I’m getting a slow start this morning, so I thought I’d put up an open thread to get us started. This story is a couple of days old so you may have heard about it already, but I just had to take note of it anyway.
On Wednesday at a town hall meeting in Chariton Iowa, Senator Charles Grassley got a strange question about some wingnut conspiracy theory from one of his constituents: From the Atlantic Wire:
Constituent: They’re saying that they’re going to start, in 2013, putting microchips in government workers and then any kid that enrolls in school, starting in pre-school, will have a microchip implanted in them so that they can track them. Is that true?
Senator Grassley’s response was absolutely priceless:
Grassley: No. First of all, nothing can be done to your body without your permission….It’d be a violation of the constitutional right to privacy if that were to happen.
Here’s the video:
In case Grassley hasn’t thought about it that carefully, forcing a woman to have a baby certainly qualifies as doing something to her body without her permission. Actually, there is no right to privacy in the U.S. Constitution, but the Roe v. Wade decision created one; and Roe could certainly be used as precedent in any case relating to violations of body integrity.
In fact, the majority opinion of Roe v. Wade clearly states:
The Constitution does not explicitly mention any right of privacy. In a line of decisions, however, going back perhaps as far as Union Pacific R. Co. v. Botsford, 141 U.S. 250, 251 (1891), the Court has recognized that a right of personal privacy, or a guarantee of certain areas or zones of privacy, does exist under the Constitution…
Roe v. Wade, of course, established the right to privacy — the kind that might spare you from a government conspiracy to embed microchips that might reveal your entire health history. Or, you know, the kind of privacy that allows women to obtain a legal abortion in this country:
This right of privacy, whether it be founded in the Fourteenth Amendment’s concept of personal liberty and restrictions upon state action, as we feel it is, or, as the District Court determined, in the Ninth Amendment’s reservation of rights to the people, is broad enough to encompass a woman’s decision whether or not to terminate her pregnancy.
Grassley is a long-time opponent of abortion rights and advocate of overturning Roe v. Wade, and Naral gives him a zero rating on pro-choice issues. If Roe were overturned, where does Grassley think he’d find a constitutional “right to privacy”?
And let’s not forget the recent Republican obsession with forcing women to undergo vaginal probes before they can have an abortion.
Not to be outdone, the Indiana State Senate has passed a new law that requires a woman to have two (2) ultrasounds–before and after her “abortion”–even if she is just taking RU 487, or the morning after pill! The bill doesn’t specific intravaginal ultrasounds, but they would, in effect, be required, since most abortions are performed when the embryo or fetus is too small to be detected by a traditional ultrasound.
I’m not sure what Grassley’s position on these ultrasound laws is, but someone should definitely ask him. If forcing a woman to have two transvaginal probes in order to get a pill doesn’t qualify as the government doing something to “your body without your permission,” what does Grassley believe would qualify as a violation of a woman’s privacy? Maybe because the town hall questioner was a man, he was suggesting that only Americans with penises have privacy rights?
As the inimitable Charles Pierce once wrote about Senator Grassley in a different context:
This is also funny because, you see, if there’s one thing that Chuck Grassley is noted for, it is that he is the most spectacular box of rocks, the most bulging bag of hammers, in the history of the World’s Greatest Deliberative Body. If brains were atom bombs, he couldn’t blow his nose. If his IQ was one point lower, they’d have to water him. As the great Dan Jenkins once put it in another context, if the man had a brain, he’d be out in the yard playing with it.
I’ll have a Saturday Reads post up a little later on.
Every Friday, Chris Cillizza names the winner of the “Who had the worst week in Washington” award. This week’s winner was Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson for claiming that Hillary Clinton faked her emotional response to his ridiculous and annoying questions during the Senate Beghazi hearing.
So who had the best week? I’d say it was Hillary Clinton. Everyone except the most out-there wingnuts could see how brilliant she looked as she testified in Congress and made Republicans like Johnson and Rand Paul look like lightweights.
After the hearings, the media wondered why she was wearing those big glasses with the thick lenses. The Daily News explains:
Closeups of Secretary of State Clinton taken during her Senate testimony Wednesday revealed that her head injury last month left her with lingering vision problems.
