Tuesday Reads: Silent Protest Slows State Sanctioned Rape Bill, Santorum Knows Best, and Other News

Silent protest of state-sanctioned rape bill in Richmond, VA

Good Morning!!

I’m so glad I can begin with good news. We’ve all been enraged about the bill in the Virginia legislature that would require a woman who needed an abortion to be penetrated against her will by a transvaginal ultrasound probe in order for her to view the contents of her womb. The bill would also require the doctor to note in her medical record whether she viewed the image or not.

Yesterday, citizens of Virgina held a “silent protest”, organized on Facebook, outside the Virginia Statehouse. From Fox News:

Hundreds of women locked arms and stood mute outside the Virginia State Capitol on Monday to protest a wave of anti-abortion legislation coursing through the General Assembly.

Capitol and state police officers, there to ensure order, estimated the crowd to be more than 1,000 people — mostly women. The crowd formed a human cordon through which legislators walked before Monday’s floor sessions of the Republican-controlled legislature.

The silent protest was over bills that would define embryos as humans and criminalize their destruction, require “transvaginal” ultrasounds of women seeking abortions, and cut state aid to poor women seeking abortions.

Molly Vick of Richmond said it was her first time to take part in a protest, but the issue was too infuriating and compelling. On her lavender shirt, she wore a sticker that said “Say No to State-Mandated Rape.” Just beneath the beltline of her blue jeans was a strip of yellow tape that read “Private Property: Keep Out.”

In addition, a new poll released yesterday showed that most Virginians do not support changes to the state’s abortion laws.

Virginia voters, by wide margins…oppose mandating that a woman receive an ultrasound before having an abortion, according to a new poll.

The results of the Christopher Newport University/Richmond Times-Dispatch survey put majorities at odds with legislation poised to pass in the General Assembly….

Of those polled, 55 percent say they oppose the requirement and 36 percent support it. The House and Senate have passed versions of the legislation.

“The governor will await the General Assembly’s final action,” said Tucker Martin, a spokesman for McDonnell. “If the bill passes he will review it, in its final form, at that time.”

Andy Kopsa at RH Reality Check wondered a few days ago if McDonnell might be getting cold feet. I bet he is after yesterday’s events. The demonstration apparently made the legislators nervous, because they decided to delay a vote on the bill.

I can’t help but wonder what motivates people to propose punitive, unconstitutional laws like this. Are they sadists? My guess is they had authoritarian parents who had no empathy for their feelings and now they unconsciously want to punish other people for the pain they suffered. Is that what happened to Rick Santorum? I wish I knew.

I’ve spent a lot of time lately trying to figure out how Rick Santorum came to be a religious fanatic. He must be a true believer, because he can’t seem to stop himself from talking about his bizarre beliefs, even though he must know they won’t help him politically. There’s a great summary of the crazy things Santorum said over the past weekend at The New Civil Rights Movement blog. I know you’ve heard about it already, but to read it all in one place is just stunning. Check it out.

Oh, and did you hear that Alice Stewart, who is Santorum’s national spokesperson, on Andrea Mitchell’s show yesterday? She was defending Santorum’s remarks to an Ohio Tea Party audience about President Obama having an “agenda” based on a “phony theology”

The “president’s agenda” is “not about you,” he said. “It’s not about you. It’s not about your quality of life. It’s not about your job.

“It’s about some phony ideal, some phony theology,” Santorum said to applause from the crowd. “Oh, not a theology based on the Bible, a different theology, but no less a theology.”

I hope someone asks Santorum at the next debate why he thinks government should operate according to the bible or any kind of theology. But I digress….

The former Pennsylvania senator has said he believes Obama is a Christian, and a statement from the campaign stresses that as well, adding that Santorum was talking not about the president’s religion, but political ideology.

“The President says he’s a Christian and Rick believes that and has even said so publicly many times,” National Communications Director Hogan Gidley said in a statement. “Rick was talking about the President’s belief in the secular theology of government — and how believing that theology is dangerous because government theology teaches that it’s perfectly fine (to) take away our individual God-given rights and freedoms. Our founders wrote the Constitution to protect our individual rights and freedoms, but it’s clear that President Obama believes the government should control your life. Rick Santorum believes in the Constitution and will always fight to protect our freedoms.”

But getting back to Alice Stewart on the Andrea Mitchell show and her major boo boo–a real Freudian slip if I ever heard one–here it is, as described by Sarah Posner at Religion Dispatches Magazine (with video).

Today, his national press secretary, Alice Stewart (whose previous job was press secretary for Michele Bachmann’s presidential campaign), went on MSNBC and also claimed that Santorum wasn’t questioning Obama’s religion. Instead, she said, he was talking about “radical environmentalists, there is a type of theological secularism when it comes to the global warmists in this country. That’s what he was referring to. He was referring to the president’s policies, in terms of the radical Islamic policies the president has and specifically in terms of energy exploration.”

