Kentucky Senate Seat up for Grabs in 2014?

Kentucky has gotten a lot of attention recently because of Mitch McConnell’s freak out at the rumors of Ashley Judd running against him in 2014. Honestly, the entire debacle has been very amusing to me. Though, in the past couple of weeks, there has been a lot of backlash from Democrats inside and outside of the state. Their reaction can be summed up like this:

“Seriously, Kentucky? For the first time Mitch McConnell is worried about reelection, and you’ve chosen an actress to run against him? You’re making fools out of yourself–be serious!”

And that annoys me.

No, we haven’t chosen an actress to run against the heretofore impossible-to-beat incumbent. You’re taking it as seriously as Mitch McConnell, and you’re taking all the fun out of this situation.

Pay attention: McConnell has been the heretofore impossible-to-beat incumbent, and he’s freaking the fuck out right now. McConnell has been a pain in the country’s ass for years now–can you step back for a second and try to imagine how it might be to have this PITA as one of your Senators? Just imagine for a few seconds, I’ll wait.

Got it? Okay.

Now. Stay with me here. Basketball is a really big deal in Kentucky. The NCAA basketball tournament is like a month-long holiday in Kentucky. In Kentucky, you’re either a Cardinals fan, or a Wildcats fan. You’re either Blue, or Red. Ashley Judd is a Wildcats fan. That’s a big deal. A celebrity, or anyone who is a Big Deal jumps into the UK vs UL fandom becomes part of the family. They’ve become one of us. Judd regularly attends UK games. So, the UK half of Kentucky kind of loves Ashley Judd. She’s a Big Deal, and she Gets It. Validation and all that.

Now.

A member of the Kentucky collective, messing with the head of the likes of Mitch McConnell, a guy who holds a lot of power, but does nothing for Kentucky? Who has embarrassed us on the national and international stage? We love it. Think of it as a grown-up pranking that mean old guy in the neighborhood who’s constantly harassing all of the neighborhood kids, while all of the kids are there to see. It’s hilarious. Vindication. It kind of makes your year.

Will Ashley Judd actually run? Don’t know. We don’t really care at the moment. We’re too busy soaking up the glory that is McConnell realizing he could lose his job, his power, and his gravy train, that he’s been milking at Kentucky’s expense.

So, naysayers. Be quiet for a moment. We’ve been waiting a long time for this. Don’t ruin the moment.

McConnell Needs to Go in 2014

“The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.” –Senator Mitch McConnell, 23 October 2010

With this statement, Senator McConnell rewrote his own job description from that of a United States Senator representing the people of the Commonwealth of Kentucky, to a hard-nosed ideologue intent on a solitary goal of ending another man’s political career.

Two years and hundreds of filibusters later, the President wins his bid for reelection, by a landslide.

What does Senator “one-term” McConnell have to say about that?

“The American people did two things: they gave President Obama a second chance to fix the problems that even he admits he failed to solve during his first four years in office, and they preserved Republican control of the House of Representatives,” McConnell said in a statement. “The voters have not endorsed the failures or excesses of the President’s first term, they have simply given him more time to finish the job they asked him to do together with a Congress that restored balance to Washington after two years of one-party control.” –Senator McConnell

You see what he did there? Senator McConnell is pretending that the record number of filibusters he and his party orchestrated, even on legislation that they agreed with, is a personal failure of President Barack Obama.

The lack of productivity in the Senate for the past four years is a failure of Mitch McConnell and the Republican Party, not President Barack Obama.

Take a look at this handy chart, that lays out exactly who has filibustered in the Senate the most, by number and by percentage. At the top of the chart? Republican after Republican, after Republican. If your Senators are on the top half of this list, you should be angry. Very angry.

Filibustering is refusing to debate. It is refusing to vote. It is refusing to allow anyone to debate or vote–per Senate rules, sixty Senators must vote to overrule a single, anonymous Senator who may filibuster a bill, then waltz out of the Chamber, off into the city. A filibuster, under current rules, does not require a Senator to hold the floor. It does not require that one, single Senator to even be in the building.

If one or both of your Senators are on the top half of this list, your hired representatives are refusing to do their jobs.

Just think a second: what would happen if you decided you left an anonymous note on your boss’ desk saying that you didn’t feel like working that day, then walked out? I’d be written up, docked points, and fired.

