Saturday, February 19, 2011

Did You Know This About Scott Walker, The Nazgûl Governor of Wisconsin?

The reference to Nazgûl is to the Lord of the Rings:

"Scott Walker" refers to the tea-party governor of Wisconsin, the one who is trying to remove many collective bargaining rights from state workers in Wisconsin.

Nazgul Walker is not just a tea-partier. He is also pretty extreme in his anti-abortion views, as in "nobody could be more extreme." From last fall's election campaign:
In a gubernatorial campaign largely centered on jobs and the job performance of the candidates, Democrat Tom Barrett has injected abortion into the debate, using a stark TV ad to take aim at his opponent, Republican Scott Walker.

A couple identified as Lana and Mike appear on the screen. Mike says their teenage daughter was brutally raped. "You can’t imagine what she went through," he says. "That’s why politicians like Scott Walker make me so mad."

The screen goes black. Then as Mike continues, the words he says also appear on the screen:

"Scott Walker wants to make abortion illegal, even in cases of rape, incest, or to protect the life of the mother."


We asked Jill Bader, Walker’s campaign spokeswoman, about Barrett’s ad and she said it accurately states Walker’s position.

Bolds are mine.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Friday Good News And a Bit on Walker of Wisconsin

Those would be this one (as well as the protests in Wisconsin):
The Obama administration rescinded most of a federal regulation Friday designed to protect health workers who refuse to provide care they find objectionable on personal or religious grounds.

The Health and Human Services Department eliminated nearly the entire rule put into effect by the administration of President George W. Bush during his final days in office that was widely interpreted as allowing such workers to opt out of a broad range of medical services, such as providing the emergency contraceptive Plan B, treating gay men and lesbians and prescribing birth control to single women.
Calling the Bush-era rule "unclear and potentially overbroad in scope," the new, much narrower version essentially leaves in place only long-standing federal protections for workers who object to performing abortions or sterilizations. It also retains the Bush rule's formal process for workers to file complaints.
On the Wisconsin protests: I just listened to governor Walker's speech from this morning. It made me angry, because he applies so many political stunts during just one speech, including "the only way fix the budget is on THESE expenses" and "let's bust the unions while we have a good crisis" and "let's call everyone BUT the protesters tax-payers" and "let's compare apples with rotten oranges (in terms of how much worse things are in some private firms) to turn the apples, too, into rotten oranges."

But then the people in Wisconsin voted him in. I'm not giving them a pass on that.


In support of continued federal funding of Planned Parenthood.

The Vendetta Against Planned Parenthood

The House has voted to block federal aid to Planned Parenthood. The Senate is unlikely to agree, but the battle lines are drawn. Remember how the elections were all about unemployment? Well, the Republicans have forgotten all about that. They are into forced birthism, full throttle.

Something new happened in the house. Two women stood up and talked back:
The battle over cutting Title X funding, which provides $317 million dollars to family planning service providers including Planned Parenthood got personal yesterday when California Representative Jackie Speier (D) took an incredibly courageous tact in the House of Representatives debate.
In a serious turn for the you-go-girl, Speier stepped to the mic and apologized for deviating from her planned remarks, because the remarks of “the gentleman from New Jersey” who preceded her at the podium, Rep Christopher Smith (R) had “put her stomach in knots.”
And then she laid the smack down. Speier told the House of her own abortion in no uncertain terms, relating how a complicated (but wanted) pregnancy led her to make the heartbreaking decision for the procedure. “I lost a baby. But for you to stand on this floor and to suggest, as you have, that somehow this is a procedure that is either welcomed or done cavalierly or done without any thought is preposterous.”


Another Power Woman in last night’s heated debate was Rep. Gwen Moore of Wisconsin. When Rep. Paul Brown of Georgia argued that because most clinics are in ethnic neighborhoods “more black babies are killed” by Planned Parenthood, she countered, “I know all about black babies. I’ve had three of them. I had the first one at the ripe old age of 18.” Moore also said that Republican policy has long had “utter contempt for poor women and poor children.”

You can watch Speier's speech:


It is about women's shelters in Afghanistan. Some background:
The government of Afghanistan has recently introduced a bill that wrests control of women's shelters in Afghanistan from the local Afghan women's NGOs that have founded and run them, and transfers that control to the Ministry of Women's Affairs (MoWA). This bill could become the law of the land ANY DAY NOW.

