USCCB says "Help, help, we're bein' repressed!"

The USCCB = US Conference of Catholic Bishops, meaning a collective of old celibate (unless they're abusing children, that is) men who think Jesus has given them a special license to boss everyone else around, no matter what everyone else believes about Jesus or anything else.

And right now, the USCCB want us to know they are Very Seriously Concerned for religious liberty in this country, because their will is not being implemented on the rest of us speedily enough, which is a violation of their religious liberty to be the boss of everyone.  If your beliefs include that you should be in charge, I guess not putting you in charge is a violation of your religious liberty, right?  The USCCB thinks so, anyway!  Check out the horror show of quotes from them this past week or so...
“We see in our culture a drive to neuter religion,” Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan of New York, president of the bishops conference, said in a news conference Monday at the bishops’ annual meeting in Baltimore. He added that “well-financed, well-oiled sectors” were trying “to push religion back into the sacristy.” (via)
Oh noes!  How dare we try to maintain our separation of church and state by making sure religion remains in the church where it belongs?!  Don't we know that's Bad and Wrong and religion belongs in both the sacristy AND the Oval Office?!?!  Dirty little heathens be we, I suppose.
"There is no religious liberty if we are not free to express our faith in the public square and if we are not free to act on that faith through works of education, health care and charity," [Bishop William E.] Lori said in his first address to the bishops as chairman of the newly formed Ad Hoc Committee on Religious Liberty of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. (via)
"If we cannot get government subsidies and contracts to carry out our religious works while still being protected from having to follow the law within our organizations, we are being OPPRESSED I TELL YOU!  And we know about oppression.  We've been practicing on everyone else for centuries, so that we would recognize this moment when it came."
"For some time now we have viewed with growing alarm the ongoing erosion of religious liberty in our country.  Among the challenges we see is a pattern in culture and law to treat religion merely as a private matter between an individual and his or her God,"
...This is beyond even my considerable reservoir of snark.  I, um...yeah, I'm sorry, I got nothing.  When they're talking about "treating religion as a private matter between an individual and their god" like that's horribly, desperately inappropriate and oppressive, what is there to say?  Is it Opposite Day again or something?

But what caused this bout of hand-wringing and pearl-clutching, you ask?  Well, like all big corporations, the Catholic church is campaigning for a more favorable regulatory environment - that is to say, fewer or no regulations at all.  Specifically, they're upset because of the new HHS rule that, as part of the health insurance reform package, would require nearly all employers who offer healthcare plans to employees to cover hormonal contraception without a copay as "preventative care".  There is a religious exemption in the rule already - an organization which A: has religious values as its primary purpose, B: primarily employs people who share the religious tenets of the organization, and C: primarily serves people who share the religious tenets of the organization, would be exempt from the rule.  Meaning that churches themselves are safe from the horror of being forced to make it easier for their employees to access contraception under the employer-subsidized health-care plan.

The problem, of course, is that Catholic hospitals do NOT primarily serve people who share their religious tenets.  In many places, Catholic hospitals are the ONLY hospitals within a reasonable distance, and thus serve the entire general populace of the area, Catholics and non-Catholics alike.  Under the new rule, that would disqualify them from a religious exemption, and the health-care plans offered to employees of the hospitals would have to include the option of contraception.  That's the option, by the by, not a requirement; no person would be required or even encouraged to use it.  It would simply be made available to those who want or need it, free of copay.  (I'll remind everyone that even if Catholic hospitals did employ primarily Catholics, Catholic women use hormonal contraception at about the same rate as non-Catholic women, that is to say, almost universally (98%).  So it's not like making contraception cheaper to access is really controversial for anyone except the actual church hierarchy.)

The idea that they might have to make it easier for women in their employ to get ahold of hormonal contraceptives, instead of making it harder, is giving them all conniption fits, and they're doing their damndest to lobby President Obama to throw us under the bus again by widening the exemption to suit the USCCB.

Righteous fury at the fact that the President seems to be taking the USCCB's lobbying seriously aside for the moment, I just want to return to one of their ludicrous displays of pretzel-logic about "religious liberty" for a moment, as it's extremely telling of what's really going on here:
There is no religious liberty if we are not free to express our faith in the public square and if we are not free to act on that faith through works of education, health care and charity,
Because they are framing the issue so that it sounds like the government is going to force Catholic health care and education organizations to shut down, thus denying them the ability to act on their faith in that manner, when actually the government is in no way impeding their ability to act on their faith "through works of education, health care and charity".  It's simply saying that if they want to employ people to do those works, they need to provide those employees with access certain baseline services.  Which is a totally different thing.

Catholic organizations walk a strange line in this country.  They (ostensibly) employ and (ostensibly) serve the general public, not only Catholics, but they expect to be able to impose their religious doctrines on those members of the public who rely on their employment or services - and again, remember that in many areas there are no other options for some of the services Catholic organizations provide - and they expect to receive special dispensation from the government to restrict both employees and clientele in ways ordinary businesses aren't allowed to, because, in essence, "Jesus told us so".  Especially since they're claiming that their religious doctrine requires them to do certain works, they really are using the kind of argument I facetiously posited in the first paragraphs of the post: If my religion says I have to be in charge of things, not putting me in charge of things is violating my religion!

