More Rape-Related Word Parsing

7 02 2012

I was going to post something a little more fun today, recommendation of a few good short films – maybe I’ll get to it later – but instead I’m taking on Ron Paul for fiddling around with the definition of rape.

 

Yes, we have been over this before. Not with Representative Paul in particular, but with his party as a whole about a year ago when the House tried (and failed) to pass legislation (H.R. 3) restricting federal funding of abortions for low-income women beyond the exceptions in the Hyde Amendment (rape, incest, and protecting the life of the mother) to cover only forcible rape, incest involving a minor, and protecting the life of the mother.  I wrote three separate posts on the topic and also wrote to my congresswoman. Now we’re on the same topic a year later because once again rape alone is not enough of a reason to allow a woman to decide what goes on within her own body. Here’s the clip.

Ron Paul’s position on abortion itself, as expressed here, is actually more about biological facts – that within a few hours or a few days conception may very well not have taken place and that there is no way to tell that early on – is a very reasonable one for a pro-lifer and something I would expect since he is an obstetrician. So what is this bit about “honest rape” then? Is there such a thing? Rape in general is regarded as pretty dishonest and dishonorable. Frankly, this sounds like bit of pandering to me. There is apparently some theory floating around on the right that merely being raped is not enough to warrant a woman not being mandated by the government to bear the resulting child. First  the rape had to be “forcible”,but that didn’t pass. Now with Rep. Paul the rape has to be “honest”. It’s as if they’d like to parse it out of existence. There is also more than a little implied victim blaming here too. The whole idea of women “asking for it” in any number of ways and thus making a senseless act of violence seem more like a deserved punishment for not being a “good girl” was one of those baseless, archaic notions I though we had finally excised from our cultural thought process. I had hoped it was locked away in the same place our society has exiled beliefs that a woman could not sign a contract without a male co-signer and should be discouraged at every turn from pursuing a career because  her place was to be in the home tending to the needs of her children and the whims of her husband. Oh how silly of me.

The real problem I have with The Congressman’s statement isn’t the fact that he’s talking about limiting a woman’s right to choose. He’s an anti-abortion candidate and I’m pro-choice – we’re going to disagree on that. That’s why we have different political parties. My problem is with the this pattern we are seeing more of now in which someone whose sole dominion over her own body has already been violated once has the personal autonomy violated again by the government telling her that her attack did not meet the criteria necessary for the powers that be to just leave her alone and let her make her medical decisions for herself. If it wasn’t an “honest rape”, whatever that is,  the woman (Would they even call her a victim? I don’t know.) should just accept what has befallen her and begin blissfully preparing for her forced motherhood like a “good girl”. When  the argument can be made that some sexual assaults do not qualify the victim to terminate a very much unwanted pregnancy, would that then have an effect on the sentencing of the rapist? If we can begin to dissect the crime of rape into degrees, what stops someone from insisting that some domestic violence cases should also be treated as less of a crime because the victim or victims somehow had it coming? What about hate crimes? Given some of the statements and incidents on the campaign trail I would wonder if crimes against groups that some find it acceptable, even patriotic, to disparage would be treated the same as those  against other segments of the population which it is more taboo to voice a prejudice against? In short it isn’t Congressman Paul’s views on abortion that compelled me to write about his comment, but this idea that not all rape victims deserve to make decision about their bodies.





The Sense Behind the Buffet Rule

26 01 2012

That grandfatherly guy with ukulele in the video is Warren Buffett, the CEO of Berkshire Hathaway Inc. and he is a very wealthy fellow. He’s also never made a secret of who he supported politically, most recently President Barack Obama. Last August he publicly weighed in on matters of policy when he wrote an op-ed in the New York Times which got him a lot of media attention. In it he made the argument for a higher tax rate on the capital gains (currently taxed at 15%) which are the main source of income for many wealthy folks meaning that many of those who would be paying the top rate end up paying a rate that is more on par with those at the lowest end of the taxable income spectrum. The White House took the idea which they had also showed support for and ran with it eventually crafting the Buffett Rule – a proposal which would establish a minimum tax rate of 30% on all those earning over a million dollars no matter how they earn their money. This idea resurfaced at Tuesday’s State of the Union address.

Like any other proposal made by anyone at any level of government, it’s something to fight over. The argument against the Buffett Rule is broken into two factions. Some feel that increasing the rate on capital gains for wealthy investors from 15% to 30% would discourage investment because people wouldn’t invest if they had to split their profits 70-30 with Uncle Sam. They also suggest that the downturn in investing would hurt the job market because if people aren’t investing in companies, then those companies can’t grow and that means no job creation, no hiring, and a stagnation of unemployment at our current painful level. I’m not an economics wiz, but I think that sounds a little off and I’m in good company. Mr. Buffett addressed this in his op-ed.

<blockquote>Back in the 1980s and 1990s, tax rates for the rich were far higher, and my percentage rate was in the middle of the pack. According to a theory I sometimes hear, I should have thrown a fit and refused to invest because of the elevated tax rates on capital gains and dividends.

I didn’t refuse, nor did others. I have worked with investors for 60 years and I have yet to see anyone — not even when capital gains rates were 39.9 percent in 1976-77 — shy away from a sensible investment because of the tax rate on the potential gain. People invest to make money, and potential taxes have never scared them off. And to those who argue that higher rates hurt job creation, I would note that a net of nearly 40 million jobs were added between 1980 and 2000. You know what’s happened since then: lower tax rates and far lower job creation.</blockquote>

To put into an average American context, nobody refuses a promotion because they looked at their pay stub, saw all of the deductions that are taken out every week, and calculated how much more would be taken out if they took a higher paying position. Certainly each of us has grumbled about those deductions from time to time, but in the end we would rather make more money and so we would take the promotion and the associated increase in salary. Why would someone who makes money through investing be any different. Why pass up a profitable investment opportunity because of a 15% increase in the tax rate on that investment? They will still be making money and that is the draw of investments.