If this bill becomes law:

Women and girls seeking shelter will be required to plead their case before an eight-member Government panel, including conservative members of the Supreme Court and Ministry of Justice. This panel will determine whether a woman needs to be in a shelter or should be sent to jail or returned to her home (and her abuser).

Women will have to undergo "forensic" exams (virginity tests) to determine whether they have had sex and therefore committed adultery. The tests are medically invalid.
Once admitted to a shelter, women will be forbidden to leave. Their shelter will become their prison.

There is no discussion in the bill of women's human rights, of the horrific abuse that most women in shelters have suffered and fled.  The bill discusses shelter food but not how women's rights will be protected and justice achieved.
And perhaps worst of all, if any family member comes to claim her, even her abuser, she will be handed over to that person, in most cases to be subjected to the harshest retribution for shaming the family.
The bill is the culmination of a long, intense campaign by enemies of women's rights in the Afghan government to close women's shelters on the basis of false, unsupported claims:  shelters are unIslamic, corrupt, and agents of immoral activity.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Some Comments on Wisconsin

I'm sure you are following the events in Wisconsin where the state budget is balanced on the backs of certain types of state employees and by using a very long-reaching weapon: The Republican governor of Wisconsin, Scott Walker, wanted to take away most collective bargaining rights of state employees. Without such rights each tiny worker unit faces a humongous state structure in a fair-and-balanced way:
But even as workers were helping topple the regime in Cairo, one state government in particular was moving to topple workers' organizations here in the United States. Last Friday, Scott Walker, Wisconsin's new Republican governor, proposed taking away most collective bargaining rights of public employees. Under his legislation, which has moved so swiftly through the newly Republican state legislature that it might come to a vote Thursday, the unions representing teachers, sanitation workers, doctors and nurses at public hospitals, and a host of other public employees, would lose the right to bargain over health coverage, pensions and other benefits. (To make his proposal more politically palatable, the governor exempted from his hit list the unions representing firefighters and police.) The only thing all other public-sector workers could bargain over would be their base wages, and given the fiscal restraints plaguing the states, that's hardly anything to bargain over at all.
You know what happened next.

I wish to point out something else, hidden deep below all the other concerns, and that is the fact that the police and the fire fighters would be exempt from the governor's proposals but teachers would not be. What is the major demographic difference between those two groups?

Gender. Police and fire fighters are mostly male whereas the teachers are mostly female.

I'm sure that Walker didn't aim at some sexist way of dividing the burden of budget deficits here, just pointing out that if the unions representing the police and fire fighters were in general exempted from budget control proposals, the overall effect would be to increase the gender gap in male and female earnings in Wisconsin.

New Jersey governor Chris Christie went after the fire fighters in 2007 so Wisconsin might not be a general Republican template. But it's worth pointing out that state level layoffs and pay and pension cuts will have a big effect on female workers.

Eating the Seed Corn. Who Needs Education?

Several state governments want to eat the seed corn so that there's nothing to plant next year by cutting severely back on education. This is short-sighted, obviously, but goes along with the general contempt of education in this country and especially on the right side of the political aisle.

Texas makes a great example. Even Barbara Bush is concerned:
This month, The Houston Chronicle published an opinion piece by the former first lady titled “We Can’t Afford to Cut Education,” in which Mrs. Bush pointed out that students in Texas currently rank 47th in the nation in literacy, 49th in verbal SAT scores and 46th in math scores.
“In light of these statistics, can we afford to cut the number of teachers, increase class sizes, eliminate scholarships for underprivileged students and close several community colleges?” she asked.
You’d think there’d be an obvious answer. But the Texas State Legislature is looking to cut about $4.8 billion over the next two years from the schools. Budgets are tight everywhere, but Perry, the state’s governor, and his supporters made things much worse by reducing school property taxes by a third in 2006 under the theory that a higher cigarette tax and a new business franchise tax would make up the difference. Which they didn’t.
“In Austin, I’ve got half-a-dozen or more schools on a list to be closed — one of which I presented a federal blue-ribbon award to for excellence,” said Representative Lloyd Doggett. “And several hundred school personnel on the list for possible terminations.”
Similar cutbacks are happening elsewhere but Texas is especially bad because it educates a very high percentage of America's children.

