Friday, May 2, 2014

Anti-Abortion Craziness Takes Over at the National Day of Prayer

May 1, 2014-A few years ago, I coined the term "Medical Right." It describes the connection between religiously influenced pseudo-medical organizations and the “Religious Right,” a fundamentalist political force.  “Medical Right” organizations intentionally mingle politics and religion, with the overall goal of outlawing abortion and - believe it or not - contraceptive methods that they wrongly equate with abortion.

What got me thinking about this today was the mind-boggling news story about James Dobson calling President Obama "the abortion president" at the National Day of Prayer event at the U.S. Capitol - what is supposed to be a nonpartisan day of unity. Here's the story. Dobson is founder of the right-wing Christian advocacy organization Focus on the Family - which qualifies as a Medical Right organization because of its anti-abortion politics, which are based on the erroneous notion that contraception is abortion. This is a quote of what he said in the Capitol  - a house of democracy, funded by taxpayers of all faiths and no faith. 

“President Obama, before he was elected, made it very clear that he wanted to be the abortion president. He didn’t make any bones about it. This is something that he really was going to promote and support, and he has done that, and in a sense he is the abortion president." 

Baffling? Only if you don't realize that Dobson and his nutty Medical Right allies believe that contraception is abortion and that the Affordable Care Act's inclusion of contraceptive coverage is the same as government-sponsored abortion. 

Representative Janice Hahn, a California Democrat who is the co-chair of the weekly congressional prayer breakfast, walked out in disgust. Later, she said: “James Dobson hijacked the National Day of Prayer - this nonpartisan, nonpolitical National Day of Prayer - to promote his own distorted political agenda.”

Dobson also read from a recent letter he said he had sent to “250,000 people,” in which he proclaimed that “The Creator will not hold us guiltless if we turn a deaf ear to the cries of innocent babies.”
“So come and get me, Mr. President, if you must,” Dobson's letter concluded. “I will not yield to your wicked regulations.” 

The event was organized by the National Day of Prayer Task Force, a conservative evangelical Christian non-profit, whose chairwoman is James Dobson's wife, Shirley Dobson.
In April, task force vice chairman John Bornschein defended the event against criticism that it was promoting evangelical beliefs, describing the day as a nonsectarian gathering.
"This is not about proselytizing," Bornschein said in April. "This is purely about prayer and praying for our leadership and asking for God's wisdom and blessing over our leaders."

Monday, November 26, 2012

The "Male Mystique"

Hanna Rosin is a former Washington Post religion reporter who has turned her satiric eye to male-female relationships. This piece in Slate - Fox News Figures Out How Women Have Ruined Men, posted Nov. 26 - is clever but too glib for my taste. The relationships between men and women are changing dramatically and it impacts everyone. The 20th century notion of "male" and "female" roles have been shattered. It's fair to say we have no prototype for a "female" role or "male" role - and that has turned American culture upside-down. 

Here's her column in full:

When I was writing the End of Men I mulled over many reasons why men
in certain segments of society were dropping out of work and family
life: the end of the manufacturing era, the housing crisis, their
unwillingness to get a college degree. I talked to hundreds of men and
pondered their stuckness, their general sense that they were ill
equipped for the modern economy and didn’t quite know how to fix that.
I arrived at an imperfect explanation that men were suffering from
some kind of “masculine mystique,” trapped in an all too narrow set of
social roles which were no longer serving them well. What I did not
consider was that the true and complete answer was right under my
nose, or more precisely, all over my face, staring back at me from the
mirror. The reason men could not move forward was ME.

I am angry. I am angry and resentful. I am angry and defensive and
resentful and men do not find that attractive. The worst part is, I
did not even know that until I read it in a FOX news story called “The
War on Men” written by Suzanne Venker, niece of and frequent
collaborator with Phyllis Schlafly. This story has been very popular
on the site for many days because it explains so much, so many
dynamics that Schlafly tried to make us understand during the course
of her long and patient career but which apparently are even more true

Venker’s jumping off point is a Pew study showing that the share of
women ages 18 to 34 claiming a successful marriage is “one of the most
important things in their lives” has risen since 1997 from 28 percent
to 37 percent, while the share of men saying the same has dropped from
35 percent to 29 percent. At the same time, women have become more
ambitious than men. Two-thirds of young women ages 18 to 34 rate
career high on their list of life priorities, compared with 59 percent
of young men. You might wonder, what do these nice young men now give
a shit about, if its not family or work? (Halo 4 was not on the list).
But this is not where Venker went with it.