Other opponents of the Buffett Rule are opponents of the capital gains tax in general and these  critics are further subdivided. Some say that it is double taxation arguing that people invest their money after they pay taxes so to tax capital gains is to tax the same money twice and that is grossly unfair. It would indeed be very unfair if that were the case but it’s not because capital gains are just that – gains, profits, new money, income and thus subject to taxes. The principle investment is not a part of the equation so they aren’t being taxed on the same money twice, just on the money their investment brought in.

Others say that because capital gains have already been taxed as part of that company’s income and therefore should not be taxed once it goes to the investor. There is no gentle way for me to say this, that argument is completely illogical. The money that company pays the people who work for them also comes from corporate revenue which is subject to corporate income tax, yet those workers are taxed on that money and nobody (except the Ron Paul supporters who want no taxes, I guess) complains a bit about it. Investors may not “work” for these companies per se, but they do provide a service – they supply capital – so why should the profits they make from their contributions to the running of a particular company not be taxed while the wages earned by the person whose contribution to that same company earn them a paycheck when it’s all paid out of the company’s (taxed) profits? If you extrapolate this theory out further, almost no person or business would ever pay any taxes. In our current system, our money gets taxed when it’s our income whether or not it has been someone else’s income beforehand. Sorry.

I side with Warren Buffett. Taxing the investments of millionaires at the same rate as the income of a person who works 40 hours a week and takes home, at most, $17 in taxable income an hour is ridiculous. It makes the whole “class warfare” argument a farce when some of the very wealthy are simultaneously lamenting the top tax rate and not paying it. They pay, at most, the same rate as an individual making between $8,700 and $35,350 a year according to the IRS. I don’t begrudge them their success, but I’m certainly not feeling their pain. A millionaire making the majority of their annual income from capital gains should pay a tax rate closer to the rate millionaires who collect a paycheck are paying. How is that class warfare and not just common sense?





The Logic Behind the “Vice President Clinton” Meme

11 01 2012

Happy New Year, now let’s talk politics, specifically that long forgotten subject – Democratic politics.

ImageOk, maybe forgotten is pushing it a bit too far, but with the Republican primary process well and truly underway and the incumbent Democratic president running unchallenged, there’s not much for us on the left to do politically except remark on the dog and pony show of ultra-conservatism that’s bumbling its way around the country. I suppose that it’s that kind of party boredom that’s mostly to blame for this kind of story, but there might just be more to it. The latest incarnation of the “Hillary for VP” meme comes from a New York Times opinion piece by Bill Keller published Monday and another in the Washington Post by Suzi Parker from yesterday. The points they makes are much the same as in most of the other renditions of this tune that’s been playing off and on almost since this administration began, but there has been a decidedly different reaction to the notion of Secretary Clinton and Vice President Biden switching places this time around. It’s no longer treated as some crazy idea being floated by Clinton diehards (highly unlikely) or desperate Obama fans (also ridiculous) that has no basis in reality let alone fact. Monday night this opinion piece was discussed all over the place on cable news in spite of it being the day before the New Hampshire primary and discussed with some degree of seriousness albeit prefaced by numerous “this will never happen”-type comments. The truth is that, no matter how unlikely the scenario, you never know. I mean, did you think that the question of whether or no states can ban contraception would be a question in this year’s presidential primary debates at this time four years ago?

“Ok, so it’s a thing, but why and how would it work?” you ask. Well, even though I’m in no way involved in national politics or punditry (Not that I wouldn’t like to be, in case anyone in those fields is looking to hire. 🙂 ), I have just as good an imagination as the rest of them, so, if you would like, let’s take a stroll around Speculationville. We’ll start with the “why”.

2008 was the year of Hope and Change. The nation was weary of war and increasingly unnerved by the steepening decline in our economy. People were looking for something fresh and optimistic – a feel good candidate – and they found that in the calm persona of “No Drama Obama”. There is, however, a downside to being seen as Mr. Cool and that’s running the risk of looking too ‘on point’ and scripted. Obama needed a foil that brought a more approachable, down to earth ‘average Joe’ quality to the ticket and they got just that in an ever likable, if chronically gaffe-prone, senator from Delaware by the name of Joe Biden. The rest, as they say, is history.

In the past four years, the mood of the country has shifted. Our idealistic search for something new has given way to old cries, from the eighties and even earlier, of “fat cats” and “corporate greed” versus a shrinking middle class and growing number of people on some form of government assistance leading some candidates to insinuate that these lower-income people are lazy. It’s all remarkably similar to the Reagan era arguments about “welfare Queens” and the financial culture of hostile takeovers and Gordon Gekko types running the show on Wall St. At the same time we have seen the rise of the Tea Party culminating in the Great Butt-Kicking of 2010 which flipped the balance of power in the House of Representatives and shifted the political dialogue of the entire country well to the right of anywhere I’ve ever seen it. The moderates, Republican and Democrat alike, were excised in favor of more partisan candidates and the resulting Congress has been deadlocked ever since. I’ve lost count of how many times we’ve almost-but-not-quite shut down the government. Is it four times now? Six? I don’t remember.

So this year is shaping up to be a Smackdown election worthy of a Pay Per View cage match and the respective political parties are looking for prize fighters. The Republicans are looking for a defender of tax cuts and a champion of smaller government and business interests. The Democrats are looking for fighter for workers and the middle class and a protector of programs that they see as vital. What Democrats have is a very mellow, professorial president with an affable everyman as his VP. The Republicans are searching and re-searching their candidate field in the vain hope that one of their potential nominees is the much longed for second coming of Ronald Reagan and Democrats are kind of left to pine for their second coming of FDR.

The Democratic presidential candidate is decided by default, or should I say incumbency, but there is still that unfulfilled desire for a fighter. Someone who will have no problem going a couple of rounds with the Republicans on the Hill, conservative pundits, or maybe both at once without flinching. Joe Biden, as likable as he is, doesn’t strike most people as a tough guy, so regardless of the good job he’s done, he’s not necessarily what a lot of Democrats are looking for this time around. If there is one thing that Hillary Clinton is known for, it is her strength and her tenacity and throughout her time as both a political spouse and a political figure in her own right she has never, ever had any problems with taking it to Republicans at all. There was one instance during one of her husband’s gubernatorial races when she crashed a press conference his opponent was holding to criticize the then Governor for being out of state and Mrs. Governor Clinton took him on herself. I don’t think anyone has any doubt that she’d know how to handle these tea folk and that’s why I think this rumor never quite goes away. The fact that she’s the most popular government figure in the country right now doesn’t hurt either.

