On platitudes vs. policy when it comes to women and politics

News came out today that Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In Foundation – which, as far as I can tell, espouses that women can overcome structural sexism in the workplace by speaking up more at meetings – will be honoring Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen as a “Trailblazing Woman You May Not Know (But Should).” I agree the congresswoman is trailblazing in the sense she has had a long career as a Cuban-American woman in a party that’s largely interested in the continued election of white men. But as Marc Tracy asked in The New Republic, why on earth is Lean In elevating her at all?

Let’s ignore the fact she does a Palinesque co-opting of the feminist label to misapply it to her politics. She does not support reproductive rights and voted to withdraw Title X funding for family planning and cancer screenings. She supported the Working Families Flexibility Act, which arguably would have cut workers’ paychecks by giving them the “option” of comp time instead of overtime. She doesn’t support the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act! She literally voted against a bill that would let women sue for pay discrimination based on gender.

I’d like to take a moment to suggest that this is completely emblematic of the whole Lean In philosophy – one that emphasizes the individual over the systemic. Let’s celebrate one women, regardless of whether she’s taken any action to help all other women! So long as she’s been successful in a male-dominated field, let us not be concerned about whether she pulled the ladder up after her. [Rest.]

On platitudes vs. policy when it comes to women and politics

US right wingers claim marriage solves poverty for women

It’s the 1950s, in case you were wondering what happened there. On lip magazine:

Bush administration press secretary, Ari Fleischer has proposed that marriage inequality is the cause of a hell of a lot of single ladies’ poverty. In a conservative editorial published in the Wall Street Journal, Fleischer implored US President Barack Obama to focus economic policy around the breakdown of the traditional family. ‘Marriage inequality should be at the centre of any discussion of why some Americans prosper and others don’t.’ US Census Bureau data shows only 7.5 per cent of nuclear families (i.e. two parents) live below the poverty line, as compared with 33.9 per cent of single mothers.

Furthermore, in 2009 the poverty rate stood at 3.2 per cent for married Caucasian Americans and 7 per cent for married African Americans, whereas the rate for de facto couples sits at 22 per cent for Caucasians and for 35.6 per cent African Americans. Conceivably, the statistics are used in argument to show disgust at raising taxes for the wealthy. The concept of marrying off women to fix their economic woes has understandably come under fire for its reductive account of solving women’s poverty. [Read the rest.]

How the GOP Became the ‘White Man’s Party’

On alternet

The following is an excerpt from Ian Haney-López’s new book, “Dog Whistle Politics: How Coded Racial Appeals Have Reinvented Racism and Wrecked the Middle Class.” (Oxford University Press, 2014) . This excerpt originally appeared on Salon.com.

Few names conjure the recalcitrant South, fighting integration with fire-breathing fury, like that of George Wallace. The central image of this “redneck poltergeist,” as one biographer referred to him, is of Wallace during his inauguration as governor of Alabama in January 1963, before waves of applause and the rapt attention of the national media, committing himself to the perpetual defense of segregation. Speaking on a cold day in Montgomery, Wallace thundered his infamous call to arms: “Today I have stood, where once Jefferson Davis stood, and took an oath to my people. It is very appropriate then that from this Cradle of the Confederacy, this very Heart of the Great Anglo-Saxon Southland … we sound the drum for freedom. … In the name of the greatest people that have ever trod this earth, I draw the line in the dust and toss the gauntlet before the feet of tyranny … and I say … segregation now … segregation tomorrow … segregation forever!”

The story of dog whistle politics begins with George Wallace. But it does not start with Wallace as he stood that inauguration day. Rather, the story focuses on who Wallace was before, and on whom he quickly became. [Rest.]

Abortion Is Not Like Slavery, So Stop Comparing the Two

A strawman argument if ever I saw one (on RHRealityCheck):

Anti-choice comparisons between slavery and abortion are nothing new. It is a canard so common that whenever I see it, my eye starts to twitch, because it is nonsense, devoid of fact and logic, stripping women of agency and co-opting this country’s brutal racial history to score a political point against ideological foes.

