Say It Ain't So, Joe: Cubs Owner's Anti-Obama Agenda

I've been a Cubs fan all my life. I even lived on Addison for several years.

Today, the New York Times revealed the owner of the Cubs commissioned a plan for a $10 million campaign against another Chicagoan -- Barack Obama. Or, as he calls him, Barack Hussein Obama. Yeah, it's his name, but when used in this context, you know what's going on.

So I called the Cubs (773-404-2827 and then dial zero during the welcome announcement, ask for Media Relations). I spoke with an exhausted young man and told him how sad I am, that I've been a fan fifty years, that I've bought tickets and merchandise and I'm sick at heart to know my money is being used against my president. A fellow Chicagoan. The flack sounded pretty sad, too, so I wished him luck with what's going to be a difficult day in the offices of the Friendly Confines.

*sigh* The money is being / would be spent by the patriarch of the family, the guy who actually owns the team. Joe Ricketts is the billionaire father of the four kids now on the Cubs board. One of them is his gay daughter Laura, a lawyer and activist who does fundraising for Obama.

His kids are trying to put together public financing -- yes, our tax dollars, corporate welfare -- to refurbish Wrigley Field. So Dad wasn't exactly doing his kids or the team any favors by requesting this 54-page proposal on how best to buy this election, a plan which suggests using a "literate" black person ( !!!! ) to present Obama as a man of dubious sexuality in the thrall of incendiary Chicago pastor Reverend Jeremiah Wright -- whose church Obama left years ago. Joan Walsh, speaking on MSNBC's Bashir Show, called it "hate porn," meant to excite the dark side of wealthy anti-Obama Republicans.

And as of about 2:45 eastern time, the family is promising to back off the plan, titled The Deafeat of Barack Hussein Obama: The Ricketts Plan to End His Spending for Good, datelined Chicago May 10. Yeah, we'll see. Under Citizens United, Joe Ricketts can pump anonymous money into any superpac he wants. And we'll never know, and there will be no front office to call to complain.

The Ricketts plan was put together by the "Demon Sheep" Fred Davis lunatic who did the ads for Carly Fiorina in California a couple of years ago, and the smoking-cauldron background for Christine O'Donnell's desperate "I am not a witch" ad -- the same guy who did the "white campaign manager smoking" for Herman Cain in the Republican primary this year.

Bah. And here comes Romney at 3:15, saying he doesn't like the Ricketts plan but accusing Obama of making "character assassination" ads against himself. He says he doesn't like the ads describing his tenure at Bain, the corporate raiding firm he founded years back. I'll bet you don't, buddy, but ads accurately reporting your record are not "character assassination." They're fact-checks on the points you are trying to use to promote yourself. "I stand by what I said, whatever it was." Oh, for pete's sake, guy. Keep talking; every word out of your mouth makes the president look better. (And what he said was, in Feb 2012 to Sean Hannity, that Wright was still an issue and claiming Obama said we should be a "less Christian nation.")

Also today, the U.S. Census announced that fewer white babies than non-white babies were born last year. Look for the bigots and birthers and "Second Amendment remedies" people to go berserk. Gonna be a long ugly summer.

No Longer Newsworthy: Gingrich's Campaign . . . To Sell Books

I realize I could have, perhaps should have, punctuated that as "Gingriches' Campaign," if only I knew the plural of Gingrich.

Way back when, back in the early days of the long up-and-down-ad-nauseum which has been the Republican primary, Newt Gingrich and his Third Lady, Callista, conceived of putting in a presidential bid as a way of promoting their publishing empire. It wasn't a serious campaign; they didn't even bother to register for some of the primaries.

But then, suddenly, last summer, Gingrich got his turn at the top of the ferris wheel and it drove him out of his mind. Suddenly, with that bright sun of press and public favor beating down on his head, he let the narcotic blossom of ambition flower again in his heart: Maybe I can do this. Maybe now they finally see how great I am. Maybe it just took an extra fifteen years for people to get to know me. They want me, they really want me!"

