Sunday Reads: Accents of the Bleats and Earth Sized Tornadoes

Good Morning!

It’s a long President’s Day weekend…and there is so much to talk about, let’s start by reviewing a couple of court cases and recent legislation pass at the state level.

Two justices suggest Citizens United ruling should be reconsidered in Montana case – The Washington Post

Two Supreme Court justices suggested Friday that the court reconsider its controversial 2010 decision that allowed unlimited corporate and union spending in elections.The suggestion came as the court blocked a Montana Supreme Court decisionupholding a century-old ban on corporate campaign spending in the state.The Montana ruling seems squarely at odds with the court’s 5 to 4 decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, which allowed unlimited corporate spending. The U.S. Supreme Court majority had said such independent spending did not give rise to corruption or the appearance of corruption.In Friday’s order, Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen G. Breyer said the upheaval in the world of campaign finance since the Citizens United decision does not bear out the majority opinion.“Montana’s experience, and experience elsewhere since this court’s decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, make it exceedingly difficult to maintain that independent expenditures by corporations ‘do not give rise to corruption or the appearance of corruption,’ ” Ginsburg wrote.

Catching Up On The Current State Marriage Equality Efforts | ThinkProgress


WASHINGTON: With Gov. Chris Gregoire’s (D) signature on Monday, marriage equality became the law of the land in Washington state, though that law does not take effect until June 7. Unfortunately, conservatives had already raised over $1 million to start collecting signatures for a referendum — a “people’s veto” — which will likely delay the law from taking effect until after the November election. To maintain the newly passed law, voters will have to approve Referendum 74.

NEW JERSEY: Both chambers of New Jersey’s legislature approved a marriage equality bill this week, but Gov. Chris Christie (R) vetoed it late Friday afternoon. Aside from a proposal by one Republican senator, there is currently no effort to take the matter to a ballot initiative. The legislature has until January 2014 to override Christie’s veto, but it does not currently have the votes to do so.

MARYLAND: After contentious debate and numerous amendments Friday, the Maryland House narrowly passed a marriage equality bill. Though the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee has held hearings on the measure, it has not yet advanced it to the full chamber, but advocates are optimistic about its passage there. As currently written, the law will not take effect until January 2013, but as in Washington, the law will likely be challenged by a referendum in November.

ILLINOIS: A marriage equality bill was recently introduced in the Illinois House, but it’s unclear that it will have much success. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel has said he would support the measure, but Gov. Pat Quinn (D) is not so sure.

RHODE ISLAND: Advocates are calling for marriage equality to be reintroduced in Rhode Island after last year’s effort led only to the creation of civil unions.  Given residents can marry in all neighboring states, it is unsurprising that in the first four months they were available, only 39 couples obtained civil unions.

COLORADO: Colorado is again reconsidering legalizing same-sex civil unions. Just this week, the Senate Judiciary Committee advanced the legislation, but like last year, it is in the Republican-controlled House where the bill’s fate will be decided.

WEST VIRGINIA: A lawmaker in West Virginia introduced a bill this week that would create same-sex civil unions. It’s unclear if it has any chance of advancing.

Ballot Initiatives

NORTH CAROLINA: On May 8, North Carolinians will vote on a discriminatory constitutional amendment banning all legal recognition of same-sex couples, including marriage, civil unions, and domestic partnerships. Pam Spaulding, an LGBT blogger who resides in the state, has a thoughtful take on how detrimental this amendment would be to the state.

MINNESOTA: Minnesota’s marriage inequality amendment isn’t on the ballot until November, but over $2 million have already been raised between both sides of the fight. This week, the Senate Local Government and Elections Committee defeated a legislative effort to rescind the ballot question, allowing the plebiscite to proceed.

MAINE: LGBT activists in Maine have succeeded in advancing a ballot initiative that would legalize same-sex marriage, the first time such a vote has been taken affirming the right instead of denying it. Though referenda on gay rights are frowned upon for the way they can polarize communities and amplify anti-gay stigma, activists point out that a legislative approach was already attempted in 2009, but it was overturned.

CALIFORNIA: Obviously, the Ninth Circuit’s recent ruling against Proposition 8 is an important victory, but California marriage equality will not return until after the Supreme Court decides whether to hear the case later this year. This week, the group Love Honor Cherish announced it has abandoned its attempt to repeal Proposition 8 through a new ballot initiative.

NEW MEXICO: A proposed constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage was defeated in committee this week.

