Archive for September, 2008

Women and the 2008 Vote

Now this is the kind of news analysis we here in the US could use from our press.  A well traced and comprehensive analysis of what impact women are and will have in this year’s presidential election – It’s not just about the electorate-at-large, but the intelligent, courageous and esteemed surrogates in the news media, entertainment and political circles who are making the strides…

From The Independent (UK):

The high heel vote: How women are winning the US election

 

Rachel Maddow, Samantha Bee and Tina Fey aren’t household names in Britain, but they’re at the vanguard of the feminisation of American politics. Sarah Hughes celebrates an election year in which women have finally moved centre stage – and asks: what next?

Monday, 22 September 2008

Every US election has a series of defining images, a collection of moments where, after the chads have stopped hanging, the votes have been counted, and the President-elect has been named, you can look back and say: “Yes, that was it, this was what that election was really about.”

 

In 1960, it came down to television versus reality. Richard Nixon’s fate was sealed under the unforgiving studio lights as John F Kennedy ushered in a new media age. In 1988, one snapshot of Michael Dukakis looking uncomfortable in a tank was enough to seal his fate as a peace-loving refusenik who would have no idea what to do in a Cold War crisis. And, in 2004, Fox News repeatedly told Americans that John Kerry “looked French”, sealing the Massachusetts senator’s image as an out-of-touch elitist with fancy ways and a foreign wife.

Yet, so far, this election has had no such clear moment. Yes, the John McCain camp have tried to brand Barack Obama as Kerry redux, just another country-club elitist making promises he can’t keep – and yes, the Obama camp have hit back hard at McCain, tying his name to that of President George W Bush in an increasingly tighter series of knots. But neither claim has really struck a resonant chord with the electorate.

Instead, it increasingly looks as though the 2008 presidential campaign is not about the candidates, the gaffes they might or might not make, or even about the issues. This election is really all about women.

And not only in the sense that the Alaska Governor, Sarah Palin, is the Republican Party’s vice-presidential candidate, or that New York senator Hillary Clinton narrowly lost the Democrat presidential nomination to Obama. Rather, it is in the growing realisation that the most interesting punditry on both the left and the right is female; that the best political commentary and comedy is female; and so too are those much-fought-over “defining images”, from Palin herself, surrounded by her family on the convention stage, to the Alaskan women who lined the streets to protest at her nomination.

Nowhere are these changes more apparent than on the US cable news channels. Traditionally the home of a type of chest-beating masculinity in which anchors compete to see who can be the most indignantly self-righteous, cable news might seem an unlikely place for a feminist revolution. Yet that’s exactly what’s taking place. The good ol’ boys – Fox’s Sean Hannity and Bill O’Reilly, MSNBC’s Chris Matthews and Keith Olbermann, CNN’s Wolf Blitzer – are still there, hollering their views, but the most interesting reporting is coming from women.

Leading from the front is MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow, who was recently handed the coveted 9pm slot. Maddow, who also has a radio show on the progressive station Air America, is an avowed liberal with a background in prison reform and HIV/Aids activism. But it is her style of reporting, rather than her viewpoint, which makes her stand out from the pack.

Maddow doesn’t hide her political opinion – “I’m a liberal, I’m not a partisan, not a Democratic Party hack,” she has said more than once – but nor does she feel the need to berate her audience or her contributors, as Matthews does, or to dress them down in the manner of her mentor Olbermann. Instead, her show, which is climbing up the ratings (recently beating even CNN’s Larry King Live), prefers to gently mock its targets, sending them up with a sarcastic turn of phrase and relying on its host’s congeniality to ensure that there are no hard feelings when she agrees to disagree.

“Everyone always says that Americans vote for the candidate they’d like to have a drink with, and I think the same thing remains true of news anchors,” says Megan Carpentier, who writes for Glamocracy, a political blog aimed at women, in addition to covering politics for the influential feminist website jezebel.com. “It’s not that I wouldn’t like to have a drink with Keith Olbermann or Jon Stewart; I would. But I’d really like to have a drink with Rachel Maddow.”