But what if the dearth of good men, and ongoing battle of the sexes,
is – hold on to your seats – women’s fault? ... After decades of
browbeating the American male, men are tired. Tired of being told
there’s something fundamentally wrong with them. Tired of being told
that if women aren’t happy, it’s men’s fault.
Contrary to what feminists like Hanna Rosin, author of The End of Men,
say, the so-called rise of women has not threatened men. It has pissed
them off. It has also undermined their ability to become
self-sufficient in the hopes of someday supporting a family. Men want
to love women, not compete with them. They want to provide for and
protect their families – it’s in their DNA. But modern women won’t let
I knew that women had become more educated. I knew they were steadily
earning more money. I knew they had gained a lot of power of late, and
sometimes even more money and power than the men around them. But I
did not realize they had become so powerful that they could mess with
the men’s DNA. How did I miss that? How has J.J. Abrams not made a
movie about it?

Unfortunately, Venker is somewhat enigmatic about how to reverse this
problem, beyond a few vague clues. Women, she says, “have the power to
turn everything around” (Duh, of course, we have ALL the power). “All
they have to do is surrender to their nature – their femininity – and
let men surrender to theirs.” Surrender to my femininity. Surrender to
my femininity. I get the general idea but what does it mean, like, in
practice? Not wear pants so much? Let my hair grow. Ask my boss to pay
me a little less? Open to ideas.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Big Wins for Women!

What a win for women! Virginia and the entire country are changing and this election proved it. As of now, women’s issues are no longer fringe issues and women are no longer a special interest group.  Women cast the bulk of the votes this election - 53% - and were a force in winning campaigns across the country. Now we need to be sure our candidates and elected officials know it.

You already know the facts but for the record: Nationally President Obama won the women’s vote by 55% - an 11 point margin (he won by about the same margin in 2008, showing this is likely a reliable shift, not a fluke). In Virginia, he won the women's vote by 54%. Tim Kaine did slightly better with 56%. In other swing states, women also favored the President: 51-48 in Florida, 55-44 in New Hampshire, 52-47 in North Carolina, and 57-43 in Iowa.

The largest number of women ever will serve in the 113th Congress, according to the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers, An all-time high total of 20 women (16D, 4R) will serve in the Senate, and there will be a record of at least 77 women (57D, 20R) in the U.S. House. 

The Rutgers center also noted that the number of women running for Congress this year beat previous records. Roughly half the 33 Senate races had a viable female candidate – another record number. In two of the races, women faced off against each other (in Hawaii, the winner, Democrat Mazie Hirono, v. Republican Linda Lingle, and in New York, the winner Democratic Senator Kirsten Gillibrand v. Republican Wendy Long).

More information
About Republicans’ failure with the women’s vote

Demographic data

Women elected

An interesting article that argues that women are not a “voting block” and that race and ethnicity are better predictors of voting patterns than sex, see

My sense, from talking to women voters, is that the Virginia Republican’s  transvaginal ultrasound bill was a factor in motivating women to get involved in the campaign and to vote. Talking about lady parts doesn’t work. Just ask losers Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock. While women are still outraged about the ultrasound legislation,  the Democrats’ positive, broad, and inclusive messages were successful in moving the discussion beyond anger. That’s a lesson for us as we begin the 2013 campaign for governor, lt. governor, attorney general, and all 100 members of the House of Delegates.

Our win among women in Virginia was also (again, in my opinion) the result of highly effective outreach by the campaigns to women. Moderate messages and themes worked: support for Planned Parenthood, equal pay for women, reproductive health care as a family and economic issue, and the importance of family and medical leave among them. Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards and Lilly Ledbetter (whose name now graces the equal pay legislation signed by President Obama on his first day in office) made the point that Democrats consider “women’s issues” to be mainstream, non-controversial family and economic issues.

According to the Rutgers center, Obama’s win nationally was the second-largest gender gap in American history, exceeded only by the 1996 election. 

There were a number of firsts this year.
·         Elizabeth Warren is the first woman elected to represent Massachusetts in the U.S. Senate and takes the seat formerly held by the late Ted Kennedy. 
·         Rep. Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin is now the first openly lesbian or gay person elected to the Senate. 
·         Both Baldwin and Rep. Mazie Hirono of Hawaii are also the first women elected from their states to serve in the Senate. Hirono will serve as the first Asian-American woman in the U.S. Senate. 

·         New Hampshire is now a matriarchy (woman governor, two women senators, two women House members). The state already had two female senators – Democrat Jeanne Shaheen and Republican Kelly Ayotte – but now two Democratic women – Carol Shea-Porter and Ann McLane Kuster – will represent New Hampshire in the House of Representatives. The state also elected Maggie Hassan, who will be the country’s only female Democratic governor.

