Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Late middle-aged male experts agree: They know everything

After former car thief and suspected arsonist Darrell Issa's all-male review of womens contraception made his panel an absolute laughing stock,  Funny or Die totally nails the absurdity!  Issa unwittingly also managed to light a fire under any woman in this country who was indifferent to what happens in November.  Good job, Darrell.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Maddow Receives The John Steinbeck Award

On February 6, 2012, it was announced that Rachel Maddow would receive the John Steinbeck Award. Thomas Steinbeck, son of the great John Steinbeck, had this statement in the release: “My father would have adored Rachel Maddow … Listening to Rachel Maddow is like listening to Walter Cronkite. We have that kind of trust in her. When I watch Rachel Maddow, I feel like I’m part of an alliance. I hope she’s in it for the long haul, because we really need her.”

On Saturday evening, February 25, 2012 Rachel Maddow sat down at San Jose State University for a lengthy interview with Pat Thurston and a Q & A session before accepting the award. Previous recipients included Joan Baez, Bruce Springsteen, Arthur Miller, Studs Terkel and Garrison Keillor. Rachel is the third woman to receive the prestigious award and the first recipient under the age of 40.

The interview is broken into five parts.

Part 1:

Part 2:

Part 3:

Part 4:

Part 5:

Friday, February 24, 2012

Elizabeth Warren Takes on the GOP War on Women

Today, Elizabeth Warren penned an op-ed for the Boston Globe.

Denying women coverage under any guise is a big step backward

Maybe you saw the pictures. Five middle-age men seated at a congressional hearing table to discuss freedom of religion and contraception. And not a single woman was on the panel. Unbelievable. Do you think Congress would ever have a hearing on prostate cancer and only have women speak? Of course not.

Washington is so out of touch with what’s happening to families across this country that the Senate is about to vote on an amendment that would allow any insurance company or any employer to claim a vague “moral conviction’’ as an excuse to deny you health care coverage. Here’s the really astonishing news: Senator Scott Brown is not only voting for this amendment, he is fighting to get it passed.

What does this mean? If you are married and your employer doesn’t believe married couples should use birth control, then you could lose coverage for contraception. If you’re a pregnant woman who is single, and your employer doesn’t like it, you could be denied maternity care. This bill is about how to cut coverage for basic health care services for women.

Let’s be clear what this proposed law is not about: This is not about Catholic institutions or the rights of Catholics to follow their faith. President Obama has already made sure religious institutions will not be forced to cover contraception - at the same time that he has made sure women can get the health care they need directly from their health care insurers. Carol Keehan, the president and CEO of Catholic Health Association, said that Obama’s approach “protects the religious liberty and conscience rights of Catholic institutions.’’

I support Obama’s solution because I believe we must respect people of all religious faiths, while still ensuring that women have access to contraceptives. Brown has rejected this compromise. Instead, he has cosponsored a bill that will let any employer or any insurance company cut off contraceptive care, maternity care, or whatever they want, and leave women without coverage at all for this basic medical care.

It is shocking that in 2012, Brown and his Republican colleagues would try to pass a law to threaten women’s access to birth control and other health care. Women all across this Commonwealth should have the right to use birth control if they want to. Giving corporate CEOs and insurance companies the power to dictate what health care women can and cannot get is just wrong. Those decisions should be up to women and their doctors.

Our goal should be to ensure that everyone has access to affordable, high-quality health care. At a time when families are struggling with the costs of health care, we should be trying to strengthen our health care system - not finding ways to create loopholes that threaten the rights of women to obtain the health care they need.

Massachusetts has been a leader in every aspect of health care: increasing access, reducing costs, and engaging in the innovations and research that make higher quality care better. We need to keep moving forward - not take a big step backward.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Maddow and Pelosi Discuss Republicans Exclusion of Women

House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi spoke with Rachel Maddow tonight to discuss the Republican war on women's health and contraception as well as the Republican field running for president.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Yes Virginia, There is a Transvaginal Clause

Professor Cynthia Tucker and Marjorie Dannenfelser joined Chris Matthews' Hardball this evening where Dannenfelser essentially said mandated contraception coverage is wrong, but state mandated transvaginal rape is acceptable. Even women in the GOP have gone mad.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Springsteen Discusses the Angry Patriotism at the Heart of 'Wrecking Ball'