Why do so many Americans despise education? Your guess is as good as mine. But perhaps it has something to do with governors like Rick Perry and what is in their best interest?
“Abstinence works,” said Governor Perry during a televised interview with Evan Smith of The Texas Tribune.
“But we have the third highest teen pregnancy rate among all states in the country,” Smith responded.
“It works,” insisted Perry.
“Can you give me a statistic suggesting it works?” asked Smith.
“I’m just going to tell you from my own personal life. Abstinence works,” said Perry, doggedly.

Now You Can Experience the 1960s!

Mad Men and such, indeed! Or rather, you can find out what it feels like to be one of the "female firsts" in some new area:
An Iowa high school wrestler who was one of the favorites to win his weight class defaulted on his first-round state tournament match rather than face one of the first girls to ever qualify for the event.

Joel Northrup, a home-schooled sophomore who was 35-4 wrestling for Linn-Mar High this season, said in a statement that he doesn't feel it would be right for him to wrestle Cedar Falls freshman Cassy Herkelman. Herkelman, who was 20-13 entering the tournament, and fellow 112-pounder Ottumwa sophomore Megan Black, who was 25-13, made history by being the first girls to qualify for the state tournament. Black was pinned quickly in her opening round match.
"I have a tremendous amount of respect for Cassy and Megan and their accomplishments. However, wrestling is a combat sport and it can get violent at times," wrote Northrup. "As a matter of conscience and my faith I do not believe that it is appropriate for a boy to engage a girl in this manner. It is unfortunate that I have been placed in a situation not seen in most other high school sports in Iowa."
I can even see Joel's point of view. He's not used to the idea and it would have all sorts of overtones that are...uncomfortable for him. Though Cassy seems to be fine with those.

I'd like to know what Joel's faith is, because I have read the same explanation from men who in the past refused to work with women in the military. They didn't believe it was the right place for women (kitchen would be that or the bedroom), and their god told them so.

Still, this is like the beginnings of women's entry into new jobs and hobbies in the 1960s and 1970s. Home-schooling might bring more of these experiences to us, because some of the home-schooled are educated in the values of strict gender hierarchies. Not that I know what the case is in Joel's family, of course.

I used to fight men all the time in karate. It didn't seem to bother them much to fight a girl but then we were of course playing within the rules and not getting unnecessarily violent. Good control and all that.

After The Egyptian Revolution: Where Are The Women?

I wrote an earlier post about the way revolutions tend to leave women behind after a while, and I am concerned that this is happening in Egypt. Women did participate in the protests, often at a high level of risk. But now:
The lack of women on a committee charged with amending Egypt's constitution for elections post-Mubarak casts doubt over whether the country can develop into a true democracy, a group of activists said on Wednesday.
The group of over 60 non-governmental organisation and activists said the committee, which is presided over by a respected retired judge known for his independence, had begun work on Wednesday by "marginalising female legal experts."


The committee includes one senior Muslim Brotherhood legal expert in an unprecedented move to include the Islamist opposition group, but the panel did not give details on how it selected its members.
"Signatures to this statement have received with great concern the list of committee members as there is no participation from female experts, which is unacceptable marginalisation of half of society," the statement said.
"We also question the standards used to select the members of the committee," the group said, although adding they supported the military's efforts in moving to a democracy.
The role of women in Egyptian politics has been limited, with few occupying ministerial and parliamentary seats. Their role in the judiciary has been the subject of wide debate in recent years.
Last year, a top court ruled that women should be allowed to serve on the State Council, a court that tries cases involving the government and which had resisted including female judges.
Mubarak appointed Tahany el-Gibali, Egypt's first woman judge, to the Constitutional Court in 2003. Conservative judges campaigned to stop what they regarded as an exception from becoming a trend.
So the Muslim Brotherhood is included, even if as a token member, but women are not.

I don't expect miracles. A country which debates whether women can serve as judges has a long way to go. But still.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The Nanny State! Run for Yer Lives!

