Monday, February 25

:: I Told You So

Welcome to the real world, Barack
And so it begins. The press, its bloodlust for Hillary sated after the frenzy of dancing on her (purported) grave, turns its attention to Barack.

Last night, my dear mother called to tell me that Bill Maher's crowd was ripping Obama to shreds (why she was watching Bill Maher, I do not know). "You should turn it on right now," she said. "They are saying all the things you told me they would say."

Well, she is my mom.

But apparently Maher's crowd hit the high notes - Barack's arrogance, presumptuousness with regard to soul-saving, lack of experience, statement about sitting down with Castro II, lack of patriotism, his bitchy wife, and so on.

The New York Times has two columns that are perfect illustrations - close up, and in detail - of how the worm turns.

Today, Bill Kristol offers "Its All About Him," an homage to Barack's arrogance and lack of substance.
Last October, a reporter asked Barack Obama why he had stopped wearing the American flag lapel pin that he, like many other public officials, had been sporting since soon after Sept. 11. Obama could have responded that his new-found fashion minimalism was no big deal. What matters, obviously, is what you believe and do, not what you wear.

But Obama chose to present his flag-pin removal as a principled gesture. “You know, the truth is that right after 9/11, I had a pin. Shortly after 9/11, particularly because as we’re talking about the Iraq war, that became a substitute for I think true patriotism, which is speaking out on issues that are of importance to our national security, I decided I won’t wear that pin on my chest.”

Leave aside the claim that “speaking out on issues” constitutes true patriotism. What’s striking is that Obama couldn’t resist a grandiose explanation. Obama’s unnecessary and imprudent statement impugns the sincerity or intelligence of those vulgar sorts who still choose to wear a flag pin. But moral vanity prevailed. He wanted to explain that he was too good — too patriotic! — to wear a flag pin on his chest.

Now, Kristol is evil, I know. But he makes a valid point that Obama's kumbaya suporters have failed to grasp thusfar - Obama self-aggrandizing rhetoric paints everyone who is not on board with him as part of the problem. If you don't support Obama - if, for example, you support Hillary - you are against change, you are part of the machine, you don't care about the issues, you are a war monger, you are corrupt, and so on. Obama's campaign has gone negative since Day One.

To switch to lit-crit language, Obama created his in-group by casting Hillary as the "Other." The press was only too happy to concur. Feminists have been the "Other" for as long as they've existed.

Now that the press has written off Hillary, the in-group fractures. Without anti-Hillaryism to bind them together, the press no longer knows what it ever saw in the Obamanation.

Kristol says this about Michelle Obama's idiotic "patriotism" comment:
For as she had argued in the Wisconsin speech, America’s illness goes far beyond a flawed political process: “Barack knows that at some level there’s a hole in our souls.” This was a variation of language she had used earlier on the campaign trail: “Barack Obama is the only person in this race who understands that, that before we can work on the problems, we have to fix our souls. Our souls are broken in this nation.”

But they can be repaired. Indeed, she had said a couple of weeks before, in Los Angeles: “Barack Obama ... is going to demand that you shed your cynicism. That you put down your divisions. That you come out of your isolation, that you move out of your comfort zones. That you push yourselves to be better. And that you engage. Barack will never allow you to go back to your lives as usual, uninvolved, uninformed.”

So we don’t have to work to improve our souls. Our broken souls can be fixed — by our voting for Barack Obama. We don’t have to fight or sacrifice to help our country. Our uninvolved and uninformed lives can be changed — by our choosing Barack Obama. America can become a nation to be proud of — by letting ourselves be led by Barack Obama.

[Seriously, I try to shield myself from this - but - our souls? This is what the Obama campaign has been telling people?]

Notice Kristol's use of the pronouns "us," "our" and "we"? "Us" used to be "us folk who hate Hillary." Now a new dynamic is in play.

Kristol finishes with a nicely encapsulated preview of GOP message strategy.
Barack Obama is an awfully talented politician. But could the American people, by November, decide that for all his impressive qualities, Obama tends too much toward the preening self-regard of Bill Clinton, the patronizing elitism of Al Gore and the haughty liberalism of John Kerry?

It’s fitting that the alternative to Obama will be John McCain. He makes no grand claim to fix our souls. He doesn’t think he’s the one everyone has been waiting for. He’s more proud of his country than of himself. And his patriotism has consisted of deeds more challenging than “speaking out on issues.”
Job 1 - paint Obama as another typical Democrat, combining the worst qualities of Bill Clinton (vain, huckster), Al Gore (liar, wimp) and John Kerry (elitist snob).

Job 2 - draw contrast with the honorable, modest war hero John McCain.

Kristol's column comes on the heels of Maureen Dowd's "Quien Es Mas Macho." And here's a surprise....she finds him to be so ickily.... feminine! [Her job, apparently, is to cast Democratic presidential nominees as the feminine to the GOP's masculine, the mommy versus the daddy.] Apparently Hillary is more manly than Obama (a shift from the previous "Hillary is too manly"). Here she goes...

At first in Austin, Hillary did not channel Jane Austen. She tried once more to cast Obama as a weak sister on his willingness to talk to Raúl Castro.

Obama tapped into his inner chick and turned the other cheek. To cheers, he said, "I think that it’s important for us, in undoing the damage that has been done over the last seven years, for the president to be willing to take that extra step."

Like a prudent housekeeper, Obama spent the cash he raised — including from his continuing relationships with small donors — far more shrewdly, on ads rather than on himself.
You get the picture. Dowd is a master (mistress) of sexist jujitsu.

I'd feel badly about all this, if I hadn't been at National airport yesterday where I saw a prominent display of Hillary "nutcrackers" for sale. These are the figurines of Hillary with a metal, toothed nutcracker in place of a crotch. The box says "What Did You Expect?" and they are sold along with a bag of walnuts. When I suggested to the woman behind the counter that these were wildly offensive, she replied with that most American of statements,

"Well, people are buying them."

Well, people buy a lot of things, don't they. Including the words of Kristol and Dowd.

Obama and his boys brigade of campaign strategists thought they could harness sexism and prejudice to their own advantage. As it happens, the joke is on them.

