Itâ€™s the day of the election. Youâ€™re probably tired of reading yet another post about why itâ€™s so important that every one of us eligible voters vote in this election. Several excellent bloggers have already told you why on this site, and I risk repeating some of their points.
But on the off chance that you think it doesnâ€™t matter, or that itâ€™s in the bag (donâ€™t you dare!), or that one more vote will never make a difference, or whatever reason youâ€™ve come up with to write it off, please take one more minute to reflect, and rethink.
If you care about women, either because you are one, came out of one, or love one, consider the loss of autonomyâ€”literally, the loss of rights. Because reproductive rights are fundamental rights. Maybe youâ€™re not in the childbearing demographic, maybe youâ€™re queer and rarely or never need birth control, maybe youâ€™re set for life and feel it doesnâ€™t concern you. Think about other people, and stick up for them. Especially if youâ€™re queer because damn it, other people have stuck up for you, including a helluva lot of women. Itâ€™s time to pay up. Some of us know well the term â€œfragile and reversibleâ€. Thatâ€™s what hard-fought rights are, and that is whatâ€™s on the line today.
If you still donâ€™t get just how badly reproductive rights have been under attack, just look at one basic statistic, the image above.
Election after election, we wonder how it can get any worse, and then it does. No matter what you thought of 2000 or 2004 or 2008, this is not politics as usual. Youâ€™ve seen the gif going around about remembering to set your clocks back Sunday, but on Tuesday â€œbe careful that you donâ€™t set the country back 50 yearsâ€? Donâ€™t laugh. The movement in the Republican Party that believes people have their places is strong; and for women, that place is to serve the natural superiority of men. We like to think weâ€™re way past that. Weâ€™re not. There is no other reason for so many GOP politicians to claim so earnestly that they theyâ€™ve struggled with it, but when the sperm meets the egg, the resulting multiplications immediately take precedence over the body housing that communion. Regardless of how they got there. Bodily autonomy simply doesnâ€™t matter, no matter what those politicians say.
Donâ€™t look for lies, because these people believe what theyâ€™re saying. For the most part, they do not believe theyâ€™re disrespecting womenâ€™s autonomy. They believe theyâ€™re respecting womenâ€™s dependence. The double standard (â€œbut what if it was you?â€) is unfathomable, and therefore inconsequential. Itâ€™s un-American to deprive citizens of their individual autonomy, but they donâ€™t see it that way because, well, liberalism offers them that pesky public/private sphere loophole. We have yet to accept fully that what happens in the home is political, too. So we keep fighting these battles that waste our energy and resources, but to give up is to lose basic rights, or to lose the ground weâ€™ve fought so hard to gain. I imagine this is an unthinkable prospect to anyone who cares about womenâ€™s rights and LGBT rights.
The autonomy they want to deprive women of bleeds through to gay rights, make no mistake. The conservatives gunning for power want to be able to tell people how to live their lives, including what they can and cannot do with their bodies. Trying to deprive women of the right to abort, or of the right to the contraception of her choice is directly related to queer rights that allow sexually similar bodies to commingle. Theyâ€™re the same people who want to repeal gay rights, bring back Donâ€™t Ask/Donâ€™t Tell, and cut funding for HIV programs. Justice Scalia doesnâ€™t believe the Constitution covers abortion or private sexual acts between consenting adults of the same sex (to be clear, that liberalism loophole is all about heteronormativity). Theyâ€™re not too crazy about the Civil Rights Act, either. Want to deprive African Americans of the right to sit at the counter of your diner? Rand Paul thinks maybe, yeah, since you know, itâ€™s your diner. They want to legislate morality, and the morality they want to legislate just so happens to be theirs. Yes, laws are linked to morality, but they are not one and the same. And laws are supposed to protect those who are not like the majority.
