Democracy Soup

Making sense out of the world of politics

Allowing female nipples to be seen means total equal freedom

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We have the freedom to believe whatever we think freedom should be even if we think other people’s definition of freedom interferes in our right to have freedom.

Men have had the right to be topless for about 80 years. Men can’t be topless everywhere, of course. “No shirt …” is standard in private establishments, especially around food. Outside in public places, walking down the sidewalk, at the beach, in a park: men have the right to be free and not wear a shirt.

With very few exceptions, women do not have the right to be topless in the United States. We have freedom unless you’re a woman on a hot day who wants to feel cool air on her upper torso.

The upper torso isn’t the issue. Backs, stomachs, collarbones: just fine to be on display in public. The problem, as it were, is breasts.

Actually these days, breasts are not the issue. You can see the majesty of the female breasts through cleavage. The underside of the female breasts is also pretty rare, but not technically illegal.

What is illegal to display in the vast majority of the United States … is the nipple.

Female nipples are very powerful: they are the source of life for babies. But their strongest force, apparently, is to freak people out.

People are scared and nervous about the idea of female nipples being seen in public. But if we think back to the idea of freedom, let’s see where the freedom of women choosing to expose their nipples interferes in the freedom of others.

    • Children

“Will somebody think of the children?” — Helen Lovejoy, The Simpsons. Let’s think of the children. Children 5 and under likely get to see their mother’s nipples quite often, either through breastfeeding or the practical element of intimacy between mother and child. Young children can be scared at an early age but chances are nipples won’t be their greatest fear.

We have a society that strongly encourages women to keep their baby under a blanket when being breastfed in public. Associating a blanket over a head while getting nutrition would scare a child more than the exposure of the source of that nutrition.

Children 6-11 would be intrigued by female nipples. Girls would be curious to see what will eventually happen to them. Girls are more likely to wonder why at that age, they have to keep their nipples covered but their boy counterparts get to run around without a shirt.

Boys at a similar age who, if they aren’t paying attention to girls, are still likely to notice women who don’t have on a shirt. “Why does that woman not have a shirt on?” a boy might ask. A simple “adults are allowed in certain situations to be allowed to go without a shirt” will suffice. Children are curious but if breasts are out in the open, they are less likely to think of them as being a big deal.

    • Teenagers

Children who eventually will become teenagers won’t think too much of a woman on a beach without a shirt or a bikini top. Teenagers who are already teenagers will have an adjustment period.

Girls who are in this age group might be shy to join in adult women who choose the topless option. Other girls may not care and will be some of the first adopters. They will learn quickly that freedom can apply across gender lines, setting a positive example for young females.

Teenage boys tend to get swept up in hormones, so even a bra or a hint of a bra can be enough to set them off. If you take a poll of teenage boys who are straight, you will get very few votes against women going topless.

    • Adults

So far, we have groups that will need adjustment. But none of them have the slightest inclination of being offended by female nipples.

Clearly we have found our source of concern: adults. Most men aren’t offended by female nipples; they would welcome female nipples in the landscape.

Adult women have the most to gain. If enough women on a beach go this route, there isn’t just one direction to take notice.

We have to be realistic. Some adult men and women find female nipples to be offensive. To be fair, this is the same group that objected when male nipples were exposed. They object to nipples, mostly female but not always.

Religion, oddly enough, is an issue with some of them. Adam and Eve were naked in the Garden of Eden until they eat the apple. According to the logic of the story, things were ideal when they were naked. Shame only came when they disobeyed God.

These people feel shame today for seeing bodies exposed. They are as likely to be upset by cleavage as nipples.

    • Freedom

One of the arguments for same-gender marriage is that their marriages don’t threaten “traditional marriages.” The freedom to marry doesn’t interfere with people who are already married or those who choose not to get married to anyone.

If a woman chooses to be topless in a park or on a beach, she doesn’t interfere in someone else’s preference to not go topless. Many men choose to not go topless even when they have the opportunity. Others do so every chance they can get to be topless.

