Erasing Your Heritage?

July 4, 2015

In which I answer someone who thinks changing the name of Nathan Bedford Forrest State Park will get rid of his heritage, and that no such outrageous thing has ever been done before.


America Needs a 12-Step Program

June 18, 2015

I finally understand why we aren’t making any progress on race relations – it’s because we’re in the grips of an addict’s denial.


Distracting Tim Hunt

June 15, 2015

My response to the Tim Hunt debacle….


Pleased to Meet You, Hope You’ve Guessed My Name

February 3, 2015

The closer I look at the right wing media and politicians, the more I believe their end game really is Dickensian squalor. They clearly long for the days when industry was unregulated, and the poor were numerous, expendable, and powerless. But they’ve finally stumped me. Today, Rand Paul (M.D) claimed, I’ve heard of many tragic cases of walking, talking, normal children who wound up with profound mental disorders [!] after vaccines.” Glenn Beck comes out against vaccines because he’s “done [his] homework,” AND compares the backlash against the anti-vaxxers to the persecution of Galileo by the Church(!!).  A doctor (!!!) appearing on Hannity asserted that “No one gives their kids all the scheduled vaccines.”

So here’s my question: WHY? Why are they making THIS a right wing talking point – and it absolutely IS one. This kind of coordinated messaging – from Chris Christie to Rand Paul to pundits and their guests – doesn’t happen by accident. But why? Why are they going beyond the laissez-faire “parents should control medical decisions regarding their children” and straight for “Measles is no big deal and no one vaccinates and PROFOUND MENTAL DISORDERS, I’ve done my homework!” INSANITY? Why are they suddenly *actively trying* to convince people that vaccines aren’t to be trusted?


I’ve assumed all along that their motivations are always greed, a racist hatred of our president, and a fear of long term progressive gains (see above, re: greed). They’ve convinced the working poor to vote against their interests, they’ve brainwashed labor into being anti-union. They’ve monopolized wealth in ways that would make the robber-barons of old blush. They’ve done everything they can to keep gender equality out of reach. They’ve militarized police, made inner cities war zones, and created a cult of worshipping “Our Troops,” while completely neglecting the men and women of the military. But in each one of these horrific cases, I’ve understood WHY. Greed. The constant need to have all money find its way to the pockets of the hyper-wealthy. But how does anti-vaxxing feed that beast? Does Halliburton have a patent on measles meds it hasn’t been able to capitalize upon? Or is disease just another way of sowing discontent and distrust as a way of keeping progressive change at bay? Is the idea that a sick and divided populace won’t work for change? I honestly don’t know. But this ain’t right, and it isn’t happening by accident. The embrace of anti-vaxxerism by the right is part of a plan, I’m sure of it. But what’s puzzling me is the nature of their game….


Taco & Beer Challenge

September 19, 2014

I’m hoping I can get back into blogging; fingers crossed. In the meantime, I made this:


The louder we scream…

July 25, 2013

“Women, it is now acknowledged, have the talent, capacity, and right ‘to participate equally in the economic and social life of the Nation.’ Their ability to realize their full potential, the Court recognized, is intimately connected to ‘their ability to control their reproductive lives.’ Thus, legal challenges to undue restrictions on abortion procedures do not seek to vindicate some generalized notion of privacy; rather, they center on a woman’s autonomy to determine her life’s course, and thus to enjoy equal citizenship stature.”

Gonzales v. Carhart, 550 U.S. 124, 171-72 (2007) (Ginsburg, J., dissenting) (citations omitted). via Notorious R.B.G.

I’ve been working on this post for almost three weeks. Given that maybe five people will read it, it’s ridiculous how long I’ve worked at this, how often I’ve rewritten, and added, and edited this post. It was supposed to be a drive-by video post, just to keep the momentum going, but it kept growing. In the meantime I’ve gone on vacation, and states keep messing with their abortion laws, and the nation’s eyes have shifted to the Zimmerman trial, Prince George, and Carlos Danger… But I still have to say this. I finally realized that I need to stop being fuzzy about abortion, need to move out of the paralysis of the Catholic feminist and figure out what exactly I stand for, and what I stand against, and why.