So who needs protecting: the business owner, or the African American coming for a cup of coffee? Maybe weâ€™re not in immediate danger of the Rand Pauls rolling back civil rights to that degree, though I sure donâ€™t want to find out. But the woman who absolutely will not, no matter the obstacles and risks, carry to term the fetus that she never intended on having? The man whose partner died and whose family is challenging the custody of his children? The woman who cannot be at the hospital bedside of her partner because sheâ€™s not â€œfamilyâ€? These events continue to happen today, and if the GOP gets in the White House, you can look forward to more of it. SCOTUS is on the table. Romney has made it clear, in words and actions, how he feels about gay parents. Theyâ€™re not legit. And heâ€™s made it clear that despite his own wifeâ€™s illnesses, he doesnâ€™t think gay people should have the same rights his marriage afforded him. The man has no empathy because he doesnâ€™t think gay people are covered under the â€œall men are created equalâ€ concept the country was founded on. I donâ€™t care what he has said in the past. Heâ€™s made his position on these particular subjects clear enough in this campaign.
This is where, though Iâ€™m not normally into shaming, I have to say that both Log Cabin Republicans and GOPRoud need therapy for the degree of self-loathing theyâ€™re exhibiting. If theyâ€™re so into protecting their pocketbooks, theyâ€™d be smarter about which candidate provides the best chance for a recovering economy. But even if they honestly believe the Romney/Ryan economic plan, such as it is, would benefit everyone, it doesnâ€™t matter when youâ€™re rights are taken away from you or your loved ones. Weâ€™ve been aware of this at least since Vito Russo chastised gay Republicans decades ago. If youâ€™re still in doubt, read this excellent post by Kergan Edwards-Stout on why he got to the point of defriending those voting against his rights.
You want the truth? Donâ€™t look to Romney, because his track record of lies is never-ending. Donâ€™t look to the GOP, because they canâ€™t handle the truth. They are still pushing the tired, debunked trickle-down theory that Reaganites used to justify tax breaks, and when non-partisan research comes out proving that they only help line the pockets of the already-rich, they suppress it. Itâ€™s a travesty and we should be outraged. But then again, so is their flouting of conflicts of interest when it comes to who owns voting machines in swing states. It wonâ€™t be the first time theyâ€™ve boasted that they will â€œdeliverâ€ the state to their candidate through such means. Why are we standing for this? Why are we standing for a candidate who lies about sending jobs overseas and who, in the midst of those lies, benefits so hugely from corporate welfare and from the same bailout he criticizes? If youâ€™re still unconvinced, perhaps Reagan budget director David Stockmanâ€™s assessment of Romneyâ€™s job eliminations will help.
Letâ€™s face it, both parties can play dirty. Itâ€™s politics, after all. Best not to ask how laws and sausages are made. I lived in Chicago for several years, and Iâ€™ve seen polling locations switched on Election Day when the incumbent suspected heâ€™d lose, among other voter suppression maneuvers. Itâ€™s not a myth that when a ward didnâ€™t deliver an election, some streets didnâ€™t get potholes fixed or snow plowed. Those were just the realities of living in a machine-run city, and theyâ€™re not even particularly egregious examples of shady Chicago politics.
But what weâ€™ve seen in the last four years is not politics as usual. For me, the most obvious evidence is the abuse of the filibuster. Complain all you want that Harry Reid is ineffective. The fact is, the Senate Republicans have engaged in a conspiracy to grind its business to a halt. Legislation that should require passage by a simple majority now requires a super majorityâ€”every single one, or it will be filibustered. They have effectively held the Senate hostage in opposition to how the founders had intended the houses of Congress to work, and that is quite clear. It is unprecedented in the history of the United States, and it is the overriding reason that the art of bipartisan politicking has gone out the window. It is not because of the Democrats. It is because of the Republicans, and itâ€™s your country and your rights that are stake. They are not interested in protecting the rights of the minority. They have ostracized the moderates in their own party, to the point that group think is a requirement. Their behavior implies that theyâ€™re not big believers in democracy.
The second most obvious way politics has overtly changed for the worst is the acceleration of voter suppression strategies in swing states, from voter roll â€œpurgesâ€ and lying (or not) about requiring voter IDs (which hits Democrats particularly hard) to shortening voting days and hours. If youâ€™re curious about these developments, tune into The Rachel Maddow Show. Sheâ€™s been covering this story for months. It is so blatantly undemocratic that itâ€™s hard to believe these people consider themselves proud Americans. (I know. Itâ€™s not, really, but it should be.)
