Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Romney Beats Santorum in Michigan. Both Sore Losers

Rick Santorum didn't win in Michigan yesterday.  That's the good news. The bad news is that Mitt Romney did.  In a better world, the vote would have been for "Noton Yourlife", but we've come to accept that even those destined to be harmed the most by that bunch will vote for the one who promises to hurt them hard enough to leave scars.

Because Michigan is an open primary state, there was a push by certain of the left to make it a win for Santorum.  The reasoning was that his relentless, escalating, off-the-wall, on-the-pulpit rantings would finally do him in and, come November, nobody in their right mind would vote for him.  With Santorum in the race Obama would handily claim the prize. 

Obviously, they haven't been paying attention.  It doesn't matter who wins in Michigan or anywhere else.  Big Money is going to back the Republican nominee and since it's worked so well for them all these long ages, they'll pay big to keep the hate machine going.

The hate machine is all the Right Wing has left.  It's what fuels their desperate efforts to make the country in their own image and they've been at it for so long they're not about to give up now. This is their moment.  They're on the verge of complete control.  They've already taken over states like Michigan, Wisconsin, Ohio, Arizona, Virginia--and who knows how many more would fall if they could finally eliminate or at least emasculate the federal government?  What a coup!  And all done legally, without a single shot fired.  It could all happen in the voting booth.  The United States could be the first sovereign nation in the world to vote themselves out of existence.

In his Wasn't-I-Great-in-Michigan? concession speech last night Santorum repeated the same old stuff:  I'll keep hating on Obama, I'll repeal that crazy health care act, I'll make sure we can pray and preach anywhere we want to, I'll. . .I'll. . .okay, goodnight, then.

In his We didn't win by as much as I would have liked but dammit we won acceptance speech, Romney promised to keep on hating on Obama, to repeal Obamacare, to lower the taxes on business, and to run the country as any good cost-cutting CEO looking out for his best buds would do.

To say that each of them lied through their teeth is to repeat the obvious.  Over the days and weeks we'll keep harping on the lies, blathering on about what lying liars they are, as if pointing out the truth is some sort of weapon.   Pea-shooters against Goliath.

We're in for a long fight.  November is a long way off.  But history will never be able to record that Rick Santorum won the Republican primary in my beautiful state of Michigan.   That's my energizer this morning.

At Peace


Friday, February 24, 2012

No Politics Today. Fun and Games (for me) and Biz Bizness Otherwise

The grandkids are visiting and have been here for almost a week, so any attempts at writing even a semi-serious blog have been totally wasted efforts.  I would much rather be with my darlings anyway, but in order to keep my standing as a weekly blog columnist (something only I, apparently, care about) I pulled this out of the cyber-drawer where it's been sitting for a while.  If you weren't expecting much, this should do it for you.  I'm off now.  See you soon.

 There's no Bizness like Biz Bizness

Nothing earth-shaking here. Just wanted to share an advertising grab I'm finding even odder than most. Went looking for Biz Stain Fighter the other day and it wasn't easy to find. Three stores later I finally found a box sitting alone way back on a shelf. I'm trying to clean the rust stains from some old linen and lace pieces and people who do this sort of thing recommended Biz. I was busy reading the directions, and wasn't paying much attention to what else was on the box, so I didn't fully comprehend the words in the big yellow band right away. Then I did.

I haven't tried it yet, so this is neither a recommendation nor a condemnation of the product inside. The truth is, I can't get past that box.

"25% more than 30 oz." Did I save money by buying this size? It doesn't say that. It's simply a statement, and not even a complete one. So what am I supposed to do with that information? It's things like this that drive me crazy. I don't get along well with numbers anyway, and I've always hated story problems, so it could be there's an important message here that I'm just missing.

If I were into whimsy (and I'm not saying I'm not) I might imagine that lonely box sitting way back on that dark shelf getting pretty bored. It might resort to doodling or playing number games, and maybe it got caught in the middle of one.

Or maybe it was something less whimsical and more likely: Maybe the marketing team was brainstorming and someone came up with this lame attempt at drawing customers to their product. Maybe they even went so far as to produce a prototype before someone said, "That doesn't even make sense". But maybe it was too late, and some of the boxes actually got to the assembly line and onto the pallets and made it to the store shelves, where they just sat there, unnoticed, because apparently nobody really buys Biz anyway.