Michele Bachmann, an arch-conservative member of the House, is really unhappy about the IRS ruling which allows people to deduct the cost of breast pumps etcetera from their taxes:
Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN), the national Tea Party star who is eyeing a possible run for President, really is opposing every initiative from the White House. In her latest comments, Bachmann slammed First Lady Michelle Obama's move as part of her physical fitness campaigns, plus decisions by the Obama administration proper, to promote breastfeeding.
The government has taken recent steps to promote breastfeeding, including a ruling last week by the Internal Revenue Service to declare breast pumps and other nursing supplies as medical tax deductions.
But this is one tax break that's not welcomed by Bachmann, as she said during an appearance Tuesday on the Laura Ingraham radio show.
"I've given birth to five babies, and I've breastfed every single one of these babies," Bachmann said. "To think that government has to go out and buy my breast pump for my babies, I mean, you wanna talk about the nanny state -- I think you just got the new definition of the nanny state."
Mmm. Except how does this differ from, say, the deductibility (is this a word?) of the interest in one's mortgage payments?

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

TRIGGER WARNING: The Lara Logan Case on the Net

For what this is about:
On Friday February 11, the day Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak stepped down, CBS correspondent Lara Logan was covering the jubilation in Tahrir Square for a "60 Minutes" story when she and her team and their security were surrounded by a dangerous element amidst the celebration. It was a mob of more than 200 people whipped into frenzy. In the crush of the mob, she was separated from her crew. She was surrounded and suffered a brutal and sustained sexual assault and beating before being saved by a group of women and an estimated 20 Egyptian soldiers. She reconnected with the CBS team, returned to her hotel and returned to the United States on the first flight the next morning. She is currently in the hospital recovering.">
I wish her full recovery from the assault. I hope that she approved the publishing of these details by CBS.

Now for the topic of this post, disgusting as it is: The comments wherever the sexual assault is discussed, especially on non-moderated comment threads. The majority of those comments are the vilest of the vile. Here is an example for those who wish to wade in the filth themselves. I advocate a Hazmat suit and excellent mental health as prudent precautions.

The loathsome comments are of two major types: The first type describes Muslims or Arabs as animals and so on. The second type, the one I'm going to analyze here, consists of victim blaming. It is Logan's fault if she gets assaulted, in short.

There is a third type, too, which is about the desire of the commentator to join in with the gang rape of various too uppity women in the public eye or a wish that some other female celebrity had been assaulted instead.

And what about the victim blaming? Let me count the ways:

1. This experience teaches women that there are jobs women just cannot do. They get raped if they try and should stay at home, reporting on high school football games. I include that example because I came across it three times in the first 200 comments linked to above. Thus, women can be reporters but only about something which doesn't let you advance very far in your career or truly compete with men. And the reason is not the women themselves but what can be done to them by some men. Thus, it is the victim who should pack her bags and go home, while the assaulters don't get told to do that.

2. This experience teaches women that gender equality is impossible and that they should accept it and not to try to horn into the military services, for instance. Sorta like vive la difference but from a misogynistic point of view. Something like a sexual assault is Just The Way Things Are, and we should all be reminded of the value of traditional gender roles. Except, of course, in the case of Muslims who shouldn't have them.

3. Logan is good-looking and blonde. She should expect to be assaulted under those conditions.

4. She dresses seductively. She should expect to be assaulted under those conditions.

5. What happened to her was a proper revenge for all her years of spouting liberal dogma and her assumption that she can just flit about in a man's job.

Comment threads to posts about sexual assault will get a large number of comments from disgusting individuals, naturally, and I am not arguing here that what I describe would be based on a random sample of all readers of the piece. But even given the biased sample, the number and quality of the comments makes me want to give up my membership in the human species. Though people with the opinions I have outlined already think women are not full members of the species.

It is not just the comments threads which are full of woman-hating and inhumanity. Check out this post to get another eyeful of victim blaming.

Today's Hilarious Sexist Post

Courtesy of Huffington Post. Who else does misogyny better on the left side of the political aisle? Their clicks come from the boob pictures and I'm not talking about man-boobs.

Anyhow, this funny and wonderful post I'm writing about tells women why they are not married yet if they want to be. To a man, naturally. The reasons are in the women. They are bitches, sluts, selfish, shallow and liars. All they need to do is to fix those things and then they, too, can get their very own "messy, farting, macaroni-and-cheese eating man!"

The whole post reads exactly like the book Laura Schlessinger wrote about the care and upkeep of a husband. Her advice was to bend over backwards, to feed him, to f**k him and to serve him nonstop. Because men are like wild animals and women are their keepers.

The writer has even swallowed that right-wing oxytocin hoax! The idea that casual sex doesn't suit women because it wears out our ability to commit later on. How that goes with the thesis of the post (women want to get married) I leave to those who like such puzzles.

