Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Another Palin Interview

Couric and Palin, again. My comments on the interview are below the video

00:41 - Palin claims she's a feminist who supports equal rights. I don't believe that is possible for someone who is pro-life. Of course, you actually have to have a significant understanding of the philosophical issues surrounding the abortion debate to see that the positions are inconsistent, so I can't fault Palin for thinking she's a feminist. Not many people know the philosophical nitty gritties of the abortion issue.

3:30 - She can't name 1 magazine? If she really read them, wouldn't she be able to name at least one? Wow. That's sad. What's sadder, though, are reports that in part of this interview that hasn't aired yet, Palin couldn't name a Supreme Court decision other than Roe v. Wade. At that's really sad. Without any prepping (which she's been getting constantly from the McCain campaign), here's a few SCOTUS rulings that immediately come to mind: Marbury v Madison, Dredd Scott, Plessy v Ferguson, Brown v Board of Ed., Edwards v Aguilard, Planned Parenthood v Casey, Lawrence v Texas. Oh, and of course, Bush v. Gore. Hello!!! Now, I don't think I'm anywhere near qualified to be VP, or even assistant to the assistant to the VP. But I can crack off a few of the major historical cases in US history. Do you really want a VP who can't name Marbury v. Madison, which gave the court the power it has today, or Brown v Board of Ed., which ended segregation? Christ that's scary.

4:34 - Here's a transcript of what she says: "You know there are man's activities that can be contributed to the issues that we're dealing with now with these impacts. I'm not going to solely blame all of man's activities on changes in climate because the world's weather patterns are cyclical and over history we have seen changes there". Now, I know that no one speaks perfectly. We use run-on sentences and fragments. We sometimes fumble over words. But this woman's speech seems to be a continuous barrage of linguistic ineptitude. To me, that denotes stupidity. Of course, it's statements like that that get me called a "liberal elistist".

What's really scary is that she goes on to say "But it kinda doesn't matter at this point". What?! What caused the problem doesn't matter when you're trying to fix the problem? I kinda wonder how she might fix a leak in her snowmobile if she never looks to see where it's coming from. Incidentally, Palin's nods toward the notion that climate change is partially manmade are not in accord with her previous statements on the issue.

5:25 - She would counsel to "choose life". If that is really all you would do, then no pro-choicer on the planet would have a problem with you. Pro-lifers really need to quit talking about "choosing life". Guess what, if abortion is legal, women can choose to have the baby. If it's illegal, then women have to have the baby. If you are pro-life you are not for women choosing to take the pregnancy to term. You are for forcing them to do it. Period. It's really not a difficult concept to understand.

6:16 - She claims that women shouldn't be put in jail for having abortions. Wait... what? If you're pro-life, it's because you think abortion is the unjustified killing of another human being - you think it's murder. Since when do we not put people in jail for murder? Look, either it is murder, in which case it's illegal and punishable by a long prison sentence or, in this country, the death penalty, or it's not murder. If it's not murder, then why should it be illegal?

6:31 - She's all for contraception. That's nice. Oh wait. It's not true. She opposes funding comprehensive sex-ed. How can you be for contraception if you're against letting people know it's out there? Her answer on the morning after pill also seems inconsistent with this claim. She says she wouldn't use the morning after pill herself. She's also claimed that life begins at conception. Let's put two and two together here. The morning after pill prevents pregnancy the same way birth control pills do (it's just a high dosage of the same hormones). It (1) prevents ovulation, (2) thickens the lining of the cervix, and (3) in rare circumstances, prevents a fertilized egg from implanting. Now, if you believe, as most hard-right people do, that conception=fertilization, then you consider any method of contraception that prevents implantation to be an abortifacent. Given Palin's far right credentials, and her claims here, I find it highly likely that this is her view. If she doesn't believe that fertilization=conception, then why does she hedge so much about the morning after pill?