Read more!

Friday, February 22

:: Screw You Guys - I'm Going Home

Obama's campaign has become part of the problem, not the solution... and I'm not going to let it slide.

I’ve haven’t posted comments anywhere for a while, not only because my foster dog ate the internet, but because I’m sick of the Obamamites. However a comment I saw today on really inspired me. The comment was this:
As a under 50,000, 50 year old part of the throw away class of women you are speaking of, let me just reassure you I am college educated and I can recognize a load of male bullcrap when I hear it I will not be voting dem if your dream guy get the nomination. Oh and by the way I have never voted for a rep before, but; I guess there is always a first time. Posted by: vera t February 21, 2008 10:45 PM

This really struck a chord with me. I think its also in line with Buffy's post about "invisible women." In response, I wrote:

"I just want to express my appreciation to Vera T for her comment about being "part of the throw away class of women" in this election. That is EXACTLY how I feel.

I noticed last night that once again, Obama mentioned the need to inspire the American people to "go beyond the racial divisions and the religious divisions and the regional divisions.” He seemed to go out of his way to not mention gender (just like, for example, in his MLK day speech when he mentioned racism, “occasional” anti-semitism, homophobia but not misogyny or sexism).

Now the party line from Obama supporters is the Hillary should drop out, despite the fact that the two candidates are running neck-and-neck.

Clearly, the votes, values and interests of people like myself (and Vera T) do not matter to the Obama campaign, nor to the most outspoken Obama supporters. This has been demonstrated in a number of ways, from the content (or lack thereof) of his speeches, to the content (or lack thereof) of his website, and in the strategy that says the votes of my cohort basically don't exist or shouldn’t count.

I have been involved in Democratic politics for my entire career, working exclusively as paid staff for progressive interest groups and Democratic candidates. And I say this now from my heart, not as some sort of veiled threat, but absolutely from my heart - I honestly think that if Obama is the nominee my protest will be to not vote in the general.

Over the course of this campaign, I've heard Hillary's experience minimized and ridiculed, heard every comment parsed for even a hint of exaggeration, I've seen her denigrated for her clothes and her laugh, I've seen her accused of using "feminine wiles" by "turning on the water works" when the fact is she never shed a tear on the campaign trail, I've heard my own vote denigrated as mere sympathy rather than fact- and value-based, I’ve heard Hillary’s daughter called a whore by a prominent newscaster for campaigning with her mother (but nary a word about Mitt’s boys) (believe me, if that newscaster had said Barack was “pimping out” Michelle, he’d be fired and NO ONE would be coming to his defense). I’ve heard Hillary called “ambitious” as if there is something wrong with that, while the obviously equally ambitious male candidates are not criticized. I could go on and on. And who raises a protest? No one. Does Obama say one word about fair play? Never. Is he the beneficiary and sometimes the instigator of this unequal treatment? Obviously.

I'm not going to go into the ways misogyny permeates our culture. I've traveled and lived outside of the United States and I've observed overseas development programs that address gender inequality, so I know whereof I speak. Many countries have national programs that address, for example, violence and discrimination against womenand programs that make it easier for women (and men) to accommodate work and family. Not here. Here, apparently, no one beyond Hillary and her supporters think this is a problem. And no one, outside of Hillary and her supporters, thinks this is worth addressing.

Call my opinion irrelevant, or see me (and Vera T) as canaries in the coal mine. Not only do I not have any enthusiasm for Obama, but I've come to see his campaign as part of the problem. I’m sorry to say it, but as for this longtime Dem activist and one of the “throw away women,” if Obama is the nominee, you boys are on your own."

Before you say it - I know. The Supreme Court. Our foreign policy. The environment. I know, I know. But you know what? I'm sick of it. I'm not going to compromise my principles this time. We survived 8 years of Bush, we'll survive whatever happens next. The fact is, I don't think Obama will be able to beat McCain anyway (I heard MULTIPLE things come out of Obama's mouth in last night's debate that would make excellent negative ads against him). And I'm not sure Obama would be much better than McCain on a lot of issues. Obama has already ceded universal health care. We don't know whether he'd appoint a strongly pro-choice Supreme Court justice, or a "moderate" that appeals to both parties. He has no experience whatsoever in foreign policy - who knows what he could get us into.

And I don't think the Democratic Senate will treat the young new guy any better this time than the Democratic Senate did in 1992 - 1994 with the young new guy Bill Clinton. The first time he doesn't jump when Teddy tells him to, he'll get clobbered. Furthermore, I think he'll reap a whirlwind from the conservatives that will make the vast right-wing conspiracy against the Clintons look like nothing.

If Obama's the nominee, I'm going to take a cue from his campaign and vote with my heart - and my heart says stay home.

Read more!

Monday, February 18

:: Thanks, Daisy

You will experience a brief disruption of service.
No blogging for a while; nor any posting: no internet at home.

Why, you ask? Because a certain foster dog decided to escape from her crate and redecorate our spare bedroom. She tore it down, and then she tore it up. She pulled the cable out of the wall and chomped it. She pulled the cable box off its wall-mount, and the ethernet cable with it. She crunched the connectors. She ripped and chewed through (not necessarily in that order) the power cord to her portable heater. She dragged boxes and chairs around. She "dug up" the wool rug and left it in a heap. She did unspeakable things to her crate. She knocked furniture over. Curiously, she left a rabbit-shaped plush toy unscathed but for a little drool. I'm sure it was just an oversight. She was a very busy girl.

Scientist-at-Large wondered how she chewed through so many electrical wires without getting shocked. For all we know, she may have been zapped unconscious any number of times, only to rise again to finish the job.

All Hail, Satan's Little Redecorator.

Read more!

Thursday, February 14

:: Love, EU-Style

A special Valentine’s Day investigation from the European Parliament’s news service.

They can ask this sort of thing and come away unscathed… I shudder to think of what we’d learn if we asked equivalent questions to our members of Congress – well, the GOP ones, anyway.

...(A guide to the acronyms and abbreviations is at the end of this post)...

