Saturday, February 4, 2012

Callista's hair

Callista Gingrich's hair has always bothered me, and I'm willing to admit that it may be mainly because Newt bothers me so much and it just spills over to his mistress cum #3 wife -- the She Who Would Be First Lady.

That, too.   But it's also the hair itself -- that platinum helmet so stiffly lacquered into place that the swoop around over her left ear never varies, and there's nary a hair out of place, ever.  Check out photos from a year ago -- the swoop is always, exactly in the same place, morning, noon, and night.   It is truly a rigid helmet.  She could play football and need no further head protection.

Now, thanks to an article by Newsweek's Michelle Cottle, all is explained.   Calissta's hair, in it's obsessive order and consistency, helps to balance Newt's disorderly, unreliable image.

Cottle refers to this as the "crucial role ascribed to first ladies:  providing contrast to her man's image in order to convey a sense of equilibrium."   (Pace, outraged feminists;  I'm with you on this.)

Think Barbara Bush as "everyone's favorite grandma, as homey and frumpy as the president was crisp and formal."   Laura's "soft-spoken librarian" to George W.'s "loud-mouthed, swaggering cowboy."   Even Michelle, with her Harvard law degree and executive experience, plays up her motherly warmth and "keeping-it-real" persona to soften Barack's image as aloof professor.

So now that I know there is a purpose to Callista's hair, maybe I can be a little more tolerant.  It doesn't make me trust Newt one iota more, however.


Things less significant than Trump's endorsement

Just thought up a new game:   Try to come up with news-hyped stories that are less significant than Donald Trump's endorsement for GOP nominee.

Here's a start:

1.  Anything having to do with Kim Kardashian and her whole Klan.

2.  Ditto for what Lindsey Lohan wore for her latest court appearance.

3.  John Boehner breaking into tears . . . again.

This is pretty hard.  Please feel free to add to the list in the Comments window.


Friday, February 3, 2012

Double-speak from Komen Foundation

Here's the issue in a nutshell.   Nancy Brinker founded the Susan Komen Foundation For the Cure (of breast cancer) to honor her sister who died from the disease.  It has been a major fund-raiser and grant-awarder for research, prevention, and treatment.

Its announcement that it was not renewing funding for most of its Planned Parenthood grants met with a swift and thunderous backlash, accusing Komen of caving in to political pressure from the anti-abortion crowd.

This was initially fueled by a spokesman who said that Planned Parenthood was dropped because of a new policy that Komen would not fund any group that is being "investigated" by a local, state, or federal government.    Critics say that the "investigation" by political opponents on trumped up charges is just part of doing business for Planned Parenthood.   The anti-abortion crowd is always on the attack against them and looking for anything to trigger an investigation by publicity-seeking politicians, so they could perpetually be "under investigation."

Critics also pointed to the inconsistency in the fact that the hospital at Penn State is still getting Komer research funds, while the university is "under investigation" for its handling of the child abuse scandal.

So then Brinker did an ABC interview with Andrea Mitchell in which she gave a different defense.  She claimed the decision was made by the Komer Trustees and that it was a new direction in their policy to give direct funding to agencies that actually perform breast screening mammograms, implying that PP was merely an intermediary that refers poor women to other facilities for the mammograms.   Komer wants to directly fund those who do the exams and can then follow through with treatment plans.   That makes sense.   The validity of the reasoning is backed up by the fact that they did not defund PP groups in three areas that lack other facilities that could be funded directly.

Critics claim that this is merely a convenient excuse to cave in to political pressure.  That opinion is bolstered by the fact that Komen recently hired Karen Handel as a Senior Vice President for Public Policy.  Handel was the unsuccessful candidate for Georgia governor, who declared her opposition to abortion and to Planned Parenthood.    Brinker claims that Handel had nothing to do with the decision.  But then why would you hire someone to head your public policy office who is categorically opposed to one of the main recipients of your grants?   That seems like a conflict of interest -- or was it exactly the first step of caving in to political pressure?

Now, after several days of brutal backlash, including the resignation of several top Komen officials and outraged response from donors who support PP, Komen has released a statement apologizing to the American public and (sort of) reversing its decision.  It includes this:
"We have been distressed at the presumption that the changes made to our funding criteria were done for political reasons or to specifically penalize Planned Parenthood. They were not. Our original desire was to fulfill our fiduciary duty to our donors by not funding grant applications made by organizations under investigation. We will amend the criteria to make clear that disqualifying investigations must be criminal and conclusive in nature and not political."
So they're reversing the decision based on a reversal of what was the original explanation (under investigation) but not what Nancy Brinker herself said was the reason for the defunding (direct access to mammograms).

Further, if you read the fine print, it isn't such a reversal afterall.  They will honor current grants already made to PP but not any others (they were already going to do that).  They won't fund the requested grants for this coming year, BUT it "preserves their eligibility to apply for future grants."    Well, sure, they can apply.  It doesn't mean they will grant it.  A real reversal of the decision would have been going ahead and funding the applications already filed for the coming year.   They did not.