The mechanics of how a Biden/Clinton switch would happen takes us deeper into the realm of completely unsubstantiated guessing games. It’s worth noting that removing Biden from the ticket does have some serious drawbacks. Just look at the coverage the replacement of White House Chief of Staff Bill Daley got even though it was primary time in New Hampshire. That would increase exponentially if it were Joe Biden that was on his way out, even if it was just to head down to Foggy Bottom. Coverage like that is rarely a net positive. It would look bad to demote someone who has been such a loyal and hardworking member of the administration. It could also be spun out as a sort of Hail Mary play by a desperate candidate and put the new Obama/Clinton campaign on the defensive from the get go.

For the sake of argument, let’s pretend that the administration had weighed their options and decided that the switch was both possible and worth the risk. Hillary Clinton would have to leave the State Department before the swap was announced because, by law, a Secretary of State can not play a role in domestic politics. Her pretext for doing so is anyone’s guess, but it would not be due to any difference of opinion between her and the White House, obviously. She’s mentioned retirement enough that an announcement to that effect might be the way she’d go, take a couple of months off to rally her people, and then, on some beautiful afternoon in the Rose Garden, there she’d be – as Barack Obama’s new running mate. Immediately the question would be raised – the question that is always raised where Hillary Clinton is concerned. What about Bill?

In the years since he left office, Bill Clinton has become an elder statesman par excellence. His foundation is involved in numerous charitable endeavors the world over and his annual Clinton Global Initiative event is such a big deal that he has to hold it on the same week as the UN General Assembly so as to be more convenient for his international attendees who are going to the UN anyway. He also has a Global Initiative specifically for undergrad and graduate students interested in NGO work which his daughter play a significant role in. He was named the Obama Administration’s Special Envoy to Haiti after that country was decimated by an earthquake. He has appeared several times in support of the President’s economic agenda and has proven to be a rather good surrogate seeming to have learned from his mistakes in his wife’s presidential bid. He has also written two books. In short, he’s got a lot going on and some of that work might present a conflict of interest if his wife was the vice presidential nominee. He had to make significant changes in order for her to become Secretary of State and I imagine that he would have to make more if she was second in line to run the country. My feeling is that he’d leave most of the foundation’s operations in someone else’s hands. In addition to getting rid of any perceived conflicts, it would also be a sort of trial run for the organization to see how it would operate when Bill Clinton retires. During this time the foundation could be prepared to run for decades and become a part of Bill Clinton’s legacy as opposed to his pet project. So it wouldn’t surprise me if the globe-trotting former president held a press conference, heaped praise upon his wife, headed out on the campaign trail, and then to DC. His elder statesman skills might come in handy and he could prove to be an asset to the administration, a kind of Eleanor Roosevelt to Hillary’s FDR.

I’ll end my completely amateur, uninformed, armchair analysis by saying that this whole thing is about as likely as me appearing on the cover of Sports Illustrated’s swimsuit edition… or voting Republican. It’s all conjecture and the conjecture of someone with no inside information, but I’ve heard too much about this idea being entirely bogus and it’s not. It’s certainly unlikely, but it’s not bogus and that’s why I sketched it out this way. Hillary Clinton would be good for Barack Obama in the same way that New Jersey’s Governor Chris Christie is such a good surrogate for Mitt Romney, another “Mr. Cool, Calm, and Collected”. She is a veteran of many partisan fights and would make a good “Iron Lady for the Middle Class” if that’s what the administration thinks they need in 2012. I think this issue is hinged on what the traveling circus that is the Republican primary constructs for a message and a ticket. If it’s something like Romney/Christie, there might be a new, and yet very familiar, running mate for the President.





Michelle Obama, You Were Right

14 09 2011

I’ve been trying to watch at least part of the Republican debates in the name of remaining well-informed. Frankly,the fact that one of these people might be president disturbs me, but their audience disturbs me more. Last week, in response to a question about the 234 executions carried out during Rick Perry’s tenure as governor of Texas, the crowd broke into cheers. Cheers?!

My issue is not over the death penalty itself. I have my opinions on the issue and I think responsible people can intelligently debate its pros and cons all day long. What I found so jarring was the raucous applause and whoops from the audience. We’re talking about killing people, not a great football play. Whether or not you believe a criminal deserves to die for their crimes, I think we can all agree that executions aren’t exactly cause for celebration.

Last night I had another of those “what country are these people living in” moments. A hypothetical question was posed to Texas Representative Ron Paul about what should happen to an individual who is uninsured and suddenly needs expensive medical care. Ron Paul tends to get a little long-winded, so the moderator pushed him asking if society should just let the man die which lead to several calls of “Yeah!” from the audience. Not as much glee as the death penalty mention some days before, but still creepy.

It isn’t just the fact that the idea of someone dying really pleases a few of these audience members. The thing that blows my mind is that not one of the candidates stepped up to say one of our strengths as a nation is our compassionate nature and that there would be something out there to keep citizens unable to afford insurance from being forced to go without necessary care. Looking out for one another doesn’t mean the “nanny state” is taking over. It means that we are part of a community – local, state, and national. Remember? “E Pluribus Unum”  – out of many, one. It’s on the national seal. (That was our motto before the 1950’s when “god” was added to our pledge to the flag and our money and the national motto became “In god we trust.”) A conservative can still have a soul, but you’d never know it. Empathy is apparently a facet of godless, socialistic, liberalism which must be abandoned as quickly and completely as possible.