From The Guardian

Bruce Springsteen: 'What was done to my country was un-American'. The Boss explains why there is a critical, questioning and angry patriotism at the heart of his new album Wrecking Ball.
At a Paris press conference on Thursday night, Bruce Springsteen was asked whether he was advocating an armed uprising in America. He laughed at the idea, but that the question was even posed at all gives you some idea of the fury of his new album Wrecking Ball. Indeed, it is as angry a cry from the belly of a wounded America as has been heard since the dustbowl and Woody Guthrie, a thundering blow of New Jersey pig iron down on the heads of Wall Street and all who have sold his country down the swanny. Springsteen has gone to the great American canon for ammunition, borrowing from folk, civil war anthems, Irish rebel songs and gospel. The result is a howl of pain and disbelief as visceral as anything he has ever produced, that segues into a search for redemption: "Hold tight to your anger/ And don't fall to your fears … Bring on your wrecking ball." "I have spent my life judging the distance between American reality and the American dream," Springsteen told the conference, where the album was aired for the first time. It was written, he claimed, not just out of fury but out of patriotism, a patriotism traduced. "What was done to our country was wrong and unpatriotic and un-American and nobody has been held to account," he later told the Guardian. "There is a real patriotism underneath the best of my music but it is a critical, questioning and often angry patriotism." The tone is set from the start with the big, bombastic We Take Care of Our Own – a Born in the USA for our times – where the most sacred shibboleth of Ordinary Joe America is sung with mocking irony through clenched teeth by a heart that still wants it to be true. "From the shotgun shack to the Superdome/ There ain't no help, the cavalry stayed home." It is a typical Springsteen appeal to a common decency beyond the civil war he sees sapping America. Like Born in the USA, which got pressed into service as the anthem of the first Gulf war, he's aware it has the potential to be hijacked by the angry right. But Springsteen says that to anyone who cares to listen to the lyrics, the message is clear. "A big promise has been broken. You can't have a United States if you are telling some folks that they can't get on the train. There is a cracking point where a society collapses. You can't have a civilisation where something is factionalised like this." Springsteen plunges into darker, richer musical landscapes in a sequence of breath-taking protest songs – Easy Money, Shackled and Drawn, Jack of All Trades, the scarily bellicose Death to My Hometown and This Depression with Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine – before the album turns on Wrecking Ball in search of some spiritual path out of the mess the US is in. But it is also an ode to hard work, to the dignity it brings, and the blue-collar values he claims made America: "Freedom son's a dirty shirt The sun on my face and my shovel in the dirt A shovel in the dirt keeps the devil gone I woke up this morning shackled and drawn" Asked where the fury of this lyric had come from, he talks movingly of his father who had been "emasculated by losing his job" in the 70s and never recovered from the damage to his pride. "Unemployment is a really devastating thing. I know the damage it does to families. Growing up in that house there were things you couldn't say. It was a minefield. My mother was the breadwinner. She was steadfast and relentless and I took that from her. "Pessimism and optimism are slammed up against each other in my records, the tension between them is where it's all at, it's what lights the fire." Hope is there. But it is a tempered hope. Land of Hope and Dreams is a plea for America's newest immigrants, those risking their lives to ride the trains up from central America. "This train … carries saints and sinners … losers and winners … whores and gamblers … Dreams will not be thwarted … Faith will be rewarded." Springsteen, 62, says he is not afraid of how the album will be received in election-year America: "The temper has changed. And people on the streets did it. Occupy Wall Street changed the national conversation – the Tea Party had set it for a while. The first three years of Obama were under them. "Previous to Occupy Wall Street, there was no push back at all saying this was outrageous – a basic theft that struck at the heart of what America was about, a complete disregard for the American sense of history and community … In Easy Money the guy is going out to kill and rob, just like the robbery spree that has occurred at the top of the pyramid – he's imitating the guys on Wall Street. An enormous fault line cracked the American system right open whose repercussion we are only starting to be feel. "Nobody had talked about income inequality in America for decades – apart from John Edwards – but no one was listening. But now you have Newt Gingrich talking about 'vulture capitalism' – Newt Gingrich! – that would not have happened without Occupy Wall Street." Having previously backed Obama, Springsteen says he would prefer to stay on the sidelines this time. "I don't write for one side of the street … But the Bush years were so horrific you could not just sit around. It was such a blatant disaster. I campaigned for Kerry and Obama, and I am glad I did. But normally I would prefer to stay on the sidelines. The artist is supposed to be the canary in the cage." Obama hasn't done bad, Springsteen says. "He kept General Motors alive, he got through healthcare – though not the public system I would have wanted – he killed Osama Bin Laden, and he brought sanity to the top level of government. But big business still has too much say in government and there has not been as many middle- or working-class voices in the administration as I expected. I thought Guantanamo would have been closed but now, but he got us out of Iraq and I guess we will soon be out of Afghanistan." The album is the last on which Clarence Clemons, the legendary saxophonist from the E Street Band, played on before he died last year. "When the sax comes up on Land of Hope and Dreams," Springsteen says, "it's a lovely moment for me."