As she testified about the Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. Consulate in Libya, the secretary of state appeared to have tiny vertical lines etched onto the left lens of her new brown specs.
Clinton’s spokesman confirmed Thursday night she is wearing the special glasses as a result of the fall and concussion she suffered last month, but he did not elaborate.
Experts told the Daily News that Clinton likely has a Fresnel prism placed on her glasses. The adhesive panel is used to treat double vision.
“If she’s wearing a Fresnel prism, then she has double vision without it,” said Dr. Mark Fromer, medical director of Fromer Eye Centers.
At New York Magazine, Dan Amira noted the many faces of Hillary adjusting her glasses during the Benghazi hearings and added captions to suggest what Hillary might have been thinking at the time. Here a couple of them:
I know everyone has heard about the latest Republican scheme to rig future presidential elections so Republican candidates win even if they lose the popular vote in a landslide. I’ve got a couple of useful reads for you on that effort. Josh Marshall writes about it at TPM under a photo of a nuclear mushroom cloud: This is a Big Big Deal.
The US electoral college system is based on winner take all delegate allocation in all but two states. If you get just one more vote than the other candidate you get all the electoral votes. One way to change the system is go to proportional allocation. That would still give some advantage to the overall winner. But not much. The key to the Republican plan is to do this but only in Democratic leaning swing states — not in any of the states where Republicans win. That means you take away all the advantage Dems win by winning states like Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan and so forth.
But the Republican plan goes a step further.
Rather than going by the overall vote in a state, they’d allocate by congressional district. And this is where it gets real good, or bad, depending on your point of view. Democrats are now increasingly concentrated in urban areas and Republicans did an extremely successful round of gerrymandering in 2010, enough to enable them to hold on to a substantial House majority even thoughthey got fewer votes in House races than Democrats.
In other words, the new plan is to make the electoral college as wired for Republicans as the House currently is. But only in Dem leaning states. In Republican states just keep it winner take all. So Dems get no electoral votes at all.
Another way of looking at this is that the new system makes the votes of whites count for much more than non-whites — which is a helpful thing if you’re overwhelmingly dependent on white votes in a country that is increasingly non-white.
So now the GOP wants to go beyond making voting incredibly difficult for anyone who isn’t rich and white to making the votes of rich white people count more than anyone else’s. At The Atlantic, Molly Ball reports on her interview with a “Republican operative” who is leading the effort to “Take the Electoral-Vote-Rigging Scheme National.”
Jordan Gehrke, a D.C.-based strategist who’s worked on presidential and Senate campaigns, is teaming up with Ken Blackwell, a former Ohio Republican secretary of state, to raise money for an effort to propose similar electoral reforms in states across the country, he told me this week.
Gehrke and Blackwell have been talking to major donors and plan to send a fundraising email to grassroots conservatives early next week. The money would go toward promoting similar plans to apportion electoral votes by congressional district in states across the country, potentially even hiring lobbyists in state capitals.
Gehrke isn’t saying which states the project might initially target. He says he’d like to see the plan implemented in every state, not just the ones where clever redistricting has given Republicans an edge, and he justifies it in policy, not political terms.
A presidential voting system where the electoral college was apportioned by congressional district might not be perfectly fair, he says, but it would be better than what we have now. It would bring democracy closer to the people, force presidential candidates to address the concerns of a more varied swath of the American populace, and give more clout to rural areas that are too often ignored. And while it might help Republicans in states like Virginia, it could give Democrats a boost in states like Texas. Ideally, this new system, implemented nationally, would strengthen both parties, he claims.
Uh huh. Sure. Read the interview at the link.
Connie from Orlando sent me this link to an article about violence against women at Truthout by Rebecca Solnit of TomDispatch: A Rape a Minute, a Thousand Corpses a Year: Hate Crimes in America (and Elsewhere)
We have an abundance of rape and violence against women in this country and on this Earth, though it’s almost never treated as a civil rights or human rights issue, or a crisis, or even a pattern. Violence doesn’t have a race, a class, a religion, or a nationality, but it does have a gender.
