Eagle Forum backs Limbaugh, says Sandra Fluke “should be absolutely ashamed”

You really don’t want to look under some rocks, but then sometimes the rocks are picked up by others and you have no choice. That happened to me this morning on Scott Braddock’s Houston talk-radio program (News 92 FM) .  I was on with Cathie Adams, a board member and international issues chairman of the national Eagle Forum. She’s also president of the Texas Eagle Forum and a former chairman of the Texas Republican Party. The topic was Rush Limbaugh, Sandra Fluke, and the (gasp) contraception controversy. Here are Adams’s words from under the rock:

“This young girl [Fluke] should be absolutely ashamed of herself. When she goes before a Congressional committee and then be off the record. C-span is going to show it.  The whole world should know it. So what did the girl call herself, other than irresponsible?”

And:

“As I matter of fact, I, as a woman, am very offended not by anything that Rush Limbaugh had to say, but that we have a coed at a Catholic University who goes before the United States Congress and testifies, and now her testimony is supposed to be taken off record. We’re not supposed to hold her to account for what she had to say. But she is demanding that you and I as taxpayers pay for her birth control.  That is absolutely something that that woman ought to be taking care of herself.”

I think she means that because she testified Rush Limbaugh should get to call her whatever names he wants to. Now, I suppose it’s not surprising that the paragonettes of moral virtue at the Eagle Forum see non-Eagle Forum members as sluts and prostitutes. They’ve more or less argued that for decades, ever since Phyllis Schlafly entered the national circus tent. But I have to admit that when Adams decided that calling Fluke a slut and a prostitute was okay and that Rush Limbaugh’s advertisers shouldn’t mind (much less the rest of the civilized world), I was shocked, I tell you, shocked.

Adams went on to repeat other right-wing lies about President Obama’s contraception policy,  making the contradictory claims that the policy forced people to purchase coverage they were morally opposed to and then saying the policy forced taxpayers to pay for the coverage for others. Oh, Adams also claims the policy will force taxpayers to pay for others’ sex change operations. Huh? Well, at least we won’t have to pay for their birth control, I guess.

Here are links to the audio of my little talk with Adams:

Part I

Part II

The Aspirin Papers

Henry James’ novella, The Aspern Papers, is about an unscrupulous obsessive who tries to deceive two vulnerable women to obtain the objects of his desire, the letters of a long-dead poet.

This, “The Aspirin Papers,” is about a group of unscrupulous obsessives who try to deceive all of America to fulfill their obsessive desire: a return to an ancient dreamtime when men ruled the universe and women, when not dutifully and passively prone before their masters, kept their mouths shut.

Reference is made, obviously, to the following comment from Foster Friess the Fabulous Plutocrat and Rick Santorum mega-contributor:

You know, back in my days, they used Bayer aspirin for contraception. The gals put it between their knees, and it wasn’t that costly.

Friess was commenting on the wildly anachronistic dust-up over contraception, during which some Catholic bishops and other members of Friess’ all-male club decided that employers ought to have the right to deny insurance coverage of contraceptives to their female employees.

The scoundrel and narrator of James’ story, says, “It is not supposed easy for women to rise to the large free view of anything.” Friess & Company agree, I assume, and call upon science to confirm that “the large free view” is simply unavailable to womankind owing to the decumbency of their holy and true vocations, pleasing men and birthing babies.

Implicit in Friess’ statement is the belief that women are always there before their male superiors, their legs open and inviting. Depending upon circumstances, this is, in the Friess frame, either proper, wifely duty or such devilish temptation that it is too much to ask even god-faring men to resist. Therefore, steps must be taken. Here, ladies, please hold this aspirin in place with your knees until you are called upon. Continue reading “The Aspirin Papers”

The Right’s War on Birth Control

If you thought the legislative attacks on family planning and Planned Parenthood were all about abortion, think again.

In a moment of unscripted political bravado, Republican State Representative Wayne Christian made clear to the Texas Tribune that the Right’s true agenda is not about what happens in health care clinics after all, but rather about what goes on in bedrooms between consenting adults.

When they declare “war on birth control” they are intruding into the private, personal decisions of every man, woman and family in Texas.

