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    from Talk to Action

    What is the contraceptive mentality, anyway? If you think it sounds like a good idea, not only are you probably going to hell, but you'll never, never cut it as a Texas legislator.

    Courtesy of the American Life League, Monsignor Vincent Foy provides us with a brief primer on this insidious threat to our very survival as a nation. The monsignor would understand perfectly why a group of influential "Christian" legislators in Texas have embarked on a crusade to stamp out birth control while there's still time.

    Fostering the Culture of Life does not only mean respect for life from conception until natural death. It means also repudiation of contraception, the root cause of all other attacks on human life. Contraception, which shows a willingness to sacrifice life to lust, is a fuse that ignites a whole chain of evils destructive of a just society, from abortion to euthanasia.

    Worse than the ten plagues which devastated Egypt, the contraceptive mentality is a multi-pronged attack on society. It tends to permeate more and more social structures and even creates its own institutions.
    The contraceptive mentality diminishes the level of love in society and increases the level of selfishness and lust. In education, it promotes sex-education and the resultant corruption of the young. In hospital care, it leads to sterilization, abortion and euthanasia.
    If this contraceptive mentality continues to prevail, our society is headed for disaster. Statistical proofs show that if the present course is continued, by the year 2050 the U.S. will be a Third World nation.

    It is only by a miracle of grace and mercy that the contraceptive mentality can be turned into one of love and life. The hour is late; a dark night of the social order approaches. We need to be heroic in our support of pro-life causes. We need to recognize that contraception is the new terrorism.

    Some of our leading "pro-life" heroes in the Texas Legislature appear to have recognized the evil of contraception for what it is. In apparent agreement with Msgr. Foy, they seem determined to eradicate its pernicious influence and engineer the breaking of a new dawn upon the social order here in Texas. Among the institutions spawned by the contraceptive mentality are Planned Parenthood and many other state-funded family planning clinics that serve tens of thousands of low-income women around the state every year. Now -- after decades of helping women to prevent unplanned pregnancies and untimely deaths from breast and cervical cancers -- their day of reckoning has come.

    The anti-contraception campaign began in earnest in 2003, when state Sen. Tommy Williams (pictured above, fourth from left, with his good friends at Texas Right to Life) -- a champion of the "pro-life" lobby and an avowed enemy of Planned Parenthood -- devised a plan to close down Planned Parenthood clinics across Texas. State money would no longer fund any entity connected in any way, however tenuously, to the provision of abortion care. Planned Parenthood immediately mounted a legal challenge, and the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals eventually sent Williams home with a scolding, but the law itself remains on the books. And this year, Williams' anti-choice jihad is finally bearing fruit, closing down the family planning clinics of the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas.

    Leaders at UT Southwestern, which had run the program for decades, were worried about possibly violating the law because some of its doctors practice medicine at hospitals where elective abortions are performed.

    Dr. Ron Anderson, Parkland's president and chief executive officer, said the state Legislature was attempting to take money away from Planned Parenthood.

    "I don't think the state Legislature understood the consequence of this," he told the hospital board. "It's a big snafu."

    Planned Parenthood officials said at the time that the 2003 law was an effort to penalize the agency for providing legal abortions by cutting money for other services. Money instead went to public clinics that did not provide family planning. The organization sued successfully to hang on to all but 5 percent of its funding.

    Emily Snooks, spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood of North Texas, said it was a shame that any family planning program would cut its services. Thirteen of the agency's 28 clinics in North Texas depend on such federal funds.

    "It's the thousands of underserved North Texas women who are going to suffer the most," she said. "Planned Parenthood is the only family planning provider for uninsured women in Tarrant and other rural counties."
    Parkland officials took over the UT Southwestern program after realizing that the charity hospital would end up delivering more babies without such a program. Its annual 16,000 births usually are the highest in the nation.
    A family planning program for low-income women in Dallas County is planning to close three neighborhood clinics and lay off more than 30 employees despite efforts by Parkland Memorial Hospital to keep the program intact.

    As many as 11,000 women could lose access to postpartum care and birth control next year, doctors from UT Southwestern Medical Center warned Parkland's Board of Managers on Tuesday.

    The doctors, who are running the program for Parkland, blamed an almost 25 percent cut in federal funding distributed by the state next year – a loss totaling $1.7 million.

    The family planning program cared for 33,738 women at seven clinics over the last year.

    If, as Dr. Anderson supposed, the Legislature as a whole didn't understand what it was doing, Tommy Williams certainly did. Because in the 2005 legislative session, he came back and did it again. And this time he not only crippled the purveyors of the "contraceptive mentality" even further, but accomplished his pet faith-based initiative by diverting millions in state funds intended for family planning and primary health screening into financing the highly dubious practices of crisis pregnancy centers.

    Senate budget writers want to shift $5 million from programs that provide birth control and treatment for sexually transmitted diseases to a pregnancy counseling program that only pushes alternatives to abortion.
    Proponents argue that the money would be funneled to a needed social service, and that Medicaid could pay for the services that will lose some funding.

    Critics say the change effectively would eliminate basic medical care for more than 16,600 low-income women who are served by the family planning program.

    "It's almost ridiculous that they will take money from a program that will prevent abortion," said Peggy Romberg, CEO of Women's Health And Family Planning Association of Texas.

    The reduction in state money will reduce the availability of birth control services, treatment for sexually transmitted diseases and urinary tract infections, and breast exams at clinics that receive state money through the program, Romberg said.

    "There's a lot of money in that Family Planning strategy, and what we did was earmark $5 million for pregnancy assistance centers," said Sen. Tommy Williams, R-The Woodlands, one of the lawmakers who voted for the amendment.

    Pregnancy assistance centers, which are not receiving state money, provide pregnancy testing and counseling that advocates against abortion. Finance Committee chairman Sen. Steve Ogden, R-Bryan, said the reduction is relatively small compared with the Family Planning program's total budget of $54 million, and Medicaid provides many of the same services for low-income women.

    "People need to keep in context that the $5 million being taken away from Family Planning is out of a Medicaid budget that is almost $25 billion. "Because it's so small, it doesn't really justify all the hyperventilating that goes along with it."

    In a typically misleading attempt to downplay the effects of his and Tommy Williams' anti-birth control shell game, Ogden conflates the Medicaid budget for all health care in Texas with the already underfunded family planning program. And here's some entirely justified hyperventilation, reproduced exactly as I received it.

