Lifting the Curtain…on Myanmar…on Burma

Good Afternoon…

…Early Evening

Today I saw a documentary about Burma called,  They Call It Myanmar: Lifting the Curtain.

I think it is something that you should watch in full.

It was a documentary filmed in Myanmar, or Burma depending on who you talk to, over a period of two years, by Robert H. Lieberman. According to the New York Times, Mr. Lieberman,

A novelist, filmmaker and physics lecturer at Cornell University, he went to the capital, Yangon, to teach film and make public-service ads as part of the Fulbright Specialist Program, one of the few American aid efforts in a country on which the United States has imposed heavy sanctions. Early on he was admonished not to film.

It was, he said, “a proverbial red flag for a filmmaker.”

And so he filmed, not quite clandestinely, but cautiously enough to avoid — mostly — attention in a place where photographing government buildings, military bases, bridges and even certain streets is grounds for arrest. During that trip, and three more over the next two years, he recorded 120 hours of video documenting life in a beautiful but oppressed and impoverished country, just as the stirrings of political change were beginning to appear.

(Here is a link to the film’s website: )

The San Francisco Gate reviewed the movie and had this to say (emphasis is mine): ‘They Call It Myanmar,’ review: timely

“They Call It Myanmar,” but most of us know it as Burma, except we don’t know Burma, hardly at all, because it has existed under a military dictatorship for the last 50 years. The regime has deliberately kept it isolated from outside influences, and thus this documentary by Robert H. Lieberman, accurately subtitled “Lifting the Curtain.” The film provides one of the ultimate functions of a documentary, taking us into the life and culture of a people most of us would never know.

For the first 10 minutes, Burma looks like an ideal travel destination – gorgeous and exotic, full of pristine Buddhist temples and friendly people. But then you notice the military presence, and the fact that Lieberman isn’t allowed to videotape anything or anybody. (He does anyway.)

Few Burmese will make even the most innocuous criticism of the government, at least not on camera, out of fear of being carried off in the night. One man becomes positively giddy when asked his opinion of things – it’s the first time anyone has ever asked his opinion.

This “giddy” response is seen towards the end of the film, and it seems like the ending punctuation of the documentary’s statement. Not a period or question mark, but an exclamation point on the Burmese people’s culture, tradition and the powerful government/military/regime/colonial/royal rule these people have endured over the centuries.

There was another comment in the film that I thought was very telling. In discussing the religious nature of the Burmese people, the connection was made between the Buddhist teachings, and the contentedness of the people.  That the people are too content…and that actually could be one of the things within their culture that has lead to the situation they are in.


“Fairy Tales” – Bagan, Myanmar. Photograph by Amnon Eichlberg.
For more photos of Burma see this site: Myanmar –

Trailer for the film below…

You can see the film in full here, the cost is under 4 bucks:  They Call It Myanmar: Lifting The Curtain – YouTube

Shot clandestinely over a two-year period by best-selling novelist and filmmaker Robert H. Lieberman, this film provides a rare look at the second-most isolated country on the planet – Burma. It lifts the curtain to expose the everyday life in a country that has been held in the iron grip of a brutal military regime for 48 years. THEY CALL IT MYANMAR, culled from over 120 hours of striking images, is an impressionistic journey. Interviews and interactions with more than one hundred people throughout Burma, including an interview with the recently released Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi, are interwoven with spectacular footage of this little-seen nation and its people. Though Burma has tumbled from being one of the most prosperous and advanced countries in Southeast Asia to being one of the world’s poorest, THEY CALL IT MYANMAR is a story of beauty, courage and hope.

You can also stream it on Netflix, which is how I saw it.

As that quote from the movie’s youtube page states, Lieberman interviews Aung San Suu Kyi in the film, I have another review of the film, this time from the New York Times: In Aung San Suu Kyi’s Myanmar

She was released from house arrest in November 2010, shortly after Mr. Lieberman thought he was finished. He returned to Myanmar in February 2011 for the fourth time and arranged to interview her.

“ ‘No personal questions,’ ” Mr. Lieberman recalled her telling him at the outset, a stipulation that complicated the interview, which unfolded awkwardly and yet revealingly. In the film she reflects on the country, its colonial history and her father, Aung San, the revered revolutionary general who led it to independence from Britain, only to be assassinated by rivals in 1947, when she was just 2.

Only an exceptional 2-year-old could have remembered a father lost at that age, she says, poignantly revealing that her father was, for her, as mythical a figure as he has been for her fellow citizens. Hers is the most famous voice, but only one among dozens of people Mr. Lieberman interviewed — some shown with their faces obscured, almost all left unidentified on screen.

“I think a firm, strong, authoritarian hand cannot create unity,” she says in the film, explaining the mind-set of the military rulers up to the election of the new, apparently reform-minded president, U Thein Sein. “It can only give the appearance of unity.”

The film, made with a Sony camcorder (all the better to tuck away when necessary), unfolds as an episodic travelogue, interspersed with historic footage and explanatory narration (on subjects like why the country is known both as Myanmar and the old colonial name, Burma).

Some scenes — shot from Mr. Lieberman’s commercial flight from Thailand or from the window of a moving car — reflect the limitations of trying to film in a police state.

With Mr. Lieberman as the garrulous narrator, it includes clips that would not be out of place in a homemade vacation video, but also interviews that show, indirectly at times, the social and economic conditions of a country that closed itself off from the world for decades. Some of those interviewed speak openly, even candidly.

