Friday Morning Reads

cuppaGood Morning!!!

I’ve been a little out of the loop recently since I have a friend here to visit.  So, I’m going to start with a Happy 65th Birthday wish to Bernadette Peters because I saw her in concert last night. She’s 59 in this youtube but  she wore the same dress and did this song.  I was shocked!! shocked!  to hear that she told us that it was her first time!!!

It was a night of Broadway songs and overtures with the Louisiana Symphony Orchestra.

So, the House passed the Senate version of the Violence Against Women Act which is finally on its way to the President for his signature.

After months of delay, GOP leaders allowed the bill to come to the floor only after a Republican substitute version of the legislation — set up as an amendment to the Senate’s bipartisan bill — failed, 166-257. The House amendment was expected to fail, but allowed members to vote for a version of VAWA while not supporting the Senate bill.

Still, House leaders were under pressure from members of their own party to pass the Senate version without any changes. Nineteen House Republicans sent a letter to Majority Leader Eric Cantor and House Speaker John Boehner urging them to pass a bipartisan version of VAWA.

This is the third time Boehner has allowed a bill to pass with a majority of Democratic votes.

Democrats for the most part were united in their opposition to the House version, arguing it stripped out important protections for LGBT and Native American women. Sixty Republicans joined them in opposition. Only two Democrats, Dan Lipinski of Illinois and Mike McIntyre of North Carolina, supported the House version.

Eric–VAGINA–Cantor evidently played an interesting role in its passage which is odd given his role its problems last year.

In the last Congress, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) played a critical role in blocking reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act. In this Congress, Cantor was so eager to get VAWA passage over with, he told House Republicans yesterday to either clear the way for the already passed Senate version or risk causing a “civil war” within the party.

Well, that’s some progress, however.  TODAY is SEQUESTER day!!

It’s Friday, March 1, and that means the federal government has crossed the much-hyped and dreaded deadline for the fiscal reductions known as the “sequester.”

The members of Congress who for voted for the Budget Control Act – and the budget cuts contained within – and President Barack Obama who signed it into law on Aug. 2, 2011, may not have believed the day would arrive, but now it has.

But today is only the beginning of the beginning.

For one thing, Obama must sign an order formally starting the “sequester” or spending reductions – which according to a new estimate from the Congressional Budget Office – would amount to $42 billion in the current fiscal year.

And White House aides have indicated that the president is not likely to put pen to paper on that order until after he meets with congressional leaders, a meeting slated for Friday morning.

Once Obama signs the order to start the spending cuts, any furloughs of federal workers could not begin at least for another 30 days due to federal regulations and to collective bargaining agreements which the government has with the unions that represent roughly half of the federal workforce.

I guess Transvaginal Ultrasounds are fine as long as your representative doesn’t feel it’s all that relevant for him.

Rep. Sean Duffy (R-WI) declined to take a position last week during a town hall meeting on whether transvaginal ultrasounds should be mandatory for women seeking abortions, saying he has never heard of the practice and couldn’t weigh in on it because “I haven’t had one.”

Ultrasound requirements are a top priority for anti-abortion advocates in Wisconsin and other states. Similar legislation in past years has landed Republicans in political hot water, and this time around many GOP leaders are distancing themselves from proposed ultrasound requirements.

Duffy has described himself as “100 percent prolife without exceptions” (though he also said “To qualify, I believe that if we have the life of a mother as an issue, the mother’s life takes priority, but we must make every effort to save the life of the child.”) Asked about one of the main goals for the pro-life movement, however, Duffy said he had not heard of transvaginal ultrasounds at all.

A Democratic operative recorded Duffy’s exchange with the questioner at a Feb. 21 townhall meeting in Spooner, Wisc. Through his congressional office, Duffy declined to comment or clarify his views on mandated ultrasounds.

Arkansas has passed–over the veto of its governor–the most restrictive anti-abortion law since before Roe v. Wade.