It follows logically, in the strictest interpretation of the statement, and yet it's clearly and obviously ridiculous to expect such treatment.  Why?  Because the government's sole purpose is not to protect religious liberty.  That is an important part of its duty, but it is still only *part*.  The government is of much wider scope, tasked with ensuring the welfare and well-being of all its people, and when push comes to shove and a single organization's doctrinal need to impose their views on other people - like, say, employees and clients - is harming members of the general public, religious liberty must give way to protecting the people.  It's called "compelling government interest", and it's why we wouldn't allow a person to go about murdering other people even if it was a legitimate requirement of their religion, because the safety and well-being of others has to come first when the two principles are in conflict.

Yet the USCCB isn't satisfied, and won't be satisfied, until their right to impose their doctrine on everyone within reach is enshrined in law as being of more importance than the needs and safety of the "everyone within reach" they're trying to impose their will on.


Like the Grinch, Only Worse

Because the Grinch *had* a heart, even if it was a tiny shriveled little thing, and it was *able* to grow three sizes that day.  Whereas Roger Schlafly, son of the infamous Phyllis "I'm going to make it big and get rich by making a career out of telling other women they shouldn't have careers - oh and getting married means your husband has a right to your body at all times" Schlafly, cannot possibly have even a shred of a heart left in his body at all.

Because if you have a heart, you do not attack mandatory reporting laws designed to protect children from abuse.  Period.  Much less referring to mandatory reporting as "snitching" and saying that such laws "turn us into a nation of snitches".  And you sure as fuck don't claim that mandatory reporting laws are an "attack on the autonomy of the American family". 

Cause if your family's "autonomy" includes the right to choose to cover up crimes against children which would be violated by mandatory reporting laws, you do not deserve to have a family, nor do you deserve autonomy at all.  Period.

Women for Obama? Not This Woman.

Apparently the campaign season has reached the point where it's time to start specific outreach, for I had an email land in my inbox last week that frankly took my breath away with its audacity:
As I have traveled across the country, I have had the privilege of meeting incredible women from all walks of life. From young women paying their own way through college, to moms working the extra shift to keep food on the table, to women struggling to make ends meet during retirement.

We talk about their bills, their children -- how they're constantly striving to strike that balance between work and family. And no matter what kind of challenges they're facing, they don't complain. They just work harder.

This is what we do as women. We persevere. Because no matter our ages, backgrounds, or stations in life, we are determined to leave a better world for our children and give them opportunities we never even dreamed of.

Women have always been the heart of the Obama organization. We make up nearly half of the American workforce and are the majority of students in America's colleges and universities. We're the primary caregivers for our children and seniors. We're the heads of households and workplaces across the country.

And right now, it's time for us all to dig deep, step up, and keep building this campaign together: person by person, discussion by discussion.

Today, we are officially launching Women for Obama -- and I am incredibly honored to be serving as its chair. This is a special group dedicated to growing this campaign from the ground up. Because we know better than anyone that movements for real and lasting change have got to start at the grassroots -- and they're sustained by the relationships we develop with one another. Together, that's what we're going to do -- build relationships with supporters, new and old, and grow this campaign -- one woman at a time.

I wanted to ask you myself if you'll sign on to join us.

The stories of the incredible women I meet serve as a constant reminder of why we're all here: because American families all around the country are facing very real problems. They're balancing mortgage payments and utilities bills with full-time jobs and raising children. They're struggling to make ends meet while still trying to put money aside to send their kids to college one day.

Barack understands these issues because he's lived them. He was raised by a single mother who struggled to put herself through school and pay the bills. When she needed help, Barack's grandmother stepped in, waking up every morning before dawn to take a bus to her job at a bank. And even though she worked hard and was good at what she did, she ultimately hit a glass ceiling and was passed over for promotions time and again because she was a woman.

So Barack knows what it means when a family struggles. He knows what it means when someone doesn't have a chance to fulfill their potential. And today, as a father, he knows what it means to want your daughters to grow up with no limits on their dreams.

That's why, since taking office, he's worked tirelessly to make sure every child and every family gets a fair shake.

The historic health reform he passed is making sure every American family gets the quality and affordable care they need to stay healthy. The crucial investments he's made in our students and workers -- raising the standards in our public schools and building out job-training programs at community colleges -- are investments in our country's economic future. And the very first bill he signed into law -- the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act -- will help make it easier for women to get equal pay for equal work, because he knows that women's success in this economy is the key to families' success in this economy.

But we have so much more to do. And, as women and supporters of this campaign, we need to keep showing up -- and we need to keep fighting the good fight.

So I'm asking you to join me, and women all across the country who support this movement. I'm asking you to say you're ready to work.