• Wrecking Ball is released on 5 March via Columbia.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Santorum's Nightmare Vision for America

I thought this was a very good look at Rick Santorum's vision for America.  Be afraid.

By Lawrence Davidson via Alternet

Santorum's vision for America would combine a moralistic theocracy with free-market capitalism and perpetual war.

Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum is a Republican presidential candidate who is fast coming to the fore. He won the Republican caucuses in Iowa (albeit by only 34 votes) in early January and in February won contests in Colorado, Missouri and Minnesota. So, as the question goes, who is this guy?  Santorum is a self-styled “true conservative,” right-wing, Christian fundamentalist of Catholic background. In 2005,Time Magazine called him “one of America’s 25 most influential evangelicals.” That is still certainly true today. Santorum believes that religious values (at least his religious values) should play a large role in shaping government policies. For those not sure what this means, Santorum has a list of examples:

1. Santorum wants “a blanket ban on abortions.” The fact that the U.S. had this very same prohibition up until 1973, and the result was black-market abortions that killed not only fetuses by also lots of pregnant women, seems to have escaped the former senator’s attention.

2. Santorum wants a ban on gay marriages. He would likely bring back antiquated anti-sodomy laws as well. “If the Supreme Court says that you have the right to consensual [gay] sex within your home, then you have a right to bigamy, you have a right to polygamy, you have a right to incest, you have a right to adultery. You have a right to anything.” When Santorum gets on the subject of homosexuality, one can’t help noting a tinge of hysteria, along with a generous helping of illogic and exaggeration. Santorum would probably try to ban other related activities, such as the use of contraceptives to prevent pregnancy. He certainly wants to get rid of Planned Parenthood. What this adds up to is that when Santorum says religious values should play a greater role in government policy, he means that there should be lots of laws regulating your personal life, particularly your sex life. This is pretty typical of religious fundamentalists, particularly American Christian ones. They just can’t leave other people’s bedrooms alone.

The Economist

On the economic side of the ledger, Rick Santorum takes a slash-and-burn approach.

1. There should be a $5 trillion cut in the federal budget (but defense spending would be held at present levels). In order to realize this, Santorum would do away with, greatly reduce or freeze the Environmental Protection Agency, healthcare reform and Medicaid, subsidies for housing, food stamps, job training, energy and education. He would “reform” Medicare and Social Security in draconian fashion and pass a balanced budget amendment. One might agree that the present U.S. federal deficit verges on the insane and still find Santorum’s cure equally crazy. For instance, just about holding exempt defense and “security” spending — when combined they make up 20 percent of the budget and are notorious for waste, redundancy and corruption — makes no sense.

2. According to Santorum, there should be an elimination of financial and other regulatory laws. This is true insanity. Regulation is the only thing that makes capitalism an enduring system. Eliminate it and you have financial crashes, dangerous sweatshop working conditions, falling wages and benefits, runaway corruption and theft and, ultimately, depression. That Santorum cannot understand this suggests that he has substituted a discredited free-market ideology for history.

