Archive for October, 2012

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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 Study in Eggplant

October 19, 2012

I am wearing my awesome purple dress today, both because it is awesome, and because it is purple. Today is Spirit Day, a day of awareness of the effects of bullying. In honor thereof, I’m not going  to talk about the presidential race today, because issues that impact the LGBT community are still not accorded their proper due and are being decided piecemeal, state-by-state.

I live in Tennessee, land of “Don’t Say Gay;” home of state lawmakers who try to carve an exception for “faith-based bullying” into anti-bullying measures; and holding pen for lunatic State Rep. Richard Floyd, a man so intensely transphobic he introduced a bill that would make it a crime in Tennessee to use a public restroom or dressing room other than the one designated for the sex on your birth certificate, convinced it is necessary to keep the (heterosexual) public safe. Floyd didn’t’ try to justify his bill with anything OTHER than hate:

“It could happen here,” Floyd said. “I believe if I was standing at a dressing room and my wife or one of my daughters was in the dressing room and a man tried to go in there — I don’t care if he thinks he’s a woman and tries on clothes with them in there — I’d just try to stomp a mudhole in him and then stomp him dryDon’t ask me to adjust to their perverted way of thinking and put my family at risk. We cannot continue to let these people dominate how society acts and reacts. Now if somebody thinks he’s a woman and he’s a man and wants to try on women’s clothes, let him take them into the men’s bathroom or dressing room.”

I had heard of Floyd and his unabashed hatred of the LGBT community, back in January when this bill was proposed. In the interim, he had faded from my consciousness. Like “Don’t Say Gay” and “License to Bully,” the “Bathroom Bill” was introduced, made Tennessee a national (international?) laughingstock, and faded away without becoming state law (thank god). But recently I started working for the campaign of a wonderful State Rep, part of the thin blue line that keeps Rachel Maddow from establishing a permanent Nashville bureau, and I started thinking about what would happen if those bills actually had become law. As I meet with her supporters – union members, leaders in the states LGBT rights movement, and honest-to-god Tennessee feminists – it restores so much of my faith in my home state, and motivates me to work harder to fix our broken state house. Personhood is coming up soon, and we only just beat back a disastrous Alabama-copycat immigration bill, and Richard Floyd is still a sitting rep.

Still, nothing prepared me for how I’d feel after talking to Christy.[1] Christy is a transsexual woman. She works overnight shift at a big box store, and is getting her degree part time. She’s on Metro buses two and half hours a day because she can’t afford a car. She has midterms next week. And yet she was desperate to find a way to work for my candidate, because my candidate has worked so hard for her, and people like her. As we tried to find a way that she could help in spite of her crazy schedule, our conversation turned to the horror of some of the bills proposed in our legislature last term. Christy’s voice broke when she spoke of Richard “Stomp ‘em” Floyd, and suddenly I saw all of this in a different light. I’m pretty empathetic, and of course I had been horrified and outraged at Floyd’s hateful words, but I wasn’t hurt by them, as Christie was. Richard Floyd is an elected official of my home state, and he feels it’s okay to threaten violence against people different from him. He feels its okay to ridicule and slander the LGBT community. He uses his position to spew hatred, and his power to try to enshrine bigotry into our laws. His legislation is aimed at humiliating people like Christy, and his words are aimed at negating her right to exist. One of these people is a sick, festering sore on humanity, and it ISN’T the woman riding the bus home at dawn to crash for a couple of hours before going to classes, who only wants to be left in peace.

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I am a straight ally, and I stand against state-sponsored bullying. I am a straight ally, and I stand against lawmakers who work to make bigotry and prejudice the law of the land. So today I’m wearing my awesome purple dress for Christy. I am working extra hard at getting my candidate elected. Christy is making phone calls for my candidate when she has a few minutes to spare in her crazy day. I am a straight ally, and I will do whatever I can to make my state a better place for all of its people.


[1] “Christy” is not her real name; I don’t know her personally, and so don’t want to say anything that could come back to hurt her. This is also why I’m not naming my candidate by name here; these are my opinions alone.

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Rosie Perez Cleans Romney’s Clock

October 18, 2012

I never got around to addressing Romney’s ridiculous, racist, behind-closed-doors “joke” that running for President would be easier if he were Latino; the closest I got was talking about how blind he is to his own privilege. Now I’m glad I didn’t, because I could never have made the point as well as Rosie Perez does in this video:

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10 Things I Love Post-Debate

October 17, 2012

1. I love my President. I especially love him when he’s confident and on his game:

Read the rest of this entry ?

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In Which I <3 Joe Biden

October 16, 2012

Again under the wire, and again my two cents are that everything you’ve heard about the most recent debate is missing the point. In this case, ever since the Veep debate ended, the dueling narratives have been Joe Biden Spanked Paul Ryan Like a Red-Headed Stepchild versus Joe Biden was Incredibly Rude, Disrespectful, and Possibly Insane. The first is much closer to the truth, but it’s not an analysis so much as it’s a gut reaction. Did I cheer Biden during the debate? YES. Did I do goofy fist-pumps when Biden explained that Afghan troops would be defending the most dangerous parts of Afghanistan? INDUBITABLY. Did I clap like Brendan Fraser at the Golden Globes when Biden looked straight in the camera to address senior citizens about Medicare?

