Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Spin, Lies and Political Firepower

Spin is defined as providing a certain interpretation of information meant to sway public opinion. According to Randall Rothenberg, CEO of Interactive Advertising Bureau, the term “spin” has lost part of the pejorative connotation it had in the 1950s; while back then [it] was indicative of deceit, since the 1990s, according to Rothenberg, its use has shifted to a "mockingly admiring ‘polish the truth’”

The techniques of spin include selectively presenting facts and quotes that support ideal positions (cherry picking), the so-called "non-denial denial," phrasing that in a way presumes unproven truths, euphemisms for drawing attention away from items considered distasteful, and ambiguity in public statements. Another spin technique involves careful choice of timing in the release of certain news so it can take advantage of prominent events in the news.—Wikipedia

It took two generations—forty years—for the concept of “spin” to crawl out of the carpet bag of the snake oil salesman and become the tool of choice carefully tucked into the briefcases of corporate executives and political aspirants. Forty years and the fortuitous explosion of audio and video media. And since the final decade of the last century, Americans have been a captive audience to the rise and ultimate dominance of political spin—that commodity which has made it so easy for a gullible public to choose and zealously defend its own reality. But the 2012 presidential campaign has made it clear that even “spin” has had its day.

We knew, or should have known, it would come to this eventually. How great a leap is it, after all, from “spinning” to all-out, in-your-face, pants-on-fire lying? Rush Limbaugh—that ordained prophet of the American right wing—has been doing it for decades. Caught in any demonstrable lie, Limbaugh simply blows off responsibility with the self-deprecating declaration that “I’m just an entertainer.” We all know Rush Limbaugh is anything but entertaining. He knows it, too. But his lies, tirades and none-too-subtle pandering to the fears and prejudices of the American Everyman have garnered him the largest nation-wide audience in the history of radio—to the tune of a $50,000,000 a year contract through 2016. (Ever wonder where, exactly, that money comes from?)

Which demonstrates, I suppose, that America loves a liar.

How long did we think it was going to be before the politicians tossed out their bags of spin and laid in a lifetime supply of outright lies? The Republican presidential campaign has certainly bought into the strategy. One of the most popular television attack ads rolled out by the Romney campaign has been proven to be based upon false information,  but the campaign refuses to pull it, claiming that it is getting great results in swing states. At the Republican National Convention, vice-presidential hopeful Paul Ryan’s acceptance speech was riddled with falsehoods and half-truths, as was Mitt Romney’s. No spin. Just lies.

By now, they know the American public is so inured to creating its own reality that they needn’t worry that anyone will check the facts. It doesn’t matter a damn if a politician speaks the truth. If we hear what we want to hear, we not only accept it, we guzzle it like moonshine. And God help the “revenooers” who try to bust the still.

The Democratic National Convention starts tonight.  I don’t expect a much more truthful or upstanding performance from this side of the political spectrum. When a tactic, no matter how objectionable, becomes part of the accepted arsenal, it’s available to both sides of the battle. I suppose it could be said that it would be foolish for one side to refuse to use a weapon because it’s morally objectionable. No place, not even the moral high ground, is safe from the strength of superior firepower. Being right and dead gets them nowhere.

But how I wish it could be different!

Cross-posted from Coming to Terms...

Tuesday, August 28, 2012


And we thought that things like this only happened under dictatorships. It can happen here. Freedom is messy. Enjoy it while you can. 

"Would you give up a day’s pay to see Mitt Romney in the flesh? Workers at one Ohio coal mine might not have had a choice.

Earlier this month, Mitt Romney was welcomed for a campaign event at the Century Mine in Beallsville, Ohio, by hundreds of coal workers and their families. Now many of the mine's workers are saying they were forced to give up a day-worth of pay to attend the event, and they feared they might be fired if they didn’t, according to local news radio WWVA.

The claims have been mostly denied by Rob Moore, Chief Financial Officer of Murray Energy Company, which owns the mine. He acknowledges that workers weren’t paid that day but says no one was made to attend the event. Well, kind of.

"Our managers communicated to our workforce that the attendance at the Romney event was mandatory, but no one was forced to attend," he told local news radio WWVA, which has received several emails from workers claiming that the company records names of workers that don't attend those types of events.
The company's interest in having its employees show support for Romney may be a result of its CEO's close ties with the presumptive Republican nominee. In May, Romney teamed up with Murray's CEO Bob Murray for a fundraising event in West Virginia. And Murray's made no secret of his support for the Republican party, previously backing Rick Perry.

In addition, his company has donated more than $900,000 to Republican candidates in the last two years, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

Murray, who is also a climate-change denier, has been an outspoken critic of President Obama’s stance on coal. That view may be why Moore told WWVA that having employees attend the Romney event “was in the best interest of anyone that's related to the coal industry in this area or the entire country."
This isn’t the first time workers have been frustrated by a Mitt Romney campaign event either. Employees of Sensata Technologies, a company owned by Romney’s previous employer Bain Capital, protested a campaign event earlier this month in Bettendorf, Iowa. In that case, Romney didn't respond to questions about what he would do to prevent their jobs being outsourced, The Rock River Times reports."

Wednesday, August 8, 2012


Just when you think it can't possibly get any worse this headline greets your unbelieving eyes. MITT ROMNEY STARTED BAIN CAPITAL WITH MONEY TIED TO DEATH SQUADS.  Included in the list were the supporters Roberto D'Aubisson's ARENA party. D'Aubisson, trained at the school of the Americas at Fort Benning was finally tied to the assassination of archbishop Oscar Romero. 

Goddess can it get any worse? Drove me to haul out my old Jackson Brown albums. This one is painfully appropriate. I want to take this sorry excuse for a human being, shake him until his teeth rattle and ask him what the hell he was thinking. 


God is great, God is good
He guards your neighborhood
Though it’s generally understood
Not quite the way you would
You try to take the slack
Stay awake and watch his back
But something happens every now and then
And someone breaks into the promised land
Ah boy boy
This world is not your toy
This world is long on hunger
This world is short on joy

You speak as if you know
What’s good for everyone
What’s good in what you’ve done?
What’s good about a world in which
War rages at a fever pitch
And people die for the little things
A little corn, a little beans

Ah boy boy
This world is not your toy
This world is, this world is
Long on hunger
Short on joy
How much longer
You gonna keep the world hungry boy?

You measure peace with guns
Progress in mega-tons
Who's left when the war is won?
Soldier of misfortune--
Soldier of an angry call
Soldier on foreign soil
I’m not here to fight your war
I know what you're fighting for

Ah boy boy
This world is not your toy
This world is, this world is
Long on hunger
Short on joy
How much longer
You gonna keep the world hungry boy?

I wonder if he can claim he retroactively returned their investments? 

Cross Posted in Walking With Hope

Wednesday, July 18, 2012


“When you go to build a cathedral, you must build your foundation strong.” Robin Longstride in Ridley Scott’s version of the Robin Hood story. Or you can go with Sir Isaac Newton. “If I have seen further than other men it’s because I’ve stood on the shoulders of giants.”

The president made a speech the other day. Rush Limbaugh excerpted about three sentences from the whole thing and issued one of his over the top fulminations. Oh, Rush, the gift that just keeps giving, like dysentery. 

“I’m always struck by people who think, well, it must be because I was just so smart. There are a lot of smart people out there. It must be because I worked harder than everybody else. Let me tell you something — there are a whole bunch of hardworking people out there.

If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help. There was a great teacher somewhere in your life. Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive. Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you’ve got a business — you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen. The Internet didn’t get invented on its own. Government research created the Internet so that all the companies could make money off the Internet.