There hasn’t been balance in Congress since President Obama was elected in 2008, and that’s because the vast majority of the Republican Party has been refusing to do their jobs.

Mitch McConnell is the orchestrator of this collective tantrum, and as a resident of Kentucky, I am angry. Rand Paul, my other Senator, has refused to work over eighty percent of his short time in the Capital. I am very angry. My state has no voice in the Senate. None. Kentucky’s representatives in the Senate anonymously protest, then run off into the city to do whatever it is old white men do in Washington D.C.

Kentucky, we have two more years until Mitch McConnell is up for reelection. And you know what? I’m angry enough that I’d consider running against him myself–but I don’t meet the minimum age requirement, and I won’t meet it in two years, either. So to anyone considering running against Mitch in 2014? Consider this as my letter of interest.

A WKU Alumni: Crosses and Condoms

When a friend sent me photos of the anti-abortion display on the Collonades at WKU, I was flabbergasted. Who the hell do these people think they are? I asked myself. I told my friend that she should cover their sign with one that said “Each cross represents a woman who was free to make her own choice” or “This is how many women will die each day if totalitarians succeed in taking away safe, legal abortion.”

I also wondered just what were these anti-choicers thinking, completely taking over a very popular gathering space for students, for an entire week. People drink coffee, study, or just soak in the sun on the Collonades. Nor is it unusual for professors to hold classes there on a nice day.

The Collonades are one of the beautiful architectural landmarks of Western. It is also affixed to the Ivan Wilson Fine Arts building, which houses the Art, Theater, Music, and Language departments.

Let me tell you something. If you believe that this ridiculous little Hilltoppers for Life group didn’t pull this stunt not merely expecting a reaction, but hoping for one, then you are a fool. Western Kentucky University has a proud history of activism. Students are very involved on this campus. Students were not going to let this stand without responding. Frankly? I was expecting more. If this had happened in my time, there would have been much more than a few condoms draped over crude popsicle stick crosses.

During the weekdays, they set up tables, along with boards. They wanted discussion. They wanted students to share their thoughts. Elaina Smith did just that. Like I said, they set up in front of the Fine Arts building. They expected some kind of art display. They expected a response, so they could throw a hissy fit. As Dr. Molly Kerby pointed out in her brilliant response to this hissy fit, the anti-choicers set up the crosses to spell out “life” on the bleachers, which could only be seen from the windows of the art department. This was provocation. This was a challenge. In my day, many, many more students would have taken up that challenge. Including me.

Now look. They’re calling for Elaina Smith to be arrested. They’re calling for the university to force her professor to give her a failing grade.

They want the police to violate Elaina’s first amendment rights to free speech.

They want the university to violate the academic freedom of their faculty.

It’s absolutely outrageous, but entirely consistent with their primary goal of calling for the government to forcibly violate a woman’s right to control her own body.

Hilltoppers for Life is no different from the man dubbed “Preacher Man” that occasionally visits campus. If you’re unfamiliar, Preacher Man sets up behind the university center during the day, insulting and provoking students in the name of the Christian god. The more students engage this man, the more insulting he gets. Meanwhile, his companion circulates throughout the crowd with a camera, snapping photos of the students who engage with Preacher Man. This man hopes to provoke the students into assaulting him, so that he may sue the student and the university. And, of course, claim martyrdom for himself and his religion.

These fools kept someone hidden at the Collonades each night, hoping to catch someone doing something to their display, so that they could claim martyrdom for themselves. Did you notice that when Elaina showed up to place her condoms, Hilltoppers for Life member, Matt Sohl, called the Students for Life for America before he called the police? Apparently their parent organization failed to instruct them properly.

(Did these student plan to skip class the next day? Or show up exhausted and unable to participate properly in their classes?)

If you still doubt that their goal was for someone to mess with their display, let me tell you something else about Western Kentucky University. Students interact with campus art on a regular basis. There is a statue of Sergeant Guthrie, in front of the Guthrie belltower, his right hand uplifted, and cupped just so. Students regularly put items in the statue’s hand. Coffee cups, bananas, ice cream cones, to name just a few. Behind McLean Hall, there is a statue of a woman, mid-stride. She is regularly dressed up with hats, scarves, and dresses. The wooden bunny, beside Garrett, is regularly dressed up as well. The students aren’t the only ones who do this–the university participates in this pastime. The abstract art affectionately dubbed the “Big Red Vagina” had bushes planted around it last time I visited campus. And I’m sorry, but that was not a coincidence.