Love may be as important as the air we breathe but talking about love is not always the easiest topic. We usually leave it to poets and singers, and not to politicians. But on the occasion of St. Valentine's Day, 14 February, a day celebrated in many parts of Europe, perhaps they too can have their say. With some trepidation, we spoke to some MEPs about love.

1. If there was a European Charter for Love, what should be in it?

Katalin Lévai (PES, HU), author of the bestseller "Pillow-book": Mutual understanding and respect. Love is not only about sensual pleasures, but it is also about a spiritual and intellectual togetherness, otherwise desire dwindles away. Frédérique Ries (ALDE, BE): Please, no charter! Love is allergic to paragraphs and annexes.

Christofer Fjellner (EPP-ED, SV): Love should not be bound by any borders; any more than goods, services, capital or people.

Zita Plestinská (EPP-ED, SK): Love never fails. If we managed to put this idea into practise, the world would become much nicer. Then the Charter could replace many EP resolutions.

Henrik Lax (ALDE, FI): Live with your loved one as if every day you are together could be your last.

Genowefa Grabowska (PES, PL): There should be no age limit...nor should it contain any sanctions. It has to be based on persuasion and faith...Maybe the Slovenian presidency could introduce a Charter of Love.

Roberta Alma Anastase (EPP-ED, RO): Nowadays, people do not use the word love in public speeches, however, our existence is based on feelings, particularly on love. The European Union is a space where thoughts, feelings, attitudes are encouraged to flourish openly. I think this charter already exists and it is to be found in every one of us.

2. Would you like to share any good tips about romance and love?

Katalin Lévai: Be sincere from the very beginning. The one who acts a role will eventually fall.

Astrid Lulling (EPP-ED, LUX): You cannot organise or plan romance and love. It happens or it does not!

Frédérique Ries: For eternal love, admire and be admired and surprise, always. Boredom poisons love.

Genowefa Grabowska: The more you love the more you expose yourself to suffering. But suffering enriches us. Every grandmother has a drawer full of advice because she has been in love so many times. But her granddaughters will never listen to her, because they would prefer to learn from their own experience.

Henrik Lax: Enjoy the romance, but do not take any serious life decisions until you know whether it is love or something else.

3. What "says it best" on Valentine's Day: chocolate, flowers or something else?

Roberta Alma Anastase: Chocolate and flowers are good, especially if mixed. However, the most important thing is to be sure the person you love is there for you.

Katalin Lévai: A good book is the most valuable of all, if it is accompanied by a flower, then my heart warms.

Genowefa Grabowska: If I was cynical and materialistic I would expect my husband to give me a red car, because I like red cars. But I am not, so what I would like to get is a red rose.

Frédérique Ries: Give yourself, that's the real present and not only on 14 February. Give your time, your imagination and your heart - there are infinite possibilities for wonderful surprises.

4. Are you planning to do anything special for Valentine's day?

Astrid Lulling: Valentine's Day only became fashionable when I was already over 40. But one can always dream, so why not hope that a good friend will take the initiative for a lovely surprise.

Christofer Fjellner: Yes, I will spend it with my girlfriend, Cecilia. Since I spend so much time in Brussels - and to much time in Strasbourg - spending time with her is always - in some way - special.

Henrik Lax: "No, I will be in Kiev, far from my wife whom I met 43 years ago. I will send my warmest thoughts and feelings to her and all my family.

Guide to acronyms and abbreviations: PES, Party of European Socialists (center left); ALDE, Alliance of Liberal Democrats (center right); EPP, European People's Party (right wing); HU, Hungary; SV, Sweden; SK, Slovakia; FI, Finland; PL, Poland; RO, Romania; LUX, Luxembourg.

Read more!

Monday, February 11

:: Invisible Woman

There has been some chatter lately about why a certain swath of the population really, really dislikes Hillary Clinton. I mean REALLY, to the point of distraction, without reason, dislikes a woman they have never met, who has never personally harmed them and who does not kill people or kick puppies. Stanley Fish spent several column inches detailing the kind of comments he gets when he opines about Hillary. It is the vicious and irrational nature of the comments that has him perplexed.

My mom has one explanation for the Hillary hatred. She thinks there is a huge latent discomfort, even hatred of Hillary Clinton, because she refuses to become invisible. Older women in our society, especially older white women, tend to fade into the background. They are no longer sex objects and are therefore supposed to take their rightful role as unobtrusive grandmothers. There are not many roles (or rules) for a woman who continues to be productive long after she has stopped reproducing.

She [Hillary] was never the "pretty" or "cute" one, and at this advanced age of hers as a woman, she has refused to become invisible. How dare she! She is going against the everybody-knows popular wisdom about what women in their 50's are supposed to be doing, looking like, saying. She is supposed to be INVISIBLE. And when someone, any age or gender, goes against what we know should be the proper role, it makes us uncomfortable. And when voters are uncomfortable, they instinctively vote NO. I've worked on many issue campaigns, everything from the ERA to zoning issues in a specific community, and the single consistent theme for something losing is the voter telling the pollster, "I just am uncomfortable voting for this...No, of course I don't understand it, but somehow or other it makes me uncomfortable; therefore I will be against it."

This phenomenon is not lost on the Clinton campaign – her very first campaign ad was titled Invisible. Read more!

Friday, February 8

:: Kate Michelman Jumps the Shark

Kate has a new pro-Obama statement, and its kinda freaky, in a pod-person sort of way...

Kate's new pro-Obama statement is, well, kind of weird.... see for yourself. Its called "Believing Again" (note: emphasis added and formatting condensed).
The question I have been asking myself and others during my entire life in public policy and throughout this 2008 presidential Campaign -- the question which tens of millions of women and men have also been asking -- is how do we best bring America together in shared purpose, prosperity and, especially, equality.


[Like John Edwards] Barack Obama is also calling our nation to the greatness that we all want but that we're uncertain we can still achieve. Others talk about greatness and they even say all the right words, but they do not bring those words to life. Their words do not grab us by the arms and pull us along together.


And when I endorsed John Edwards I also knew that Barack Obama shared every one of these concerns, and over the course of Barack's own campaign, the nation has come to believe in him just like I always have as well.