The point is, is that when we succeed, we succeed because of our individual initiative, but also because we do things together." (Okmaybe he was speaking off the cuff and wasn't as clear as he could have been)

The president didn’t say businesses don’t succeed on individual hard work and creativity. He did say that you have to have a strong foundation to build on. And a profound appreciation for all the hard work that went into building those foundations. That pyramid of strong shoulders we stand on.

Some early human realized that you could use scrap rock with sharp edges to cut pieces off a critter. The first brick in the foundation came when somebody, somehow realized he/she could recreate that edge on demand. That you could shape those rocks, put them on the end of a long piece of wood and have a more reliable weapon than a sharpened stick.

Lightning starts fire. Humans made it semi portable. More bricks went in when several somebody’s figured out how to make it reliable and portable. How DO you get from rubbing sticks together really, really fast to making fire? How DO you get the idea of putting a piece of string (after you’ve invented string), gut or tendon between the ends of a piece of wood and using it to shoot another piece of wood with a stone tip at something, preferably dinner.

Domesticating animals for meat, milk, hides and fleece. Love to know how that happened. When did some bright man or woman (Probably a woman, men still hate to take out the garbage) notice that the wild grain they’d been gathering was growing near the camp’s rubbish tip?

Weaving? How did we get to that? Watch spiders spin their webs? But spiders don’t use looms or spinning wheels. What Neolithic genius fastened a piece of hide to a stick and used it to catch the wind to help move his raft along? And who the heck was the unsung genius somewhere in the Med who came up with the Lateen sail. That triangular steering sail that lets a ship tack against the wind?

Wheels? And some folks saw the Central American natives as backward because they put wheels on their kid’s toys but didn’t use them the way Europeans did. And did I also mention they lived in either a jungle or steep mountains or both. Even the northern Europeans used the sea, rivers or man made rivers when they could.

The biggest improvements in the last thousand years haven’t been in how we do the jobs but where we get the power to do them. From animals walking in circles to power millstones to water wheels to internal combustion engines. Same job, different power source. And what genius figured out how to use a series of wheels and gears to turn the round and around motion of a water wheel into up and down or back and forth to power sawmills, lathes, trip hammers the whole foundation of industry. Actually, what genius realized he could put two really big wheels together with flat pieces of wood between and harness the power of a river in the first place. All Watt’s engine did was make it possible to have your factory someplace besides the edge of a river or canal. As long has you could get fuel you could keep the engines going. 

The president’s speech might have been better written but it was said in praise of the foundation builders. The ones who provided the tools for the bright, hard working business builders we have now.

Cross posted in Walking With Hope. 

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Being a woman...

Today I read about photographer Liz Gorman getting groped in Dupont Circle and then I discovered the CASS site, which is worth checking out.

Years ago, in Chicago, on a crowded street on a sunny afternoon, I had an eerily similar experience. Last Friday night, although thankfully there was no contact, I had a creepy experience that reminded me that even at 62, being a woman means I sometimes feel very vulnerable, in a way that men don't.

As I was finishing up my walk, about 2 blocks from my house, I heard someone coming up behind me. I thought at first it was someone on a bicycle, and although I was on the sidewalk, I glanced over my shoulder to see if I needed to get out of the way. To my surprise, the guy was not on a bike, but was on foot, jogging, with a dog on a leash. He held a cellphone to his ear, and he was talking loudly into the phone, so loudly that I could hear his conversation, and my hearing is not that great. Among other things, he said he was only in Dallas for a couple of weeks, yada yada yada. Flags went up in my head on hearing this because there are no hotels anywhere near my neighborhood, and if that was the case, whose dog was he walking? But then I thought well, he must be staying with a friend, or in a friend's place...

He was jogging, I was walking, so I moved to the side to let him pass, but he didn't pass. Instead, he stayed right behind me, closing the distance, with the dog off to the side. This felt weird, and made me nervous. I increased my speed, and as I turned the corner, to my relief, I saw an elderly neighbor whom I don't know by name, but whom I frequently see when I walk in the evening as he steps outside his house to allow his ancient dachshund to take a few steps for his evening constitutional. As usual, we exchanged hellos. I slowed a bit to let the jogger pass, but the jogger slowed too; he wasn't passing. I could see my elderly neighbor checking him out, and I thought well I'm not the only one who finds this weird. I'd completed the short block and was now at my street; relieved, I turned the corner, thinking I'd lose the creep. WRONG. He turned the corner right behind me, and continued to stay about 10 feet behind me, although he was now in the middle of the street, which didn't particularly reassure me. I heard him say into his phone that he'd been running for 1.7 miles and the comment seemed so pointless that I got a feeling that there was no one else on that call. Suddenly, to my great relief, I saw another neighbor jogging toward me on the opposite side of the street. I ran the rest of the way to my door, unlocked it, and rushed inside, very relieved to be home safe and sound.

Was I unnecessarily paranoid? I don't know. But I'm pretty sure that guys have completely different concerns when they're out in the world, and I wonder if this will ever change.

cross-posted on Talking to Myself

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Freedom Isn't Free

There is something about national holidays, these days, that brings out the curmudgeon in me. Memorial Day, especially so.

National holidays have become battlefields themselves. Rather than setting aside days to ponder and honor our national values, we now engage in flag-waving contests. Nationalism is loud, confrontational and in-your-face. Those of us who would subscribe to a quieter, more introspective brand of patriotism are shouted down and shamed. We are tacitly accused of not loving our country enough. With sneers and derision, we are invited to go live somewhere else if the United States—in its current state of upheaval, escalating class war and legislative impotence—is not good enough for us.

Because we can’t allow respectful silent reflection on the freedom we often take for granted and the cost of the campaigns embarked upon in the name of that freedom. If we did, someone might realize that these tear-misted photos of military graves or dirty and bloodied soldiers reverently hoisting the Stars and Stripes on battlefields throughout the ages, tagged with the soppy banner “Freedom Isn’t Free,” do not accurately represent the forces which send our young people to their destruction.

When you think about it, when was the last time the United States fought a war to defend OUR freedom? Seventy years ago, the Greatest Generation sent its sons into battle against Hitler and his allies. Though Hitler’s forces never set foot on the continental US, their dreams of global domination were indeed an imminent threat to our freedom. So though that war was as ugly as any, it was indeed a battle for freedom—ours and others’ across the globe—and needs to be remembered as such. But that was a long time ago, outside the living memory of most Americans.

What about our 21st-century wars? Iraq? Sadaam Hussein in no way threatened the freedom of the American people; even the most ignorant moron on the planet understands that by now. Afghanistan? What, exactly, ARE we doing in Afghanistan? Especially since the elusive Osama Bin Laden, rumored to be sheltered there while he raised up an army of Islamic terrorists, was eventually found and executed in Pakistan (a US ally?!)? What freedom are our young people deployed to those theatres of battle defending? Our freedom to beat up on small countries safely distant from our home shores because those countries share ethnicity with a group of lawless religious sociopaths? Our freedom to go kill Muslims because they pissed us off?

And Korea? Viet Nam? What were our tens of thousands of young people sent to Asia to die in the fifties and sixties defending? Our freedom to name “Communism” the 20th-century bogeyman, and to throw armies of nineteen-year-olds at it wherever it threatened to catch on?

In my heart, I have nothing but respect for the children who have comprised the forces of our military. And nothing but sorrow and regret for their blood poured out on battlefields across the world. Surely, they are paying the price for our freedom. But not in the way the flag-waving, in-your-face armchair patriots believe. They are paying with their lives for our abdication of our personal duty as Americans.

Freedom isn’t easy. It requires pruning and tending. It requires constant review and refinement. It requires searching for and comprehending truth. It requires compassion and empathy. It requires an examination of conscience EVERY DAY—because freedom in the hands of those with suspect moral grounding can be a dangerous, uncontrollable weapon.

