Obama’s Cave-in on Emergency Contraception

You’ve probably seen the news today that the Obama administration has (again) caved-in to the right (including, of course, the churches) by overruling its own Food and Drug Administration’s decision that emergency contraceptives be available over-the-counter to anyone, including teenagers 16 years old and younger.  Thus, age restrictions will still be in place.  Here is what NOW has to say about it, including what it might mean to contraceptive coverage to women under the Affordable Care Act:

Emergency Contraception Betrayal:
Does President Obama Really Oppose Family Planning?

December 7, 2011

In a stunning betrayal of women, the Obama administration has sided with radical right politics in rejecting the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) decision to remove an age restriction on emergency contraception.

The experts on the FDA advisory committee resoundingly supported all available scientific and medical evidence, declaring Plan B One-Step to be safe and effective for all women over the counter, regardless of age.

Today, Plan B One-Step is available without prescription to women ages 17 and above. However, because of the age restriction, it is held behind the counter in pharmacies, and women are required to produce either proof of age or a doctor’s prescription to access the drug.

Two years ago, a district court found that the FDA’s earlier decision to limit access on the basis of age was motivated exclusively by politics. The court ordered the FDA to reconsider, and the FDA ultimately complied, recently deciding to make Plan B One-Step available over the counter to all women regardless of age.

It is an unusual and infuriating move for the Obama administration to overrule that decision, especially at a time when rumors are flying that the president is on the brink of caving in to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops by expanding religiously affiliated employers’ ability to deny contraceptive coverage to women under the Affordable Care Act.

NOW calls on the president to stop playing politics with the lives of women and girls. During the Bush years, women’s reproductive health was under constant attack. We don’t need more of the same from the Obama administration.

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Herman Cain Says Having More Pizza Toppings Makes a Man More “Manly”

Add this to the ridiculous things Herman Cain has said.  In an interview in GQ, Cain says that “The more toppings a man has on his pizza, I believe the more manly he is.”  Being a “manly” man, he is also against vegetables: “A manly man don’t want it piled high with vegetables! He would call that a sissy pizza.”  Cain and his supporters (how much more of this can his alleged supporters take?) probably think he is being funny (I prefer thinking of him as a joke politician rather than a funny politician), but all that this shows is the way he feels about gender.  Does this kind of gender-stereotyping language give anyone a better feeling about Cain’s professions of innocence for the sexual harassment allegations?  Obviously not.  It again shows a base set of beliefs about the power of men over women.  For this and many other reasons, Cain should have disappeared from the national scene long before now.

Cain’s use of “manly” and “sissy” reminds me of a previous post I did on the use of the word “emasculate,” in which I argued that the usage should be eliminated.  Similarly, the tired gender-stereotyping words “manly” and “sissy” should also go away.

Am I Proud to be an American?

In late June, many weeks before Obama’s and the Democrats’ total capitulation to the lunatic Republican Party’s actions on the debt limit and budget (i.e., no taxes for the rich, just spending cuts that harm the middle and lower classes), I was driving my car when I saw a car in front of me with two bumper stickers.  My thinking about the stickers was very telling and leads me to wonder if I am proud to be an American.

The first sticker said “Proud to be an American.”  As stereotyping as it was, my immediate reaction was to think that the driver was a right-wing “Patriot,” the type of person who, contrary to the self-described title, thinks only of his or herself and how the country can be made to serve their specific classes of (usually) white males and reactionary females who think like the white males.  I am going to do some exaggerated, inordinate generalizations from here on out, but, in other words, I think of “Patriots” as people who care nothing about anyone other than people like themselves.  They care nothing about the United States itself and, thus, cannot even be true “patriots” whether or not that is even a good thing to be.  So, I had a deeply negative feeling about the driver of the car simply because he or she had a “Proud to be an American” bumper sticker.  In addition, I wondered if it even made any sense for someone to proclaim that she or he is proud to be an American.

But . . . then I read the second bumper sticker.  This one said: “Proud to be a Union Sheet Metal Worker.”  Seeing this, my impression of the driver changed completely.  I thought that this was something that a person could really feel proud about.  I now had a good feeling about the driver, even though I didn’t really know why.

After I got home,  I wondered about what definitions of “pride” the bumper stickers were meant to convey.  In dictionary.com, there are five meanings:

1. a high or inordinate opinion of one’s own dignity, importance, merit, or superiority, whether as cherished in the mind or as displayed in bearing, conduct, etc.
2. the state or feeling of being proud.
3. a becoming or dignified sense of what is due to oneself or one’s position or character; self-respect; self-esteem.
4. pleasure or satisfaction taken in something done by or belonging to oneself or believed to reflect credit upon oneself: civic pride.
5. something that causes a person or persons to be proud: His art collection was the pride of the family.