You may recall the anti-abortion legislation in Illinois that was slipped into a proposed bill from the House Agriculture and Conservation Committee: Abortion again shares agenda with livestock in Illinois committee

Well, these personhood and state sanctioned rape bills in Virginia are being described by the bill author as a traffic safety measure.   Republicans With Power: Virginia Personhood Laws a Preview of GOP Presidency?

Voters wishing to see Republican personhood in the process need look no further than Virginia, where the GOP-controlled House just passed HB1, (Marshall-R).

Part of a matched set of two astonishingly cruel legislations, (the other bill literally requires a forced vaginal invasion — a “transvaginal ultrasound” — into any woman considering a legal abortion) of which the personhood bill may actually be more destructive.

The transvaginal ultrasound is humiliating, painful, medically unnecessary, and imposed on a woman against her will, like rape with a foreign object –but the personhood law is forever.

Do Virginians really want to criminalize the birth control pill, stem cell research, perhaps even the In Vitro Fertility (IVF) assistance for childless couples — as well as a woman’s right to choose?

Amazingly, this anti-women’s rights bill is being offered as — a traffic safety improvement!

Ready for the explanation:

Listen to bill author Bob Marshall (R-Manassas): “The legal effect here is (if) a pregnant woman is driving in an intersection and someone runs into her, she can sue for loss of a child,” Marshall said. “…(the bill) has no direct legal effect on abortion or birth control.”


Even Fox News, normally an apologist for all things Republican, did not buy the “no impact on abortion rights” nonsense, saying:”…Bob Marshall’s House Bill 1 would effectively outlaw all Virginia abortions by declaring that the rights of a person apply from the moment sperm and egg unite.”

If personhood laws are put into effect, government would literally have the authority to control the reproductive life of every citizen.

Were not Republicans supposed to be in favor of individual liberty?

Haven’t we been asking that question about the GOP’s twisted version of liberty for a year now? (By the way, if you missed Dakinikat‘s, Boston Boomer’s and Peggy Sue‘s posts from yesterday, be sure to check them out.)

Since I have brought up the GOP…the next few links will focus on the 2012 Primaries…

Read the rest of this entry »


Saturday: Whitney is Every Woman

Morning news junkies.

Today is Whitney Houston’s funeral, so I thought I’d devote my Saturday rant+reads to her. To the right, a little sign I made in Whitney’s honor, based on an interview quote of hers. (h/t to paperdoll for introducing me to the church sign generator.)

Here’s a little list of names that I’d like to run by you…

Whitney Houston, Michael Jackson, Madonna, Janet Jackson, MC Hammer, Paula Abdul’s “Shut Up and Dance ,” and the Wayne’s World soundtrack (just for Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody alone).

What do they have in common you ask? Well in this self-centered little corner of the universe, all of the above were a wee Wonk’s very first music purchases with her very own pocket money. (Oh, yes I did just use the third person with my pseudonym. I really couldn’t give less of a frig about obeying those kind of blogger Do’s and Don’ts.)

Anyhow, these artists–along with a complimentary audio cassette that came with my Dad’s ’86 Oldsmobile–made up the bulk of my earliest music collection. (That Oldsmobile freebie was a damn good compilation, too, btw. Everything from Fur Elise to Cyndi Lauper.)

I’m clearly a child of the eighties. And, I still have the tapes I bought of Whitney, Michael, Madge, and Janet to prove it. Also the Oldsmobile tape… though it is nearly entirely defunct (B-side and A-side) from so much overplay on my ridiculously pink walkman back in the day.

Point of all that nostalgia being, I literally grew up with Whitney et al.

Madonna’s still kicking it, and Janet’s doing her thing, too. But, what the hell happened to the other half of my childhood?

When I was entering junior high, the Bodyguard came out…and of course I bought the soundtrack and crooned “I Will Always Love You” in front of the mirror, bathroom singer-style. But, the other song I remember singing almost as much?

Whitney’s cover of Chaka Khan’s “I’m Every Woman.”

That was the Aretha Franklin “R-E-S-P-E-C-T”/”Natural Woman” anthem of my preadolescence–not to mention the choir girl way of singing Meredith Brook’s “I’m a bitch, I’m a lover, I’m a child, I’m a mother…” as well as a lot easier for a twelve year old to grasp than a Tori Amos album (goddess love Tori–I do! but her lyrics are up there in the clouds…)

Whitney’s “I’m Every Woman” was also just a smidge before I would be a freshman in high school and the Riot grrrl bands, Liz Phair’s Exile Out of Guyville, etc. would explode in the mainstream.