This only adds to the impression that the real reason was indeed political, caving in to the donors who categorically opposed PP because a small portion of its activities involve abortion for poor women, even though Komen funds were segregated from those activities.

When you make up excuses to cover up the real reason, and then someone challenges the made-up excuse, it's pretty hard to make much sense of the mess you created  As Bill Clinton, John Edwards, and Herman Cain all discovered, it's the cover-up that always brings you down.

Komen should just be honest and say, "Look, we have some people who will make huge donations to our good cause of fighting breast cancer, but they will not do so as long as we make grants to Planned Parenthood.   Given the potential contributions for the good cause we stand for, we're going to go that route."  Let Komen re-align itself with the anti-abortion crowd and the Catholic Church, and then all the pro-life supporters can give their money somewhere else -- perhaps to Planned Parenthood to fund a mammogram program.


Good news

Employment reported for January has fallen to 8.3%.    Still way too high, but this is better than expected and a boost for Obama.

Joblessness, the anemic economic recovery, Wall Street, and inequality are the big issues for the November election.

As long as the Repubs continue to rough each other up and unemployment continues to decline, the prospects for Obama and Democrats look pretty good.


The right to deny birth control as a "religious freedom" issue

Catholic bishops are at war with the Obama administration over its ruling that some Catholic institutions are not exempt from the requirement to include birth control coverage in insurance for their employees.  The bishops claim this interferes with their religious freedom.

They are already exempt from this requirement of the health care reform act for the employees of their institutions, like churches, whose primary purpose is to advance their religious beliefs.   This new ruling says that exemption cannot apply to institutions operated by Catholics for other purposes, such as hospitals and schools with secular, non-Catholic employees.

On first glance, it seems like they have an argument:   the Church is being forced to pay for something that goes against its religious and moral beliefs.

On reflection however, I realized that I'm forced to do this all the time.   My taxes go to pay for the Iraq war and to carry out capital punishments.   I am passionately, one might even say religiously, opposed both to unnecessary wars and to capital punishment.

So, no, that argument doesn't hold up for me.   After all, the policy does not require Catholics to use birth control, just not to deny it to their employees who choose to use it.  I don't even have a choice over my tax money going to kill Iraqi civilians or people on death row.


Thursday, February 2, 2012

Washington State Senate passes gay marriage bill

By a comfortable margin of 28 to 21, the State Senate of Washington passed a marriage equality bill tonight, which assures that it will become law.   It has wider support in the House and should pass there quickly.  The governor actually introduced the bill herself and will definitely sign it.

Opponents have pledged to repeal it in a voter referendum, which will require a petition with over 120,000 signature to get it on the November ballot.  If they fail to get enough signers by June 6th, the law goes into effect then.   If the petition effort is successful, then it must wait for a decision by the voters in November;  it will become law only if voters defeat the referendum.


Wednesday, February 1, 2012

The danger for Democrats

We should be rejoicing that Mitt and newt are damaging each other with their fiercely negative campaigning, shouldn't we?   It will only get worse, because newt "will get by on nothing more than roaring ego and implacable rage" (Jason Linkins), and Mitt has the money to drown him in TV ads, as in Florida, which only prompts newt to roar even louder and make ever more outrageous claims -- all designed to keep himself in the news cycle and viral on the internet.

So we may have the "angry little muffin" (Peggy Noonan) around for some time to come.   We need no better picture of narcissism than watching newt in all his grandiosity, then imploding into implacable rage when he is thwarted and especially when he is humiliated.

Now is one of those times:  Captain Ahab's relentless pursuit of the White Whale that took off his leg.  Howard Fineman even speculates that newt might mount a third party campaign, if he fails to get the GOP nomination.  [Note of caution to newt:   Ahab dies in the end;  the whale wins.]

So shouldn't we be rejoicing at the Republicans' self-immolation?   Won't whichever one survives be so damaged as to be easy pickings for Obama?  Not so much. There is danger.

If newt and Mitt so damage each other and so divide the party that neither of them can beat Obama, concerned party leaders may convince Jeb Bush or Chris Christie to accept the nomination at a brokered convention. And then Obama would have a much more difficult opponent to defeat.


Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Romney wins BIG in Florida

Please notice that I went three days without talking about newt.   And I won't say much tonight except that he unleashed his massive fury on Romney (even had a robocall going out today claiming that as governor Romney's budget cuts denied Holocaust survivors the money needed to buy Kosher food.  Or some such nonsense).

He could have saved all the trouble.   Only 1% of the voters in the GOP primary were Jewish.   Which suggests the large Jewish population in south Florida will vote for Obama, despite Repubs attempt to paint him as hostile to Israel.