Errrrr.... no. No, they didn't. They don't. And today, Rachel Maddow reports that the Associated Press and all the other print reporters have left his campaign and gone on home.

This should have happened many weeks, maybe months ago, when in the natural course of events, a dearth of donations would have ended the Gingrich candidacy-cum-shill-show. But, like Rick Santorum, who was also one of the walking dead last summer, Gingrich got a sugar daddy who used the infamous Citizens United ruling to dump a fortune into the failed "campaign" — and turn Gingrich, as Santorum, from faux-candidates into obedient employees, mouthing whatever peculiar policy initiative their owners desire, in order to buy more time for their own zombie agendas. (Santorum's seems to be religious tyranny clad in misogynistic anhedonia; and Gingrich's, as usual, is the glorification of all things Gingrich.)

Horrifically, Maddow also reports that Newt and Callista have gone back into full book-tour mode and have added "campaign appearances" at elementary schools as well as at Newt's usual forum of choice, public zoos. Callista's current book is a children's tale about Ellis the Elephant. So what's horrific about that?

They are, per Maddow (and if she's wrong, please let me know), making a campaign staffer dress up in a fursuit, a mascot's outfit, a giant plush costume, as an elephant to appear at these events. A campaign staffer. And he's not very good at it, carelessly breaking Disney protocol by removing his head where people — you, me, Maddow, and the children — can see him doing it.

Kid, whoever you are, bail on this gig. Because — and maybe you already know this — they've not just turned you into an elephant. They've also turned you into an ass.

No matter what his skill with elephants and donkeys, how could Mr. Nast ever have drawn such an ugly hybrid? Get work with people who respect you, son. Asking a campaign professional to do this for a campaign stunt, that would be funny, that would be okay, much like a White House staffer getting to dress as a big bunny for the Easter Egg Roll. Requiring a campaign professional to do this to hawk Callista's kids' book? That's degrading.

And it may be very interesting to the Federal Campaign Commission.
So get going, kid. Don't let these two leave you holding the trunk.

Rush Faces / Loses The Music

So, today's count is that Limbaugh has lost 29 advertisers and two radio stations.

He's also lost the ability to play music by the band Rush.

I had been wondering if Peter Gabriel will come after him for making the "slut" and "prostitute" remarks over the haunting flute trill from Sledgehammer. What an evil thing to do, to taint that ethereal music with his revolting sexual fantasies.

From Maura Judkis on the Style Blog of the Washington Post -- go to the piece if you want to follow her links to CBS and Cesca:
    It started with Peter Gabriel, whose song “Sledgehammer” was playing in the background as Limbaugh called Fluke a “slut” and a “prostitute” for speaking out in behalf of insurance coverage for birth control. Gabriel’s rep posted this message on his Facebook page, CBS reports:
      Peter was appalled to learn that his music was linked to Rush Limbaugh's extraordinary attack on Sandra Flute. It is obvious from anyone that knows Peter's work that he would never approve such a use. He has asked his representatives to make sure his music is withdrawn and especially from these unfair aggressive and ignorant comments.
    Next came Rush, the band, who demanded that Rush, the host, stop using their work, which he played before and after commercial breaks. Blogger Bob Cesca contacted the band, and was shown a cease and desist letter from the band’s music publisher that was delivered to Rush. An excerpt follows:
      The use of Rush’s music in this manner implies an endorsement of the views expressed and products advertised on the show, and is in breach of not only copyright and trademark rights, but also, of section 51 of the New York Civil Rights Law ... Accordingly, we hereby demand that you immediately stop all use of Rush’s music and confirm that you will do so...
Just an aside to the weightier matters at the root of the current Limbaugh scandal, but it was bugging me. The last bit of Judkis' posting gives links to other musician v. politician spats in the past couple of years: Gingrich, Tom Petty, Michele Bachman, and so on.