I’m Every Woman was the song a little girly-Wonk-in-the-making *needed* to hear and sing right at that moment in time. And, yes, it’s all about the girl being like I Dream of Jeannie in a bottle, making her master’s wishes come true. That’s not really the part I listened to when Whitney sang it though… Here’s what I heard her sing/emphasize–the refrain that played through my mind:

I’m every woman,
It’s all in me.

Those lyrics were a burst of girl power. A woman-of-color girl power!

I was a shy nerdy Indian girl who went through the worst of bullying during those junior high years. But, whenever I turned on my walkman at home and started belting out “I’m every woman, it’s all in me…,” I felt a little stronger.

I’ve also seen the human costs of anxiety, depression, and addiction, up close and personal. Every nook and cranny of my immediate and extended family has been affected by one and/or the other. Chances are at least a nook or cranny somewhere in yours has been affected, too.

Mental health care is a right.

Mental health equity is not just about money or access, as we’ve seen, even the uber-wealthy are hardly immune.

Mental health equity is about breaking down the stigma so that people who are self-destructing can get help without having to feel like it’s a personal failing. The mind isn’t outside of the body. Mental health problems are not personal human failings anymore than pneumonia is.

Whitney’s personal successes and personal struggles are all of ours. Her premature death is our premature death. We as a society need to check ourselves before we wreck ourselves and all our national treasures along with.

Okay I’m gonna get off my soapbox, and leave you with a few musical+political links and snippets to chew on…

“I prefer to stay on the sidelines. I genuinely believe an artist [is] supposed to be the canary in the coal mine, and you’re better off with a certain distance from the seat of power.”

Springsteen said he still supports Obama but expressed disappointment in his handling of the job market and home foreclosures and disapproved of the attention Obama paid to corporations rather than the middle class.

“I would like to have seen more activism in job creation sooner than it came. I would like to have seen people helped out, seen some of these [home] foreclosures stopped somehow,” Springsteen said.

Springsteen said Obama was “more friendly to corporations than I thought he would be, [and] there’s not as many middle-class or working-class voices heard in the administration as I thought there would be.”

But Springsteen did send a little praise Obama’s way, saying, “He kept GM alive, which was incredibly important to Detroit and Michigan, and he got the health care law passed, although I wish there had been a public option and didn’t leave the citizens victims of the insurance companies. He killed Osama bin Laden, which was extremely important. He brought some sanity to the top level of government.”

Obama was joined by the soul singer at a Democratic fundraiser on Thursday, a month after the president launched into a brief, impromptu version of Green’s “Let’s Stay Together” at New York’s Apollo Theater.

Obama thanked Green, prompting a member of the audience to shout, “Give us a verse!” The president declined to sing this time, telling about 70 campaign donors that he “took a chance at the Apollo and I’m not going to take a chance again.”

“After re-election I might go on tour with the good reverend — be his opening act,” Obama said.

But he warned, “I don’t want to lose any further votes because of my singing voice.”

During his performance, Cornell also performed Bob Marley’s Redemption Song: a couple of numbers from his ex-band Audioslave, Ground Zero and Wide Awake; John Lennon’s Imagine; and Nick Lowe’s (What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love And Understanding.

But it was with his finale that Cornell truly floored the audience, belting out the Dolly Parton-penned song that Houston turned into a classic when she sang it in the 1992 film The Bodyguard.

Voters of America, President Obama has made you a mix.

The president shared a Spotify playlist on his Facebook page Thursday: 29 tunes that he’ll be pumping on the campaign trail between now and Nov. 6. There are songs from artists you’d expect (Bruce Springsteen), artists you wouldn’t (Ricky Martin) and artists that are actually from Canada (Arcade Fire.)

And while candidates have been playing music on the stump since the days when doing so required a brass band, this feels different. We’re being invited into a courtship ritual as old as cassette technology. This is a collection of songs designed to make the recipient fall in love with the sender.

Only, Obama has a vast and varied electorate to woo — and that means his playlist does a lot of herky-jerky genre jumping. The results are not all swoon-worthy. Florence + the Machine’s melodramatic pop bristles up against country duo Montgomery Gentry. The beatific falsetto of Curtis Mayfield reminds us how awful Ray LaMontagne is. And for some reason, there’s an Electric Light Orchestra song. In speeches, the president has cited the plight of American farmers and factory workers. Now he feels the pain of America’s wedding DJs.

And so does his staff. On Spotify, the mix is subtitled like so: “The official 2012 playlist includes picks by the campaign staff — including a few of President Obama’s favorites.” A spokesperson for the Obama campaign clarified in an e-mail that the president didn’t choose the songs; they were suggested by staff members and volunteers.