Stewart called back shortly afterward to say that she had “made a slip of the tongue” and hadn’t meant to say “Islamic,” but had intended to say “environmental.” But Posner, the author of a book on the religious right, God’s Profits: Faith, Fraud, and the Republican Crusade for Values Voters, isn’t buying it.

Of course. Because secularists and Muslims and environmentalists are equally the sworn enemies of anyone with a “Christian worldview” and therefore America. An understandable mistake to mix them up in a torrent of dog-whistles: Theological secularism. Global warmists. Radical Islamic. If you’ve had a “Christian worldview” education, you’ve been taught that two of those—secularism and Islam—are competing “worldviews” in a cosmic clash with Christianity, vying for domination in the world. And you’ve probably been exposed to the false claim that global warming is a hoax, that environmentalism “and its ramifications must be clearly understood by Christians so that we can protect ourselves and especially our children from the unbiblical brainwash that permeates our schools, media, popular culture, and yes, our churches,” according to Christian Worldview radio host David Wheaton.

More right wing nuts that I’ve never heard of. Lately I’ve been reading everything I can about these right wing religious cults–and they are cults. I’ve read about Catholic cults, the Mormon cult (yes, I believe it is a cult), and for the past few days I’ve been reading about right wing protestant movements in a book by Max Blumenthal, Republican Gomorrah.

I spent much of yesterday afternoon reading reports of Santorum’s pronouncements and speculations by various writers on why he’s so obsessed with everyone else’s sex lives and can’t stop talking about his bizarre religious beliefs. Alec MacGillis at The New Republic thinks he has the answer. MacGillis says the pundits

cannot fathom why Santorum would keep veering off a pre-Michigan script that that was supposed to be geared toward the economy, manufacturing in particular. What this reflects, though, is a misconception grounded in our lack of experience with true political ideologues. We talk a lot these days about Washington having been overtaken by conservative ideologues, but this is an exaggeration. Many of those glibly parroting right-wing ideology these days—say, Eric Cantor—are mere opportunists. But Rick Santorum is a rare breed—a bona fide ideologue with a fixed and coherent world view. He can’t just switch some button and turn off the social stuff and talk jobs instead. It’s all woven together. “I’m not going to go out and lay out an agenda about how we’re going to transform people’s hearts,” he said today. “But I will talk about it.”

It reminds me of a quote from a 2005 New York Times Magazine Profile on Santorum, called “The Believer.”

Sean Reilly, a former aide to Santorum in the Senate and now a political consultant in Philadelphia, said that he has come to view his former boss in other than political terms. ”Rick Santorum is a Catholic missionary,” he said. ”That’s what he is. He’s a Catholic missionary who happens to be in the Senate.”

You know, I really don’t want a Catholic missionary in the White House.

Something else I learned from MacGillis: Karen Santorum hasn’t really spent her whole married life keeping house and homeschooling her kids.

I’m a little surprised that there hasn’t been more focus yet on the fact that Karen Santorum, who is trained as a lawyer and as a neonatal nurse, has a lengthy work history, and it includes a job that raised a few eyebrows back in the 1990s—working for the media firm that did, and still does, the advertising for Rick Santorum’s campaigns. From a 2003 UPI report:

Federal Election Commission records reviewed by UPI show Santorum’s campaign making payments to BrabenderCox totaling nearly $4 million and $6 million in the 1994 and 2000 elections for media work. Most contracts allow political ad firms to keep around 15 percent of the payments.

Santorum’s Senate financial disclosure forms show a salary from the company to Karen Santorum in 1995, 1996, 1997 and 1998, although Senate rules do not require a disclosure of the amount.

In a telephone interview, John Brabender said he paid Karen Santorum around $4,000 a month, mostly for “client development.”

“She helped us try to get accounts and often acted as our Washington representative,” Brabender said. “She was both a stay-at-home mom and a professional at the same time.”

Brabender said his hiring of Karen Santorum had “nothing to do” with Sen. Santorum hiring BrabenderCox.

Now isn’t that interesting? And here’s something else interesting from Mother Jones: How Rick Santorum Ripped Off American Veterans It’s all about how as Senator, Santorum used an amendment in a defense authorization bill to cheat the Armed Forces Retirement Home out of $27 million in order to help the Catholic Church get some land cheaply. Real saintly, huh?

Well, enough about Rick Santorum. Here are a few more headlines to get you started on the day.

Eurozone seals second Greek bailout

Mitt Romney’s fundraising stagnates, decreasing his financial advantage

Ron Paul’s billionaire sugar daddy, Paul Theil of Paypal

Clint Eastwood says We Haven’t Had a Great President Since Truman!

That’s it for me. What are you reading and blogging about today?


Paul Supporters Undermine Santorum’s Anti-Abortion Credentials at “Personhood” Forum

At the Daily Beast, Michelle Goldberg reports that Rick Santorum was put on the defensive yesterday at a Personhood USA forum in Greenville, South Carolina.