7:29 - A respect for science? She's a young earth creationist!!!! To seriously believe that the earth is 6,000 years old, you have to reject almost all of modern science! You must reject modern biology because of evolutionary theory. You must reject chemistry because of radiometric dating. You must reject geology because of plate techtonics. You must reject astronomy because of the measured size of the universe based on the speed of light. You get to keep physics, and that's about it. Heck, you even have to reject archeology, since archeologists have found evidence that humans invented agriculture 10,000 years ago. Perhaps Palin had another problem with her words here. "Reject" and "respect" do sound a lot alike.

8:20 - Her friend who is gay "happens to have made a choice" to be gay. So being gay is a choice? Really? I guess that's why Palin believes her "best friend" shouldn't have the same rights as everyone else.

All in all, I think this interview is another bust. Her answers will make the republican base sing "hallelujah", but they will scare liberals to death and maybe a few moderates too. And either way, she still sounded inarticulate and uneducated.

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Monday, September 29, 2008

Pulpit political endorsements.

There have been murmurs for a while that the ADF was going to put together some pastors to risk their tax-exempt status by endorsing political candidates. Well, they've done it:

I love the guy at the end of the video who says that the pastor has the right to let them know that a candidate is not abiding by what the Bible says. I'm assuming your pastor already tells you what the Bible says, but are you really so intellectually inept that you can't find out what the candidates believe and do the comparison on your own?

I know, I know. He was talking about the pastor's right to say what he thinks. Well, the pastor does have that right - he has the right to say what he thinks about the political candidates. And he could endorse candidates all day long around your kitchen table. But a pulpit endorsement isn't a case of the pastor expressing his views as an individual. It's a case of him telling you what the church thinks. Tax exempt organizations cannot endorse political candidates. That's the law. It applies to Planned Parenthood, the ACLU and the local homeless shelter just as much as it does to churches. Now I personally don't have an opinion as to whether tax exempt organizations should be allowed to endorse political candidates or not. But I see no reason to claim an exception for churches. Either all tax exempt organizations should be able to endorse, or none should be able to.

Then again, I don't think that all churches should be tax-exempt anyway. Only non-profit organizations should be free from taxes, since the sole purpose of those organizations is already to put something back in the community. If you've ever seen a megachurch or read a listing of the holdings of the Vatican, you know that not all churches are non-profit. However, while I do hope that these guys lose their tax exempt status, I do feel a little bad. After all, I know the cost will be passed onto the consumer, I mean...uh...the congregation, when it comes time for that tithe. And if the congregations of these churches are so stupid that they can't figure out whether a political candidate is in line with their cherished holy book on their own, then it seems like they've already got enough problems.

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Sunday, September 28, 2008

If Roe Goes...

Linda Hirshman has an excellent piece at the Washington Post examining the question of how far states will be able to take their "states' rights" if Roe v. Wade were to be overturned. In particular, she looks at the issue of whether or not states where abortion would be criminalized would be able to prosecute women who travel to states where the procedure is legal to obtain an abortion.

If John McCain wins the election, we are but a few years, at most, from witnessing the overturn of Roe. It looks clear that at least one, if not two, spots will be opening up on the highest court in the land, and McCain has repeatedly indicated that he will appoint judges like Roberts and Alito. The overturn of Roe v. Wade is a real possibility at this point. So what would happen if Roe was tossed out?

Well, abortion wouldn't automatically become illegal throughout the land. Rather, the issue of the legality of abortion would be left to the states. There are a number of states where abortion would become illegal following the demise of Roe. And just as was the case before abortion rights were nationally recognized, women living in states criminalizing abortion would travel to states without criminal abortion laws to obtain the procedure. "Okay," you might think, "not such a big deal. Women can still get abortions, they just have to travel a bit." A woman living in Missouri - a state which will likely criminalize abortion nanoseconds after Roe is overturned - would just have to travel across the border into Illinois to get the procedure done. No problem (as long as you can manage to get the money together to make the trip). Missouri couldn't do anything to stop her or penalize her for doing something in another state, right?