A woman seeing another woman who is topless might be encouraged to join her but is under no obligation to do so. For all the “talk” about gays “recruiting” others, there also isn’t any agenda for those for topless freedom to force anyone to join in who is not comfortable.

Same-gender marriage and topless freedom both are about the freedom to do something that doesn’t threaten other people.

Pride Weekend is always a grand celebration, but especially this year. Chances are in attending a Pride Parade that you will see a woman wearing bandages or stickers over her nipples, but otherwise have their breasts exposed.

The women who do this are beautiful for taking the bold step, even if the stickers and bandages seem a bit silly. When you see a woman’s breasts, the whole breast except for the nipple, you truly realize how immature we are for being obsessed with keeping the nipple covered.

We aren’t trying to compare the two movements, but just that they come together on Pride Weekend and they are both about freedom. They are asking for rights already being given to other people; they aren’t asking for something that doesn’t already exist.

People can be offended if a man takes off his shirt, either because they are concerned about all men who are topless or a particular male chest. Yet men are allowed to be topless.

Movements such as Free The Nipple have done a lot to expose people to this cause. Teenagers taking selfies and sexting has opened up a generation that isn’t as afraid to show nipples.

When a young woman from Iceland was cyberbullied after posting a topless picture, a number of Icelandic women went to Twitter and posted pictures showing a nipple or two in solidarity. One of those Icelandic participants was a female politician.

With all those nipples floating around the Internet, the world didn’t suddenly freeze. People who chose to look did so. Those that didn’t chose to look were not harmed by having pictures of nipples all around the Internet.

Freedom and tolerance requires us to respect the feelings and views of those who think topless females do harm to society. That has to be weighed against the harm to society that comes from not allowing women that option. Bad body images, low self-esteem, feeling not equal for reasons that feel trivial: being denied total equal freedom comes at a price. The question is whether that price is costlier and whether we want to keep paying that price for a lack of total equal freedom.

Written by democracysoup

July 3, 2015 at 6:00 am

David Letterman is the bridge between Johnny Carson and the current late night crop

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Johnny Carson asked David Letterman on the “Tonight Show” in 1991, “Can you envision yourself 20 years from now doing your late night show?”

Letterman laughed, making it clear that he had no interest in lasting as long as Johnny Carson’s 30 years in late night.

The fact that Letterman lasted 33 years in late night speaks to two things about David Letterman. He would have been embarassed to say in front of Carson that he had that level of ambition. And Letterman wanted to outlast Carson in general and Jay Leno in the 11:30 pm Eastern time slot.

So if you are a Millennial and wonder if Letterman has gone past his prime, go back to that Johnny Carson episode in 1991. It’s not that Carson is bad, but that the talk show world was different from when Carson started.

David Letterman was that world for that generation. When “Late Night” started in 1982, the TV world centered around Baby Boomers. Late night TV had made a few pushes such as “Saturday Night Live” (thought the original cast had left), “Fridays” on ABC, and SCTV reruns on NBC. Monday-Thursday was the “Tomorrow” show territory but that show had an intellectual audience and had peaked a few years back.

In 1982, David Letterman was late night. Stupid Pet Tricks, The World’s Most Dangerous Band, Viewer Mail, velcro, legendary appearances (sometimes for the wrong reasons) from Andy Kaufman and Jerry Lawler as well as Crispin Glover.

Letterman would go outside the studio to dispute other NBC shows, national and WNBC-TV, New York. He would drop various items from a rooftop. This was not Carson by a long shot.

Letterman came up with a late night show that emulated Carson and also gave us something new. Letterman had a monologue and a band, but Carson had a longer monologue and a band that was more interested in old music than new music. Ironically, the shorter monologue and smaller band were demands from Carson to differentiate his show from Letterman’s. Turns out that helped Letterman greatly.

Then again, when Letterman had the opportunity to expand the monologue and band at CBS, he did both.

Letterman’s humor might have been too old for Millennials, but his music taste expanded instead of being held back. Carson would never have dreamed about having on what would have been the 1991 equivalent of First Aid Kit.

