The Pup Tent Party?

Elizabeth Warren and Nancy Pelosi, both of whom actually belong to the Democratic Party, said what shouldn’t have needed to be said: DNC Chairman Tom Perez was wrong when he said the national party would not support any candidate who did not support reproductive rights. Here’s part of what Perez said:

Every Democrat, like every American, should support a woman’s right to make her own choices about her body and her health. That is not negotiable and should not change city by city or state by state.

He is right. Everyone should support reproductive rights for women and those rights should not change depending on where you happen to live. But he is wrong to ignore the reality of American politics. Pro-choice Democrats can’t get elected in some places.

Both Warren and Pelosi are, in Warren’s words, “strongly pro-choice.” Pelosi said:

I have served many years in Congress with members who have not shared my very positive — my family would say aggressive — position on promoting a woman’s right to choose.

Image result for warren and pelosiBut both of these powerful Democrats recognize, as do most party leaders, that the issue of abortion is one that plays differently in Louisiana than it does in Massachusetts or California. We should remember that when Democrats held a majority in the House in 2009, it was because more than three dozen anti-choicers called themselves Democrats.

Leading Democrats have more work to do in convincing an overwhelming majority of people that women should be able to control their own bodies, should be able to make their own choices about having children and how many they should have. Until then, we have to live with the fact that not everyone, including not everyone in the Democratic Party, agrees with the party’s platform on the issue. Warren put it well:

I recognize that not all of my colleagues agree with me. I’ll do everything I can to persuade them, but they are my colleagues, and that’s just how it is with the Democrats. But I got to say, it does not dampen my energy in this fight.

It’s the same way with issues like single-payer health insurance. Many Democrats don’t support the concept, either as a revolutionary change in our system or even as an incremental change, step by step until we get there. These Democrats need to be convinced otherwise, as far as I’m concerned. But if they are willing to fight for other issues that we Democrats have in common, then they should be welcome in our party to fight with us on those issues.

The two major political parties in our system are, by the nature of the case, full of all kinds of people with all kinds of views on all kinds of issues. There is no one issue that defines what a Democrat is, even if there does come a point where you can disagree with so many core principles of the party that you should just call yourself something else and get out of the tent.

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Fanaticism In Missouri

Let’s start today’s adventure into the strange world of fanatical belief with Pat Robertson of 700 Club fame. As Daily Kos reported, Robertson, who is 84 years old, took a question on his program from a woman who, along with her husband, is also in her eighties. She said the couple had an old car that had just broken down and they had to borrow the money to fix it. Plus, they “both need dental work, but can’t afford it.” Add to that the claim that they have to use their “credit card to pay for medical needs.” They wonder what they could be doing wrong, since they have demonstrated their faith by declaring “that this is our time of prosperity”—a confessional requirement in the so-called “prosperity gospel” business movement. She said they also “have no unforgiveness” in their lives, which answers an excuse prosperity gospel preachers offer to their followers who don’t experience any promised prosperity.

Oh, and most important, she says she and her husband “give willingly and our tithe is over 10 percent.”

Got it? These older folks love Jesus, give a helluva lot of their income to God, and have a junky car and no money of their own to pay for their health needs. So, naturally, Robertson, who specializes in giving wise Godly counsel, gave these desperate folks some wise Godly counsel:

Ask God to show you some ways of making money. There are many ways of making money, even at 80 years old. You know, you can get on the telephone, people are hiring.

Words fail me.

Our next adventure in fanaticism, though, deserves many words. It is happening here in Missouri.

Mother Jones published an article today (“Missouri Republicans Are About to Pass One of the Harshest Abortion Laws in the Country“) that reports on the fact that next week Missouri legislators, most of them fanatical Republicans, will meet in a special session to attempt, among other outrageous things, to override Governor Jay Nixon’s veto of their fanatical legislation that would essentially rob Missouri women of their right to exercise what reproductive rights they have left in this state. As MJ notes, that legislation “would force women seeking an abortion—including victims of rape and incest—to wait 72 hours between their first visit to a clinic and the procedure itself.”