Well, apparently it's not that simple. It seems silly to think that an individual could be prosecuted in his or her home state for doing something in another state which is perfectly legal in that state. To me, that sounds like saying that the US government can charge you for possession of marijuana because you bought and smoked some in a cafe in Amsterdam. But it looks as though there are some precendents in favor of allowing states to do just that. According to Hirshman,

Under the American constitutional system, a state does have some authority to regulate its citizens' conduct even when they aren't on its territory. The Tenth Amendment and numerous Supreme Court rulings have recognized the broad reach of state sovereignty. In 1792, the Supreme Court approved Virginia's prosecution of a Virginian for stealing a horse from another Virginian, even though the dastardly deed took place entirely in the District of Columbia...

...In some indirect -- but ominous -- cases, the Supreme Court has shown itself to be open to the idea that a state has an interest in its citizens' behavior wherever it occurs. In 1985, the court allowed Alabama to prosecute an Alabama defendant for his wife's murder, even though he had already been tried and convicted in Georgia, where the actual murder occurred. In 1993, the court recognized the interest of a state that forbids gambling in upholding a federal law prohibiting broadcasters from tempting its citizens with advertisements for out-of-state lotteries.

So it looks like a state with an abortion ban might have some Constitutional backing if it decided to bar women from leaving to obtain abortions or prosecute after the fact. And we shouldn't forget that if a majority of five neo-con justices were to include in their reversal of Roe a declaration that the fetus is a person, states might then have the power to prevent women from leaving their boundaries by claiming that such action is necessary to protect the fetus. If the state can take custody of a child for its protection, and the fetus has all the same rights as a child, then the state might argue that it has custody over the fetus, and bar the woman from taking the fetus outside the state. (This, of course, ignores the whole issue of bodily autonomy. But the anti-choice side of this debate never actually addresses that issue anyway)

Thankfully, it looks like there is some Constitutional support for the conclusion that states cannot prosecute women for deeds in other states:

There are, of course, limits to what states can do to stop out-of-state abortions. They have to comply with the restrictions of the federal Constitution, such as the clause saying that no state may deprive any person of life, liberty or property without due process of law. Courts apply this due-process clause to prohibit states from taking "arbitrary" actions. A state's decision to prosecute a woman for an abortion that it holds to be illegal but that was legal where she got it could be seen as arbitrary -- meddling in behavior that's none of its business -- unless that state shows that it has a legitimate interest in the out-of-state act.

Unfortunately, it looks like we've already suggested a way in which a state with an abortion ban might argue that it has a legitimate interest in the out-of-state act - if a SCOTUS ruling contains a declaration that a fetus is a person, then the woman's home state could claim that it has a legitimate interest in protecting the fetus.

In fact, it might not even be necessary for SCOTUS to make the declaration. If the state itself has amended its Constitution to confer the status of personhood on the fetus (as was attempted in Colorado recently), then that just might give the state enough of a ground to claim legitimate interest in the out of state act.

Hirshman looks at this issue from a number of angles in her article, but I think the article leaves out two critical facets of this issue that should be examined. First, while she is keenly aware of the fact that this issue boils down to a question of states' rights, her article fails to bring into the discussion the fact that conservative justices are often staunch supporters of states' rights. Prima facie, this would lead one to conclude that they will be more likely to rule in favor of the states that are attempting to assert their "rights" - that is, the states that wish to prosecute their citizens for obtaining an abortion in a state where it is legal. That should trouble those who are concerned with protecting the right of women to terminate a pregnancy.

Second, I think it important to keep in mind the highly emotional nature, for many, of the abortion issue. Justices are human; they have deepseated convictions and dearly held beliefs just like anyone else. I do not find it improbable that a number of the Justices on the court who oppose abortion rights will select a ruling that matches their dearly held beliefs and then find a legal justification for it, rather than following legal justifications to the ruling. It very well might be that for such Justices, the relevant states' rights case law will take a back seat to preventing women from obtaining abortions.

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Friday, September 26, 2008

In a perfect world...

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Sounds Like a Good Idea To Me

Rep. DeFazio has a suggestion on the bailout that would make Wall St. pay for its own bailout. I like it.

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Thursday, September 25, 2008

Free Sarah Palin!