Chris Matthews on Limbaugh: Attention Must Be Paid

I've been doing what I could on various angry-white-male websites to point out how the Blunt-Rubio Amendment would affect them, but with very little success getting past the "Limbaugh said she's a WHORE and I'm not paying for that!" meme. Their subtext seems to be (yes, all in caps), "ALL THOSE WOMEN ARE HAVING SEX AND THEY ARE NOT HAVING SEX WITH ME I HATE THEM I HATE THEM I HATE THEM AND I THINK MY MOMMY DIDN'T WANT ME." Having rational conversations about contraception, reproduction, or abortion is a steep climb in those circumstances.

But never mind. It took a whole week, from last Wednesday to Super Tuesday tonight, before I heard a man make this point: the Blunt-Rubio Amendment would have made men's lives very difficult, because, doh, when birth control pills are being used — or denied — for actual birth control, there's always a man involved.

Chris Matthews brought it up in his Super Tuesday version of Hardball about an hour ago. He had Michael Steele and Joan Walsh with him, and regrettably, they all relied on his rather sweet euphemism about women and men "coming together to make love" — which is charming if you're the romantic sort, and pure gold if you are the pervy sort. "Coming together" was used at least three, maybe four times in five minutes. Oh, Mr. Matthews, please don't do that again.

Well. So Matthews & Walsh are struggling to make the point, and Michael Steele, former head of the RNC, is trying to babble out the time with his point, which is the so-mendacious-it's-ludicrous contention that keeping the Pill away from women is good for women, because allowing women the Pill makes men 'unresponsible' and 'disrespectful' in that men can just say to themselves, oh, she's on the pill, I have no further responsibility here.

In this worldview, forcing men to be responsible for children they don't want, but aren't allowed not to conceive, and aren't allowed not to bring to term — in this worldview, unhappy, unwilling men being being forced to support unwanted pregnancies and subsequently unwanted children with equally unhappy, unwilling women who didn't want to get pregnant in the first place — in this worldview, that is what Michael Steele, and the Catholic Church, and Rick Santorum, all claim to believe is "respect" for women.

So in his own show at 5 PM, Matthews makes that point (about men needing birth control, not my exegesis on Steele, the bishops, and Santorum). In the second hour of election coverage, starting at 6 PM Eastern, he went on to make this explanation of what seduces Limbaugh's listeners:

    He's a money making machine... he knows exactly who he's talking're in talk radio, you try to get rush hour, you want a maximum diversified audience of all kinds of people rushing to work.

    Rush doesn't want rush hour. He wants noon to three, he wants that the traveling salesman out there, ticked off at his boss whose put a sales quota up that he'll never reach, a wife at home who usually doesn't respect what he's doing, kids don't know what he's doing, and he's out there selling Chiclets or brassieres as you said a moment ago,* you don't know what he's selling, but he's gotta sell that stuff, and he's gotta sell it by tonight. He's got a tough job. What does Rush say?

    "You're out there, you're carrying the American load, man, you're out there doing... those affirmative action people, those women, they're not doing it, they're not doing it, you're out there doing it, you're the one that's out there doing it." It's a support group! It's a classic — you talk about community organizing, he's a support group for traveling salesmen. It's brilliant.

    And by the way, they're always right, women are always wrong. It is a male — I betcha do the math on this, it's a male audience, it's traveling salespeople, it can also be mechanics, working in mechanic shops, fixing tires and fixing automobiles. It's a tough job, and those people are not in a great mood, and he's saying, "you're right they're wrong, liberals are wrong, minorities are wrong, women are wrong, your wife's wrong, you're right." And they feel real good after listening to Rush for three hours. And I think that's what he's about, but he didn't have to go this far to make those guys happy.

    I don't think those guys are haters, a lot of them, I think they just want to feel a little better at the end of the day. There aren't that many haters, are there, in this country?
That's Matthew's compassionate take on what motivates Rush's listeners, a contrast to my view on what motivates the most scurrilous voices in Limbaugh's amen choir. Doubtless we are both right, and we certainly agree on the underlying sentiment: inchoate, insatiable anger.