Yes, even victims of rape or incest would have to wait three days—currently they are forced to wait 24 hours—to avail themselves of their fading constitutional right to not be further violated by having to bear the offspring of rapists or relatives. But that is only the latest restriction on reproductive rights here in this state:

Missouri lawmakers proposed more than two dozen abortion restrictions this year, all of them targeted at the St. Louis clinic. Missouri already has more abortion-related restrictions on the book than almost any other state in the country. Abortion providers must offer women the opportunity to view an ultrasound of the fetus, and abortion clinics in Missouri must meet the requirements of an ambulatory surgical center; these requirements are expensive to meet and they are not medically necessary for most abortions. These laws have resulted in the closure of all but one of the state’s clinics.

The sponsor of the bill in the House, a man—I repeat: a man—from nearby Nixa, Missouri, said,

Taking it from one day to three days? I don’t think it’s creating an extra obstacle for the mothers.

I wonder if this man, whose name is Kevin Elmer and who was elected in 2010, the year that just keeps giving and giving, would want to wait for three days if he had been raped and impregnated? Oh, sorry. Not applicable. And that is the point. But it doesn’t stop Mr. Elmer, and apparently nearly every Republican man (and woman) in the legislature, from taking it upon themselves to force their fanaticism on Missouri women.

Elmer says:

I believe that life begins at conception. And I’m not to discriminate against any life because of how it was conceived. I don’t disregard the significance of the tragic events that those women suffer from. But we’re still weighing that against the right of the unborn child to live…We’re asking all mothers just to give it another 48 hours to think about what is it they’re doing when they kill their unborn child.

First of all, Republicans aren’t “asking” the “mothers” to do anything. They are forcing them. Forcing them to “think.” Forcing them to think about killing “their unborn child.” Now, it seems to me that if you really believe in your bones that zygotes or embryos or fetuses are unborn children, then allowing women—”mothers” in Elmer’s certainty-plagued eyes—one day or three days or thirty days is too many days. They simply shouldn’t be allowed to kill their kids at any time, for any reason. It is absurd to say that mothers have permission to kill their children—if they take sufficient time to think about it. But that is what these confused zealots are actually saying.

Let’s be clear. What Republicans are doing, all over the country, is using the power of government, through various restrictions on female reproductive rights, to essentially force women, even women who have been impregnated by rapists, to become mothers.

Oddly, when Mr. Elmer was running for office, he said the following:

I believe in smaller government that is limited in its taxes, regulation of businesses and controls of local communities…People know what is best for their families and businesses not the collective thought of a government. 

Okay. Now, again, words fail me.

 

 

Texas Spring?

Tuesday night I followed on Twitter the progress of Texas state senator Wendy Davis’ heroic filibuster against evangelical governance in that state, governance represented by a proposed law—which earlier in the special session had passed the Texas House—that would essentially rob many Texas women of their constitutional right to govern their own reproductive lives without interference from an Old Testament Yahweh, a first-century Jesus, or their self-proclaimed representatives in the state legislature.wendy davis

If you think that first sentence was a mouthful, you should have seen Democrat Wendy Davis in action, all 11 hours of action performed before her frustrated Tea Party colleagues, an admiring gallery, and almost 200,000 livestream viewers of the filibuster on the Internet.

That last datum is significant. For most of us, the only available means of seeing Senator Davis in action, of watching the proceedings—which were quite exciting at the end because of a midnight deadline at play and Republicans’ willingness to lie about the vote taken after the deadline—was the Texas Senate Livestream on YouTube, not on cable television news. Or, like me, one could follow it on Twitter and get updates from folks who were watching on YouTube.

I tried in vain to get live TV coverage of the rather unique and significant event that was unfolding as midnight approached in Texas.  MSNBC’s tagline is “The Place for Politics,” and since there was some interesting politics going on in the Lone Star State, particularly a liberal-versus-conservative style of politics, naturally I figured I could follow it on The Place for Politics.