Senator Obama is not just prepared to lead ­ as our beloved Teddy and Caroline Kennedy have said, he is prepared to lead in a way different than we have seen for decades. Not out in front with us behind him, but rather with us beside him. And that difference is all the difference. That difference separates just any president from a great president; and right now, we need a great president.

Barack Obama will be that great president. He will bring us all together. And together, we will change our country. During these past many years, we have lost the sense of what we could do together, who we could be, what was possible. That's changing. And Barack Obama is the one changing that. With him, greatness is again within reach.
First of all, if she always believed in Barack, she should have endorsed him and not Edwards. I guess she just didn't believe in him enough.

Second, what is with the cult-language? I realize that "he will bring us all together" is a main campaign message, but coming from a woman who was at the nexus of one of our most intense (and sometimes violent) cultural conflicts, this sounds bizarre. I guess it depends on what she means by "us." If she's thinking "us" doesn't include the folks over at National Right to Life, the National Council of Catholic Bishops and the neanderthal base of the Republican party, okay maybe. Because I'm certain they're not going to jump into bed with Kate no matter what Barack tells them.

"With him, greatness is in reach" - she sounds like a televangelist or mega-church preacher. Does she really expect people to just swallow that without any specifications about what this "greatness" might entail? Annexing Poland and Czechoslovakia, perhaps?

Third, what is with that "our beloved Teddy and Caroline" crap? She's a hair's breadth (or hare's breath, if you like) from calling Barack our Dear Leader. When was the last time you heard any American call any living politician, in all seriousness, "our beloved"? Freaky.

Last, the most interesting part of her whole statement is this: Barack will lead "Not out in front with us behind him, but rather with us beside him." This, my dears, is the Big Clue. Kate sees herself as part of Barack's circle, in a favored position "beside him"; she wouldn't have such a place next to Hillary. Hillary doesn't need Kate to shore up her feminist credentials - she has her own achievements. But Barack - he needs Kate beside him. He makes her feel valuable. She is a bigger fish in that pond.

In other words, Kate has invalidated everything she preached while she ran NARAL. For years and years she told us that a solid record of standing up for women's rights was of paramount importance in deciding which candidate to support. Now, just because Barack made her feel good about herself, she has thrown away the ideals she championed throughout her career.

Kate is capping off her career by telling us that the principles she fought for aren't so important after all. What a sad way to slide into irrelevance. Read more!

Thursday, February 7

:: Come Look

Check this out. It is really cute.

"I was like....... ..... .. why?" Love it.
Read more!

:: Kristof: We're Not Ready for a Feminist President (Part Two)

Nicholas Kristof says our country isn't ready for a feminist President... and that's okay.
The most disturbing part of today’s contribution by Nicholas Kristof to the New York Times’ daily dose of anti-Clintonism (Who Is More Electable?) is this:

Another way of looking at electability is to wonder whether it’s more of a disadvantage to be black or to be female. Shirley Chisholm, the black woman who ran for president in 1972, argued in effect that there were more sexists than racists in America. “I met more discrimination as a woman, than for being black,” Ms. Chisholm once said.

And recent polling and psychology research seem to back that up.

Moreover, my hunch is that a conservative woman like Margaret Thatcher may have a better chance of being elected than a feminist with a distinguished record of standing up for women’s rights. For the same reason, Senator Obama probably has a better chance than a black candidate who emerged from the civil rights movement.

Quite simply, Mr. Kristof asserts that there is too much sexism in our culture to allow a woman to become president – except perhaps for a conservative woman such as Margaret Thatcher, who would disavow feminism and actively reaffirm the traditional power status quo.

Mr. Kristof suggests something similar of Senator Obama – that an African-American candidate who lacks a history of standing up for African-American rights is more palatable to whites than one who has directly challenged the status quo. The fact that Senator Obama has no notable accomplishments with regard to civil rights (other than the fact of his candidacy for President) is apparently an asset in this election. That is backhanded praise indeed.

What disturbs me his tacit acceptance of this situation. Instead of encouraging people of good will to recognize and oppose sexism, he treats it like an immutable fact of life. If we don’t challenge it now, how will we ever reach “the right time” for a female President? We already lag behind many countries around the world.

I posted the following comment at the Times in response to the column; I reproduce it here because it never saw the light of day though a comment I posted later showed up. The Times isn’t very timely or careful about posting readers’ comments. Perhaps they are still getting used to the idea.


After months of feeling enthusiastic about the prospect of Senator Clinton becoming president, I am finally being worn down. It may be that Mr. Kristof is correct in saying that this country is too steeped in misogyny to elect a woman to its highest office.
Only Senator Clinton is said to have “just” seven years of experience because she was first elected to public office in 2000. The assumption is that the other 28 years of her 35 year career were spent being “just” a wife, an ornament, a figurehead who “poured tea” in exotic locales. I am told that her substantial, demonstrable achievements outside of elected office simply “don’t count.” Yet no one suggests that Mitt Romney’s experience saving the Salt Lake City Olympics or Senator McCain’s experience as a soldier “don’t count” because they didn’t hold elected office at the time.

Only Senator Clinton is criticized for the personal moral failings of her spouse. I am told she should not become President because her husband’s past infidelity would tarnish the White House. But no one suggests that Senator McCain should not become President because he would bring to the White House a spouse who publicly admitted to (and apologized for) drug abuse and embezzlement at a difficult time in her life. No one suggests his moral character is compromised because of the actions of his wife.

Only Senator Clinton is described as someone who would be “nothing” or “nowhere” without her spouse. I frequently hear that her only real achievement is her marriage to a successful man. Yet no one suggests that Senator McCain, whose political career flourished only after he married an heiress whose father bankrolled his campaigns, would be nothing without his wife. No one suggests Mitt Romney would be nowhere if his father had not been a beloved governor.

Only Senator Clinton is posited as ineligible for the office of President because a family member held that office (Andrew Sullivan, for example, recently wrote a column suggesting her candidacy violates the spirit if not the letter of the Constitution). But members of the Kennedy family are regularly praised for their family’s commitment to public service, and Ted and Caroline are praised for “passing the baton” of JFK and RFK to Senator Obama. No one suggests that future Kennedys should be barred from office because of that family’s disproportionate representation in national politics.

