Friday, May 24, 2013

Pro-life GOP is working hard to ensure that women have the same cattle

Now you might recall that the GOP has repeatedly taken brave stands against all manner of measures beneficial to women and the furtherance of gender equality in our nation. Equal pay for equal work is a shining example of their diligence and courage. In my own home state of Wisconsin we learned that women simply don't want money as much as men do, and our illustrious governor obligingly repealed our equal pay enforcement laws. Across the nation, Republicans had plenty to say on the issue, enlightening us time and again as to how terrible an idea it was (or, at least, why, though admirable in principle, in practice it was simply unthinkable, impractical, and likely to doom industry/humanity/the planet/the galaxy). On the national level, Republicans bravely voted to protect our great nation from the dreaded specter of equal pay for equal efforts – bravely, as such continual opposition to women's rights, on this issue and others, arguably came at a very steep cost for Republicans (we know it as Mitt Romney's thorough paddling at the polls by women voters).

But who said you can't teach an old dog new tricks? These old dogs have indeed learned the importance of equality for women, and are hard at work trying to ensure that women have the same rights as...well, livestock.

It's not the first time that pro-lifers have attempted to (and sometimes succeeded in) reducing women's rights to those of cattle. But they were at it again yesterday, arguing for a 20 week abortion ban with no exception for fetal abnormalities, even those leading to infant death. In Georgia, when the issue came up that many of these later term abortions happen in non-viable pregnancies, State Representative Terry England had the gumption to say what we were all thinking: that if it's good enough for pigs and cows to birth dead offspring, damn it, it's good enough for women! His temerity paid off, as the bill passed – with the added exception that a fetus diagnosed with “an irreversible chromosomal or congenital anomaly that is 'incompatible with sustaining life after birth'” may be aborted if it is extracted alive (it being felony, complete with 10 years in prison, for a doctor who messes this piece up). A similar measure was passed in Arizona. Sadly for Arizona Republicans, the measure was eventually struck down by a federal court, but not before the state made the stirring argument that fetuses that are “basically born into hell and then die” are simply “the woman’s problem”; somehow, such compelling legalese didn't sway the judge. Perhaps noting the PR difficulties of such straight talk, Texas' own Louie Gohmert took a more measured tone during this week's hearings on a national 20 week abortion ban – the talks dominated, curiously enough, by Republican men.

In an inspired response to Christy Zinks, a woman testifying in opposition to the measure, citing the necessity of her own abortion of a fetus that showed no brain activity, Representative Gohmert declared that, while Ms. Zinks had his “great sympathy and empathy both,” he couldn't help but wonder “shouldn't we wait” to “see if the child can survive before we decide to rip him apart?” Now that might not seem like a terribly sympathetic thing to say, but at least he didn't imply that she was the equivalent of a pig, yeah? Granted, he wants to strip her rights down to those of farm animals, who have no say in whether or not they go through with doomed pregnancies, but he was tactful-ish about it. Other than that whole "rip him apart" line. Ok, not tactful at all. Still, even though he more or less called her Mom the Ripper, he didn't mention animals, not once; and that's some progress. And he did it in such an empathetic way!

Speaking of empathy...Right to Life of Michigan president Barbara Listing is all empathy as she discusses her ballot signature drive to ban abortion coverage as part of regular health insurance plans, requiring an additional plan if coverage is desired (a similar measure was vetoed by Governor Snyder last year when passed by the legislature; but, if Listing's required 258,088 signatures are collected and the legislature passes the measure again, it would become law without the possibility of being vetoed).

Discussing the fact that no exemption is offered even in rape cases, she explains that if you can plan to get in a car accident, you should plan to get raped:

Stirring rationale, of course, to say nothing of compassionate. While Jessica Tramontana of the baby killing squad of Progress Michigan points out that it's not comparable because “rape is not an accident,” I say bah humbug. Yes, it might seem odd that we're singling women out, asking them to anticipate being the victim of a violent crime (and insure themselves accordingly!) while not asking the same of victims of other sorts of crimes (“sorry, bud, but you should have anticipated getting attacked, and taken out a policy that covered 'violent muggers''re on your own!”). It might seem like pregnancy and related matters, being undeniably related to a woman's health, would be covered by, you know, health insurance, and therefore not necessitate a separate policy. It might seem particularly strange that Ms. Lister isn't suggesting that women anticipate the “accident” of rape in the form of separate maternity and child coverage rape policies, since this is absolutely, certainly, without a doubt not a measure to punish women who want to terminate their pregnancies, even their rape-baby pregnancies, and just a matter of fairness and personal responsible. You might ask, if a woman would abort a rape pregnancy, and so has to “plan ahead” for that, why shouldn't she have to “plan ahead” for a rape pregnancy, and the resulting child? It might seem like this logic begins to really disintegrate the more you look at it, and become more and more blatantly an attack on a woman's right to decide when and if she'll have a child. But that, of course, is simply not the case. It has nothing to do with punishing and controlling livestock, I mean, women, and everything to do with protecting the sacred fetuses. Even the ones who are “born into hell and then die”. And, by protect, I mean, “force women carrying them to bring to term, whatever the consequences.”

Which, really, no smart farmer would do.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Scandal Chasing (a look at the pettiness of politics in these great United States of America)

Scandal chasing, or, perhaps, more appropriately titled, a look at the pettiness of politics in these great United States.