Wednesday afternoon, all the Republican presidential candidates except Mitt Romney spoke at a town-hall meeting in Greenville, South Carolina, organized by Personhood USA, the hardline anti-abortion group. It should have been Santorum’s sweet spot—after all, no other candidate has made social issues so central to his campaign. The forum seemed designed to amplify his attacks on Romney. Each candidate was questioned for 20 minutes by a panel of three anti-abortion activists, who made frequent reference to Romney’s pro-choice past and his refusal to attend the event. In the end, though, the night might have hurt Santorum most of all.

For one thing, the audience was dominated, unexpectedly, by vocal Ron Paul supporters, with only a small number of visible Santorum fans. That’s a bad sign for the ex-senator, since if he can’t dominate at an anti-abortion gathering, he can’t dominate anywhere. Worse, while hundreds of attendees were inside the Greenville Hilton ballroom, someone was slipping flyers on their windshields warning that when it comes to abortion, Santorum is really a “wolf in sheep’s clothing” who doesn’t mean what he says.

The flyers referred to Karen Santorum’s long-term relationship with Tom Allen, an abortion provider in Pittsburgh. The relationship ended after Karen met her future husband Rick. In addition the flyers charged that Santorum had voted to fund Planned Parenthood, without explaining that the funding had been included in an omnibus budget bill. Read the complete text of the flyer here.

Goldberg suggests that Paul supporters are taking a leaf from Karl Rove’s playbook, specifically his well-known strategy of attacking opposition candidates’ greatest strengths.

The letter ended by describing Santorum in terms more often used for Romney. “I’m worried the facts about Rick Santorum won’t get out in time for this South Carolina Primary, and pro-lifers will be fooled into voting someone [sic] like Rick Santorum who DOES NOT share our values,” it says. “He just wants to be President so badly, he’ll say anything to be elected.”

Indeed, if you hadn’t been following the primary, you’d have left the Hilton on Wednesday thinking that Paul, the OB/GYN, was the best-known abortion opponent in the race….Paul doesn’t dwell on this stuff when he’s speaking to libertarian crowds, which may be why some Paul supporters are under the misapprehension that he just wants to return the issue of abortion to the states. In fact, speaking at the Personhood forum, he made it clear that he only wants to do that while working toward an anti-abortion constitutional amendment. He even boasted of his ability to win libertarians to the anti-abortion cause.

Ron Paul was not even at the meeting, but addressed the crowd by video feed. Nevertheless, his supporters dominated the event.


Tuesday Reads: SC Republican Debate, Karen Santorum, and Did Mitt Really Win Iowa?

Good Morning!!

Last night was the Fox News/WSJ South Carolina Republican Debate. As usual, it was a nightmare. It’s so strange to listen to people who feel they need to defend themselves if they ever did a decent thing in their lives or ever subscribed to some rational opinion or policy. And these men claim to be “Christians.” We had a live blog of the horrible thing, so check it out if you’re interested in what we said off the top of our heads.

I’m writing this late Monday night, so all the reactions to the debate haven’t come out yet. I’ll update in the comments in the morning, but here’s a preliminary report from Fox News.

Gingrich and Perry led the assault against Romney’s record at Bain Capital, a venture capital firm that bought companies and sought to remake them into more competitive enterprises.

“There was a pattern in some companies … of leaving them with enormous debt and then within a year or two or three having them go broke,” Gingrich said. “I think that’s something he ought to answer.”

Perry referred to a steel mill in Georgetown, S.C. where, he said, “Bain swept in, they picked that company over and a lot of people lost jobs there.”

Romney said that the steel industry was battered by unfair competition from China. As for other firms, he said, “Four of the companies that we invested in … ended up today having some 120,000 jobs.

“Some of the businesses we invested in were not successful and lost jobs,” he said, but he offered no specifics.

Romney claimed that the steel mill in SC that went bankrupt had been purchased by another company after he left Bain, and that all the employees were offered jobs, but not at union wages. Perry also demanded that Mitt release his tax returns. Mitt very nervously said he would “probably” do that in April. He is leaving the decision “open,” but made no definite commitment. Romney supported indefinite detention of American citizens without due process, while Ron Paul argued that American citizens should have the right of Habeas Corpus.

The Wall Street Journal had a live blog of the debate as did the Washington Post and Andrew Sullivan at The Daily Beast.

Did you know that Karen Santorum lived with an abortion doctor close to three times her age before she met and married Rick? There’s a pretty detailed piece on this at The Daily Beast. Mrs. Santorum’s

live-in partner through most of her 20s was Tom Allen, a Pittsburgh obstetrician and abortion provider 40 years older than she, who remains an outspoken crusader for reproductive rights and liberal ideals. Dr. Allen has known Mrs. Santorum, born Karen Garver, her entire life: he delivered her in 1960.