If Letterman is missing a beat these days, it’s that his style has lost some of its anger, its edge. Unlike the Incredible Hulk, we did like Dave when he was a little angry.

Letterman challenged his guests. Cher, Madonna, and Oprah had issues with that. Bill O’Reilly as well, but for different reasons.

Letterman might not voted for John McCain, but Dave had the presidential candidate on quite often, asking him better questions than his news counterparts. When John McCain blew Letterman off in 2008, and his people discovered the CBS News feed where McCain was on the Evening News, his feisty nature made for beautiful TV.

Letterman was sincerely hurt but recognized in the moment, and this happened while the show was going, that this was comedic gold. When Letterman shouts at the TV monitor, asking McCain if he needs a ride to the airport, the audience bursts into laughter and applause. The situation was legitimately awkward: pinch hit guest Keith Olbermann, in the height of his MSNBC run, looks shaken at what is going on.

In subsequent nights, Letterman went after the joke about being abandoned. Letterman’s efforts were rewarded as McCain went back on the show and admitted to a national audience that he had “screwed up.”

Jon Stewart had McCain on a lot, but after McCain turned the page, the presidential candidate never went on “The Daily Show” ever again. McCain did go back to Letterman.

That exchange with McCain was less than 7 years ago. Carson never had anywhere near that kind of moment in his last 15 years.

During the Jay Leno vs. Conan O’Brien battles, you wanted to watch for Letterman’s reaction. Watching Letterman’s take on Leno made you forget that they used to be friends and that Letterman helped Leno get famous during the Late Night era. But that anger made Letterman funny.

Letterman’s take on General Electric when the company bought NBC was amazing television. That is the major reason why Letterman didn’t get the Tonight Show. But the idea of taking on your bosses spoke to a generation that couldn’t do that in real life but could on TV through Dave.

Letterman’s comedy was about release. Throwing items off a roof to see what would happen when they hit the ground. Full disclosure: we did that in college though inside down the center stairwell in the process of emptying out our refrigerators at the end of the year. We felt the euphoria that Letterman and his audience did on TV.

So as Letterman does his last show tonight on CBS, Jimmy Fallon, Jimmy Kimmel, Seth Meyers, James Corden, Conan O’Brien, and in September, Stephen Colbert will be some of the many choices the current young generation will have to mourn their retirement years down the road.

David Letterman is the bridge between the old time talk shows and the current crop. In Letterman’s NBC show, he would often give credit to Steve Allen — the first “Tonight” show host — for borrowing some of his old bits. Every single major late night talk show host has Letterman to thank and credit for their success.

video credit: YouTube/Johnny Carson

Alberta votes for change, NDP, Rachel Notley

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This column courtesy of runs here with complete permission.


Rachel Notley is the new premier-elect for Alberta in the first NDP government in the history of the province.

The New Democratic Party started the day with 4 seats of 87 seats in the Alberta legislature; the party won 53 seats in the election.

Notley was one of 2 members of legislative assembly (MLA) for the NDP elected in the 2008 election.

The Progressive Conservatives had been wobbly in recent elections, even if the number of seats was still rather high. For the first time in 44 years, the PCs will not be in power.

The last 4 years have seen 4 different PC premiers.

The NDP were predicted to do well in Edmonton and swept the capital ridings, but also won the majority of the Calgary ridings. Calgary hadn’t elected a NDP MLA since 1993; the party won a number of Calgary area seats.

The party had a high of 16 seats in the 1986 and 1989 elections; now the NDP has more than 3x the previous all-time high.

Rachel Notley is the 3rd female premier among Canadian provinces, joining Christy Clark in western neighbor British Columbia and Kathleen Wynne in Ontario. 2014 saw 3 female premiers leave office: Kathy Dunderdale (Newfoundland and Labrador), Alison Redford (Alberta), and Pauline Marois (Quebec). Notley is the first female premier elected since the 2014 negative wave.