Join Women for Obama, and help us grow this organization:


Thank you for being a part of this,

How. DARE. You.  An administration that has used my rights as a bargaining chip, willingly trading away protections for the most vulnerable among us in order to pander to Blue Dog Democrats, and stood silently by, watching, without so much as a quiet cough of discomfort or awkwardness as a tidal wave of anti-choice legislation swept this country, now wants to approach me as a woman and ask me to sign on to campaign for them?

With all due respect, y'all can go fuck yourselves with something spiky.

This whole letter rubs me the wrong way, from the sisterhood-y tone to the "that's what women do, persevere (but without complaining because to be a woman is to work and be silent and consigned to the shadows while your labor keeps everyone going apparently)" to centering the message about "FOR THE CHILDREN BECAUSE ALL WOMEN ARE MOTHERS OR AT THE VERY LEAST MATERNALLY-INCLINED TO PROTECT TEH PRESHUS CHILDRENZ".

Pointing to the Lily Ledbetter Act wins you no points, given that it's been said by those involved that it was pretty much a done deal already before Obama took office, and it doesn't even do what the administration is always claiming it does, and yet it's always proudly trotted out as the main show pony in these appeals to women as a voting bloc.  Help for students is good, definitely, and there will be women among those students benefiting, but the tone of it has that FOR THE CHILDRENZ feel that's really turning me off about all this.  And touting the health care insurance reform, in which the administration started in the middle and compromised to the right, including ceding ground on the issue of federal funding for abortions for people on Medicaid by issuing an executive order reinforcing the Hyde Amendment to appease DINOs in exchange for their votes on the legislation, in a letter appealing to women to throw their support to the administration's campaigns, is a whole new level of audacity. 

We're talking about a President who has repeatedly deliberately used right-wing framing in talking about reproductive choice, whose Equality Day Proclamation had not even the tiniest mention of reproductive freedom, who traded away poor women's reproductive freedom in order to get his precious health care insurance reform, who staffed his administration with known misogynist fuckwits, whose PR rep couldn't even manage a simple statement on the Republican war on women at the state level without epic mansplaining and dancing around the topic, who even when his administration does actually work to protect freedom of choice remains absolutely silent about it as if wanting to keep things hushed up, and who is even now openly considering caving to the US Conference of Catholic Bishops and allowing them to discriminate against women in their employ at Catholic hospitals and schools the nation over because they've got their shorts in a wad about "insufficient" conscience protections that will require that the insurance they offer to employees cover contraception care among other preventative services.*

And after all of this, you have the unmitigated temerity to appeal to me not simply as a voter, but specifically as a woman?  

I do not even remotely begin to have enough middle fingers with which to salute in response.

When y'all are ready to actually stand with us beyond LILLYLEDBETTERLILLYLEDBETTERLILLYLEDBETTER, let me know and we'll talk.  Until then, keep your patronizing schtick to yourselves.

*I realize the bulk of my links in this paragraph all go to various posts on the same blog; I also realize that some people will take that to mean I didn't have any other sources and can be disregarded on these claims.  I use these links for three reasons: one, because I know the blog and its tags well enough that I could find the information I was after fairly quickly; two, because all the posts are well-written and well-sourced with further links you can read for more information; and three, because I love Shakesville and am always happy to send people over there.  Please don't mistake this choice for a lack of supporting data elsewhere, I simply pull from the places I know well and have access to.


(Partial) Credit Where (Partial) Credit Is Due: Susan G Komen's Response to Raise A Stink

It's no secret around these parts that I am vehemently not a fan of Susan G Komen for the Cure.  So when Think Before You Pink (a most excellent org dedicated to exposing pinkwashing and calling companies to account for their pinkwashing ways) launched their campaign Raise a Stink!, asking Komen to recall and reformulate their Promise Me perfume so that it no longer contains galaxolide and toluene, two toxins that have been shown to increase risk of breast cancer (irony FTL?), I was all over that.  I sent off the email to Komen, not really expecting to hear back, or expecting to receive a news update from TBYP at a later date.  To my surprise, however, the following email landed in my inbox this afternoon:

Thank you for your email to Susan G. Komen for the Cure® about the Promise Me fragrance. The fragrance was designed especially for Susan G. Komen for the Cure by TPR Holdings, which is donating $1 million to Komen annually for breast cancer research, education, screening, and treatment programs. The funds raised through the sale of the perfume will be put to good use in the pursuit of that goal.  

Our first concern is always the safety and well-being of women and men facing this disease. To that end, our partners’ products are subject to review by our Medical and Scientific Affairs team, which evaluated the perfume’s ingredients, the latest research, and guidelines from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. 