“Thinking is not an option,” one woman says, describing the Orwellian nature of the place; she is not shown on screen.

Reflect on that statement a moment, it puts the giddiness from the man who was simply asked what his opinion was into perspective, doesn’t it?

One more review from the NYT, this one from the Arts section: ‘They Call It Myanmar,’ by Robert H. Lieberman –

Robert H. Lieberman/PhotoSynthesis Productions

A fisherman in the documentary “They Call It Myanmar: Lifting the Curtain.”

The movie covers the country’s history, including its domination by the British and Japan; its independence in 1948; and its fall to a military coup in 1962. It outlines the Buddhist precepts that sustain most of its people. And it addresses the 2007 nonviolent protests that Buddhist monks took to Yangon, a major city.

But most important, the film talks to regular citizens: on the street, in a restaurant, at a temple and tourist spot. Those interviewed are gracious and exuberant, living in a country rich in natural resources but trapped in crushing poverty.

In November of last year, this commentary on the Obama Administration was published in National Journal, written by Michael Hirsh: Obama’s China Encirclement Policy: Why It’s Likely to Work

Robert Lieberman, the maker of the critically acclaimed documentary, They Call It Myanmar – Lifting the Curtain, tells a story that exposes some of the cynical reality behind President Obama’s historic visit to politically imprisoned Myanmar today. Shortly after Aung San Suu Kyi, the Nobel Prize-winning democracy activist, was released from two decades of house arrest in November of 2010, Lieberman was invited to show his film at a Yangon festival that Suu Kyi was organizing called “The Art of Freedom.” Thoughtfully, he informed the U.S. Embassy of his plans. Their reaction? Near-panic.

“They basically said, ‘No way should you do this. You cannot show a movie without it being cleared by [Myanmar] censors. We respectfully request that you remove any reference to the embassy, so it won’t seem to anyone that we helped you,’” says Lieberman, a Cornell University professor. Deferring to his government’s wishes, Lieberman showed his movie at the British Embassy in Yangon instead, without incident. “The British had guts,” he says.

There you have the Obama administration. It will defend human rights and democracy, but only when it’s suitable. And usually when lip service to human rights serves some other end. We saw a similar dynamic play out in the first year of the administration, when Obama’s “outstretched hand” to the Iranian regime led him to slight the “Green Movement,” a precursor to the Arab Spring uprisings that was subsequently crushed. In this case, the administration was just gearing up for a major strategic shift aimed at encircling China with allies old and new, and Myanmar, long isolated by Western sanctions, was deemed a key player. All of which suggests that if there is any president that Barack Obama most resembles right now on foreign policy, it is probably Richard Nixon, the master practitioner of cynical realpolitik. Except rather than opening China to outmaneuver the Soviets, 40 years later he’s opening Myanmar to outmaneuver the Chinese. And just as Nixon and his foreign-policy impresario, Henry Kissinger, never paid much attention to human rights, Obama is treating them as an afterthought as well.

This article was written before Obama visited the country…

Obama, of course, is describing Monday’s trip to Burma—the first-ever by a U.S. president—in very different terms. At a news conference in neighboring Thailand on Sunday, he sounded defensive after being attacked by human-rights activists. The harsh fact is that the long-repressive junta is giving up only a little power and has rigged its constitution to retain what it has and keep Aung San Suu Kyi from the presidency. Most recently the junta demonstrated this with a bloody crackdown on the Muslim minority, the Rohingya. Obama insisted he was ready to use economic leverage and said,  “If we waited to engage until they had achieved a perfect democracy, my suspicion is that we’d be waiting an awful long time.”

Read the rest of that essay by Hirsch at the link above…I know we have linked to this op/ed previously on the blog, but it does need repeating here on this thread.

I wish there was a way to view this film without charge, but even if you need to pay to view, it is worth it. Please, take a look at it…wow.

Friday Reads

Good Morning!

We made it through the Solstice on Wednesday so summer is officially here! The days get shorter and the nights get longer from here on out! What’s on your summer reading list?

My first read of the summer is going to be Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami.  I’m also planning on avoiding the heat by watching the entire first season of Treme.

More evidence shows that the economy is not improving because of the negative impacts of state and local spending.  Layoffs of Public Workers are harming the recovery.

Government payrolls grew in the early part of the recovery, largely because of federal stimulus measures. But since its postrecession peak in April 2009 (not counting temporary Census hiring), the public sector has shrunk by 706,000 jobs. The losses appeared to be tapering off earlier this year, but have accelerated for the last three months, creating the single biggest drag on the recovery in many areas.

With the economy expanding, albeit slowly, state tax revenues have started to recover and are estimated to exceed prerecession levels next year. Yet governors and legislatures are keeping a tight rein on spending, whether to refill depleted rainy-day funds or because of political inclination.

At the same time, costs for health care, social services, pensions and education are still rising. Fourteen states plan to resolve their budget gaps by reducing aid to local governments, according to a report by the National Governors Association and the National Association of State Budget Officers.

So while the federal government has grown a little since the recession, and many states have recently begun to add a few jobs, local governments are making new cuts that outweigh those gains. More than a quarter of municipal governments are planning layoffs this year, according to a survey by the Center for State and Local Government Excellence. They are being squeezed not only by declining federal and state support, but by their devastated property tax base.