    Why Tanya cried

    this morning i dragged myself out of bed before dawn to be at planned parenthood at 730 and wait in the freezing morning shade until 9 for my
    annual exam. at 930, myself and the 25 other women (of color.of course) grumbled in solidarity and confusion, wondering why we were still waiting and shivering. finally an employee opened the doors and coralled us inside just to inform us that there would be no walk-in exams today.or tomorrow.or ever. are you kidding me? i thought. nope. no joke. turns out the good ol
    boys at the texas state legislature cut pp's funding by 40% last friday.

    i stood in the office stunned while 3 mothers began to cry. another women, at least 65 years old, turned to me and asked, "que dijo?" what did she say? as i tried to explain what i still didnt understand, i began to feel my anger swell. overnight one of the safest, most reliable, most critical social services vanished. all patients over 24 years old have to seek new clinics, all birth control now costs $25/month, all annuals $125, all pregnancy tests $30.

    i stood waiting for the chance of one more pack of birth control pills, asking questions answered with shrugs and apologies, watching faces full of exasperation. when my name was called i tried again to get more information, but the fact was clear and simple; accessible family planning and women's reproductive rights are not a priority. i left with a pack of pills after giving all my $35, sat in my car and cried.

    here's the kicker. texas lawmakers are promoting crisis pregnancy centers instead. that's right, slash funding for sexual health and preventive services and create crisis centers. this whole freakin country is a crisis center. i want to see those lawmakers walk into clinics all over this state and have the guts to tell a room full of women, "sorry, go home and buy condoms" or "sorry, god willed those children and you're on your own to figure out the rest". i want them to watch women lose the thread of hope they were gripping.

    so now what? write letters and make phone calls? i dont think so. the truth is i dont know what to do. i do know nothing will be done if people dont know. so in my emotional, reactionary state, that's what i am trying to do.

    i'm fighting hard to keep my faith.

    thanks for reading,

    Planned Parenthood in downtown Austin now has this notice for its patients:

    Because of decisions made by elected representatives in the Texas government, this clinic will not receive enough money to take care of all the patients who need services. Our state government made decisions to limit services from trusted family planning providers like Planned Parenthood—for purely political reasons.
    As of January 1, 2006, the only patients who will be able to receive services at this clinic are women who are 24 years old or younger and who are residents of Travis County. Also, clinic hours have been cut.

    Planned Parenthood in Waco is hoping that an emergency fundraiser will help to keep its doors open.

    All across the state, tens of thousands of women are being deprived of their only access to family planning services that also include primary screening for cancer, high blood pressure, anemia, STDs and other threats to their health.

    The state's Health and Human Services Commission tells us that this is a good thing, because "the active promotion of childbirth" is now the official policy of the State of Texas. That the women affected by this dictate might not want to bear children in the service of the state's policy is not an official concern.

    But wait; there's more, as detailed by the Houston Chronicle.

    Women, children last

    An irrational, secretive redistribution of millions of dollars robs Texas' poorest women of health care

    It's not as if they weren't doing their job. In a state with the nation's highest number of uninsured residents, family planning clinics across Texas for years have offered women preventive medicine, including cancer screening, contraception and gynecological, prenatal and postpartum care.

    This winter, however, these providers have been slammed by laws quietly crafted last spring. In riders that required no public discussion, Texas legislators arranged to shift $5 million of the federal money on which these clinics rely to a different sort of service: programs "for women seeking alternatives to abortion focused on pregnancy support services that promote childbirth." Another $20 million was diverted from the experienced clinics to alternative programs that may not provide the same level of service.
    El Paso's [Family Planning Department], which loses 50 percent of its funds, must now turn away some of its clients. The disruption will force more women into the county hospital at late stages of illness.
    In Dallas, withdrawal of $1.7 million is forcing the closure of three family planning clinics. In Houston, where the Legislature cut more than 50 percent of Planned Parenthood funds, as many as 10,000 women will lose access to well-woman exams, contraception and cancer screenings. Under federal law, none of these Texas clinics could have used these funds to perform abortions. Nevertheless, legislators chose to cripple the clinics.

    The pivotal operating funds will go to pregnancy crisis centers or to 19 Federally Qualified Health Centers — some of which never requested the help. These FQHCs are valuable resources, offering primary care to poor neighborhoods. But the clinics are scarce, far-flung, and often lack family planning services such as contraception. They can't replace the multiservice family planning clinics that have treated Texans for decades.

    Legislators have every right to push abortion alternatives — as long as they don't abdicate their other duties. But ravaging working clinics during a health coverage crisis has nothing to do with protecting women or children. It's self-interested strutting, and it's trampling on the health of thousands of Texas wives, mothers and daughters.

    Dozens of long time family planning and women's health care providers have lost millions of dollars in state and federal funding. A training program for women's health care nurse practitioners has closed. Clinics that have served communities for decades already have closed or will be closing soon, while the FQHCs selected to receive huge amounts of unrequested funding are so unprepared to offer family planning services that many are not even making applications for the money.

    If you object to the heroic efforts of our faithful public servants to save Texas women from the "new terrorism" of contraception, if you fail to understand that contraception is the gateway to abortion and a dark night of the social order, perhaps it is only because you, too, have been deluded and deceived by the contraceptive mentality. But if you are fortunate enough to live in Texas, your salvation is at hand.

  • (41)

    Forced sterilization.

    Because if the State can force a woman to carry a pregnancy to term, it can force a woman to be sterilized.

    Because if the State can force a woman to carry a pregnancy to term, it can force a woman to abort a pregnancy.

    Because if the State can force a woman to carry a pregnancy to term, it can force anyone to give of their body, health, energy, time, career, freedom to anyone else.

    State-controlled breeding means human reproduction is controlled by the State according to State interests ... as judged by politicians. That's what they had in Nazi Germany. Didn't work out too well there, did it?

  • (41)

    So Jedmunds has read Markos and Jerome's book. I haven't. I suppose I'll flip through some pages next time I'm in a bookstore that carries it. But having read Kos on DailyKos for over a year now, I don't feel any need to part with my hard-earned money and too-short time to curl up with a tome about how civil rights are "special interests" and how the Democratic Party can win only by standing for nothing except things not (quite) Republican.

    The most glaring problem with the Kos/Armstrong approach to “reforming� the Democratic Party is their ill-considered assault on so called “single issue groups,� ie unions, feminists, blacks and Hispanics. It may in fact be true, as Kos/Armstrong argue, that the sum of these special interests is no greater than the sum of their parts, however their purported solution is breathtakingly naïve. They embrace what they call a broad based, yet completely undefined “progressive� movement, that will remain outside of the Democratic Party, and like their historical conservative counterpart, “take over� the Democratic Party.

    Some problems with this idea are readily apparent. First, it is not at all clear that this progressive movement is itself anything more than the sum of these “special interests.� Sure, it’s lovely that this “progressive� movement, which has no apparent purpose other than electing people who happen to be Democrats, will be unencumbered by these single issue litmus tests, such that theoretically, a pro-life, pro-business, anti-immigrant, war-hawk can be elected under the Democratic banner provided he gives rhetorical hell to the Republicans. And that would be considered a great victory for this “progressive� movement.