“Karen was a lovely girl, very intelligent and sweet,” says Allen, who at 92 uses a walker but retains a sly smile. A wine aficionado who frequented the Pittsburgh Symphony and was active in the local chapter of the ACLU, he lives with his wife of 16 years, Judi—they started dating in 1989, soon after he and Garver split—in the same large detached row house where he lived with the woman who would become Santorum’s wife. He and Garver also lived for several years in another house a few blocks away. “Karen had no problems with what I did for a living,” says Allen, who helped start one of the first hospital-sanctioned abortion clinics in Pennsylvania. “We never really discussed it.”

Karen Garver Santorum with former live-in lover

In fact, Karen told her older lover that he would like Rick, who was then pro-choice and “a humanist.” More from Hass’ story:

Mary and Herbert Greenberg, longtime friends of Allen’s through Herbert’s job as concertmaster of the Pittsburgh Symphony, recall that Karen had seemed entirely familiar and comfortable with the subject of abortion when the couples socialized. In October 1983, Mary Greenberg (who had moved to Baltimore with her husband) flew to Pittsburgh to consult Allen about an abortion. He directed her to colleagues at the Women’s Health Center; Karen, recalls Mary, immediately offered to accompany her to the clinic. “She told me it wasn’t that bad, that I shouldn’t be worried,” says Mary, who ultimately went on her own, and met Allen and Garver for dinner later that night. “She was very supportive.”

Allen says they split up because Karen wanted to have children and he had been there and done that already.

I’m just fascinated by this. I spent most of yesterday reading about the Santorums, and trying to figure out when and how their dramatic conversion took place. Neither was raised in a fundamentalist home, and neither was particularly religious before they got married. Then something happened. It really smells cult-like to me. I’m wondering if Santorum was approached by a fundamentalist group when he entered national politics. According to friends, he was a moderate Republican at first and then suddenly went off the deep end. If I can figure out what happened, I’ll write a post about it.

This is interesting. According to the Washington Times, fundy activists are now fighting over the endorsement of Santorum by the group of 150 who met in Texas on Sunday.

In an evolving power struggle, religious conservatives are feuding about whether a weekend meeting in Texas yielded a consensus that former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum is the best bet to stop Mitt Romney’s drive for the Republican presidential nomination.

A leading evangelical and former aide to President George H.W. Bush said he agreed with suspicions voiced by others at the meeting of evangelical and conservative Catholic activists that organizers “manipulated” the gathering and may even have stuffed the ballot to produce an endorsement of Mr. Santorum over former House Speaker Newt Gingrich.

Mr. Santorum, who nearly upset Mr. Romney in the Iowa caucuses, won the first ballot ahead of Mr. Gingrich in Saturday’s Texas meeting but the margin was too slim for organizers to claim a consensus. It was not until the third ballot, taken after many people had left to catch flights back home, that Mr. Santorum won more than 70 percent of those still in attendance and claimed the endorsement.

Former White House evangelical-outreach official Doug Wead, who represented GOP presidential hopeful Texas Rep. Ron Paul at the event, said it appeared the outcome obviously was determined in advance by the choice of the people invited.

The article is pretty funny. Read it if you enjoy fights among right wing nuts.

There has been talk that Romney was credited with too many votes in Iowa and should have come in second. Now Byron York is saying it could be true. According to York,

there is a very real chance that the Republican Party of Iowa will announce this week that Rick Santorum, and not Romney, won the Iowa caucuses.

Results released on caucus night — actually, at 2 the next morning — showed Romney won by eight votes, 30,015 to Santorum’s 30,007. Many observers assumed that those results were final, especially when party officials said there would be no recount.

But the results were not final. Even though there is no provision for a recount in the party caucuses, state GOP rules do require that the results be certified, which is nearly the same thing. That certification process began the day after the caucuses and is expected to wrap up this week, yielding a final, official vote tally…..

In the past two weeks, party employees have been working nearly nonstop to certify the results from each of Iowa’s 1,774 precincts. During that time, they have regularly briefed campaign representatives on what’s going on. In the next few days, they are expected to finish tallying and certifying the last Form Es and come up with official certified results.

The final numbers will be different from those released on caucus night. One campaign source says the vote count as of midday Monday showed Santorum ahead by 80-something votes. If that number holds through certification of the last precincts, Santorum will win. Of course, there is always the possibility that some of the final precincts will contain discrepancies that put Romney back on top. It’s just not clear.

Hmmmmmmm….

Many internet sites, including Sky Dancing plan to go dark tomorrow, Jan. 18, as a protest against the Stop on-line piracy (SOPA) and Protect IP (PIPA) acts. The big news last night was that Wikipedia is joining the protest.

Might want to get your Encyclopedia Britannica set out of storage: Wikipedia will go dark Wednesday, joining a growing number of popular websites staging an online revolt against two anti-piracy bills.

Founder Jimmy Wales made the announcement in tweets on Monday, telling followers his goal is to “melt phone systems in Washington” in opposition to the Stop Online Piracy Act in the House and the PROTECT IP Act in the Senate.

The online protest puts Wikipedia in the company of other websites such as Reddit and popular games such as Minecraft in leveraging its substantial size and clout to campaign against the bills. Wales suggested on Twitter the impact of the blackout could be significant, given that “comScore estimates the English Wikipedia receives 25 million average daily visitors globally.”