How extreme are they? Consider that they’ve already repealed the law that requires insurance companies to cover the pill just as they do Viagra, they’ve encouraged pharmacists to undermine doctors’ orders and deny emergency contraception, and now they are pushing an outright plan to defund family planning — even though none of the funds can be used for abortion.

It’s time to draw the line and get politics out of our bedrooms once and for all.

An Upside-Down Political Equation

America — and the rest of the world, really — is living with this political equation:  Our collective spending, guided by government,  is needed to create jobs and stimulate a global economy still in recession. But political rhetoric is turning to spending cuts and deficit reduction. Such steps will plunge those who can least afford it into yet more joblessness and poverty. But the worse it gets — the more joblessness, bankruptcies, health crises, repossessions — the better the deficit reducers will do at the polls, because many economic victims will blame the wrong side. And, gutless moderates will go along with the deal thinking they can ride safely to shore on the surfboard of deceit.

It’s an upside-down political equation, and I’m damned if I know how to erase it from mad teachers’ blackboards. Let’s review. Deregulation of the financial markets, tax cuts for the rich and the right-wing assault on the nation’s infrastructure (remember Grover Norquist dream of drowing it all in a bathtub?) caused a deep global recession. They are the causes of our economic misery. But what’s the dominant narrative recommend? Why, more deregulation, more tax cuts for the rich, and deeper cuts in public education, health care etc.

This is madness, of course. And the craziest of all are the poor suckers who keep taking the bait. They will suffer the most economically, and their children will pay the price as well.

In a book called, The Price of Altruism — really a biography of mathematician George Price — there are long passages about the evolution of the Darwinian free marketeers, the Milton Friedman types who keep promising that if we will simply divorce all economic activity from any accountability whatsoever — from the courts, from the cops, from legislators, especially from voters — then we’ll all get ice cream before bed and rise happy in a new dawn.

Continue reading “An Upside-Down Political Equation”

The Politics of Birth: How I Learned the True Meaning of “Reproductive Rights”

Today, June 10, marks a landmark in reproductive rights and women’s sexual independence — the 50th anniversary of the debut of the Pill. Somewhat embarrassingly, my perspective of reproductive rights has always been largely self-centered, stemming from my own reproductive needs of the moment. From when I became sexually active until I became pregnant with my son, that was the need to avoid pregnancy.

A longtime committed proponent of access to sexual education and contraception, I view the abortion issue rather simplistically: Like it or not, abortions are going to happen; therefore, they must be kept safe and legal. My likely romanticized image of the sexual revolution of the 1960s is one of women finally being able to explore their sexuality without fear of pregnancy. For much of my life, these ideas and goals were things I believed in largely because they dovetailed so seamlessly with my own interests.

Only when my reproductive needs changed did my narrow-minded perspective broaden a bit. This is probably utterly obvious to everyone else, but I did not realize until my pregnancy and the birth of my son that reproductive rights include the right to choose not only whether to reproduce, but also how to reproduce.
Continue reading “The Politics of Birth: How I Learned the True Meaning of “Reproductive Rights””

Report from Haiti

Traveling and working in the developing world, I’ve discovered that I’m a fairly positive person. In the cholera-ridden slums of Nairobi and the heroin-shooting galleries of Dhaka, Bangladesh, I’ve managed to find things that left me hopeful that solutions were more a matter of will than way. And then came Haiti.

I arrived in Port au Prince on a search for how The Nobelity Project – and anyone who wanted to join us – could make a real difference in the long-term rebuilding of Haiti. I was prepared for bad, but what I found was worse. In a city of six million people, one out of two buildings destroyed or seriously damaged. A million people living in tents. Major fuel shortages. Disaster pricing for essential commodities. Schools that remain closed many months after the quake. Hurricane seasons coming fast. And never far from anyone’s mind – the Haitian’s continuing shock and mourning over the loss of 300,000 friends and family members. 300,000 – what portion of your city or county would that be?

I was in the company of  our partners, Architecture for Humanity, who have an office in the country and have emerged as one of the most-respected voices for understanding the long-term nature of this disaster. AfH’s knowledge has been hard won through multi-year perseverance after the Tsunami and Katrina, and they’re committed to a long-term school reconstruction effort here, and to providing advice, design and engineering services to help build it back better.