Except that MSNBC wasn’t covering it live (they did mention it during evening programming). Neither was the Cable News Network or the Fox “News” Channel. Nothing live. As James Poniewozik of Time pointed out,

As midnight approached in Austin, political observers were watching a nailbiter on YouTube; but on cable, you could see an interview about Iraq on Fox, a climate debate on MSNBC, and, toward the end of Anderson Cooper’s CNN show, a report on an attempt to ban the wearing of saggy pants.

Poniewozik also noted:

It was online and in social media where the story really took off, and even played out. As partisans from both sides traded shots on YouTube, Twitter became an extension of the Senate gallery, with users weighing in (President Obama’s twitter account directed attention to the filibuster at one point), cracking jokes, and even offering unsolicited  advice to the legislators on the points of Texas parliamentary procedure.

If all this sounds like an American version of “Arab Spring,” in which social media has played a critical role in the attempted dissolution of Middle East despotism, then maybe it is, at least a tiny little bit. Cable news, whether it was because of producer indifference, lack of resources, or poor editorial judgment, missed something exciting and, we can hope, ultimately game-changing—there is talk already of Wendy Davis running for Texas governor in 2014!

The point in all this is that these days, just because the official news bidness misses something, that doesn’t mean it will escape the instant notice of motivated people who care about, in this case, the right of women to control their own reproductive health and to keep religious and other zealots from dictating to them when to become parents.

“Stop Terrorizing Women”

We’ve been treated to a lot of talk about terrorism since the Boston Marathon bombing and subsequent events. I want to talk about another kind of terrorism that goes on every day somewhere in America.

The Good Men Project describes itself this way:

We are a community of 21st Century thought leaders around the issue of men’s roles in modern life. We explore the world of men and manhood in a way that no media company ever has, tackling the issues and questions that are most relevant to men’s lives…

Guys today are neither the mindless, sex-obsessed buffoons nor the stoic automatons our culture so often makes them out to be. Our community is smart, compassionate, curious, and open-minded; they strive to be good fathers and husbands, citizens and friends, to lead by example at home and in the workplace, and to understand their role in a changing world.

According to the website, one of The Good Men’s Project’s most popular stories involved a man named Aaron Gouveia, who wrote a story that began this way:

“You’re killing your unborn baby!”

That’s what they yelled at me and my wife on the worst day of our lives. As we entered the women’s health center on an otherwise perfect summer morning in Brookline, two women we had never met decided to pile onto the nightmare we had been living for three weeks. These “Christians” verbally accosted us—judged us—as we steeled ourselves for the horror of making the unimaginable, but necessary, decision to end our pregnancy at 16 weeks.

After extensive testing at a renowned Boston hospital three weeks earlier, we were told our baby had Sirenomelia. Otherwise known as Mermaid Syndrome, it’s a rare (one in every 100,000 pregnancies) congenital deformity in which the legs are fused together. Worse than that, our baby had no bladder or kidneys. Our doctors told us there was zero chance for survival.

Gouveia says he’s not religious, doesn’t believe in heaven or hell, but:

…there is a hell on Earth. Hell is sitting next to the person you love most and listening to her wail hysterically because her heart just broke into a million pieces. Hell is watching her entire body convulse with sobs because she’s being tortured with grief. For as long as I live and no matter how many children we have, I will never forget that sound. And I vowed to do everything in my power to make sure she’d never make it again.

One of the things Gouveia has done is create for us and present to us the video encounter below, now more than two years old. He shows us that religious zealots, no matter how sincere they may be, need confronted. They need challenged. They shouldn’t exercise the right of public protest over reproductive rights, over what they call “baby killing,” without at least knowing that there are lives on the other side of the argument that are very much affected by their zealotry, and those lives have a voice, sometimes a loud voice, that needs to be heard, too.

Aaron Gouveia ends his written piece with a plea both to the zealots and to the rest of us:

My wife and I wanted our second child. We loved her. We even had a name for her, Alexandra.

You never know the circumstances surrounding this kind of decision. Consider this my plea: stop terrorizing women. Stop adding trauma to their trauma. If you’re able, stand up to these bullies in nonviolent ways. Speak out. And if you have a camera, use it.