    What I find extremely interesting is how much Markos, and it seems Jerome, have totally bought into the Republican frame of Democratic constituents: "special interests." That puts women's fighting for equal rights right up there with Enron pushing for special regulatory favors. That puts African Americans fighting for equal rights and equal opportunity right up there with the oil and gas industry pushing for less regulation and more tax breaks.

    Where Markos and Jerome see "special interests" in traditionally Democratic constituencies, I see citizens. And when it comes to Dick and Jane fighting for their rights vs. Multinational Conglomerates R Us lobbying to be able to dump more toxic waste in the country's drinking water, I don't have any problem seeing a difference.

    What I find even more laughable is the idea that you can just glom on to the progressive netroots label with avowedly non-progressive, Democratic Party sites like DailyKos, and figure nobody will notice.

    Markos a progressive? Give me a fucking break. How many progressive principles has Kos actively, and often viciously, attacked? How can anyone who labels people fighting for their rights as "roadblocks" to be "pushed aside" call himself a progressive.

    Obviously the word is rapidly becoming meaningless, at least in the online world. In fact, the Markos strategy to winning elections is to be for nothing but against anything Republican. To him, being for anything means giving in to "single issue voters" like "the women's studies set," whom his "big tent" ideas have no room for. (Several people noted on "Blog for Choice Day" that Daily Kos was mute on the subject, except for a culture of death diary pushing all the right-wing talking points on reproductive rights. You can accuse Daily Kos of a lot of things, but you can't call them pro-choice -- not when they're pushing candidates who are proudly in favor of forced pregnancy.)

    Jedmunds continues....

    This purported “progressive� movement would appear to have no ideological goals other than electing Democrats. Seriously. According to Kaus… err Kos and Armstrong, we need to take over the Democratic Party, just to get the Democratic Party interested in winning elections. If you think about that long enough, when you’re done laughing, you’ll probably start crying. Unless you’re like me, in which case you squelch your emotions beneath a hard, calloused layer of seething and bubbling rage.

    But in fact Kos and Armstrong insist that this new “progressive� movement is without firm ideology, un-united by any single issue except for perhaps opposition to the Iraq war. Yes, indeed, this progressive movement is united in its opposition to a decision that was made almost three years ago. Hahaha. No really, it’s kind of sad. In fact, I doubt many of us are united by little more than an intense and conditioned opposition to the current occupant. And I wonder if Kos and Armstrong ever considered what will happen to this “progressive� movement, united by nothing more than the desire to bring Democrats kicking and screaming to power, when the current occupant takes the hero’s walk into the sunset. Or maybe more optimistically, when and if the Republicans in general heal their self image which has taken some blows lately. What does this “progressive� movement do then? It’s easy to be anti-Republican and nothing more, when Republicans are at their nadir of popularity.

    When I look at the strategies pushed on the front page of Daily Kos, I wonder at how they can claim that they're offering anything other than business as usual. Already the Democrats are weak and disorganized because they cannot unite around any issues. Already vast numbers of Democrats vote along with the Republicans on offensive bills like the "Now You Have to Be Rich to Declare Bankruptcy" bill. How is pushing for more "big tent" Democrats (read: Democrats who don't hold progressive values) going to improve things? How is this any different than what the DCCC, DLC and other establishment players are already doing?

    Answer: It's not any different. And if you want proof, just look at how Kos & Co. push Democratic Establishment golden boys like Bob Casey, Jr., whose radical right-wing views include making women's wombs property of the State.

    But they don’t realize that they have the same problem the Democratic Party has: they don’t know what they stand for, because they’re too afraid to stand for anything.

    This is the heart of the problem. Rather than fight for progressive values, Kos and Armstrong advocate more running away from scary Republican rhetoric. Call it the Michael ("I-I-I-I am not a liberal!") Dukakis school of politics.

    This “progressive� movement to take over the Democratic Party is little more than an illusion. It’s all pretend. A dash of rabble-rousing and a dash of half-assed wishful thinking for a facile ride that anyone can get on and that’ll never go anywhere. There’s no point to it. At all. There’s not really even a commitment to grassroots politics. After all, Schumer’s appointing Casey as the nominee apparent in Pennsylvania is to be celebrated, for the sole reason that Casey can win. We not only don’t care about ideology, we don’t even need to care about process. Let the DC Dems decide. Because they know best. Except when they don’t. How can we tell the difference? Well, I guess Kos will tell us.

    There is a real progressive movement. It's just not happening at Daily Kos -- let alone being led by Markos. Or, as Jedmunds says,

    I suspect that a truly enduring movement needs to be united by more than anti-Republicanism or anti-Bushism. And they need to have some idea of what they believe in, or else they won’t exist beyond victory. And I suspect, that if a real progressive movement is to emerge in this country, that Kos and Armstrong, like the Democratic Party itself, will be obstacles to it and not leaders of it.

    Read the whole thing. The comments in the thread are of interest, too:


    I’m inclined to think Kos & Co. have pitted “special interests� against the party, and I don’t think their goals are necessarily at odds. Or, to put it another way, this paranoid fear that advocacy groups turn off the public strikes me as illogical.


    Trying to woo [pocketbook voters] away by promising to be Repub-lite won’t work. Trying to woo them away by promising to be more Repub than the Republicans won’t likely work either - why should they believe it?

    OTOH, the DCCC is just dumb enough to try *either* of those. In which case they will wonder, as they embrace being Evildum to Evildee, why all remaining traces of their old “base� have evaporated - and pay Al From another half-billion to try to figure it out for them.


    Part of the trouble is that the progressives have been trying to take over the Democrats from the outside ever since the Radical Republicans were defeated and the Republicans were purged of progressive politics. Kos’s model is exactly that which has led to defeats of progressive movements over and over again.

    R. Mildred

    the dems and kos and all the rest want a win now, any actual strategy that would allow liberal issues to get implemented would take time, they want cake now, before dinner, and are honestly believe that they won’t spoil their appetite.

    The only people I’ve seen sell things off and out as quickly and easily as these guys are crack heads, and like crack heads they don’t care who they hurt in the search for the next hit.


    Thing is, the mainstream Democrats have largely kept people like me (waaay to the left of the party as it presently stands) in line and voting for them based on, really, the one Big Issue, the one on which they were never supposed to fail us: abortion. And yet, here we go, they’re about to do just that. And when that happens — and I tell you, I am this close to certain that it’s going to happen, oh, in a few days or weeks, when Alito gets confirmed — my much-decried special interest ass is going to be looking elsewhere. Here’s where the anti-choice fundie wackjobs and I are alike: I don’t like feeling like I’ve been played for a chump by my party. And I really don’t think I’m going to be alone in this.