Campbell Brown just gained another heap of respect points from me. She had previously shown some fine journalistic chops by asking a McCain campaign spokesman some hard hitting questions. Now, she puts forward this extremely clever bit of advocacy journalism:

If you're confused about Campbell's charges of sexism, then exactly what other reason could they have for keeping Palin from the media? Campbell's got the McCain campaign trapped in a nasty dilemma, and I love it.

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I'm Back!

Not that anyone would notice, but I seem to have disappeared from the blogosphere for a time. Well, I'm back now. The dissertation proposal is drafted. The quizzes are graded. The new Rock Band II has lost just a bit of its initial shine. And so I'm back in the blogosphere to write posts that virtually no one reads. My apologies for being gone, but every once in a while even philosophers have to work.

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Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Quick and Dirty

Palin calls herself a fiscal conservative, but she must mean something different by 'fiscal conservative' than what I'm used to. As mayor, she drove her town into debt, despite all the earmarks she was getting from the federal government.

The American Chronicle has a great article about the history of secularism.

A Harvard study finds that voters (particularly men) are prejudiced against women in power (in India), but their perspectives change as their are around more women in power. Well, duh! Why did they even waste money on this? (Via Feministe)

McCain pushed a lady in a wheelchair? Now, I'm no fan of McCain, but really? I find this dubious. Then again... he's known to have a temper.

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Saturday, September 6, 2008

Sarah Palin is Insane.

Below is video of Sarah Palin speaking to graduates of the Master's Commission at her childhood church.

What's really freaky? She's praying that Iraq is a task from God, rather than, say, using her reason to discover whether it's actually the right thing. She thinks a pipeline in Alaska is god's will (but for some reason people still need to pray for it). And she thinks a police force and education are useless if people aren't "right with god".

Honestly? Education is worthless if you don't believe that there is a sky daddy who put his human creations in a garden with a tree that would give them knowledge of good and evil and told them not to eat from it (how would they know disobeying his command was wrong?); but then a walking, talking snake came along and convinced them to eat from it, and because of this all their descendents are marred with a sin that someone else committed; and to deal with this, sky-daddy impregnated a virgin with himself so he could sacrifice himself to himself as a payment, and after this sacrifice sky-daddy rose from the dead but will come back and put all those people who don't believe this cockamamie story through eternal torture.* But he's just and he loves you. Yeah. Someone's education certainly was worthless.

I know that probably appears a bit offensive to believers. But it's basically an accurate description of your garden variety fundamentalist christianity. If you're not a fundamentalist, then it shouldn't offend you, because you don't believe that. Sarah Palin does. And I'm all for people being able to believe what they want. But please don't tell me that belief in this rather extraordinary story that must be taken on faith is necessary for education to be worthwhile. Not only is that a gigantic non-sequitur, but it's insulting to anyone who has a desire to learn about the world but doesn't accept that the Christian bible is literal truth. Believe what you will. Your faith is your business. But don't insult our intelligence.

*Apologies for the run-on, but it just sounds better that way.

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Yes! Finally!

I have been so fed up with how the Republicans have decided to deal with Bristol Palin's pregnancy. It's not that they want it to be a private matter. That's fine (although they seem perfectly content to use Palin's family as a prop whenever they want... a little hypocritical if you ask me). It's not that they want people to leave Bristol alone. I agree. To a certain extent, it's not even that Sarah Palin slashed funding to teen mothers, opposes comprehensive sex-ed, and likely opposes contraception (although it certainly is partially that).

It's that the Republicans keep lauding Bristol Palin's "decision". They are so happy that she "chose life". And that irks me to no end. You don't get to laud her choice when you don't think she should have one. If you are truly pro-life, there is no choice! "It's a baby, not a choice", no?

Well, Samatha Bee from The Daily Show finally said what I wanted to say. And she said it at the Republican convention. Just watch:

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The Next American Express Ad

I've got it! Cindy McCain's outfit has inspired the perfect American Express ad. Are you ready? Here goes:

Oscar de la Renta Dress - $3,000

Channel J12 Watch - $4,500

Four Strand Pearl Necklace - $11,000 to $25,000

Designer shoes - $600

3 Carat Diamond Earrings - $280,000

Conning a vote out of people who can't pay their mortage while wearing clothes that are worth a whole house? Priceless

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A Collective Flip Flop?