Whatever it is, I had to get this out. Now I can get on with my day. If it's going to drive you crazy too, I'm sorry. If it makes sense to you, if you get what they're going for, you're way too smart to be wasting your time reading this page. (But maybe you could take a minute to explain it.  In private, so I don't look like such an idiot.)

(Cross-posted at dagblog, where they like to think they have more important things to do.)

Friday, February 17, 2012

Thank you, Cal Thomas. Mighty Big of You

I can't think of a time when I've ever agreed with Cal Thomas.  I confess I don't seek him out, but when I see him on an occasional Op-Ed page I'll read him just to see what he's going to say that's going to infuriate me.  I'm rarely disappointed.

So as he sat on a panel at this year's CPAC and said what he said about Rachel Maddow, I wasn't shocked.  He was at CPAC with his own peeps. It was cool.

From the Huffington Post:
During a panel at the conference, a clip of Maddow's appearance on Sunday's "Meet the Press" was played. In it, Maddow said that Republicans are "waging war on contraception."
"I'm really glad...that you played the Rachel Maddow clip," Thomas said after the audience booed a bit, "because I think that she is the best argument in favor of her parents using contraception." As the audience cheered, he continued, "I would be all for that and all the rest of the crowd at MSNBC too for that matter."
It did seem a little odd for a Pro-Life guy to be sort of wishing someone hadn't been born, but he was at CPAC, and it appears to be a whole different world in there.  But, as one might expect, it created a bit of a flap.  It didn't seem like such a much to me.  All kinds of goofy things came out of CPAC 2012 and were being reported hour by hour.  This was actually one of the milder ones.  But it took a new turn when fellow Conservative Greta van Susteren said publicly that Thomas owed Maddow an apology.  (Her commenters obviously didn't agree. Oy. And vey.)

Then last week Rachel announced that Cal Thomas had called her to apologize.  She told her audience, "I completely believe his apology.  I completely accept his apology."  Good.  Classy.

And that was that.  Until today, when I saw a column by Cal Thomas on the Op-Ed page with the headline, "Rachel Maddow and Civility".  I fully expected a diatribe against Rachel, even after his apology to her, but what I read may be the most sincere abject apology I've ever seen in my life.  That it came from a man who some people, including me, considered a tight-assed Right Wing hack, made it all the more amazing. [Note:  The full title of Thomas's piece is "Rachel maddow and my lesson in Civility" but our paper shortened the title to "Rachel Maddow and Civility" so that it could be read as something entirely different.]

He talked about that day when he sat on the panel and watched a projection of a Rachel Maddow Show clip as she talked about the Catholic contraception controversy.  He did not and cannot deny that he said what he said: "I think she's the best argument in favor of her parents using contraception." 

In his column he wrote, "I was asked to be on a panel before what looked like a crowd of about 1,000 conservatives, hungry for "red meat."  He wrote that he "stupidly" said what he said "before thinking".

I'm reading between the lines here but what I'm getting is that a man like Cal Thomas, who began his column with, "When one writes about moral convictions, it's probably a good idea to consistently live up to them," could kick himself for ever getting involved with that CPAC crowd in the first place.  (It'll be interesting to see where he goes from here.)

He writes that since the flap he has watched a couple of Rachel's shows:
"Without engaging in any qualifiers, she is a strong and competent advocate for her position.  Why do so many of us only watch programs that reinforce what we already believe?  Where is the growth in that?  Whatever else she may or may not be, she is my fellow American.

I have many liberal friends acquired over the years.  They are impossible to avoid in the media, but I don't wish to avoid them.  They became my friends because I stopped seeing them as labels and began seeing them as persons with innate worth.  That is what I failed to do in my first response to Rachel Maddow. . .

. . .I expect to like Rachel Maddow because my instinct is to separate the value of a person from his or her political position.  For some strange reason (demon possession, perhaps) I failed to do that at CPAC."