    Jettisoning ideology and identity politics in order to get nominal Democrats elected to office is the kind of profoundly stupid thing the DLC has been up to for a long time now. And we can see how goddamn successful that’s been. We are seriously outgunned when it comes to the really big money, the press is largely in the tank, about all we’ve got on our side is this fragile coalition of identity-based progressive groups and individuals, and Kos and Jerome want to marginalize us further? The hell? Why the fuck would I want to get right-wing Democrats elected? What’s in it for me? God, yes, I’d love to see that twisted little shit Rick Santorum driven from office, but by Casey? Why?


    This leadership is purposefully destroying the party by their willful and intended ineffectiveness.. now that the party is almost the size of a bathtub the bastards have the nerve to take the base hostage and demand ransoms for them to represent us again. They have made the terms of the ransom very clear… Only when you give up your liberal and progressive issue will we then go back to work and represent you… however, the fact of the matter is that once we give up our dreaded issues and ideologies and become partisan just for partisan fuck sake… our representatives will actually be representing the GOP they envy so, and not us.

    There are many other comments, but eataTREE offers the lame-ass counter-argument:

    You don’t have to vote Democratic. It’s a free country. You can vote third-party or stay home if you like. But the upshot of your doing so is twofold: a) more Republicans are going to be elected (and yes, that will actually make a difference to policy decisions regarding the issues liberals care about), and b) Democrats will tack even further to the right, since they’re no longer getting votes from the left.

    This is the regularly-employed tactic. The only problem is that we're talking about the Democratic Party, and who's leading it and best representing the voters. Casey apologists and others like to jump ahead to November, but we're entering primary season. There are no official Democratic nominees to Congress and the Senate yet.

    And yet these right-wing faux-progressives claim that only their boys can win. I think the past two decades have proven that that's not true.

    I don't know, but to me these folks seem like they're so driven by fear that they figure the only Democrats who can win elections are Republicans, or at least Democrats who look as Republican as possible.

    Which is kind of like lighting a fire in the hearth on a really hot day, and offering the rationale that at least it's our heat, and not from the sun.

    Finally, from Lorenzo's comment:

    Jedmunds said,

    In short, think tanks were used to legitimate their ideology.

    *DING DING DING* Finally, someone who gets it.

    The problem with compromising your ideology instead of fighting like hell to normalize it is that you normalize the other guy’s ideology.

    Liquidating ideology for partisanship ultimately only serves to normalize the opposition’s ideology and thus to keep getting them elected. The entire point of the conservative movement since the 70’s has been to normalize their ideology to make themselves into the center and thus to increase their electoral fortunes.

    Update 2:40pm EST: See also eugene's review of the Kos/Jerome book at MyLeftWing:

    While the chapters on consultants and infrastructure may garner the book attention among established Democratic circles, it is the chapter on the single-issue groups that I bet will be best received by the blogosphere. This was the case in an earlier review of Crashing the Gate published on ePluribus Media by Aaron Barlow. Barlow commended the authors for taking on the single-issue groups who peddle special interests and pet issues (frames that are Republican in origin and generated to discredit Democrats; Markos and Jerome repeatedly adopt such frames - one wonders if they read their Lakoff that closely), and opens his own review with the familiar tale of an anti-war protest that saw a series of speakers take the podium to exhort the audience to care about their own cause.

    For Markos and Jerome, such instances are perfect examples of how these single issue special interests have ruined the Democratic Party brand. I find that difficult to believe, particularly since in the case of antiwar protests, they would not have existed at all had it been up to the Democrats. Antiwar activism has routinely been denigrated by the Democratic establishment. To blame antiwar activists for Democratic failures, then, is to me simply appalling. Had Democrats either taken the lead on opposing the war, or done their jobs and not voted for it in the first place, the single-issue approach the authors find so frustrating wouldn't have happened at all.


    One has to be careful to not allow an attack on specific groups and organizations to slide over and become an attack on people who take those issues seriously. While neither Markos nor Jerome explicity makes such an attack on people, their use of language - speaking of these matters as special interests (a Republican frame) and as pet issues (another Republican frame) can have that impact, especially if this book is uncritically used to frame the discussion. Democrats take issues like the environment and abortion and labor rights and ending racism and health care and peace extremely seriously, as well they should. Any Democratic strategy must also take them seriously.

    What we do want, and what the authors seem to desire as well, is for these groups to craft a strategy that is holistic in nature. To come together to support candidates who share all values (The authors suggest that the 2004 Colorado elections were a good example of this approach). And to come together to explain to Americans why their core issues of concern are not separate, but are fundamentally, even inextricably, linked - why you can't have successful labor organizing without addressing racism, why you can't fix the environment without talking about foreign policy, why you can't provide universal health care and at the same time say it's OK to deny women abortions, as someone last weekend tried to convince me you could.

    In short, that strategy needs to directly address what is routinely derided by Markos and Jerome in this book: ideology.

    The American political landscape is littered with the bodies of Democrats who believed you could build a governing majority without worrying about ideology. Pat Brown, Lyndon Johnson, even Jimmy Carter to some extent, found out the hard way that as a Democrat, you ignore debates over ideology and deeply-held beliefs of your voting base at your peril. Ideological splits cannot be forestalled by appealing to party unity or by trying to silence dissent - they can only be resolved by working through the issues themselves, rather than ignoring them and allowing them to fester.

    Markos and Jerome's dismissive attitudes of ideology are more than politically shortsighted. Their attitudes, I would suggest, stand in the way of a reconstruction of a progressive message. To the authors, ideology is a term that is always defined as a negative. Ideology divides, never unites. It alienates, never amalgamates.

    There's much more, well worth the read.

  • (38)

    Aaron doesn't know what empowerment means, so I thought I'd go to an arbitrary source and see what it says:


    1. To invest with power, especially legal power or official authority....
    2. To equip or supply with an ability; enable....

    Seems pretty clear, but let's look at the "Usage Note" appended below:

    ...Its modern use originated in the civil rights movement, which sought political empowerment for its followers. The word was then taken up by the women's movement, and its appeal has not flagged. Since people of all political persuasions have a need for a word that makes their constituents feel that they are or are about to become more in control of their destinies, empower has been adopted by conservatives as well as social reformers. It has even migrated out of the political arena into other fields. ·The Usage Panel has some misgivings about this recent broadening of usage. For the Panelists, the acceptability of the verb empower depends on the context. Eighty percent approve of the example We want to empower ordinary citizens.

    Does that make enough sense now? (One of these days I'm going to pull some Second Wave Feminism journals off the shelf and really get into this, but not today.)