·        In a hotly contested House race in Illinois, Iraq War veteran Tammy Duckworth prevailed. As a double-amputee, Duckworth will gain much-needed visibility for people with disabilities in leadership positions. 

Women activists and voters made the difference in all of these victories, from the top of the ticket on down. Nationally, we've got to hold Congress accountable for the policies women support: the Paycheck Fairness Act, strengthening of Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and essential social services, fair taxation of the wealthiest, comprehensive immigration reform and civil rights for all, including same-sex couples. We must keep moving Virginia and the country forward.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

What's up with Women for Obama

I'm convinced - we've GOT to engage women if Obama is to win, especially in Virginia. So what does that actually mean to me - or you, reader? How do I help, given the narrow circle in which I move - liberal Democrats, good jobs, educated, fairly well-off, secular? They're already for Obama. (And as of last week, Obama had a double-digit lead among female voters.)

What's the problem? I think it's that there's a certain lack of enthusiasm for Obama (remember the crazy Obama fervor four years ago?) and that Romney is starting to sound intelligent and fluent as he moves into the general election. Where do we start?

Let's think about "women" - Hillary and Palin, for example. As Obama said recently, "women are not some monolithic block. Women are not an interest group." There's no stereotypical "woman." We have to talk woman-to-woman, putting forward our best arguments, not assuming there's a "women's vote" or simplistically thinking there are "women's issues."

Good ideas from Melinda Henneberger, writing in the Washington Post about "Five myths about female voters."

The first myth: "women vote together."

White, married, rural and suburban women have been trending Republican for years. In fact, white women as a whole haven’t gone Democratic since 1964. While for single, highly educated and urban women, the opposite is true; those remain reliably Democratic demographics.

Second myth: female voters favor female candidates.

Women consistently say they’d prefer to vote for a woman. But once in the voting booth, they don’t automatically favor female candidates... In fact, women are insulted by appeals that suggest they automatically favor female candidates, which is part of the reason [Hillary] Clinton didn’t play the gender card too overtly through much of the [2008] campaign. Younger women in particular find this “hammer, meet nail” approach offensive. That’s why you rarely hear female candidates in either party making that pitch.

Obama won younger women’s votes, while Hillary Clinton captured women over 65 and barely won a majority of women.

Third myth: women vote based on "women's issues, such as abortion rights and contraception."
We don't although women are more more likely than men to rate government policy on birth control as important - 55% to 35% in a recent USA Today-Gallup poll Melinda quotes. In a Gallup poll last year, women are divided on abortion - 49-45%. Melinda comments (and this is really hard to believe, considering 1 in 3 women will have an abortion at some time in her life):

Age and party affiliation are far better predictors than gender of views on abortion.

Myth 4. A candidate’s wife can deliver women’s votes. She can't.

And, finally, myth 5: men decide elections. This is BIG and we need to remember it and tell everyone.

While it’s true that women tune in to campaigns later than men, women turn out to vote in greater numbers — and have done so for decades. Since 1980, the proportion of women who vote has topped the proportion of men who do. And it was higher than ever in 2008, with 65.7 percent of eligible women voting, compared with 61.5 percent of men.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Virginia's Gyno-Warriors
See you at United Against the War on Women! April 28 in Richmond!

Bob McDonnell and the Republicans have made Virginia a high-profile player in the War on Women. Although the governor backed down on requiring a pre-abortion vaginal probe (aka, state-mandated rape), he fully supported humiliating women with a medically unnecessary, nonconsensual, expensive abdominal ultrasound as a precondition to a legal abortion. This measure and others revealed a frightening disrespect, even contempt for women. Virginia Republicans to be active participants in the national election strategy to win by appealing to sexism and misogyny.

Anti-women bills are a Republican priority. At the top of their agenda has been 1) excluding all coverage of abortion in the new health care law (including allowing hospitals to refuse to admit pregnant women with a life-threatening condition), 2) restricting contraceptive coverage in that law (putting the demands of religiously affiliated institutions that take public funds and serve the public above women’s health care), and 3) defunding the highly regarded national family planning program, including Planned Parenthood clinics. Accordingly, Virginia excluded abortion coverage (except in cases of rape, incest and life endangerment) from the new health insurance exchange and regularly attempts to defund Planned Parenthood. Contraceptive coverage may be next.