Abortion is not slavery, nor is it comparable to slavery. An abortion is a medical procedure that results in the termination of a pregnancy. People who seek abortions do so for myriad reasons: because a wanted pregnancy presents a danger to the health of the pregnant person, or simply because a person has decided, as is her right, when and whether to have children. Abortion, quite simply, allows women the freedom to live full and free lives and to retain control over their bodies.

Slavery, on the other hand, was the centuries-long system under which Black men and women were treated not as human beings, with attendant freedom and liberty, but as chattel—human property owned by other humans, stripped of their freedom and cruelly forced to work under inhumane conditions. During slavery, Black human beings were murdered, raped, and treated like animals simply for the economic benefit of white aristocracy and to further white supremacy.

Comparisons between abortion and slavery are popular among the anti-choice crowd because most people agree that slavery is morally wrong. If anti-choice forces can equate slavery and abortion, and draw parallels between an “unborn” person and an enslaved person, then surely no morally righteous person could continue to defend abortion as a medical procedure that enables women to retain some modicum of control over the physical selves and their economic realities. [Rest.]


Can Hillary Clinton win in 2016 on women’s rights? She seems to think so

Do. It.

You may have been encouraged to forget this small fact during her run for president in 2008, when her critics portrayed her as a crybaby, a ball-buster, a man-hating shrew and not man enough, somehow all at once. Facing that, she all but banished the W-word from her campaign, focusing instead on her experience and know-how. Well, we know how well that worked out.

With public office behind her (for the moment), she’s changed her tack. Two months after leaving her post as Secretary of State and two weeks after I uprooted from London to New York, she spoke at the Women in the World Summit. She called women’s rights ‘unfinished business’, and has made it her main topic for nearly every public speech since.

Why the change in direction? It’s obvious (despite, as the New York Times claimed this week, the Clinton Foundation being threatened by conflicts of interest) she’s returning to a cause she’s always felt passionately about.

Link: Telegraph.

Also, this from the Washington Post:

Here’s a thought: She can save the world.

Yes, all right, perhaps that’s a trifle hyperbolic, but hear me out. And keep in mind that this works only as a long game. We may not live to see salvation but one has to start somewhere. Thus far invasions, bunker-busting mega-bombs and killer drones seem not to be having the desired effect.

Let’s begin with a working (and provable) premise: Women, if allowed to be fully equal to men, will bring peace to the planet. This is not so far-fetched a notion. One, men have been at it for thousands of years, resulting in millions and millions of corpses. Two, countries where women are most oppressed and abused are also the least stable.

Link: Washington Post.

Six Truly Unbelievable Ways Ohio Has Just Eviscerated Women’s Rights

On alternet:

The Republican Party continues to hack away at reproductive rights around the country–and Ohio is the latest place to be targeted by anti-abortion forces. Governor John Kasich signed the state budget Sunday night–and included in the budget are a number of measures that would restrict abortion rights in the state. It was signed over the objections of protesters who descended on the state legislature.

“Wait until the first women dies; wait until the first doctor leaves Ohio,” warned one protester.

But the anti-abortion group Ohio Right to Life praised the legislation. “It took great compassion and courage for our governor and pro-life legislature to stand up to the abortion industry that blatantly pressured them,” said Mike Gonidakis, the president of the group.

The bill is in line with the extreme measures the GOP has been pushing around the country and that caught national attention in Texas. Here are 6 of the worst anti-reproductive rights provisions contained in the Ohio state budget.

1. Places Limits on Rape Clinics

Rape clinics are no longer allowed to counsel victims on abortion options under the new budget. If clinics do undertake that counseling, public funding would be cut off. [Rest.]


Wendy Davis’ filibustering for abortion rights is a brave and great thing

On commentisfree:

It’s raining here, softly but firmly, and Wendy Davis is filibustering in Texas.