Matthews, who has a new book out on JFK, dropped this tidbit next: "Every president going back to Jack Kennedy has had a daughter... you have a daughter, you think about things differently." He was remarking on President Obama's call to Sandra Fluke Friday night, after Limbaugh had spent nine hours over three days reviling her, and unleashed a nation-wide torrent of very personalized internet hatred.

Barack Obama has daughters. They've already been vilified by the Limbaugh-leaning websites, and it will get worse as they move towards womanhood. But the real reason the president phoned Fluke after her third day of martyrdom is she's devoted her adult life to service, and will graduate with a commitment to using her degree in the public interest — precisely as Harvard Law alum Obama did, with his community organizing work in Chicago when he was a newly-minted attorney.

Much has been made of Republican candidates' fear of Limbaugh: Romney's cowardly refusal to comment on Limbaugh's slanderous sexual attack for days, and then Romney's weak over-the-shoulder remark that "those aren't the words I would have used" — not disavowing Limbaugh's attack, just the "slut" and "prostitute" epithets — and of Santorum's slithery remark to Limbaugh as an entertainer who is entitled be "absurd."

By Friday night, Limbaugh's filth had thoroughly mired the hems of the two Republican contenders for president. There have even been on-camera remarks that a man with five sons might not understand how the parents of daughters felt about this sordid episode. On Monday's broadcast of The Last Word, E.J. Dionne of the Washington Post reported something that David Friend, CEO of Carbonite and the man who made the decision to stop sponsoring Limbaugh's show said to him. When asked by Dionne why, Friend replied simply, "I have daughters the same age as the woman he attacked."

But what I want to ask is this: if these mopes can't defend one woman, one woman testifying before Congress on a matter of national concern, one woman testifying about a friend's loss of an ovary due to the lack of prompt contraceptive care — if neither Santorum nor Romney can bring themselves to defend just one American from, oh horrors! A radio host! — how are they going to defend America itself from, say, Korea or Iran?

* Maddow had just embarrassed Matthews by responding to his own reference to Lucille Ball's famous assembly line skit, where she ends up stuffing candies into her brassiere. Matthews was comparing Lucy's desperation to Republican candidates' inability to keep all their ducks in a row, all their balls in the air, etc. E.g.: Gingrich is such a failure, he can't vote for himself today in Virginia, where he lives, nor in Georgia, where he was an elected official, nor anywhere else. Santorum, who lived in Virginia for many years, also blew his chance to get on the ballot here. He's winning Ohio, probably due to the Steubenville Catholics — but he failed to do the paperwork that would allow him to get actual delegates out of his wins in certain counties. It's the clown show.

Late addition: Oh! Special treat! Santorum has just started his victory speech: "Thank you for coming out, Stupidville Ohio, I've — God bless you, thank you for being here." So help me, I'm not making it up, he slurred his words just enough to change Steubenville to Stupidville. Several times. Oy!

The Ultrasound Rape Exception Gives The Game Away

In These Times is a terrific progressive publication, 36 years old, based back in my hometown, Chicago. With their kind permission, I'm reprinting this analysis by Lindsay Beyerstein from last Thursday about the "rape-by-the-state" forced-ultrasound bill here in Virginia, which has been my home for twenty years.

Virginia made the most news because of its geographic proximity to so many angry anchorwomen -- all hail Andrea Mitchell. However, bills such as the Virginia forced ultrasound law, designed to physically and emotionally traumatize women seeking abortion and raise the cost of the procedure by nearly a thousand dollars* are either already enacted, or in progress, in many other states. I don't know how many have rape exceptions, but local activists could and should find out in their own home states, and then make Beyenstein's point: the rape exception proves forced ultrasounds are not about giving women information.