While still working on the master strategy of overturning Roe v. Wade, the Republicans’ daily tactic is to “chip away” at services. Two pointless Virginia measures would have done that – an unconstitutional ban on abortion after 20 weeks’ gestation and a ban on Medicaid funds for abortions in the case of a fetus who will not survive. The Medicaid ban was not only cruel, it made no sense. In the last fiscal year only 23 women received state funds to terminate a pregnancy because of a fetal anomaly, costing the Commonwealth less than $15,000. “Chipping away” includes the unnecessary clinic regulations adopted last year, requiring women’s clinics providing first-trimester abortions to meet hospital standards. The intent is to force clinics to close.

Nationally, the most extreme factions back personhood measures, giving full legal rights to a fertilized egg. Virginia’s personhood bill failed when Republicans could not figure out how it could possibly work (the word “person” is defined 118 ways and used some 25,000 times in the Virginia Code) but it will be back.

Some national trends have not yet trickled down to Virginia, but chances are they will. The reason is that the National Right to Life Committee and other national organizations that develop legislation make sure it gets into the hands of state legislators who will fight for it. Among bills to watch for is the racist Prenatal Nondiscrimination Act (PRENDA), which would criminalize abortions for sex-selection and race-selection – despite the fact there is zero evidence of this. Again, the intent is to shut down clinics.

The Republican “warriors” may have gone too far. (Current “joke” – next they’ll require women to paint the nursery and pick the name before an abortion.) Women’s rights supporters can help persuade independent and Republican women to vote for pro-women Democrats by showing how out-of-touch Republicans are. Women need to know that Democrats will fight to defend reproductive health services.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Wittgenstein: Exploding My Mind

Today, April 26, is Ludwig Wittgenstein's birthday. (Thank you, Garrison Keilor.)
I took an introductory philosophy class at Michigan - big disappointment - I wanted the answers and I was given the questions. Wittgenstein, however, stuck with me. We think in language - and how can we think about things that don't have any reality, or a reference in real life experience (or at least that's what I think he thought). So "god" was spoiled for me forever. Whenever I think "god," I feel my mind exploding, metaphorically.

From Garrison Keilor on NPR this morning: ...Wittgentsein is

the man who said, 'Philosophy is like trying to open a safe with a combination lock: each little adjustment of the dials seems to achieve nothing, only when everything is in place does the door open": Ludwig Wittgenstein (books by this author), born in Vienna in 1889. He was described by his colleague Bertrand Russell as "the most perfect example I have known of genius as traditionally conceived: passionate, profound, intense, and dominating." He was the youngest of nine children; three of his brothers committed suicide.

Wittgenstein was born into one of the richest families in Austro-Hungary, but he later gave away his inheritance to his siblings, and also to an assortment of Austrian writers and artists, including Rainer Maria Rilke. He once said that the study of philosophy rescued him from nine years of loneliness and wanting to die, yet he tried to leave philosophy several times and pursue another line of work, including serving in the army during World War I, working as a porter at a London hospital, and teaching elementary school. He also considered careers in psychiatry and architecture — going so far as to design and build a house for his sister, which she never liked very much.

Wittgenstein was particularly interested in language. He wrote, "The limits of my language are the limits of my mind. All I know is what I have words for." And, "Uttering a word is like striking a note on the keyboard of the imagination."

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Smelly Fish - Wait, Make That Republicans

Being from Chicago, going to school in Michigan and NYC and living in Arlington for 30+ years, I haven't seen a lot of confederate flags. Til yesterday (4/20), at the fabled political gathering called the Shad Planking.

Almost everyone wore stickers saying: "April Is National Confederate History Month" and there were those flags all over. (See the Good Ole Boys photo.) No apologies, no explanations.

Lots of people wore round orange stickers saying "Guns Save Lives." And just about everyone had an "Allen for Senator" sticker. One guy was handling out booklets with the text of the Constitution. McDonnell's remarks were hilarious - he roasted everyone, was particularly hard on Allen, joked about his veto of the redistricting bill.

There was excitement around Allen, not much around Bolling (probably candidate for governor to succeed McDonnell) that I could see, and lots around the Tea Party display and candidate Jamie Radtke. She's 35, smart, educated, reasonably well-spoken. I really hope she gives George Allen a run for the money.

I think I'll go next year - as it's a big election year, it's supposed to be huge. Maybe more than 3 Dems will show (Roslyn Tyler, Bobby Scott and - I heard but did not see -Bill Barlow). Anyone want to drive? It's at least 3 hours each way from NoVA, plus of course time for accidents, backups, and other usual traffic messes.

Hope you enjoy the photos.