According to our research, the ingredients found in Promise Me are within fragrance and cosmetic industry standards, and at these levels have not been shown to elevate breast cancer risk in people. At Susan G. Komen for the Cure, we support evidence-based medicine, that is, decisions based on current facts and knowledge.  In addition, we make this information available to our constituents, respecting that they are intelligent consumers who make informed decisions about the use of products based on evidence. As new research and new findings are published, we will certainly take them into account. 
Nevertheless, at Komen’s request and to be sensitive to these concerns, the manufacturer agreed to reformulate the perfume. The last batch of the perfume was manufactured in May of this year; we expect manufacturing and sale of the reformulated product to begin in early 2012.  We do not intend to ask the manufacturer to recall or remove unsold products.
Komen has always believed that ending cancer requires research about how it begins and how it might be prevented, which is why Komen  has invested more than $65 million to prevention research and an additional $7 million supporting 18 projects investigating environmental estrogens, pesticides, steroid hormones, and nitrites/nitrates and their relation to breast cancer.
We’re also taking action for clarity and consensus around the direction that environmental research should take in the future, which is why we requested – and are funding – a $1 million study by the Institute of Medicine to answer that question. We expect IOM’s recommendations in December, along with IOM’s assessment of evidence-based strategies for individuals to reduce their risk of breast cancer. 
Komen is strongly committed to addressing breast cancer through science, advocacy and community and global outreach to achieve our mission to end breast cancer, forever. 
...Hmmm.  Well, good and not good, in spades.
  • -1 for excessive use of PR-speak padding "HEY THEY'RE GIVING US A MILLION BUCKS AND WE'RE GOING TO DO STUFF WITH IT" which contains the inevitable undertone of "it's for a good cause so you shouldn't discourage it!" (and we all know how well that goes over with me)
  • -1 for "industry standards" and the little dig about "evidence-based medicine" which implies that those of us who are unhappy about this are just being alarmists.  I would think that an org dedicated to "ending breast cancer forever" might want to be a bit more strict about the use of even potentially risk-increasing chemicals than "industry standards" allow.  "Industry" as a whole is about making money, not being safe, and we've all seen what happens when those two goals come into conflict, haven't we?  So yes, I do expect better from a dedicated cause org like Komen than a cop-out about "industry standards".
  • -1 for "make this information available and let you decide" as a brush-off.  Part of the point was that independent lab testing found these chemicals, and they were not listed on the label as ingredients.  So no, that's not making information available.  Even if it was, do you really think it's fair to expect your constituents to have at their fingertips the information about chemistry and the research on these particular chemicals to know what they do or their hazards?  If that were the case, why have FDA restrictions on cosmetics and fragrances at all?  Put whatever you want in there, as long as it's on the label so consumers can "make informed decisions based on evidence", right?  The point of standards at the manufacturing level is so that your average person doesn't have to have a degree in cosmetic science to understand what they're putting on their skin.  Since you commissioned the perfume, upholding that standard is your responsibility, and as I said, "industry standards" is not an acceptable cop-out here.
  • +1 for requesting that it be reformulated.  Yay!  That was the first part of what we were trying to do, so awesome!
  • -1 for not asking the manufacturer to even so much as pull unsold stock.  Even if you don't want to go to the trouble of a recall, don't sell any more of it, FFS.
  • -1 for even MORE defensive PR-speak and swinging their Mighty Fundraising And Money-Spending Dick around for everyone to see.  Do I give a shit about what else you've invested and how much?  Not particularly, no.  I was contacting you to address a particular issue, to which you've devoted a single small paragraph out of several so far.  Stick to the point, please.
  • -10 for absolutely no hint of apology anywhere, not even a Politician's Nonpology of "we're sorry if it bothered you" or anything.  If you're willing to back down enough to have the product reformulated, shouldn't you be willing to apologize for it?  Of course, given the context of defensive PR and reformulating without pulling unsold stock of the old formulation, I'd bet the decision to reformulate is, in essence, a token "shut the activists up" concession.  In which case, no, they're not going to apologize, because they're not sorry, they just want people to shut up and will do the absolute minimum required to make that happen.
It's good that they're having it reformulated.  However, that's pretty much the only good part to this, and while that was the main goal of Raise a Stink, the manner in which Komen has responded has still left an unpleasant stench for me.  I remain unconvinced of their value as a worthy organization.  No donations for you, Komen.


Postsecret Strikes Again: Gendering the Desire for Marriage

I read PostSecret, as I believe I've mentioned before here.  Sometimes they're banal, sometimes they're annoyingly common - this week included "I don't shave my legs in the wintertime"; who the hell does if you don't absolutely have to, honestly? - many are less "secrets" and more just statements, and there are usually...hopefully...a few that touch a subtle nerve in you, striking up the feelings of poignancy and human connection for which this project became famous.