Lindsay Berenstein is a widely-published investigative journalist and publisher who has written for Newsweek, Ms. Magazine, The Nation, Slate, Salon, and others. Her photos have been published by the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times. She also covered the revolting race between Jim Webb (D) and George "Macaca" Allen (R) for the open Virginia U.S. Senate seat in 2006. Since I live here, I owe her a debt of deep personal gratitude for whatever her coverage did to spare us six years of that lout. So thank you, Ms. Berenstein, for that and for this:

    Thursday Mar 1, 2012 8:52 pm
    VA Gives the Game Away With Rape Exception for Ultrasound Bill
    By Lindsay Beyerstein

    So, the Virginia forced-ultrasound bill passed with an exception for rape victims. Think about that for a second.

    The anti-choicers swear that ultrasound laws are about informed consent, not about humiliating and inconveniencing women who want abortions. Supposedly, women are too dense to understand that they're aborting an embryo or a fetus without visual aids.

    So, if this were about informed consent, as opposed to throwing arbitrary barriers between a woman and her right to choose, you'd think a woman would need to see her ultrasound no matter how she got pregnant. The ultrasound looks the same no matter what, and it's not like rape makes women smarter. If any woman needs to see her ultrasound, [all women need] to see it. Unless the ultrasound is a punishment disguised as a public service.

    The rape exception proves that the anti-choicers only interested in punishing women for having sex. Rape victims didn't consent to sex, so they're treated as a separate and more deserving category of abortion-seekers.
(emphasis added) Thanks to Ms. Beyerstein for covering the issue so well. You can see more of her recent work here; I've become a fan. And I'm renewing my print subscription to In These Times; go give them a look. They are not-for-profit and even if you can't subscribe, you can support their work by donating.

*The purpose of the ultrasound is not to "help" the woman. It is to impose what adds up to a nearly $1,000 fine for daring to seek an abortion:

$500 ultrasound (and since it's unnecessary, insurance won't pay)
$150 hotel room (assuming urban area near clinic)
$150 rough estimate for extra 24 hours of day care for existing kids
$100 lost wages for extra day "waiting period" for woman making $26K/year

That's $900. Her lost wages will vary, and some women won't need day care, and some women will pay a lot more than the $150 I allowed for 24-hour care.

A Virginia Doctor Speaks Out

This is a letter from my personal physician in Virginia to the state governor. He published it on his Facebook page, and I'm reposting it here. Where are the medical associations? Do we have to rely on one doctor at a time?
    Dear Governor McDonnell:

    As a Virginia educated (University of Virginia), trained (Riverside Regional Medical Center, Newport News), and practicing physician (Falls Church), and a voting resident of the Commonwealth, I must express my strongest objections to the legislation headed to your desk requiring an ultrasound prior to an abortion.

    In medicine, we strive to order only those tests that are medically necessary. The abdominal ultrasound that a woman will have to undergo as a result of this bill is simply not medically helpful or financially sensible. Most doctors know that a fetus cannot be seen on an abdominal ultrasound during early pregnancy. Furthermore, the image is of no value to the physician in planning a procedure. A vaginal ultrasound, now deemed "too invasive" by the legislature, might show the fetus, but it too is only valuable when there is concern for an ectopic or abnormal pregnancy.

    Furthermore, by excluding certain populations who might be considering an abortion (namely rape or incest) from the test, the legislature has created a double standard which clearly exposes the bill for what it is - simply another barrier to care.

    Except where safety of the population is involved, the legislature would do well to avoid practicing medicine through votes. Leave this responsibility to the Board of Medicine and other bodies who are more qualified to determine patient safety and less motivated to make a political statement.

    I want to encourage you to veto the bill that is headed your way. Placing barriers and hurdles to safe medical care isn't a sensible way to decrease abortions. Our Commonwealth would do well to work toward decreasing the number of unwanted pregnancies instead.
Thank you, Doctor T, for taking care of your patients in the political realm as well as the medical. So sorry that this is necessary; so glad you spoke out.