She’s speaking in a low, quiet voice in the other tab, talking about admitting privileges, standing quietly as Senators raise points of order, resuming her flood of speech flawlessly when the floor is returned to her. Her voice is calm and clear, measured, thoughtful, as she explains a subsection of SB5. My Twitter is flooded with commentary on Davis, on SB5, on reproductive rights. The Texas Senate is filled with people in orange, most of them women, coming out in droves to support the right to choose; to refuse the restrictions on abortion services embedded in SB5, the attempt to deprive them of access to basic medical services.

The past few years have been particularly bad ones when it comes to reproductive autonomy. I am reminded of the scene in V for Vendettawith the dominoes, the one at the very end where everything has finally come together and flick they’re falling, slowly at first and then faster and faster, and then suddenly they’ve all fallen into V’s symbol, slashes of red and black, finished, pattern completed. Across the United States, the dominoes are falling, faster and faster, as state after state after state takes rights away in the guise of “protecting women.”

Wendy Davis is filibustering. She plans to stand for 13 hours without eating, drinking, or using the bathroom. She cannot lean on her podium, and she must stay on-topic, focusing on the bill and related subjects. She’s surrounded by a room of hostile people who want nothing more than to see her fail, because if she fails, SB5 can go to vote, the Senate can pass it, Texas women will have that much more trouble accessing abortions in a state where getting access to reproductive health services is already extremely difficult. [Rest.]


Afghan women’s struggle for their rights will not stop now

On commentisfree:

Read the media coverage of the Taliban’s office in Qatar, and you could be forgiven for assuming that this is the first time that the group had entered diplomatic talks. Of course some of the features here are new: the luxurious office building, the raising of the flag and so on.

But if you look more closely at the nature of the talks, nothing has really changed. The US and its allies were already in contact with the Taliban before the opening of the office, the Pakistani establishment is still playing an important role, and the Afghan government’s commitment still keeps on wavering.

I view the Taliban’s political office not as a new or game-changing event. From Afghan experiences over the past decades, one can foresee that there will be a deal to bring them into the system one way or another. The key question is: will such a deal result in sustainable and inclusive peace and stability all over Afghanistan?

The answer I see for such a question so far is not entirely positive. If I am pessimistic, it is because there are still many unresolved internal conflicts, and because there has been a failure to ensure stronger rule of law across the country by putting a real end to impunity. There are also external factors that dampen my optimism: Afghanistan’s neighbours near and far have plenty of political, resource-related and strategic interests in maintaining a level of chaos in the country. [Rest.]


Conservatives Double Down on the War on Women

On rhrealitycheck:

With all the moaning and wailing at Fox News and other right-wing media outlets about the supposed unfairness about the phrase “war on women,” you’d think conservative politicians would try to avoid the charge by, you know, not waging it. Or at least laying off it a little. Instead, the opposite is happening. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) fears this will be the worst year on record for reproductive rights, possibly worse than the previous two worst years, 2011 and 2012. The group has a map of the legislation offered and passed on the state level. [Rest.]

Working Mothers Blamed For Low Literacy Rates

More working-mother/ mothering-in-general shaming from the US. Because that never gets old. Bust:

In today’s feature of “How did these people get elected?” news, Governor Phil Bryant from Mississippi is blaming America’s troubled education system on working mothers.

Education is a hot topic in today’s political sphere, and while almost everyone can agree that our system needs to be reformed, how to do so and the causes of our failing education system are highly contested. On June 4th, The Washington Post, The Annie E. Casey Foundation, the GLR Campaign and the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation in Arkansas sponsored a panel on education focusing on the importance of children acquiring adequate reading levels by the time they finish third grade. This panel featured other elected officials who discussed reading proficiency and ways to improve America’s educational outcomes. [Rest.]


When a Doctor Wields a Bible: The Alarming Rise of Catholic Hospitals (US)

On alternet:

Across the U.S., religious healthcare corporations  are absorbing once secular and independent hospitals and in the process imposing religious restrictions that pit standard medical practice against theology.