But, apparently, the American people have decided that this responsibility—the daily examination, refinement, and gratitude for our freedom—is too much trouble. Instead, they are happy to hand that job over to “leaders” that they only have to think about occasionally. Every two years—or four, or six—the American people line up to hand over their freedom to the Snake Oil Salesman of their choice. They sit in the audience watching hopeful candidates squander obscene amounts of money gambling to appeal to whatever instincts—the baser, the better—will cause the individual members of the faceless mob to place a mark in the desired box, come Election Day.

No…Freedom ISN’T free. There are those who spend a tremendous amount of money getting their hands on our freedom. So that they can invest it where they see fit—usually in some enterprise designed to bring them MORE money. Do you think they care about the human cost, as long as they get what they want?

Freedom isn’t free. But it isn’t paid for by shedding a tear or two once or twice a year, pretending to grieve for the young person who is not YOUR child lying in pieces beside a road in the Middle East. It is paid for with constant vigilance and understanding of the complex issues that threaten or strengthen it. Every single one of us who would exercise this freedom has to put time and effort, thought and work into it, EVERY DAY. If we wimp out and sell that trust into the hands of anyone—ANYONE else—we deserve the consequences. And worse.

It was all put very succinctly in this speech by a fictional president written for a movie script back in 1995.

America isn't easy. America is advanced citizenship. You gotta want it bad, 'cause it's gonna put up a fight. It's gonna say "You want free speech? Let's see you acknowledge a man whose words make your blood boil, who's standing center stage and advocating at the top of his lungs that which you would spend a lifetime opposing at the top of yours.

You want to claim this land as the land of the free? Then the symbol of your country can’t just be a flag; the symbol also has to be one of its citizens exercising his right to burn that flag in protest. Show me that, defend that, celebrate that in your classrooms. Then, you can stand up and sing about the “land of the free.”

(Written by Aaron Sorkin for “The American President”, 1995.)

It’s a stunning commentary on the current state of our nation that no one—right, left, or center—NO ONE in today’s political arena would have the balls to publicly express anything even approaching this sentiment.

Think about it. And ante up. Freedom isn’t free.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

The United States: Where Pregnancy is Probationary and Your Body Is a Crime Scene

Sorry guys, this is a long one, but I believe it's worth it.

That's the title of a Reality Check article on the web. The bolded text is the article by Soraya Chemaly. There are links to the story about Bei Bei Shuai and the dipsticks in Mississippi

Prosecuting women based on the outcomes of their pregnancies violates their constitutional rights and is cruel and unusual punishment. And yet, this is what is happening.

Last week, the Indiana Supreme Court declined to drop feticide and murder charges against a woman named Bei Bei Shuai, who has been in jail for 14 months and faces 45 years in prison because, after attempting suicide while pregnant. She was saved by friends and three days after an emergency c-section the newborn died. Her situation is tragic. But, her case is also a very dangerous precedent, ensuring as it does that girls and women will lose their rights and can be put in jail for miscarriage, drug addiction, accidents, attempted suicides, and for “chemically endangering” their fetuses from the moment of conception. Circumstances like hers are sadly, too frequent. She needs public support. Another woman, Christine Taylor was arrested and imprisoned and charged with "attempted feticide" for falling down stairs under what her doctors thought were questionable circumstances.

Of particular note is that in denying Bei Bei Shuai reprieve from charges, the Indiana Supreme Court upheld a mid-level appellate court ruling that said that laws established to penalize people who hurt pregnant women can actually be used against pregnant women themselves. Hundreds of women around the country* are currently imprisoned under the aegis of "best intentions" laws. What this means is that feticide and fetal murder laws can now be used to charge, imprison and penalize pregnant women at the discretion of legislators and law enforcement officials.

“It means that women can be charged and imprisoned if they engage in any intentional act that law enforcement believes will threaten the life or health of the fertilized eggs, embryos, and fetuses they carry,” explains Emma Kettering of the National Advocates for Pregnant Women.

So, since this is happening, it is only fair to say that once a woman gets pregnant she is a crime scene in waiting. In Arizona, she doesn't even have to be pregnant. How much jail time should she consider when she is expecting?

In the case of Bei Bei Shuai, up to 45 years. What was clearly a sad and gruesome suicide attempt (she took rat poison) resulting from depression and desperate personal circumstances is being turned into murder.

In this environment, and with no confidence that their rights will be respected and protected, pregnant women will continue to be jailed, in ever increasing numbers, in unexpected ways that violate their rights. Fear of imprisonment will result in women compromising their health and the health of their fetuses by avoiding pre-natal care, treatment for addiction and medical help if they fear they are miscarrying. They will have more abortions to avoid penalization.

The creeping expansion of these laws needs to be broadly objected to as a matter of citizenship, rights, law, logic, science and public health. This is particularly true in the case of insidious chemical endangerment laws, which demonstrate as Bei Bei Shua’s case does, the danger of turning health issues into criminal issues.

Chemical endangerment laws in particular ignore actual scientific research regarding fetal development, relying instead on faux moralities, irrational mythologies and deliberate misunderstandings. But, once the laws are established they can be mis-used. And, whereas “chemical endangerment” starts off with illegal substances, like cocaine and meth, among women who need drug treatment programs, not vilification, it is applicable to any chemical threat to a fetus in any woman’s womb. Severe alcohol abuse, although entire legal, can be far more dangerous than illegal drugs, what do we do about that? What about pesticides in your garden? How about BPAs in...everything? What about if a woman works somewhere where she is exposed to toxic substances, say she's a nurse in a hospital? What if she takes medication to regulate an illness? What if she needs chemotherapy? These are all chemically endangering. How long should a woman go to jail? Twelve months for cigarettes? Six for anti-depressants? She has to take them, because if she is depressed enough to attempt suicide and her fetus is lost, she – like Bei Bei Shuai - will go to jail for much longer.

What has come to pass is exactly what anti-abortion activists always denied would happen: namely, that women would lose their rights and be criminalized through pregnancy (*see below). Their strategy has always focused on eliminating abortion and prosecuting abortion providers. But, that strategy is increasingly obsolete. Changing medical technology and options that allow women to bypass doctors in terminating unwanted pregnancies clearly mean that doctors cannot be the target of prosecution and women have to be.

“You pass laws first that say only physicians can perform abortions. Then you pass laws that make it impossible for those physicians to provide abortions. And then women take the steps they need to take as they do all around the world, as they did before Roe," explains Lynn Paltrow, founder of the National Advocates for Pregnant Women, one Bei Bei Shua's legal representatives. "And you create a perfect setup for making literally millions of women subject to arrest for having illegal self abortions.”

This is the only way to achieve their goal - stripping women of their right and ability to control their own reproduction safely and legally. That's what happens when wombs are public property and pregnancy loss is considered murder.

Using laws like the ones used against Bei Bei Shuai and creating fetal pain and chemical endangerment laws ensure that women are penalized for exercising their rights, claiming bodily integrity and assuming they have equal protection under the law. They are criminalized. And criminals are punished when they break laws. What the “pro-family,” “pro-life” movement has successfully done is create dangerous precedents and legal frameworks that penalize women who violate state defined breeding rules.

In pursuing anti-choice, fetal protection policies that erroneously pit a woman’s rights against those of her fetus equally from the moment of conception the “pro-life” movement targets unsympathetic women and manipulates public opinion about what makes women “good mothers.” Women who break laws, use drugs, seem careless and unethical are “bad mothers.” They do this strategically and effectively play on the complexity and nuance implicit in research regarding fetal development, societal ideals that glorify motherhood and public opinion. Women like Bei Bei Shua and others are paying the price for their achieving their goal of voiding Roe v. Wade. Persecuting women by any means necessary is just one component of dismantling women's rights and eliminating abortion.

Consider Mississippi which while it has not technically outlawed abortion, in practice it has, especially for women who cannot afford to leave the state to end their pregnancies.