Obama is by no means perfect, but considering the brick wall he has been up against, he has been remarkably effective. I do not agree with all of his policies, and have to laugh at those who insist heâ€™s a Socialist. But I didnâ€™t expect miracles, because it quickly became clear what he was up against in the last presidential election. He has shown real spine in the face of a party full of racists who are not content until his every move is thwarted, and I have a tremendous amount of respect for that. The GOP is wholly uninterested in cooperation, and has stated as such. One cannot judge the effectiveness of the administration without taking into account the GOPâ€™s radical use of the filibuster. I believe that if Obama manages to win re-election (despite voter suppression), and if we can fix the broken filibuster, he might accomplish great things for the American people in the next four years. For me, itâ€™s that, or itâ€™s turning the clock back to the 1950s. If that prospect doesnâ€™t scare the hell out of you, youâ€™re not paying attention. The choice has never been clearer.
So if youâ€™re reading this on November 6th and havenâ€™t voted yet, what are you waiting for?
Joanne Kalogeras grew up outside of Chicago. She studied political philosophy at the University of Chicago before engaging in various and sundry other occupations, including a long stint in software development. San Francisco is her home, but she is currently residing in London where she is finishing her doctoral thesis on cosmopolitan theory at the London School of Economicsâ€™ Gender Institute.
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On World AIDS Day, DOJ Says Tennessee Law Discriminates Against Those With HIV
The Department of Justice celebrated World AIDS Day by calling out a Tennessee law that discriminates against people with HIV.
The DOJ released a report Friday that the state’s aggravated prostitution law violated the Americans with Disabilities Act. A person arrested under the aggravated prostitution law is normally changed with a misdemeanor, and faces up to six months in prison and a $500 fine. However, if the person arrested has HIV, the crime becomes a felony, and if they’re convicted, they would face between three and 15 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.
“Tennessee’s aggravated prostitution law is outdated, has no basis in science, discourages testing and further marginalizes people living with HIV,” Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division said in a statement. “People living with HIV should not be treated as violent sex offenders for the rest of their lives solely because of their HIV status. The Justice Department is committed to ensuring that people with disabilities are protected from discrimination.”
The law was originally passed in 1991. It classifies HIV-positive sex workers as violent sex offenders, according to WKRN-TV. This means that in addition to the sentence, those convicted are put on the Tennessee Sex Offender Registry, usually for the rest of their lives.
The DOJ advised the state—and particularly, the Shelby County District Attorney’s Office, which enforces the statute most frequently, the department says—to stop enforcing the law. It also calls on the state to repeal the law and remove anyone from the registry when aggravated prostitution is the only offense. If this doesn’t happen, Tennessee could face a lawsuit.
Tennessee isn’t the only state to have laws applying to only those living with HIV. In 1988, Michigan passed a law requiring those with HIV to disclose their status before sex, according to WLNS-TV. The law is still on the books, but was updated in 2019 to lift the requirement if the HIV-positive person has an undetectable viral load. The law now also requires proof that the person set out to transmit HIV.
Laws like these can work against public health efforts, according to the National Institutes of Health. The NIH says these types of laws can make people less likely to be tested for HIV, as people cannot be punished if they didn’t know their status. In addition, critics say, the laws can be used to further discriminate. A Canadian study found a disproportionate number of Black men had been charged under HIV exposure laws.
World AIDS Day was first launched in 1988 by the World Health Organization and the United Nations to highlight awareness of the then-relatively new disease. The theme of the 2023 World AIDS Day is “Let Communities Lead,” calling on community leaders to end the AIDS epidemic.
Featured image by UNIS Vienna/Flickr via Creative Commons License.
John Fetterman Says Bob Menendez ‘Senator for Egypt,’ Should Be Expelled Next
Senator John Fetterman (D-PA) called Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ) a “senator for Egypt,” and said he needed to be expelled from Congress, much like the now-former Representative George Santos.
Fetterman appeared on The View on Friday. The live broadcast aired as Santos had been kicked out of the House. When host Joy Behar asked what he thought of the vote, Fetterman immediately replied, “I’m not surprised.”
“If you are going to expel Santos, how can you allow somebody like Menendez to remain in the Senate? And, you know, Santos’ kind of lies were almost, you know, funny,” Fetterman said. “Menendez, I think is really a senator for Egypt, you know, not New Jersey. So I really think he needs to go.”