The Religious Right Doing Corporations' Dirty Work

The Blunt Amendment failed yesterday. Largely characterized as an attack on women's health, and specifically on insurance coverage for contraception, it was actually much worse than that, and since it is sure to return, it's worth a short discussion.

Senator Roy Blunt (R-MO) was in a lather to provide the Catholic Church exception to an Obama Administration rule which applies to all employers: what must be included in their basic insurance plan for employees. It parallels similar rules which have been in place in 28 states for many years. It would apply only to businesses run by the Church, not to actual churches.

Giving employees who wish to use contraception for themselves, or for a covered spouse, the equivalent of an eight-hundred-dollar pay cut,* wasn't enough for Blunt. He expanded the controversy to allow any employer to claim, as falsely as the Church, that some drug or service or test is "religiously or morally" unacceptable to them, and thus deny coverage.

Had the Blunt Amendment passed, it wouldn't just have put contraceptive drugs at risk. The Blunt Amendment would have justified denying all employees of all employers all health care.

Pretend, just for a moment, that I'm a hard-core Libertarian. If so, I'm going to leap up shouting that insurance constitutes a moral hazard,** and that making me, the employer, pay to put my employees at risk of moral hazard is, itself, a great moral wrong.

POOF! There goes the whole shebang.

We know what's going on here: about a month ago, Newt Gingrich, desperate for an issue that would get him back on the air, started complaining about the proposed federal rule -- which is identical to or even softer than rules which have existed in 28 states for as long as a decade. Then Rick Santorum (or "Sick Rantorum," if you like) piled on.

Then the Catholic bishops took their turn on stage, exaggerating their opposition to birth control. (Remember, Catholic-affiliated hospitals which test new drugs require contraception as part of their human experimentation protocols; and some Catholic-affiliated universities provide contraception as part of their compensation package for employees).

After that, the Right went overboard about the chance to attack women's sexuality, including putting up an all-male panel of clerics during a House hearing while specifically denying a female witness the right to speak about non-contraceptive use of birth control pills to control ovarian cysts and tumors. (After that, the de facto leader of the Republican Party, Rush Limbaugh, called this witness a slut and a prostitute for daring to testify and said he wanted to watch porn videos of her.)

And then came the notion that any employer should be allowed to deny coverage for contraception, which rapidly snowballed into any employer should be allowed to deny coverage for any care they didn't feel like paying for, so long as they claimed an exemption based on their personal religious beliefs or moral convictions.

That's the Blunt Amendment, and if it had passed, or some version ever passes, that would mean the end of comprehensive medical benefits for all American workers and their families.

We know what the answer is: getting employers entirely out of the unjust burden of paying for employee health care. All of them. Not just church-affiliated enterprises, not just self-insured businesses or large businesses or small ones, all of them. We already know that Medicare provides more actual care-per-dollar than any private insurance scheme, and that Medicare would get even less expensive and more efficient if it included young, healthy people. We need Medicare for all -- Medicare for the working generations -- Medicare for all our children -- in other words, universal single-payer health care.

The relief to our economy would be enormous;*** the relief to our families even more so; and the relief to our public discourse and from the tension among religious points of view a welcome break from the thirty-year escalation of the degrading use of faith as a political weapon.

* The eight-hundred-dollar-pay cut: $600 for pills, $150 minimum for the non-covered physician visit to get the prescription, and estimate $50 at minimum for lost wages or lost personal time.

** "Moral hazard" is a specific term of art in insurance and law, and isn't about one's sexual morals. Click here for an explanation.

*** Imagine docs hiring only nurses, and not herds of paperwork clerks; imagine entrepreneurs having the security of knowing they aren't putting their family's health on the line if they quit their day jobs to start a new business; imagine no one having to choose between medication and food; and imagine every mega-corporation being able to cut their army of insurance clerks down to near-nothing. Best of all, imagine your boss have no access to your medical data.