It’s not easy puzzling through this, fighting through the pleasant haze of moral superiority and liberal smugness to try to articulate a position. For years I’ve stayed hazily feminist on wages and birth control and lookism and patronizing bullshit, but kept dancing around abortion rights. Something changed. I have been radicalized.

The 19th amendment is less than 100 years old. The idea that women were really – honestly! – considered incapable of being trusted with the vote is staggering. Really? People walked around thinking that men were actually objectively better, more competent, superior to women? And this went on for millennia? How the hell did anybody get laid thinking like that, how did the species survive? What I’ve realized in recent weeks, though, is that there are a lot – a lot – of lawmakers in this country who actually believe that women cannot be trusted to manage their own affairs, and that they, the dysfunctional old men of state legislatures, are objectively better at it. It started, of course, with the revelation that Rick Perry thinks he understands more about Wendy Davis’s own damn life than she does. And it’s been snowballing ever since.

Perry tampon

Let’s be clear: I find abortion appalling. It is a decision to end a life, there’s really no two ways about it. It is not defensible as a primary form of birth control, it is not the same as pulling a tooth or having your appendix out. But as a woman, and a relatively thoughtful person, I find attempts to criminalize abortion equally appalling. As soon as I start imagining scenarios, I see a million shades of gray – victims of abuse and assault, cases where the mother’s life is in danger, cases where the mother truly cannot provide for another child, cases where the child would be born with severe deformities, cases where birth control was not available, or where the available birth control failed. Even in those cases where I cannot see the difficulty in bearing the child, I realize that is only because I am not in that woman’s head, and I have no right to be in her head…. And if that’s true, then obviously I cannot make those decisions for other women. There is absolutely no one-size-fits-all, bright-line governmental solution that can possibly be fair or equitable or right. We have to trust the individual women to make the right choices for their own circumstances.

I’m sick to death of zero-sum arguments. I have no more patience for my far-left friends – who jeer that a 20-week abortion ban might just as well criminalize masturbation, because Every Sperm is Sacred, Right? – than for those on the far-right who will always side with the “innocent” fetus over the icky, complicated grown woman. So, for the record: I believe “life” begins at conception, “pregnancy” begins at implantation, but “personhood” – in the legal and moral sense – can only begin when the fetus is viable, capable of living outside the womb. As it ends up, this isn’t far from where they Supreme Court landed in Roe v. Wade.

There is a little girl in Chile, 11 years old. After being raped by her mother’s boyfriend for two years (since she was nine), she is now pregnant, in a country that simply does not allow abortions. Not for rape victims, or incest victims, or in cases where the pregnancy seriously endangers the mother’s life … and not even when, as here, one little girl’s pregnancy is all three.* That little girl will likely die – as will her rapist’s child. How is this right? How is this even open to debate?  No matter how much the far right sneer that most abortions aren’t women in such dire circumstances, those circumstances do happen. And when you pass laws that result in all, or almost all, abortion providers closing, then there is no abortion available to anyone, not even that little girl – nor for the woman whose fetus dies in the womb. Nor for the adult mother of 4, who’s hemorrhaging and going to die.

Ah, you say, we’re nowhere near Chile’s ban on any and all abortions. Really? 22 states** already have some kind of ultrasound requirement before a woman can get an abortion (a clear violation of a patient’s right to refuse a procedure, and a serious ethical problem for doctors). In 12 of those states, the law explicitly mandates that there can be no abortion without the ultrasound, and five (including Wisconsin, as of a couple of weeks ago), the doctor must display and describe the image in detail (though in two of those states, the law is not in force because of court challenges). In North Dakota, a federal judge just struck down a ban on any abortion after the heartbeat is detectable by transvaginal ultrasound, as early as six weeks.*** Arkansas bans abortions at 12 weeks. South Dakota has a mandatory 72 hour waiting period – excluding weekends and holidays – and requires women to attend faith-based anti-abortion counseling (this second measure is suspended pending litigation). In Ohio, abortion providers need hospital admitting privileges and public hospitals are prevented from granting abortion providers admitting privileges. Good luck getting privileges at St. Thomas! Virginia, Texas, and several other states are forcing clinics to close by requiring them to meet the standards for ambulatory surgery centers. The depressing list goes on and on (see Salon’s excellent article The 10 Most Dangerous Places to be a Woman in America). And of course Texas is now debating its own six week abortion ban. Six weeks! Many women have no idea they are pregnant at six weeks. On the national front, Rand Paul has introduced a federal fetal personhood bill that would ban all abortions. All. No input or consideration for the mother’s personhood at all – for her health, or the circumstances under which she became pregnant. Welcome to Chile.