We’ll have more information today on Sky Dancing’s plans. As of now, we plan to black out our site beginning at 8AM Wednesday. The protest is scheduled to end at 8PM Wednesday night, so we’ll be posting after that.

That’s all I’ve got for you today. What are you reading and blogging about?


Open Thread: Karen Santorum’s Book Has Become Collector’s Item

Recently, I wrote a post about Rick and Karen Santorum’s responses to their miscarriage. After this loss, Karen wrote a book called Letters to Gabriel: The True Story of Gabriel Michael Santorum. At the time, I looked up the book and it was selling cheaply on Amazon.

Some of you may know that I’ve become a bookseller, at least temporarily. Well, I should have bought a bunch of copies of Karen’s book when I had the chance. The book was published in 1998, and until recently used copies were selling for less than a dollar. Today, the cheapest price I could find was close to $100.00 on some foreign websites. New copies of the book begin at $2,5 on Amazon and nearly $900 on E-bay. This copy at Half.com was selling for $.75 plus postage just recently and is now listed at $891.00.

I don’t know who is buying the book–maybe slumming pro-choice readers or pious anti-choicers–maybe both. Since I began selling my book collection, I’ve sold a few old and scarce books for inflated prices, but never this inflated. I’m going to have to get better at foreseeing these kinds of trends!


Late Night Evening Reads Thursday: Monkey See, Monkey Do

Good evening…

Today has been one of those days, you know the ones where you wake up with a foreboding feeling. Most of the day was spent at the kids Orthodontist. I just have to say that orthodontics have come a ways since the days of headgear. Who knew that torture devices can be found at your local “braces” office. They put this Herbst Device on my son…to give him a more pronounced jaw and chin, it was purely cosmetic.

This thing is like a medieval rack for your mouth. And what bothered me is that this doctor’s office would not give us any written literature on the device, until after it was put in. (The office workers are not allowed…a bit strange yes?)

Well, needless to say, the kid had to go back to the office and get the thing taken off. So I have no idea what has gone on in the world today, and honestly I don’t want to know. It is nice sometimes to be in an oblivious fog.

These items for you tonight are articles I came across this morning, hopefully they are new to you.

Rick and Karen Santorum: Strangers to the Truth, Promoters of Theocracy | RH Reality Check

Karen Santorum (née Garver) proclaims herself pro-life and eschews women who live with men “out-of-wedlock,” an injunction Rick claims is Biblical. But as a nursing student at Duquesne University, Karen Santorum lived with Tom Allen, an obstetrician-gynecologist (ob-gyn) who was 40 years her senior (she was 20 and the doctor 60 years of age). Allen had in fact delivered Karen as a baby. He was also a co-founder of Pittsburgh’s first abortion clinic.  At the time that she had the sexual affair with Allen, Karen Garver (Santorum) was pro-choice.  When she met Rick Santorum, she was eager and delighted to tell Dr. Allen that Rick Santorum was pro-choice.  As Dr. Allen told a Pennsylvania newspaper in 2005 (see Philadelphia Citypaper):

“When she moved out to go be with Rick, she told me I’d like him, that he was pro-choice and a humanist,” said Allen, an elderly but vibrant man, during a brief conversation on the porch of his Pittsburgh row home. “But I don’t think there’s a humanist bone in that man’s body.”

The Santorums condemn Hillary Clinton’s book It Takes A Village as being “anti-family.”  In response to Clinton’s book, Rick wrote It Takes A Family: Conservatism and the Common Good (449 pages). On page 138 Santorum wrote:

“The notion that college education is a cost-effective way to help poor, low-skill, unmarried mothers with high school diplomas or GEDs move up the economic ladder is just wrong.”

Or page 386:

“It’s amazing that so many kids turn out to be fairly normal, considering the weird socialization they get in public schools.” At one point, he accuses feminists of hating women, yet in speeches he claims that feminists are lesbians.

The Santorums argue that the parents must protect their children from any dissettlements that could jeopardize the childrens mental health. However, the Santorums took home a 20-week-old dead fetus for their children to play with and kiss, before they buried Gabriel the next day.

There are other items in this article, some of which have been discussed on the blog before. I just found the info on Karen interesting.

This week the Google Science Fair awards were discussed at TEDxWomen:  Google Science Fair: Teenage Girls Discuss Award-Winning Research At TEDxWomen

Talk about girl power — three American high school girls made headlines in November when they swept the 2011 international Google Science Fair, earning the grand prize awards in all three age groups.

Over 10,000 students from 91 countries entered the first-annual Google Science Fair, and 15 finalists (nine of whom were boys) were selected to present their research to judges at Google’s headquarters in Silicon Valley.

17-year-old Shree Bose from Fort Worth was awarded for her research on a chemotherapy drug, cisplatin, that is commonly used to treat women with ovarian cancer. Bose discovered a cellular energy protein that could keep cells from growing resistant to cisplatin over time.