Catholic Research Hospitals REQUIRE Contraception

Since the Obama Administration promulgated a rule which would require all businesses, even those affiliated with religious groups, to provide contraceptive care as part of employee insurance benefits -- if the employees have any benefits, that is -- the Right has attempted to whip up a First Amendment frenzy, claiming that Catholic-affiliated hospitals and schools should not have to comply.

However, 28 states have had similar rules in place for years, and the Church has somehow managed to live with this. Even in states without such laws, some Catholic-affiliated employers have nonetheless provided the coverage as a matter of course. Still, the issue seems to have gained traction in the punditocracy, though not with Catholic laypeople, who prefer the Obama rule standardizing contraceptive coverage at an even higher rate than the general population.

Even some generally liberal opinion leaders who are not misogynist in any way, such as E.J. Dionne of the Washington Post, have spoken up for the claimed right of the Church to have consistency in its anti-contraceptive stance beyond the boundaries of the churches themselves -- which the Obama Administration has exempted -- but also in its business entities, such as hospitals, universities, and the like.

I know something about this "consistency."

During the early 1990s, I was a student at Georgetown Law. I volunteered for a drug study being done at Georgetown Hospital. Georgetown University is a Roman Catholic institution which accepts and employs people of all faiths and none.

To participate in the study, I was compelled to sign GU's Human Experimentation Protocol. It required that I agree to use contraception for the duration of the study, to protect Georgetown from liability should the drug in question turn out to be bad for fetuses.

This was Georgetown's own protocol, but any institution doing human experimentation has such a document which test subjects are required to sign. If other Catholic hospitals do drug testing, I guarantee that they adhere to a protocol which requires fertile women to commit to using contraception for the length of the study.

To comply with the protocol, I requested a prescription for oral contraceptives. They gave me one, written by a Georgetown University Hospital physician on a Georgetown University Hospital prescription pad.

When I took the scrip upstairs to the Georgetown Hospital pharmacy, the desk clerk scornfully told me that I couldn't get it filled there.

The hypocrisy of the pharmacy is not the issue today. Today, it's the hypocrisy of the Church hierarchy, in asserting that paying for coverage for oral contraceptives or other birth control for employees of their non-church businesses (universities, hospitals, etc.) is sinful and contrary to their beliefs -- while at the same time requiring oral contraceptive use to protect themselves from liability in drug studies.

The punditocracy can be forgiven for not having this admittedly arcane situation leap immediately to mind. But what about Viagra?

It is common knowledge that the Church forbids fornication, adultery, and masturbation. Therefore, in the name of the "consistency" claimed by the bishops who protest the coverage rule, shouldn't the Church be refusing to cover Viagra for single men? Yet we've heard nothing like that. Oral contraceptives have many medical uses, most importantly, the prevention of luteal cysts of the ovary. Viagra, so far as I know, doesn't.

Yet contraceptives are under attack, and a drug which does nothing but facilitate acts forbidden to unmarried men gets no disapprobation from the bishops, nor from the likes of Rick "Contraception Is Not OK" Santorum or known Viagra-smuggler Rush Limbaugh, who wanted the drug for a Caribbean vacation but didn't want his name on the bottle.

So this current faux-outrage isn't about allowing a very inconsistent Church to make a pretense of consistency. It's not even about giving religiously-affiliated institutions an unfair cost break their secular competitors don't get. It's certainly not about a "new rule," when this rule has existed for years in a majority of U.S. states.

It's about whipping up an uninformed, hyper-sensitized base to believe that this is, somehow, an attack on their religion. It's about one church attempting to force even its unbelieving employees to conform their conduct to a faith not of their choosing. It's about permitting religious discrimination and sex discrimination even in activities which are heavily tax-subsidized (via Medicare and student loans). It's about cheating female workers of their just benefits. It's about using women's bodies and women's health as political footballs.

As of two days ago, Texas began enforcing a law which requires any woman seeking an abortion to submit to vaginal intrusion via a physically and financially punitive forced ultrasound.(1) As of two weeks ago, the formerly-respected Susan G. Komen fund learned the consequences of de-funding poor women who were getting breast screenings at Planned Parenthood.