For all the legislators’ mock piety, none of this – NONE – has anything to do with reducing the number of abortions or fostering a “culture of life.” There is no effort to do those things that actually work – like providing access to effective, long-term birth control (IUDs and implants), which has (quelle surprise!) been proven to dramatically reduce abortion rates even among women who’d previously had abortions. There’s been no push to ensure that all schools provide students with basic, fact-based sex ed that includes information about birth control.**** And if this were about a “culture of life,” those lawmakers would be guaranteeing health care and child care, shoring up Head Start, and expanding food stamps – instead of doing the exact opposite, every time. There are so, so many things government can do to cut the number of abortions, but that’s not what legislators are doing. Birth control and sex ed empower women and poor families to take control of their own lives, and that is the opposite of what today’s GOP wants.


Texas Governor Rick Perry saw thousands of women standing up to affirm the importance of reproductive rights, but rather than thinking, for a moment, that these women might know something about their own bodies, their own rights, Perry derided them, sneering, “The louder they scream, the more we know that we are getting something done.” His goal is ending  women’s autonomy; the more distressed we are, the more clear it is to him that he’s on the right track. Why else ban abortions at six weeks – women won’t know they’re pregnant, and so won’t have any say in the matter. North Carolina tacked clinic-closing measures onto legislation about motorcycle safety, in the hope that no one would notice, and they wouldn’t have the inconvenience of women standing up for themselves in protest. If you still have any doubt that this is about controlling women, consider this: North Dakota specifically bans abortions if the fetus has a genetic abnormality. You read that right. North Dakota is explicitly saying that if your child will be born without a brain, or with a condition that will lead her to die after a week or two of pain and suffering struggling to eat or breathe, you have to have that baby and watch her suffocate or starve. Because sparing your child, and yourself, and your family, that horrific pain is just not a good enough reason for an abortion, in the eyes of the men of the North Dakota legislature.

To Rick Perry, and Scott Walker, and all the Republican Governors and legislators out there hellbent on shutting down almost all facilities that provide abortions, just remember this: you may slice and dice your state to dilute the votes of blacks and Hispanics and liberal voters of every ilk… but you can’t gerrymander away the women’s vote. We are in the warp and woof of this country, and however we feel about abortion, we will not stand for being silenced, bullied, stripped of our autonomy, and ridiculed for daring to stand up for our rights. So do your worst for the next 18 months, because if you lost me on abortion, you’re going to lose us all.

Abortion Restrictions Texas

* The fact that said little girl appeared on Chilean TV and said she wants to keep the baby makes no difference to how wrong it is that she HAS to. And for the record? An 11 year old is, in fact, incapable of making these decisions for herself without a great deal of guidance – because, unlike the vast majority of pregnant women, she actually is legally incompetent. And don’t even get me started about this poor child, whose own mother claims she wasn’t raped, because she had “consensual” sex with an adult man. Chilean President Sebastian Pinera may think her comments show “depth and maturity,” but judge for yourself: “‘It will be like having a doll in my arms,’ the girl whose face was obscured during the interview, told local Canal 13.” God help this child to survive the pregnancy first….

** Guttmacher’s data, as of July 1, 2013, lists 21 states, but since then Wisconsin has become the 22nd. And honestly, at the rate the GOP is moving to try to strip reproductive rights, it’s hard to keep up.

***  While the court rightly held that was clearly an “undue burden” on women’s reproductive freedom, North Dakota’s sole provider may still be forced to close by a new law requiring doctors to have hospital admitting privileges. Hospitals only grant those privileges if a doctor agrees to refer a set number of patients a year – say, 10. But North Dakota’s sole clinic, like many many others facing similar laws in other states, almost never has to refer a patient to the hospital, and so its doctors can’t meet the state standard.