    Anyway, Aaron took issue with my analysis of Harvard president Summers' remarks. He didn't do the favor of explaining why or how he disagreed, but he did, and took issue with feminist objections:

    Guys and girls are different, what blasphemy! Oh wait, we are different. We’ve got different body structures, different genes, different hardware “downstairs", different things on our torso, different traditions and roles, and more I’m sure. I’m not saying that I agree with the comments made by Summers, but as said above I do think that dismissing things simply because they rub you the wrong way is not prudent.

    Of course I would say that just because you like what Summers says, it's no reason to think that he actually makes sense.

    What really boggles my mind is why men so often place themselves as arbiters of what is and isn't appropriate feminist thought.

    Granted some of the criticisms being leveled (in the DailyKos thread and elsewhere) are legitimate: Harvard is in many ways a “good old boys club", and it would be interesting to have a female president in many ways. But the conclusion - that this is cause for Summer’s ouster and that there should be a female president simply for the sake of having a female president - completely miss the mark. Progress is achieved, not through unilateralism, but through the very dialogue provoked by people like Summers.

    Actually, I believe progress is achieved when something happens. I have no idea how playing word games with Summers is going to lead to any "progress" at Harvard. Progress is achieved when achievements progress -- and in the face of what is unquestionably appalling achievement in integrating the faculty ranks, it serves nobody to start going on half-cocked about bio-determinist "explanations", especially when so many studies point to just the opposite.

    But Aaron is right: Summers has every right to be a horse's ass. And if the Harvard pubas like having him around -- I'm sure his chauvinism appeals to big money right wingers -- that's none of my business. I'm not even an alum.

    But I do make it my business to respond to the persistent denials and apologies and delusions that come from the male privilege-esconced end of society, because in the absence of objection, such behavior continues unexamined and unquestioned. And when the president of what is often regarded as the premiere educational institution in the land opens his mouth and inserts his foot, I feel no shame in rebutting. In fact, I take exception to assertions that I should feel any shame about it.

    When Bitch, Ph.D. says:

    You do not make racist and sexist remarks in a professional forum and then back up and say, "hey, free inquiry, exchange of ideas, blah fucking blah." You do not insult people and then play innocent dumb guy. You do not stand up, white man in charge of major cultural institution, and demonstrate your ignorance and prejudice and then be shocked when people call you on it. You do not pretend that remarks that justify racism and sexism are value-neutral. You do not play the "reverse racism" card or the "those feminazis want to suppress free discussion" card when you are in the middle of demonstrating that you, yourself, are a bigot. And you do not defend bigots by attacking people who refuse to listen to bigotry pretending to be substantive discussion.

    ...that captures the sentiment a lot of us women feel about the same old party line coming from moguls of the patriarchy and their defenders and apologists.

    Then again, I'm probably being unfair to Aaron. He's nothing like the horses asses and raging bulls that litter the landscape, like the goombas and ninnies who pop up periodically to wonder why women bloggers aren't more popular, or the fuckwits who wield misogyny like a phallic sword -- no doubt to make up for inadequacies in the real world.

    And it's not so much a matter of a few bad apples, but the whole culture. Just look at how the public went ape shit over Martha Stewart's downfall, while finding all sorts of excuses for Kobe Bryant. Look at how rare it is to see women in public office or holding positions in the corporatocracy.

    And yet the men shake their heads. Feminism is outdated. Feminism is unreasonable. Feminism means man-hating. Women got the right to vote ages ago, so what's the big deal? Appeal denied.

    When Hugo expresses what sounds to me like a pretty good prescription:

    Pro-feminist men are in solidarity with their sisters in the feminist movement. As such, they encourage women to challenge themselves, to better themselves, to become stronger, more empowered and more effective human beings. But pro-feminist men understand that ultimately, the work of transforming women is women's work. Women need to mentor and guide other women. And men need to mentor and guide other men. We are at our most effective when we are ministering to the unique needs of our own sex. And before we can mentor and guide other men effectively, we have to accept responsibility for our own actions and our own lives. just seems so sensible, and I'm left wondering all the more why so many other men are such shmucks.

    What is it that drives men to deny that misogyny exists? What is it that makes them dismiss women's opinions? What is it that gives them the sense of entitlement to sit in judgment of women, and actually complain when women protest? Is it fear of impotence? Is it insecurity? Why are men afraid of women?

    I truly find it mystifying because this does not seem to track along party lines or political philosophy -- though the wingnut misogynists seem to be much more open in attacking women, perhaps due to cultural traditions of self-expression nurtured in organizations like the KKK.

    Also, it does not run consistently throughout the population of men I've known. Many are quite aware of their privilege and are quite the gentlemen, without being at all emasculated. (In fact, it's the emasculated men who seem to express the most vitriolic misogyny.)

    Maybe some of these self-appointed experts on what is and isn't good feminism can turn their insightful gaze upon themselves, and explain to us poor hapless females the origins and justifications and reasons for the persistence of male privilege and institutional patriarchy.

  • (34)

    Take a good look at that photo right above this sentence. Chris Brown and T-Pain are physically and sexually objectifying this young black woman, and thus, reduce her to eye candy and perpetuating stereotypes about black women. To prove everything is mutual, the video director even had this woman smiling like that is the sort of thing a woman wants. Step right up black ladies! You're going to be featured in a video where everyone is going to look at your ass. If you're black, then it's almost certain we'll stereotype you for having a big ol' butt!

    The problem does not stop there. Over the course of pop music history black women have consistently been objectified. If there are women in a hip-hop video, and the lead singers are men, one can almost be certain that a display of the female anatomy will be just what the doctor ordered.

    Even before hip-hop emerged, black women's bodies have been objectified. In The rebirth of the booty: America's obsession with my big black ass., student writer Amber Williams discusses mainstream America's obsession with big black ass:

    Black women have been objectified as sex objects ever since their voluptuous bodies were seen as a welcome change to the bony figures of European women to whom the male settlers were accustomed. When African women arrived in America via a "free cruise" through the middle passage with their large posteriors, it was assumed that they were sex-craving, savage beasts. The view of black women as sexual predators is still seen today in both the entertainment industry and society at large.
  • (32)

    Judge Alito is a symptom and a test for this country. How far are we, as a people, willing to allow the politicians, and the rich men and corporations that own them, to cow us into supporting increasingly intrusive, exploitive and violent worshippers of the Abusive Father to control all aspects of our society?

    He's been groomed for this moment, as Chief Justice Roberts was before him. A lwyer who has spent his entire professional career working for the government has built his accomplishments as part of a movement that wants to remake government. A movement that has patiently worked toward wresting back power from a state reconfigured by FDR's "New Deal" and LBJ's "Great Society", two movements that attempted to put the levers of power a little closer to the hands of ALL the people.