“The unfortunate reality is our revenue streams have not rebounded,” said Timothy R. Hacker, the city manager of North Las Vegas, which has cut its work force to 1,300 from 2,300 and is about to lay off 130 more. “Shaking this recession is becoming increasingly difficult.”

Some folks have been suggesting that the Fed should do something “out of the box” since it is politically impossible to stimulate the economy through good fiscal policy right now.  Should the Fed start buying SLGS and monetize state debt? 

The Fed can legally buy as many municipal bonds as it wants without congressional approval. Talk about burying a lead. This is a big story. Blanchflower is essentially saying that the U.S. government can bail out both the housing market via Fannie and Freddie paper purchases and the state governments via Muni purchases. And, of course, the banks get to dump these assets onto the Fed who will hold them to maturity. I guarantee you this will have a very nice kick since it is the state’s where the biggest employment cuts are. This is the Fed doing fiscal, friends

This is an interesting idea and one worth exploring.

The economic models are telling us that we need more stimulus. Lowering interest rates and more fiscal stimulus are out of the question. Quantitative easing remains the only economic show in town given that Congress and President Barack Obama have been cowed into inaction.

The major questions about quantitative easing aren’t so much if, but how much will the Fed buy and of what type? There is little point in moving slowly. So $100 billion a month for six months seems a reasonable amount.

What will they buy? They are limited to only federally insured paper, which includes Treasuries and mortgage-backed securities insured by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. But they are also allowed to buy short-term municipal bonds, and given the difficulties faced by state and local governments, this may well be the route they choose, at least for some of the quantitative easing. Even if the Fed wanted to, it couldn’t buy other securities, such as corporate bonds, as it would require Congress’s approval, which won’t happen anytime soon.

Republicans have been trying to change our lexicon for years now.  George Lakoff and Elizabeth  Wehling write on “Why Conservatives Sell their  Wildly Destructive Ideology Better Than Democrats”.

Perhaps the most important omission from the Obama speech was any overt mention of The Public — everything that our citizenry as a whole provides to all, e.g., roads, bridges, infrastructure, education, protection, a health system, and systems for communication, energy development and supply, and so on. The Private — private life and private enterprise — depends on The Public. There is no economic freedom without all of this. So-called “free enterprise” is not free. A free market economy depends on a strong Public. This is a deep truth, easy to recognize. It undercuts Romney’s central pitch, that is it private enterprise alone that has made our country great, and that as much as possible of The Public should be eliminated.

Romney calls free enterprise “one of the greatest forces of good this world has ever known.” In reality, America free enterprise has always required The Public.

Romney attacks The Public, speaking of “the heavy hand of government” and “the invisible boot of government.” The contrast is with the putative “invisible hand” of the market — which leads to the good of all if everyone follows their self-interest and the market’s natural force is not interfered with. Romney’s “invisible boot” evokes the image of a storm trooper’s boot on your neck. The government is the storm trooper, your enemy. You are weak and in an impossible position. You can’t move — a metaphor for being held back and not being able to freely engage in the economy. Romney uses the frame consistently: “The federal establishment,” he says,” has never seemed so hostile.” The Public is an “establishment” — an undemocratic institution — which is the enemy of the people. It is implicit in this frame that the government is not the people.

The Supremes  overruled the FCC’s swearing ban in a decision this week.

According to MSNBC, a ruling by the Supreme Court Thursday waived fines and sanctions against ABC and Fox, saying the Federal Communications Commission did not give them fair notice before punishing them over brief instances of curse words and nudity.

The ruling (PDF), which does not affect the FCC’s overall policy toward profanity, centered on outbursts by Cher and Nicole Richie on live awards shows on FOX and a brief instance of partial nudity shown on ABC’s NYPD Blue.

“Because the Commission failed to give Fox or ABC fair notice prior to the broadcasts in question that fleeting expletives and momentary nudity could be found actionably indecent, the Commission’s standards as applied to these broadcasts were vague,” Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote in the unanimous decision, adding that the FCC was free to revise its current policy “in light of its determination of the public interest and applicable legal requirements.”

Aung San Suu Kyi and His Holiness the Dalai Lama had a chance to meet in the UK.

THIS week two Nobel-peace-prize laureates, both international figures of inspiration, find themselves visiting Britain: the leader of Myanmar’s (ie Burma’s) opposition, Aung San Suu Kyi; and also the Tibetans’ exiled spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama. On June 19th, in London, the two met.

The rendezvous, not publicised on either of their official schedules, was disclosed by the Dalai Lama’s office on Twitter only the next day, where it was described simply as “a private meeting”. The Dalai Lama, who had previously called for Miss Suu Kyi’s release from house arrest, is reported to have told her “I have real admiration for your courage.” He also gave her his blessing, as one Buddhist to another. The obvious backdrop to any such blessing would be the separate political struggles of Myanmar and Tibet. The two places have a certain neighbour in common.

China’s leaders will not be happy to learn of the meeting. The Dalai Lama’s ten-day visit to Britain has given fresh occasion for China to denounce him. In a further measure, the Chinese Olympic committee threatened to withdraw some of its athletes from training in England. The Dalai Lama shrugged off all this as “routine”. He is as accustomed to acting as a hate figure for the Chinese government as he is to being a symbol of hope to many people elsewhere.