Anyway, newt went ballistic trying to win in Florida and it didn't work.   His win in S.C. will, I believe, prove to be his high point.   Romney got more votes than Gingrich and Santorum combined -- so newt's claim the he would win if the conservative vote were not divided falls a little flat.

As of this writing with 98% reporting, Romney's lead is 46.4% to Gingrich's 31.9%, followed by Santorum at 13.4% an Paul at 7.0%.

Romney also won decisively in middle Florida (Tampa 19%, Orlando 15%).  Other than taking most of the small, less populated counties in north FL, newt took 5 south central counties whose collective vote was less than 2000.  And even in northern FL, Romney took the cities, though with smaller margins (Jacksonville 2%, Tallahassee 8%).

Exit polls say Romney won virtually every demographic group -- and won the women's vote by a very large margin.

I kept having to remind myself, when I feel excited by newt's getting trounced, that Romney is going to be the one I'm against, and that he's said some pretty awful thing about Obama.  But tonight, I wanted him to win BIG.  And he did.

A good come-uppance, to you, newt.  You don't even rate a capital N anymore.


Monday, January 30, 2012

Gender equity

Janet Howell, Democratic State Senator in Virginia found a new way to protest the bill that would require an ultrasound exam before a woman could have an abortion.

Senator Howell told the Huffington Post:  "We need some gender equity here.  The Virginia senate is about to pass a bill that will require a woman to have a totally unnecessary medical procedure at their cost and inconvenience. If we're going to do that to women, why not do that to men?"

So she introduced an amendment to the bill that would require men to undergo a rectal exam and a cardiac stress test before getting a prescription for erectile dysfunction medication.

The amendment was narrowly defeated 21 to 19.   Six of the seven women senators voted for the amendment, which means that 13 men did also.

Way to go, Janet !!!


A small victory

An Indiana Republican state legislator had introduced a bill requiring drug testing for welfare recipients -- another of those assaults on the social contract that takes care of those in need.

Then a Democratic legislator introduced an amendment to the bill that requires drug testing for legislators as well, saying that, if one group that receives money from the government must be tested, then all who receive government money should be tested.

The amendment passed -- and then the Republican legislator withdrew his bill.  He said it was only temporary and that he will re-introduce it in a different form.

We'll see.

This kind of thing is in the same category with these "voter fraud" bills that are covertly designed to intimidate and make it difficult for the poor, the elderly, and the young people to vote -- ie those least likely to have driver's licenses.  [And "incidentally," those who tend to vote Democratic.]  You don't have to be blatant and say they can't vote, you just put so many obstacles in the way that many will not make the effort.

It's pretty sad -- as well as outrageous -- that the Republicans apparently feel that people aren't going to buy what they're peddling, and the only way they can win is to prevent some people from voting.


Sunday, January 29, 2012

"The times, they are a-changing . . . "

Never thought I would see the day when:

1.  Six states (MA, IA, CT, NH, VT, NY) and the city of Dictrict of Columbia have legalized same-sex marriage.   It's quite likely that soon WA, CA, NJ, DE, MD, and possibly ME will be added to the list.

2.  The repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell was championed by the president and the top military chiefs, and the service branches have all said that it's working out fine without any big problems.  And it happened in New York because Gov. Andrew Cuomo exerted vigorous leadership to make it happen -- and because several key Republicans rethought their positions and voted for the law.   One of them spoke eloquently about his prior opposition and changing his view after researching it as a lawyer and seeing that he could not come up with a single rational argument against marriage equality.

3.  The president and his attorney general are refusing to mount a court defense of the Defense of Marriage Act in court, declaring that parts of it are unconstitutional.  There is also serious talk in Congress of repeal.

4.  The governor of Washington actually introduced a bill legalizing same-sex marriage in that state, and there are clear majorities in both houses favoring it.  Gov. Gregorie says she wishes she had supported marriage equality earlier, but it has been a journey that she had to go through, especially in reconciling her Catholic teachings.

5.  There are reportedly sufficient votes now to pass a law in the New Jersey legislature.  Gov. Chris Christie says he will veto it, because it should be left up to the voters to decide, not the legislature.   Gov. Gregorie of Washington has criticized him for this position.  We don't put human rights up for a popular vote.

6.  The Secretary General of the United Nations, Ban Ki Mopon, has called on African nations to "stop treating homosexuals like second class citizens."

What comes through in most of these changes is that people are really thinking and changing their positions based on a re-examination of their past assumptions.  It's not just a shift of political power, or the waning of right-wing and conservative religious opposition.

It's also partly the changing social mores, especially among the younger generation.  Another major factor is that, more and more, people are coming out and giving others the opportunity of personally knowing a gay or lesbian person.  For example:   Gen. Mullen, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who so obviously supported the repeal of DADT personally, has a gay son.  It changes things when stereotypes are measured against real life people who do not fit those preconceptions.