Iowa Personhood Bill “Just Simplifies Everything”

Undoubtedly, the two Republican front-runners for  the GOP presidential nomination in 2016 are Paul Ryan and Marco Rubio, both practicing Catholics.

Here is how Michelle Goldberg accurately described Ryan’s position on abortion:

He believes ending a pregnancy should be illegal even when it results from rape or incest, or endangers a woman’s health. He was a cosponsor of the Sanctity of Human Life Act, a federal bill defining fertilized eggs as human beings, which, if passed, would criminalize some forms of birth control and in vitro fertilization.

In the context of the Republican Party platform’s complete ban of abortion—with no exceptions for rape or incest or to save the life of the mother—here is how Marco Rubio answered a question:

Rubio told “Face the Nation” host Bob Schieffer that for those opposed to abortion, “this is not an issue about denying anyone rights. This is an issue about protecting the rights of a human being to live – irrespective of what stage in development they may be. And so I think that’s what Mitt Romney and the Republican Party stand for…It’s about protecting the rights of human beings that have not yet been born.

That’s pretty clear, no? For both Ryan and Rubio, at the earliest stage of development humans have “rights” that trump the rights of their mothers in all circumstances.

Which brings us to this:

Iowa Bill Would Jail Raped Women for ‘Murder’ of Single-Cell Zygotes

A bill introduced by nine Republican state lawmakers in Iowa on Wednesday would define abortion as “murder,” sending doctors and raped women who terminate pregnancies to jail.

State Rep. Tom Shaw says that he authored House File 138 to protect human life, whether “you’re a zygote, an infant, a teenager or an adult.”

The bill defines a “person” as “an individual human being, without regard to age of development, from the moment of conception, when a zygote is formed, until natural death.”

“Murder includes killing another person through any means that terminates the life of the other person including but not limited to the use of abortion-inducing drugs,” the measure states without making any exceptions for rape or incest.

Republican state Rep. Rob Bacon, who is co-sponsoring the bill, told the Ames Tribune that he wanted to “protect the life of the unborn” because “[t]here’s still some of us that believe life begins at conception.”

During a Wednesday interview with Denver Bible Church pastor Bob Enyart, Shaw explained that defining a fertilized egg as a “person” in Iowa’s murder statute “just simplifies everything.” 

“So when anyone has any questions towards us — the war on women, are you doing this, are you doing that? — no, it’s a simple response,” he insisted. “We are only defining who a person is.”

“There was a lot of concern with former bills about who would be charged, what would they be charged with… This puts it in the hands of county attorneys, just like any other murder investigation. A person is a person.”

We must thank these Iowa Republicans for following anti-choice logic and making plain what two leaders of the Republican Party, Paul Ryan and Marco Rubio, actually believe the law should be for the entire country, not just Iowa.

And we must thank Democrats in Iowa—who still control the state senate—that this bill has zero chance of becoming law.

Intrusive, Vagina-Probing, Have-The-Rapist’s-Baby-Or-Else Big Government

From HuffPo:

Notice the “at least” in the subheader. There could be more. And remember, too, that Romney and Ryan are just as extreme, when it comes to their preferences, even though Romney, but not Ryan, has tried to have it three or four or more ways on abortion.

Again, for the record, Romney’s real position, as ABC News reported in 2007 after a Republican debate:

“I would welcome a circumstance where there was such a consensus in this country that we said, we don’t want to have abortion in this country at all, period,” Romney said at the time. “That would be wonderful. I’d be delighted.”

Pressed CNN host Anderson Cooper, “The question is: Would you sign that bill?”

“Let me say it. I’d be delighted to sign that bill. But that’s not where we are,” Romney replied. “That’s not where America is today. Where America is ready to overturn Roe v. Wade and return to the states that authority. But if the Congress got there, we had that kind of consensus in that country, terrific.”