So, that’s a little this and that to get us started this morning.  What’s on your reading and blogging list today?

Friday Reads: NOLA Daily No More and Elusive Escaped Penguin is Caught

Good Morning!

JJ here, while Dakinikat is off seeing her oldest daughter get married, I’ve got the honor of taking her place on this morning’s reads!

Over the past few weeks you have seen that I have a fondness for cartoons. Not just the political/editorial ones, but all cartoons. I have hundreds of yellowed and crinkled newsprint cartoons stashed away in drawers, boxes, plastic bags and the few that are very special, I still have taped to my fridge. Some have little messages scribbled on them, maybe an extra doodle drawn to represent something specifically funny, like an inside joke within the family.

I did not limit it to cartoons, there were many times an article would pop out at me, begging for it to be clipped. Of course, I would make my little editorial comments in the borders…And it wasn’t just me who would do this, my mom would do it too. Sometimes I would get a surprise letter in the mail, and in it would be a newspaper clipping of a cartoon or an article that she thought I would laugh like hell at, for example say….about some group of midgets in drag, robbing a Burger King….I am not kidding on that one!

And lets not forget clipping obituaries or recipes…or historic moments. (The attic of our hundred year old house in Newtown, Connecticut had a newspaper from when the Titanic sunk, when FDR was elected for his first term, and when FDR died.)

So when I moved nine years ago from the big city to Banjoville, I expected to have our newspaper, the “legal organ” of Union County published once a week, on Tuesdays. Except for Election Day…that always means a Wednesday delivery.

Since then I have been able to print out a cartoon here or there, but is isn’t the same thing. There is something magical in the feel and look of newsprint, am I right? If you are “lucky” it will smudge your fingers a bit, and as the time goes by, the edges start to curl up…and the dirt and grease marks get darker and darker…the paper gets yellower and yellower. It is a way to mark the passage of time.

The reason I am waxing romantic about newspapers is they are becoming a thing of the past. Like the big dinosaurs, one day they will all become extinct. Yes, in small towns, the weekly is the main form of local news, but in huge cities, residents are finding that they will no longer receive that daily pile of newsprint.

New Orleans is now possibly the only major city in the US without a daily newspaper. The Times/Picayune has stopped its daily print news…opting for the “digital” version. (You can still get a print paper a few days a week, but there is no guarantee it won’t disappear all together.)

Late Night: The Latest Casualty

Another newspaper died today.  Not just any paper; the New Orleans Times-Picayune, which has been publishing since 1837.  Officially, it is merely cutting daily print editions to Wednesdays, Fridays, and Sundays, but what with letting over a third of the staff go, will be something, but it won’t be a newspaper, despite the absurd claims from its publisher that this was some sort of “adaption to the digital era.”  Really?  In the digital era I know, the only thing lame about papers is that they only come out once a day; will letting them sit in the box for three days make them somehow more appealing, as keepsakes, perhaps?

If the newspaper industry were serious about going digital, rather than just reaping larger profits and putting yet another squeeze on its long-suffering employees, it would not be leaving in place any of the absurdly costly and wasteful process of printing and delivery, which will continue to be massive and now underutilized investments.  No, what the bloated and mismanaged conglomerates that now own our newspapers want is slow death and golden parachutes for all concerned, and the less any actual journalism gets involved, the better.

The parent company of the Times-Picayune is Newhouse, and they have decided to forgo the paper’s paper, and of course, a number of their employees…

As revenue began to dry up from all three of these previously reliable sources, the corporate leadership of virtually every major daily decided to tackle the problem the same, self-defeating way: cutting staff, eliminating departments, and turning once-useful functions over to the sales side; most notably car reviews.  Each false economy eroded the only intrinsic value of the legacy newspaper: its credibility, stability, and connection to the community.  To maximize “shareholder value” in the short term, newspapers casually threw away the very things that readers actually valued.  To no one’s surprise, a decade or two of essentially selling pink slime and calling it hamburger did end up causing plummeting circulation, which is now used to justify yet further cuts in the product quality.  What, pray tell, is worse than pink slime?

Sadly, a lot.  Fox News viewers have once again been found to be less informed than the comatose, and back in the days after Hurricane Katrina, the Times-Picayune heroically countered their malevolent misinformation even when its presses were literally underwater.  When I was in New Orleans a year later,  the local reverence for the paper was still apparent; until dark, papers littered the tables of every corner pub and coffeehouse.  But all the Newhouse executives could see in this improbable renaissance was declining margins, grabby unions, and a daily torrent of comment abuse from the (white) readers outside the city.   So they canned it, but just partly, for show.

Yeah…what about that. I know lots of people who do not have internet, or iPads or SmartPhones…or e-readers. WTF (where the fuck) will they get their news?

I will quote the last paragraph of this excellent post on FDL:

The death of the Times-Picayune is unremarkable, I suppose, given the recent deaths of papers from Seattle, Denver, and elsewhere.  But those papers left at least one daily community voice in their wake.  New Orleans is now the only major American city that I can think of that’s lost its only daily paper.  Journalism is dying in America, by a thousand cuts of Bain-style “creative destruction,” and it’s no great leap to think that on some level it’s being done deliberately.  I think it was Jefferson who said he’d rather have newspapers without a government than a government without newspapers, but it seems our corporate overlords have decided they’d like to try it the other way around.