And now, the political punters and discredited bishops who pretend that contraception is "not OK"(2) and that even their non-church businesses should be relieved of this responsibility in the name of a mendacious "consistency" -- a consistency they abandon when it is to their benefit to have a litigation shield, a consistency they abandon when it comes to men's reproductive health -- now, they are faced with a Catholic population in which 98% of couples have used birth control, and 54% -- a greater proportion than the population as a whole -- support the standardized-coverage rule.(3) After the appalling sex abuse cover-up scandals of the past decade, do the Catholic bishops really think their credibility can take another heavy hit such as this? Do they really think that their claim to moral authority is what it once was among Catholics, on this or any other issue?

President Obama, don't compromise. The coverage rule is a blessing to those who need it most, the women and working teens at the bottom of the wage ladder who cannot easily afford the $600+ annual cost of contraception, some of whom are washing floors and serving food at Catholic hospitals and schools and are already struggling to support more children than they can afford. Don't let the Church cry victim when the real victims are the women of whatever faith, who need contraceptive prescriptions for whatever reason, and are being told by their tax-subsidized employers that it's just too sinful and they just can't have it.

(1) Texas Sonogram Law Enforced via MSNBC, 2/8/2012 Also, transvaginal, rather than abdominal, ultrasounds are preferred early in pregnancy.

(2) Rick Santorum via The Raw Story, 10/21/2011

(3) PPP press release, 2/7/2012

© 2012 Lisa Small, all rights reserved

cross-posted at Lisa Small: Newsvine

Santorum 2012

I loathe Rick Santorum as much as the next sane person who believes in liberty, equality, and justice for all, but I think Dan Savage went far too far with his nasty Google Santorum trick. Come on, Dan, the man has kids. And cousins. And other relatives (or non-relatives) bearing the same name who are perfectly innocent of Rick Santorum's perfidies.

Nonetheless, Savage posed a question two days ago that I really feel a need to quote, especially given that it looks as though all of New York State will formalize the right to engage in, watch, perform, and applaud marriage equality at some point today. Here's Savage:
    Rick Santorum told CNN’s Don Lemon that he has gay friends and he loves his gay friends and they love him back. The openly gay Lemon, oddly enough, did not demand names and contact information for these gay friends.

    I’d like to hear directly from the gays who love Santorum despite Santorum’s belief that gay people are no better than dog-fuckers and child-rapists, his promise to repeal the DADT repeal, his desire to write anti-gay bigotry into the U.S. Constitution, his opposition to gay adoption, and his belief that consensual gay sex should be a felony. If Santorum’s gay friends love Santorum as much as Santorum loves his gay friends, I’m sure they would be only too glad to speak to the media about their love of Santorum.

    Santorum told Lemon that his imaginary gay friends prove that he’s no homophobe. But if you believe—as Santorum has said repeatedly—that gays and lesbians are a threat to the family and a danger to the country, then you should be openly and proudly homophobic. So either Santorum is lying when he says we’re a threat to the family, a danger to the country, etc., or he’s lying when he says he has gay friends.

    Which is it, Rick?
On a related point, "marriage equality" is a vastly better catchphrase that "gay marriage" when seeking mainstream support. First, it states the issue in the clearest terms (because bisexuals marry too, among other things), and second, because it doesn't produce mental images of gay sex or gay sexuality that clutter up the mental landscape (delightfully or otherwise) on the way to thinking about equality and justice.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg's secretary taught her the lesson decades ago: "Sex! Sex! All the time sex!" she complained, while typing up a sex discrimination brief. The future Justice changed her word choice to "gender," and suddenly the multiple meanings of the word sex dropped out of the mental processes of people reading her arguments. And that focused the debate on discrimination, not sex, sex, all the time sex.

*These may not be her exact words, but they are as best as I can recall from hearing RBG tell the story.