There’s something about Maddow that inspires otherwise level-headed women to, as Carpentier puts it, “extreme fangirldom”. It’s partly that she comes across as being very down-to-earth – her website proclaims both her hatred of Coldplay and her love of her red pick-up truck, while admitting that she “loves arguing with conservatives and shakes a mean cocktail” – and partly that she is obviously smart, yet so very unshowy with it.

For many female fans, there’s a sense that she could be your sister, if your sister was a former Rhodes scholar with a mean line in wit and a doctorate in political science.

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Bush Doctrine applied to Healthcare…By-passing Roe V. Wade and more?

Just read this Op-Ed burried deep in the New York Times written by Hillary Clinton and Cecile Richards (President, Planned Parenthood of America), [update: it is now #2 in the ‘Most Emailed’ List…!] published on September 18, 2008 – Those of us perusing the paper daily are the lucky ones to find this content or even know what goes on behind governments’ closed doors.  For the rest of America (not just women) being duped by the likes of ‘women for women’, aka Sarah Palin, they may not be so lucky to have access to this kind of news.

It is astonishing to me that these Regulations which have been proposed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) on August 21, 2008 have slipped the public commentary’s radar and the completely uninterested MSM who are driven to satify their viewership, and take cues from the shrewd & savvy politicians’ press releases with topic meta tags like “pigs, lipstick, pitbulls and hockey moms’.  While the circus perfoms in town, the most important issues facing Americans during this election and their futures either go completely unreported, never even highlighted in the 24-hour news cycles or considered ‘un-juicy’ for the average American’s taste.  It seems ludicrous to hope that we’d want to ask our American nation to set its standards…higher?

With this new rule, the latest ideology push by the Bush Administration seeks to undermine your right as a patient, woman, family – and put the medical provider’s conscience and personal beliefs BEFORE yours.  The same medical physicians and providers whom we the people look to for an unbiased and best source of medical advice and information will be able to either deny you particular medical treatment or not fully disclose any option you possibly could have.

When someday ‘down home mama’s’ 16 year old daughter who had just been raped by some ‘ethnic’ man, is raced to the hospital and as she is being treated, is told that the physician tending to her daughter cannot in his ‘conscience’ administer emergency contraceptive medication to her, what could she do?

Six weeks down the road if she took her daughter to another clinic and wanted to now have her daughter get an abortion, and this doctor now said, “I’m sorry, my beliefs and conscience do not permit me to perform this procedure”, then what could she do?

A 27 year old man goes to his physician, visibly sick and asks for an HIV test.  His physician tells him, “I’m sorry, but I cannot test you for AIDs or HIV because I cannot see myself treating a homosexual patient”.  What can he do?

Your 3 year old son has a rare form of leukemia.  Your doctor cannot bear to see this child be put through rigorus trial medical treatment which she feels may not cure your child, so she says there is nothing medically she can do (it goes against her conscience).  What about you, the parent?  Wouldn’t you want to give your child every bit of hope and chance to live??  If you were told there was no chance, but medically there could be, would you not be up in arms and demanding your child’s right to live be met???  What could you do?

Get up and make your voice be heard.  Call your Congressperson.  Call the U.S Department of Health and Human Services.  Write to the President.  Write to your local Representatives. 

People, this is a glimpse of the America we are already becoming part of and headed if this political circus does not leave town.  Most Americans and those ‘at large’ not living near the metropoles, coasts and larger cities, haven’t a clue.  At the risk of sounding blunt, those of us who can read, think, write, speak, blog, opinionate and care about the U.S. Constitution, better get up and start doing more of it. 

And this plea applies to not only issues of health care or womens rights –  just look at our current state of the economy, international relations and energy challenges we’re facing as a nation.  Our Presidential elections should not be about the personas and who puts up a better performance – as some columnist recently put it aptly, “We’re not voting for the American Idol”…well, for most Americans, sadly it does seem that way.