Recently, a woman was traveling across the Midwest when she developed abdominal pain. She and her husband went to the nearest hospital, where she was diagnosed with a potentially fatal ectopic pregnancy. The doctors recommended immediate surgery to remove the fallopian tube containing the misplaced embryo, a procedure that would reduce by half her future chances of conceiving a child. They failed to mention that a  simple injection of Methotrexate would solve the problem, leaving her fertility intact. Why the omission? The Catholic hospital where she got diagnosed was subject to the “ Ethical and Religious Directives” of the Catholic bishops, which state, “In case of extrauterine pregnancy, no intervention is morally licit which constitutes a direct abortion.”

According to Catholic moralists, an injection that destroys an ectopic embryo is a direct abortion, while removing the part of a woman’s reproductive system containing the embryo is not. While this may sound strange (or abhorrent) to outsiders, it has its own  internal logic. Catholic ethics ultimately are determined by theologically based perceptions of what actions God approves and doesn’t approve. While compassion does matter, the end goal is to improve the spiritual standing or righteousness of the person performing the action. These theological dictates may or may not align with the questions that govern secular medical ethics and practice: how to minimize harm and suffering or maximize wellbeing while respecting patient autonomy. [Rest.]


American Fascism: Ralph Nader Decries How Big Business Has Taken Control of the U.S. Government

Democracy Now:

Describing the United States as an “advanced Third World country,” longtime consumer advocate and former presidential candidate Ralph Nader calls for a new mass movement to challenge the power corporations have in Washington. “It is not too extreme to call our system of government now ‘American fascism.’ It’s the control of government by big business, which Franklin Delano Roosevelt defined in 1938 as fascism,” Nader says. “We have the lowest minimum wage in the Western world. We have the greatest amount of consumer debt. We have the highest child poverty, the highest adult poverty, huge underemployment, a crumbling public works — but huge multi-billionaires and hugely profitable corporations. I say to the American people: What’s your breaking point? When are you going to stop making excuses for yourself? When are you going to stop exaggerating these powers when you know you have the power in this country if you organize it?” Nader has just published a new book, “Told You So: The Big Book of Weekly Columns.” [Rest.]

Arrested for Your Politics in America? It’s Already Happening

In the US, due process – one of the defining features of a democratic judicial process – continues to be badly bludgeoned: Obama  fights tooth and nail to push through NDAA, which would allow indefinite detention of US citizens, and the definition of terrorism has expanded its unwieldy scope, casting a widening net that ensures more and more people are captured in its snare.

The US has pursued “domestic terrorism” by practicing pre-emptive prosecution, that is, going after individuals who have committed no crime but are alleged to possess an ideology that might dispose them to commit acts of “terrorism”. Maintaining that it can -and should – be in the business of divining intent, the government decimates crucial elements of the US justice system.

[More here: alternet]

Paul Ryan Wants Personhood for “One-Celled Human Embryos”

Can I express my absolute relief, again, about the results of the November election?

From rhrealitycheck:

Are you ready to stand up for the rights of the “one-celled human embryos?” Well, Congressman Paul Ryan (R-WI) is, and he’s got a bill to prove it. Now that Congress is in session again, anti-choice bills are popping up left and right (but just in the House, of course, because that’s the only place they can get votes). The latest? He’s co-sponsoring a federal “personhood” amendment, because if the trouncing of anti-choice politicians across the country taught the House Republicans anything, it’s that Americans simply love debating abortion.

[Read the rest: rhrealitycheck]


2012: The Second-Worst Year for Abortion Rights Since Roe

(Lest we forget that we take a lot of our lead in the UK on reproductive rights from the US.)

From alternet:

Think the so-called “War on Women” (really a war on everyone, since family planning, abortion, birth control, and cancer screenings are good for everyone, regardless of gender) is over? Think again, sadly. The reality is that in the state capitols, the steady drive to make it nearly impossible for women to obtain abortions is continuing. Last month, at AlterNet, we profiled just a few of these state initiatives that had cropped up after the 2012 election and continued the unfortunate trend of using political power to legislate the uteri of citizens.