    Judge Alito, supporter of strip-searching little girls and denying asylum to escapees from totalitarianism, worshiper of the power of the state and the firm hand and the intrusive eye ... just a soldier in a movement. A movement that thinks that Americans want, no NEED, a firm hand, a truncheon available at all times to "keep us safe" from threats external and internal.

    It's been said many times that the Republicans are the "strict father" political party, but they've moved beyond that to the Abusive Father, the lout who KNOWS that to spare the rod is to spoil the child and the woman. That it is his property that is of utmost importance, that other men like himself know what is best, that it's important that no individual secret be safe (you don't have something to hide, do you?), that no door be a barrier to his rule, that those who can't "get with the program" must be MADE to do so. While applying all of this power, for our own good of course, abusive daddy is free to blow all of the next generation's dough on high tech weapons (after all, if a sportscar is good, a "bunker buster" is better!). He's able to buy some rounds for his buddies at their exclusive club, able to buy a wing of the church where his friend in the frock forgives his philandering, his violence and his profligacy.

    No words here proving that Judge Alito is manifestly unsuited for a seat on the highest court. There are many resources available to get information about that. Scotusblog and other sites have blow-by-blow coverage of the hearings, not to mention NPR and the cable news channels and CSPAN. We're beyond reason at this political moment in the country. A culture coup has taken place, slowly, patiently ... a repressive and greedy cabal has grabbed all of the branches of our government. Our city police forces look like armies, the public square is awash in protestations of public piety. So soon after we had, within such a short time ago, begun to work closer to the promise in our founding documents, it has Happened Here, and there is no patriot like General Smedley Butler stepping up to stop it.

    There are brave leaders and activists working hard, and so many others doing what they can, even if it's offering small donations, writing letters and marching in protests. None of that, heartbreakingly, has been enough, and now this odious man, this serial liar and movement conservative, this coward unwilling or unable to stand up and speak his mind about what he really believes could very well be a Supreme Court Justice for the next several decades. He's lied to the Senate before, about recusing himself in the Vanguard case and it's plain that he'll do so again this week ... that's if he actually answers any questions at all. Abusive Fathers, after all, live by the lie. He's as bad as Bork, only lacking the conviction that enabled Judge Bork to stand before the nation and admit what he believed. Activists like Alito, and Roberts before him, learned a lesson from that. The "children" don't want to be told the truth ... better to obfuscate. This man, a man who wrote on a document in 1985 that "the Constitution does not protect a right to an abortion." now tells Democrats that those were the words of "an advocate seeking a job" with the Reagan Administration. Lying then for his own advancement then, or lying now for his own advancement now?

    Will it take another collapse, like the Great Depression, to help the left build enough momentum to start to take our country back, or is it too late? Will the Democrats in Congress actually read the frantic emails and listen to the calls coming in and fight for the people for a change, or will it be business as usual? This is a test of this nation: are we ready to be free again? Are we ready to be political actors again, and are there enough of us to drown out the amplifier of the big campaign contribution? Can we make our "special interest organizations" actually fight for us again, or will they remain mere influence peddlers, taking the scraps the Democrats promise will be left over after they've scarfed up their scraps dropped from Abusive Fathers big mahogany table?

    Next Monday we celebrate the birthday of Martin Luther King, a man who fought and died so that the promise of our nation might be accessable to ALL of our citizens. How will we honor that memory? Will the Democratic Party actually fight this time, or will it roll over once again?

  • (31)

    In another thread, "liberalrob" calls women's reproductive rights "ideological purity." He's not alone.

    What liberalrob doesn't seem to realize is that what he dismisses as "ideological purity" is actually a matter of life and death. liberalrob and friends seems to think that the Democrats must avoid taking stances, even in matters of women's survival.

    The problem is that when reproductive rights are positioned as "special interests" -- one of several Republican-forged labels that so many Democrats and party-line supporters have adopted without question -- then they can be dismissed as not important, down at the level of tax breaks for ball-bearing manufacturers and pork-barrell contracts for rubber companies.

    It's a way of dismissing human rights -- or at least women's human rights -- as unimportant.

    Of course, one of many possible explanations for this kind of attitude is that these ostensibly well-intentioned folks simply cannot see the implications of their attitudes due to male privilege. They have not had to negotiate their rights over their own bodies with the government. They have not had to consider legal implications over healthcare choices. And they certainly have not had to weigh the decision of whether or not to abort a pregnancy.

    Other folks like to consider abortion as "something other people do" -- until it comes to their own lives and own decisions. And so it's easy to say, "Icky," and then judge all others who have to face such situations.

    What's striking is how the Democratic retreat from reproductive rights has been part and parcel of a larger flight from any stances at all that might get labeled as "liberal" or "progressive." It's been going on for at least 18 years, since when Michael Dukakis ran away from George Bush the Elder's accusation that the Democrat was "a Liberal!"

    And the Democrats have been losing ever since.

    Now liberalrob and friends offer a profound prescription to reverse this trend: More of the same, only with more vehemence, employing right-wing frames, right-wing labels, and right-wing ideology.

    What they miss is that the real lesson to take away from the "conservative revolution" is that "conservatives" engaged in the war of ideas. They offered up ideas, plans, visions of the future. And they have offered up simplistic, unrealistic and even delusional "moral values" frames for social issues. And the Democrats have refused to respond, refused to engage in this war of ideas.

    And now we have a Democratic Party that cannot stand together for much of anything. They are so diluted that they cannot agree. They come out with a tired slogan, something like "Together America can do better" (I honestly cannot remember), and call it a plan. And whenever someone stands up and takes a moral stance, a dozen others go onto talk shows to say, "So-and-so doesn't speak for me."

    And so the Democratic Party does not speak for me. And it's been that way for quite a while now. Oh, I tend to vote Democrat more than Republican, mainly because the Republicans have become modern-day fascists in love with authoritarian government, but I could not stomach registering as Democrat, and I sure won't be donating to them.

    What's ironic is that while the Democrats are stampeding towards forced pregnancy laws and anti-choice candidates, the Republicans are running into resistance to their own state-run-breeding agenda:

    HB1216 would have allowed women to sue abortion doctors for negligence if they later developed problems that they believed were linked to their abortions and felt they had not been fully informed about those problems.

    The bill, which was killed 8-5 by the House Judiciary Committee, also would have required an abortion doctor to have patient admitting privileges at a nearby hospital if a woman needed emergency care.

    The bill is legally questionable because it would set up two classes of doctors in South Dakota, said Dave Gerdes, lobbyist for the South Dakota Medical Association.

    "It's completely unreasonable and unworkable," he said.

    If heart surgeons had to meet the same requirements as those proposed for doctors who do abortions and had to worry about later getting sued for failure to inform patients of some potential risks, heart surgery would stop in South Dakota, he said.