I get that this post is intended as a light-hearted one, and of course it is true that there are women who are too demanding when looking for a partner. Nevertheless, you cannot gender-flip the post, however hard you try. Men are never the market for posts like this, despite the fact that I know several who look for the queen of perfection to marry.

It's for us wimminz to change from being bitches and sluts to something more like servants. Men, on the other hand:
The deal is: most men just want to marry someone who is nice to them. I am the mother of a 13-year-old boy, which is like living with the single-cell protozoa version of a husband. Here's what my son wants out of life: macaroni and cheese, a video game, and Kim Kardashian. Have you ever seen Kim Kardashian angry? I didn't think so. You've seen Kim Kardashian smile, wiggle, and make a sex tape. Female anger terrifies men. I know it seems unfair that you have to work around a man's fear and insecurity in order to get married -- but actually, it's perfect, since working around a man's fear and insecurity is big part of what you'll be doing as a wife.


The good news is that I believe every woman who wants to can find a great partner. You're just going to need to get rid of the idea that marriage will make you happy. It won't. Once the initial high wears off, you'll just be you, except with twice as much laundry.
Because ultimately, marriage is not about getting something -- it's about giving it. Strangely, men understand this more than we do. Probably because for them marriage involves sacrificing their most treasured possession -- a free-agent penis -- and for us, it's the culmination of a princess fantasy so universal, it built Disneyland.

Once again, echoes of the right-wing writing there. Which conservative woman was it who wrote that women must give up full-time work and take on 100% of the household chores and child-rearing because men have sacrificed, too! They have sacrificed that free-agent penis!

Except that women are also supposed to sacrifice the wandering vagina when they get married, so the trades are never equal. The writer of this hilarious advice column views marriage as a deal where the woman gets all the work to keep the marriage and the household going, while the man gets to tie his penis in a knot except for the home-sex.

Mmm. It's 2011, my sweet readers.

Meanwhile, in South Dakota

The concept of justifiable homicide gets a proposed expansion:
A law under consideration in South Dakota would expand the definition of "justifiable homicide" to include killings that are intended to prevent harm to a fetus—a move that could make it legal to kill doctors who perform abortions. The Republican-backed legislation, House Bill 1171, has passed out of committee on a nine-to-three party-line vote, and is expected to face a floor vote in the state's GOP-dominated House of Representatives soon.
"The bill in South Dakota is an invitation to murder abortion providers."

The bill, sponsored by state Rep. Phil Jensen, a committed foe of abortion rights, alters the state's legal definition of justifiable homicide by adding language stating that a homicide is permissible if committed by a person "while resisting an attempt to harm" that person's unborn child or the unborn child of that person's spouse, partner, parent, or child. If the bill passes, it could in theory allow a woman's father, mother, son, daughter, or husband to kill anyone who tried to provide that woman an abortion—even if she wanted one. 
Mr. Jensen argues that this is a totally stupid interpretation of what he wants to achieve with this bill. Because abortions are still legal, the above couldn't possibly have anything to do with abortions!

But if it doesn't have anything to do with abortions, what is its point? Remember that a fetus is inside a woman (the aquarium), so any illegal attempt to harm the fetus is already an attempt to harm the woman, and existing laws cover that. But perhaps Mr. Jensen thinks protecting mere aquaria is not sufficient?

Read the linked article. South Dakota is the place you want to move to if you love forced births. A woman considering abortion in South Dakota cannot find one single doctor in that state who performs them. Doctors must be flown in from other states. And:
Before performing an abortion, a South Dakota doctor must offer the woman the opportunity to view a sonogram. And under a law passed in 2005, doctors are required to read a script meant to discourage women from proceeding with the abortion: "The abortion will terminate the life of a whole, separate, unique, living human being." Until recently, doctors also had to tell a woman seeking an abortion that she had "an existing relationship with that unborn human being" that was protected under the Constitution and state law and that abortion poses a "known medical risk" and "increased risk of suicide ideation and suicide." In August 2009, a US District Court Judge threw out those portions of the script, finding them "untruthful and misleading." The state has appealed the decision.
Never mind that giving birth poses "a known medical risk" and greater psychological health risks, too, on the basis of a recent study. The point of all this lying is to serve a higher goal: forced births for all!