Only Senator Clinton is regularly derided by commentators in the mainstream media, such as MSNBC or the op-ed pages of the Times, for being an “emasculating,” “castrating,” “cold,” “imperious,” “witchy” harridan who is injurious to male self-esteem. But no respectable commentator would dare mock Senator Obama using pernicious racial stereotypes, or suggest that his success comes at the expense of Caucasian America. Instead, such an action would be resoundingly and rightly condemned.

Only Senator Clinton is said to be a “disgrace” to other women because of her actions within her marriage (meaning, because she did not divorce her husband over his infidelity). No one suggests Senator McCain is a “disgrace” to other men because he cheated on and subsequently divorced his first wife after she suffered a disfiguring and debilitating car accident. Senator Clinton’s behavior as a wife is considered integral to her moral character, while Senator McCain’s behavior as a husband is considered tangential or meaningless.

It is has been deemed unimportant – even by certain well-known feminists – that no candidate except Senator Clinton has a track record of working on issues that pertain to gender equality such as the disproportionate level of violence directed at women by men, the dearth of social and governmental support systems for women who choose to give birth and raise children, the degradation of women in the media and the impact this has on the self-esteem and safety of young girls, the trafficking and enslavement of women to supply the demand for commercial sex work, and the myriad gender issues pertaining to human rights and international development. But the fact that a President Obama would make a positive contribution to the self-esteem of young African-Americans is regularly (and rightly) recognized as a feature of his appeal.

Unfortunately, this list could go on and on. The fact that I am learning to face is that very few people – including few “progressives” - actually care if women face prejudice, ridicule, insults, threats of violence or actual violence simply because they are female. Very few people care if women aren’t treated fairly.

Nevertheless I will continue to volunteer and contribute to Senator Clinton’s campaign and hope that she will be our next President.

Read more!

:: Kristof: We're Not Ready for a Feminist President (Part One)

Nicholas Kristof uses lousy logic to claim Obama is more electable than Clinton.

Nicholas Kristof's column today in the New York Times is called Who Is More Electable. It counts towards their quota of presenting at least one anti-Hillary Clinton opinion column per day. Mr. Kristof argues that Hillary is less electable that Barack Obama in a match up against John McCain. For the first installment of today's three part commentary (I woke up seriously early this morning), let's recount and dispatch with his main points.

It's not hard to do:

- Kristof argues that Obama is more electable because he has won more states than Hillary thus far. This is comparing apples and oranges, since caucuses are designed to determine the preferences of the party faithful, not all registered and self-identified Democratic voters. It is also immaterial, since presidential elections aren't won by a count of states; they are won by a count of electoral votes, and the states Obama won have far few electoral votes than those won by Hillary.

- Kristof argues that the endorsement of Obama by Susan Eisenhower means Republicans will vote for him. First of all, who cares about Susan Eisenhower. Ron Reagan Jr. was a Democrat while his dad was in the White House; it didn't indicate that Republicans wanted to cross party lines and vote Democratic. The fact is that when faced with a vehemently anti-choice candidate such as McCain versus a pro-choice Democratic candidate, plenty of Republican women cross party lines. Or call themselves "independents" to save the trouble.

- Kristof cites two polls that show hypothetical match ups with McCain beating Clinton by a percentage within the margin of error, while Obama beats McCain by a percentage within the margin of error. First of all, big deal - the difference is so minor as to be statistically insignificant. Second, we've already seen how off the polls can be when attempting to determine the level of support for Clinton.

- Kristof displays an alarming ignorance of presidential politics by claiming Obama is more electable than Clinton because he as done better in notoriously red states. He doesn't seem to grasp that red states and called red states because they traditionally - some without exception - vote Republican. It doesn't matter that Obama did better than Clinton in Idaho or Alabama, because he will not carry those states. It does matter than Clinton did better in the crucial battleground state (like red states, they are called "battleground" for a reason) of Florida.

- Kristof again compares Obama to JFK, a weird claim. I won't even go into that because its so deeply weird, except to say that the same claim by Teddy and Caroline (and Patrick - don't forget Patrick!) proved to be unpersuasive in the Kennedy's home state of Massachusetts (where Clinton beat Obama by 10 points).

I don't know why Mr. Kristof writes about a topic he clearly knows little about. Hubris, I guess. Lots of people think they can play "political strategist" just because they have an opinion.

He does such a good job reporting and analyzing international affairs, especially the ways policy decisions affect vulnerable people. I wish he would stick to that – it is so very needed.

On domestic politics, he's worse the useless.

... to be continued....
Read more!

Wednesday, February 6

:: More on Obama and Abortion

Where does Obama stand on bans of certain abortion procedures?

I am still hot on the trail of actual proof that Obama is fully pro-choice.

This is an important question. Feminists should not be asked, by the Obama campaign or by other feminists, to take on faith the Senator's support for our core issues. There are currently 16 Democratic Senators who are not 100% pro-choice; one is almost entirely anti-choice (Ben Nelson of Nebraska). On the Planned Parenthood Action Fund Congressional Scorecard, Obama is rated 100%, but he has not been in the Senate long enough to vote on 7 of the 14 issues they track. And we all know about the non-votes he made in Illinois.

Regarding bans on certain abortion procedures, check out this statement by Obama, made in answer to a question about "partial birth" abortion shortly before the Iowa caucuses.

"I think there is a large agreement, for example, that late-term abortions are really problematic and there should be a regulation. And it should only happen in terms of the mother's life or severe health consequences, so I think there is broad agreement on these issues."

His use of the phrase "severe health consequences" raises the questions of what he thinks of as "severe" and how the government is supposed to go about defining it. Is it a Congressional matter, or something to be taken up state by state? What if the definition of "severe" changes with the elected officials from year to year - how will doctors stay on the right side of the law?

How will we deal with the consequences - doctors who err on the side of caution and refuse to help women even though their physical or mental health will be compromised? Do we want elected officials or doctors telling us that no, you can't have an abortion because carrying to term will only give you high blood pressure, but not necessarily cause a stroke? There are already cases like this in Europe and Latin America; in Poland, for example, a woman was refused permission for an abortion even though carrying to term would render her blind. She did carry to term, and she did go blind as a result. Being blind was not considered to be a "severe" enough consequence; the woman, her husband and her several children disagree.