In the 15-16 age group, Naomi Shah won with her study of the effects of air quality on lungs, focusing on individuals with asthma. Lauren Hodge dominated the 13-14 age group with her research on whether various marinades reduce the level of carcinogens and other cancer-causing compounds produced when grilling meat.

Video at the link…

Those are some amazing topics, and these girls give hope that we are not going completely the way of the saddled dinosaurs. Those who are reading or have read Charlie Pierce’s book Idiot America know what I am talking about.   If you are not familiar, take a look at that link…

In olden days, every village had one: an idiot. Just one, though. A village with too many idiots collected the extra ones and put them on a ship of fools.

Today, fools flourish. They are not banished from sight, but allowed to thrive everywhere you look: Sunday church, radio, TV, Washington, banks and blogs.

Charles P. Pierce, staff writer for the Boston Globe Magazine, has written a book about them: “Idiot America: How Stupidity Became a Virtue in the Land of the Free.”

Passing underneath rather a lot of low-hanging fruit, he stops to ponder, for example, the fundamentalist mayhem surrounding Terri Schiavo, the brain-dead woman in a Florida hospice who some believed might rise to run a marathon, or the last election, given its shortage of sane candidates.

Pierce is contemptuous of educated elites who abuse the credulous for power and profit, but takes a softer tone to some of their victims, say the happy dummies who wander through the Creation Museum in Petersburg, Kentucky, which includes a small, saddled dinosaur that might have fit into Noah’s Ark — and thus qualified as one of God’s creatures.

And with this in mind, I will end with the recent study that shows: BBC Nature – Crested macaque monkeys follow friends before family

Crested macaque monkeys look to their friends for “guidance” more readily than to their family, according to scientists.

The University of Portsmouth team that made this discovery measured how quickly one monkey would follow the gaze of another.

Gaze following is very important in macaque society – helping the animals to find food or spot potential danger.

The findings are published in the journal Animal Behaviour.

They reveal, the researchers say, the importance of friendship in complex societies, where animals live together and rely on one another.

Crested macaques (c) Jerome Micheletta

In some contexts… friendship can even be more important than family ties”

Jerome Micheletta University of Portsmouth
“We [study these primates] to try to explain how our own social system evolved,” explained lead researcher Jerome Micheletta from the University of Portsmouth.

“We want to know why we humans form groups and… social relationships.”

Mr Micheletta, who is studying the behaviour of macaques as part of his PhD, said that previous research on social primates had already shown how important friendship was in terms of “fitness, reproductive success and the reduction of stress”.

“But there’s little evidence about how social relationships and friendship actually affect behaviour,” he explained to BBC Nature.

Give that link a read, it is interesting to see how the scientist observed the behavior…maybe they need to do the same thing to both parties, the Dems and the GOP.  I don’t know about you, but I think there is a link between these monkey’s relationships, and the politicians…media and voters.

What do you think?


Saturday Reads: Abortion, Loss, Grief, and Privacy

Rick and Karen Santorum

Good Morning!

Tonight is the New Hampshire Republican debate. Will there be fireworks between Newt and Mitt or even Newt and Rick Santorum? Newt is still on the warpath. Tonight Wonk the Vote is planning a very special live blog with drinks and maybe drinking games.

I liked the suggestion I heard from Willie Geist on MSNBC yesterday morning. He said people should take a drink every time Rick Santorum says “partial birth abortion.” And then he played audio of Santorum saying it over and over. Okay, I know that’s tasteless, but it did make me laugh yesterday around 5AM. Anyway, be sure to drop by tonight for Wonk’s live blog!

Speaking of late-term abortions (or not-abortions), I’ve been thinking a lot about Rick and Karen Santorum and the story of how they reacted after Karen lost a pregnancy at 19-20 weeks in 1996. Once I started writing, it ended up being the focus of this post. I hope some other people also think it’s worth thinking and writing about and you won’t think I’m too “weird” for doing so.

There has been quite a bit of discussion around the internet about the couple’s decision to bring their dead baby (actually a second trimester fetus) home with them for their children to hold and cuddle. Karen Santorum subsequently wrote a book about the family’s experiences, Letters to Gabriel. Dakinikat wrote about this in a recent post that I can’t seem to locate at the moment. From 2005 NYT article (previously quoted by Dakinikat):

The childbirth in 1996 was a source of terrible heartbreak — the couple were told by doctors early in the pregnancy that the baby Karen was carrying had a fatal defect and would survive only for a short time outside the womb. According to Karen Santorum’s book, “Letters to Gabriel: The True Story of Gabriel Michael Santorum,” she later developed a life-threatening intrauterine infection and a fever that reached nearly 105 degrees. She went into labor when she was 20 weeks pregnant. After resisting at first, she allowed doctors to give her the drug Pitocin to speed the birth. Gabriel lived just two hours.