Here I want to say one thing: though virtually all the perpetrators of such crimes are men, that doesn’t mean all men are violent. Most are not. In addition, men obviously also suffer violence, largely at the hands of other men, and every violent death, every assault is terrible. But the subject here is the pandemic of violence by men against women, both intimate violence and stranger violence.
It’s impossible to give the gist of this article with a few excerpts, so I hope you’ll go read the whole thing. Here’s a bit more:
Rape and other acts of violence, up to and including murder, as well as threats of violence, constitute the barrage some men lay down as they attempt to control some women, and fear of that violence limits most women in ways they’ve gotten so used to they hardly notice — and we hardly address. There are exceptions: last summer someone wrote to me to describe a college class in which the students were asked what they do to stay safe from rape. The young women described the intricate ways they stayed alert, limited their access to the world, took precautions, and essentially thought about rape all the time (while the young men in the class, he added, gaped in astonishment). The chasm between their worlds had briefly and suddenly become visible.
Mostly, however, we don’t talk about it — though a graphic has been circulating on the Internet called Ten Top Tips to End Rape, the kind of thing young women get often enough, but this one had a subversive twist. It offered advice like this: “Carry a whistle! If you are worried you might assault someone ‘by accident’ you can hand it to the person you are with, so they can call for help.” While funny, the piece points out something terrible: the usual guidelines in such situations put the full burden of prevention on potential victims, treating the violence as a given. You explain to me why colleges spend more time telling women how to survive predators than telling the other half of their students not to be predators.
To continue the violence against women theme, Amanda Marcotte gives her take on the crazy proposed law in New Mexico that would jail women if they try to abort a pregnancy caused by rape because the fetus must be preserved as “evidence.”
Of course, the entire idea that having a rapist’s baby would somehow be treated as proof of a rape is beyond silly. After all, the defense against the charge of rape is rarely to claim that the penis didn’t go into the vagina, but to accuse the victim of consenting and then, due to the unique viciousness of women, claiming it was rape for the lulz. Or to conceal her epic sluttiness by having the police grill her about her sex life, the defense attorney question her about it for the public record, and the entire community gossip about what a big slut she must be to press rape charges. I suspect Brown knows this, coming from the same anti-choice circles as Todd “Legitimate Rape” Akin, where the belief is that women are deceitful creatures who will lie and kill to conceal how much fun sex they’re having.
To understand what’s going on here, you have to understand that anti-choicers primarily understand abortion as an attempt by women to hide how naughty they are. Never mind that most women getting abortions are in their 20s and are mothers already; the myth that abortion patients are young girls having all this sexy fun they’re not supposed to have and then hiding the “evidence” with abortion is so erotic and enticing for anti-choicers that they’re not letting it go. That’s why hanging out in front of abortion clinics and yelling at patients is so crucial to the movement: They believe you’re trying to hide your shameful non-virgin status, and by gum, they’re going to be there to make sure they get a chance to see your face and cast judgment. You will not get to hide your non-virginity from them! They are entitled to pass judgment, and if they don’t get to do it by shaming you for being a single mother, they’ll show up and yell at you at the abortion clinic. And probably masturbate about it later. You laugh, but when you see behavior like this enough, you begin to realize that this anti-choice obsession with abortion is so profound that “sexual fetish, no matter how sublimated” is the likeliest explanation.
I really think she’s right about the fetus fetishists.
Remember that story about the scientist from Harvard who wanted to find an “adventurous woman” to bear a Neanderthal child? Turns out it was just a bunch of media hooey. From the LA Times: ‘Cloned cave baby’ stories missed the mark, scientist says.
Let’s be clear: That Harvard scientist you heard about is NOT seeking an “adventurous woman” to give birth to a “cloned cave baby.”
But that was the juicy story making its way around Web on Tuesday.
The blowup began when the German magazine Der Spiegel published an interview with Harvard synthetic biologist George Church, who is well-known for his genome sequencing effort, the Personal Genome Project, and for all sorts of other unusual and creative projects such as encoding his new book, “Regenesis,” in actual DNA.