Palin's being tagged for VP has Republicans falling all over themselves to say things that run contrary to previous statements. Jon Stewart, with his usual wit, puts it in perspective:

Via Pharyngula

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Thursday, September 4, 2008

The Week In Review

ProfMTH, who I have a bit of an internet crush on, gives us the week in review:

For the citations referred to, see the video on youtube.

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Wednesday, September 3, 2008

5 Reasons Bristol's Pregnancy Matters

So, with the news that Sarah Palin's 17 year old unwed daughter, Bristol, is pregnant, there has been a lot of chatter about how this is a private family matter and we should all just leave poor Bristol Palin alone. I agree that we should leave Bristol alone, but her pregnancy should force some light on the conservative policies and stances that her mother and McCain support. Here are 5 reasons Bristol Palin's pregnancy matters:

#1 Conservatives claim the moral high ground.
It is often complained by liberals that conservative republicans have hijacked the issue of values. And for the most part, this is true. Conservatives tout themselves as the religious who want to preserve traditional marriage (aka deny gay rights), love "the unborn" (aka force pregnancy) and prevent sex from destroying our culture (aka push their backward view of morality on everyone else). Yet Bristol's pregnancy seems to undermine that claim. Not because her pregnancy is wrong. I'm not one to say that premarital sex is immoral. Nor would I expect most liberals to say that there is something morally suspect about coitus before marriage. To most of us liberals, it's none of our business. But religious republicans, republicans like Palin, would say that it is immoral. This is a scandal by their standards, not ours, and yet they are reacting as though their core beliefs do not hold this situation to be a sin in the eyes of their god. I smell hypocrisy.

#2 Conservatives, including Palin, oppose comprehensive sex-ed and fight for abstinence-only education.
Many conservatives oppose anything but abstinence-only education for our teens, claiming that comprehensive sex-ed will lead to more sex. Palin herself opposes comprehensive sex-education and supports abstinence-only. McCain has also claimed that he supports abstinence-only. Now, as we should all be well aware at this point, studies have shown that abstinence-only education does not work, and in many cases, these programs disseminate false information to teens about sex and pregnancy. Furthermore, studies have also shown that comprehensive sex eduation programs are effective in helping teens to dely sexual intercourse or protect themselves from STDs and pregnancy.

Now, what should we take away from this? Comprehensive sex education helps prevent teen pregnancy and transmission of STDs. Abstinence-only education does not. And yet conservatives like Palin and McCain want to prevent teens from getting the information that might help them to avoid the situation that Bristol Palin is now in. Don't you think a mother who is dealing with helping her daughter with a teen pregnancy and has the political clout would work to keep other girls from being put in the same unfortunate position that her daughter is in? Apparently not Sarah Palin.

#3 Many conservatives oppose hormonal birth control or are unconcerned with women's access to it.
Even if sexually active teens and women know that they can protect themselves from pregnancy through various means, that doesn't help if they don't have access to contraception. But many religious republicans flat out oppose hormonal contraception, tossing out science to call the pill and its variants "abortifacents", and hence immoral. That means that the use of contraception is also immoral to this people and if they think abortion should be illegal, then surely "abortifacents" - things that cause abortions, should also be illegal. Furthermore, many conservatives have pushed to allow doctors and pharmacists to refuse to write prescriptions for birth control or fill those prescriptions if they have moral objections, thus limiting women's access, especially in rural areas (like, say, Alaska?).

Now, it's not clear what either McCain's or Palin's positions are on this. Republicans have a way of avoiding discussing their views on birth control (since the vast majority of the American populace is okay with it). But if Palin's "right to life" credentials are good enough to garner the support of the religious wingnuts like Dobson and Robertson, then it's likely that she opposes birth control as well. That would certainly explain why a busy woman in her 40s who already had four children would manage to get pregnant, despite the risks of birth defects (like Down Syndrome) for babies of older women. But denying access to birth control just means more teen pregnancy. More girls like Bristol Palin.