Of course, reading PostSecret - consuming any kind of media, really - becomes a lot more complicated and interesting once you've "taken the red pill", so to speak.  Things your average person would find funny or scroll past without pausing catch the eye and poke at you.  Like the "I always bring fat customers extra helpings of breadsticks" secret from a few weeks ago, or the few over the years that have admitted to covert feelings of racism, or the cissexist assumptions made about whether or not lesbian couples could ever become pregnant without outside assistance from a couple months back (here is a good roundup of several of the worst offenders).  This week's Sunday Secrets included the following postcard:
A postcard depicting a black-and-white image of a man and woman in traditional Western wedding dress/tux holding each other and smiling in front of a church.  Red text overlaying the image reads "This is what I fantasize about...I'm a guy."
Pop culture in this country makes endless jokes about a presumed male reluctance to commit in relationships with women, and with marriage being the biggest commitment to a relationship one can make, of course men are skittish, amirite?  We understand - and teach young girls - that women long for marriage, that marriage is the pinnacle achievement of Relationship Rewards Points; we're expected to dream about The Big Day when we get to be the princess in the white dress with the church and the wedding cake, to have notebooks filled with pictures of the dream dress, etc.  But we refer to a man's wife as a "ball and chain", bachelor parties are a last-gasp-of-freedom usually involving alcohol and nude women before you lose your freedom forever to your marriage, etc.  Marriage, and weddings in particular, are constructed as a thing women desperately desire and men equally-desperately run from. 

And that's what makes this secret a powerful enough thing to have shown up on PostSecret.  A man is keeping his longing for a wedding (or marriage; it's hard to tell if it's the wedding part or the marriage part he's talking about from the image) a secret because fantasizing about weddings is a girly thing.  And of course, in a culture where masculinity is defined and constructed as not-femininity, the worst thing a man can do to damage his masculinity, and thus his identity as A Man, is admit to being feminine in any way.  For a man to have this girly desire for his wedding day is shameful, emasculating, and thus best kept secret.

I found this fascinating on a personal level, as well as a sociological level, because after being engaged my senior year of high school (and coming to my senses shortly thereafter, thank the gods), then coming to my "feminist awakening" in college, I decided I wasn't all that interested in marriage.  I maintained that position for years, and probably would have been quite satisfied to remain unwed the rest of my life, whether partnered or not - yet I'm engaged now, and looking forward to the day when we can make it legal (we haven't yet, because I refuse to take advantage of a privilege of access gained purely by chance because we happen to have different gender markers on our driver's licenses, and he agrees and supports that choice).  Yet when we got together, and our relationship turned deeply serious, he was the one who asked me to consider marrying him.  Not just in the "he proposed, of course, because the man always does the asking (but it's for show and form, the decision is usually all but made ahead of time)" sense, no.  He knew my feelings on marriage.  And we had a serious discussion wherein he made it clear he would respect that if I said no, but he also explained that he strongly did want to get married.  As in, it was a long-held wish of his, in the way that we teach women they should wish for marriage.  So he was the driving force behind our engagement, out of genuine desire for marriage.  (I've since warmed to the idea quite a bit, although the complexities of the vast war machine that is the wedding-industrial complex still make me want to run screaming into the night.)  So to me, this secret provokes a "So what?  I wouldn't even be engaged if not for the fact that my fiance feels similarly to this guy.  This is a *secret*?"

But I understand why.  It's our gendered expectations of what is an "acceptable" desire re: marriage and weddings that make this statement "I'm a guy who fantasizes about his wedding day" so taboo as to be a Secret one can only tell to an anonymous secret-gathering art project.  I wonder if I could send in a complementary secret, confessing my disinterest in weddings and outright hate for "traditional" wedding gowns, and have it been seen as equally confessional-ish because I'm a woman...?


The Blame Game and #OccupyOakland

I had heard last night that there was a(nother) planned eviction of Occupy Oakland set for this morning.  Nothing much to do but hope and pray that the cops wouldn't turn violent again.  Reading this morning's news, it seems that things were indeed relatively peaceful - legal observers and press observers were permitted to be in the camp unharassed by police, and while the encampment is gone again and there were 32 people arrested - mostly clergy and religious personnel from what I've heard, good job, I'm sure handcuffing priests is absolutely vital to the security of the nation - it did happen without the police brutality that has been the hallmark of these repeated attempts to quash the Occupy movement.

But this morning, in perusing my Twitter feed to catch up on the news, I came across this tweet from my local news channel, @abc7newsBayArea:
Screenshot of a tweet from @abc7newsBayArea reading "Mayor @JeanQuan said over 175 911 calls were not answered this past week because of police attention to #OccupyOakland"

This unfortunately follows the usual pattern of Mayor Quan's faux-populism attacks on #OO: point to various bad things in the city that are harming the people of Oakland, then blame the effects on #OO whether they're related or not.  When there was a shooting near the camp that ended with one man dead, even though neither the victim nor the shooter(s) were affiliated or involved with #OO, Quan used it to call for the encampent to disband because "violence is unacceptable".  It's Oakland, for fuck's sake!  One of the most violent cities in the Bay Area!  Shootings like the one that took place near #OO happen tragically often in Oakland, and statistically speaking it was just a matter of time before one happened in proximity to #OO.  Even OPD declared it unrelated, but Quan tried to make out like it was Occupy's fault and used it to justify evicting the encampment today

And now, this tweet this morning, which holds the not-so-subtle implication that it's #OO's fault that the police are spending time harassing #OO and were thus unable to respond to other calls.  Mayor Quan, you know there's a simple solution to that, right?  Leave Occupy the fuck alone.  All the cops have done around Occupy is stir up more trouble and escalate tensions.  YOU are the one choosing to devote so many police resources - and spending $2.4 million the city could ill afford to cover the costs of evicting #OO this morning, too - to Occupy and thus depriving your other constituents of what little protection or help they might have gained from the cops this past week when those calls were going unanswered.  Don't blame this on Occupy.  Take responsibility for your own actions and your own choices and what they are costing the people of your city, all because you're feeling threatened by some peaceful but very visible protests.