It is shameful that President Gary Ransdell has condemned Elaina. She is a student–participating in a campus pastime, exercising her right to free speech and self-expression, and creatively completing a class project. Aside from the Hilltoppers for Life, this people crying foul are not part of WKU’s community. They all, including HFL, are part of an organized effort to curtail other people’s rights, creating controversy and provoking others to reaction. Garbear, as an alumni, I am ashamed that you are not standing by a fellow Hilltopper. I am ashamed that you, blinded as you are by your desire for good PR, turned your back on the students and faculty, falling hook, line, and sinker for their manufactured martyrdom.

Today, as a Hilltopper, I am ashamed, President Gary Ransdell, that you represent my university. I am proud, Hilltoppers for “Life” excepted, of the students and faculty. I am proud of Elaina. I am proud of Dr. Molly Kerby for taking a public stand for student’s right to free speech, and academic freedom. (Though, of course, I expected nothing less from Dr. Kerby. She is a fantastic person.)

I expect SGA to pass a resolution on Tuesday, supporting Elaina Smith, and condemning HTL and President Ransdell’s efforts to silence and punish students for expressing themselves.

I expect the Faculty Senate to rally as well, supporting their colleague’s right to grade her student’s work as she sees fit.

I expect the campus community to stand up, and call this manufactured outrage for what it is: an attack on freedom.

Mitch McConnell Writes Letters: Act Two

Not long ago, I wrote to Mitch McConnell, one of my Senators, to voice my objections to the Blunt Amendment. The amendment, if you recall, would have allowed any employer to refuse health insurance coverage for birth control. Thankfully, the amendment failed. However, I’m only just now receiving a response my from esteemed representative.

This is not the first time I’ve written to McConnell. This is the first time, however, that he acknowledges my disagreement. In the past, his letters assume the recipient agrees with his views, and assures the reader that he will fight (fight!) to represent my interests in the Senate. I could only conclude that no one read my letter at all.

This time, his letter gives me background on the issue. (Uh, Mitch? I know. Why the fuck do you think I’m writing?) Then, he gives his version of events, presenting them as undoubtedly the objective truth:

“You don’t have to belong to any particular faith to see if that if government can violate the religious rights of one group, then surely it can violate those of others.”

He concludes with a condescending acknowledgement of our disagreement on the issue, before he thanks me for sharing my “opinions” with him anyway.

McConnell’s letter highlights his utterly incapability of distinguishing between religious freedom, employees rights, and the fact that institutions are not people.

McConnell fails to realize the employees of faith-based institutions do not subscribe to the institution’s religious affiliation merely because they’re on the payroll. I know it’s difficult for Mitch to believe, but some people work for companies they don’t believe in, that they don’t even like, because they need the paycheck.

McConnell is utterly incapable of recognizing the fundamental difference between believing in a religious system, and adhering to its moral codes in your own personal behavior, and attempting to force those under your control to adhere to them, too. That’s not religious freedom, that’s tyranny.

Newsflash: 98% of Catholic women have used birth control. Religions are not like the Republican Party. It’s not a “follow our orders to the minutiae or GTFO” deal. Spiritual beliefs are deeply personal, intimate, and individualistic. Ever notice how many denominations there are in Christianity alone, Mitch? No one person’s faith is going to look like another’s, even if they share the same label. That is our right in this country–to believe whatever we want.

How many times, and how many ways do I have to say that an employer, especially a faith-based one, has no right to impose and enforce its beliefs on their employees?

It is the height of arrogance, not to mention irony, to accuse the Obama administration of crossing “a dangerous line.”

Oh, and this?

“I was disappointed that Senator Blunt’s amendment failed to overcome the threat of a filibuster by a mostly partisan vote. Americans decided at our nation’s founding that the government cannot tell someone whether their religion is worth believing. For the protection of everyone who enjoys the freedom to worship as they wish, this mandate should be repealed.”

I was disappointed that Senator Blunt’s amendment failed.

I bet you were.

overcome the threat of a filibuster by a mostly partisan vote.

