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Member since: Sat Jun 4, 2005, 08:56 AM
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Does the First Amendment protect someone's "right" to speak to me in public? To get in my face?

Seriously. I'm reading a Boston Globe article about the SC buffer zone decision.


The high court ruled that the state law, enacted in 2007, imposed “serious burdens” on protesters who wish to speak with arriving patients.

I tend to think of the First Amendment as protecting me from going to jail for saying something like "Dick Cheney is a fraud who profits from death and destruction and the Iraq War was just another profit venture for him". This ain't nothin' - it's actually quite a lot, and a protection not available to citizens in many other countries.

I don't really find myself fretting over whether someone is restricted from blocking the sidewalk in order to sell me something - whether it's the latest crappy brand of gum, or the beliefs of their church, or LaRouchian political nonsense, or even to sign me up for Greenpeace. I accept that some of these people will occasionally hang out in the otherwise pleasant park where I like to walk on my lunch hour, and they may even annoy me at times, but that's okay. It's a small price for living in a free society.

But, aren't there already some sort of laws in most places that prevent people from blocking sidewalks?

And how in the world is "free speech", "freedom of assembly", etc. interpreted to mean someone can walk up to me and get in my face when I don't want to talk to them? I'm not going to call the cops on panhandlers, who I assume do what they do out of being disadvantaged (and normally panhandlers don't insist anyway), but if someone tries to talk to me to sell me something and I indicate "not interested" and they follow me and keep asking, that is harassment and I don't see how it is "protected". ESPECIALLY if they get too close to me - into my personal space, i.e. in my face. And if they touch me, that is assault, in my book, certainly if I have already indicated that I am not interested in interacting with them.

More than that, being frankly not the most "sociable" person on the planet, I do not acknowledge that a random stranger has any "right" to interrupt my thoughts and bother me when I'm walking on a public sidewalk. In other words, they do NOT have a "right" to speak to me, except in an emergency for my safety or the safety of others; that people sometimes do this is merely a generally accepted annoyance, not a "right". In my opinion.

So, I don't get why the First Amendment has anything to do with whether protesters have a "right" to speak with arriving patients. If they want to stand and hold signs somewhere, that's a different issue. But impede someone's path or speak to them? I don't get why that should be a "right" in the first place. But, on the other hand, I don't know why a "buffer zone" should be needed. If this is harassment - and I would consider it harassment - then why can't the harassers be arrested regardless of a buffer zone designation? If the cops know that this is a problem around certain clinics - and they do know, because it is - why not station more cops there?

Does it just come down to funding? Not enough cops to hang around and arrest people for harassment? The buffer zone makes it easier to demarcate a violation and therefore have a clear case and arrest, therefore more likely for protesters to avoid violating it?

Just to be clear, I am not happy with the SC decision. I think clinic buffer zones ARE needed, unfortunately. It's just that I wish that no one had to be subject to harassment on the sidewalk anywhere for any reason, and I wish "buffer zones" just for clinics were not needed for that reason. That might put me at odds with folks who want to accost me with progressive petitions or requests to join progressive groups, but I'm sorry, those groups have other ways to reach me (and they have generally succeeded).

People should just back off and let other people go about their business, whether it be a medical procedure or catching the commuter train on time (and not having to wait a half hour until the next one).


Is there a support page for the Bergdahl family?

I know there is a trash page attacking them on facebook.

If there is a well run support page I'd like to know.

I'm somewhat ambivalent about Bowe Bergdahl's reported actions in combat BUT I think that should be up to the military to judge and handle.

And I think the attacks on his family are utterly despicable, pathetic, and beyond the pale.

Apologies if this was asked and answered, if so please just post the link. Thanks.

"Just call him Gov. Chicken"



Well, here we go again.


Because he owes the kids of Central High School an apology.

What the hell was he thinking yesterday, when he canceled his scheduled visit to Central, where he was supposed to present the school with a well-deserved achievement award?

His appearance at Central was going to be historic, by the way, since it would have been the first time since he was elected governor that he'd actually stepped inside a Philadelphia public school.

Take a moment to digest the fact that the governor of this state has never visited any of the Philly schools whose kids are suffering the fallout of his draconian budget cuts. He has never seen firsthand the bursting classrooms, empty counselors' and nurses' offices and shuttered libraries.