More Imaginary "Rights" from the Religious Right

The Senate Judiciary Committee passed the Respect for Marriage Act this week, allowing the bill to go to the full Senate where they will vote on this DOMA-repeal act (actually, they probably won't, given the broken filibuster rules and Republicans' willingness to abuse them to the fullest, but still).  The Religious Wrong have been predictably losing their shit over the vote, issuing forth hyperbolic blog posts and testerical "call to action" emails (with a "donate now!" link splashed in three places in the email, natch).  The chip-chip-chip of marriage equality activists undermining their stranglehold on conversations about "morality" and "family" is really getting to them at this point, it seems. 

I'm not going to bother with the roundup of reactions - RWW has that covered nicely.  But there was one line out of the statement given to the media by Catholics for the Common Good (for some value of "common" meaning "het Christian etc", of course), that caught my eye.
"Children have a right to know and be cared for by their mothers and fathers, and government has an obligation to promote the recognition of that right by encouraging men and woman to marry before having children."
No.  Just, no.  That is a "right" you are pulling out of your ass, as your type are so often wont to do.

Children have rights, absolutely and certainly.  Among them is the right to be raised and cared for by loving adults who will consistently and reliably act in the child's best interest.  That does not have shit fucking all to do with "mothers and fathers".  Not a goddamn thing.  Children may be very well cared for by a single parent of any gender; two parents of different genders; two parents of same gender; three or more parents and step-parents; three or more parents in a poly family; a parent and the parent's extended family (aunts, uncles, older cousins, grandparents); extended family alone; non-blood-related friends of the family; and all sorts of other various configurations. 

This insistence on "their mothers and fathers" is a slap in the face to "non-traditional" families everywhere.  It shits on every family who doesn't conform to the nuclear married-man-and-woman-with-biological-children standard.  It is arbitrary, and cruel, and unfair.

Children do have the right to a family, loosely defined.  They do not have a right to married parents.  They do not have a right to either or both biological parents.  (Although frankly, if the fundies would back up off the contraception and sex ed suppression tactics, more children *would* have access to their bio parents, because fewer people would be having kids they didn't want and either giving them up for adoption or choosing to be uninvolved with the kid.  People are more likely to hang onto/stick around with kids they *chose* to have, than ones they accidentally had or were forced to have because they had no other options.)   And personally, I believe the government has an obligation to butt the fuck out of people's private family-organization choices. 

Here's a novel idea: what if, instead of encouraging people to get married, we revamped the education system so that more people had the option for higher education and better salaries (kids and marriage are expensive, after all)?  What if, instead of encouraging people to get married, we ended the War on Poor People People of Color Drugs, which forcibly removes so many low-income and in particular, black men from their communities and families?  What if, instead of encouraging people to get married, we ensured that every child in this country, regardless of their family situation, had safe communities, good schools, good food, and health care?  What if we, y'know, actually gave a shit about the living situations of children in this country and worked to improve them, instead of shaming and browbeating their parents and/or guardians for not being the "right" kind of family unit or not being married first?

Oh, but I forget, those things would require money.  From the government.  Going to help its most vulnerable young citizens.  SOCIALISM I SAY!  And where would this money come from?  Are you suggesting making it impossible for this country's billionaires to make the payments on their seventh yacht in the Mediterranean by raising their taxes a fraction of a percent?  You MONSTER!  Suggesting that their hard-earned investment dividends and bonuses might be better used to feed, shelter, clothe, and educate children.  The NERVE.

As for the jackasses at Catholics for the Common Good, I will simply leave you with this: WWJD?  (Hint: I'm pretty sure it's not "attempt to police everyone's family structures and reproductive choices."  Just sayin'.)


That Awkward Moment When Anti-Choicers Attempt to Advance Fetal Personhood Laws by Condemning Paternalism in Government

It's a good thing I have that "Today in conservative hypocrisy" tag ready!

Via Right Wing Watch, I learned that the director of Personhood USA, the organization behind fetal personhood laws across the nation, had an editorial in USA Today yesterday which began,
Increasingly, the American people are being treated paternalistically by a government, media and public sector elite that stands in direct opposition to our traditional American values.
The only way I can make it make even a pretzel-logic-Glenn-Beckian sort of sense is by pulling another quote from later in the piece:
No greater example exists of this abuse of raw judicial power than Roe v. Wade, a decision by seven unelected men to impose abortion on all 50 states.
Ah.  So I guess I can sort of squint and tilt my head and make it out now.  If you accept the premise that Roe v. Wade "imposed" anything on anyone - as opposed to defining and protecting a fundamental right, which is what it actually did, but let's go with the right-wing bizarro-logic for now - then I guess I can sorta see it: the Ebil Gubmint unilaterally imposed this icky procedure on us because Father Knows Best, thus, paternalism.