And sadly, NOLA is not the only city losing a print paper. Alabama Media Group, a new digitally focused company, will launch this fall with expanded online coverage and enhanced three-day-a-week newspapers

Wow, it’s an epidemic!

A new digitally focused media company — the Alabama Media Group, which will include The Birmingham News, the Press-Register of Mobile, The Huntsville Times and — will launch this fall to serve readers and advertisers across the state, according to Cindy Martin, who will become president of the new organization.

The change is designed to reshape how Alabama’s leading media companies deliver award-winning local news, sports and entertainment coverage in an increasingly digital age. The Alabama Media Group will dramatically expand its news-gathering efforts around the clock, seven days a week, while offering enhanced printed newspapers on a schedule of three days a week. The newspapers will be home-delivered and sold in stores on Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays only.

(You see what is happening, no more newspapers, post office or social security, don’t laugh, it is coming!)

A second company, Advance Central Services Alabama, will handle production, distribution, technology, finance and human resources, and will be led by current Birmingham News President and Publisher Pam Siddall. Both companies are owned by Advance Publications, Inc.

Driving these changes are rapid advances in how readers engage with news content across all platforms, print and digital, said Martin, who is currently the President and CEO of

Eventually the only form of “news” will be the kind of crap we see on the “cable networks” or online, which will be bought and paid for by corporations…aka people…who will put their own spin on things. No…wait a moment, that is the way it is now!

(emphasis mine BTW)

The change in organizational structures across all departments will lead to a reduction in the overall size of the workforce. Details are still being worked out, Martin said.

There are always painful choices when you begin a process that will lead to people losing their jobs,” Martin said. “But at the same time, we must position ourselves to be sustainable businesses going forward. The new companies we launch in the fall, we believe, not only achieve that, but will serve our growing audiences and advertisers better than ever before.”

Yup, you bet your ass it will…serve up the latest news, in style! (Or cloaked in whatever shade your advertisers prefer.)

Tailor your news to fit your audience, right: Daily Caller Doling Out Guns To Its Readers Now Through Election Day

The Daily Caller, the proudly racist and rabidly right-wing website of adult Pee-Wee Herman doll and epic media failure Tucker Carlson, is no longer going to pretend that it cares about decency and decorum. The website that set of many alarms following the Trayvon Martin murder and the racist responses that its users plastered all over the place, is now offering one handgun per week from now until election day.

Here’s the actual announcement:
The Daily Caller will be giving away one gun per week until Election Day – November 6, 2012. The FMK9C1 is an American-made high capacity 9mm designed by Jim Pontillo and manufactured in California. Each gun is engraved with the Bill of Rights and comes in one of three colors.

To enter this week’s contest, simply sign up below to receive updates from The Daily Caller. Our DC
Morning emails are an informative and amusing way to keep up with the latest news. To enter the giveaway you must complete the form below agreeing to all terms and conditions associated with the contest.

I swear, the country is going to hell in a big ass hand-basket. Actually, that is not true anymore, who the hell carries a hand-basket now a days? The country is going to hell in a touch screen…made in China…and brought to you by the Koch Brothers.

Now, since I wrote so much about the end of an era…let us have the rest of today’s links in a news dump…

Chen Guangchen is talking about his horrific ordeal: Chen Guangcheng Sits Down With Anderson Cooper: ‘My Suffering Was Beyond Imagination’

And, another former house arrest activist is finally giving her acceptance speech for the Nobel Peace Prize she won, over two decades ago: Suu Kyi to give Nobel speech, 21 years late

On the war on women front: Senate Armed Services Committee Votes to End Military Ban on Insurance Coverage of Abortion Care for Rape and Incest

The amendment was introduced by Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH). In November 2011, anti-choice senators refused to allow the Shaheen amendment to come to the floor, so the 2012 NDAA was signed into law with the ban in place. Today’s vote affects the FY 2013 NDAA.

There are some 400,000 women in the United States Armed Forces; they and their families receive health care and insurance through the Department of Defense’s Military Health System. The department currently denies coverage for abortion care except when a pregnant woman’s life is endangered. Unlike other federal bans on abortion coverage, the military ban provides no exception for cases of rape and incest.


As a result, those seeking safe abortion care after rape or incest must pay out-of-pocket for such care at a military facility. But because physicians on military bases are prohibited from providing abortion care, it is not actually available to military women in need even under the narrow conditions technically allowed. As a result, servicewomen are often forced to choose between taking leave and traveling far distances to an American provider, seeking services from a local, unfamiliar health care facility (if abortion is legal and they are not in a combat zone), having an unsafe procedure, or attempting to self-induce an abortion.

The Shaheen Amendment, if passed by Congress and signed by the President, would address one of these issues by bringing the military’s health insurance policy in line with the policy that governs other federal programs, such as Medicaid and the Federal Employees Health Benefit Program and as a result enable  servicewomen to receive insurance coverage for abortion care.

The amendment is strongly supported by military leaders, physicians, and servicewomen themselves.

“Women who put their lives on the line fighting for our freedom shouldn’t be denied reproductive health care services,” said Gale Pollock, Major General, US Army (Ret.).

Well, lets see what those Conservative Women do to support their fellow women…place your bets!

(And I said the rest of this post was going to be a link dump.)