Well, you can imagine the excitement Tom's impending visit generated in Central's students - a collection of some of the nicest, smartest, hardest-working kids you'll find anywhere. They're also some of the most engaged, the kind who grow into society's Big Somebodies. Notable alums include a governor (Leon Abbett), astronaut (James Bagian), comedian (Bill Cosby), Watergate lawyer (Sam Dash) and philosopher (Noam Chomsky), to name just a handful who've done themselves, their families and the school proud.

But at the last minute, your husband blew off his chance to meet these wonderful kids, to feel the school percolate with their energy, to see how 2,312 kids from countless cultures blend beautifully under one huge roof.

Your thin-skinned spouse backed out when he heard that his visit to Olney would be accompanied by - gasp! - protests. Please note that the protesters weren't planning to protest, say, Tom's stance on gay marriage, fracking or the newly defunct voter-ID law. They were going to protest the state's lack of funding to Philadelphia schools.

Oh, how dare they?

Much more at link.

Please remember this (add it to the pile, that is) and make sure you all vote this corrupt cretin out of office this fall.

Deadly Delays (or, where baby-lovers should be spending their time and attention ...

... rather than forcing women to have birth who don't want to, aren't ready, or have a problem pregnancy)


Nov. 16, 2013

The baby in Arkansas seems healthy at birth. Warm, fuzzy skin. A normal weight. But Aiden Cooper can't keep down formula.

Don't worry, he's fine, doctors assure his mother as they leave the hospital. You're just a first-time mom.

Aiden goes home and sleeps in a bassinet beside his mother's bed. Soon his stomach becomes swollen, bulging with veins. He breaks out in a rash. He is limp, pale, won't eat.

In North Carolina, a baby is born with chubby cheeks and the same button-nose as his big brother. At 11 days old, Garrett Saine turns gray, stops breathing, then turns blue.

Blood pours from the nose and mouth of a newborn boy in Wisconsin. A baby girl in Indiana has seizures, then quits breathing.

In each instance, doctors frantically try to figure out why the baby is so sick. Routine blood samples taken shortly after birth have the answers. But the samples haven't been tested.

They should have been sent to a lab within 24 hours to be screened for disorders that can often be treated if caught early. But they weren't. Instead, samples sit at hospitals for a few days. A week. Some samples are lost.

Nearly every baby born in the United States has blood collected within a day or two of birth to be screened for dozens of genetic disorders. The entire premise of newborn screening is to detect disorders quickly so babies can be treated early, averting death and preventing or limiting brain damage, disability and a lifetime of costly medical care.

Yet one of newborn screening's most important metrics — speed — is ignored for tens of thousands of babies' tests each year, a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel analysis of nearly 3 million screening tests shows.

In Arkansas, it took 3½ weeks for Aiden's blood sample to be tested. Infection raged through his tiny body as he lay in neonatal intensive care in Little Rock.

<snip> ... the entire article is well worth reading.

Especially if you are planning to give birth to a child soon, anywhere in the United States.

Some people think that "babies" are only "murdered" by abortion ... but babies are killed by failures in the system that could be easily addressed.

I want to know when the so-called "pro-life" people will start protesting the incompetence at these hospitals that kills and injures actual babies, and leaves families devastated and with huge medical bills and possibly a brain-damaged child to support for life.

Questions about "cancelled plans" FACTS

I apologize is this has been discussed-to-death already and I somehow missed it. If that's the case, toss me a few links and let this one mercifully sink.

Ok, here goes.

My understanding was that the problem of health insurance plans allegedly being cancelled was actually a relatively small number. First of all, the large majority of people have health insurance through their employer, and this issue is irrelevant to them. Right? (for all the points I make here, if I'm mistaken, just kindly point that out, and then maybe things will start making sense to me.)

So let's call all the people who could possibly be affected, the pool.

Secondly, some people in the pool will see that they can get a better plan for less money or at least, not much more, and some of them will go for that, and not give a rat's patootie about their previous plan. This would include people who have just discovered that they've been eligible for Medicaid for awhile now and didn't even know it. Take all these people out of the pool. (Of course, thanks to healthcare.gov website woes, the number that gets dropped from the pool here is probably smaller than it should be.)