Except that for those of us living in the reality-based community, who have not drunk unending gallons of anti-choice Kool-aid, it's flat-out hilarious that the organization operating at the far fringes of a movement whose sole goal is to tell other people what to do with their bodies is crying about government "paternalism". 

I mean, we're talking about anti-choicers here!  At its core, it's an explicitly paternalistic movement in which cis men spend lots of money and effort to be allowed to dictate what pregnancy-capable people can and can't do with their bodies.  And then to go further and hear it from not just any anti-choicers, but *personhood* advocates in particular, whose pet cause would open the door to banning not only abortion, but certain forms of contraception and in vitro fertilization, along with potentially criminalizing every single miscarriage that occurs, well!  "Hypocrisy" seems a mild and weak word to describe the epic whiplash you might get from trying to follow the abrupt about-face of logic they're employing.

PS: It's election day!  Go forth and vote if you can!  And if you're in Mississippi, for the love of all the gods, VOTE and VOTE NO ON 26. 


I can only conclude that "religion" does not mean what I thought it meant.

Because if saying that a governmental goal "cannot be achieved apart from reliance on Almighty God" is not imposing religion, I cannot even begin to fathom what their test is for defining something as "requiring religion". 

This stems from a piece of Kentucky's Antiterrorism Act of 2002, wherein the legislature held that "the safety and security of the Commonwealth cannot be achieved apart from reliance on Almighty God as set forth in public speeches and proclamations of American Presidents...."  In 2006, this was enhanced by regulations (PDF) requiring the state Department of Homeland Security to publicize this "finding" of the legislature by including the reliance-on-Almighty-God language in its training and educational materials.  These were challenged by American Atheists; a district court judge struck down the provision - rightly concluding that "the General Assembly has created an official government position on God" - then the state took it to the appeals court, which inexplicably held that the language about "Almighty God" is not attempting to compel belief or participation in religious exercise.

Which, um.  To borrow a turn of phrase*, I don't so much beg as command to differ.

The appeals court held that
The Kentucky legislature has not attempted to compel belief or participation in any form of religious exercise, nor does it seek to prefer one belief over another. A simple reference to a generic “God” acknowledges religion in a general way.
The notion of a phrase like "Almighty God" being a "general" reference to religion as a whole can only come from one's vast and unexamined reservoir of Christian privilege.  It's the sort of thing a person would say if they've never really thought of the fact that "religion" is an extremely broad term encompassing dozens or even hundreds of distinct belief structures, only a few of which would use a phrase like "Almighty God" in that context.

Allow me to say this bluntly and explicitly for those who would agree with this finding: "God" is not a religiously-neutral term in any way, shape, form, or fashion, especially when "God" is capitalized and used like a name would be.  The only possible way you could believe that would be if you defined "religion" as meaning "Judaism, Christianity, or Islam", all of which have at the center of their beliefs a singular male deity.  Those are not, however, the only faiths to fall under the umbrella term "religion". 

No, what you mean when you say "God" - especially a phrase like "Almighty God", which is straight out of Christian liturgy - is "religiously neutral" or is "acknowledging religion in a general way", is rather that "God" is nonsectarian, not explicitly indicating a specific denomination of Christianity.  It does, however, explicitly exclude numerous pagan beliefs which either hold no gods (only goddesses), or many gods (none of which would be called capital-G God or Almighty God), or the Wiccan god who would be referred to as *the* God, not "Almighty God".  It explicitly excludes Buddhism, Hinduism, Sikhism.

Really, the idea of "Almighty God" as "acknowledging religion in a general way" is utterly absurd, and attempting to defend it as such only shows how deeply ingrained your prejudice and privilege are, that you don't realize that "religion" does not mean "all the denominations of Christianity".

Furthermore, even if the phrase "Almighty God" were truly religiously neutral, to use it in the context it is in - to affirmatively declare that "reliance on Almighty God" is a requirement in order to secure the safety of one's country - is to attempt to compel belief.  Especially when the phrase is then inserted in the training and educational materials given to state personnel, it is an explicit statement of government speech saying "You must believe in Almighty God in order to do your job."

It preferences belief over nonbelief - and what these Christian-supremacist judges seem to forget is that no matter how general a given acknowledgment of religion in government materials is, it will always exclude atheists entirely.  There exists a "none of the above" response when it comes to religion, and that needs to be respected along with all the various shades of religious belief - which means NOT yanking phrases out of Christian prayers and sticking them in government documents. 

This finding is absurd.  It's expected that the case will be appealed to the Kentucky Supreme Court.  I wish them luck, and I wish for the Kentucky Supreme Court all the logic, reason, and perception that prejudice and privilege stole from the appeals court judges.

*From Inga Muscio's book, Cunt


Today In "Jobs, Jobs, Jobs!"

Continuing their obstinate refusal to actually do a single damn thing about the deplorable state of the economy and job market, despite campaigning on a job-creation platform, House Republicans spent $215,000 of our tax dollars yesterday to pass a non-binding resolution "reaffirming In God We Trust as the US's national motto."