Beyond this, as a matter of law and of medicine, what is the relevance of there being "large" or "broad" agreement on this issue? Individual rights are protected by the Constitution, not by popularity contests. Medical decisions are determined, ideally, by the person directly involved and the medical professionals of her or his choice. Whether or not a hundred thousand people approve of the decision should not enter into the matter.

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Tuesday, February 5

:: The Answers

A comparative view of the answers from Sens. Clinton and Obama to RH Reality Check's sexual and reproductive health and rights questionnaire.

Its easier to compare the answers from the Obama and Clinton campaign side by side, so I've pasted the answers from both questionnaires into one document. I left the footnotes and links behind and made several small formatting changes, such as numbering the questions.

A number of differences between the candidates are evident. But if you are looking for a smoking gun that shows Obama is a risky bet when it comes to choice, go directly to #8: Does (the candidate) support any restrictions on abortion, or does s/he believe it should be entirely up to women?

The Obama campaigns answer is simply this:

Obama supports those restrictions that are consistent with the legal framework outlined by the Supreme Court in Roe v. Wade.

This might fool a newbie, but the rest of us know this means only one of two things. Either the person who filled out the questionnaire is completely ignorant of the topic of the Supreme Court and Roe v. Wade, or the campaign has given the most conservative answer it thinks it can get away it and still call Obama a Democrat.

Just to make it perfectly clear, all the restrictions on reproductive choice and the right to privacy that we have right now, including Gonzalez, have been interpreted by the Supreme Court to be compatible with Roe v. Wade. In fact, it was the court's finding in Webster, and then Casey, that a host of restrictions were allowable under Roe that got us into our current mess. To say you support restrictions consistent with Roe is to say you could be in favor of any and all restrictions except spousal consent (knocked down in Webster, I believe, or was it Casey?) and bans with an exception to save the life (but not health) of the woman. Even the choice of phrasing - "Obama supports restrictions that are compatable" rather than "Obama opposes those restrictions that incompatible" - points to a conservative message strategy.

It is terrible that several old guard so-called pro-choice leaders have chosen to overlook the obvious clues that Obama is shaky on choice. Did Kate Michelman, Karen Mulhauser and other candidates know about this answer, and endorse Obama anyway? And what could justify giving a kick in the teeth to a candidate with such a strong feminist background and profound commitment to fighting for women's rights in the U.S. and around the world?

To be perfectly frank, I am baffled and ashamed.


1. Why do you consider Sen. Obama / Sen. Clinton to be the strongest candidate on reproductive health and rights?


Throughout his career, Senator Obama has consistently championed a woman's right to choose, earning him 100% ratings from pro-choice groups during his tenure in the Illinois State Senate and the United States Senate. In 2005, he was the honorary chair of Planned Parenthood of Chicago Area's Roe v. Wade celebration. And he has not shied away from tough battles. In the Illinois State Senate, Obama worked hand-in-hand with advocacy groups to protect women's reproductive health.

And just last year, Obama was the only U.S. Senator who supported a fundraising initiative to defeat a proposed abortion ban in South Dakota. And Senator Obama was the only presidential candidate to weigh in on the controversy surrounding the opening of the Planned Parenthood clinic in Aurora.


When it comes to each woman's ability to make the most personal of life decisions, Hillary Clinton is a leader. She has stood firm as an advocate for a woman's right to choose and has worked to expand access to family planning services. As First Lady, she went to Beijing and declared that "human rights are women's rights and women's rights are human rights," and as Senator, she has consistently stood up for women's reproductive health and rights.

Throughout her time in the Senate, she has consistently spoken out against relentless efforts by the right wing to rollback women's access to the full range of reproductive health care services. She opposed the nominations of Justices Alito and Roberts, declaring that they represented the gravest threat to Roe v. Wade in history, and she condemned the Supreme Court's April 2007 decision to allow the government to dictate to women what they can and cannot do about their own health.

Senator Clinton has supported every pro-choice bill introduced and voted on since she came into the Senate. She opposed the so-called "partial birth abortion" bill; the Unborn Victims of Violence Act, which was designed to define a fetus as a person in order to lay the groundwork for overturning Roe v. Wade; the Child Custody Protection Act, which would have made it a crime to accompany young woman across state lines for abortion care; and the Child Interstate Abortion Notification Act, which would impose a new, complex, national patchwork of parental notice mandates on doctors and young women. She has also co-sponsored legislation to repeal the global gag rule imposed by President Bush, which has resulted in the closure of multiple health clinics in the developing world, reductions in the number of community health workers providing outreach in rural areas, and contraceptive shortages in the countries most in need of family planning services.

Senator Clinton has been a strong leader in advancing women's health and well-being. As First Lady, she helped found the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, which has helped achieve a one-third reduction in teen pregnancy between 1996 and 2005. Working with Senator Patty Murray, she helped lead a three-year effort to make "Plan B" emergency contraception, also known as the "morning after" pill, available over the counter. She also sponsored the Prevention First Act, which expands access to family planning services for low-income women, requires health insurance companies to cover contraception, and provides a dedicated funding stream for age-appropriate, medically accurate, comprehensive sex education. Senator Clinton introduced the Compassionate Assistance for Rape Emergencies (CARE) Act, which would ensure that survivors of sexual assault and rape receive necessary medical care, including emergency contraception such as Plan B, and the Compassionate Care for Servicewomen Act, which would ensure that servicewomen have access to Plan B at military health care facilities. She also co-sponsored legislation to establish an Emergency Contraception Public Education Campaign through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

She has also supported legislation to restore access to privately funded abortion services for U.S. servicewomen and military dependents in overseas military health facilities; lift the ban on international non-governmental organizations that provide to women information on family planning services; prohibit violent protestors, such as anti-abortion activists, from escaping court-ordered fines or judgments by filing for bankruptcy protection; and prohibit funding for federal employee health plans that refuse to provide contraceptive coverage.