Bravo, Mr. Thomas.  You will lose friends and followers over this, and it will probably be no comfort to you that I, as a liberal, completely believe your apology and appreciate what you've done here.  But none of that is important.  What is important is that the next morning you felt bad about what you had done and you "called Ms. Maddow to apologize. It wasn't one of those meaningless 'if I've offended anyone...' apologies; it was hearfelt."

And by doing that and writing about it publicly you've opened the doors for all of us to remember something we so easily forget when we're in the midst of doing battle with the people on "the other side":  Whatever else we may or may not be, we are fellow Americans.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Women of GOP Land: What do you see in those men?

Hello, women of the Republican Party:  Democratic female of the liberal persuasion here. I know it looks like we couldn't be any farther apart when it comes to ideology, but I know us. I know when it comes to the big issues--our futures and the well-being of the ones we love--we're sisters under the skin.

We should talk. I mean really talk. I don't mean the usual chit-chat, the talk about kids and work and what's for dinner. I mean about politics. When we're together we do everything we can to side-step the issue and it does keep us friendly, but you must have noticed that the upcoming presidential election is becoming the bull elephant in the room.
I know you won't want to hear this, and I hear you when you tell me it's none of my business, but for a couple of weeks now I've been especially worried about where you're going with the men in your life. It strikes not just me but a lot of us that the relationship is becoming, well--abusive.

At the moment these four men--Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul--are vying for your affections and from where I sit no matter which one you choose it'll be bad news for you. And, okay, if any one of them wins, it'll be bad for me too. But it's you who has to take control of the situation. When any one of the four tells you he's going to work hard to take away a woman's right to free birth control it's really disheartening for the rest of us to have to watch you applaud and cheer, as if he is God's gift and aren't you lucky to have him?

At least one of them, Rick Santorum (father of seven, no surprise) doesn't believe in birth control in any form. He says birth control can actually be "harmful to women", suggesting that it promotes sex outside of procreation, which apparently, even for those of us not still living in Medieval times, is a bad thing:

  "One of the things I will talk about, that no president has talked about before, is I think the dangers of contraception in this country.... Many of the Christian faith have said, well, that's okay, contraception is okay. It's not okay. It's a license to do things in a sexual realm that is counter to how things are supposed to be."

He blames "radical feminists" for taking women out of the home and into the workplace, yet he's done nothing to help improve the economy enough so that women who want to stay home can stay home. In his book, "It Takes a Family: Conservatism and the Common Good," written in 2005, he wrote: "Sadly the propaganda campaign launched in the 1960s has taken root. The radical feminists succeeded in undermining the traditional family and convincing women that professional accomplishments are the key to happiness."

Ron Paul, a former OB/GYN and a Libertarian to boot, said, “Forcing private religious institutions to pay for contraception and sterilization as part of their health care plans is a direct assault on the First Amendment’s guarantee of religious liberty. On my first day as President, I will reverse this policy.”

Sexual harassment in the workplace?  No problem, women. Dr. Paul says just quit:
'Employee rights are said to be valid when employers pressure employees into sexual activity. Why don’t they quit once the so-called harassment starts? Obviously the morals of the harasser cannot be defended, but how can the harassee escape some responsibility for the problem? Seeking protection under civil rights legislation is hardly acceptable."
Newt Gingrich believes strongly in a Personhood Amendment that says life begins at conception--a loony view with ramifications for everything from the Morning After pill to in vitro fertilization. In his bid to destroy Planned Parenthood he lied when he said the organization's main thrust was performing abortions. He went so far as to pull a fantastical number out of the air--90% of all services were abortions--when the truer number is three percent out of nearly 5 million visits a year.  In truth, only 34 percent of visits to Planned Parenthood are for reproductive services.

Mitt Romney wants to cut off contraceptive services at Community Centers as well, and if he had his druthers he would kill Planned Parenthood entirely. Even after all the evidence to the contrary, he is still trying to convince you that nothing good comes out of Planned Parenthood, when we all know that in so many communities they've become an essential health care lifeline, not just for women of reproductive age, but for men and women of all ages.

My question is, what is it you see in those men?  When you're out there applauding and encouraging men who want to take womanhood back to the status forced on us even as late as the middle of the 20th century, does it bother you even a little bit that you're egging them on, knowing--because they've told you in every way possible--they want to own every little piece of you?