Danielle Smith spent Election Day on the sidelines. Last fall, Smith was the leader of the opposition Wildrose Party as the majority of the Wildrose MLAs crossed over to the PC Party.

Smith lost her bid to run for the PCs and had to sit out this election. Alberta has its 2nd ever female premier and her name is not Danielle Smith.

A number of the NDP candidates were slated as federal candidates. Well, those candidates will be in Edmonton instead of running for seats in Ottawa in the federal election this fall.

Then again, the NDP will have momentum to recruit federal MP candidates, something the Alberta Liberals do not have.

Notley said during the campaign that she will not lobby for the Keystone XL pipeline or support the Northern Gateway pipeline, though she is in favor of other pipeline projects. Energy diversity will be more than just a buzzword in a Notley government.

Jim Prentice, the now outgoing premier and PC leader, brought in a poorly received budget. Prentice had been a Conservative MP in Ottawa until 2010. Prentice won the PC leadership battle last fall.

The PC Party went from 70 seats to a 3rd place finish with 10 seats. Prentice, in his concession speech, resigned as party leader and MLA. Since Prentice won his seat, there will be a by-election and you can almost count on the PCs losing that seat.

The PC and NDP literally tied in the Calgary-Glenmore riding.

Brian Jean is the new opposition leader for the Wildrose Party. Jean won a seat in the Alberta legislature after serving as a federal Conservative MP and retiring from politics last year. The Wildrose Party went from 5 seats before the election to 21 seats.

The Wildrose had 17 seats in the last election in 2012 under Danielle Smith.

Interim Liberal Party leader David Swann will go to Edmonton as the only Liberal Party MLA. The Liberals had 5 seats, one more seat than the NDP before the election.

Greg Clark won a seat for the Alberta Party, a more progressive party. This was the first seat ever in the history of the party.

Calgary celebrated its #CofRed last night with the Flames OT win, but the red of the Liberals have as many seats as the Alberta Party.

Alberta’s pattern is to give a different party a chance to establish a dynasty and not go back to that party one they’ve lost.

The Progressive Conservatives won its first election in Alberta in 1971. The PCs took over from the Social Credit Party that was in charge for the previous 36 years.

The Liberal Party won Alberta’s first 4 elections, ranging from 1905 to 1921. The United Farmers Party was in charge from 1921-1935.

Before last night, 4 parties have had a chance to rule in Alberta, and 2 of them don’t exist anymore.

photo credit: CBC Calgary

Green Maritimes? Prince Edward Island elects Green Party MLA

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This column courtesy of runs here with complete permission.

The Green Party and the NDP combined for more than 20% of the vote in yesterday’s provincial election in Prince Edward Island. In a province where only Liberals and Progressive Conservatives have run government and only one member of legislative assembly (MLA) came from a 3rd party, the electorate wanted something other than chocolate and vanilla.

The Liberals stayed in power though they lost 4 seats of their margin: unofficially 18 Liberals, 8 Progressive Conservatives, and 1 Green Party MLA.

Country dentist Peter Bevan-Baker became the first MLA of a 3rd party since 1996 and only the second ever in the history of the province. Bevan-Baker joins David Coon of New Brunswick as Green Party MLAs in the Maritimes.

Bevan-Baker was running in his 10th election and had never been elected to any post … until Monday.

Wade MacLauchlan retains his post as premier with a late comeback to win his own district. MacLauchlan was the only one who ran for the Liberal Party leadership after long-time premier Robert Ghiz resigned.

Rob Lantz, the Progressive Conservative leader, didn’t win his own district. Both MacLauchlan and Lantz became their party leaders in February.

Mike Redmond was running his first race as NDP leader. Redmond finished 3rd of 4 candidates in his district but fellow NDP candidate Gord McNeilly came so close to winning a district. McNeilly was leading with all but one poll remaining, but the last poll put incumbent Liberal Kathleen Casey over the top.