• Murder in Mississippi includes the unborn. A prosecutor in Mississippi is already trying to use the state's murder law to punish Rennie Gibbs, a teenager who suffered a stillbirth and faces life imprisonment. She was a cocaine user, but there is no evidence of a correlation between her drug use and the stillbirth.
• There is one, at-risk, remaining abortion clinic staffed by people who drive from Alabama.
• Women in Mississippi are prohibited by law upon threat of penalty from performing their own abortions, even with perfectly legal drugs. A doctor has to be involved.
• Doctors in Mississippi who want to perform abortions must have admitting privileges in a local hospital, which legislators – dismissing the coat-hanger concerns of “some African Americans” – boast is near impossible.
• Women in Mississippi who cannot travel because they do not have the financial wherewithal or they have children or parents that they care for, will do what women have always done and find dangerous, not medically sound ways to terminate unwanted pregnancies. This is, of course, illegal.

But, hey…” if women die using hangers and "home remedies" and go to jail for doing it or miscarry trying, so be it. Mississippi is proud to be the first state to enact compulsory pregnancy for women.

Is this really what American’s want? There is no other conclusion. Pregnant women will all be potential criminals, their bodies considered potential crime scenes. They will deny themselves health care, endanger their lives, harm their bodies, have high-risk pregnancies. Many, many will go to jail.

People need compassion, they need to be educated about how to avoid unwanted pregnancies, they need medical attention, pre-natal care and drug treatment if suffering from addiction. They need access to safe abortions. They need their rights to be respected and protected. They do not need to go to jail.

Forty-seven medical and legal advocacy groups have filed amicus briefs describing their objections to this “disturbing trend.” This isn’t a trend. A trend is something organic and possibly unexpected. This is a planned strategic assault on women and their rights.

So what’s next? Mandatory, monthly pregnancy tests for every woman between the ages of sixteen and sixty? And if you text positive you’re forbidden to travel out of state just in case you might try to terminate your pregnancy in a state where it’s still available?

This is the logical, terrifying outcome of the unholy marriage between the fundagelicals and the Republicans consummated under Reagan with his famous “I know you can’t endorse me, but I can endorse you.” The mainline churches have basically stood on the sidelines wringing their hands. OK, nobody I know is comfortable with the idea of abortion. That’s a given. Trouble is these bozos are working to demonize contraception and sex education too.

I honestly don’t know what it was like for women before the Judeo Christian era. Even the old Celts and Irish weren’t fully equal, but the old stories suggest that is was a lot better than this. Bad enough to be threatened with stoning if you couldn’t prove you were a virgin on your wedding night. But, at least Jewish society believed that marriage was a good thing. Men and women weren’t complete unless they were married. It took Christianity and especially Augustine to tie sex to original sin and make even sex between married partners a sin. And those of us with two X chromosomes have been on the shit end of the stick ever since.

That’s it. I’m outa here. I’ll take the best of my old heritage with me but I’m off the reservation for good. I’m not sure where I’m going, but where I’ve been isn’t working for me.

Monday, April 23, 2012


There's something wonky about the formatting over here. Everything becomes one huge paragraph. So it's over at Walking With Hope. I've run across some bullshit in my time but this guy is really pushing it. Although I have to admit it's an original way to get environmental teaching out of the schools.

Friday, April 13, 2012


I don't know what's going on, but this turned into one big paragraph. Sorry. Whoo hoo. The Tempest in a Teapot du jour. A democratic spokesperson, Hillary Rosen, lit a small bonfire when she claimed that Ann Romney couldn’t relate to the economic problems of women because she was a stay at home mom. Rosen should have thought things out a bit and could have phrased things a little differently. Ann Romney is out of touch, not because she's a stay at home mom. She's a stay at home mom with money. In a way this is just as much about Rosen as Romney. We’re gotten so used to buying what we used to do for ourselves that too many of us have forgotten everything that mom’s used to do. My dad was a logger and mom was a stay at home mom. At least until dad was a stoved up old logger tossed on the scrap heap with a daughter starting college and two much younger daughters still at home. Mom ran the house, cooked (from scratch), ran the garden, canned, froze, sewed, made sure we never ADMITTED we were bored, and stretched a dollar till it hollered uncle and then stretched it a little bit more. We had a huge Kenmore chest freezer that we filled every year. That freezer was four years younger than me and it didn’t get retired until we couldn’t get parts any more. The pantry held five hundred jars filled with beans, corn, peaches, pears, cherries, pickles, kraut, jams and jellies. The last were handy not only for us but they made great gifts. If you didn’t have anything else there was always the Heaton’s patented sauerkraut, dill pickles, jams and jelly. Oh, and if it was raspberry or boysenberry, those were our berries in the recipe. To top it off she took extension classes from the local community college for tailoring and upholstering. She added ten years to the life of a good couch. I can appreciate that it's hard to raise five boys. I"m betting that the Romneys never paid off the bills at the beginning of December facing the rest of the month with the modern equivalent of fifty bucks to make it through Christmas.

Thursday, March 22, 2012


Last week Doonesbury had a six strip sequence on the new Texas sonogram law.
Needless to say this strip wasn't published in Eugene, not even on the editorial pages. Wouldn't have even known about it if some of the locals hadn't sent letters to the editor about the censorship. Granted a couple of them are pretty strong, but that seems to be the only thing that gets through these days. There were six panels starting on March 12, the other five can be found here. Just click on each day starting with the 13th and ending on the 17th. Color me PO'd not because Trudeau drew the strips but because my local paper didn't have the guts to print them, even on the back page of the classified section.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

We Should've Just Kept Burning 'em...

I mentioned in my previous post that I have a hard time understanding why today’s women are so eager to sexually objectify themselves. Actually, this seminal fact is what drove me to write the post to begin with. And the idea was put into my head by a trip to a department store to buy a bra.

Back in the Stone Age, I was a petite, skinny adolescent. I didn’t develop what could be called “breasts” until I was in high school. Even so, in seventh grade, I began wearing a size 28AA “training bra.” You remember those—the ones that looked just like a miniature grown-up bra but had soft, stretchy tricot cups. I wore the bra not because I actually needed to, but because by that age, I would be mortally embarrassed not to wear one. By the time I was a senior in high school, I probably would have actually grown into that bra.

Luckily, the 70’s trend toward braless fashions played right into my body type, and spared me further embarrassment in the locker room. It was fortunate I didn’t need a bra, because I could never find one that fit me. I remained a AA cup size throughout my twenties. Every trip to the mall to buy a bra ended in utter frustration. There was never a bra on the rack that did not hang on my skinny chest like a day-old helium balloon.

After the stretchy almost-braless look of the late seventies faded, sports bras became my best friends. Thank god for Olivia Newton-John and Jane Fonda. For the next thirty years, it was a struggle to keep myself covered in socially acceptable lingerie. The off-the-rack world never accepted my proportions.

Along about five years ago, I discovered that gravity and the extra pounds that come with age had presented me with a mixed blessing: I could now wear a B cup. Praise the Lord and pass the Playtex! For the first time in my life, I would be able to walk into a store and grab an almost feminine-looking bra in my size right off the rack! And I could…for about three and a half years.

Until society, the retail gods, or whoever, decided that no American woman worth dressing wore smaller than a C cup. The breasts of today’s fashionable female will be foamed, molded, under-wired and push-upped into the glorious ripe-melon globes demanded by our voyeuristic and sex-obsessed media. I searched the lingerie racks in three department stores in one day, and I found exactly one bra in my size.

It made me angry, and it gave me a bit of insight into why the times are so ripe for the unabashed stripping away of women’s rights. If we dress as sex objects, why shouldn’t society see us that way? Where do we expect this hyper-sexual look to take us? To the boardroom or the bedroom? Is it any wonder that right wing groups have chosen NOW to begin hammering away at our rights? Take a look at the way we dress. We have capitulated. We don’t want to be strong and equal anymore. We want to be soft and sexual.