“Before the quake, there was only one seismic engineer in the whole country,” founder Cameron Sinclair told me as we tried to drive through the city’s rubble strewn streets. “That engineer reported that the only building in the country that could withstand a major quake was the Presidential Palace. And it fell down.”

Shortly after the quake, The Nobelity Project offered my film One Peace at a Time to Architecture for Humanity chapters around the world for Haiti fundraising screenings. The Austin screening at the Paramount Theatre raised well over $10k, with more funds coming from events across the country and as far away as Bangladesh. (That’s right, people in Bangladesh – one of the poorest nations on earth – are raising money for their brothers and sisters in Haiti. So there’s a little hope for you.)

Cam Sinclair had enlisted many other supporters. Ben Stiller’s foundation Stiller Strong and director Paul Haggis through the L.A. based Artists for Peace and Justice were partnering with AfH in Haiti. APJ has raised $6 million for Haiti, but I was equally impressed by their commitment to the idea that a star has to do more than just donate money to be a part of this work. Haggis, Stiller, Gerard Butler (of the amazing “300”) and House’s Olivia Wilde were on the ground working hard on APJ’s effort to build a new high school. And while visiting St. Julien’s Hospital, I discovered that Olivia has a real knack for producing smiles on kids who were very much in need of smiles.
Continue reading “Report from Haiti”

Health Care Reform: It’s Our Turn, Texas!

To read the newly released Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) “Dear State Medicaid Director” letter re: New Option for Coverage of Individuals, click here.
health_care_reform1
“We just passed a law that doesn’t do much for rich people, but really helps poor people.” –Leonardo Cuello, National Health Law Program

Now that the Health Care Reform bill has been signed into law, it’s time for us to get busy advocating for state reform allowing for aspects of the federal bill to be implemented in Texas before 2014.

The federal bill includes Medicaid expansion, which will create coverage for 16 million people by 2019. This expansion signifies a radical conceptual shift from the current Medicaid system. In the current system, it’s not enough to be flat broke to receive Medicaid healthcare coverage. You have to be “broke plus” (i.e. broke plus pregnant, broke plus disabled, etc). This current system is based on the idea that only the “worthy poor” deserve health insurance. But beginning in 2014, there will be a mandatory “catch-all” category for everyone* who earns up to 133% of Federal Poverty Limits.

However, states have the option to implement a State Plan Amendment (SPA) that allows states to start buying these low income people into Medicaid earlier than 2014. Texas could potentially phase this plan in using a “lower income first” model. For example, depending on our budget, we could start with coverage for people who are at 75% or 100% of Federal Poverty Limits. In doing so, Texas would receive federal match money to cover people who wouldn’t ordinarily be covered.

Similarly, while the Health Care Reform ensures that pre-existing condition exclusions will be prohibited starting in 2014 (2010 for children) states may create a temporary high-risk pool for adults that will remain in effect until 2014.

Interested in putting together a coalition to help bring about these reforms here in the Lone Star state during the 82nd Legislative Session?

The National Health Law Program (NHeLP) suggests that organizations and individuals in Texas interested in pushing these state healthcare reforms come together, organize ourselves, and then contact NHeLP for more information and support on how to proceed.

*Does not include undocumented immigrants, as well as other groups who already have coverage such as Medicare enrollees, people over age 65, and mandatory coverage groups like pregnant women.

Building Compost Piles: Remaking Me

Pitchfork in Heaven
Pitchfork in Heaven

Much has been written about the benefits of compost as a soil ammendment and its ability to nurture all things green is almost unequalled. But my love affair with compost grows from its ability to heal me, not just the soil I am working in. A long-time compost tinkerer, my green-thumbed mother introduced me to the magic of building piles. She always has a large pile built at the end of her raised bed gardens and I remember how hard work under a hot sun and all the things that she didn’t want in the garden or the yard found a welcome home in the four foot by four foot confines of chicken wire and green t-posts of her compost pile. From that pile comes a varied mix of rich, dark compost and fragments from the past lives of all the components that went in. My mom is a practitioner of the pile-it-on school of compost. She keeps adding the yard trimming, weeds, over-ripe produce, branches and anything else that strays out of place in her garden. Her technique is more art than science that relies on her prodigious experience, a familiarity with the available materials and deft skill with the tools. As a 30+ educator, this method fits her style perfectly. Her home, like her compost pile is filled with materials that she has culled from the world to build the minds of children.