Herb Dickieson of the NDP was the only MLA not from the 2 major parties to be elected in 1996. Dickieson is a physician and Bevan-Baker a dentist, so both MLAs from 3rd party are doctors when not being politicians.

* MacLauchlan is the first openly gay premier elected in Prince Edward Island and the second openly gay premier in Canada alongside Kathleen Wynne in Ontario.

* The NDP and Green Party wanted to challenge the province’s stance on not allowing abortions. The PCs and Liberal Party campaigned on keeping the status quo on abortions.

* Prince Edward Island is the smallest of the provinces in terms of population (74,571 voted in the 2011 election) but its voter turnout is astoundingly high. The province had an 84.6% voter turnout in this election. PEI has only had 2 voter turnouts in almost 50 years at less than 80%, with 2011 coming in at 76.4%.

Would love to see the 2015 Canadian federal election come close to those marks.

If you watched the CBC Charlottetown coverage or listened to it via CBCT on CBC Radio One out of Charlottetown, you might have recognized Bruce Rainnie. Rainnie is known in sports circles for his coverage of numerous sports. Rainnie has even filled in on Hockey Night in Canada telecasts.

Despite his sports prowess, Rainnie is the news anchor of CBC News: Compass, the only TV newscast geared specifically toward Prince Edward Island.

As someone who has done news and sports on radio, I can appreciate someone who can do both jobs rather well, and Rainnie certainly belongs in that category.

Written by democracysoup

May 5, 2015 at 10:15 am

Posted in Canada

Tagged with ,

Seeing Canada’s Governor General in person

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This column courtesy of runs here with complete permission.


Canada’s Governor General David Johnston spoke of a “diplomacy of knowledge” between Canada and the United States, to work across disciplines with different yet complementary attributes across relationships.

Johnston, despite being the Governor General of Canada, does have experience observing the United States. Johnston grew up in Sault Ste, Marie, Canada — just across the border from its fraternal twin, Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan. He went to Harvard for his undergraduate degree.

Johnston’s speech in Chicago was the first time in about 100 years that a governor general visited the city. This despite the fact that Illinois is the second-strongest trading partner among U.S. states only behind Michigan.

He talked about what it was like to grow up next to the United States. Johnston noted the “most special relationship in the world” between the two countries, despite the issues and tensions.

Johnston eagerly quoted from President Kennedy’s speech before the Canadian Parliament in 1961 when Kennedy said, “Geography has made us neighbors. History has made us friends. Economics has made us partners. And necessity has made us allies.”

I asked Johnston about the idea of portability of people across borders, such as they do in the European Union, and bringing that idea to North America.

Johnston likes the idea and would do it in stages, using NAFTA as a framework to get that done. “Intellectual capital should flow more easily” between the two countries.

He noted that products can have 68 passages across the borders before the product is finished.

“Cherish our teachers” — this is how Johnston described what makes Canadian education distinct. He noted that teachers are well-paid in Canada and how teachers are respected.

Johnston said if it were up to him, Canadians would spend a year abroad to develop intercultural relationships.

When asked about Canada’s role on the international stage, Johnston said Canada should be Athens to the new Romans, meaning that Canada should be known for education around the world.

He did note, and his Harvard experience is only an example, that the United States has the majority of the top universities in the world.

The discussion also covered free trade. Johnston brought up the Trans Pacific Partnership and Canada’s recent trade deal with the European Union.

He also talked about NAFTA and how, as North Americans, we need to look 3 ways in the trade discussion.

Johnston says he is in favor of free trade but with fair rules. Societies have prospered with trade over the years, he noted.

The words Keystone and pipeline were not used, but Johnston tossed out the question about “what if the U.S. got all of its oil from North America?”

Johnston gave a speech followed by a Q&A. He talked about lighter topics such as growing up in Sault Ste. Marie and playing on a 17-and-under team with Phil Esposito and a 14-year-old backup goalie named Tony Esposito. Johnston played hockey at Harvard.

The role of the governor general is an intriguing one to someone who is still learning about Canada. People rose when Johnston entered the room but when he was speaking, he was very down to earth.