A new study from the Guttmacher Institute looked at all the laws and provisions relating to reproductive rights that went into effect in 2012:

Reproductive health and rights was once again the subject of extensive debate in state capitols in 2012. Over the course of the year, 42 states and the District of Columbia enacted 122 provisions related to reproductive health and rights. One-third of these new provisions, 43 in 19 states, sought to restrict access to abortion services. Although this is a sharp decrease from the record-breaking 92 abortion restrictions enacted in 2011, it is the second highest annual number of new abortion restrictions.

The highest year, of course, was 2011. What are some of the restrictions passed? Age limits, late-term abortion bans (20-week bans, for instance), clinic regulations that are near-impossible to meet, forbidding insurance coverage, and more.

Here are just a few examples, directly from Guttmacher, that I think show clearest how deep inside the wombs of Americans these legislatures are creepily willing to go:

  • “A new provision enacted in Mississippi requires a physician performing an abortion on a minor younger than 14 to provide a tissue sample to the state bureau of investigation. It also includes criminal penalties for anyone assisting a minor in seeking an abortion in violation of the state’s parental consent requirement.”
  • “South Carolina amended the long-standing requirement that the state employees’ health plan may cover abortion only when necessary to save the woman’s life or in cases of rape or incest. The new provision permits taxpayer dollars to be used to pay for abortions only in cases of life endangerment; the cost in cases of rape or incest must now be paid entirely from employees’ premiums.”
  • “Finally, the new ultrasound mandate in Virginia also requires that women who live less than 100 miles from the clinic undergo the ultrasound 24 hours in advance of the abortion … Although Virginia law already required a 24-hour waiting period, this new provision compels women to make two trips to the clinic before receiving an abortion”
The shaming, nitpicking and intrusiveness of these kinds of laws is exemplified by the provisions above.

[Read the rest: alternet]


2012: The Year of The War on Women

2012 was the year of the “war on women.” From attacks on birth control access to atrociously phrased definitions of rape, womens rights and health rights took a beating from members of the GOP and at least one high-profile conservative commentator this year. HuffPost assembled some of the most appalling examples of the “war on women” from the past year.

[Video on the link: rhrealitycheck]


America’s White Male Problem

See also, the 2012 and on-going war on women.

From: alternet

The American political process is being hijacked by a reckless, whining dangerous gang of psychologically damaged white men who are far-right ideologues. I used to be one of them. It’s time to tell the truth about our white male problem.

Not everyone who disagrees with the president is a racist. Not even most people who do are. But the continuous attempt by the white far-right in Congress to shut down the government rather than work with our black president has a lot to do with racism. And lurching from manufactured crisis to crisis isn’t about politics; it’s about pathology. It doesn’t make sense politically to take the blame for risking America’s future — and the Republicans know they will take the blame — so how can we conclude other than something else is going on here?

I’m not talking about the white young male mass murderers we’re afflicted with carrying assault rifles courtesy of the NRA. I’m talking about the white far-right males who hijacked the 112th Congress and are set to destroy the 113th. They have metaphorically done to our country what the killer in Newtown literally did to 20 children, and for the same apparent reason: alienation from the mainstream and retreat to a paranoid delusional fantasy land of — literal — mental impairment.

This has less to do with politics and more to do with the fear and mental illness that grips a willfully ignorant minority of white males. But the mainstream media is talking about everything but the underlying racial, cultural and mental health issues afflicting the white male minority of far-right congressmen holding us all hostage. And the extreme insanity of the right-wing rhetoric over the last four years, from “birther” to Obama-is-a-Muslim etc., conclusively points to something other than politics.

[Read the rest: alternet]


The Rich, White, Conservative GOP Must Change, But It Won’t

The red "GOP" logo used by the party...

The red “GOP” logo used by the party for its website (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This story first appeared on the TomDispatch website.