**** When one Texas Democrat suggested that sex ed might be effective in lowering unplanned pregnancies, Republican Steve Toth disagreed, claiming to know teens who got so “so hot and bothered” at “a Planned Parenthood deal” that they promptly had unprotected sex. Because diagrams of fallopian tubes are sooo sexxxay…. I can’t even. Honestly, there are still people who think if we don’t ever mention sex, no one would have sex? How do they… Gah. How do these people dress themselves, much less get elected to positions of power?


Well, I hope you’ve learned your lesson!

July 3, 2013

Last week, following state senator Wendy Davis’s remarkable – and successful – filibuster, Texas Governor Rick Perry dropped jaws around the world by responding:

“Even the woman who filibustered the Senate the other day was born into difficult circumstances. She’s the daughter of as single woman, she was a teenage mother herself. She managed to eventually graduate from Harvard Law School and serve in the Texas Senate. It’s just unfortunate that she hasn’t learned from her own example: that every life must be given a chance to realize its full potential, and that every life matters.”

davis perry

My first impulse was to marvel at Perry’s tone-deafness. Wendy Davis had become a folk-hero of women’s rights overnight, and her performance reminded everyone of what a filibuster is supposed to be: a chance to match a single lawmaker’s true passion against the majority. If you care that much, then we have to listen to you. I even like Texas’s particularly draconian filibuster rules – no leaning, no breaks, no water, no going off-topic. You can’t read the phone book; you have to talk about the subject of the bill. In that one, youtube-sensational, twitter-overloading performance, Wendy Davis had become an international superstar. Did no one on Perry’s team tell him to let things die down for a day or two? Did no one advise him to at least acknowledge her passion and commend her for taking a stand, if he couldn’t be bothered to address any of the many strong arguments she made against the bill during her filibuster? How could Perry and his team misread the situation so profoundly?

But then I went over what Perry said again, and I had a moment of horrible clarity: Rick Perry, in one sentence, laid bare the entire, misogynistic, heart of the anti-choice movement: “It’s just unfortunate that she hasn’t learned from her own example…”

Rick Perry didn’t wait, didn’t show any deference to Ms. Davis, because he has absolutely no respect for her. He’s tone-deaf, because he really truly believes this is obvious – he is right, and she is wrong. Whatever experiences she had, whatever facts support her position, all of that is moot.  Like a child being punished, she was supposed to find the moral of her story, to learn her lesson – and if the understanding she gained is empathy, and an appreciation for how complex these decisions are… well, then, she learned it wrong.

Wendy Davis grew up the child of a single mother, and pregnant at 19, found herself, in her own words, “destined to live the life that I watched my mother live.” She made a choice, to keep the child – but going through the fear, anguish, uncertainty, and stress of a teen pregnancy made her all the more empathetic to other women in similar situations. She has lived with her decision for over 30 years now. She has struggled, and she has persevered. She has raised her family. She has served her community. She has met women from all over Texas, from all walks of life. And she just finished speaking for over eleven hours, explaining why women need reproductive choice… But none of that matters to Governor Perry. Wendy Davis doesn’t understand her own damn lifehe says. It’s a shame, so unfortunate. But you see, this is why we can’t trust women to make these decisions… because they might not learn the right lessons from their own lives. They might trust their own instincts, make their own choices for their own families, and where would we be then?

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again – I believe abortion is a grave wrong. A terrible answer to a heartbreaking question. But this, precisely THIS, is why I can never ever call myself “Pro-Life” – because the pro-life movement, at it’s heart, doesn’t trust women. Doesn’t trust women with birth control in the first place. Doesn’t trust women to make choices, doesn’t trust women to control their own bodies, and doesn’t trust women to make up their own minds, based on their own experiences. It’s just unfortunate that she hasn’t learned from her own example….

I honestly don’t think I’ve ever heard a more misogynistic sentence. It completely discounts Wendy Davis’s experience, and all that she said – all the data, all the passion, all the truths she laid bare in an eleven hour filibuster. To paraphrase Davis’s colleague, Senator Leticia Van de Putte, whose motion to adjourn was ignored by the President of the Senate, at what point will a female senator’s own life experiences be considered valid, if they conflict with the preconceived notions of her male colleagues in the room?


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