I would be lying myself if I didn't point out that stuff like this appears to be just fine-and-dandy in the opinion of most South Dakotans. Or at least a sufficient number of them have elected a very anti-abortion state legislature.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Pro-love, anti-hate (by Suzie)

"Join us on February 14, and the days surrounding, as we re-imagine Valentine’s Day as a holiday of love and acceptance for everyone." -- Unitarian Universalist Association, on the web page for its "Standing on the side of love" project. "Ask your public officials to denounce vitriolic rhetoric and to recommit to respect and inclusion."

From what I can tell from my own church and the UUA web site, "Standing on the side of love" revolves around rights for LGBT people and undocumented immigrants. My guess is that all these loving people would recoil in horror if someone came to church and announced they were against gays in the military and in favor of building a wall along the Mexican border.

A couple of years ago in my church, a man got up during joys and sorrows to decry illegal immigration. I leaped up to correct him. The difference was, I know I'm not all that loving.

As a UU committed to critical thinking, I want to point out the marketing aspect of being "pro-love" or "anti-hate." It's akin to conservative Christians calling themselves "pro-family," people opposed to abortion saying they are "pro-life," or one group of feminists calling themselves "pro-sex." These are nebulous terms applied to specific political positions, in an effort to grab the upper hand. I resist them, even though I do fall prey to them from time to time, such as using "pro-choice" as shorthand for my belief in abortion rights.

I'm especially wary of using "love" to fight oppression, as this UU site suggests. Over the millennia, men have said they loved women, or they loved particular women, but denied them rights or "disciplined" them. The same is true for other classes of people. Today, many Christian conservatives say they love the sinners, but hate the sin, including when "sin" amounts to "rights" for others. Women have been told to love their men, even if it means putting up with abuse. Women who want their rights often get labeled "man-haters." Men have stalked or killed women whom they "loved."

When I'm told I need to love others, I'd like to know a few more details. When people say they love me, pardon me if I ask what the conditions are.

Happy Valentine's Day!

A very old drawing by me.

Spending on Weapons: The Holy Cow of American Politics

To put the various Republican budget cut proposals into perspective, have a look at where the United States stand internationally on defense spending:

But we are tiny quiet mice on that topic, even though the Republicans really, really want to get rid of both retirement benefits and publicly funded health care for the elderly. Here's a sample of their opinions from the Washington Post:

Former senator Rick Santorum (R) released this statement in response to the president's budget:
"This budget also lacks a very critical component - it does not address entitlement reform. We cannot have an honest conversation about consequential spending cuts without reforming Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid and repealing our country's most recently enacted entitlement: Obamacare.

Former Republican Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty released the following statement:
It's especially disappointing that the President is refusing to reform runaway entitlement programs. We need to be honest with the American people and reform these programs before they bankrupt our nation."

Freshman Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) released the following statement on the budget:
"While the President insists he will take the commendable step of vetoing earmarks, his silence on entitlement reform, the absence of meaningful spending cuts and his reliance on anti-competitive tax increases will cause more economic uncertainty, stifle job creation and keep America on a path towards a diminished future.

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) joined conservative talk radio host Laura Ingraham on Monday to discuss the president's 2012 budget request:
As I said yesterday, this isn't winning the future, it's spending the future," said Boehner.

"[T]his week House Republicans will move a bill on the floor of the House that will cut $100 billion in spending. And this is just the beginning," he continued, "Over the next several months you'll see us move ahead with other cuts in mandatory spending, and then you'll see our budget. And our budget will deal with the entitlement crisis that we're facing."

Boehner also took an opportunity to defend Republicans' proposed continuing resolution that would keep the government funded through the remaining seven months of fiscal year 2011, "We're going to do everything we can in this bill to make sure that there's no money for ObamaCare," said Boehner, "But this is a continuing resolution. This deals with what we call discretionary spending. And within the rules of debate for a bill like this, we're going to do everything we can to make sure there's no money."

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) released the following statement on the president's budget proposal:
President Obama has used tough rhetoric about the need to get our fiscal house in order, even assembling a bipartisan commission to address entitlement spending which accounts for more than half of our federal budget including Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. Unfortunately, the President again failed to put action behind his words by neglecting to even acknowledge these tough issues that everyone knows drive up our debt and must be reformed if they are to meet their obligations for younger Americans.