Waterboarding got another pass this week, state secrets must be protected: A Court Covers Up –

Secretary of State had some words about Iran: Clinton: Significant Differences Remain Over Iran’s Nuclear Program–  VOA

Some guy is taking the flea circus to another dimension, well it is actually not fleas, but ants. BBC News – Artist Ollie Palmer on staging an ‘ant ballet’

Some other guy in South Dakota is running for office, and his credentials are quite extensive: ‘I’ve Ridden An Ostrich. I’ve Done Lots Of Stuff.’: SD Congressional Candidate’s Amazingly Bizarre Campaign Ad | Mediaite

Jeff Barth’s ad:

…features Barth talking to the camera as he walks down a long path. The first thing you’ll notice is that the way the camera backs away from him makes the whole thing seem like the viewer is desperately trying to get out of a conversation with a crazy person. The second thing you’ll notice is that Barth has done a lot of weird stuff in his life. As he walks, he lists such accomplishments as having “learned chess in Iceland,” being in Germany to watch the Berlin Wall get built, and having daughters with “straight teeth and husbands.”

And lastly, remember that penguin that escaped from its cell? (No this is not a nun story.) BBC News – Tokyo keepers catch fugitive Penguin 337

Still from footage reportedly showing the one-year-old Humboldt penguin in Tokyo Bay. Photo: 7 May 2012
Penguin 337 spent several weeks swimming in rivers in the Tokyo Bay area

A young penguin which escaped from a Tokyo aquarium has been caught after more than two months on the loose in the Japanese capital.

The Humboldt penguin scaled a wall and slipped though a fence at the Tokyo Sea Life Park in March.

It has since been spotted several times swimming in a rivers running into Tokyo Bay, but had eluded keepers.

The one-year-old fugitive was finally recaptured on Thursday evening.

Two keepers went to a river after a sighting of the penguin was reported in the morning. They managed to catch it later that day on the river bank, a spokesman for Tokyo Sea Life Park told the BBC.

At least the little bugger is back safe. I don’t know about you, but I am curious…how the hell does a penguin scale a wall?

Please…can somebody explain that to me?

Evening News Reads: Early Edition

Good Early Evening!

There is something completely wrong in this country…when a deer can get birth control and women can’t!

Birth Control Shots for Deer Being Explored in Avon Lake

Avon Lake Councilwoman Jennifer Fenderbosch has been in communication with Tufts University and the Medical College of Ohio, who are studying the effects of PZP, a non-hormonal birth control dart for wild animals.

“The universities are interested in investigating the possibility of a long term birth control study of the white tailed deer in Avon Lake,” Fenderbosch said in a press release. “Dr. Turner has tentatively agreed to tour Avon Lake in late April or May to determine if the geography of Avon Lake fits the test protocol.”

Fenderbosch has taken the lead in the city on addressing an overpopulation of deer problem. Recently, the city began reviewing the possibility of amending Avon Lake’s ordinances to expand bow hunting in city limits to cull the herd, estimated by a spotlight count at 250.

PZP is similar to an allergy shot. It is made with a pig protein that is injected into the hip muscle of a white tailed deer with a retrievable dart. The deer’s immunity system responds by thickening and changing the shape of the membrane that surrounds the egg prohibiting sperm from penetrating; thus, preventing conception.

This is unbelievable…and I am not commenting on the actual issue of deer population…I am commenting on the fact that women are being treated with less regard than livestock.

Which leads me to this awesome interview with Hillary Clinton: msnbc video: Clinton: Where women are marginalized, ‘rights are denied’

Please watch/listen to it if you have not seen it yet.

Dakinikat wrote about the election of Aung San Suu Kyi yesterday, here is a follow up report on this from WaPo: Burmese government says it was surprised by scale of Suu Kyi victory – The Washington Post

The Burmese government was surprised by the scale of arch-rival Aung San Suu Kyi’s election win in parliamentary elections, the president’s chief adviser acknowledged Monday, one day after the democracy advocate’s party apparently secured a landslide victory.

Suu Kyi’s party said it had won 43 of a total 45 contested seats in the landmark election. The results, said reformist President Thein Sein’s chief adviser, proved that this Southeast Asian nation is capable of holding fair elections and that it is time for the U.S. government to lift sanctions on Burma.

“I think the Obama government, they are starting to believe that we are really changing, but we need to convince the other guys in Congress,” said the adviser, Ko Ko Hlaing, in an interview at a government office in Rangoon.

Washington has hinted at plans to soften or even remove investment, trade and financial sanctions against the Burmese government should it show progress toward meaningful democratic reform. Sunday’s poll, the first involving Suu Kyi after 22 years, was closely scrutinized by U.S. officials.

“This election is an important step in Burma’s democratic transformation, and we hope it is an indication that the Government of Burma intends to continue along the path of greater openness, transparency, and reform,” the White House said in a statement.

I love what Suu Kyi said at the news of her victory:

Striking a conciliatory tone on Monday, Suu Kyi told a small crowd of supporters outside her National League for Democracy headquarters in Rangoon that Sunday’s election had been a triumph, not only for her party but for ordinary voters.

“We hope that this will be the beginning of a new era, when there will be more emphasis on the role of the people in the everyday politics in our country,” she said.

Geez, I wish that we had more emphasis on people in our own political battlefield…which is exactly what our parties have become, a battlefield of special interest and no real representation of the people.

Coming back to the topic of US News:

Justices Approve Strip-Searches for Any Offense –

The Supreme Court on Monday ruled by a 5-to-4 vote that officials may strip-search people arrested for any offense, however minor, before admitting them to jails even if the officials have no reason to suspect the presence of contraband.

Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, joined by the court’s conservative wing, wrote that courts are in no position to second-guess the judgments of correctional officials who must consider not only the possibility of smuggled weapons and drugs but also public health and information about gang affiliations.

About 13 million people are admitted each year to the nation’s jails, Justice Kennedy wrote.

Under Monday’s ruling, he wrote, “every detainee who will be admitted to the general population may be required to undergo a close visual inspection while undressed.”

Justice Stephen G. Breyer, writing for the four dissenters, said strip-searches were “a serious affront to human dignity and to individual privacy” and should be used only when there was good reason to do so.

Ruled 5 to 4 is becoming synonymous with this Supreme Court, which really makes a strong statement about our Justice System’s ideological views of the Constitution doesn’t it?

I am sticking with the SCOTUS for a bit longer, this time from Jeffrey Toobin:

Donald Verrilli’s case for A.C.A. and the Supreme Court : The New Yorker

It’s well known by now that Donald Verrilli, Jr., the Solicitor General, had an off day at the Supreme Court last Tuesday, when he was called on to defend the constitutionality of the individual mandate, the part of the Affordable Care Act which requires people to buy health insurance. Still, it’s worth noting the magnitude of the challenge that he was facing. The key issue in the case is whether Congress, in passing the law, exceeded its powers under the Commerce Clause of the Constitution, which allows the government to regulate interstate commerce. Consider, then, this question, posed to Verrilli by Justice Anthony M. Kennedy: “Assume for the moment that this”—the mandate—“is unprecedented, this is a step beyond what our cases have allowed, the affirmative duty to act to go into commerce. If that is so, do you not have a heavy burden of justification?” Every premise of that question was a misperception. The involvement of the federal government in the health-care market is not unprecedented; it dates back nearly fifty years, to the passage of Medicare and Medicaid. The forty million uninsured Americans whose chances for coverage are riding on the outcome of the case are already entered “into commerce,” because others are likely to pay their health-care costs.

Kennedy’s last point, about the “heavy burden” on the government to defend the law, was correct—in 1935. That was when the Supreme Court, in deciding Schechter Poultry Corp. v. United States—a case involving the regulation of the sale of sick chickens—struck down the National Industrial Recovery Act, a principal domestic priority of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, on the ground that it violated the Commerce Clause. Two years later, however, the Court executed its famous “switch in time that saved the Nine” and began upholding the reforms of the New Deal. The Justices came to recognize that national economic problems require national solutions, and they deferred to Congress, usually unanimously, to provide those solutions, under the Commerce Clause.

For example, the Justices had no trouble upholding the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which used the clause to mandate the integration of hotels and restaurants. “It may be argued that Congress could have pursued other methods to eliminate the obstructions it found in interstate commerce caused by racial discrimination,” Justice Tom C. Clark wrote, for his unanimous brethren. “But this is a matter of policy that rests entirely with the Congress, not with the courts. How obstructions in commerce may be removed—what means are to be employed—is within the sound and exclusive discretion of the Congress.” In other words, Justice Kennedy had it backward. The “heavy burden” is not on the defenders of the law but on its challengers. Acts of Congress, like the health-care law, are presumed to be constitutional, and it is—or should be—a grave and unusual step for unelected, unaccountable, life-tenured judges to overrule the work of the democratically elected branches of government.

Read the rest of the commentary at that link above.

This next link is to another commentary, this time on the question of Why Don’t Black People Protest ‘Black-on-Black Violence’? – Ta-Nehisi Coates – National – The Atlantic I urge you to look at the various articles Coates cites in his article…but this is the key point of the post.

I came up in the era of Self-Destruction. I wrote a book largely about violence in black communities. The majority of my public experiences today are about addressing violence in black communities. I can not tell you how scared black parents are for their kids, and whatever modest success of my book experienced, most of it hinged on the great worry that black mothers feel for their sons.
There is a kind of sincere black person who really would like to see even more outrage about violence in black communities. I don’t think outrage will do it at this point, but I respect the sincere feeling.
And then there are pundits who write more than they read, and talk more than they listen, and prefer an easy creationism to a Google search.

There is a bit of excitement on the genealogy front: Genealogists, fire up your computer: The 1940 census is online –

For those who are fascinated by time capsules and family trees, a new  treasure trove opened up online for the first time Monday when the National Archives released the 1940 census.

After 72 years hidden by a legal cloak of confidentiality, 3.8 million digital images of what Census enumerators found in 1940 became available to anyone with a computer.

The National Archives, a federal government agency, partnered with, a family history website owned and operated by Inflection, a Silicon Valley company, to create to the 1940 census website. Previous data dumps were on microfilm.

But the importance of the release goes beyond just its greater public availability.

About 21 million people who were alive in 1940 are still alive today–a testament to the power of new drugs, new medical techniques and improved water and sanitation.  (In 1940, about 45% of all Americans lived in a home that lacked complete plumbing facilities, compared to 2% in 2010, census figures show). Despite that longevity, 1940 remains terra incognita to most of the country.

For the United States, 1940 was the last catch of breath between the decade of the Great Depression and the nation’s resurgence brought about by World War II, already underway in Europe and Asia.

