Archive for the ‘Republican Party’ Category

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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.

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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.

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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?

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Personhood

October 25, 2012

I received a reader request (!) to address the hateful theology of Richard Mourdock. Praisewhore that I am, how could I say no?

Mourdock, of course, is the Republican Congressional Hopeful (and Tea Party Wingnut) who recently explained in a debate why he believes abortion should be illegal even in cases of rape: “And even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen.” The Onion already responded perfectly to the idea of a god so hateful he would will that women be raped to make babies to the Glory of His Name; I can’t do any better at addressing his twisted theology. But I can say this:

I haven’t seen the question Mourdock was asked, but even if he was specifically asked about his faith, this is the wrong answer. The right answer to that question is always, “While I  try to live my own life in accordance with my faith, I recognize that the First Amendment specifically prohibits me from making laws to impose my (weird, misogynistic, uncharitable) faith on the people I represent.” (See Biden, Joe, in the Veep Debate). It doesn’t matter how violent or rapey or baby-lovin’ Mourdock’s – or any politician’s – god is; that’s a moot point when you’re talking about policy. Any time a politician talks about what God ordains, the proper response is, “Fascinating – but what does that have to do with the Constitution and laws of the United States?” It’s right there in our Bill of Rights – no one gets to make their own God’s Law the law of the land.

Honestly, I’m stunned that Republicans haven’t realized they need to shut up about rape. The more they talk about rape, or abortion for that matter, the more I realize they simply have no empathy for the women involved. This first hit me during the bizarre conversation over requiring ultrasounds before an abortion. It occurred to me that the whole purpose of requiring an ultrasound was to try to force empathy from the woman – LOOK AT THE BABY! LISTEN TO HER HEARTBEAT! – as if she had no concept of what abortion is. As insulting as that was, it was even more jarring when I realized that the entire debate happened because these lawmakers have absolutely no comprehension of what this debate means to women. NONE. Exceptions for rape are the easy part. Republicans can’t even get this right, and they think we should trust them to handle the larger issue?

So Mr. Mourdock, Mr. Ryan, Mr. Akin, and all the other Republican Mr.’s out there, Right Honorable and otherwise, listen up:

Not everyone believes that a fertilized egg is a person. Not everyone believes that an implanted embryo has any rights, let alone the full rights of a person. Women – and their families – come in all different shades of faith or atheism, agnosticism or narcissism. Your faith and your god do not usurp that, cannot usurp that. But putting that all aside, even if we all agreed that an embryo is a person, that doesn’t end the discussion. Because you know who else is a person?

THE WOMAN.

Every time you open your fool mouths to talk about abortion, you completely fail to recognize this. The woman is a person, whose rights are every damn bit as sacred as the rights you want to grant the fetus. When a woman is raped, it is a fundamental violation of her person beyond anything the Santorums of this world can comprehend. If she gets pregnant as a result of that rape, that pregnancy is a continuation of that violation; her body is being used against her will. Even if we all agree that this will be the cutest, sweetest, most blessedest rape-baby ever, we have no right to ask that of the woman. Whatever rights you ascribe to the fetus, THERE’S A WOMAN, an honest-to-god fully-formed human being, involved too. Making the embryo a person doesn’t make the woman NOT a person, and if you cannot conceive of how wrong it would be to force a rape victim to continue to carry her rapist’s child, then there is something fundamentally broken in you – so broken that it should disqualify you from office.

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A Word on the Debate – Not this One. The Last One.

October 11, 2012

I never got around to talking about last week’s Presidential debate, and here we are, moments from the VP showdown. Life is conspiring against blogging right now, but I feel the need to get in my two cents before the conversation shifts away, even if it is right under the wire.