HELL YES

But that was my initial reaction, as a Democrat and a Biden fangirl – and it probably wasn’t the way undecided voters saw things. No, what’s been missing from the analysis is analysis. No one is talking about what was actually said, and that’s a damn shame. The Vice President is well-regarded for his ability to speak the language of the middle class, of the average American – but what he says in that language shows that his brain is anything but average.

Joe Biden has been in politics almost my entire life, but it’s only been in the past few years that I recognized what an amazing gift he is to this country. Way back in December 2007, when I was already heavily involved in the Obama campaign despite being weeks away from the Iowa caucuses, I gathered with the other Obama faithful to watch one of the endless pre-season debates. One question asked about toxic paint found on children’s toys manufactured in China. One by one, the candidates – including my candidate – spoke powerfully about the need to amend our trade policy and our laws to ensure that this Never Happened Again. But when it was Biden’s turn, he exasperatedly pointed out that those provisions were already part of our trade agreements with China, and had been for decades. The laws were on the books; we just weren’t willing to fully fund the agencies that would inspect those goods and enforce those laws. I fell a little in love with him. Question after question, he knew everything about everything. He knew exactly what the applicable laws were. He knew exactly where the problems lay. He understood every foreign conflict they threw his way. And he was passionate and articulate and profoundly knowledgeable in precisely that way that doesn’t necessarily give the soundbites our news and our brains expect. I could easily imagine a news story about that debate which would frame his answer on the Chinese toys question as simply, “Obama, Clinton advocate tougher sanctions for Chinese Poison Toys; Biden says current laws are enough.” And you know what? Biden would still answer exactly the same.

I was thrilled when Obama chose him as his running mate, because what better counter to Obama’s cool detachment than Biden’s infectious warmth? And what better counterweight to Obama’s then-slim resume, than the man who knows everything about everything?

And yet, the man who knows everything about everything is strangely pilloried for gaffes, as if he were too dumb to know better. Biden’s “gaffes” are almost always full of unvarnished truth, profound understanding of the realities on the ground, and a whole, emotional engagement with the fate of this country. They  reflect just how passionate he is about making this country a better place. We aren’t used to our politicians emoting quite that much, because we aren’t used to our politicians genuinely caring that much. Earlier in the president’s term, Biden famously congratulated Obama on signing the Affordable Care Act by saying, “This is a big fucking deal!” You know what? IT WAS A BIG FUCKING DEAL. In a town of phonies and hyper-cautious calculators, Biden stands out simply because he still has human reactions.

Joe Biden was apparently rude and “disrespectful” to Eddie Haskell Paul Ryan because he actually, y’know, reacted to the words coming out of Ryan’s mouth. He smiled. He did double-takes. He shook his head. And he laughed when he heard the ridiculous lies that fall so easily from Ryan’s lips. Apparently, THIS look, this frozen smirk that shows the wearer has completely checked out mentally, is the “polite” way to listen in Washington:

But Biden can’t do that. Won’t do that. Shouldn’t do that. It’s a stupid thing to do, first of all, this “I know I’m on tv so I will betray no emotion other than polite (dis)interest.” But beyond that, what’s wrong with laughing at laughable lies?

We’re so bad at history in this country that no one seems to remember that Biden ran for President decades ago, and had a very good chance of winning the nomination. In 1987, he was raising money hand-over-fist. His speeches were fiery and well-received. And then, at the Iowa State Fair, he gave a speech, parts of which were modeled on a speech by an Irish leader. He’d given the speech many times, always citing Kinnock as his inspiration – but in the Iowa State Fair speech, he forgot to give Kinnock credit… and his campaign was effectively over. He had plaguerized, they said, he could not be trusted. It seems quaint, now, the idea that not citing your sources might besmirch your reputation for honesty, that this might be enough to make you unelectable. The GOP ticket has been running a post-truth campaign for months, lying again and again about the President’s record, about Obamacare and Medicare, and even about their own positions. And yet they are within reach of the White House. No one is suggesting Paul Ryan is unfit to serve because he lies, or that Romney, once caught in a falsehood, should’ve left the race. It hardly seems fair that Biden was once forced out of a race for a simple mistake that undermined his credibility, while Romney/Ryan may coast to the White House on wave of bullshit and the audacity of hype. Of course Biden laughed. This is ridiculous.

The Veep came out blazing on Thursday. His beautiful, nuanced answers put Paul Ryan’s facile platitudes to shame. Biden was asked why we don’t intervene in Syria’s revolution as we did in Libya’s. We don’t, he said, because they are very different countries – and then Biden told us exactly how they differ, and how that impacts our course. Ryan only spoke vaguely of not appearing “weak,” and tossed in the word “Iran” a couple of times. On Afghanistan, Ryan tried to argue that we were pulling troops out of the most dangerous regions – and Biden pounded home the reality that those troops are being replaced by Afghan troops, and point-blank demanded to know whether Ryan was saying we should place American troops in greater danger than their Afghan replacements. He explained and championed the Democratic policies on Medicare and Social Security, and held Ryan’s feet to the fire on the way his budget would effect the middle class and the poor. Every answer Biden gave was nuanced and detailed, while Ryan’s were nothing but empty platitudes. And that’s what analysts should have been talking about this week… but they weren’t.