This election means too much for all of us – not just ‘working America’. If you want to do something, call your local Office of the Registrar of Voting or go to ‘Rock the Vote’s Site and register to vote and find 10 others who haven’t registered – your colleagues, fellow moms, your child’s teacher, custodians, your local deli counter guy, the mechanic, your landscaper, the cleaning lady, your parents, aunts, friends, old college friends….Good Luck!

[NOTE: The public’s comment period ends September 25th, 2008 – so you’d have to act fast.  Here is a link to the Regulation:

The display at the Federal Register today triggers a 30-day public comment period. Administration officials will review the comments as they work to implement a final regulation. The proposed regulation is available at http://www.hhs.gov/news/press/2008pres/08/20080821reg.pdf]

[For those who don’t access the NYT Online, here is the Op-Ed piece in its entirety]:

Op-Ed Contributor

Blocking Care for Women

 

Published: September 18, 2008

LAST month, the Bush administration launched the latest salvo in its eight-year campaign to undermine women’s rights and women’s health by placing ideology ahead of science: a proposed rule from the Department of Health and Human Services that would govern family planning. It would require that any health care entity that receives federal financing — whether it’s a physician in private practice, a hospital or a state government — certify in writing that none of its employees are required to assist in any way with medical services they find objectionable.

Laws that have been on the books for some 30 years already allow doctors to refuse to perform abortions. The new rule would go further, ensuring that all employees and volunteers for health care entities can refuse to aid in providing any treatment they object to, which could include not only abortion and sterilization but also contraception.

Health and Human Services estimates that the rule, which would affect nearly 600,000 hospitals, clinics and other health care providers, would cost $44.5 million a year to administer. Astonishingly, the department does not even address the real cost to patients who might be refused access to these critical services. Women patients, who look to their health care providers as an unbiased source of medical information, might not even know they were being deprived of advice about their options or denied access to care.

The definition of abortion in the proposed rule is left open to interpretation. An earlier draft included a medically inaccurate definition that included commonly prescribed forms of contraception like birth control pills, IUD’s and emergency contraception. That language has been removed, but because the current version includes no definition at all, individual health care providers could decide on their own that birth control is the same as abortion.

The rule would also allow providers to refuse to participate in unspecified “other medical procedures” that contradict their religious beliefs or moral convictions. This, too, could be interpreted as a free pass to deny access to contraception.

Many circumstances unrelated to reproductive health could also fall under the umbrella of “other medical procedures.” Could physicians object to helping patients whose sexual orientation they find objectionable? Could a receptionist refuse to book an appointment for an H.I.V. test? What about an emergency room doctor who wishes to deny emergency contraception to a rape victim? Or a pharmacist who prefers not to refill a birth control prescription?

The Bush administration argues that the rule is designed to protect a provider’s conscience. But where are the protections for patients?

The 30-day comment period on the proposed rule runs until Sept. 25. Everyone who believes that women should have full access to medical care should make their voices heard. Basic, quality care for millions of women is at stake.

Hillary Rodham Clinton is a Democratic senator from New York. Cecile Richards is the president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America.

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“Alaska…a Microcosim of the rest of the US”: Sarah Palin

These vignettes which Op-Ed Columnist, Maureen Dowd chronicles in Tuesday’s New York Times, give you a real glimpse into the hearts and minds of Americans.  Yes, they are local Alaskans, and as Palin recently declared, “you know Alaska seems to be such a microcosm of the rest of the US…” she may actually be correct on this one, as far as pinning down what ‘real’ (the polled ones) Americans have on their, umm, ‘minds’.

This one sums it up, I think:

(from the NYT)

I talked to a Wal-Mart mom, Betty Necas, 39, wearing sweatpants and tattoos on her wrists.

She said she’s never voted, and was a teenage mom “like Bristol.” She likes Sarah because she’s “down home” but said Obama “gives me the creeps. Nothing to do with the fact that he’s black. He just seems snotty, and he looks weaselly.”