In his interview with Der Spiegel, Church discussed a number of ways “DNA will become the building block of the future,” as the magazine put it. The interview touched on back-engineering dinosaurs, by first identifying the mutations that separated ostriches, one of the closest living relatives of the dinosaurs, from their long-extinct forebears. It discussed the possibility of using DNA to build gadgets in the future — “cars, computers or coffee machines,” as Der Spiegel put it. Church also talked about the possibility of synthesizing genes to promote virus resistance or longevity.
As for the Neanderthal baby? It did come up — as a hypothetical. Church said that the speed at which technology was evolving might make such a project possible in the relatively near future, depending on “a lot of things.” He also observed that before any woman served as a surrogate for a cloned Neanderthal fetus, society would first have to accept human cloning.
I’ve got several more reads for you, in link dump fashion.
Stephanie Fairyington at The Atlantic: The Lonely Existence of Mel Feit, Men’s Rights Advocate
Lawyers, Guns & Money: Neoconfederate Judges Rule NLRB Recess Appointments Unconstitutional
Mia Fontaine at The Atlantic: America Has an Incest Problem
Now it’s your turn. What’s on your reading and blogging list today?
I should be at my mom’s house by now, but I had to stop for another night because I drove right into one of the three monster storms that are expected to crash into each other somewhere along the east coast. At least I got out of the Boston area, where I might have ended up without power for days. But I’m kind of wondering if I’ll still have a home to go back to. Anyway, I drove into a downpour in Ohio. At times it was raining so hard I could barely see, and it was also very foggy. I finally gave up and stopped for the night in Sandusky, Ohio. How weird is that? I hope tomorrow’s weather will be better.
I’ve got some links to get you started today–please forgive me if some of them are old news to you.
I’m going to start out with the latest on the polls. Even though the corporate media is still pushing the story that Romney’s winning, the real statistic nerds are saying that Romney basically got about a 4-5 point bump after the Denver debate, but that has dissipated and now the polls are favoring Obama again. Truthfully Obama never really lost his leads in the swing states he needs to win, but either lots of the media types are rooting for Romney (e.g., Joe Scarborough, Dancin’ Dave Gregory, Jim Vandehei) or they just want to make things seem close for career purposes.
Here’s the latest from Nate Silver: The State of the States
Thursday was a busy day for the polls, with some bright spots for each candidate. But it made clear that Barack Obama maintains a narrow lead in the polling averages in states that would get him to 270 electoral votes. Mr. Obama also remains roughly tied in the polls in two other states, Colorado and Virginia, that could serve as second lines of defense for him if he were to lose a state like Ohio.
On the national level, of course, the race is still basically tied; but Obama has a baseline of 237 electoral votes. He only needs to pick up a couple of swing states like Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, or Nevada to get to 270. Silver says it doesn’t look like Obama actually got a bump from the third debate–it’s more likely that the numbers are just regressing to the mean. Whatever the cause, Obama is leading in electoral votes
Last night, Silver’s model predicted that Obama will win 295 electoral votes and has a 74 percent chance of winning the election.
Lately I’ve been finding Sam Wang’s blog even more fun to read than Silver’s. On Tuesday Wang had a post on “Ro-mentum,” meaning the mainstream media’s latest narrative that Romney has the big mo and is probably going to win the election. Wang summed up that post as follows:
What is apparent is that the large plunge after Debate #1 came to a stop last week, right around the time of the VP debate. After that and Debate #2, Obama made some recovery. Now we are at a plateau, in which Obama is slightly – but decisively – ahead….
Today, the race is quite close. However, note this. In terms of the Electoral College, President Obama has been ahead on every single day of the campaign, without exception.
I would then give the following verdict: Indeed the race is close, but it seems stable. For the last week, there is no evidence that conditions have been moving toward Romney. There is always the chance that I may have to eat my words – but that will require movement that is not yet apparent in polls.
The popular vote is a different story. I estimate an approximately 25% chance that the popular vote and the electoral vote will go in opposite directions – a “Bush v. Gore scenario”. I regard this as a serious risk, since it would engender prolonged bitterness.
In summary: Ro-mentum!
Yesterday, Wang wrote a follow-up post in which he hilariously mocked David Brooks’ attempts to make sense of all the polls and falling for Ro-mentum.