(Cross-posted at dagblog, where the men outnumber us but they never try to outsmart us)

Friday, February 10, 2012

About that Contraceptive Controversy: If it's phony and you know it, clap your hands

 (Breaking news:  President Obama just moments ago provided a brilliant compromise to the contraceptive controversy, as I mention at the end of this piece.  I wrote this before he made the announcement, but the arguments still hold and they bear remembering.  These are the kinds of battles we'll go on fighting, and a major victory such as today's doesn't mean the war is over.  Not by a long shot.) 

So today let's take a look at what some of the good people are saying about this whole Catholic Bishop's Contra Con -- that huffy-puffy outrage over a mandate forcing insurance providers to cover contraceptives for free in every workplace, including Catholic-owned institutions that hire non-Catholics and receive outside funding.  Those places that are not churches. Those places that already offer prescription birth control drug coverage, but with the usual prescription co-pays. 

John Aravosis at Americablog caught the paragraph in USA Today that clearly shows their real motive.  It is to remove all coverage of all contraceptives:  (Thank you, John, and the others who caught it and are emphasizing it.  This may be the most important revelation in this whole phony story.)
That was no consolation to Catholic leaders. The White House is "all talk, no action" on moving toward compromise, said Anthony Picarello, general counsel for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. "There has been a lot of talk in the last couple days about compromise, but it sounds to us like a way to turn down the heat, to placate people without doing anything in particular," Picarello said. "We're not going to do anything until this is fixed."

That means removing the provision from the health care law altogether, he said, not simply changing it for Catholic employers and their insurers. He cited the problem that would create for "good Catholic business people who can't in good conscience cooperate with this."

"If I quit this job and opened a Taco Bell, I'd be covered by the mandate," Picarello said.

Sarah Seltzer, in a great AlterNet piece called, "How Zealous Clergy and Their Media Enablers are Manufacturing a Controversy over Birth Control", repeated a startling quote from 2010:
"I don't want to overstate or understate our level of concern," said McQuade, the Catholic bishops' spokesperson. "We consider [birth control] an elective drug. Married women can practice periodic abstinence. Other women can abstain altogether. Not having sex doesn't make you sick."
(Can't you just see millions of men, Catholic and non-Catholic alike, going, "Hey, man, what are you doing?  Shut up!  Just shut UP!")

Kevin Drum at Mother Jones writes about his early ambivalence in "Why I'm feeling so Hard-Nosed over the Contraception Affair": 
". . .I simply don't believe that the religious objection here is nearly as strong as critics are making it out to be. As I've mentioned before, even the vast majority of Catholics don't believe that contraception is immoral. Only the formal church hierarchy does. What's more, as my colleague Nick Baumann points out, federal regulations have required religious hospitals and universities to offer health care plans that cover contraception for over a decade. (The fact that some such employers don't cover birth control is mostly the result of lax enforcement.)"

In a New York Times piece,Gail Collins, starting with a devastating admission by her mother-in-law, writes eloquently about the need for this to be a right for all women: 
We are arguing about whether women who do not agree with the church position, or who are often not even Catholic, should be denied health care coverage that everyone else gets because their employer has a religious objection to it. If so, what happens if an employer belongs to a religion that forbids certain types of blood transfusions? Or disapproves of any medical intervention to interfere with the working of God on the human body?

Organized religion thrives in this country, so the system we’ve worked out seems to be serving it pretty well. Religions don’t get to force their particular dogma on the larger public. The government, in return, protects the right of every religion to make its case heard.

Leah Berkenwald at MsBlog writes about John Boehner's promise to kill it all if the president doesn't back down:
This morning, House Speaker John Boehner vowed in a House floor speech to overturn the provision in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) that would require faith-affiliated hospitals and universities to include birth-control coverage in their employee health benefits. The provision, Boehner argued, “constitutes an unambiguous attack on religious freedom in our country.”