 

Here is the column in its entirety for those who are not registered with the NYT:

Op-Ed Columnist

‘Barbies for War!

 

Published: September 16, 2008

 

WASHINGTON

Carly Fiorina, the woman John McCain sent out to defend Sarah Palin and rip anyone who calls her a tabula rasa on foreign policy and the economy, admitted Tuesday that Palin was not capable of running Hewlett-Packard.

That’s pretty damning coming from Fiorina, who also was not capable of running Hewlett-Packard.

Carly helpfully added that McCain (not to mention Obama and Biden) couldn’t run a major corporation. He couldn’t get his immigration bill passed either, but now he’s promising to eliminate centuries of greed on Wall Street.

The Wall Street Journal reported that McCain was thinking about taking Palin to the U.N. General Assembly next week so she can shake hands with some heads of state. You can’t contract foreign policy experience like a rhinovirus. To paraphrase the sniffly Adelaide in “Guys and Dolls,” a poy-son could develop a cold war.

The latest news from Alaska is that the governor keeps a tanning bed in the Juneau mansion. As The Los Angeles Times pointed out, when Palin declared May 2007 Skin Cancer Awareness Month in Alaska, the press release explained that skin cancer was caused by “the sun and from tanning beds.”

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Great Essay from the ‘Red Room’

Interesting title analogy?…”this is your brain…this is your brain on drugs…”

THIS IS YOUR NATION ON WHITE PRIVILEGE

[warning: some explicit language in this quoted article]

from Red Room (www.redroom.com)

September 13, 2008, 2:01 pm

This is Your Nation on White Privilege 

By Tim Wise

For those who still can’t grasp the concept of white privilege, or who are constantly looking for some easy-to-understand examples of it, perhaps this list will help.

White privilege is when you can get pregnant at seventeen like Bristol Palin and everyone is quick to insist that your life and that of your family is a personal matter, and that no one has a right to judge you or your parents, because “every family has challenges,” even as black and Latino families with similar “challenges” are regularly typified as irresponsible, pathological and arbiters of social decay. 

White privilege is when you can call yourself a “fuckin’ redneck,” like Bristol Palin’s boyfriend does, and talk about how if anyone messes with you, you’ll “kick their fuckin’ ass,” and talk about how you like to “shoot shit” for fun, and still be viewed as a responsible, all-American boy (and a great son-in-law to be) rather than a thug.

White privilege is when you can attend four different colleges in six years like Sarah Palin did (one of which you basically failed out of, then returned to after making up some coursework at a community college), and no one questions your intelligence or commitment to achievement, whereas a person of color who did this would be viewed as unfit for college, and probably someone who only got in in the first place because of affirmative action.

White privilege is when you can claim that being mayor of a town smaller than most medium-sized colleges, and then Governor of a state with about the same number of people as the lower fifth of the island of Manhattan, makes you ready to potentially be president, and people don’t all piss on themselves with laughter, while being a black U.S. Senator, two-term state Senator, and constitutional law scholar, means you’re “untested.”


White privilege is being able to say that you support the words “under God” in the pledge of allegiance because “if it was good enough for the founding fathers, it’s good enough for me,” and not be immediately disqualified from holding office–since, after all, the pledge was written in the late 1800s and the “under God” part wasn’t added until the 1950s–while believing that reading accused criminals and terrorists their rights (because, ya know, the Constitution, which you used to teach at a prestigious law school requires it), is a dangerous and silly idea only supported by mushy liberals.


White privilege is being able to be a gun enthusiast and not make people immediately scared of you.


White privilege is being able to have a husband who was a member of an extremist political party that wants your state to secede from the Union, and whose motto was “Alaska first,” and no one questions your patriotism or that of your family, while if you’re black and your spouse merely fails to come to a 9/11 memorial so she can be home with her kids on the first day of school, people immediately think she’s being disrespectful.