As the obituaries roll in and the tributes pour out about Whitney Houston’s ability to hit those celebrated and “magical” high notes, surely the most overlooked of her many achievements as an artist is that she is perhaps the first black female artist to take the technical virtuosity of her skills culled in the church and successfully transpose them onto Arista-industry driven, market-tested Top 40 pop arrangements. Whereas even the Supremes worked their way up through a Motor City black-owned business that willed them to global stardom against the odds, and whereas a whole slew of “niche” artists (Natalie Cole on the R&B charts, Donna Summer on the Giorgio Moroder Euro-disco circuit) made the leap to the center, it was Whitney who emerged at the very center of ’80s pop and then subtly and yet fundamentally changed its landscape forever. She made the aesthetics of black female vocalizing once and for all not only mainstream (as Aretha Franklin had done in the late ’60s by way of her uncompromising Muscle Shoals soul) but also accessible to the masses, across age groups (the very young and the old who maybe didn’t groove to “Bad Girls” at Studio 54; the teens and 20-somethings who saw a Seventeen magazine model girlfriend in the singer), and across racial groups, by delivering the good news of the gospel melisma in shiny pop music deemed “universal” rather than “distinctly African-American.”


Drawn as some may be to the tales told by gossip folk coming out in droves, the more compelling story of Whitney Houston resides in a voice that raises above the din of US magazine and E! network chatter and holds for us the history of post–civil rights era womanhood as it defiantly, regally and audaciously weaves its way through a world of both legislated racial equality and lingering systemic discrimination. Even in that most iconic of moments, the 1991 Superbowl “Star-Spangled Banner” performance, the woman with the imposing three-octave range would complicate the fraught symbolic meaning of that patriotic ritual by virtue of her sheer vocal power.

Go read the rest. It’s divine.

That’s it for me. Your turn, Sky Dancers! What’s on your rant ‘n’ read list this weekend?

If the Grammys are Synonymous with anyone–it’s Whitney Houston (Live Blog/Open Thread)

When I volunteered to live-blog the awards shows this year, I could never have imagined I would be writing this round-up in memoriam of Whitney Houston for Grammy night. Via Spin Magazine, Whitney Houston’s Four-Decade History at the Grammy Awards:

Click to go to Spin Mag... Whitney Houston at her first Grammy Awards in 1986. (Photo: Ron Galella Collection/Getty Images)

On February 25, 1986, a 22-year-old Whitney Houston made her first appearance at the Grammy Awards. She’d picked up three nominations for her debut album, 1985’s Whitney Houston, and “Saving All My Love for You” beat tracks by Madonna, Tina Turner, Pat Benatar, and Linda Ronstadt to win Best Female Pop Vocal Performance. She took the stage that night in a ruffled red dress with a wall of hair sprayed to attention atop her head, and blew the doors off the Shrine Auditorium as her mother, Cissy Houston, cheered her on. One of our generation’s hugest voices made a stunning debut at Music’s Biggest Night.

From ONTD’s 50 Most Memorable Grammy Looks Ever:


Click to go to ONTD's 50 Most Memorable Grammy Looks Ever...


Via Buzzfeed. Click to see more.... Above: Whitney Houston's high school yearbook picture. She graduated from high school in Newark, New Jersey.

Via the Baltimore Sun:

It wasn’t scandalous by tabloid standards, but it was a rebellious act for the young women at the Mount Saint Dominic Academy, a small all-girls Catholic high school in New Jersey. Whitney Houston, class of 1981, sometimes wore mismatched socks and rolled up her sleeves.

The mischievous gospel singer would then push the maroon-colored dress code just a bit further. She would “roll up her little skirt, just a little bit above the knees, and wouldn’t care if she got a detention,” said Dr. Maria Pane, who lives in Lutherville and sat next to Houston in high school home room.

A day after the 48-year-old Houston’s unexpected death on Saturday in Beverly Hills, Calif., left the music world in mourning, Pane fondly recalled her old school days in Caldwell, N.J., and the unpretentious Houston, whom she described as an “ordinary high school girl, just like all of us.”

The UK Mirror has a really gorgeous spread of photos from Whitney’s life, including these two:

A young Whitney Houston
1979: Whitney juggled singing with her studies at a Catholic girls school in New Jersey Getty
1979: Whitney spent her teen years accompanying mum Cissy on nightclub tours, occasionally joining her on stage Getty

 I’d like to close this by first sending out prayers to Bobbi Kristina, Whitney Houston’s daughter, who according to various news reports has been  hospitalized but is now out.

Secondly–before I turn this over to the comment section for some Grammy live-blogging/OPEN thread–I’d like to leave you with Whitney’s Grammy debut in 1986…