Arkansas became the eighth state Thursday to enact a near-ban on abortions starting in the 20th week of pregnancy, and by next week it could outlaw most procedures from the 12th week onward, which would give it the most restrictive abortion laws in the country.

The Republican-led Senate voted 19-14 along party lines to override Democratic Gov. Mike Beebe’s veto of a bill barring most abortions starting in the 20th week of pregnancy that was based on the disputed notion that a fetus can feel pain by that point. The Arkansas House voted to override the veto Wednesday. A simple majority was needed in each chamber.

That law, which took effect immediately but which will likely be challenged in court, includes exemptions for rape, incest and the life of the mother.

Senate President Michael Lamoureux, R-Russellville, voted to override the veto, but later told reporters he wasn’t sure the new law would survive a constitutional challenge.

“If it was an easy answer, then people wouldn’t be raising that subject,” he said after the vote.

After overriding the veto, the Senate voted 26-8 in support of a separate measure that would outlaw most abortions starting in the 12th week of pregnancy. In addition to the exemptions for rape, incest and the mother’s life, it would allow abortions when lethal fetal conditions are detected.

The proposed 12-week ban, which would ban abortions from the point when a fetus’ heartbeat can generally be detected through an abdominal ultrasound, would give Arkansas the most restrictive abortion laws in the country, said Cecile Richards, the president of Planned Parenthood Action Fund.

Yes, the religious extremists in this country have taken over a number of state legislatures.  Look for more violations of your civil rights–except the right to arm yourself with a nuclear bomb–in a state near your.

So, I’m going to make this short this morning . What’s on your reading and blogging list today?

Saturday Morning Open Thread: Anti-Abortion Senator Endorses Roe v. Wade Reasoning


Good Morning!!

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.

Doonesbury Takes on the Zygote Zealots

Several newspapers will not be running next week’s Doonesbury cartoons.  The strip has been censored before.  Next week’s strip takes on the newly passed transvaginal ultrasounds laws states of Texas and Virginia for women exercising their constitutional rights early in their pregnancies.  The demeaning procedure–frequently referred to as a form of state approved rape–has already been forced on Texas women.

Here’s what’s in the strips:

Monday: Young woman arrives for her pre-termination sonogram, is told to take a seat in the shaming room, a middle-aged male state legislator will be right with her.

Tuesday: He asks her if this is her first visit to the center, she replies no, that she’s been using the contraceptive services for some time. He says, “I see. Do your parents know you’re a slut?”

Wednesday: A different male is reading to her about the transvaginal exam process.

Thursday: In the stirrups, she is telling a nurse that she doesn’t want a transvaginal exam. Doctor says “Sorry miss, you’re first trimester. The male Republicans who run Texas require that all abortion seekers be examined with a 10″ shaming wand.” She asks “Will it hurt?” Nurse says, “Well, it’s not comfortable, honey. But Texas feels you should have thought of that.” Doctor says, “By the authority invested in me by the GOP base, I thee rape.”

Friday: Doctor is explaining that the Texas GOP requires her to have an intimate encounter with her fetus. He begins describing it to her. Last panel, he says, “Shall I describe it’s hopes and dreams?” She replies, “If it wants to be the next Rick Perry, I’ve made up my mind.”

Saturday: Back in the reception area, she asks where she goes now for the actual abortion. Receptionist tells her there’s a 24-hour waiting period: “The Republican Party is hoping you get caught in a shame spiral and change your mind.” Last panel: She says, “A final indignity.” Receptionist replies, “Not quite. Here’s your bill.”

Cartoonist Gary Trudeau has given an interview on the strips.

I chose the topic of compulsory sonograms because it was in the news and because of its relevance to the broader battle over women’s health currently being waged in several states. For some reason, the GOP has chosen 2012 to re-litigate reproductive freedom, an issue that was resolved decades ago. Why [Rick] Santorum, [Rush] Limbaugh et al. thought this would be a good time to declare war on half the electorate, I cannot say. But to ignore it would have been comedy malpractice.

Several papers will be running the cartoons.