Host Sunny Hostin then asked if Fetterman was uncomfortable with expelling Menendez, as, like with Santos, he had only been indicted, not convicted.
“He has the right for his day in court and all of it, but he doesn’t have the right to to have those kinds of votes and things. That’s not a right,” he said. “I think we need to make that kind of decision to send him out.”
This September, Menendez was indicted on corruption charges. He is accused of accepting bribes of cash, gold and a car, as well as giving “highly sensitive” information about U.S. Embassy staffers in Cairo to the Egyptian government, according to USA Today. Menendez was forced to step down as chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. He was replaced by Ben Cardin, Maryland’s Democratic senator.
Menendez denied wrongdoing, and has refused to resign, despite many calls to do so from both Democrats and Republicans.
“For years, forces behind the scenes have repeatedly attempted to silence my voice and dig my political grave,” Menendez said in a statement following his indictment. “Since this investigation was leaked nearly a year ago, there has been an active smear campaign of anonymous sources and innuendos to create an air of impropriety where none exists.”
This is not Menendez’s first brush with the law. Menendez was indicted in 2015 on federal corruption charges. He was accused of helping Salomon Melgen, one of Menendez’s campaign contributors, by intervening in a dispute with federal regulators and helping Melgen get a port security contract in the Dominican Republic.
In 2017, Menendez’s trial ended with a hung jury, and the Department of Justice declined to retry the case, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer. Menendez denied all wrongdoing.
House Votes to Boot George Santos 311-114
Representative George Santos (R-NY) has been expelled from Congress following a 311-114 vote; two House members voted “present.”
The expulsion of Santos follows a debate on his fate on Thursday. The vote required a two-thirds majority, or 290 of the 435-seat chamber. This is Santos’ third vote of expulsion; last month, a vote failed with 31 Democrats voting against, according to The Hill.
While the vote was decisive, some notable Republicans voted to save Santos, including House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA) and House Majority Whip Tom Emmer (R-MN).
“We’ve not whipped the vote and we wouldn’t,” Johnson told CNN Wednesday. “I trust that people will make that decision thoughtfully and in good faith. I personally have real reservations about doing this, I’m concerned about a precedent that may be set for that.”
Santos himself had harsh words for the House following the vote. Leaving the capitol building, he briefly spoke with reporters.
“The House spoke that’s their vote. They just set new dangerous precedent for themselves,” he told CNN. “Why would I want to stay here? To hell with this place.”
He then cut his time short, telling reporters, “You know what? As unofficially no longer a member of Congress, I no longer have to answer your questions.”
Santos also faces 23 federal charges, which include fraud, money laundering and misuse of campaign funds, according to CNN. He has pleaded not guilty. An Ethics Committee report found evidence that Santos used campaign funds for Botox and even an OnlyFans account.
On Thursday, Santos said he refused to resign because otherwise, “they win.”
“If I leave the bullies take place. This is bullying,” Santos said. “The reality of it is it’s all theater, theater for the cameras and theater for the microphones. Theater for the American people at the expense of the American people because no real work’s getting done.”
Santos also threatened to file a resolution to expel Representative Jamaal Bowman (D-NY). Bowman pulled a fire alarm in September. Bowman pleaded guilty to the misdemeanor charge, and said it was an accident. He said he thought the fire alarm would open a locked door as he rushed to a vote. Bowman paid a $1,000 fine.
There have only been six total expulsions from the House, including Santos. Santos is the only Republican to ever be expelled from the House.
The previous expulsion was in 2002, when Representative James Traficant (D-OH) was expelled after a 420-1 vote. Traficant had been convicted on 10 counts of corruption-related crimes.
Before Traficant, Representative Michael “Ozzie” Myers (D-PA) was the first representative of the modern era to be expelled. Myers got the boot following his conviction for accepting bribes. Myers couldn’t keep out of trouble; in 2022, he was convicted and sentenced to 30 months in prison on charges of election fraud.
Prior to Myers, the only expulsions from the House were in 1861, at the start of the Civil War. Henry Cornelius Burnett (D-KY), John William Reid (D-MO) and John Bullock Clark (Whig-MO) were all expelled for joining the Confederacy.
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