Mitt Romney had hardly conceded before Republicans started fighting over where to head next. Some Republicans—and many Democrats—now claim that the writing is on the wall: demography is destiny, which means the GOP is going the way of the Whigs and the Dodo. Across the country, they see an aging white majority shrinking as the US heads for the future as a majority-minority country and the Grand Old Party becomes the Gray Old Party. Others say: not so fast.

In the month since 51% of the electorate chose to keep Barack Obama in the White House, I’ve spent my time listening to GOP pundits, operators, and voters. While the Party busily analyzes the results, its leaders and factions are already out front, pushing their own long-held opinions and calling for calm in the face of onrushing problems.

Do any of their proposals exhibit a willingness to make the kind of changes the GOP will need to attract members of the growing groups that the GOP has spent years antagonizing like Hispanics, Asian Americans, unmarried women, secular whites, and others? In a word: no.

Instead, from my informal survey, it looks to this observer (and former Republican) as if the party is betting all its money on cosmetic change. Think of it as the Botox Solution. It wants to tweak its talking points slightly and put more minority and female Republicans on stage as spokespeople. Many in the GOP seem to believe that this will do the trick in 2014 and beyond. Are they deluded?

[Read more: motherjones]


The Latest War on Single Moms (US)

Lest we forget the source of the UK’s biggest policy influence, particularly when it comes to women.

The United States offers the worst support structure for single parents among all comparable countries — and if anything like House Speaker John Boehner’s Plan B carries the day, it’s about to get worse.

Republicans used to love the earned income tax credit and the child tax credit, because they incentivized paid labor and used the tax code instead of cash assistance or programs to help low-income parents, most visibly single mothers. But that was before the cry against the 47 percent, a substantial portion of whom didn’t pay taxes because of such credits.

In the Washington Post, Jamelle Bouie points to an analysis by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities showing that the two tax credits for low-income families will be slashed under Plan B: “A mother with two children who works full time at the minimum wage of $7.25 and earns $14,500 a year would lose $1,560 of her Child Tax Credit, which would plummet from $1,725 to $165.”

This comes, of course, a few months after the party’s nominee answered a question about gun violence by complaining about single mothers, and about a year after the supposed intellectual force of the party, Newt Gingrich, offered the following plan for reducing child poverty: employing young children as janitors at school. For a substantial amount of time in between, the leading candidate among Republican primary voters, Rick Santorum, was the guy who, as a Senate candidate in 1994, had suggested forced paternity tests for welfare recipients and said single mothers were “breeding criminals.” He added then, “We are seeing it. We are seeing the fabric of this country fall apart, and it’s falling apart because of single moms.”

[Read more: alternet]

The State of Young America: Left Out In the Cold

English: Homeless man, Tokyo. Français : Un sa...

English: Homeless man, Tokyo.

There is a brand new housing crisis looming on the horizon and none of the financial or foreclosure reforms being considered get anywhere close to solving it.

According to an article in the Times yesterday, homelessness is on the rise among America’s young adults and couches, cars, and shelters are filling up fast.  For Millennials, the Great Recession left a scar of insecurity across labor markets, net worth, and future prospects, positioning their starting line just steps away from defeat.

Many of those with family resources have become “boomerangs,” returning to the home of their parents while they search for better opportunities and a chance for independence.  But without assets or reliable employment, those who can’t or won’t return to the nest end up on far more dangerous ground, left out of the system and forgotten in policy debates.  From the article:

These young adults are the new face of a national homeless population, one that poverty experts and case workers say is growing. Yet the problem is mostly invisible. Most cities and states, focusing on homeless families, have not made special efforts to identify young adults, who tend to shy away from ordinary shelters out of fear of being victimized by an older, chronically homeless population.

Those cities that do count the young and homeless find distressing results. Boston saw the number of young adults who were homeless and looking for shelter grow by 3 percentage points from 2010 to 2011.  Los Angeles identified 3,600 young adults living on the street last year, but they had shelter space to accommodate less than 1 in 5 of them.

[Read more: policyshop]