Back during the election, a veritable eternity ago, or so it seems, the pettiness was best exemplified by latching onto small phrases or ideas, and blowing them out of all proportion until they lost any relevance and simply became empty shells of an argument. Enter Big Bird, and the ten thousand “Mitt Romney's going to hunt/kill/cook Big Bird” memes that followed (perhaps one of the better reasons for voting Romney: so that'd be the last we heard of that fracking bird). Sometimes the phrases had to be cut out of all context and utterly misrepresented to be truly interesting. Witness the “we built that” campaign, that, hilariously, featured a bunch of people who didn't “build that”, leastwise not all on their pulling-themselves-up-by-the-bootstraps, hardworking, non-moocher-y own (which was the entire point).

But the election's over, and we're back to regular politics. Whew.

Which is probably the precise sentiment the unspecified critter, jumping from the frying pan to the fire, felt, at exactly the moment of its leap. “Finally! Wait, you mean...” Or, as this guy put it...


The point is, sanity wasn't returned. Far from it. Sanity and American politics are not just going through a rough patch, they're separated. And seeing other people.

There was Benghazi, although, in fairness, that fling started during the election. In fact, it gave rise to one of those moments of absurdity that I was talking about earlier. Who can forget the outrage that arose when Candy Crowley had the audacity to insert fact into the mature spectacle of two grown men, each competing to be president of the United States, engaged in such thoughtful dialog?

“Did not.”
“Did too.”
“Did not!”
“Did so!” *

The horror of it all. But Mitt Romney's quibbling over semantics didn't “shut that whole thing down”; no sir. Politically speaking, scandals (in the enemy's camp) are a gift from God; and, in the spirit of Rick Santorum, the GOP wasn't looking to abort that blessing any time soon. So it's back again.
Now, I'm not saying there weren't any good questions to be asked. But no one's asking them. Our esteemed leaders were too busy alternatively trying to launch preemptive strikes against a 2016 Hillary run, while touting their own America-loving, how-dare-those-damned-liberals-not-stop-this, don't-ask-about-embassy-funding-because-we-sort-of-cut-it bona fides, or trying to land themselves a place in the Hillary administration (seriously, check out the Benghazi hearing footage; it's laughable). That wasn't enough, though. It didn't end with all the grandstanding, all the prevarications, all the self-serving chatter meant to boost individual careers. No sir. Then we got the fake emails. And the fundraising, because they care about dead Americans. And all the “oh my god, they're covering *something* up”. That became “maybe they're covering something up”. This particular line seems to be on the downswing (for now?), though. I guess it doesn't do much to boost your credibility when the scandalous part of your scandal is that you're lying to make up a scandal.

But, for the absurdity junkie, there's bigger and badder scandals to be had. Benghazi really just pales in comparison to, say, my favorite: “umbrellagate”. The president asked two marines to hold umbrellas, in much the same way berets and others have held umbrellas over past presidents. Now, you might be wondering why it's a scandal (when both dress codes forbid males to do so) when Obama does it, but not when other presidents do it. It's definitely not racism, as Michelle Malkin's site is eager to point out; calling the president a “MONKEY”, lamenting that he likes “being served on by two white servicemen”, that “King Barry uses cracker Marine”, etc., is totally, absolutely not racist. So if it's not a big deal when other presidents do it, just this president, and it has nothing to do with all that “white servicemen” being “use[d]” stuff, what, oh what, could it be? Well, maybe it's just that most Americans hold their own umbrellas. Not Sarah Palin, and not other presidents. But most Americans. And, damn it, if Obama wasn't such an elitist “SATAN CLOWN”**, he'd act like most Americans! So there you have it. Scandal.

So what I'm getting at, really, is that absurdity is alive and well -- thriving, really -- in today's political climate. I don't know if we've actually reached an all time low in pettiness and stupidity (the Dan Quayle “potatoe” thing stands out as an enduring low). But sometimes, every once in awhile, I see something so stupid that I can't help but think, “that's it...we've sunk as far as we can go.”

And then, some obliging politician, political commentator, or partisan asshat kindly proves me wrong. Everybody's eager to find a scandal, to get the scoop (looking at you, CNN. And ABC. And...), or to drive up viewers by whatever dishonest means necessary (we call it, Fox News). But at the end of the day, what gets done? What gets resolved? What improves? Nothing.

But the good news? We'll be back to the frying pan, in just a few years. Not that it'll be better, but different at least. And, at this point, variety seems to be the best we can hope for.

* More of a recording of the spirit of the exchange than the actual words. Not a direct quote. And still more accurate than Jonathon Karl's reporting.

** Spelling corrected. Original listed him as a “SANTA CLOWN”. Which is even more amusing, really.

Enjoying the Beauty of Whitefish Dunes state park (WI)

This past Sunday some of my family and I headed up to Sturgeon Bay, and Whitefish Dunes State Park. Now, it was my first time there, and perhaps to those who have been there before, this will be yawn inducing. But for my part, I was amazed and awed by the natural beauty around me. To the point that I spent about an hour in water that was so cold I had a hard time feeling my toes after a while. It was just that gorgeous. Photos do not do it adequate justice, but here are some of my favorite shots.

Oddly enough, I was so enamored with the water that I spent most of my time on the rocky shoreline or swimming, and didn't get any shots of the dunes. As good a reason as any to head back. :)

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

The real scandal of "umbrellagate"

The real "scandal" here is how some folks are so easily manipulated into being infuriated by a "dress code violation" that no one gave a second thought to in the past (it's prohibited for male marines and soldiers to hold umbrellas). And, of course, how so much of that anger has nothing to do with dress code, and everything to do with the president in question being an African American this time (