It seems that ever since the final words were said last Wednesday, we’ve had two very different, equally useless conversations. The first is How Romney Beat Obama, also known as How Obama Lost the Debate. The second, and more bitter argument, is Why is the Media Saying Obama Lost When Romney Lied Again and Again?!?!? Here’s the thing, though. Obama DID lose. It’s not just because the media is spinning it so. He lost. He was listless and uninspiring, he let Romney say – over and over and over – that he had cut Medicare by 716 billion, and that Medicare recipients would be hurt by that cut. It’s a lie that’s been so thoroughly debunked I was surprised Romney had the balls to say it again – but not nearly as surprised as I was that Obama let him get away with it TEN TIMES. Yes, really. That’s how many times Mitt Romney mention “$716 billion in cuts to Medicare” during that debate – and the President never  challenged him. As for the assertion that the real story is that Mitt Romney lied, over and over – that’s not news. He repeated many of the same lies he’s told before. Now he says he’s going to use the next debate to “fact-check” the president. Outrageous, yes. Surprising? NO. The President had every reason to expect Romney to lie, every reason to be prepared, and he didn’t seem to be. So yes, cue wailing and gnashing of teeth….

Except for this… Romney had a bounce, but it’s almost gone. During the 2008 campaign, there were so many times when I – and everyone working that campaign with me – were frustrated that he wasn’t fighting harder when he was attacked, wasn’t getting angry. We wanted him to defend himself, we hated that he was letting himself get walked on. But every time, we were wrong. He didn’t need to get angry. He was smarter than that. (The sad truth is that this country may be ready for a black president, but it probably isn’t ready for an angry black president, and one flash of real anger could undo so much good.) Besides, it just isn’t who he is. When he was growing up in Indonesia, he learned to endure teasing and taunting without showing any reaction, and that surely has helped to endure the slander and garbage the GOP has attacked him with for years.

So next week, don’t expect Obama to come out angry. Do expect him to come out more focused, more in the moment, more ready to call Mitt on his lies. But even if he doesn’t – trust him. He knows what he’s doing. Pundits may shriek, and we may all weep and wail, but he’s the smartest man in that office in decades (and Bill was no mental slouch), and he’s not getting caught flat-footed again. Obama has a rebounding economy on his side. He has demographics on his side. He has the truth on his side. Americans like him more, and trust him more, for very good reasons. And whether he had the flu, or was just worn out from running the country AND a campaign, he’s not going to have another performance like that.

Of course tonight, I’m hoping to see Biden take Ryan to school.

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He Really Does Think He Built That (The Problem with Romney’s Money, part 1)

September 24, 2012

First things first: I don’t have a problem with wealthy people. I certainly don’t think being wealthy disqualifies a person from being a great leader; some of our most accomplished Presidents have come from money. The Kennedys were practically gilded, and yet they were compassionate leaders, concerned with the welfare of the whole nation. So why is Mitt Romney’s wealth so troubling? The problem is not that he is an enormously, astonishingly wealthy man – it’s the attitude he has towards his wealth, and the way it has shaped his world view. There are several different facets of this: entitlement, obliviousness, and a lack of empathy, bordering on scorn  – aka, “I built it,” “Let them eat cake,” and “These are people who think they’re entitled to health care, to food, to housing!”

I Built It! Mine! Mine! All Mine! I Owe the World NOTHING!

I’ve been meaning to write about Romney’s overwhelming sense of entitlement for a while now, and his remarks in the video leaked last week presented the perfect opportunity, but there was so much else there to address… News marches on. Romney was on 60 Minutes last night, saying more ridiculous, unforgivable things. Still, I really need to say my last word on the fundraiser video – I have to address the line that upset me more than all the rest. It’s a nothing line, in some ways, part of his introduction before he takes questions. It certainly hasn’t gotten the press that his infamous “47 percent” remark did:

By the way, both my dad and Ann’s dad did quite well in their life, but when they came to the end of their lives, and, and passed along inheritances to Ann and to me, we both decided to give it all away. So, I had inherited nothing. Everything that Ann and I have we earned the old-fashioned way, and that’s by hard work.