As for Paul Ryan, he said in an interview with WJHL in Roanoake, Virginia:

REPORTER JOSH SMITH: Our viewers would love know…specifically where you stand when it comes to rape, and when it comes to the issue of should it be legal for a woman to be able to get an abortion if she’s raped?

PAUL RYAN: I’m very proud of my pro-life record, and I’ve always adopted the idea that, the position that, the method of conception doesn’t change the definition of life.

These are radicals. These are reactionaries. These are, in fact, radical reactionaries. Democrats have to keep pounding this into Americans’ heads, not just American women’s heads. These folks mean it when they say they want to use government—intrusive, vagina-probing, have-the-rapist’s-baby-or-else big government—to eliminate all abortions. All of us have to tell our friends, our family, our co-workers, our neighbors, about what is happening. Then we have to keep reminding them.

Even 76% of non-candidate Republicans believe abortion should be legal in the case of rape, for God’s sake, which is why Romney has tried to hide his extremism by copping a relatively less radical, but still radical nonetheless, position summarized as “only legal in the case of rape, incest, and the life of the mother.”  In the context of what he have heard from the mouths of Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock, that sounds like a pro-choice liberal speaking. But it isn’t. It’s still a reactionary speaking, still a radical position to hold. And besides that. Romney is still—still!—supporting Mourdock.

Whether it is this year’s crop of Republican senate hopefuls, or whether it is Mitt Romney’s expressed delight in signing a potential law that would eliminate all abortions, or whether it is Paul Ryan’s strange claim that rape is, in terms of the abortion issue, just another “method of conception“—God, that’s offensive—the message that these extremists would radically change the cultural landscape for women in this country has to be broadcast far and wide and often.

These zealots aren’t kidding, and Americans need to be told that again and again and again.

I Told You Todd Akin Was Missouri’s Freakiest Conservative

I told you so. Todd Akin is freaky. He’s bizarre, outlandish, queer. He’s unusually strange. Weird. Dangerously dizzy—and “legitimately stupid.”

Watch the offending 30 seconds below and notice the response of the interviewer, Charles Jaco. He has just been told something—by a man who wants to be Missouri’s U.S. Senator—that is monumentally dumb, offensive, and obviously newsworthy. What does Jaco say? “Let go to the, uh, uh, economy.”

Nope, let’s go to the tape:

Claire McCaskill said in response:

It is beyond comprehension that someone can be so ignorant about the emotional and physical trauma brought on by rape.

Nope. It is perfectly comprehensible, if you have snooped around in Todd Akin’s trove of extremism. It’s just that this time he is on a national stage for all to see and hear.

Sarah Steelman, Akin’s opponent in the primary (and who I thought would win), tweeted:

Todd Akin’s remarks about “legitimate rape” were inexcusable, insulting, and embarrassing to the GOP.

Notice it is the GOP she is worried about in her tweetful response. And there is reason to worry. So much reason that the Romney campaign, which is directing the larger war on women,  issued a statement about Akin’s “legitimate rape” comment and his willingness to force rape victims to bear the rapist’s child:

Gov. Romney and Congressman Ryan disagree with Mr. Akin’s statement, and a Romney-Ryan administration would not oppose abortion in instances of rape.

Well, first of all, Paul Ryan can’t disagree with Akin’s statement all that much because he too opposes abortion even in rape cases and has sponsored legislation that would grant “personhood” rights to embryos.

Second, that meek statement obviously won’t be enough to stop the tide that is coming. The consensus on Morning Joe this morning, including Republican Joe Scarborough, was that this is a test of leadership for Mittens. Scarborough, who said, “this is a nightmare for Republicans,” and that it “hurts every candidate,” forcefully argued that this should be Romney’s “Sister Souljah moment,” in which Romney should call Akin “every day” and tell him to “get out!

Well, it will be very difficult for Romney to express much outrage over Todd Akin, when by his side as his running mate is a man who sponsored an outrageous anti-abortion bill as one of the first acts of the Tea Party House.