3. Santorum says that as a nation Americans should “live within our means” and if we do so “future generations will have a brighter future unburdened by oppressive debt and high taxation.” These are fine slogans, but in practice they probably spell eventual revolution in the streets. If you reduce the debt by slashing expenditures Santorum-style while refusing to increase taxes, you will eliminate almost all of society’s safety nets. That means increasing poverty and all its attendant miseries. You will also make infrastructure maintenance much more difficult. Someone should tell Mr. Santorum that the U.S. population is not over-taxed. Out of 62 industrialized countries, the U.S. ranks 28th in terms of its income tax rates. It is, of course, possible to over-tax a people to ruination. It is also possible to under-tax a people to ruination – to tax so low that you can’t assist the less fortunate or fix the pot holes and keep the bridges from collapsing. If Santorum was to get his way the nation would not have his predicted “brighter future.” More likely it would be a future of more poor and more pot holes. That might well lead to disillusionment with the capitalist system among both the lower- and middle-classes. (Personally, I have no objection to such growing disillusionment. I would, however, like to minimize the suffering and violence that surely goes along with it.)

Foreign Policy

When it comes to foreign policy, Santorum is a warmonger plain and simple.

1. As to Iran, Santorum would “work with Israel to determine the proper military response needed” to put a end to that country’s nuclear weapons program. It seems not to matter to the former senator that every U.S. intelligence agency that has ever investigated this issue has determined that there is no evidence that Iran is pursuing a nuclear weapons program.

2. As to Syria, Santorum would go after the strongman (Bashar al-Assad) “covertly or otherwise.” Does that mean that Santorum act-alikes at the helm of other nations could use the same logic to go after a U.S. president?

3. As to Iraq, Santorum would “continue to stabilize Iraq” presumably by re-invading the country. This belies the fact that it was the American policy of draconian sanctions and ultimate invasion that destabilized Iraq in the first place.

4. As to Afghanistan, Santorum would set no time lines or limit resources “in the war effort.” Yet, if al-Qaeda is as weakened as Washington claims, there seems to be little point in more war. If a stable and competent Taliban government reappears in Afghanistan, it is unlikely to invite future attacks by providing a haven for terrorist organizations. On the other hand, this on-going war is almost certainly providing a breeding ground for more terrorists.

5. As to Islam, Santorum believes it is a religion that is “stuck in the seventh century.” With rare exception, such as Saudi Wahhabism, this is untrue. Actually, it is Rick Santorum who is stuck in the past. It is he who, like some political ecclesiastic, wants to regulate everyone else’s lives. If Mr. Santorum simply changed hats – from Christian to Islamic – he could be a Saudi cleric. Compared to people like him, most Muslims are much more tolerant and contemporary.

6. As to Israel, Santorum takes an uncritically approving position on the Zionist state. This makes sense when you realize that Israel is essentially a religious state – a nation on the brink of becoming a theocracy, which is where Santorum presumably would like to steer the United States.

Rick Santorum is a religious ideologue. He wants to turn the U.S. into a “faith-based” Christian country through the imposition of those “family values” he personally has decided are God-given. He believes that America’s Founding Fathers would agree because they were, supposedly, men of faith just like him.

Quoting the Declaration of Independence to prove this point, Santorum reminds us that it says that people “are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights.” From this he concludes that rights come from God and not from government. Government’s role is simply to implement and protect those divine rights. The truth is that the man who penned the Declaration, Thomas Jefferson, was nothing like Rick Santorum. He wasn’t even a Christian. He was a Deist. Jefferson’s phrasing was meant to impress a wider world in an age when religion was interpreted in a more literal fashion than it is in today’s United States. Jefferson certainly did not mean for Americans to take the notion of God-given inalienable rights literally. After all, he was a slave-holder.

The number of Americans who respond positively to Rick Santorum’s message is probably in the range of 20 percent. In terms of the Republican Party, they probably represent about one-third of the membership. Being ideologically driven, these people are motivated to vote. And, that is significant in a nation where voting turnout is traditionally low.

So, Rick Santorum is certainly representative of a politically active part of the U.S. population – a dangerous, intolerant, noisy, in-your-face part. If we let him and his followers get their way, the result will be ever greater divisiveness and decline at home, and war abroad. That is a choice for the rest of us.