Full transcript at Mother Jones.

I don’t doubt that Romney gave away his inheritance from his father, let’s be clear. (Though it is incredibly charitable of me to trust anything he says, given his habit of lying about anything and everything.) By the time his father passed away in 1995, Mitt was already a multi-millionaire. What boggles my mind is that Mitt doesn’t see the privilege that has shaped every moment of his life. He takes full credit for his own success. In most people, this would just be obnoxious and narcissistic, but given that he’s running for president it becomes more troubling. By being blind to his own privilege, Romney is oblivious to the realities that constrain and obstruct the lives of the other 99 percent of the American people. I’m not begrudging Mitt Romney his wealth, just his inability to acknowledge that he was dealt a very good hand.

So what if he didn’t inherit huge sums of money? He grew up here:

He went to private prep school before attending Brigham Young University and then Harvard, and then embarked on his illustrious career bleeding other people’s businesses dry for huge personal profits. (If you haven’t read Matt Taibbi’s excellent article in Rolling Stone about Romney’s career at Bain, stop, drop everything, and read it now. Then share it with everyone you know who thinks Romney would be good for America because he understands business.) Did he work his ass off, in school and in business? Absolutely. Did the fact that his father was George Romney – wealthy automobile executive, former Governor of Michigan, serious contender for the Presidency – open doors for him every step of the way? Of course. To say nothing of all the doors that simply are open to handsome, rich white men in our society and are locked or even invisible to the rest of  us. To acknowledge only his own effort, and not the privilege he was born into, or luck along the way, is to pretend that everyone has the same opportunities.

This is important to understanding the Republican’s mentality this year. They designed their entire convention around intentionally misunderstanding Obama’s suggestion that they didn’t build their fortunes alone, as if existing in a society is an anathema to them. I suppose it is. Society requires sacrifice, shared goals, compromise, and a sense of responsibility for one another. The GOP prefers the radical Randian vision of extreme social Darwinism – the poor don’t deserve a hand up; they had the same chance as anyone. Look at Mitt Romney, after all. He didn’t have any help from his dad, but he worked hard, and now he’s a billionaire! Why can’t you do that, kids growing up in the projects? Why don’t you start an investment firm, single mother of three? Why aren’t you growing your stock portfolio, college graduate who pays a thousand dollars a month in student loan debt?

It’s slander. Slander against the millions of people who work day and night at crap jobs and still can’t cover their basic needs. Slander against immigrants – documented or undocumented – who work backbreaking days harvesting crops so that all of us can eat. Slander against their bright, articulate children who have no chance to go to college because they fear deportation for themselves or their parents. Slander against people who worked for forty years for a company just to see their 401K evaporate in a Wall Street shell game. Slander against every single person who didn’t have the keys to Wall Street handed to them as a birthright. But Mitt Romney really doesn’t see it that way.

“Oh, you were born with a silver spoon,” you know, “You never had to earn anything,” and so forth. And, and frankly, I was born with a silver spoon, which is the greatest gift you could have, which is to get born in America. I’ll tell ya, there is—95 percent of life is set up for you if you’re born in this country. 

Yes – yes, it is, but it isn’t set up the same for everyone. I don’t think Mitt Romney can accept that, anymore than his super-wealthy donors can. They peevishly need to believe they are entitled to have so much more than the rest of us by virtue of their hard work – even if their wealth came at the cost of thousands of jobs lost for other Americans (seriously, go read that Rolling Stone article). The “ruling class” used to have some sense of responsibility toward their community, some sense of true citizenship, that they’ve lost. They don’t want legacies anymore, they simply want more for themselves. They can’t even acknowledge the unevenness of the playing field, because that would challenge their sense of entitlement. No, they insist, THEY built that, and don’t you dare suggest they don’t deserve every blessed penny of it.

Romney/Ryan 2012: All the Noblesse, None of the Oblige.