In early 2008, then-candidate Barack Obama’s wife Michelle was taken to task by Republicans (and supporters of Hillary Clinton) for saying that America could be a mean country. Well, Mrs. Obama, I have to say that you were at least partially correct. A country which cheers execution, calls for those can’t afford that which will save their lives to lose their lives, and lacks any feeling for those who don’t plump up some corporation’s bottom line is a mean, mean place. The thing is, that mean place is not where I grew up. I don’t even recognize it. When I was growing up, if someone lost their job due to downsizing, lay-offs, and etc they weren’t the problem, whatever lead to their job going away was. A social security check, and the check and medical benefits of a union pension were the well-earned reward my grandmother and many others of the “greatest generation” received for decades of hard, honest work building our modern society. No one ever said they didn’t deserve it or were stealing from their children and grandchildren. Times have gotten harder, but I don’t think getting meaner as a society will solve anything. I’m hoping that logic will overcome whatever makes seemingly ordinary people cheer death and view compassion as a curse.





Because Glenn Beck Makes Me Think of Impending Doom

1 03 2011

I really don’t like Glenn Beck. That probably comes as no surprise seeing as the things he says are destroying the country – namely secularism, cosmopolitanism, liberalism, not feeling bad – even feeling proud – about being smarter than a jar of mayonnaise, and a healthy wariness of unbridled, unregulated corporate power – are things which I tend to support. My issue is not that he thinks that people who think the way I do hate their country (not true) and desperately what to turn the country communist (I do not), fascist (nope), or simply reduce it to a lawless, fiery hub of despair (Not even close) or the fact that he spouts this stuff on TV every day while simultaneously insisting that all other news sources are in on the plot and are therefore not to be trusted. My issue is that he’s mainstreaming ideas that, five years ago, would have been considered tinfoil-hat-level crazy. It reached its zenith for me when he started insisting that these popular uprisings for democracy and freedom – ideas I thought the US supported – was actually a signal that the end of the world as described in the Bible is near because those asking for freedom and greater say in the government pray facing Mecca. Yes, ready your survival rations, convert all your money to gold, build a bunker, and pray (in an all-American, judeo-christian way, of course) like your afterlife depends on it because the end of the world is coming! That used to get TV people fired, now it’s all good. A little doomsday theory with your dinner, Ma’am?

So I started to think about what I would need to sustain myself in case of a tea-people revolt, or a ninja attack, or the coming of judeo-christian God into my happy secular world with the intention of kicking my heathen hiney. (Because obviously the thing to do when dealing with something this “out there” is to make a list.) It’s sort of the whole “what would you take with you to a deserted island’ thing on steroids. I’m assuming I have to be alone. Stranger still are the answers I came up with:

  • Astronaut ice cream. Remember that? The stuff you used to get at the Science Museum? Seems like good survival food.
  • Cheese curls.
  • Chocolate. Specifically Cadbury Dairy Milk and Flake bars and Ghirardelli dark chocolate – the darker the better.
  • A wide variety of fruits.
  • The ability to get tri-state area, “good” pizza, and other food delivered.
  • Dunkin’ Donuts coffee on tap.
  • Peach Ramune.
  • Apple cider.
  • Patrón. 😀 (Olé!)
  • As for non-edibles, I’d need a well equipped iPad 2. That’s my books, video games, music, and just about everything else. I’ll assume there’s internet access wherever I’m hiding – hiding while getting pizza and wings delivered and drinking tequila. Sounds like college.

So, in the event the four horsemen of the apocalypse show up, I’m apparently going to spend that last scraps of my life getting in touch with my geekdom. Yes, it’s completely random and makes little sense. That is how I process this nonsense that is taken as granite hard fact by many in this country. A dozen years ago when people started squawking about the world ending in the year 2000, everyone recognized that as a bit nutty and moved on. This guy says it now and people store food reserves. And if you say “Hmm, I think I smell some bullfunky here, then you’re one of ‘them’ – one of those country-destroyers.” The mainstreaming of fear and ideas that used to be the fringiest of the fringe and making people frightened not only of the future, but of a significant portion of the country’s population day in and day out is why I don’t like Glenn Beck.

And the moral of this story? Don’t over-analyze things which every brain cell you have is telling you are bat shit crazy. You’ll come up with something annoying and asinine.

Oh, come on, this post was begging for a picture of someone in a tinfoil hat.





Admirable Women – The Real Trailblazers

25 02 2011

2008 brought a lot of attention to the role of women in the highest levels of elected office. That’s great – I’m all for furthering gender equity – but we got a bit caught up in how historic a moment it was for women. “Oh. My. God. A woman senator is running for President. A woman governor might be Vice President. Oh, we’re soooooo enlightened.” Yeah, not quite. We’d forgotten that we’ve seen women as governors and senators for a while now and we’d seen them running for President and be nominated as vice presidential candidates before too. Time to take a serious look at all the ’08 hype before we get buried in BS of 2012. I’m not trying to diminish the accomplishments of either of these women, but there are a few things that need clearing up.

Hillary Clinton was sworn in as the junior Senator from New York in 2001 and served in the Senate for 7 seven years until 2009 when she was asked to become Secretary of State by President Obama. So, she served a full term, was re-elected, and was then picked to fill a position within the incoming administration. Yes, that’s impressive. What it isn’t is unheard of – at least the different pieces of it aren’t. Let me explain.

  • Hattie Wyatt Caraway (D-AR), after serving in the Senate for a year to fill the seat left open by her husband’s death, won a special election in 1932 and became the first woman elected to the United States Senate. She won re-election in 1938, but lost the 1944 primary.
  • Victoria Woodhull was the first woman to run for the office of President of the United States… in 1872. Some say the she doesn’t count because her name was never on the ballot.
  • Ok, if you want to be one of those picky people, fine. Belva Ann Lockwood ran in 1884 and 1888. Her running mate in her first attempt also happened to be a woman.
  • Frances Perkins was the first woman to be appointed to a position in the US Cabinet. In 1933, Franklin Delano Roosevelt named her Secretary of Labor, a position she held until 1945.
  • *In 1972, Shirley Chisholm (D-NY) became the first woman to get delegate votes at national convention for a major party. To date, six women have had that honor – Shirley  Chisholm in 1972, Barbara Jordan (D-TX) in 1976, Koryne Kaneski Horbal (D-MN) and Alice Tripp (D-MN?) in 1980, Martha Kirkland (D-AL?) in 1984, and Hillary Clinton (D-NY) in 2008. * (Updated as promised.)