Third, some people in the pool have crappy health insurance plans that were actually grandfathered because their insurance company was too incompetent or not greedy enough to try to screw them over. Take them out of the pool. (I have no idea what that number is, and perhaps it's vanishingly small, but as I understand ACA it is at least a theoretical possibility).

There's probably a couple more things reducing the size of the "cancelled policy" pool. Anyway, we started with a fairly small percentage of total health insurance policies, and now we are down to some number less than that.

But on NPR this morning I heard that now some people from various corners, including our oh-so-competent Congress, and our oh-so-moral-and-concerned-for-public-welfare health insurance companies/cabals, that Obama's idea to let this SMALL number of people continue with these crappy policies for ONE YEAR, will TOTALLY FUCK UP the formula and make everyone's rates rise.

Pardon me, but it seems fair to say even without having exact numbers, but knowing that it's a relatively very small number, and only for one year, that makes no sense.

So, my question for the knowledgeable: what ARE the numbers we are talking about? How many "cancelled plans" that are being complained about? (remember, we don't care about someone's plan being cancelled if that someone doesn't care.) Out of a total number of how many insurance plans being issued in any manner nationwide?

Also please note, I'm not trying to pass judgment on the merits of the one-year extension here. I just don't get how it's all that big of a deal from a rate formula standpoint, and if it buys breathing room to fix some technical issues, I'm probably ok with it. For a year.

Expanding gambling and putting religion in schools - that goes together, right?

Disclaimer: I have no problems with friendly wagering between, you know, friends. However I am very opposed to the expansion of opportunities for profiteers to exploit those with addictions of any sort, and gambling is unfortunately an addictive behavior for many people.

It just strikes me a little ridiculous that on the one hand, the legislature in Harrisburg wants to put religious indoctrination in schools:


ACLU of Pennsylvania

Keep religion out of Pennsylvania's public schools

The Pennsylvania House of Representatives is considering a bill to mandate all public schools to display “In God We Trust” somewhere on school property. Religious proselytizing has no place in Pennsylvania’s public schools.

A mandate of the type in HB 1728 fails to recognize that 21st century America is a diverse country with people of many faiths and no faith. It is not the place of the government to preach to our children. That job belongs to parents and communities of faith.

House Bill 1728 is also counter to a foundational principle of American jurisprudence. There is a wall of separation between the state and the church.

But on the other hand, they continually look for ways to expand for-profit gambling venues (remember the attempts at lottery privatization earlier this year also):


Pa. bill would let bars host gambling

HARRISBURG - The Pennsylvania House gave approval yesterday to a bill that could allow thousands of bars to profit from gambling contests called small games of chance while flushing some of the profits into the state's cash-strapped coffers.

The Republican-controlled House voted 102-96, with Democrats largely opposed, to send the bill to the Senate, where final approval is expected next week. Gov. Corbett also has signed on to the concept, which would represent Pennsylvania's largest expansion of gambling since 2010, when table games were legalized in slot-machine casinos.

Under the bill, about 4,500 bars and taverns could seek licenses to conduct pull-tab games, daily drawings and tavern raffles. Individual prize limits would be $2,000 for a single game and $35,000 over seven days, while raffles would be limited to one a month. The state's budget analysts expect - based on the experience in Indiana - that about 2,000 bar owners will get licenses.

The bill passed over objections to the expansion of gambling, the lack of time to review amendments inserted Tuesday night and the competition it would create for veterans' organizations that raise funds through gambling and programs for the elderly that are traditionally underwritten by the Pennsylvania Lottery.

I realize not everyone shares my aversion to organized gambling. However I'm betting you see the incongruity of proclaiming religion on the one hand and supporting exploitation of the vulnerable on the other.

Republican extremists WANT to trigger a financial crisis.

Just watching Bloomberg TV for a few minutes (I'm not a regular, I'd normally be at work), and the consensus seemed to be that failing to raise the debt ceiling WILL result in major financial damage and probably another financial crisis.

Then I realized, the Republican* extremists WANT exactly that. Because all they care about is their own power. If the economy crashes this year, by November 2016 many people will be completely oblivious to who caused it, and will blame Obama and the Democrats.

I am going to start planning my financial strategy around expectation that the elected Republican representatives of 2% of this country will cause a financial crash.

* Let's stop letting the Republican Party off the hook by always calling them "Tea Party" republicans or "Tea Party extremists". Until the Republican party disowns them, they ARE the Republican Party.