What happened after the death is a kind of snapshot of a cultural divide. Some would find it discomforting, strange, even ghoulish — others brave and deeply spiritual. Rick and Karen Santorum would not let the morgue take the corpse of their newborn; they slept that night in the hospital with their lifeless baby between them. The next day, they took him home. “Your siblings could not have been more excited about you!” Karen writes in the book, which takes the form of letters to Gabriel, mostly while he is in utero. “Elizabeth and Johnny held you with so much love and tenderness. Elizabeth proudly announced to everyone as she cuddled you, ‘This is my baby brother, Gabriel; he is an angel.'” ”

Pitocin is a synthetic form of oxytocin, a hormone with important roles in childbirth, breastfeeding, and attachment (love). As a drug, it is used to induce labor contractions. Therefore, many people see what happened as a late term abortion. At 19 weeks, the child when delivered is fully formed, but is still technically a fetus because it cannot live outside the womb.

In fact, hospital forms about the death read “20-week-old fetus,” according to a 2005 Washington Post story, but the couple insisted the form be changed to read “20-week-old baby.”

Of course most people would agree that the Santorums did the right thing to save Karen’s life. But since Rick Santorum was the author of the legislation that banned “partial birth abortion” (a made-up medical procedure), some have seen hypocrisy in their choice. Others have mocked them for bringing the corpse home and encouraging their children to handle it.

Alan Colmes was heavily criticized for “mocking” the Santorums on Fox News, and he later apologized to them personally. Eugene Robinson called the Santorums’ actions “weird” in an appearance on MSNBC, and the Washington Post Ombudsman felt the need to weigh in on the reader reaction. According to ABC News,

The Internet lit up with comments this week after Santorum’s meteoric rise to second-place in the Iowa caucuses, nearly tying him with presidential candidate Mitt Romney. Some described Santorum’s story as “weird” or “horrifying.”

So of course now the “experts” are being consulted for their opinions on the Santorum family drama. From the ABC News story:

In the context of the times — the year was 1996 when the family buried Gabriel — their behavior was understandable, according to Dr. David Diamond, a psychologist and co-author of the 2005 book “Unsung Lullabies.”

Helen Coons, a clinical psychologist and president of Women’s Mental Health Associates in Philadelphia, said couples are not encouraged to bring a deceased fetus home.

Apparently at the time, couples were being encouraged to express their grief over miscarriages and stillborn babies.

Diamond said that 20 years ago, around the time that the Santorums suffered their loss, professionals encouraged their response.

“It was getting to be more in fashion,” he said.

“The trend was, rather than ignoring, to help people with their grieving and make it a real loss rather than something stuck in their minds and imagination for years,” he said. “Even before that, they allowed families to hold the dead infant or fetus and spend time with them — as much as they wanted.”

A corpse was not often taken home, but might be kept in the refrigerator for “a couple of days,” so the family could have access, according to Diamond.

“It was kept in the hospital, but of course you can’t do that for too many days,” Diamond said. “But there were cases were they basically allowed the family to handle and be with baby and say goodbye.”

I can certainly identify with the grief the family felt, and I could even understand having the children view the child’s body in the hospital; but I admit to feeling uncomfortable with the idea of taking the body home. I’m not sure how long they kept it either; none of the articles I’ve read are specific on that point.

Charles Lane, a columnist at the Washington Post, wrote about his own and his wife’s experience of losing a baby in the third trimester.

Nine years ago, my son Jonathan’s heart mysteriously stopped in utero — two hours prior to a scheduled c-section that would have brought him out after 33 weeks. Next came hours of induced labor so that my wife could produce a lifeless child. I cannot describe the anxiety, emotional pain, and physical horror.

And then there was the question: what about the corpse? Fortunately for us, our hospital’s nurses were trained to deal with infant death. They washed the baby, wrapped him in a blanket and put a little cotton cap on his head, just as they would have done if he had been born alive. They then recommended that we spend as much time with him as we wanted.

My wife held Jonathan for a long while. I hesitated to do so. At the urging of the nurses and my wife, I summoned the courage to cradle Jonathan’s body, long enough to get a good look at his face and to muse how much he looked like his brother — then say goodbye. I am glad that my love for him overcame my fear of the dead.

We, like the Santorums, took a photograph of the baby — lying, as if asleep, in my wife’s arms. We have a framed copy in our bedroom. It’s beautiful.

Lane says that his six-year-old son asked where the baby was, and Lane now regrets not letting his son see the body.

I think part of the squeamishness that I feel–and I’m probably not alone–is that the Santorums chose to share their experience with the public. Santorum’s general fetishizing of fetuses and his absolute anti-abortion stand–even to the point of saying a victim of rape or incest who gets pregnant or a woman whose life is in danger should not be able to have the procedure–naturally leads people to question why he agreed to doctors inducing labor to rid his wife’s body of a fetus that was endangering her.