For the “Proud to be an American” sticker, my negative, stereotyping thoughts led me to generalize that a person espousing that sentiment has “a high or inordinate opinion of one’s own dignity, importance, merit, or superiority” and “a becoming or dignified sense of what is due to oneself or one’s position or character.”  In other words, it is all about the person’s feelings of superiority over others.  It has nothing to do with whether the person has actually accomplished anything.

In contrast, the “Proud to be a Union Sheet Metal Worker” sticker led me to believe that a person espousing that sentiment has “pleasure or satisfaction taken in something done by or belonging to oneself or believed to reflect credit upon oneself.”  In other words, that person takes pride in something actually accomplished.

Those generalized feelings can’t be right, can they?  A requirement for legitimate pride can’t really be that the source of the pride has to have been something actually accomplished, can it?  For instance, can a person have pride in one’s college?  I think the answer to that is clearly yes since there is personal accomplishment involved.  But what about rooting for the college’s sports teams or for some professional or national team?  Can a person have pride in those teams?  According to the definitions above, I guess that the part of number four about civic pride is the one that would apply, although it seems rather conclusory.  One can have civic pride, but why?  What is it about a team that “reflects credit upon oneself”?

I think the answer is that it is not pride that is involved when you live in a country or when you root for a team.  Rather, I think that it is simply “identity.”  In other words, a person can identify with a team or identify with a sports team.  By coincidence, just yesterday I read an article by Sherry Wolf in The Nation about sports teams and identity.  (The article is about how the sports world remains “fiercely hostile to open participation by LGBT athletes.”  It’s a very good read.)  This is what she said about sports teams and identity:

As American society evolved from agrarianism to industrialism, a huge influx of immigrants settled in growing cities.  Sports were consciously used to win them over to a fabricated national identity. . . . In an increasingly mechanized world where the ethos of competition came to dominate, the rules, teams and nationalism of sports became part of the new “American way.”

And, so, let’s leave “pride” for some actual accomplishment like pride in a daughter or son, pride in putting together an art collection, pride in playing the guitar, pride in a job, or pride in one’s beliefs.  Let’s not say that a person is proud to be an American or proud to be a fan of some sports team, just that she or he identifies with it.

How would this work for an American when traveling or living in a foreign country?  If someone asks where you are from, do you say “I’m from America and proud to be an American”?  I certainly hope not.  Isn’t it good enough to just say that you are from America and, if a discussion about the pros and cons ensues, talk about the things you like and the things you don’t like.

And how does this work for me?  I’m an American.  That’s good enough for me.  And there are currently a LOT of things I don’t like about America.

“It’s not because [Palin and Bachmann] have breasts, it’s because they are boobs”

I always have a problem with Bill Maher.  I almost always agree with what he says.  And I thought his movie “Religulous” was hilarious.  But I don’t like his “style” as a comedian and he sometimes is unnecessarily “anti” particular individuals.  And his comments on women sometimes (often?) sound sexist.

But, on his HBO show this past Friday, he got it right about sexism.  His “New Rule” was that Republicans have to stop making up “intricate psychological reasons” for why liberals don’t like Sarah Palin and Michele Bachmann.  His (correct) answer was that the reason is because they are “crazy people” and are “not that bright and are full of awful ideas.”  He summarized by saying that “”it’s not because they have breasts, it’s because they are boobs.”

It got better.  He (obviously correctly) stated that it’s not sexist to point out how terrible Palin and Bachmann are, but that it is sexist for the main stream media to plaster their papers and magazines with Palin and Bachmann while providing far less coverage of not so “pretty” people, such as Tim Pawlenty, who have at least some reasonable things to say (if you can ever say that any Republican has anything reasonable to say).  Maher showed six Newsweek covers of Palin and, then, in a great moment for atheists like me, said: “If you want to know where most of this nation’s sexism is really coming from, you don’t have to look any further than the one person who makes the cover of Newsweek more often than Sarah Palin”–and then showed Newsweek covers that have had Jesus on then.

He correctly pointed out that “in America, you’re allowed to justify almost any kind of bigotry, sexism or intolerance if you source it” to “God” or some kind of so-called “holy” book.  I couldn’t agree more.  And, as an example of that, the response by his audience when the Newsweek Jesus covers were shown shows the fear that Americans have of criticizing religion.  The audience, almost surely a vastly liberal audience, was almost silent when the Jesus covers were shown, save for a few nervous laughs.

When people like Palin and Bachmann are harmfully wrong, they deserve to be criticized–if not actually ignored.  The same should go for anyone hiding behind–and espousing– the ignorance of religion.

Here is the clip.

Obama the Conservative?

When I was voting for President Obama in 2008, I felt that at least he was a moderate–but with some possibility that he had liberal tendencies.  Obviously, for a liberal like me, he was better than Bush.  And I thought he had more of a chance to support liberal causes than did Hillary Clinton.  The deciding factor for me was that I thought he would improve the image of the United States throughout the world–more than would Clinton.