It was fun to learn of David Brooks’s addiction to polling data. He spends countless hours on them, looking at aggregators, examining individual polls, and sniffing poll internals. From all of this, what has he learned?
1. Today, President Obama would be a bit more likely to win.
2. There seems to be a whiff of momentum toward Mitt Romney.
I am having a sad. All of that effort, and his two conclusions still have two major errors. Evidently he does not read the Princeton Election Consortium. Let us dissect this.
You should go read the whole thing, but basically, on point one if the election were held today Obama would have at least a 90% chance of winning; and on point two Brooks has fallen for the media narrative of Ro-mentum.
Today Wang found another Ro-mentum victim. Ro-mentum watch: John Dickerson, CBS/Slate. John Dickerson (son of Nancy Dickerson) is the quintessential Villager, and I can’t stand him–so I really enjoyed this one.
This is like shooting fish in a barrel. The latest, from John Dickerson at Slate:
It’s a fool’s game to guess whose momentum is greater. But Romney is peaking at just the right moment.
Ah, yes. The Great Election of October 13, 2012. I remember it well.
Wait a minute.
The subject of “political momentum” is a favorite among political pundits. I will guess that John Dickerson and David Brooks (“David Brooks – now with Ro-mentum!“, October 25) might not have found high school calculus to be their favorite subject. I wonder how they did in it.
And John Dickerson responded, completely missing the point.
The funniest thing about Dickerson’s Slate article is that it was a description of a speech Romney made in Defiance, Ohio on Thursday night in which Romney said something absolutely shocking that Dickerson didn’t even pick up on.
During the speech Romney set off a panic in Northwestern Ohio by announcing–based on some internet rumor that he read on a right wing blog–that Chrysler was planning to close the local Jeep plant and outsource all the jobs to China. From the Detroit News:
Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney told a rally in northern Ohio on Thursday night that Chrysler was considering moving production of its Jeep vehicles to China, apparently reacting to incorrect reports circulating online.
“I saw a story today that one of the great manufacturers in this state Jeep — now owned by the Italians — is thinking of moving all production to China,” Romney said at a rally in Defiance, Ohio, home to a General Motors powertrain plant. “I will fight for every good job in America. I’m going to fight to make sure trade is fair, and if it’s fair America will win.”
Romney was apparently responding to reports Thursday on right-leaning blogs that misinterpreted a recent Bloomberg News story earlier this week that said Chrysler, owned by Italian automaker Fiat SpA, is thinking of building Jeeps in China for sale in the Chinese market
People in Defiance and nearby Toledo and other surrounding cities and towns were so freaked out that they started calling Chrysler and the company had to rush out and correct Mr. Mittmentum.
“Let’s set the record straight: Jeep has no intention of shifting production of its Jeep models out of North America to China. It’s simply reviewing the opportunities to return Jeep output to China for the world’s largest auto market. U.S. Jeep assembly lines will continue to stay in operation.”
How irresponsible can you get? Can you imagine if Romney were president? We’d have a major crisis once a week or so.
TPM has an interesting piece up on polls: Live Polls Show Obama With Bigger Leads In Ohio.
Surveys of the Buckeye State have been all over the board in recent weeks as the election draws near. While most show President Obama with the lead, the size of it depends on whether the pollster was using human beings or robots to do the interviewing.
TPM compared the two methods and found that polls conducted by a live interviewer, the method widely considered to be the gold standard, have shown the President with larger leads than polls conducted by automated calls, which are prohibited from contacting people through cell phones. Since early September, live polls have shown Obama with an average lead of 4.5 percentage points in Ohio while his average lead in robo-polls has been less than 2.
Ohio has been the most polled state of the presidential campaign since the national conventions, edging both Florida and Virginia for that distinction. The 44 polls conducted there since the conclusion of the Democratic National Convention on Sept. 6 include 22 done by automated calling, 16 performed by live phone interviews, five conducted online and one based on mail-in responses.
Check out the chart at the link.
Just a couple more recommended reads for you.
Alternet has a must read piece on the horrors the government covered up during the BP oil gusher. Coverup No More: Shocking Photos and Emails of Dead Wildlife from Gulf of Mexico Spill Emerge
Some two and a half years after the BP oil spill, Greenpeace has obtained emails and photos from a U.S. government agency that reveal the extent to which the government tried to shield the public from the wildlife casualties of the spill.