Not only that, but we want our daughters to be soft and sexual from an appallingly early age.

My path toward the escalator after my disappointingly enlightening bra shopping excursion took me through girls’ clothing. Prominently displayed front and center of the department was a rack of bras. Remember those “training bras” with the tricot cups that I wore until I was fourteen? Not a one of those dinosaurs was in evidence. The rack was covered with little bitty padded push-up bras. With under-wires. Some of these were so tiny that, despite being labeled an almost acceptable “30AA” (the size I wore when I was in high school) it was obvious they were meant to be worn by little girls as young as six or seven years old. Who else is going to wear “Hello Kitty” underwear?

If there is a word for this fashion trend that is not “disgusting,” “depraved,” or “abusive,” I certainly couldn’t come up with it. Honestly. What are we thinking when we dress our little girls this way? What kind of feelings do we expect them to have? Or to inspire? Equality and empowerment? I think not.

So, sisters... If you want a better understanding of why our rights are ripe for the taking, just go to the mall. You will see women practically lining up to just...hand them back.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Why Now?

We have come a long way from the kitchens which were the centers of our post-war mothers’ and grandmothers’ lives. Equal rights sojourners—of which, in some small way, I was one—gained a lot of ground for themselves and their sisters in the seventies, eighties and nineties. But we all know we are not there yet. We have a long way to go; and it’s in the minds of right-wing rabble-rousers across the country to give us a push-start for that long journey—but in the WRONG DIRECTION.

Why now, almost forty years after Roe v Wade and the ERA shone the spotlight upon fair and equitable treatment of women in our society, are we witnessing a surge of anti-feminism? What makes today’s political ground so fertile that individual state legislatures have succeeded in passing a record number of anti-choice bills in the past twelve months? And what has put it into the narrow minds of the extreme right-wing that it is now safe to advance their agenda on the federal level? And to expand their list of social sins to include not just legal abortion, but birth control, health resources for poor women, and equal pay for equal work?

Certainly we can blame this fiasco on the continued efforts of the GOP to court the votes of the far right. To my knowledge, the practice began with the Reagan campaigns of the 80’s. Throughout both of his election campaigns, Reagan paid all sorts of lip-service to issues important to the Religious Right—abortion rights and school prayer being the chief hot topics of the day. I remember with dismay the pastor of our small Pentecostal church exhorting his flock from the pulpit to go out and “vote for the Ronald Reagan of your choice.” But Reagan was no fool. As soon as the ink was dry on the votes sweeping him into office, he dropped those issues like a hot rock.

Fast forward thirty years, and the GOP has pulled out all the stops to be all things to all conservatives, without regard to HOW conservative. The Bush years saw a truly amazing metamorphosis of the Republican Party, wherein every GOP lawmaker was pressed into lockstep with the party line. The perfection of this tactic formed the GOP into a formidable force. In majority, they were unstoppable; and in minority, they were the ultimate obstruction. Centrists locked arms with extremists and stood their ground. For almost a decade, Republicans managed to maintain and wield that control like a laser. Until the 2010 mid-term elections, when right wing extremists finally woke up to the fact that their concerns were not being paid much more than lip service by the Republican Pary at large. And the Tea Party was born.

Now the GOP finds itself infected with a massive case of “Tail Wagging The Dog” Disease. And instead of trying to amputate the tail, they’re determined to bargain with it. I’m sure in the minds of mainstream Republicans (if such a beast still exists) there’s no harm in trading off the civil rights of a few powerless minorities in order to maintain the Party’s ability to guard the only things that are REALLY important: Money and Power. And don’t think the Religious Right doesn’t know this. They are poised to take full advantage of the GOP’s attempt to ward off gangrene by making peace offerings to the tail.

Unfortunately, they’ve made a possibly fatal mistake, in that they’ve allowed themselves to believe that American women are nothing more than a “powerless minority.”

So, yes…the political ground for rolling back Women’s rights is more fertile than it has ever been in the forty years since Roe v Wade. But I wonder: Doesn’t some of the blame for society’s rejection of feminism fall squarely on our own shoulders? Perhaps we have proudly presented to our daughters and granddaughters a hard won, carefully wrapped gift, which they opened and threw aside because they thought they already had one. Because we did not teach them about the beauty and fragility of this gift, and how to use it to expand their lives and enrich the world.

By the middle of the 20th century, modern American women were expected to excel in school, go to college and/or get jobs and leave home. Then they were supposed to find husbands and give all that up, get married, have kids and keep house. Then, when the kids were all in school, they were pushed to rejoin the work force and contribute to household income so that the family could enjoy a better quality of life. Oh, and they were still responsible for keeping house and minding the kids. Is it any wonder that women of our generation rebelled? We saw what a raw deal our mothers had got. Why would we want to grow up to be just like them—used and abused, overworked and underpaid? There was massive inequity going on here, and we determined to change it.

We knew that we were every bit as smart, talented, motivated and worthy as our brothers. But our roads to success were complicated by choices that men never had to make. A woman had to face the social stigma of choosing a career over a relationship or marriage; or risk an unwanted or ill-timed pregnancy short-circuiting her career goals. And recreational sex was out of the question. Then the 1970’s brought us access to safe, legal abortion. And The Pill. Reproductive freedom put us within striking distance of equal footing with men. At long last, we would have the opportunity to climb the ladder of success beside men, rather than leaning our shoulders into their posteriors and pushing them to the top. Or standing at the bottom holding the ladder.

I’d like to say we took that freedom and did it justice. We became doctors and lawyers, reporters and scientists, mathematicians and historians, ministers and astronauts, generals and legislators. There wasn’t a previously male-dominated field that we didn’t pursue; without fear of reproductive repercussions, we had the time and the luxury to pound on any door until it opened. Was it a walk in the park? No. But for the first time, it was possible.

But when we did eventually produce daughters, what did we teach them? Did we hand them the feminist manifesto with reverence? Did we arm them with the knowledge of how to use it to enhance their own lives and the lives of women across the globe? Or did we fail to communicate the responsibility that went along with the freedom, as all freedoms confer responsibilities?

Because, honestly, when I look at the culture of today’s young American women, I’m certain there has been a major malfunction of the baton-passing process. Currently, forty percent of all births in the US are to unmarried women. Forty percent. Why do so many sexually active young women choose, not to “start a family,” but to “have a baby?” (There’s a difference.) Babies and “baby bumps” have become 21st century fashion accessories. Do our daughters and granddaughters even know about the tools for reproductive choice we so cherished forty years ago?

Recently a Portland couple won a $3 million dollar Wrongful Birth suit against a prominent hospital. It seems their child was born with Down’s syndrome, even though doctors assured the couple that prenatal testing did not show a problem with the baby before delivery. It came out during the trial that the couple would have certainly terminated the pregnancy had they been aware of the baby’s condition. Is this why we fought so hard for safe, legal abortion? So that a young presumably secure married couple could produce and reject fetuses until they got one they liked?

And why are today’s women so eager to sexually objectify themselves? Plastic surgery practices are booming. Billboards lining the freeways tell us where to go to get a tighter butt, a lineless face, a flawless figure. Teenagers ask for breast implants for their birthdays. High school kids “sext” during class and post explicit photos of themselves on social media. We wanted the freedom to choose to have sex. But our daughters have chosen to be slaves to sex. Why?

Taking all this into account, I don’t wonder why folks might entertain the idea of going backward. If the sexual revolution visited all this evil upon our society, can’t we just take it back? Pretend it never happened? Go back to the good old days?