Hillary Clinton is admirable – she’s done a lot and I’ll get into that in another post – but not for being the first woman to run for president, or becoming a famous senator, or being asked to be a high-ranking official in a presidential administration because she wasn’t first. She’s the one that got the farthest along thus far, but there were many who came before her. She took the individual achievements others had attained and strung them all together in one ten-year period – a feat that in itself is admirable.

Sarah Palin has become not only a celebrity, but something close to a deity in the eyes of many of her supporters. I think any sort of rabid political fandom is a little misplaced – they write laws, not pop songs – but the Palin worshipers really take it to the next level not only in their devotion to the former Governor, but also in the level of their disdain for those who aren’t moved to support her no matter how rational or genuine their reasons for not doing so are. To fail to support Sarah Palin is, to many of her diehard fans, to reveal yourself as everything anti-American. Yeah, that’s crazy. So, what has she done. Well, in addition to being chosen by AZ senator John McCain to be his running mate in the 2008 presidential election – the event which propelled her into the national spotlight – she served as governor of Alaska from December of 2006 until her resignation in July of 2009. With the fuss that was made over her governorship and vice presidential nomination, you’d think it had never happened before. Well, it had.

  • Nellie Tayloe Ross (D-WY) and Miriam A. Ferguson (D-TX) both became governors in January, 1925. Mrs. Ross, sworn in of January 5th, succeeded her late husband.
  • Miriam A. Ferguson, sworn in on January 25th, succeeded her impeached husband. Her first term was plagued with allegations of corruption and she was defeated twice before winning a second two-year term in 1933. That term was also tainted by alleged corruption. (Might it have run in the family?)
  • The first woman to win a governor’s race without being previously connected to the office by marriage was Ella Grasso (D-CT) who was elected in 1975 and won re-election in 1978. She resigned in December of 1980 due to a worsening battle with ovarian cancer which she succumbed to several weeks later in February 1981.
  • At the time of the 2008 presidential race, Mrs. Palin was one of eight women serving as state governors.
  • The first woman to be chosen as a vice presidential running mate was Marietta Stow, the running mate of Belva Ann Lockwood in 1884.
  • The first woman to be nominated as a vice presidential candidate for one of the country’s major political parties was Geraldine Ferraro (D-NY)in 1984 when she was chosen by Walter Mondale to be his running mate.

Dismiss this all as “Palin Derangement Syndrome” if you will, but while there are some things about her life that are admirable, after comparing her to the other women who actually broke down barriers in politics, I’m not singing Mrs. Palin’s praises. She is also still rather young as far as politicians go, so she may yet accomplish something of merit, but for right now I remain highly unimpressed with the political career of the woman people are comparing to everyone from Washington, to Lincoln, to Jesus. Sorry!

There are many women who have done a lot with their lives before what they did was common or even accepted. Being politically involved and female is a combination that just came about four, or ten, or twenty years ago. We’ve just gotten better at it.

These are a couple other links.

A list of women presidential and vice presidential candidates , a list of women state governors, and a fact sheet about women in government as of 2011 from the Center for Women in Politics.





The Third Piece of the H.R. 3 Trilogy

5 02 2011

I figured I should let you know the latest on the case of Republicans vs the English language regarding the word rape. Parts 1 and 2 of the saga are here. According to a Politico article written on Thursday, The GOP has dropped the “forcible rape” language from the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act. The same is true for putting an age limit on funding abortions for victims of incest. The following is a quote from that article.

The bill’s authors, including Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-Ill.), say it’s not their intent to change the way the exemption is applied.

“The language of H.R. 3 was not intended to change existing law regarding taxpayer funding for abortion in cases of rape, nor is it expected that it would do so,” Lipinski told Talking Points Memo in a statement.

Call me cynical, but if this particular section of the bill wasn’t supposed to change the our current law, then why was it even added and why was there an obvious attempt to alter the current standard created and upheld by the Hyde Amendment by coining the term “forcible rape”. Regardless of what the purpose of that section of the bill was, it isn’t there now and I’m glad. I don’t like a lot of other parts of this bill and I don’t like that pursuing a social conservative’s dream agenda has taken priority over improving the economic situation for millions in this country, but maintaining our current definition of rape is a start. Hopefully, it’s a reality check for the House Republicans at the very least.

Jon Stewart’s The Daily Show ran a really good segment on the redefinition of rape the night before Politico reported that it was no longer in the bill and it summed things up pretty well. I’m not sure if that had anything to do with that section being cut, but tit was a good segment. Since it refuses to embed properly, this is a link to the clip. Hopefully, this is the last we hear of the “No Taxpayer Funding For Abortion Act”. I’m hoping it falls apart before becoming law because, technically, taxpayer money doesn’t go to funding abortions except in the extreme cases dictated in the Hyde Amendment which aren’t being affected and – according to one of people who wrote the bill -never were going to be affected (an explanation I still think is bullfunky) by this new bill. One can only conclude, if they are willing to cut through the sanctimony surrounding the issue of abortion, this whole bill is either a massive waste of time when there are far, far bigger things our congress needs to focus on, or an attempt to limit funds from going to institutions which not only provide abortions – the vast majority of which are not taxpayer-funded and therefore none of the government’s business or anyone less’ for that matter – but also birth control, prenatal care, testing for STD’s, OB/GYN visits, and mammograms. Last time I checked there weren’t large-scale protests about the immorality of low-cost, subsidized STD testing and obstetrical services. I leave you with this picture of silly protest signs because it just seems appropriate.





The GOP’s Choice – Jobs or Redefine Rape

29 01 2011

I woke up to shoveling-induced back pain and the melodious tones of the snoring shiba inu at the end of my bed, so I grabbed my eReader and got on the internet – because why have the ability to go on the internet without having to walk to the computer if you aren’t going to use it, right – and found that somebody had tweeted this article from motherjones.comHouse GOP’s Plan to Redefine Rape. It has to do with changing the current rules about allowing taxpayer money to go toward abortions in extreme cases – when the life of the mother is at stake, incest, and rape. It seems that Republicans feel being impregnated by having had sex against her will is no longer a good enough reason for a woman not to be made to birth her rapist’s baby if she would require federally allotted funds in order to obtain an abortion. In short rape doesn’t really mean rape when you’re on Medicaid. What?! I read it and had to vent about it somewhere. Aren’t you all lucky?