In short, Senator Clinton has fought for women's rights for her entire career. She has been a leader on reproductive health care issues in the Senate, and she will remain committed to them when she is President.

2. What sets Sen. Obama’s / Clinton's platform apart from the other contenders on issues of reproductive health and rights?


Senator Obama has demonstrated an ability to engage diverse audiences in talking about these issues in an effort to forge consensus. For instance, in December 2006, Obama went to "the political equivalent of the lion's den" when he told a conservative Christian audience in Southern California that abstinence-only education was not enough and that he "respectfully but unequivocally" disagrees with those who oppose condom distribution to fight the AIDS pandemic." Obama drew a standing ovation from the 2,072 pastors and others who came from 39 states and 18 nations.

Similarly, this year at a Planned Parenthood conference, Obama emphasized the need for pro-choice groups to align themselves with religious and community groups that are also working on reducing unintended pregnancy. Obama has also focused on the high teen pregnancy rate. In addition to co-sponsoring the Prevention First Act, Obama has introduced a bill that would devote resources to combating the high teen pregnancy rate in communities of color.


Senator Clinton has been a consistent advocate for women's reproductive health and rights, and she will carry this commitment to the White House as a leader on behalf of all women. When she is President, she will nominate Supreme Court Justices and other federal court judges who believe that the Constitution protects a woman's right to privacy. Senator Clinton knows that reproductive health care is an important part of any woman's overall health, which is why she will ensure that reproductive health care will be part of her plan to provide health care to every single American. As a part of her plan to fight cancer, Senator Clinton has committed to increasing access to screening tools and she has said she will fully fund the National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program. When she is President, she will continue to strongly support increased funding for Medicaid and Title X, which provide federal funding for family planning and reproductive health care services. She will also work to sign into law the Prevention First Act, which provides federal funding for comprehensive, medically accurate sex education; provides for equitable coverage of contraception among private plans; and expands access to information about emergency contraception. Senator Clinton has been a leading advocate for women throughout her life, and her policy proposals and platform reflect that dedication.

3. How does Sen. Obama’s / Sen. Clinton's health care plan specifically address sexual and reproductive health, family planning, pregnancy, HIV/AIDS, and other STDs?


Senator Obama believes that reproductive health care is basic health care. His health care plan will create a new public plan, which will provide coverage of all essential medical services. Reproductive health care is an essential service - just like mental health care and disease management and other preventive services under his plan. And private insurers that want to participate will have to treat reproductive care in the same way.


Senator Clinton's health care plan provides guaranteed, affordable, high-quality health care for every single American. It allows those who like their current plans to keep them and provides a new menu of quality health insurance options, including a public plan modeled after Medicare, for those who are dissatisfied with their coverage or don't have any. This Health Choices Menu would include the high-quality plans offered to Members of Congress through the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program.

Her health care plan will ensure that all Americans living with HIV/AIDS have access to care and will end insurance discrimination against those with pre-existing conditions, such as HIV/AIDS. Senator Clinton's plan to fight HIV/AIDS includes doubling the HIV/AIDS research budget within the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to $5.2 billion annually, including the U.S. contribution toward finding a vaccine. To address the disproportionate burden of HIV/AIDS on minority communities, Senator Clinton will increase funding for the Minority AIDS Initiative and support the prevention and treatment efforts of minority-run community based organizations.

Her plan also increases federal funding for substance abuse treatment. She has also committed to providing at least $50 billion over five years to combat HIV/AIDS around the world. This commitment will establish the United States as a leader in galvanizing the global community around meeting the Millennium Development Goal of halting and beginning to reverse the spread of HIV and other diseases by 2015. She will lead the world in achieving universal access to treatment by doubling the number of people that the United States supports with treatment. The Clinton plan will increase the number of healthworkers in training or in place in Africa by at least one million over a decade and ensure access to medications for all.

4. Does Sen. Obama / Sen. Clinton support comprehensive sexuality education? Does s/he believe that the federal government should continue to fund abstinence-only-until marriage programs, despite evidence that they are ineffective at preventing unintended pregnancy and STDs?


Yes, Senator Obama supports comprehensive sex education. He believes that we should not continue to fund abstinence-only programs. Over the last decade, the federal government has spent $1.5 billion in taxpayer dollars on "abstinence-only" programs that have not been successful.

While abstinence is one approach to reducing unintended pregnancies and STDs, Obama believes we should also support comprehensive and age-appropriate sex education.

Obama is an original co-sponsor of the Prevention First Act, which will ensure that all taxpayer-funded federal programs are medically accurate and include information about contraception.


Senator Clinton introduced legislation to provide federal funding for comprehensive, medically accurate, age-appropriate sex education. She believes that abstinence-only programs have not been shown to be effective, and, as President, she would support programs that send a strong message to young people that they should delay sexual activity while giving them the information they need to make responsible decisions and protect themselves.

5. Does Sen. Obama / Sen. Clinton support adolescents' access to confidential family planning and reproductive health services, without having to seek permission from their parents? Why or why not?


Yes. As the father of two daughters, Senator Obama understands that parents do not want to imagine their teenage child might need to seek counsel on reproductive health. He believes, first and foremost, that parents should be the first and primary source of support. But Obama also recognizes that not every child is in a loving home with a parent or trusted adult to turn to in such a situation. For young women in such circumstances, Obama wants to be sure that there is access to a trained health care provider that can provide needed services or help them make good decisions.


Yes. Senator Clinton supports access to confidential health care for all Americans. She believes families should be involved in any life decision involving their daughter, but recognizes that in some cases, that type of involvement is neither healthy nor appropriate.

6. Does Sen. Obama / Sen. Clinton believe that contraception should be covered by private insurance plans and under insurance plans for federal employees? Why or why not?




Senator Clinton has been a strong supporter of the Equity in Prescription Insurance and Contraceptive Coverage Act, which would require private health plans to cover FDA-approved prescription contraceptives and related medical services to the same extent that they cover prescription drugs and other outpatient medical services. This bill seeks to establish parity for prescription contraception. She has also co-sponsored legislation to prohibit funding for federal employee health plans that refuse to provide contraceptive coverage. And she cosponsored the Prevention Through Affordable Access Act to correct a provision included in the Deficit Reduction Act of 2006 that cuts off every college and university health clinic and hundreds of safety net providers from being able to offer affordable contraceptives to students and lower income women.