The conservative Club for Growth posted a short assessment of the president's budget Monday morning:
President Obama is releasing his FY12 budget today. The highlights include higher taxes, no entitlement reform, and a whopping 11% increase in education spending. And he wants to take 10 years (what's the rush?) to cut the deficit by $1.1 trillion.
The bolds are mine. Note that none of these conservatives seems to be at all concerned about the defense spending and its share in the federal budget.

From The "No Comment" Files

Via Feminist Peace Network.

A Tea Party Without Any Sandwiches for YOU. Or Cutting The Bloated Government

Bruce Bartlett has written an interesting article on the current fascination with cutting the federal budget. It's a bit like letting children play with sharp scissors: No actual thinking required, naturally, just lots of cutting and most likely some blood.

These are the kinds of things the "new" Republicans wish to cut:
About 8 million college students would see their Pell Grants fall by about 15 percent, with the maximum grants of $5,550 declining by by $845. “Our students count on that money, and we don’t have the resources to try to make that up,” one college financial aid officer told the New York Times in December, in response to talk such a cut might be coming.
Head Start funding would fall by more than $1 billion, forcing some combination of lower spending per child and fewer children in the program. The analysis I saw predicted more than 200,000 low-income children would lose slots in the program, although some of that may reflect the loss of funding from the expiring Recovery Act. Either way, it's a pretty big hit. Oh, and about 55,000 instructors and teachers could lose jobs as part of the cut.
In absolute terms, the cut to the USDA's food inspection program may seem a lot smaller--just $100 million. But that will almost certainly mean fewer inspectors, which is no small thing. As the non-partisan organization OMB Watch has noted, in recent years the number of inspectors has not kept up with the number of food producers--and "at no other regulatory agency does the size of the inspectorate need to be so closely aligned to the size of the industry it regulates." 
Title I grants, which help schools with particularly needy populations, would fall by $700 million, affecting 2,400 schools and one million children. Another 10,000 instructors and aides would likely lose their jobs, as well. This is a direct hit on low-income children and the communities in which they live. (In the forthcoming print edition of TNR, I profile a Flint, Michigan school that has won awards for its work with low-income students. A big reason why is its Title I teachers.)
Americorps? The House Republicans would wipe out its funding entirely. And the Corporation for Public Broadcasting? Same thing.
And the "pro-life" Republicans also want to hurt pregnant women and infants:
They also want to reduce spending on the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infant, and Children. That initiative, known as WIC, provides nutritional assistance to expectant mothers and newborns. As Paul Krugman notes, that cut will hurt today and tomorrow, since kids who grow up malnourished are more likely to have problems later in life.
Wow. Just wow. Note who suffers from those cuts. I'll give you one hint: They are not the voting base of the Republican Party. They are the poor, the teachers and, naturally, the women, though allowing more food-linked illnesses will kill off the odd Republican, too.

Most of these cuts are class warfare. They try to stop upward mobility. And they do look like children going haywire with sharp scissors, as I mentioned. There is no attempt to separate really good programs with those which are only moderately successful or outright ineffective. Off with your head, whoever you are! The WIC program, for example, is excellent in its outcomes and it should be an obvious thing for anti-abortion people to support. But noooo. Which suggests that those people really don't care about babies at all.

Back to Bartlett's article. He gives us a table based on Suzanne Mettler's study concerning the ignorance of Americans about whether they have been the beneficiaries of government social programs or not. The first column in the table lists various programs, the second column gives the percentage of actual beneficiaries of that program who think they haven't received anything from the government:

529 or Coverdell
Home mortgage interest deduction
Hope or Lifetime Learning Tax Credit
Student Loans
Child and Dependent Tax Credit
Earned income tax credit
Social Security - Retirement and Survivors
Pell Grants
Unemployment Insurance
Veterans Benefits (other than G.I. Bill)
G.I. Bill
Head Start
Social Security Disability
SSI - Supplementary Security Income
Welfare/Public Assistance
Government Subsidized Housing
Food Stamps

Pretty mind-boggling, isn't it?

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Women and Berlusconi in Italy

You really want to watch the video at BBC (via Moonbootica)about Italian women getting fed up with the sexism of the supposed leader of their country:
Italian women have been holding nationwide protests against embattled Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.
Event organiser Sara Ventrone spoke of the ''anger'' and ''frustration'' felt by women in Italy at the way they were represented.

A Sunday Cartoon

This cartoon about dogs and moving is very funny. It reminds me so much of my sainted Henrietta and Hank, though one should add the humongous brain of Henrietta into the story.