First of all, I would be remiss if I didn’t do a little research. The article linked to the full text of the bill available on opencongress.org and so did I, just so you know I’m not making this stuff up. The bill is not very long and surprisingly easy to understand. This is not a misinterpretation of legalese by a woman with a BA in theater and media arts. Section 309 reads as follows, though the underlining was added by me –

‘SEC. 309. TREATMENT OF ABORTIONS RELATED TO RAPE, INCEST, OR PRESERVING THE LIFE OF THE MOTHER.

‘The limitations established in sections 301, 302, 303, and 304 shall not apply to an abortion-

‘(1) If the pregnancy occurred because the pregnant female was the subject of and act of forcible rape, or, if a minor, an act of incest; or

‘(2) in the case where the pregnant female suffers from a physical disorder, physical injury, or physical illness that would, as certified by a physician, place the pregnant female in danger of death unless an abortion is performed, including a life-endangering physical condition caused by or arising from the pregnancy itself.

See, I told you it’s pretty clear, except for one thing – what is forcible rape? I looked up the definition of rape and this is it, according to dictionary.com. Again, the underlining and italics were all my idea.

rape1  [reyp] noun, verb, raped, rap·ing.

NOUN 

1. an act of sexual intercourse that is forced upon a person.
2. the unlawful compelling of a person through physical force or duress to have sexual intercourse.
3. statutory rape.
4. an act of plunder, violent seizure, or abuse; despoliation;violation: the rape of the countryside.
5. Archaic . the act of seizing and carrying off by force.
VERB (used with object)
6. to force to have sexual intercourse.
7. to plunder (a place); despoil.
8. to seize, take, or carry off by force.
VERB (used without object)
9. to commit rape.

With force being part of what defines rape in general, what kind of conditions are being set here? After years of preaching that “no means no”, might we be undercutting that message now. If you don’t think that a savvy attorney would try their best to use the denial of federal funding to terminate the victim’s pregnancy as a tool in their defense, I think you are sorely mistaken. And what constitutes forcible anyway? A physical struggle? How much? Do those who were drugged and raped have to have the baby unless they can afford to pay for an abortion out-of-pocket? What about someone who is mentally impaired? What about a statutory rape? If a 13-year-old is impregnated by a 22-year-old should she be made to bear the child if she or her parents don’t have the money? What if the rape victim was threatened or otherwise coerced into not fighting back? Is that forcible enough or do there have to be physical scars? I think this type of hair-splitting could set us on a course back to the days when there was a type of woman who could be raped – the “good girls” who didn’t party hard, dressed modestly, etc… – and those who could never possibly be raped because they behaved and dressed in a manner that was “asking for it”. News flash – nobody ever asks to be raped. If a woman drinks and/or takes some drugs, it means they’re using drugs or drinking. They aren’t asking to be raped. If a woman has a sexual history, it means they’re not a virgin. They aren’t asking to be raped. If a woman wears something provocative, it means they want to look sexy. They aren’t asking to be raped. After all the time and energy we have devoted to the message of not blaming the victim, whoever she is and whatever her lifestyle, for the actions of her attacker, we may be headed right back there. As if this wasn’t disgusting enough, there’s the other thing in the bill that I underlined. A victim of incest – yes, incest – is only eligible for a federally funded abortion if she is under the legal age of consent. Do we really want to put the victim seeking an abortion on the grounds of incest through anything more than she’s already been through. How the hell was she “asking for it”? Whoever thought we needed alter the definitions of rape and incest as part of our healthcare policy is a really particular kind of ideologue – the creepy kind. In both situations, this proposal would punish individuals who are victims of a crime – a point that is never disputed – for not being victimized enough. That’s just twisted. By the way, this bill has 173 cosponsors. If they get a few more supporters, this could pass the House of Representatives.

The issue also has a socioeconomic angle to it. The bill itself has been proposed not to stop all abortions in these cases, but those in which taxpayer money would be used. Taxpayer money as it stands now is mainly Medicaid, which pays for medical care for those who otherwise can’t afford it. Our tax dollars will also be used for the soon-to-be-created insurance exchange where a person can purchase coverage at a reduced rate. So even if a victim purchased insurance with her own money through this healthcare exchange, her policy would not be allowed to cover an abortion because the rate she paid was subsidized by the government unless she met these new guidelines. If not she would have to pay for the procedure out-of-pocket and the poorer the victim, the less likely she would be to have the money.

Speaking of money, this is supposed to be the congress that was elected to get America’s economy rolling again and get jobs creation up. That was the message that many of these conservative Republicans got in there on. Fine. Whatever. Elections have consequences, but this is what happens when people vote against a politician or administration rather than for a candidate’s platform. Well, surprise! This was an extremely successful bait-and-switch by social conservatives. Their third item of business has not a bit to do with jobs or fiscal responsibility and everything to do with the social conservative vision of what everyone’s morals and life should be. It is not what they campaigned on and there is something disingenuous about trying to start pricing women out of their right to choose (which is still protected by the Supreme Court) before tackling a budget, or the national debt, or most of the other stuff they promised to work on as soon as they got to DC. Furthermore, The Hyde Amendment, the “rider” attached to annual appropriations bills since 1976 which limits the use of federal money for abortion funding to instances of rape, incest, and to save the life of the mother, while not a permanent law has worked pretty well as a compromise thus far. Many, including myself, have issues with it, but compared to this mess, it’s definitely the lesser of two evils. At least it doesn’t get all nit-picky about incest. While I am all but certain the Senate will vote down HR 3 (that’s what this bill is called – House Resolution 3) if they go near it at all, it is clearly a sign of things to come.

There’s a follow-up post here and a follow-up to the follow-up here.





What Do House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and the iPad Have In Common?