    "Not only is it illegal, but it's grossly unfair," he said of the bill.

    Kate Looby, state director of Planned Parenthood, characterized HB1216 as a bill designed to harass those who do abortions.

    "It's about forcing abortion doctors out of South Dakota by passing laws that are nearly impossible to comply with," she said.Democrats should take note. Forced-pregnancy candidates are not a winning plan. And further retreat from progressive values embracing civil and human rights is not going to win anything but sour grapes and resentment.

    And come November 8th, we'll be having this same conversation.

  • (30)

    When it comes to the debate over women's equality, some people seem to believe that unless we say simply "equality," and not "women's equality," we're not really talking about equality at all, but "special rights." It's an intresting argument, because the premise of such is that women are not people, that gays are not people, that any group that is a subset of people is not in fact comprised of people, just that subset.

    Let me back up a moment.

    Whenver I hear "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer," I always hear the joke answer-chorus:

    Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
    Had a very shiny nose [like a lightbulb]
    And if you ever saw it
    You would even say it glows [like a lightbulb]

    I suggest to the people who hear "women's equality" or some such thing, and hear in their minds "special rights for women," that maybe they try this little exercise: Whenver you hear someone talk about how their rights are compromised or diminshed or undermined, you can hum your own answer chorus, And they are people, too.

    I know, I'm going against the orthodoxy here. Folks on the right attacked "identity politics," and many on the left have bought into that tag and all the baggage associated with it: the idea that somehow if people have differences, and we recognize these differences, then somehow we're trying to designate "special rights" or some such thing. We must be a melting pot. Everything must be homogenized -- preferably into the form and standards of the dominant group -- for anything to be acceptable.

    Yet we don't have a melting pot in this country. It's more like a stew. Everything flavors everything else to some extent, but a potato is still a potato, and a carrot is still a carrot.

    While I would agree that "identity politics," like any political vein, can get out of hand and lead to seeing ghosts of oppression everywhere, there's something to be said for honoring and respecting differences -- without denying all these myriad peoples, groups, cultures, etc. their basic humanity.

    And yet we are now asked by so many -- mainly people who enjoy some measure of the privileges of the established dominant hierarchy -- to ignore those differences, because it's really bad to be different, because then you are saying that the only way to equal rights is to designate special rights, and that's just unpalatable.

    Myself, I don't buy it.

    There are subsets of our culture that encounter challenges, discrimination, problems, etc. that are rather unique to their demographic. Young boys, for example, are being raised in a combination of coddling environments where "self-esteem" must not be diminished by anybody, especially a teacher or coach, while at the same time are raised on a form of popular media entertainment that is anti-social at best: first-person shooter video games. To me that's a recipe for disaster. What kind of monsters will some of these boys grow up to be? Spoiled, aroused by violence, inexperienced at social interactions, especially conflict resolution.

    Yet would we be served by pretending that it's not primarily boys who enjoy these hyper-violent games featuring cop killing, mass murder and lots of graphic blood and gore? I don't think so. Yet I also do not believe that addressing this as a boys' issue would be somehow allocating them "special rights," either!

    I feel the same is true for an issue like reproductive rights for women. If it helps these diversiphobic-politics types, we could say:

    The state should not have any power to force a woman or man to get pregnant, remain pregnant or terminate pregnancy.

    Does that make it better? To me it just sounds silly. Maybe in a few years, when men start carrying in-vitro children (and I expect someday it will happen, if we don't manage to blow ourselves up first), such language would make sense.

    But today, here and now, the fundamental right of soveriegnty over one's own body is being challenged and denied to women in several areas. Men are not under the same kind of legislative and litigious assault. Are women demanding "special rights" when demanding only what everyone else enjoys as a right?

    And so regarding the question, Why should women get special rights?...

    What if we flip around the entire question of "special rights" and ask, instead: Which basic human rights should be denied to women?

    It's the same question, phrased from the opposite side of the coin. And it reveals the premise of those who say "women's equality" would mean "special rights": that women are not people, too.

  • (30)
    To members of the Judiciary Committee and the Senate:

    We are a group of writers who are passionately committed to supporting women's basic freedom as citizens of the United States. We are appealing to you as free citizens dedicated to political growth, fairness and the spirit of Liberty guaranteed in the US Constitution.

    We are not paid pundits or political operatives. We are concerned citizens who represent the diversity of the United States: women and men, straight and gay, single and married, religious and atheist, of different races, religions and ethnicities. Some of us are even parents even after having abortions. And we all blog because we have to.

    We have taken to this citizen media to create communities of hope. In our blogs people rant and rave, discuss and debate to share the one thing we all agree about : The United States Constitution is about creating common ground among the many, not limiting freedom for the benefit of the few.

    Yes, the battle for the Supreme Court is about the right to privacy.

    Yes, the battle for the Supreme Court is about civil rights.

    Yes, the battle for the Supreme Court is about state rights.

    Yet what is at stake in the the reconfiguration of the Supreme Court, is the fundamental right to freedom for all peoples living under the Bill of Rights and unenumerated rights retained by the people. Roberts' has consistently opposed the interests of the people in his career. The decisions, dissents and legal documents that have been released for scrutiny point to the man's willingness to find ways to use technicalities to curtail freedom and not expand it. Although it would be easy to demonstrate this willingness through his involvement in cases dealing with reproductive rights, it is the following three cases that show a road map to what could happen to the US Constitution under a Chief Justice Roberts :

    Lee v. Weisman, 505 U.S. 577 (1992)

    Rancho Viejo, LLC v. Norton, 334 F.3d 1158 (D.C. Cir.2003), cert. denied, 124 S. Ct. 2061 (2004)

    Hedgepeth v. Wash. Metro. Area Transit Auth., 386 F.3d 1148 (D.C. Cir. 2004):

    In defending a religious minority's demand to impose their religious customs on the majority (1), in attacking Congress' right to regulate commerce under national standards (2) and in stating that using the full extent of the law in cases involving minors is necessary to promote "parental awareness of commission delinquent actsÓ (3); John Roberts has advocated positions which

    1. are skewed to the ideology of religious extremists,
    2. balkanize the country into a loose mesh of little republics
    3. use a restrictive fundamentalist view to coerce a moral outcome through legal means.

    The extremist religious minority in this country have used the excuse of states' compelling interest in children's welfare as a reason to seek limits to the Constitution. Parenting rights are being used to impose unfettered limitations of reproductive rights on the state level. All across the country laws have been passed curtailing the movement of minors from one state to the other in search of abortions. Some states have even made it a capital offense punishable with the death penalty to aid a minor with no parental consent. This is appalling.