Since the debate, Fox and the right have been going hard after Biden for his lack of “respect.” Fox News even showcased an “expert” to suggest that Biden’s behavior – which was exactly like all of Biden’s public behavior for the past 40 years – indicates that he either suffers from dementia or was drunk. It’s not just the guests, either – Mike Huckabee and Sean Hannity also claimed that Biden was an “obnoxious drunk” during the debate. Because of a family history with alcoholism, Joe Biden is a well-known teetotaler, but that is how sick these people are. They will defame a good man, a faithful public servant, and a brilliant mind, just to deflect attention from the truth of what he said. He beat them, and so they are trying to destroy his reputation. It shouldn’t be surprising – these are the same asshats who have slandered the President as an illegitimate, communist, socialist, fascist dictator out to destroy America, a radical Muslim extremist collaborating with our most violent enemies to destroy our country. If they can pin all of that on the POTUS, surely they can comfortably smear the elected Vice President of the United States as a demented old drunk.

But it does beg the question: how can they keep a straight face as they suggest that Biden’s the one who’s being “disrespectful”?

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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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Will the Real Mitt Romney Please Stand Up?

October 3, 2012

After my last post, a friend of mine directed me to an article in Salon which points out that Romney can’t run on his most significant achievement – passing universal healthcare coverage in Massachusetts. Obama co-opted it and the GOP vilified it, so Romney’s had to campaign on repealing Obamacare. It was the one issue the Republican might have used to convince voters that he cares about them, that he understands their struggles, and it’s gone. When I read the Salon piece, I felt kind of sorry for Mitt Romney for a moment. It was the way I so often felt about John McCain in 2008; a sadness for him that he had been forced so far to the right by the most vocal, rabid voices in his party. But the feeling quickly passed. Whatever McCain’s motivations were, he made the choice to abandon his deeply held convictions to become his party’s nominee. To do that, he had to convince himself that he believed a lot of the far-right nonsense. He couldn’t just lie, he had to believe the lie himself. The tragedy of John McCain was that his party had no use for him as coalition-building moderate, a war hero who stood up for the Geneva Conventions. But McCain needed the party; somehow, he needed the validation so much that he gave up all that was special about him for a shot at the presidency. It’s tragic, and I say that without any irony or sarcasm. McCain had been a great man, with deeply-held convictions, but he sold himself out and got nothing in return.

That is not the story of Mitt Romney.

Mitt Romney will say anything, take any position, if he thinks it will appeal to voters. He has demonstrated for months that he will lie, easily and often. In abandoning support for universal healthcare, Romney didn’t turn away from his core principles. Nothing in his biography suggests that universal coverage has ever meant anything to him. It was popular in Massachusetts. The nation was headed for healthcare reform, and with his presidential aspirations, it seemed to be a shrewd move. It didn’t pay off because his party lost its collective damn mind, but his work on healthcare had never reflected Mitt Romney’s true convictions. Mitt Romney’s True Conviction is simply “The Best for Mitt Romney.” This was his motivation when he was a young man protesting against opposing the draft (seriously, where does the GOP find these people?), while getting four years of deferments himself. The Best for Mitt Romney was his guiding star as he built a firm that sucked all the value out of the American companies for no reason other than exponentially increasing his own wealth and the wealth of a handful of other ludicrously wealthy individuals.* And since he entered politics, it has been his only True North. Mitt Romney doesn’t care about jobs, the environment, Israel, Iran, government regulations, aborted babies, farmers, auto workers, children, teachers, healthcare, the troops, or even taxes. Mitt Romney cares only for Mitt Romney – and if changing the tax code helps Mitt Romney, then that’s what Mitt Romney will do. Abandoning universal healthcare put him in a position to improve the world for Mitt Romney, so he pivoted on a dime. It’s what makes it so easy for him to shift positions – none of them have ever been anything but a means to his only end. Truth has no hold on him, because the Truth does not advance the cause of Romney’s Own Good. It’s a mind-bogglingly simple understanding of self-interest. We’ve had tons of corrupt pols in our history, but even they seemed to have some ethic outside of their own enrichment, or at least to be aware of the game they were playing with the world. Not so with Mitt Romney. He appears to be wholly unconcerned with ethics, with truth, with right or wrong. He has no political philosophy at all. Its not a that he’s a craven opportunist, or has been bullied to the right by his party. He’s just truly, deeply committed to making this a Better World for Mitt Romney.

“These colors really bring out my Mitt Romneyness.  Vertical stripes would make me look taller, though. Somebody get on that.”

* Yes, I am going to keep linking to that Rolling Stone article about Bain in every single post until you’ve all read it, why do you ask?