24 01 2011

 

 

 

Both are small and partially made of plastic? No. Both are viewed as smug symbols of elitism by some Tea Party-ers? Maybe. It sort of depends on who you’re asking. The answer is that the public will be receiving both the iPad 2 and Pelosi 2.0 this year. If you’re wondering if this post is going to be both a bit of political theorizing and some nerd-girl swooning over a yet-to-be-released, shiny, new tech toy, the answer is yes. Why? Because I’m just that geeky.

Yes, technophiles are waiting with bated breath for the announcement of the iPad 2’s release date and many, myself among them, will head out to reserve one as soon as they are able to and then, once the happy day arrives, they will wait in insanely long lines for hours to, at long last, hold in their hands the second generation iPad. The clouds will part, beams of sunlight will pour warmly down from the heavens, celestial choirs will sing, and it will be Christmas in … whenever… for thousands of Apple lovers. The announcement has been expected for months and there are various theories about when it will come, many stemming from people with too much time on their hands analyzing every one of the few details they can get ahold of.  Those details are very few indeed and speculation is rampant, so take it all with several grains of salt. I’ve been casually following the iPostulating at Beatweek and I’ve also looked at Mac Rumors, where I pulled this picture from, and while there is a lot that’s just talk, these are some features that are generally accepted due to the surfacing of the photos of what are supposed to be iPad 2 cases made in China. Apparently, somebody doesn’t know how to keep a secret.

No doubt some of the silence surrounding the release date has to do with Apple’s co-founder and CEO, Steve Jobs, taking another medical leave of absence – this time without setting a date when he’ll be back. Jobs took a medical leave in 2006 in order to undergo treatment for pancreatic cancer and another in 2009 to undergo a liver transplant. With a medical history like that, the level of concern expressed by everyone from stock market analysts to run of the mill Apple fans is understandable. I join the chorus of those wishing Mr. Jobs a speedy return to health.

So nobody who’s able to confirm anything to the rest of us knows when the iPad 2 is coming or what fabulous things it’s going to be able to do when it gets here, yet many people are anxiously waiting, blogging, and talking about a device that Apple won’t acknowledge even exists yet. The question then becomes why. Why are so many people so excited by the sequel to the iPad? History. Apple functions on a very predictable schedule and has for several years now. They come up with a great product and then, within a year or two, the second generation is released and they have:

* Fixed all of the inevitable bugs that go along with anything 1.0.

* Created a buzz which results from their 1.0 being so good – a device that has become the gold standard in its category or damn close. For example, nobody says mp3 player. We all talk about iPods.

* Figured out what “it would be awesome if this thing had/could do ____” and added that feature to the second gen. product if it’s at all possible.

A bit of patience tends to be rewarded if the newest Apple gadget is your heart’s desire. As a bonus, most of the 3rd, 4th, 5th, etc generations don’t change a whole lot from the second gen. device – maybe they’ll have more memory or look a little cooler – until

there’s a major innovation (think classic to iPod touch) that really warrants an upgrade, so your second generation product stays current for a few years and you get your money’s worth which always feels rewarding when you’re dealing with techno toys. Since the iPad’s debut I have been waiting for all of the reasons I have described. As I recall, the iPad didn’t have much in the way of new device bugs. There were, however, things people wanted to see added or improved. The speakers could’ve been stronger. Many people want to see a camera added. I’m not among their number, but nobody called to ask my opinion. More

memory is a plus. The biggest thing I heard about was the screen’s glare issue, so that might be dealt with. The newest iPhone has a super high-resolution Retina Display screen. While this article says the iPad 2 won’t have it, an improvement in resolution and less glare is all but a given, especially given that an ad for Amazon’s Kindle e reader took a swipe at the iPad over the glare-prone screen. Throwing my own hat into the release date guessing game, I’ll say that we’ll have an announcement before June and I’ll have my iPad 2 in hand by December 1st.

On the political front, the House Minority Leader’s public image upgrade is looking to be on about the same time-table as my future iPad2. Starting well before the mid-term elections Nancy Pelosi had become the arch-villain in the Republican’s fairy tale of why everything that’s wrong with DC and perhaps even the world is the fault of the evil, no good, country-destroying, monolithic left. Even though sensible people on either side can take a look around and see that laying the blame for problems that were quietly growing in complexity for decades – even reaching back to the Reagan years in some cases – at the feet of Nancy Pelosi, Barack Obama, and Harry Reid, or even the Democrats as a group as the foolishness it is, Nancy Pelosi has become the personification of every one of our nation’s ill and all that’s hated about the nature of bureaucracy in general for many on the right. Her name was invoked to great effectiveness in campaigns by conservatives against then-incumbent Democrats during the mid-terms and conservative commentators on TV and in radio take every opportunity to skewer her for whatever’s making them unhappy at that particular moment. Glenn Beck was already joking about poisoning her in 2009. Some might say the character assassinations have worked a little too well. Last April, a man was arrested for threatening the then-Speaker of the House and I’m sure that not the first or the last threat she’s received. Unfortunately, it seems death threats are par for the political course. That’s nothing new of course – Abraham Lincoln kept a file of his in his desk at the White House – but just because it’s an old idea doesn’t make it acceptable. In short, whether you like Minority Leader Pelosi or not, you have to admit that she’s become politically radioactive – a pariah even among some members of her own party.