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“Sad and Pathetic.” Yeah, that about sums it up…

September 12, 2012

Mitt Romney is a shit-stirring asshat. Of this, there can no longer be any doubt. Today, he saw fit to insert politics into an international crisis, using the murder of four American diplomats to attack President Obama’s foreign policy. He is rightly being criticized for his attempt to undermine the President in a moment when all Americans should join together; rather than backing down, though, Romney’s congratulating himself on subverting Obama’s position.

In case you somehow missed it, here’s the quick backstory on what Romney did that has every reputable news organization up and in arms. A reckless and incendiary filmmaker made a movie attacking Islam and Mohammed, clips of which were shown on television in the Middle East. Reckless and enflamed mobs rioted in the streets of Egypt and Libya. The Cairo Embassy was besieged, the Libyan Embassy was breached, and four diplomats in Libya were murdered, including Ambassador Chris Stevens.

Yesterday, as events began to unfold in Cairo, a the U.S. embassy in Egypt put out the following statement, in an attempt to calm the situation:

U.S. Embassy Condemns Religious Incitement

September 11, 2012

The Embassy of the United States in Cairo condemns the continuing efforts by misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims – as we condemn efforts to offend believers of all religions. Today, the 11th anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States, Americans are honoring our patriots and those who serve our nation as the fitting response to the enemies of democracy. Respect for religious beliefs is a cornerstone of American democracy. We firmly reject the actions by those who abuse the universal right of free speech to hurt the religious beliefs of others.

That’s it. A rational response calculated to defuse tensions, and maybe – just maybe – to keep the people in the Cairo embassy safe. President Obama did not issue a statement while events were still unfolding, but Mitt Romney did. Last night, he issued a statement, saying, “It’s disgraceful that the Obama administration’s first response was not to condemn attacks on our diplomatic missions, but to sympathize with those who waged the attacks.” Go back, reread that statement issued by our embassy in Cairo. Find anything disgraceful in it. Still, the GOP chimed in, with Reince Priebus also ascribing the Cairo statement to the President:


Something’s sad and pathetic, Reince, but I don’t think it’s the President….

Speaking of Obama, first thing this morning, after all the facts were known, the President of the United States – the only President at the moment – issued a statement “strongly condemning the outrageous attacks,” and highlighting the “extraordinary service and sacrifice” of those who were murdered.

While the United States rejects efforts to denigrate the religious beliefs of others, we must all unequivocally oppose the kind of senseless violence that took the lives of these public servants.

This was still not good enough for would-be Commander-in-Chief Romney. In a bizarre press conference, Romney weighed in, as if during a campaign we have two Presidents offering equally valid responses to international crises. At this presser, Romney said the following:

I also believe the administration was wrong to stand by a statement sympathizing with those who had breached our embassy in Egypt, instead of condemning their actions….

I think it’s a — a — a terrible course to — for America to — to stand in apology for our values. That instead, when our grounds are being attacked and being breached, that the first response of the United States must be outrage at the breach of the sovereignty of our nation.

An apology for America’s values is never the right course….

Simply put, having an embassy which is — has been breached and has protesters on its grounds, having violated the sovereignty of the United States, having that embassy reiterate [SIC] a statement effectively apologizing for the right of free speech is not the right course for an administration….

I spoke out when the key fact that I referred to was known, which was that the Embassy of the United States issued what appeared to be an apology for American principles. That was a mistake.