Governor General David Johnston is the head of state in charge of the military in Canada. Yet he’s also not a politician or a king. Johnston’s stint as governor general was recently extended by 2 years in great part to show consistency during what should be a significant federal election.

I got a chance to tour Rideau Hall — the home of the Governor General — last summer in Ottawa. But an even better way to learn about the governor general and its role in Canada is to hear the Governor General give a speech.

photo credit: me

Is Harper Government playing politics with 2-year Governor General extension?

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This column courtesy of runs here with complete permission.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has extended David Johnston’s tenure as Governor General of Canada for an additional 2 years.

Though the Governor General technically represents the Queen in Canada, how long the Governor General serves depends on the prime minister.

The Governor General usually serves about 5 years in the role in Canada. Johnston has been in the role since October 1, 2010.

The end of a 5-year term would come right around the federal election, provided that election is on time. Extending the term is not the surprise; extending the term by 2 years is the surprise.

Roland Michener was the last Governor General to serve as many as 7 years (1967-1974), though a few have served 6 years. Michaëlle Jean, Johnston’s predecessor, served 5 years and 4 days. Adrienne Clarkson, Jean’s predecessor, served about 10 days short of 6 years.

Jean was appointed by Paul Martin in 2005, so Johnston has been Harper’s only pick. Jean was helpful to Harper in 2008 when she prorogued Parliament, ensuring that the Conservatives would remain in power.

We were told in the announcement last week that the extension was also to cover Canada’s 150th anniversary celebrations in 2017. Plausible, but the real impact will be serving through the next election and beyond, no matter which party wins the election.

The fixed election date that Harper and the Conservatives pushed through is designed to call for an election every 5 years. The Governor General’s term lasts 5 years, so the 2-year extension would change the timing so that the two don’t collide.

If Justin Trudeau or Thomas Mulcair is the new prime minister, they will end up with a Governor General they didn’t pick for 2 years.

The presumption for Harper’s decision — besides him making the decision and not the Queen — is that the announcement implies that Harper will win in October … or September or August.

Every politician thinks they will win an election; acting as if that is guaranteed to happen comes across as pompous.

Of course, Johnston’s 2-year extension is subject to change if someone other than Harper wins this year, though expect Johnston to remain for a few months at absolute minimum.

Canadian-born Ted Cruz to run for U.S. president

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This column courtesy of runs here with complete permission.


By every interpretation of “natural-born citizen” in the United States Constitution, Ted Cruz is not eligible to run for President of the United States. Yet the junior senator from Texas will announce his presidential run for 2016 later today.

Ted Cruz was born in Calgary, Alberta in 1970 and lived in Canada for his first 4 years.

Though Cruz did not have to do so, he eventually renounced his Canadian citizenship. Cruz’s father is Cuban; Cruz has not renounced any ties to Cuba because of the status of his birth.

The argument for Cruz is that because his mother is American, Cruz is a “natural-born” citizen. The only problem is that we don’t know if that is allowed.

The intriguing subplot to this story is that the Tea Party, the source of a lot of Cruz’s support, offered up a theory that a person born to a foreign-born father and an American mother outside the United States is not eligible to be president.

They claimed this was true for President Barack Obama without offering a shred of proof. All but a tiny percentage have been quiet on this point of order about Cruz.

Now that Cruz will be a presidential candidate, the media should ask him about his words about why he didn’t want to be a Canadian citizen. If Cruz gets elected, he’ll be the first president who was a Canadian citizen and lived in Canada. President Cruz will have to work a lot with Canada on numerous trade and security issues. Yet you get the feeling that I know more about Canada than Senator Cruz.

In reality, Cruz has less of a chance of winning the 2016 GOP nomination than George Romney did in 1968. Romney was born and raised in Mexico and is a child of U.S. citizens.

Ted Cruz can be prime minister of Canada, even if he wasn’t born in Canada. But until they changed the rules, he can’t be president of the United States.

photo illustration by: Gage Skidmore / Todd Wiseman


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