Despite her notoriously gaffe prone, generally nervous performances in press conferences and such which I attribute to a touch of stage fright (You can actually see her freeze up before she starts to trip over her words.), she is, contrary to popular belief, not a dumb woman. You don’t work you way up through the congressional leadership and become the most powerful woman in American political history by being an idiot. While the American public at large might decide to vote a likable doofus into the presidency, our Representatives take voting for their majority leaders, minority leaders, and speakers of the House very seriously. They vote for the one among them who can get things done and, whether you like the results or not, Nancy Pelosi got a lot done and she was able to keep most of the House Democrats in rank even after the Republicans took control at the beginning of the month. The fact that only three broke ranks to vote for a repeal of Healthcare Reform is a testament to her abilities. Still, she can’t do much when her public image is this toxic. She has to do some damage control… and it looks like she is. She has, for the most part, been able to avoid a lot of media attention with the exception of a few interviews. There are not many pictures of her coming out, so she’s generally under the radar. She wasn’t front and center at the memorial for the victims of the shoot in Tucson. She was the only member of the congressional leadership to attend the state dinner that was held for China’s President Hu Jintao, but I challenge you to find a picture of her there. Even the fact that she stuck around after losing the Speakership reflects well on her and casts a new light on someone reportedly only in it for the power and the parties and such. By just lying low and keeping as quite as the House Minority Leader can be expected to be, she’s keeping herself from become the story. That doesn’t sound like much but in six months, when the 2012 election cycle really gets underway, it will be much harder for Republicans to use her as the poster woman for why all liberals should be despised if she hasn’t said or done anything overly controversial in the last several months. If she can stay in the background while Speaker Boehner and the Republicans try to get their agenda legislated and take the political flak that comes with doing so, she’ll begin to look more like a person and less like the demon she’s been cast as. In fact, the Republicans might come to regret posting that “Hire Pelosi” sign over the RNC. They underestimate her at their own peril.





Snow, Chaos, and the Merchant of Hate

12 01 2011

According to this, we got the most snow this state has ever seen in one day. That’s saying something considering the state is Connecticut. It’s up to my hips. I don’t think I’ve seen this much snow at one time. I have dug out and am feeling the results.

This is the Amalfi Coast in Italy and that is where I have been wishing I was all day today. The warm sun, a glass of wine, and gorgeous men sounds great right now.

There’s too much going on in the aftermath of the shooting in Arizona, my previous post‘s topic not to go back to it and, since I couldn’t do much other than dig out I’ve had a decent amount of time to work on this. Here is my opus magnum. On Monday evening, Bill O’Reilly said on his Fox News show, The O’Reilly Factor that those calling for the political debate in this country to take a more civil tone in the wake of the shooting of a congresswoman “Merchants of Hate” because some on the left had taken the opportunity to go after various conservative voices, naming them as potential (unintentional) accessories to the crime before anything was known about the shooter. Go figure. He singled out national publication which had specified specific individuals like Sarah Palin, Michele Bachmann or groups like the Tea Party-ites, conservatives, or the right in general but expanded his point to include anyone who had put out ideas about lowering the intensity level of our nation’s partisan tone. So you say “can’t we all treat each other properly ’cause somebody could get hurt” and you’re labeled a Merchant of Hate.

I expected being an evil, nation-destroying villain would be different to tell you the truth. I mean, do I get a costume? Do I get a scythe? A mace? A cat o’ nine tails? It seems like a Merchant of Hate should have something dangerous, painful, and medieval in their hand. I’m envisioning a combination of the grim reaper, a ringwraith, and a dominatrix (or the male version thereof). “Beware, you are in the presence of a Merchant of Hate. Hey, are those BBQ potato chips? Sweet!”

Mr. O’Reilly also made a claim that it was all due to a great liberal fear of the left-wing dissolving. That’s madness plain and simple. The left-wing isn’t going anywhere. Even in the good old conservative days of Father Knows Best, mandatory prayer in schools, the acceptance of the use of every racial, ethnic, religious, and social slurs except those pertaining to white, protestant, middle or upper class men – the days before the Civil Rights Movement, Women’s Liberation, or the first Pride Parade was ever thought of – there was still a left-wing. Don’t believe me? Look up “Joe McCarthy” to see how scared they got people. They were always there and, no matter how small or large their number, conservatives have always been screaming that they would destroy the country and should be stopped. News flash, Mr. O’Reilly, the left is not going away. There’s been a political shift, a common occurrence in this country, but, barring some large-scale, Mao-style re-education effort or the far right wingnuts getting the right to make arrests on sedition or treason charges, there will still be a population of liberal thinkers in this country involved in politics, voting, and serving in elected office. If the our system of national government can accommodate the views of the likes of Ron Paul in can also handle those held by people like Nancy Pelosi and everyone else on the spectrum. It’s been making things work in spite of our elected officials’ flaws for 235 years and I have faith in it. I find it strange that some who would wrap themselves in the mantle of patriotism and Americana would view the building blocks of our country as so easily able to be broken. Come on, we’re stronger than that.

I might be a Merchant of Hate according to Mr. O’Reilly, but I stand by my statements in my last post. I don’t care what the shooter’s motive was. If thousands of people – not the usual punditry suspects, but average people – hear that a member of congress was shot and start talking about tempering political rhetoric, that should be a hint that maybe there’s a problem there. Why not be proactive and curb our collective enthusiasm before it gets someone hurt and for goodness sake don’t ramp it up just for the hell of it ,or because you like controversy, or because you think your base will love it. I still believe that the caustic nature of our national climate is unhealthy and should be diffused, not through the passage of legislation, but through a little self-restraint on the part of our leaders and those who put their political opinions out for all to see (myself included).

This evening, The President spoke at the University of Arizona at a memorial for the victims of this senseless act. His eloquence served him well. I found his thoughts about the youngest victim, nine-year old Christina Taylor Green – words about public service viewed as nobel through the innocent lenses of a child’s eyes. “I want to live up to her expectations,” he said. Why not try? Seriously, let’s make the effort. There’s no downside that I can see to treating politicians like people instead of demons. A few paragraphs back, I mention having faith in our governmental process. Well, since I’m in a quoting mood, Ella Grasso, the former governor of Connecticut – the first woman elected governor in her own right – is quoted as saying “It is not enough to profess faith in the democratic process; we must do something about it.” We need to do something about the way we debate. We need to not take the easy way out – the systematic shredding of an opponent’s humanity as opposed to taking them to task on the more academic, less sensational realm of stands on issues, and economic plans, and polling data and all the other nuts and bolts of policy wonkery. Another politician who is way before my time said in his inaugural address “So let us begin anew remembering on both sides that civility is not a sign of weakness, and sincerity is always subject to proof.” The topic of John F. Kennedy’s quote was the Cold War. Compared to that, partisan hyperbole seems a lot easier to handle.

If you missed it, this is the President’s speech and the University of Arizona.