35,000 march in Dublin against Irish abortion bill

Source: USA Today

DUBLIN (AP) — Bearing rosary beads and placards declaring "Kill the bill! Not the child," more than 35,000 anti-abortion activists marched Saturday through Dublin to demand that the Irish government scrap plans to legalize terminations for women in life-threatening pregnancies.

Demonstrators from across Ireland, a predominantly Catholic island of 6.5 million, marched for two hours through the capital to Leinster House, the parliament building, where lawmakers next week are expected pass the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill. Speakers demanded that the government put its bill to a national referendum. "Let us vote!" the crowd chanted.

The two-year-old coalition government of Prime Minister Enda Kenny drafted the bill following last year's death of a miscarrying woman in an Irish hospital. Three investigations since have determined that Savita Halappanavar, a 31-year-old Indian dentist, died from blood poisoning one week after admission for a miscarriage. Doctors denied her pleas for an abortion, even though her uterus had ruptured, because the 17-week-old fetus still had a heartbeat. By the time it stopped, investigations concluded, Halappanavar already had contracted a lethal dose of septicemia.

Read more: http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/world/2013/07/06/dublin-anti-abortion-march/2495449/

Repeating the key point:

Three investigations since have determined that Savita Halappanavar, a 31-year-old Indian dentist, died from blood poisoning one week after admission for a miscarriage. Doctors denied her pleas for an abortion, even though her uterus had ruptured, because the 17-week-old fetus still had a heartbeat.

The U.S. does not have a corner on anti-woman religious extremists, sigh. (Ok, THAT is not breaking news.)

For your amusement, and (hopefully) my education

Ok, seen on Facebook, a meme quoting Senator Feinstein as saying, this regarding the Dorner manhunt:

“When the gunman realizes that nobody else is armed, he will lay down his weapons and turn himself in…. that’s just human nature.”

With a link to a blog post on a site called "Palookaville Post". (I'm not wanting to give a link because it's obviously a RW nutjob site. If you really want to find the post, google is your friend. The date of the post is 2/7/13.)

Now, it's obvious to me that the article is bullshit. There is no actual reference for the remarks. The post actually says this - emphasis added -

“The Senators feel the best course of action is to remove all weapons from law enforcement and private citizens so no one else gets hurt,” said a Senate communications intern. “When the gunman realizes that nobody else is armed, he will lay down his weapons and turn himself in…. that’s just human nature.”

Also ... what the heck is this site anyway?

At least one comment says it is satire, like The Onion. I have seen elsewhere that it isn't credible. (It is obvious to me from the writing that it isn't credible. But nice to know that others feel the same way.)


some people are clearly taking this seriously. Yes, people who are disposed to think that this would come from Feinstein (Boxer is also referenced), but I mean, come on people. Give a legitimate quote or get off it.

So, anyway, my question to you all ...

1) anyone have any categorical info on just how whacked this site is, that might convince someone who, although conservative, still has a few functioning brain cells left?

2) can anyone give me a good link for a concise statement of how to evaluate information on the internet? In one of my college classes they gave 5 things - stuff like currency (is it recent?), credibility of source, authority of source (is it in their field of expertise?), and known bias, and I can't remember the other one - I'd flunk that test today, but "I know it when I see it", or at least I think so. Anyway I would love to have a good meme, cartoon, or something that I could post periodically when the frequency of idiocy in my newsfeed gets a little too high.

TIA for your help!

Lectures in History: CIA & Regime Change in the Cold War

This is a one-hour history lecture that was broadcast on C-Span3 yesterday.

I caught this at about the 8 minute mark while channel surfing. I'll admit that I can't often sit through an hour of C-Span. But this time I couldn't change the channel. This is a really interesting look at some more details behind some history that many of us here kind of know about but probably didn't get in our high school or college history classes. Ok, not very detailed, because he covers several events during the hour, but certainly more than I knew before.


Colorado School of Mines professor Kenneth Osgood looks at the CIA and regime change in the Cold War. Professor Osgood discusses several examples of the CIA’s involvement in covert regime change operations, including coups in Guatemala in 1954 and in Chile in 1973.

And actually, part of me is wondering how long this will be available on the C-Span website. Ya know?
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