My approach to compost is different. Although I am undeniably a pile maker and relish the art of compost I also apply the scientific side of my personality to the building of compost piles. After studious research into the art and science of compost, I have blended the pile-it-on technique that is part of my DNA, enhanced it with an understanding of how to quickly get a compost pile up to the proper temperature by creating the right mix of materials and tempered both with a degree of laziness that I am growing more comfortable with as I age. The result is several piles of material that are proto-compost piles that get mixed together in a fit of compost fervor on a pseudo-regular basis into in a real compost pile that actually produces magnificent, dark, rich compost. The compost is fine like good topsoil, heavy with moisture and leaves a telling tan on my hands and dark crescent moons under my fingernails. I love the compost and what it does for the things I grow, but it is the fervor of building the real compost pile that makes me such a fan of compost and heals me when I feel broken or ragged.

Rebuilding
Rebuilding

Like soil that has been stressed by modern conditions, I need the addition of amendments to help make me productive again. Pulling together the grass clippings, dried leaves, old tomato vines, twigs, pumpkin rinds, corn stalks and dead weeds that have been waiting in my proto-piles, mixing them in repeating layers with aged horse manure, a little top soil, enough water to make everything the consistency of a damp sponge starts the healing process and is the basis for my love of compost. I build my pile in a sweaty passion almost incapable of doing anything else and I do it when the pressures of being a father, a spouse, a friend, a business man, a volunteer and a citizen of this dysfunctional nation have leeched all the passion, vision, love and energy out of me. With a shovel, a four-tine pitchfork, hose and a few hours I remake myself. I become arable land again capable of nurturing the growth of my children, enhancing my love for my wife, building relationships with my friends, supporting the work of my business, empowering the organizations I support and standing as a citizen. The rich dark product of this effort is renewed passion, clarity of vision, revitalized energy and nurturing love.

Goldie Hen Helps
Goldie Hen Helps

All images Dave Grossman | Confluence Images 2010

Gov. Perry: Why Do You Want to Take Away Our Health Care?

secedeHealth insurance companies can’t deny you care based on pre-existing conditions. Millions of children once denied quality health care can now receive it. Coverage and benefits can’t be turned down by insurance industry death panels (yes, that’s where the real “death panels” are). And you can’t be tossed off your insurance plan when you get sick, a twisted insurance industry practice that means you sent them money for nothing.

Let me mention what is maybe the greatest moral victory of health care reform:  we, as a nation, have now agreed to take care of our children, innocents who through no fault of their own have been denied health care so the insurance industry can make its bloody billions.

Gov. Rick Perry wants to take this away from Texans. It’s easy to see why. He’s a whore for the insurance industry. Should I use a nicer term? Okay. He’s an escort service for the insurance industry. Many Republicans around the country are backing off their criticisms of health care reform. But Perry, who has built his campaign around the racist language of secession and states rights, wants his re-election to be about the African-American in the White House. He’s hoping the racists in Texas outnumber the God-faring and the righteous, those who hate bigotry in all its guises. So, his target is not really our health care. It’s President Obama. But he’s willing to sacrifice our health to make that point. And service his masters in the insurance industry.

It doesn’t get any more cynical and morally bankrupt than that.

By the way, Perry’s op-ed piece on health care is full of lies, as the Texas Observer details for us. But once a child has died because you’ve denied her health care for political reasons, a few little lies are hardly gonna make a difference on the karmic balance sheet.

A Socialist Primer: Rick Perry, Health Care & the Governor’s Race

Perry-RallyI’m wondering what it’s going to take for my former colleagues in the Texas press corps to call out Rick Perry for using the term “socialism” over-and-over to describe the insurance reform Congress passed last week.

Either Perry and reporters covering him don’t know what socialism is (and I doubt that), or Perry again is pushing  Tea Bag propaganda, and the press is too lazy or too intimidated to challenge it.

I’m used to Perry embarrassing Texas. So, I’m not surprised he’s parroting Dolph Briscoe’s old obsession with “creeping socialism.”  Thankfully, we’ve moved beyond the 1970s, though you wouldn’t know it from the Cold War rhetoric in a statement Perry released last Sunday and sound bites he repeated later in the week. Continue reading “A Socialist Primer: Rick Perry, Health Care & the Governor’s Race”