The measure passed 396-9.

Of course it did.

I guess "E Pluribus Unum" (Out of many, one), the unofficial motto that has graced the national seal since the 18th century, wasn't good enough; we have to make sure the whole world knows that the Many and the One are CHRISTIAN GODDAMNIT.  Whether they/we actually are or not appears to be irrelevant. 

Personally, I'd rather trust in concrete solutions than a four-word talisman.  But whatever panders to your right-wing base floats your boat, I guess.


Personhood Amendments Come To California

Personhood amendments: that example of radical anti-choice ideology that goes SO far, even regular anti-choicers are like "Err, no, dude, not that way, okay?"

I mean, we're talking about a movement that gives only the barest of lip service to disavowing actual murderers in their midst, and they will actually come out and oppose these personhood amendments.  Not because they disagree with the premise, more because they think it's too far too fast and the backlash will set them back in terms of PR.

Personhood amendments, for those without their fingers on the pulse of reproductive justice battles *preen preen, smug smug ;-) *, are amendments with Orwellian names like "Human Rights Amendment" and "Respect for All Life Amendment", which declare the legal term "person" to include "all humans at all stages of development from conception to natural death" or some variation on that basic wording.  They're a blatant attempt to end-run around Roe by ensuring that laws against assault, murder, abuse, etc - designed to apply to born people - also apply to fetuses.  They could have a whole host of fucked-up effects, from banning abortion (the core intent) to banning certain forms of contraception, like the IUD and the pill, and banning in vitro fertilization procedures.  They're also intended to provide the vehicle for a case to go to the Supreme Court in the hopes that this court will overturn Roe entirely - which would then allow a number of states with "trigger measures" on the books to immediately go into effect and ban abortion entirely.

They are, in other words, the most extreme anti-choice legislation ever, and Really Fucking Bad News.  (Also ridiculous, medically and scientifically speaking, as we have no way of identifying the moment of conception, only implantation; but then, we all know anti-choicers are not on speaking terms with science.)

Colorado overwhelmingly rejected their personhood amendment - twice.  Ohio has a measure on the ballot for this coming year, although the Attorney General and Personhood Ohio are wrangling over the summary language to be included on the ballot - the AG refused to certify their summary because it was misleading, and Personhood Ohio is appealing.  Mississippi is the "state to watch" for 2012 personhood amendments, with an amendment on the ballot and frighteningly high approval rate in polls.  Personhood USA's stated goal is to get these awful amendments on the ballot in every state across the nation.

And now, it seems, California's time has come.  The absurdly-titled "California Human Rights Amendment" has been submitted to the Attorney General's office for certification.  The AG is to certify the proposed title, language, and summary, after which proponents can start gathering signatures to put it on the ballot.

Frankly, this is fucking California.  We won't even pass a parental notification law (although they keep trying; 3 out of the last 4 elections.  You'd think they'd eventually learn it's not going to happen).  So normally I'd just scoff and write it off as anti-choice fever dreams.  Except for the language they're using.  Take a look:
"The term "person" applies to all living human organisms from the beginning of their biological development, regardless of the means by which they were procreated, method of reproduction, age, race, sex, gender, physical well-being, function, or condition of physical or mental dependency and/or disability. "
Compare that with the Mississippi version...
Section 33. Person defined. As used in this Article III of the state constitution, "The term 'person' or 'persons' shall include every human being from the moment of fertilization, cloning or the functional equivalent thereof."
Or the Colorado version...
 Section 32. Person defined. As used in sections 3, 6, and 25 of Article II of the state constitution, the term "person" shall apply to every human being from the beginning of the biological development of that human being.
Not that I have no faith in my fellow Californians - okay, maybe I don't; sorry, y'all, but you *did* pass Prop H8 - but I notice they've padded out the California version of this crap with all the sort of anti-discrimination-law-language that will appeal to the "token liberal" type - you know, the person who believes in human rights but isn't inclined to do much research on things before voting?  And I don't think it's accidental that they've sort of tucked this "*cough*beginningofbiologicaldevelopment*cough*" bit in among a whole lot of "age race sex gender disability protections yay" fluff, all of which is *already* covered in California's nondiscrimination laws.

No, this is pretty definitely an attempt to appeal to our collective liberal identity as The Right Sort of Person, you know, the kind of person who supports human rights and will vote in favor of them, by tacking on the name of "Human Rights Amendment" and adding lots of irrelevant reiterations of current nondiscrimination laws in the hopes that we won't look too hard past that. 

I can't decide if I find it infuriating or amusing. 

Actually, I take that back; I know exactly what I find it: frightening.  It's a targeted message that shows an unfortunate level of understanding of the bulk of moderate voters here in California, and I am not at all sure of pro-choice organizations' ability to mount an extensive, expensive, well-publicized education campaign to combat the lazy feel-good vote in favor of something called a "Human Rights Amendment", no matter what that amendment would actually do.


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