“An apology for America’s values,” or for “free speech”? Where is that in the embassy statement – which, AGAIN, was not issued by the White House, but by our diplomats in Cairo (before the Embassy itself was besieged)? It isn’t there, of course. But the GOP is in love with the fiction that our UnAmerican (black) President keeps apologizing for America to the rest of the world, and they seized upon the Cairo Embassy’s statement as proof. So what is the “American value” that the diplomats in Cairo failed to adequately defend?  The Cairo statement condemns the film which so upset the mob.  The movie is being promoted by Terry Jones, the Florida “pastor” who brought us last year’s threatened massive Koran burning. It apparently suggests that Mohammed was a pedophile, compares him to a donkey, and claims many of Islam’s most revered figures were child-molesters. The film is a blatant attempt to derail U.S. relations with the Islamic world, and was designed to be as profoundly offensive to devout Muslims as it could possibly be. The right to free speech is, as as the Embassy statement affirms, universal, but abusing that right in this way is worthy of condemnation. This movie – this crude attempt to destabilize a region, to mock and deride a faith and culture – is the “free speech” Romney feels the administration should never “apologize” for.

Even as Cairo was rocked by riots, our embassy staff there upheld the best American values. They reaffirmed the fundamental importance of religious tolerance, assuring the mob that the United States does not share the outrageous views of the filmmakers; that the United States upholds free speech, but condemns hate speech. In short, they were using diplomacy to defuse the situation. Romney would do well to look that one up – and to learn from their example, instead of ridiculing them to win cheap political points.

DI·PLO·MA·CY  [dih-ploh-muh-see] noun

1.  The conduct by government officials of negotiations and other relations between nations.

2.  The art or science of conducting such negotiations.

3.  Skill in managing negotiations, handling people, etc., so that there is little or no ill will; tact.

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Mitt Romney Bellyfeels Black-white Marketcare

September 10, 2012

Mitt Romney made news on Sunday, telling “Meet the Press” that, while he intends to repeal Obamacare, he will replace it with his own plan:

“Of course there are a number of things that I like in health care reform that I’m going to put in place. One is to make sure that those with pre-existing conditions can get coverage. Two is to assure that the marketplace allows for individuals to have policies that cover their family up to whatever age they might like. I also want individuals to be able to buy insurance, health insurance, on their own as opposed to only being able to get it on a tax advantage basis through their company.”

via Huffington Post

Within hours, his campaign issued a “clarification,” denying that Romney meant he’d impose a federal mandate:

[T]here has been no change in the Republican nominee’s position. “[I]n a competitive environment, the marketplace will make available plans that include coverage for what there is demand for,” the aide said. “He was not proposing a federal mandate to require insurance plans to offer those particular features.”

We all know Romney won’t get Republican support for a mandate, and “the market” is exactly why insurers don’t cover pre-existing conditions – it would cost them too much money. What’s interesting, though, is how perfectly this highlights the Republican relationship with truth in this campaign. It’s not just that they lie – about everything, daily, in speeches, in ads, at the convention, and with no compunction – it’s that they don’t CARE what they are saying, as long as it gets them the votes and money they need.

The most well-known example of their disdain for the truth is one of Romney’s ads focussing on welfare, which baldly asserts, “Under Obama’s plan, you wouldn’t have to work and wouldn’t have to train for a job. They just send you your welfare check, and ‘welfare to work’ goes back to being plain old welfare.” It has been firmly established that this is untrue, that Obama’s changes instead assisted states in moving people OFF of welfare, and into work. The ad keeps running, though, and the Romney camp’s glib response  – “[W]e’re not going to let our campaign be dictated by fact checkers” – makes it clear how little they care about the truth. Fact-checkers, they remarked, have “jumped the shark.” Republicans have been sowing the seeds for a “post-truth” campaign for a long time now. Their persistent attacks on global warming and the teaching of evolution are part of a greater pattern of reshaping political discourse so that inconvenient reality can’t intrude. Any rational arguments against their policies are labeled as “socialist,” or written off as “spin.” It’s sad, and horrifying, how many American voters now truly believe that science cannot establish facts, that statistics always lie, that facts are always tainted by bias and cannot be trusted. The GOP have created a environment dedicated to spin and falsehood, and have managed to convince their audience that everyone else is lying.