Igor Volsky at ThinkProgress follows Rick Santorum as he leaps at the chance to demagogue the "Religious freedom" argument:
 SANTORUM: They are taking faith and crushing it. Why? Why? When you marginalize faith in America, when you remove the pillar of God-given rights, then what’s left is the French Revolution. What’s left is the government that gives you right, what’s left are no unalienable rights, what’s left is a government that will tell you who you are, what you’ll do and when you’ll do it. What’s left in France became the guillotine. Ladies and gentlemen, we’re a long way from that, but if we do and follow the path of President Obama and his overt hostility to faith in America, then we are headed down that road.
You can watch him in action here.
David Boies talks about the constitutionality on "the Last Word":
"There isn't a constitutional issue involved in this case," he told MSNBC's Lawrence O'Donnell on Wednesday. "You don't exempt religious employers just because of their religion. You are not asking anybody in the Catholic church or any other church to do anything other than simply comply with a normal law that every employer has to comply with."

Steve Benen, in a MaddowBlog piece called "It's about Contraception, not Religion", reminds us again why Rick Santorum should never, ever become president: 
Rick Santorum argued several months ago, "One of the things I will talk about, that no president has talked about before, is I think the dangers of contraception in this country.... Many of the Christian faith have said, 'Well, that's okay, contraception is okay.' It's not okay. It's a license to do things in a sexual realm that is counter to how things are supposed to be."

  Thank you to Jean Shaheen, Barbara Boxer and Patty Murray, good women of Congress, for spelling out why this mandate makes sense.  And to the Wall Street Journal for publishing their message.
Those now attacking the new health-coverage requirement claim it is an assault on religious liberty, but the opposite is true. Religious freedom means that Catholic women who want to follow their church's doctrine can do so, avoiding the use of contraception in any form. But the millions of American women who choose to use contraception should not be forced to follow religious doctrine, whether Catholic or non-Catholic.

Catholic hospitals and charities are woven into the fabric of our broader society. They serve the public, receive government funds, and get special tax benefits. We have a long history of asking these institutions to play by the same rules as all our other public institutions.

So let's remember who this controversy is really about—the women of America. Already too many women struggle to pay for birth control. According to the Hart Research survey cited above, more than one-third of women have reported having difficulty affording birth control. It can cost $600 a year for prescription contraceptives. That's a lot of money for a mother working as a medical technician in a Catholic hospital, or a teacher in a private religious school.
 In a move to bring some reason to this argument, 24 religious leaders; Christians, Jews, Muslims, signed a letter declaring solidarity with President Obama and the HHS:
"We stand with President Obama and Secretary Sebelius in their decision to reaffirm the importance of contraceptive services as essential preventive care for women under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, and to assure access under the law to American women, regardless of religious affiliation. We respect individuals’ moral agency to make decisions about their sexuality and reproductive health without governmental interference or legal restrictions. We do not believe that specific religious doctrine belongs in health care reform – as we value our nation’s commitment to church-state separation. We believe that women and men have the right to decide whether or not to apply the principles of their faith to family planning decisions, and to do so they must have access to services. The Administration was correct in requiring institutions that do not have purely sectarian goals to offer comprehensive preventive health care. Our leaders have the responsibility to safeguard individual religious liberty and to help improve the health of women, their children, and families. Hospitals and universities across the religious spectrum have an obligation to assure that individuals’ conscience and decisions are respected and that their students and employees have access to this basic health care service.  We invite other religious leaders to speak out with us for universal coverage of contraception."
This is just a sample of the arguments for a look beyond religious objections to birth control for women.  They are the arguments that caused President Obama, just moments ago, to spell out the brilliant, elegant compromise that should address the concerns of both sides.  Any religious institution that finds objection to providing their female employees with an insurance policy that covers birth control can now opt out of paying for it.  But thanks to Barack Obama and his administration, women in America will no longer have to worry about how they'll pay for contraceptives.  They will be free to any woman who needs them.

  So let the politicizing begin --  the mewing of kittens against a lion's roar.  This is not a religious issue, it's not an Obama issue, it's not simply a women's issue.  It's a human rights issue, and what's at stake is the real definition of freedom.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

The Catholic Contraceptive Controversy: Where's the Health Care Part?

Effective August 1, thanks to a provision in the Affordable Care Act, most working women will have their contraceptives fully paid for, without a co-pay. That's the good news. The bad news (you knew there had to be bad news, right?) is that the unenlightened among us see it as nothing more than an unconscionable threat against virile manhood.  Especially Catholic virile manhood.