Of course, the answer is, “No.” Going backward is never the answer. You can’t recreate the good old days; we have knowledge and experience that we didn’t have then. We’ve learned lessons we can’t unlearn. The point now is to put that knowledge into practice.

So, in a certain way, I welcome this fresh assault upon our sovereignty. Perhaps this will show our daughters that the freedom they have taken for granted (and squandered) not only hasn’t always existed, but could, under certain deplorable circumstances, be taken away. And perhaps we will get a second chance to polish off the pure ideals of feminism and hand them to our daughters the right way this time. Reverently and deliberately, and with emphasis on the responsibilities that come with the victory. I think maybe we could all come out the better for it.

Vamanos, Hermanas!

 As any readers of this blog will know by now, we are officially very very pissed off. I am sixty eight years old, and find it hard to believe that the battles we women fought in my youth, are now being fought all over again. I guess the "War on Women" has never been over, just simmering and bubbling underground, and in the hearts and minds of people (?) like Rush Limbaugh and Rick Santorum.  I'm not going to rehash any of the current slings and arrows - Lisa has done a great job putting it all out there - I'm writing here and now to let everyone know about the upcoming action to raise our voices in unison on April 28th against this new War on Women.  From the website of We Are Women March:
Help defend women’s rights and pursuit of equality. Join Americans all across the United States on April 28th, 2012, as we come together as one to tell members of Congress in Washington DC and legislators in all 50 states, “Enough is enough!”
All Americans have the right to make decisions about their own bodies, including contraception, without interference from government, business or religious institutions.
Everyone is invited to join, plan, and rally as we unite to demand that every person be granted equal opportunities, equal rights, and equal representation
We will be marching in Washington, D.C. and in the capitals of every state.  Check out the website, find what is planned for your particular locale on the interactive map.  I am amazed at the size of the movement that seems to be taking shape here in my own western backwater of New Mexico.  Tell your friends, your sisters, and daughters. This is for our lives, our futures, let's put on our marching shoes and make this the biggest march on all our legislators ever!!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012


Kevin Siers is the cartoonist for the Charlotte Observer. This is his updated version of the painting known as American Gothic. Ladies welcome to the Dark Ages.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

They Have No Idea...

The recent “War On Women” launched by religious conservatives (I refuse to sully the word “Christian” by applying it to this group) has reminded American women just how close to the surface lies the depth and breadth of the ire of “Angry White Men.” Even women like me, who have never been entirely comfortable sallying forth to secure equal rights under the “Legal Abortion” flag. It’s not that I have a problem with legalized abortion. Mostly I just hate to pin the complex problem of women’s sovereignty to a single hot-button issue.

Yet the actions of our right-wing brothers over these past few early-election-year weeks, accompanied by paternalistic and demeaning rhetoric, prove that how women are viewed in our society is very much reflected in the prevailing political attitude toward reproductive rights. Like it or not, “Abortion Rights” has become synonymous with “Women’s Rights.” Indeed, I can see certain Right Wing interests having a covert hand in this phenomenon. They understand that the dialogue devolves as soon as the word “abortion” escapes into the air. And they mean to keep the discussion polarized and mean-spirited.

Has it only been three weeks since Darrell Issa’s men-only panel was convened on Capitol Hill to assault the health care rights of women? I’m pretty sure that Issa’s intent was merely to embarrass and oppose the President at any and every opportunity. Evidently this has been one of the chief functions of the Chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee since the Clinton Era. If President Obama proclaimed in a news conference this afternoon that the sky is blue, Issa would convene a hearing tomorrow to demonstrate, in terms designed to incur maximum damage upon the credibility of the Administration, why it is not.

This all began with the Administration’s efforts to compromise with religious employers who claimed moral objections to providing birth control coverage in adherence to The Health Care Reform Act. When word of this reached Issa, he saw an opportunity to exploit it into yet another very political, very public, very Republican slam on “Obamacare.” I won’t dignify his actions with the notion that he cared a fig for the moral stance of any religious leader. His motive was pure, political, election-year mud-slinging.

Since then, Republican-controlled state legislatures all over the country have rushed to exploit what they have identified as a favorable political climate to pass a flurry of legislation aimed at compromising the reproductive and health care choices of women. Just goes to prove that women’s rights are never for good and all written in stone; the issue never dies. It just lies dormant until someone who has been carefully watching which way the political winds are blowing decides that the time is right to drag it all up again. Time to whip up a crowd of ulta-conservative crusaders who firmly believe that it is their right and duty to dictate how all American citizens shall live, arm them with “moral” sledge-hammers and let them take swing after swing at our hard-won equal rights.

This time around, the hammer was handed over to that ever-popular conservative mouthpiece—Rush Limbaugh. That blow-hard political bully who has assailed our ears with his “humorous” pandering to the demons perched on the shoulders of middle class Americans, fifteen hours a week for more than two decades. With his army of over 15 million weekly listeners, it can be said (though the mainstream GOP patently denies this) that Limbaugh is the de facto leader of the Republican Party. Given possession of the “Bash Women’s Rights” sledge-hammer, he proceeded to call up what I can only assume are his personal deeply held misogynistic views. On the air, over the course of three days, he repeatedly labeled a young lady famous for NOT being invited to testify at Issa’s all-male party a “slut” and a “prostitute.” Which led us all to ponder: Exactly how far back do ultra-conservatives aim to push women’s rights? Fifty years? Eighty? A hundred?

In the 21st-century world of public opinion ruled by sound-bytes and the “flap-du-jour,” we have demonstrated a tendency toward political ADD. Different groups hop up and down and holler about the latest controversy; the most recent way they have been deathly wronged by…whomever. Within days, the furor dies down, the story goes away, and we are on to the next juicy story. It has become common political practice to take swipes at gays, blacks, immigrants, public employees…whoever political conservatives seize upon as the latest threat to the rest of us here in the good ole land of the free and home of the brave (white American.) The outrage flares, then it goes away…too soon.

I mean no slam on those groups. They are minorities. That’s why they get picked on. Political bullies count upon the fact that most people in the country are NOT gay or black or immigrants or public employees. There are two unfortunate aspects of our society at work here: 1.) Our secret grudges and prejudices gain legitimacy once some political or media figure gives voice to them and 2.) There is no longer a popular sentiment concerned with defending everyone’s rights.

So now, I hear from pretty much everywhere, “What’s up with this ‘War on Women” furor? Why isn’t it dying down? Why won’t it go dutifully away like all the other times some public idiot has planted his foot firmly in his mouth and sucked as hard as he could?”

The answer is simple: We are the WOMEN, folks. We’re not some itty-bitty, nine or ten or even 20% of the population. WOMEN. I don’t hardly know anyone who isn’t one or doesn’t know one; doesn’t live or work with one. You think we should sit down and shut up? You think we should placate or ignore those who mean to take away our rights? You think that in a couple of days we’ll forget all this and forgive all that has been said and done to our sovereignty in the name of political advantage, of trying to brainwash One More Voter?

I have one thing to say about that: YOU HAVE NO IDEA WHO YOU ARE DEALING WITH.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012


And most women have to fight every inch of the way to hang on to the little they've got. Just finished the miniseries from the eighties about the partition of India. Who took it in the teeth on both sides. The women and the kids, as usual. And it just sank in. While the Viceroy and the politicians, mostly male were drawing lines on maps Edwina Mountbatten, born to privilege, was down in the blood and the muck trying to clean up the mess. Isn't that the way it goes. They break it. We get stuck with trying to put the pieces back together.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Small, and Hard, and Full of Meanness

I am so tired, all of the time. Each  national news cycle brings with it exhaustion that reaches to a cellular level. Each candidates' debate, latest spew of hatred from the talk show hosts or the candidates themselves, act of environmental destruction, most recent episode of school student-on-student violence and death -  each rape, murder, child abuse atrocity on the local news, makes the darkness drop a thicker curtain over my heart, my brain, my ability to get up and make the coffee of another new day.