#4 As Governor, Palin slashed funding that would have gone to teen mothers.
Palin used her line item veto to cut funding for a program that helps teen mothers. The program gives young single moms a place to stay while they acquire some skills that will allow them to get by in the world. So, Palin doesn't want kids to be educated on how to avoid pregnancy, (probably) doesn't want them to have access to the means to prevent pregnancy, and yet won't give them money to help them once they (surprise!) get pregnant. Of course, this won't affect girls like Bristol, who, thankfully, have supportive (and rich) families to take care of them. But for lots of other young women who get pregnant, that support isn't there. And apparently Palin doesn't care.

#5 "Choice"
In the press release from the campaign on the pregnancy, the family claimed, "We're proud of Bristol's decision to have her baby". The talking heads have been claiming that the fact that Palin practices what she preaches (i.e., that her daughter "chose life") will actually help with the conservative base. With regard to Palin's own recent pregnancy, in fact, many have been pushing the notion that she chose to have the baby despite his condition.

Well, guess what, Sarah Palin is pro-life. She believes that abortion should be illegal, even in
cases of rape or incest. She does not believe that women have the right to choose whether or not to continue a pregnancy. And if she were really, truly pro-life, then neither she nor her daughter would have a choice in the matter. If you are pro-life, then there is no option other than carrying the pregnancy to term. And if there is only one option, then there is no choice. If Palin really practiced what she preached, then she didn't choose anything, and neither did her daughter. Yet the media does not bring this up. Instead, they laud her choice. Wrong. Pro-choicers can laud her choice. To pro-lifers, neither Palin nor her daughter actually had one to begin with, and true pro-lifers should be offended by the idea that either Palin or her daughter actually chose to carry their pregnancies to term. After all, "it's a baby, not a choice" right?

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Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Who's Afraid of CNN?

John McCain, that's who. He has cancelled an appearance on Larry King Live because of an exchange between CNN's Campbell Brown and a McCain campaign spokesman. The campaign claims that the exchange was over the line. The video is below. You tell me. What line did Campbell cross? Looks to me like good journalism, for once. But maybe asking simple questions and demanding answers to them is just too much for McCain to handle.

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Even more outrageous

Amy Goodman of Democracy Now! was arrested at the RNC yesterday and charged with obstructing a peace officer. She was attempting to obtain the release of two Democracy Now! producers that had been arrested and have been charged with felonies. While all three have now been released, the two producers sustained injuries during the arrest, and all three still face charges. Free Press has called for the charges against Goodman and other independent journalists to be dropped. Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minnesota) has also condemned the actions of police. The video of Goodman's arrest is at the bottom of the post.

Democracy Now! journalists are not the only journalists to have been arrested at the RNC. An intern for the Utne Reader was arrested and then released. And an AP photographer was also arrested. In addition to the journalists, some 300 protestors were also arrested.

The actions of the Twin Cities police do not seem to have been the actions of "peace officers". Rubber bullets, tear gas, pepper spray and concusion grenades were all used on protestors, according to Democracy Now!. To get a sense of just how the Twin Cities police have used these weapons on protestors, go ahead and watch this:

For more of the nasty details about how local police and the FBI have been treating those who are merely exercising their constitutional rights, Glenn Greenwald has more of the story, along with pictures and an interview with Amy Goodman just after her release. Also make sure to check out The Uptake, which has continuing netroots coverage of what's going on at the RNC.

I don't even have words for how disgusting this is. First the raids on suspected protestors and now police power being abused to stifle free speech and frighten away what little free press we still have left. These are not events that happen in a democracy. These are not events that occur in a "land of the free". But what's worse is that the mainstream media is not covering it. Not a word about a prominent journalist being unlawfully arrested. Not a word about the girl in the video below who was sprayed repeatedly at close range with pepper spray. Of course, why would they say anything? A well informed populace is a threat to those in power.

Amy Goodman being arrested:

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