Debbie Van Tassel, assistant managing editor of features at the Cleveland Plain Dealer, tells Comic Riffs that she and other top editors have decided to run next week’s strips, which feature a woman who sits in a “shaming room” as she awaits a pre-termination sonogram and a check-up from a legislator. “We didn’t deliberate long,” Van Tassel tells Comic Riffs. “We all agreed that some readers will be upset by them, mainly because they appear on the comics page, but also because of the graphic depiction of a transvaginal sonogram.”

Van Tassel cites the larger journalistic context in which “Doonesbury” appears. “This newspaper deals with those issues routinely in the news sections and in our health section,” she tells us. “Our page one today, for example, carries a story about the movement by women legislators across the country to curb men’s abilities to get vasectomies and prescriptions for erectile dysfunction. I haven’t heard of any objections to that story yet.”

The Plain Dealer also believes “Doonesbury” deserves a long satiric leash. “Garry Trudeau’s metier is political satire; if we choose to carry ‘Doonesbury,’ we can’t yank the strip every time it deals with a highly charged issue. His fans are every bit as vocal as his critics. We are alerting readers to the nature of the strips so they can decide whether to read them next week.”

Good for them and shame on the papers that censor Trudeau.

Virginia Governor Backs Away from State Sanctioned Rape Bill

VA Gov. Bob McDonnell

The Hill is reporting that the Virginia House of Delegates has passed their anti-abortion bill that apparently doesn’t include the mandated transvaginal ultrasound requirement. The state Senate has already passed a version of the bill.

According to Think Progress, Governor Bob McDonnell “publicly backtracked” from his previous position in support of the ultrasound requirement and asked for an amendment to the bill:

I am requesting that the General Assembly amend this bill to explicitly state that no woman in Virginia will have to undergo a transvaginal ultrasound involuntarily. I am asking the General Assembly to state in this legislation that only a transabdominal, or external, ultrasound will be required to satisfy the requirements to determine gestational age. Should a doctor determine that another form of ultrasound may be necessary to provide the necessary images and information that will be an issue for the doctor and the patient. The government will have no role in that medical decision.

But Think Progress notes that even requiring the less invasive ultrasound is still an attempt to intimidate women who need abortions.

…the ultrasound bill is still unnecessary. Studies have shown that viewing an ultrasound does not change a woman’s mind before an abortion, and the Guttmacher Institute reports that requiring an abortion only adds to the cost of an abortion. “Since routine ultrasound is not considered medically necessary as a component of first-trimester abortion, the requirements appear to be a veiled attempt to personify the fetus and dissuade a woman from obtaining an abortion,” the group writes.

According to NBC news, the “watering down” of the ultrasound requirement “likely dooms the measure.”

The amended bill now returns to the Senate where its sponsor, Sen. Jill Vogel, said she will strike the legislation.

The House action came moments after McDonnell — facing outrage from women and appeals from GOP moderates — announced he was opposing the original bill requiring vaginal probes.

RH Reality Check calls it a “partial victory.” Naturally, they’re a bit more harsh than some of the corporation media outlets:

Today, after a week of media coverage of a bill mandating that women seeking abortion undergo medically unnecessary state-sanctioned trans-vaginal ultrasounds, Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell is now backing down. A little.

Over the past year, Virginia has been a “leader” in passing laws to harass and intimidate abortion providers and patients. Recently, for example, and despite widespread condemnation by the public health and medical communities, McDonnell signed into law regulations for clinics providing abortion care intended to do nothing other than shut them down. In this instance, medical evidence meant… well… nothing to him.

Now, however, angling for a role as Vice President in the 2012 election, watching the backlash against the far right’s efforts to politicize women’s health, and after a week of intense media scrutiny of a plan to mandate trans-vaginal ultrasounds (including by RH Reality Check) medical evidence has suddenly become very, very important to the governor.

Thanks to the overwhelming negative reaction to this outrageous bill in the blogosphere and the quick action of Virginia women in organizing their silent protest at the Virginia statehouse, we appear to have won a small battle in the war against women.

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?