7. Does Sen. Obama / Sen. Clinton agree with the FDA's decision to make emergency contraception over the counter for people 18 and over? Does s/he think adolescents should be able to access emergency contraception over the counter as well? Why or why not?


Senator Obama supports the FDA's decision to make emergency contraception available over the counter for people 18 and over. Obama recognizes that the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and other medical experts have reported that EC use is safe for women of all reproductive age and have called for improved access to EC. Although Obama strongly believes that parents or other trusted adults should be engaged in all reproductive health decisions involving teenagers and adolescents, he also recognizes that not every young women has access to such support. As such, he does believe that teenagers should be able to access EC over the counter. As noted above, he supports the right of adolescents to seek confidential family planning services.


Senator Clinton led a three-year fight to pressure the FDA to make a decision on Barr Pharmaceutical's application to sell Plan B over the counter, and she was pleased when the decision was made to approve the application, in line with the overwhelming consensus of the research community that the drug was safe and effective for over the counter use and the recommendation of every major health care organization. At the time of the decision, she urged the FDA to revisit placing age restrictions on the sale of Plan B, and still believes that it is the path we ought to take. She agrees with the American Academy of Pediatrics' recommendation that emergency contraception is safe and effective, can help to prevent unintended pregnancy among teenagers, and should not be confused with mifepristone.

8. Does Sen. Obama / Sen. Clinton support any restrictions on abortion, or does she believe it should be entirely up to women?


Obama supports those restrictions that are consistent with the legal framework outlined by the Supreme Court in Roe v. Wade.


Senator Clinton believes abortion should be safe, legal, and rare. She has worked throughout her career to accomplish that goal by working to reduce the teen pregnancy rate and providing greater access to family planning. She strongly opposed the so-called "partial birth abortion" bill when it was considered by the Senate. She supported an alternative bill that, consistent with Roe v. Wade, would have prohibited post-viability abortions except when, in the medical judgment of an attending physician, abortion is necessary to preserve the life or health of the woman.

9. Does Sen. Obama / Clinton support the Hyde amendment? Under what circumstances does s/he believe that Medicaid should cover abortions (all pregnancies, life- or health- threatening pregnancies, pregnancies that are a result of rape or incest, extreme fetal malformation)?


Obama does not support the Hyde amendment. He believes that the federal government should not use its dollars to intrude on a poor woman's decision whether to carry to term or to terminate her pregnancy and selectively withhold benefits because she seeks to exercise her right of reproductive choice in a manner the government disfavors.


No. Senator Clinton does not support the Hyde amendment. She believes low-income women should have access to the full range of reproductive health care services.

10. Does Sen. Obama / Sen. Clinton believe adolescents should have the right to choose abortion, or should they be required to seek their parents' consent? Why or why not? Are there any circumstances that might make a compelling case for waiving the parental consent requirement?


As a parent, Obama believes that young women, if they become pregnant, should talk to their parents before considering an abortion. But he realizes not all girls can turn to their mother or father in times of trouble, and in those instances, we should want these girls to seek the advice of trusted adults - an aunt, a grandmother, a pastor.

Unfortunately, instead of encouraging pregnant teens to seek the advice of adults, most parental consent bills that come before Congress or state legislatures criminalize adults who attempt to help a young woman in need and lack judicial bypass and other provisions that would permit exceptions in compelling cases.


Senator Clinton believes families should be involved in any life decision involving their daughter, but recognizes that in some cases that type of involvement is neither healthy nor appropriate. She does not believe the federal government can dictate healthy families. That is why she supports New York State law that does not require parental consent for minors. In states where that is not attainable, she supports judicial bypass provisions.

11. Does Sen. Obana / Sen. Clinton support continuing federal funding for crisis pregnancy centers? Why or why not?




No. She does not support federal funding for programs that misrepresent facts in order to further a political agenda.

12. If elected president, what specific measures would Sen. Obama / Sen. Clinton support for women who choose to become mothers (prenatal care, maternity leave, childcare, healthcare for children)?


Under Obama's health care plan, women will be able to receive coverage of prenatal care under the new public health plan. And participating private insurers will be required to provide the same coverage. Obama has proposed a $1.5 billion fund to encourage all fifty states to adopt paid leave programs. Under these programs, women would be entitled to take paid maternity leave.


Ensuring guaranteed, affordable, high-quality health care for all Americans will be Senator Clinton's top domestic priority. She was instrumental in creating the Children's Health Insurance Program, which provides health care for six million children today, and she has fought for 15 years to expand access to quality care. Her health care plan will provide access to critical services like prenatal care. She has put forth a bold plan to provide paid leave for new parents and caregivers by 2016, expand the Family and Medical Leave Act to include 13 million new workers, and end pregnancy discrimination. She is also the lead sponsor of legislation to ensure equal pay for women. (Please visit [here] and [here] for more information about Senator Clinton's plans.)

13. Does Sen. Obama / Sen. Clinton believe that gay and lesbian couples should be able to adopt children?

Obama: Yes.

Clinton: Yes.

14. If elected president, would Sen. Obama / Sen. Clinton overturn the Global Gag Rule or reinstate funding for UNFPA?


Yes, Senator Obama would overturn the global gag rule and reinstate funding for UNFPA.


Yes. Overturning the Global Gag Rule and reinstating funding for UNFPA would be among her highest priorities. Senator Clinton has said overturning the gag rule would be one of her first acts as President.

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:: Hillary and Barack on Reproductive Rights

RH Reality Check has published the responses to its candidate questionnaire

RH Reality Check has posted the responses to its reproductive health and rights candidate questionnaire. Apparently I missed this news while it was fresh - the posts are dated Dec. 31 and Jan.15 for Barack and Hillary, respectively.

Here are the links to the responses from Hillary and Barack. I haven't read them yet myself, but I plan on giving them a Talmudic level of attention. Free feel to post your own exegesis, of course.

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