    These laws have been passed as an affirmation of parents' right to choose in private what is best for their families. Some of us are mothers and fathers and we would most certainly want the government to uphold our rights to choose how to parent our children without intervention of the government. But laws protecting parenting rights should do no harm nor become precedents in the limiting of individual rights.

    These laws impose a view of parenting that may actually be harmful to many underage women in need of an abortion. To restrict their individual rights and define them as extensions of their parents or guardians endangers not only endanger young women's lives but are an attack on the very idea of individual rights and personal freedom.

    Judge Roberts' rulings can become a weapon for extremists who would impose their reproductive agendas against the will of their underage yet sexually mature daughters. It exposes young women in abusive or coercive situations to further abuse and physical danger.

    We advocate Freedom.

    The right to determine one's own sexual and reproductive behavior is a fundamental aspect of liberty. A woman's ability to control her reproductive options has a profound effect on her health and on every aspect of her life. It can affect her educational opportunities, her career and is the single most profound change that can occur in her life. Pregnancy is a life-altering and potentially life-threatening experience. Consider these statistics:
    • The United States ranks below 20 other developed nations in the rate of maternal deaths.
    • The maternal death rate has not gone down since 1982.
    • The Rate of maternal deaths for black women has been three to four times that of white women since 1940.
    • Complications of pregnancy include ectopic pregnancy, premature labor, hemorrhage, blood clots, high blood pressure, infection, stroke, amniotic fluid in the bloodstream, diabetes and heart disease. Poor women suffer disproportionately due to lack of prenatal care and inadequate health insurance.
    • The number one cause of death in pregnant women in America is murder.

    The choice to have a child must be made by an individual, without coercion from any external source or influence, if the individual is to be considered truly free. The current anti-choice movement has revealed itself repeatedly as uninterested in preventing unwanted pregnancies or reducing the number of abortions performed in this country. If this were truly their goal, they would be anxious to make "Plan B" contraceptives readily available. We know it is not an abortificant, and merely prevents pregnancy from taking place. If the goal was to protect young women's lives, they would encourage educating women about the use of condoms in preventing the spread of HIV and other venereal diseases, and the prevention of unwanted pregnancy.

    Women are more likely than men to contract HIV through sexual encounters and about 42 per cent of all persons infected with HIV are women.

    Cancer of the cervix, the most common form of cancer in developing countries, is often linked to the sexually transmitted human papilloma virus. There are already moves to block the availability of a vaccine being developed which could prevent this form of cancer.

    To withhold this information to young women is to literally condemn some of them to death. Those who oppose women's reproductive autonomy oppose all of these things that could make having a child or even having sex a safer experience. It is clear that they are not interested in the healthy births of healthy children, but in controlling sexual behavior of women by codifying a particular, restrictive religious view in the laws of our country. It is not the place of government to legislate morality for its citizens. It is the place of government to insure the health and well-being of its people. It is clear that if women's reproductive freedom is restricted that women will die needlessly and many women and their children will suffer unnecessarily.

    Opposing women's reproductive autonomy is to oppose the unalienable right to Liberty with which each individual is naturally endowed. Freedom to live as we choose, freedom to love whomever we love, freedom to pursue happiness in our own way, without coercion from our neighbors or the state. This is why we oppose John Roberts: We believe it is not the place of government to legislate morality for its citizens. We know that a woman who cannot control her own person is not free.

    If Congress is to appoint conservative jurists, We The People demand they are mainstream conservatives that will uphold the Constitution as a common ground for all, not the playground of the few. It is the place of government to insure every single person in this country has an opportunity to Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

    Moreover, as Congress comes together to consider the nomination of John Roberts to the Supreme Court, it has to ask how two years on the bench can possibly make a person qualified to be the top jurist in the land. We are deeply disturbed that Judge Roberts attempted to conceal his membership in the Federalist Society, and his role in Bush V. Gore.

    We have seen the tragic consequences of George W. Bush's patronage appointments in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. We must be more vigilant in vetting the qualifications, experience and abilities of the nominees put forth by the Bush administration.

    The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court must be a seasoned judge with a record that can be openly and completely examined. The White House's refusal to release all documents pertaining to the nominee is further cause for extreme caution in this matter. Those who have nothing to hide, hide nothing. This choice will affect the lives of all Americans for decades to come. We must have transparency in the process, and it must be rigorous and thorough.

    We oppose the nomination of John Roberts, and ask that our Congressional representatives stand firm in insisting that the people chosen to fill the two vacancies on the Supreme Court of the United States of America be people on whom we can rely to uphold the ideals that make us uniquely American --equal protection under the law, justice for all citizens in equal measure, equal opportunity, and true Liberty - the right to personal and individual autonomy.

    Anything less cannot be allowed to exist if we are to call ourselves the descendants of Jefferson and Adams, or Washington and Franklin. Without a secular government and equal treatment for all, we cannot call ourselves Americans anymore.

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  • (30)

    Judaism, Christianity, Islam ... among others ... say there is only one God, and by the way, "it's a man."

    Moreover, in the Judeo-Christian telling, God created a male first, and the female came out of the male, when just about everyone knows that females bear the young.

    That God is a male is an uncritical belief held by many. It is not surprising this faith would appeal to males. What is surprising to some, is that this story is believed by women - that the All Mighty is a male.

    Men justify their dominance of women and control of women's wombs based on these religious tracts.

    It wasn't until the early 1800's that people figured out how the sperm worked in co-ordination with the egg. Prior to that, the "moment of conception" was not discussed in terms of sperm-and-egg. Prior to that, one of the prevailing views (adopted by religion) was that there were complete beings within the mother, and the act of sex caused one of the complete beings to gestate. Yes, sex caused the being to grow, but there was no "moment of conception" just because a man showed up.

    The modern scientific understanding of impregnation came first, then a religious significance was attached to a scientific insight.

    Nowhere in the Bible is the impregnation of an egg by a sperm mentioned, because this concept was not around until several thousand years after the Bible was first penned. Certainly, the idea that "life begins at conception" cannot be found in the Bible in the terms the anti-abortion forces mean it. In fact, during the Middle Ages, the Roman Catholic Church believed that a baby did not have a soul until three months after the birth!

    The church is shifting ground in the details, but still maintaining the view that men are in charge of everything, including wombs.

    As folks in South Dakota know, when a man places his seed into your womb, that's that. His seed must at all costs grow there ... his property ... and let no woman dare tamper with a man's property, even if afterward he has no interest in participating in the raising of the child.

    That "life begins at conception" is, as I suggest above, a religious view and a recent one at that. What is troublous is that this doctrine is being forced on people who do not share this modern "faith."

    Looking back at the story of Genesis, women play no part. It is when the man "does his thing," that life begins.

    In short, life begins when a man says so.