How’d you like a taste of your own medicine? I must say, that’s a pretty pathetic potshot, considering you and your GOP friends have been filibustering every possible piece of legislation, even if you agreed with it, just to make the President look bad. Check the mirror before you whine about partisanship, you hypocritical old fart.

Americans decided at our nation’s founding that the government cannot tell someone whether their religion is worth believing.

That’s not what happened here, and you know it. I object to your attempting to give my employer the right to dictate what my health insurance will or will not cover–forcing me to adhere to my employer’s religious beliefs. My employer can believe whatever the fuck he wants. He can’t impose that on me, and neither can you. The government’s job is to protect people like me from people like you.

For the protection of everyone who enjoys the freedom to worship as they wish,

Wait, are you actually acknowledging that not everyone has the freedom to worship as they wish? I know you’re not, and that’s a shame.

this mandate should be repealed.

No.

Postscript: Uh, Mitch? You know you sent that letter to me twice, right? And you know you referred to me as “Mr.” in the first letter? I know you don’t really read correspondence from constituents that disagree with you, but you should pay close enough attention to, at the very least, get my name and my gender correct.

Just saying. And I’ll be passing along your little boo-boo to other voters. I’m sure Kentuckians will be very interested to learn just how little attention you pay to your constituency.

Stereotypes About the South

Go read this article, NOW. No, now. Do it.

I’ve been saying this for ages,and I am so glad to see someone else talking about it:

“The common perception that Southerners are stupid obscures the generations of progressive activists who have fought, sacrificed and sometimes died to make this a more hospitable and inclusive place. But progressive media outlets too often imply that we are an undifferentiated mass of ignorant bigots. In a 2004 Slate article, for example, novelist Jane Smiley wrote that “ignorance and bloodlust have a long tradition in the United States, especially in the red states.” Her conclusion? Progressives should just write them all off as potential political allies and marginalize these states as much as possible. But this is extremely ineffective political strategy – and almost certainly would have prevented Obama’s 2008 wins in swing states North Carolina, Florida and Virginia.”

The sooner every fucking progressive and Northerner reads this piece, the better. Please and thank you.

We’re not going to go anywhere divided. We’re not going to make any progress if Southern states keep getting dismissed and ignored.

So pay attention, ‘kay?

To Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, and Genderqueer Teens in Kentucky

You are loved.

You are worthy of love.

You deserve happiness.

You deserve to be safe, at home, at school, on the street.

You’re not evil.

You’re not an abomination. On the contrary. You are a beautiful person, with hopes, with dreams.

You’re strong. And you know? It’s okay to be weak, too. It’s okay to be angry, to be frustrated, to feel wronged. It’s okay to cry. You’re not the only one.

You’re not alone.

Far from it.

Don’t give up. Love yourself. Take care of yourself.

Just know, that you’re not alone. Know that you are loved.

Kentucky Needs Better Protections From Bullying

This is why we need HB336 to pass. Now.

“A 15-year-old high school student took her own life this week. Her parents said she was the victim of bullying.

After the teen’s untimely death, other parents have come forward, saying their kids have also been bullied at Livingston County Schools and they’re calling on the school district to make major changes.

They said the school is failing when it comes to protecting their kids and they want new and stricter policies to stop bullying. They also want better counseling services, so that no student has to feel like suicide is the only option.”

My heart breaks for this young woman. It didn’t have to end this way for her.

You know the anti-bullying bill, HB336? It was rejected by the committee on March 13th, less than a week before the young woman from Livingston County took her life. She’s not the only teenager in Kentucky to do so.

“Sam Denham, 13, an eighth-grader from a Northern Kentucky middle school, and Miranda Campbell, 14, a high school freshman from Hopkinsville, committed suicide in the past five months to escape bullying, they said.”

No one deserves to be bullied. No one deserves to be harassed. Or assaulted. Or terrorized.

And you know what? If we’re not going to allow these kids to defend themselves from bullies without getting punished right alongside their attacker, then we (and I mean EVERYONE here) have to do everything we can to protect them.

“Rep. C.B. Embry Jr., R-Morgantown, said the state already has sufficient laws against bullying. He expressed doubt that any additional laws could help.”

Clearly, we don’t.

Here’s the list of the House Education committee members. Contact them to let them know that we won’t let this go. Contact the members I’ve tagged below, in particular, to let them know how reprehensible their comments are.