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Republicans Will ‘Fight’ for our Freedoms…

With the selection of Sarah Palin by McCain as his running mate, many questions of why and how he came to his decision remain.  More vexing is what Palin touts as her All-American values, in support of ‘Country First’ and her boss who intends to fight for our rights and freedoms…

It would be best for all Americans to ask themselves what we consider to be freedoms which make America great and the envy of the world.  Is it everything the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights grant us? …freedom of expression, freedom to speak freely without censorship, freedom of choice, freedom of religion…

Perhaps asking Sarah Palin her thoughts on these topics would help Americans determine if the Palin-McCain team will be fighting for their country first or not.  There is talk that Palin plans to give her first interview to ABC News in the coming days – But lets see if she gets the questions ahead of time and if the most pressing questions are indeed directly asked of her.  In the meantime, the following article/post by Michael Seitzman in the Huffington Post can hopefully get Charlie Gibson started on some questions for his upcoming broadcast with Palin – if he chooses to not go soft on her:

8 Questions for Palin — If You Really “Work For Me,” Then Interview for the Job

By: Michael Seitzman (September 6, 2008: The Huffinton Post)

The McCain campaign has now said publicly that they don’t think Sarah Palin should have to answer any questions from the media. Since a free press is the only way the People can ask the questions we have a right to know, maybe the media should stop granting access to McCain “spokesmen” until their candidate for Vice President of The United States answers some questions. There are legitimate questions to be asked and, as one of The People, I’d like to start with the following:

1 – Did you really ban books from that library up there? Did you fire a librarian over it? Can you tell us your feelings about censorship in a democracy?

2 – Did you really tell the secessionist group in Alaska that they were doing great work? This same group whose leader said in an interview that, “The fires of hell are frozen glaciers compared to my hatred for the American government?”

3 – Did you abuse the governor’s office by trying to get your brother-in-law fired from the state police?

4 – Exactly what is it about Alaska’s “proximity to Russia” that qualifies as “foreign policy experience?”

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Hope… for the future? (yikes)

This is a funny little nugget. 

If the McCain team can’t do their basic ‘Google’ homework, how can they say they have properly vetted and investigated the viability of their VP selection? 

From Daily Kos:

Green Screen Mystery Solved

Fri Sep 05, 2008 at 09:15:38 AM PDT

A lot of RNCC viewers were perplexed last night when McCain appeared from the light of the Obama logo, strolled to the podium, and began his lackluster speech before an enormous green screen.  We’d seen that lime green screen before and thought McGrinch had learned his lesson — it was not a good look for McCain and was widely panned by pundits and the public alike.  So, why would he choose that hideous background for the biggest speech of his very long political career?

It turns out the green screen was only part of the story.  The close-up at the podium made it appear to be a giant green screen, but the arena audience was treated to a much different image. Hat tip to Talking Points Memo for the image:

Aaahhhhhh….much different.  McCain standing in front of a grand building, not a green screen. And what building could possibly deserve such a prominent role as the main backdrop of McCain’s nomination speech? According to TPM readers, it is Walter Reed.  As in Walter Reed Middle School in North Hollywood, California.  

Wait, what?  Did they mean to have an image of Walter Reed Medical Center? Ouch. If only they were a little better at “the google”, they might have recognized their mistake. Here is the Walter Reed Medical Center:

ABC News says the McCain camp isn’t commenting. If they meant for the image to be Walter Reed Middle School in North Hollywood, I’m sure we’d all love to hear why that fine school was selected for such an honor.

Between the lack of vetting on Sarah Palin and the botched presentation this decade week to the American people, the McCain camp would be well-advised to “do the google” a little more often. Let’s hope they have plenty of time to explore the world wide web in November and beyond.

Update:  TPM has been in contact with the school.

TPM’s Kate Klonick just got off the phone with an official at the school who confirmed this. “We didn’t know anything about it until it showed up last night,” Cathy McLaughlin, the school’s office technician, told Klonick. She confirmed that multiple media outlets have been calling and that a statement would be forthcoming from the school.

There was nothing particular in that stretch of McCain’s speech that would explain why this particular image was used.

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