loud and they can get rowdy. Frequently, they can last long into the night. On rare occasions, they can last a few days.

Occupy Nashville is quite a different animal. This protest is not really a protest at all. It is, as the name implies, an occupation. I value our constitutional rights -- the freedom of speech most of all. Without the freedom to directly confront our leaders, our constitution isn't worth the parchment on which it's printed.

However, to continue to ignore the reality of Occupy Nashville would be to shirk my duties as a public servant. I have to tell the truth and the truth is this: your War Memorial Plaza - a place dedicated to Tennesseans who paid the ultimate price in service to their nation and fellow citizens - is no longer a place for visitors. It is unsightly, it is unclean and, depending on the time of day, it is downright dangerous."

There are anecdotal stories about the protesters acting badly - and don't we have laws already which could be brought to bear to arrest folks behaving badly? This new proposed law would make a crime of long-term protests.

And they do actively express their views in ways which must truly annoy the legislature - removing, arresting and fining those who take part seems more to be for the comfort level of elected officials than anything else

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Bringing The Cinnamon Challenge To Government

Each year thousands of new bills get submitted to the state and federal legislatures, with little to slow their apparently infinite growth. Outrage has been hot on the heels of many bills, as claims are made that they emerge from faceless bloated lobbyists and organizations whose true goals seem impossible to define.

And, more and more, these bills define regulations over every aspect of our lives, often demanding that citizens of our great nation and/or state must perform various tasks prior to attaining approvals, benefits, licenses, etc etc.

But what task do we, as citizens, require of our representatives before they submit a bill, whether it was given to them to submit or they crafted it all by themselves? Wouldn't it be a good idea to demand some kind of proof of personal sacrifice or commitment?

Well, I have a suggestion.

I happened across a semi-popular bit of behavior which I think we should adopt as a requirement before any bill could be submitted - it's called The Cinnamon Challenge.

This challenge began to appear online in 2001, and videos soon followed.

The Cinnamon Challenge: a person must consume one tablespoon of cinnamon without spitting it out or vomiting. If a representative can do this, then their bill can then be submitted and undergo the usual process of approval or rejection. I would also add that every attempt at mastering the Challenge be videotaped and uploaded to YouTube. In fact, Illinois Governor Pat Quinn recently took the challenge and passed it just fine - so it is not impossible to master this challenge ... or is it?

Here's a sample of videos of average American folks attempting the challenge:

A semi-popular comedienne named GloZell recently tried it (with appropriately wacky results):

So there's my idea - fail the Cinnamon Challenge and your bill fails. Pass it, and then the legislature can consider the bill. I'm betting it would reduce needless bill activity by a significant margin. For those that succeed, we have proof the representative really, truly cares about the legislation.

It's a win-win.

Monday, February 06, 2012

Senator Campfield's Follies Heading to Court

If the voters in Knoxville are paying attention, maybe the upcoming libel trial against state senator Stacey Campfield will be Reason 10,354 to replace him. Or is he indeed the Loose Cannon Which Serves A Purpose?

"It’s not too late to correct your mistake, but you better hurry. January was bad, but it’s going to get way worse when Campfield has to trek up to Campbell County to defend himself in a $750,000 libel suit filed by former state House candidate Roger Byrge. Byrge is a Democrat who lost a 2008 race by 391 votes to Union County Republican Chad Faulker, a Knox County deputy sheriff.
At issue is this Campfield blog post from September 2008: “Word is a ... mail piece has gone out exposing Byrges (sic) multiple drug arrests. Including arrests for possession and drug dealing. (I hear the mug shots are gold.)”

Unfortunately for Campfield, “word” was false, and falsely accusing someone of a crime is libel, so he’s been sued. Byrge’s lawyer, David Dunaway, accuses the senator of using his state-owned computer to make a false allegation with the intention of influencing an election.

And it wasn’t just any election. It was the election that changed the balance of power in the Tennessee House of Representatives from Democratic to Republican – by one skinny vote."

More from Betty Bean on Stacey Campfield