The U.S Conference of Catholic Bishops, all male at last count, have decided amongst themselves that they will not be pushed into reversing their age-old hoo-haw laws forcing Catholic women to have as many babies as their wholly-owned bodies can produce. (The laugh's on them:  Most Catholic women use artificial birth control.  The Guttmacher Institute says it's as high as 98%.)  When was the last time you heard a Catholic woman talking about the rhythm method, except to marvel at how crazy that whole notion was?

Cardinal-designate Timothy Dolan, president of the USCCB, sharply criticized the decision by the Obama administration in which it "ordered almost every employer and insurer in the country to provide sterilization and contraceptives, including some abortion-inducing drugs, in their health plans....Never before has the federal government forced individuals and organizations to go out into the marketplace and buy a product that violates their conscience. This shouldn't happen in a land where free exercise of religion ranks first in the Bill of Rights."

We're talking about birth control here.  We're talking about a woman's right to choose when the time is right to carry and bear a child.  This is not baby-killing, it's responsibly managing an event as life-changing as it's ever going to get.  It's the smart, sane way of controlling the use of our own bodies and, oh, by the way, preventing the birth of unwanted children.

We're talking about birth control products already approved and already a part of most insurance policies. The only mandate is that insurance providers will now be required to provide those products without additional cost to all women who want to use them.  The mandate isn't for the use, it's for the availability and the cost.

This is a manufactured Right wing controversy designed to kill yet another positive outcome of "Obamacare", and the Catholic Bishops are more than happy to become the spark that creates yet another phony firestorm.

Mitt Romney, Republican candidate for President and a Mormon who, until now, apparently had no problem with that particular provision in the Affordable Care Act, has jumped on the bandwagon and is now on the side of the Catholic Bishops, taking this grand opportunity to rail against his opponent, Barack Obama. about an issue he clearly doesn't even begin to understand:

"I’m just distressed as I watch our president try and infringe upon our rights, the First Amendment of the Constitution provides the right to worship in the way of our own choice,” Romney said to nearly 3,000 people gathered in the gymnasium of Arapahoe High School, in Arapahoe County, an area known as a so-called “swing county” that Obama won in 2008.

“This same administration said that the churches and the institutions they run, such as schools and let’s say adoption agencies, hospitals, that they have to provide for their employees free of charge, contraceptives, morning after pills, in other words abortive pills, and the like at no cost,” Romney said. “Think what that does to people in faiths that do not share those views. This is a violation of conscience.

“We must have a president who is willing to protect America’s first right, our right to worship God according to the dictates of our own conscience,” he said.
 In addition to Romney, two other manly men candidates for Obama's job, Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich, are outraged that women should be able to get free birth control. (It only adds to their outrage that women should have the audacity to think they can control their own bodies):

Andrea Saul, a spokeswoman for Mitt Romney, said in an e-mail that he regarded the administration’s rule requiring religious employers to furnish birth control as wrong. “This is a direct attack on religious liberty and will not stand in a Romney presidency,” she said. Mr. Romney has also pledged to end a federal program, Title X, that provides family planning services to millions of women

Mr. Santorum has taken the position that health insurance plans should not be required to cover birth control. He also favors allowing states to decide whether to ban birth control. He and Mr. Gingrich both support “personhood” initiatives that would legally declare fertilized eggs to be persons, effectively banning not just all abortions but also certain contraceptives, including IUDs and some types of birth control pills. 

Mr. Gingrich wants to withdraw government money from Planned Parenthood because it performs abortions in addition to providing contraceptives, though the federal money cannot be used for abortion.
A lie dressed in Pink

I wonder how they feel about Viagra and other male enhancement "medications"? Say there was a group who believed with their whole entire hearts that workplace insurance coverage of male sex tool enhancement was not only outside any notion of "health care", it was maybe even "unconscionable".  Should that group be exempt from providing it?

And if those bishops had wombs would they be open to letting someone else tell them what they could do with them?  (It's a rhetorical question.  No, they wouldn't be open to letting someone else tell them anything.)

Addendum:  Catholic hospitals and universities already provide contraceptive coverage:  Here it is.  What's their excuse now?