This last article from New York times is fantastic. I really like Peter Dinklage’s work, and it was an enjoyable interview to read: Peter Dinklage Was Smart to Say No –

In many ways, Dinklage’s own story is unsurprising: an actor who flailed for years, worked steadily for some more years, then got a great role and became famous. The part of Tyrion Lannister has now won Dinklage that Globe, an Emmy and an army of new fans who never saw him in “Living in Oblivion,” onstage in “Richard III” or even in his breakout film, “The Station Agent,” in 2003.

Yet Dinklage’s sudden stardom offers a pleasurable meritocratic twist to his career, given that the entertainment industry doesn’t typically reward those who turn down roles on principle, much less actors who don’t meet a certain physical ideal. Sure, James Gandolfini struggled before “The Sopranos” made him an unlikely leading man. But James Gandolfini didn’t eat potato chips for dinner every night because he conscientiously objected to playing one of Santa’s elves in Kmart ads.

Dinklage recently moved away from New York, the city he called home for most of the past 20 years — first in Williamsburg and then in the West Village. The city was making him feel older than his 42 years. “Just all the clawing for space,” he said. “I felt myself becoming a bitter old man in New York, and I wanted to avoid that.”

This is my last post for a while. Many know that I am getting a total hysterectomy, and my surgery on Wednesday will hopefully make my life a better one.

See you all sometime next week…the doctor says I will be in bad shape for about two weeks and then start to feel better. All I know is that this surgery is something I’ve needed since 2007, being without health insurance is a nightmare…but in my situation, it feels good to have some relief from my health problems…and I just can’t wait to be free from the curses of womanhood.


Aung San Suu Kyi: Once more with Gusto

Ever so often, things appear to change for the better.

The streets of Rangoon echoed with cheers on Sunday after unofficial results indicated Aung San Suu Kyi had won a parliamentary seat in a landmark election that could see the Nobel laureate and former political prisoner take public office for the first time.

“We won! We won!” chanted her supporters as they crowded the pavement in their thousands outside her party’s headquarters. Traffic was restricted to a thin line snaking haphazardly through the crowd, where young and old in red – the colour of Aung San Suu Kyi’s party, the National League for Democracy (NLD) – sang along to a Johnny Cash-inspired anthem calling for “the return of Mother Suu”.

Those who were not dancing swayed back and forth to watch numbers flash on a digital signboard that measured the NLD’s victories in byelections around the country, where the party was contesting 44 of 45 open seats in Burma’s 664-seat parliament.

Aung San Suu Kyi’s victory, which will not be officially confirmed for another week, could mark the moment that this poverty-stricken nation, where a military junta has ruled almost exclusively for the past 50 years, takes its first genuine steps towards democracy.

The NLD was competing in its first elections since 1990, after which Aung San Suu Kyi was held under house arrest for most of the next 20 years, and the poll was notable for its unprecedented access for foreign journalists and independent observers.

Myanmar/Burma is one of the economies that I have spent the last several years studying closely.  They are a member of ASEAN and are attempting to modernize to become part of a trade and monetary union.  Their economy is poor and it primarily reflects the poor government and rule of law established by the military rulers who seized power.  Myanmar has also experienced tough sanctions for their many human rights violations.  The current elections and the near future will determine the outlook for this country.  You may recall the brutal, murderous crackdown on protests by Buddhist Monks–often called the Saffron Revolution for the colors worn by the monks–in 2007. Nations are looking to Aung San Suu Kyi and her party to begin to bring the country back from its past. If this happens, the tiny nation may begin to recover from years of repression and poor economic results.

Ms Suu Kyi said in a statement: “It is natural that the NLD members and their supporters are joyous at this point.

“However, it is necessary to avoid manners and actions that will make the other parties and members upset. It is very important that NLD members take special care that the success of the people is a dignified one.”

During the campaign, foreign journalists and international observers were given the widest access for years.

The European Union hinted that it could ease some sanctions if the vote went smoothly.

The BBC’s Rachel Harvey in Rangoon says the NLD alleged some voting irregularities in the capital, Nay Pyi Taw.

NLD spokesman Nyan Win told AFP news agency he had sent a letter of complaint to the election commission over allegations ballot forms had been tampered with.

He said there had been complaints that wax had been put over the tick-box for the party, which could later be rubbed off to cancel the vote.

“This is happening around the country. The election commission is responsible for what is occurring,” he said.

The military leaders are still dominant in this tiny southeast Asian nation. “Mother Suu” has only recently been allowed out from her house arrest of 20 years.  A lot of the international pressure started when the famous human rights activist won the Noble Peace Prize.  However, many nations have been pressuring the military to step down.  Sanctions on the country have played an important role too.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton expressed hope for the Burmese people while in Turkey dealing with the Syrian problem.

“While the results have not yet been announced, the United States congratulates the people who participated, many for their first time in the campaign and election process,” Clinton told reporters in Istanbul.

“We are committed to supporting these reform efforts,” she added, noting that the government must continue to improve transparency and deal with any voting irregularities.

The military junta in Myanmar last year handed power to a new government led by President Thein Sein which has surprised even its critics with a string of reforms, which include allowing Suu Kyi to run for parliament.

“It is too early to know what the progress of recent months means and whether it will be sustained,” Clinton said.

“There are no guarantees about what lies ahead for the people of Burma.

This will be an interesting country to watch in the future.  My hope is that it will go well and that Mother Suu will be a central part of that effort.