It’s almost perfect Orwellian Newspeak, redefining language so that words have no meaning. Romney intends to keep the parts of Obamacare that voters really want – by letting the market provide them! Now they just need to come up with the perfect meaningless doublethink word for this, something like “marketcare.” Their voters will eat it up. After all, six percent of Ohio voters believe Romney deserves more credit for Bin Laden’s capture than Obama does, and a full 31% are “not sure” which of the two men deserves more credit.  It makes sense. After all, under the Republican way of thinking, there’s no way we can ever know for certain which of the two men ordered the raid….

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Post Labor Day Labor Post

September 4, 2012

We’re really good at forgetting our history in this country. Labor Day is hardly more than 100 years old, and yet the Republican party freely attacks unions and workplace regulations in its platform. It’s the line they’ve been pushing for years – unions drive up wages “artificially,” protect bad workers, and make America uncompetitive. Regulations are too burdensome, they hurt business, they aren’t “cost-effective” because they place higher value on workers’ health than on profit margins. Wall Street’s shell games destroyed our economy, but somehow unions and regulations are the real culprits.

We demand an end to the Project Labor Agreements; and we call for repeal of the Davis-Bacon Act, which costs the taxpayers billions of dollars annually in artificially high wages on government projects. We support the right of States to enact Right-to-Work laws and encourage them to do so to promote greater economic liberty. Ultimately, we support the enactment of a National Right-to-Work law to promote worker freedom and to promote greater economic liberty.

“Right-to-Work” sounds lovely – until you look at the history of the labor movement in this country. For a very long time (until 1937), our Supreme Court believed that workers have a “right to contract” for their labor, much like the current “right to work.” “Right to Work” means that you can be hired without joining the union or receiving the benefits of its contracts. “Right to contract”  made any laws or regulations or union activities that affected wages, hours, or working conditions illegal. The basic idea is the same – if you are willing to work for less pay, for longer hours, in more dangerous conditions, that’s between you and your boss, not the government, not the union. But both “right to work” and “right to contract” are based on a lie – the idea that a worker can hold out for the right wage, hours, and conditions. Anyone who’s ever been unemployed for more than three months knows exactly how a bad labor market affects your standards. So wages were always kept low, especially for unskilled workers ; there was always someone willing to work for less. That is exactly what the GOP platform is trying to take us back to: a labor market where workers have no protections, from law or from unions.

The only thing worse than unions is regulation. The GOP platform specifically calls for reining in “the EPA’s and OSHA’s overreaching regulation agenda.”

The bottom line on regulations is jobs. In listening to America, one constant we have heard is the job-crippling effect of even well-intentioned regulation. That makes it all the more important for federal agencies to be judicious about the impositions they create on businesses, especially small businesses. We call for a moratorium on the development of any new major and costly regulations until a Republican Administration reviews existing rules to ensure that they have a sound basis in science and will be cost-effective.

A reminder: these “job-crippling” regulations often are designed to protect people from being crippled on the job. They exist to ensure that those who work with hazardous materials are outfitted properly so that they don’t become ill. They exist to ensure that waste from manufacturing doesn’t poison our drinking water. They exist so that we never have another Triangle Shirtwaist fire in this country. Yes, all of these things cut into profit margins – which is exactly why we use the government to regulate them.

People died for the right to unionize. People died for want of workplace regulations. Grover Cleveland created Labor Day in an attempt to win back votes from the working class after federal troops had killed 13 workers and injured 57 in breaking up the Pullman Railroad strike. Siding with the workers during that strike, a Methodist minister from Montana, J. W. Jennings, railed against the government’s strikebreaking: the government, he said, should protect “the rights of the people against aggression and oppressive corporations;” but instead, our leaders were “the pliant tools of the codfish monied aristocracy who seek to dominate this country.” It’s still true, over a hundred years later. Corporations do not need relief from necessary regulations, and people in the working class do not need the “right” to work for less money. And a vote for the GOP is now, more than ever, a vote for “the pliant tools of the codfish monied aristocracy.”

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