Then, I find a slim volume of Mary Oliver's poetry that I haven't seen before, although it's been around for a while (Red Bird), and read myself to sleep for several nights. In the midst of nature poems, both sorrow and delight, poems of loneliness and longing for her departed partner of many years, I find this - lines that briefly and perfectly sum up the world in which we live. A world in which we must constantly work, though exhausted,  to somehow keep our hearts soft, open, full of generosity and hope.  To care about the quality of life for people, all people, dogs, and rivers. To be both loving and fierce.

Of The Empire

We will be known as a culture that feared death
and adored power, that tried to vanquish insecurity
for the few and cared little for the penury of the
many.  We will be known as a culture that taught
and rewarded the amassing of things, that spoke
little if at all about the quality of life for
people (other people), for dogs, for rivers.  All
the world, in our eyes, they will say, was a
commodity. And they will say that this structure
was held together politically, which it was, and
they will say also that our politics was no more
than an apparatus to accommodate the feelings
of the heart, and that the heart, in those days,
was small, and hard, and full of meanness.

Friday, March 2, 2012

On a Call to Action

It’s a disturbing time to be anything but a white, right-leaning male in this country. The Right Wing have taken on gays (of either gender), immigrants (read “Mexicans”), minority voters, non-Christians, “liberals” of any stripe; and now—women. Evidently they believe there are not enough civil rights to go around, and they aim to hoard them all for themselves.

I would like to warn them that women are not a small voiceless minority whom they can disrespect with impunity. We do not look kindly upon a group of over-entitled buffoons seeking to roll back our rights fifty or sixty years. And we vote.

What better time to reinvigorate an editorial vehicle called “Women On…”?

For millennia, men asserted their dominion over women through the sex act. Sex was about men getting it however, whenever and wherever they wanted it, and about women dutifully accepting this, and the consequences associated therewith. Unfortunately for the male of the species, at least in the industrialized world, science did him a dirty turn about mid-way through the last century--in the form of The Pill and other self-administered female birth control, and the legalization of safe clinical abortion. Suddenly it was possible for women to have sex however, whenever and wherever they wanted it, no longer chained to the “consequences” any more than men were.

Women were handed the keys to their shackles by the Sexual Revolution, and have not looked back. Much to the chagrin of those who preferred the status quo, and who have been pouring herculean efforts into stuffing that genie back into the bottle. These good ole boys may be dinosaurs, but they are not going to go down easy. They intend to reassert male dominance in our society, and as has been the practice of desperate men for centuries, they have conscripted “God” onto their side of the battlefield. God is, after all, just one of “the guys,” isn’t He? We liberated women are not, at long last, enjoying the freedom to realize the potential conferred upon us by the Creator. We’re subverting the will of “God.”

Like it or not, the birth control/abortion issue has become America's litmus test of the status of women’s rights in our society. Many women, including myself, are not wholly comfortable with this fact. In 1973, as a naive, sexually active and not-nearly-cautious-enough eighteen-year-old, I might have considered the option of abortion had I got “caught.” But that was at the very dawn of the Sexual Revolution. We didn’t have much of the science, experience and resources that are available to today’s young women. And the stigma assigned to unwed motherhood was ugly and strong. The concept of making the “problem” go away was considerably more attractive than the alternative.

But there have been changes over the past four decades--in education, in the availability of more solid science, and in the undeniable reversal of society’s attitudes toward unwed mothers. If I was a young woman NOW, I probably would not consider abortion as a preferred or valid method of birth control. Be that as it may, it is still not up to ME to dictate what another woman does with her body under her own personal circumstances. And if I don’t believe myself to be possessed of enough enlightenment to make this judgment, I sure as hell don’t buy that the government is.

So when MEN in or aspiring to elected office begin unabashedly spouting garbage about the State violating women with unwanted, invasive, medically unnecessary procedures for purely political reasons, my hackles raise higher than a flag on the Fourth of July. And when denying women access to free or insurance-covered birth control is perverted to become defense of some patriarchal cult’s “Religious Rights,” I don my gloves and come out swinging. Especially when any and all treatment associated with male sexual function/dysfunction is obligingly covered gratis, with a wink and a smile.

Sorry, guys. Regardless of the societal consequences—positive or negative—wrought by the Sexual Revolution, that boat done sailed. Going backwards, taking away civil rights, is never a viable—not to mention politically expedient—course of action. Especially when dealing with a “minority” group that arguably includes half the members of the human race.

We have what we have. And we are NOT giving it back.

A question…a challenge, if you will. To all the women who used to write here. What are your thoughts on the most recent attack upon us, the women of America? Can you share them here

Friday, January 20, 2012

Photo Friday

Haven't posted a Friday photo in awhile, and it's still Friday. So here it is:

little villian

A sharp-shinned hawk who regularly visits my backyard feeders...and NOT to eat the seeds.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

The Real Danger of TMI

"Television has proved that people will look at anything rather than each other." -- Ann Landers

This quote appeared on my Google home page this morning. I loved Ann Landers. I read her faithfully starting when I was about eleven years old. Eppie Lederer was a no-nonsense gal. Her down-to-earth sensibility and dry humor cut through the inflated drama of her readers’ concerns, re-prioritized their “it’s all about me!” perspectives and pointed them in the direction of common sense solutions to their problems. And I find her pronouncement on the dominant technology of her day succinct and prophetic.

I wonder what she would have thought about today’s technology? The technology that has chained any person under the age of thirty to a smart phone, iPad, laptop and/or MP3 player. Personal electronics have become as necessary as breathing to an entire generation. The obsessive dependence upon these things carries Landers’ assessment to a whole new level. Cel phone/text technology has proved that people would rather communicate with anyone rather than present company. And will slavishly employ these tools to save themselves from what must be a fate worse than death, since they will risk death to avoid it—being alone in the silent company of their own thoughts.

Human beings are complicated animals, prone to mystifying and contradictory behavior. We kill for pleasure while we prohibit “murder” on moral grounds. We enslave others while rigorously defending our own unqualified freedom. We crave community and reject it at the same time; how else to explain a pack of kids walking down the street with their noses glued to their phones instead of talking to each other? How else to explain the drive to accumulate hundreds of social media “friends,” yet not have one other person in the world who KNOWS you? I am mystified. I doubt that I’ll ever understand it.

Over the past hundred years, humans have run wild with the idea of creating technologies that will “shrink” the world. Information that once took weeks to cross the continent now travels in less than the blink of an eye. Images are instantaneous, and they are everywhere, accessible at any time. But I wonder if we’ve really done ourselves any favors. We’ve become media junkies. But I’m afraid our hunger for input has outstripped our ability to process it properly. It’s coming at us so fast that there’s no time to discern truth from lies, fact from fantasy. We select the information we choose to assimilate and construct our own individual versions of reality. As a result, the technology meant to draw the world together is actually pushing it apart.

Each of us has created our own individual sovereignty. The information we assimilate, the realities we create serve mostly to separate us from one another. Instead of 196 countries in the world, there are 7 billion. In many ways, we are infinitely farther from each other than we were before all this technology endeavored to bring us together. It’s true, and getting truer, that thing which Ann Landers identified half a century ago.

We would rather look at anything than each other.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Health Care Wins Another One

I came across an article on CNN.com which, on the surface, seemed more or less unremarkable.

Ohio Couple Pleads Guilty in Son’s Cancer Death

It is a terse quarter-page report on a couple who “denied” their son medical treatment for what turned out to be Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Apparently, the boy suffered from recurring swollen glands in his neck and on and off flu-like symptoms. The lymphoma went undiagnosed; the parents treated him with over-the-counter cold medicines. He died. He was eight years old. This was in 2008. This week, the parents pled guilty to plea-bargained manslaughter charges.