I’m not going to say I made a mistake in who I supported in 2008 since I don’t know that Clinton would have done any better.  And it’s probably going too far to call him a conservative.  But, at this point, I don’t even know if he can be called a moderate.  In any event, I think it’s very fair to say that he doesn’t know how to be a President who leads the country.

I have been criticizing Obama almost since he took office that he would not stand up for what he believes in.  He could say good (progressive) things at first, only to back down later on.  He became more of a mediator and less of a leader as time went by.  The problem was, and is, that he doesn’t know how to mediate (i.e., in his case how to negotiate).  Most mediations open with each side staking out a position that would give them everything they want.  And sometimes one of the sides will open with am extreme position that they know is unwinnable but that will cause the dialog to start at a position more tilted toward them than would otherwise be the case.  (The Republicans, obviously, do both of those constantly.)

But that’s not the way Obama negotiates.  He opens with a position that is not what he really wants and then capitulates toward the other side from there.  (If he opens with the positions he really wants, then maybe it truly is correct to call him a conservative.)  The latest example of this–and it is a huge example that could completely change the meaning of being an American–is the current battle regarding the budget and deficit spending.  Rather than taking a position that preserves benefits for medium- and low-income Americans (i.e., most of the country), he is already compromising on Medicare and Medicaid.  It makes absolutely no sense for a President to open the negotiations by saying that any reductions in entitlement programs such as Medicare and Medicaid must be accompanied by tax increases on the rich and cuts in defense spending.  But that is what he is doing.  This is out and out stupidity.  He should be opening by saying that he will not accept any spending cuts on those types of programs and that the real issue is income, not spending.  Doesn’t it seem that it should be easy to convince voters that tax increases on the rich will result in the deficit going down while programs that they have come to know and love will not have to change?  It just makes no sense to me that the medium- and low-income voters (again, this means almost all voters) would want to allow the rich to get richer while they, themselves, get screwed.  And why does Obama think that opening toward the right will help him in the polls?  The Republicans will just keep criticizing him until he goes farther and farther to the right.  That doesn’t help his poll numbers.

It’s no secret that progressives (like me) have been hugely disappointed by Obama.  If the budget and deficit negotiations end up with no tax increases for the rich and massive cuts on “entitlement” programs, the only question for progressives like me will be to decide whether we will stop supporting Obama at all and whether we will support a progressive candidate, rather than Obama, in the next election.  After all, how can you tell the difference between Obama and a conservative?

A Former “First Lady”’s View on Women

I was doing a crossword puzzle recently and one of the questions was to name the person who said:

A woman’s place in public is to sit beside her husband, be silent, and be sure her hat is on straight.

I didn’t know the answer, but it turned out that the speaker was former “first lady” Bess Truman, wife of President Harry Truman.  She gave the quote while Harry was a senator and still believed it when Harry became President.  (Even though she apparently did quite a bit of work behind the scenes to help Harry.)  Her stance of trying to be invisible in public was, and is, particularly jarring because her immediate predecessor as “first lady” was Eleanor Roosevelt, who was, of course, a national force.  Bess Truman seemed to go out of her way to distance herself from Roosevelt.  For instance, she ended Roosevelt’s weekly meetings with female reporters, giving as her reason that “[y]ou don’t need to know me. I’m only the president’s wife and the mother of his daughter.”

One way of looking at this is to see how things have changed since the 1950’s.  Another way to look at it is to have even more gratitude for Eleanor Roosevelt.

Still Only Words (but No Action) from Hillary Clinton as USAID Pulls Back on Goals for Helping Afghan Women

Two days ago, I wrote about how Hillary Clinton, after promising last year that the United States would never “abandon” the women of Afghanistan, has said nothing about moves by USAID (United States Agency for International Development) that, in fact, are precisely abandoning the rights of Afghan women.  Well, now, Clinton has said something, but, as has been the practice of Barack Obama (e.g., the recent cave-in on Guantanamo), she has given idle words without taking any action.

In response to the Washington Post article about the abandoning actions by USAID, Clinton (again) said the right things to a House panel: that the U.S. government will not back away from supporting women’s rights in Afghanistan, that the U.S. commitment to Afghan women remains undiminished, that “[w]e believe strongly that supporting women and girls is essential to building democracy and security, and that the United States is “currently providing more support than at any time in our government’s history” for education, health-care and political empowerment programs.

But they were words only.  And she did not even address the actions by USAID.  So, it appears that Clinton likes to say that they U.S. supports women’s rights in Afghanistan, but is content to look the other way when the U.S. takes actions that are completely contrary to improving those rights.  Like Barack Obama, like Hillary Clinton.  Apparently, promises aren’t meant to be kept.