Here is what Rick Santorum has said about abortions to save the life of the mother:

ABORTION EXCEPTIONS TO PROTECT WOMEN’S HEALTH ARE ‘PHONY’: While discussing his track record as a champion of the partial birth abortion ban in June, Santorum dismissed exceptions other senators wanted to carve out to protect the life and health of mothers, calling such exceptions “phony.” “They wanted a health exception, which of course is a phony exception which would make the ban ineffective,” he said.

So the second part of the public discussion of what I think should really be a private issue (but the Santorums are the ones who made it very public) is did Karen Santorum have an abortion or not? At Salon, writer Irin Carmon reports that an unnamed “expert” says no, it wasn’t an abortion.

Of course, without direct access to Karen Santorum’s medical files, we have to take their word for what happened, and with only sketchy details. But according to a nationally respected obstetrician-gynecologist from a Center for Cosmetic & Reconstructive Gynecology who has long been active in the reproductive health community and who provides abortion services — who spoke on condition of anonymity due to not having treated Santorum directly — by their own account, the Santorums neither induced labor nor terminated the pregnancy.

“Based on what is presented here in these couple of pages, it looks to me as if there’s confusion with some people about what the word ‘abortion’ means,” the doctor told me today. “The word ‘abortion’ probably shouldn’t even be used in this context.” (It is technically correct to say that Karen Santorum had a septic spontaneous abortion, but that’s a medical term for an involuntary event that is different from “induced abortion,” which describes a willful termination.)

After rumors spread in Pennsylvania that Karen Santorum had an abortion, the Philadelphia Inquirer spoke to the Santorums for a story that has served as the main source for the recent chatter. In the 19th week of pregnancy, the paper reported, “a radiologist told them that the fetus Karen was carrying had a fatal defect and was going to die.” They opted for a “bladder shunt” surgery that led to an intrauterine infection and a high fever. The Santorums were told that “unless the source of the infection, the fetus, was removed from Karen’s body, she would likely die.”

There is no mention in the Salon article or in the Philadelphia Inquirer article about the injection of Pitocin that is mentioned in the longer NYT piece. So did Karen have an abortion. I’d say so. Even the “expert” in the Salon story says that what happened was “a septic spontaneous abortion.” So what’s the basis for saying it wasn’t an abortion? I guess the the “expert” feels some compassion for Karen, and so do I. Unlike Karen’s husband, I can empathize with people who are experience something terrible–even if it’s something I’ve never personally experienced.

But it is important when the person is running for President of the U.S. and he promises, if elected, to do everything in his power to ban all access to not only abortion, but also birth control. From the Salon article:

Rick Santorum did tell the Inquirer that “if that had to be the call, we would have induced labor if we had to,” under the understanding that the fetus was going to die anyway and intervening would save Karen’s life. And it is accurate to say that the direct experience of a life-threatening pregnancy and a tragic loss did not leave Rick Santorum with any empathy for women who do have to make those difficult decisions in extremely murky circumstances.

As the doctor put it, “One takes from this that pregnancies can go very, very wrong, very quickly.” Moreover, the kinds of legislative hurdles Santorum wants — or hospital administrative committees that seek to supersede the family’s decision-making — can certainly slow down the process and endanger women’s lives in the process.

Carmon writes that she feels “uncomfortable about having gone this far up Karen Santorum’s womb,” and I do too. But let’s face it: Santorum wants every woman’s womb to be invaded and her every decision about her pregnancy analyzed by strangers on committees. For that reason, I do think it’s important to talk about the choices made by Rick and Karen Santorum.

To summarize, I think grief over a miscarriage, even early in a pregnancy is normal and natural. When it happens late after the baby’s body is fully formed, it’s probably even more traumatic. In fact, according to Dr. Andres Bustillo, many women opt for cosmetic surgery as a way to cope with grief and extreme stress. Charles Lane’s story gave me a lot to think about, and after reading it, I agree that having young children view the body in the hospital could be appropriate.

However, I really think “kissing and cuddling” a corpse “for several hours is a little strange. Keep in mind that the other children were only 6, 4, and 18 months at the time. I also think frequently talking about the dead baby in public in the present tense and showing it’s photo to people is extremely weird. But that’s just me.

The people who are trying to absolve Rick Santorum of hypocrisy by claiming what happened wasn’t an abortion are mistaken. What happened is indistinguishable from the experience of many women–women who would not be able to receive the treatment Karen Santorum got if her husband achieves his political goals.

I’m sorry for the pain this public discussion is probably causing Rick and Karen Santorum and their children. But that’s the price of running for president. Think of the public discussion of the Clinton’s private lives that the media has engaged in for decades! In Santorum’s case, it will probably be over soon, because he’s not likely to get the nomination or ever become president.

Bottom line, this man wants to take away women’s constitutional rights. We’re talking about a politician whose main focus as Senator and in his campaign has been denying women privacy and control over their own bodies. Therefore, I think it’s normal for people to discuss the Santorums’ somewhat unusual, even arguably odd, behavior and to explore the question of whether Karen Santorum had an abortion or not.

I promise you some links to other news in the comments. What are you reading and blogging about today?