Alternet links to their source article at the Guardian: US downplayed effect of Deepwater oil spill on whales, emails reveal.
Read only if you have a strong stomach.
Garance Franke-Ruta of The Atlantic has a piece on the Republican rape and abortion obsession that provides a historical take that fits with terrific post Dakinikat wrote on the subject yesterday. It’s titled Richard Mourdock, Mitt Romney and the GOP Defense of Coerced Mating.
Both Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan have enthusiastically endorsed Mourdock, and have stood by him even after he claimed that if a women becomes pregnant through rape, “god” must have willed that zygote to be conceived and therefore a the raped girl or woman must carry and bear the child, no matter how that affects her life. Franke-Ruta writes about the history of forced marriage and makes the argument that other feminists have made–that sexual violence is a means for keeping women under control.
Coerced and not entirely voluntary mating have occurred throughout human history. I had a friend many years ago whose mother was a prize of war in a national conflict; it made for complicated family dynamics. But one sees rape, forced marriage and war go hand in hand throughout the ages, including our own; it is another form of conquest to create the next generation in your image from the bodies of the conquered. Violating women is a way of subjugating a population — sowing fear among the women, blocking the men from access to the future, and rupturing and weakening all the social bonds that made up the society that fought and lost. But for this to work there must also be children of rape. “If one group wants to control another they often do it by impregnating women of the other community because they see it as a way of destroying the opposing community,” former head of the Gender Unit at Amnesty International Gita Sahgal has explained. Women must learn to love the image of their conquerors written in the faces of the children they suckle, and to despise themselves, and their weakness. If captives come to identify with those who hold them, it is only a tale as old as our ability to survive by orienting our beings around whoever has power over us.
This is one reason Missouri Republican U.S. Senate candidate Todd Akin’s mid-August comments that “if it’s a legitimate rape the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down” set off such a firestorm — his beliefs showed deep biological and historical ignorance about the way rape-created pregnancies have been used to transform and dominate whole populations. But in his denial of the possibility of rape-created pregnancy he was acknowledging the truth that would erupt again into public view with Mourdock’s remarks: Post-rape pregnancies are where blanket anti-abortion views become de facto support for coercive mating and the legally sanctioned denial of agency to women not only on the question of whether to have a child, but who the child’s father should be.
Outside of the context of war, rape historically has been something more akin to a property crime than a crime against women per se — the injured party was the husband or father to whom the woman belonged, and recompense for the crime was made to him for the injury to his standing and damage to the marital or social value of the woman. It was also an honor crime, and in large parts of the world rape continues to be seen as one for which women bear primary responsibility. As such being raped is viewed as a female sexual transgression that creates a justification or even obligation for male relatives and community members to shun the assaulted, or, rarely, even avenge familial honor by killing victims.
I hope you’ll read the whole post–it’s very powerful.
Now what are you reading and blogging about today?
In a debate with his two rivals tonight Tea Party Senate candidate Richard Mourdock stated that he believes life begins at conception, and the only cases in which abortion should be legal are when it is necessary to save the pregnant woman’s life.
Indiana Republican Senate candidate Richard Mourdock said Tuesday that sometimes God intends for babies to result from rape.
“I struggled with it myself for a long time, but I came to realize life is that gift from God,” Mourdock said at a debate (video, which was posted by the state Democratic Party, is below). “And I think even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen.”
Mourdock appeared to be choking up as he made the comments. He also noted that, while he doesn’t believe in abortion in the case of rape and incest, he does believe it should be used to save the life of the mother.
“God” intends for rapes to happen? Wow. And Hoosiers voted for this creep over Richard Lugar?
Mourdock either has no idea what happens to victims of rape and incest, which are violent criminal acts that can lead to years of psychological suffering for victims. Where do these people come from? They never express the slightest concern for the women involved in these horrendous situations or for the lifelong effects on the mother, the child, and other people close to them. Do men like Mourdock (and Todd Akin, Paul Ryan, and Rick Santorum) even believe than women are human beings?
This is an open thread.