Zerlina Maxwell of the New York Daily News wrote:

Akin and Ryan were the original co-sponsors of the controversial bill H.R. 3, “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act,” which initially included language which changed the definition of “rape” to “forcible rape,” until public pressure forced the bill’s supporters to remove that unacceptable and narrow definition. As I wrote previously, Paul Ryan is not just anti-choice, his anti-choice views are extreme and just plain bad for all women.

So, if Romney comes down too hard on Akin, he will have to answer an important question:

In what way is Akin’s “legitimate rape” comment different from the language that Paul Ryan and Todd Akin used in H.R. 3’s original version?

And as long as he is fumbling around trying to answer that question, he is only reminding women across America why they can’t trust Republicans with their personal life decisions.*

As for Akin, he may survive this train wreck, and given the hatred for Mr. Obama in the hinder parts of Missouri—voting against Claire McCaskill is a vote against Obama, don’t you know—I am sure he would still overwhelmingly win my part of the state.

The bright side, though, is that perhaps folks in other, more sober parts of Missouri, will, as Claire McCaskill said this morning, pay attention to the race because,

This statement is kind of a window into Todd Akin’s mind.

And at least now, if Akin is not forced to withdraw from the race, he will have forced folks here in Missouri, and across the country, to look through that window and consider the craziness and creepiness within, a craziness and creepiness that also describes the minds of many Republican Tea Party candidates.

_____________________________

* My congressman, Billy Long, also sponsored H.R. 3’s original language, which I pointed out in February of 2011 in “Ozark Billy Long Signs On To Redefine Rape.’ 

Will It Be The Long Or The Short Straw, Romney Fans?

I saw parts of the following video on MSNBC’s The Last Word on Monday night. If, after viewing the complete video essay below, you are still a Romney fan, the only question left is whether you would suck sweat from Romney’s butt crack through a short or long straw in order to beat President Obama in November:

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Women Beware

I wanted to call your attention to an excellent post by Katy Hall on HuffPo:

9 Lies Republicans Tell About Women’s Bodies

For the details go to the site and get educated. Here is the list:

1. Birth Control Causes Prostate Cancer.

2. Abortion Causes Breast Cancer.

3. Birth Control Is A Sex Pill.

4. Abortion Industry Is “Selling Abortions.”

5. Women Can’t Get Pregnant From Rape.

6. Prenatal Testing Leads To Abortion.

7. HPV Vaccine Causes Retardation.

8. Plan B Causes Abortions.

9Your Fetus Is Just Fine. (Proposals to protect doctors from “wrongful birth” lawsuits that involve physicians “withholding information that may lead a patient to get an abortion.”)

“A Seat In The Shaming Room”

Amazingly, some people are shocked over a Doonesbury cartoon, but not as shocked at the underlying policies that led to it.

From the Associated Press:

KANSAS CITY, MO. — A national syndicate will offer replacement “Doonesbury” comic strips to newspapers that don’t want to run a series that uses graphic imagery to lampoon a Texas law requiring women to have an ultrasound before an abortion, executives said Friday.

Here’s the problem some folks have with the cartoon:

The comic strips feature a woman who goes to an abortion clinic and is confronted by several people who suggest she should be ashamed. Among them is a doctor who reads a script on behalf of Texas Gov. Rick Perry welcoming her to a “compulsory transvaginal exam,” and a middle-aged legislator who calls her a “slut.”

One panel equates the invasive procedure to rape and describes the device used to perform it as a “10-inch shaming wand.”

Here are a couple of panels, reprinted in The Guardian:

Now, I can understand why this stuff upsets people, but what I can’t understand is why more folks aren’t upset over the reality behind the cartoon: Republicans in places like Texas have decided that women ought to be shamed and bombarded with guilt while exercising their reproductive rights, and in some cases they want the government to violate their bodies by forcing women seeking abortions to get invasive sonograms.

Doonesbury cartoonist Garry Trudeau defended his cartoon, saying,

In Texas, the sonograms are the least of it. The legislature has also defunded women’s health clinics all over the state, leaving 300,000 women without the contraceptive services that prevent abortions in the first place. Insanity.

And one would think that such insanity would be the controversy, not a cartoon designed to call attention to it.

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