On the surface, you want to condemn these people as the sorriest excuses for parents. The news story paints them in a terrible light. You imagine this boy lying in bed, wasting away, in terrible pain (because to the average American, dying of cancer = excruciating pain), begging to be taken to the hospital, while the parents, crying “poor mouth,” callously turn their backs on him and let him die.

But something about this whole scenario just smelled like a three-days-dead herring. And the stink got into my brain and would not go away. Who were these people, really? Were they religious zealots? Were they cooking meth in their bath tub? Were they out buying flat screen TVs and ipads while their son languished in pain? If ever eleven lines published on a national news site cried out for back story, these did. Here was a situation that was doubtless composed of layer upon layer of deep emotion, wrenching loss, shock and shared culpability. There was no way the story could be done justice by a brief, and obviously biased, report of the final outcome. Almost four years later.

So I decided I would dig a little deeper.

On the website of the Cleveland PlainDealer, I found a few archived stories. All of them basically repeated the same damning piece of “evidence:” While the little boy was ill, supposedly in pain and “begging his parents to take him to a doctor,” the couple paid $87 to have a pet dog treated for fleas. On the surface, that sounds pretty bad. But, I wondered, where was the REAL damning evidence? Where was the list of frivolous luxuries for which they laid out cash, rather than take their sick boy to a doctor? Where was the evidence of involvement in drugs or domestic violence or welfare fraud? None of what I dug up—which wasn’t much, and yet was reported in such a way as to assure any reader would assume the worst about these folks—told me that evil or avarice caused this couple to act the way they did.

What—or who—convinced a county coroner to rule this death a homicide? And who or what then took the story to the media, so these folks would be convicted without a trial by a public provided with only the sketchiest and most sensational details of a family’s tragedy?

At the Huffington Post, the story was fleshed out some. HufPost included some quotes from the oldest daughter, now 18, and some rebuttal of prosecutors’ accusations by the defense lawyers. According to the sister, the boy’s episodes of swollen glands did not seem to bother him all that much. The thought that he might have cancer never entered anyone’s mind. The family had once gone to a “free” clinic for medical help, but left when they were informed they would have to pay. A family services caseworker told the parents that the lumps on the boy’s neck looked like swollen glands, but they should hold off until they received financial assistance before getting him checked out. Oh…and the mother’s lawyer asserts that the sensationalized flea treatment was actually paid for by the grandparents, to whom the dog belonged . Okay…so here is a conglomeration of “facts” designed to swing our opinion in the opposite direction. Obviously not the full story here, either.

Where are the answers to the real questions? Were the parents unemployed? Underemployed? Was there no health insurance available to them? The Cleveland PlainDealer alleges that the couple’s six children under 15 did not attend school. Is this true? If so, why not? We’re told the family moved to Cleveland three weeks before the boy died. Why? Was there employment available there? Did they lose their home and have to move in with relatives? Did they think moving to the city would put them closer to the services they needed for their family, including medical care and social assistance that was actually helpful?

In the end, I have no basis upon which to judge this couple. I have no idea what their circumstances really were. I only have conflicting pictures in my mind planted by incomplete and biased reporting. I suspect these parents were probably ignorant and overwhelmed (six kids under fifteen?!) and possibly even negligent. But I also have the deeply troubling suspicion that forces far beyond their control have exploited their family tragedy for purposes having nothing to do with truth, justice, or dedication to the protection of our society’s helpless children.

Because here is the reality that I have trouble reconciling: We live in a country where medical services are doled out or withheld based on ability to pay. We live in a country where medical insurance is routinely denied to people who might actually incur medical expenses, where insurance companies drop paying clients like a hot rock when they become ill, or deny coverage for certain conditions or procedures based on not much more than a whim.

If a patient’s condition deteriorates to the point of untreatability while the doctors, HMO’s and hospitals iron out the details of who is going to pay, no one goes to jail. If a senior citizen suffers a stroke because she has to make a choice between eating and filling five expensive prescriptions, no one is led away in handcuffs. If a man dies because he couldn’t afford health insurance, and by the time he was sick enough to go to an emergency room it was too late to help him, no one calls the cops. But two average citizens whose child died because, for whatever reason, they did not buy into the mess that is American health care today, are going to jail.

Let us understand the world in which these Ohio parents live. The times when it was a no-brainer to trundle your sick kid over to the family doctor are long gone. These days, there’s a maze of forms and co-pays and procedures and protocols and months-out appointments with two or three different providers before you eventually are seen by some specialist you don’t know and probably doesn’t care enough about you to piss on you if you were on fire. And it’s entirely likely that you’ll receive inferior care—or no care at all—if you can’t cough up big bucks. In advance.

Over the past three decades, our society has actively encouraged a deadly metamorphosis in the practice of healing the sick. Medical treatment has gone from a right to which a thriving society entitles every member, to nothing more than a consumer commodity. A commodity to which a premium price tag has been attached. In 21st century America, nothing less than cold-hearted greed dominates the allotment of the procedures and medicines which heal our bodies or help keep them healthy. American Health Care has deteriorated into a complicated maze of high costs, insurance rules and legal wrangling that has nothing to do with either “health” or “care.” It’s all about the money.

So is it any wonder that these parents in question might have been so cowed by the process and the likelihood of rejection that they chose to self-diagnose and treat their son’s symptoms as best they could at home? Especially since those symptoms seemed to come and go, and the thought of cancer never entered their minds? Who thinks their eight-year-old has cancer? Really? And say these parents had taken their son to the emergency room which a county official insisted (after the fact) would have taken the boy and treated him regardless of their financial situation. Can we say for certain, given today’s medical protocols, that the boy would have been properly diagnosed? Or would he have been given a prescription and the admonition to see his family doctor for a follow-up and sent on his way? If this had happened and the boy died anyway, who would be going to jail?

Anyone who wants to sit in judgment of these folks needs to walk a couple of miles in their shoes. Those of us who grew up in the 50’s and 60’s did not face those roadblocks when it came to obtaining medical help, neither when we were kids nor when we were raising our own children thirty years ago. Medical care may not have been as “advanced” as it is today, but at least it was accessible. And medical insurance was provided by your employer. For free.

We don’t have medical care in this country any more. We have Health Care. And it is big business. Make no mistake: Health Care will contrive to make examples of folks who either can’t or won’t buy into it. Health Care might hide in dark corners armed with fistfuls of cash or promises or threats, to perhaps nudge a county coroner to create a crime where none exists; or pressure a district attorney to pursue prosecution against people who have the audacity to believe they have a choice when it comes to purchasing medical treatment. Health Care would think nothing of taking a family’s personal tragedy and mercilessly exploiting it for its own purposes.

Possibly this is not what happened in this case. We’ll never know, will we? But we must not be na├»ve enough to believe it can’t or doesn’t happen. It’s all too possible. All too conceivable.

In any case, a society which allows medical treatment to be dispensed on the basis of who can pay (and how much), which allows power over life and death to rest in the hands of third parties who handle the cash flow with obvious disdain for the needy, has no business punishing any private citizen whose personal choice has produced a tragic outcome. Either a society values life, or it doesn’t. Either it charges all persons and entities with the responsibility of caring for the most helpless among us, or it cannot legitimately charge anyone.

A boy died. A boy who could have been healed with proper medical treatment, received in a timely manner. That is an abomination. It is not my purpose here to absolve the parents and chalk this one up to the vagaries of free choice. My point is that they never should have had to make the choice. Parents should never, ever be put in a position where they are too afraid, intimidated, confused or ignorant of Health Care to receive healing for a child. Health Care failed this boy. Health Care failed these parents.

But Health Care is not going to jail. The parents are.

Justice has not been served. It has been used. To serve Health Care.