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Monday, June 18, 2012

Freedom of Religion and Children

Does freedom of religion mean the right to enforce your religion on your children?  I know that there are some extremes we will not allow.  You can't use sharia law to justify killing your daughter who had premarital sex, or use Leviticus to justify killing your homosexual son.  We won't allow religious people to hide behind their dogma to beat their children, but it seems to be fine to verbally abuse them using religious texts.  They can certainly use their religious beliefs to dictate their children's diets, education and clothing.  They can force them to to attend their religious rituals and participate in their ceremonies.

I'm not going to use this entire post to bash circumcision, but it is a problem.  Recently in the news, a baby boy died and 10 others were hospitalized because of an ultra-traditional bris.  What was so traditional about it?  Orogenital suction after removal of the foreskin.  Know what that means?  The mohel sucks the blood off the bleeding penis!  How is this legal?  How is this not considered sexual molestation of a child?  Sadistic molestation, at that, since the poor kid is screaming in pain after cosmetic surgery preformed on his genitals without anesthesia while this is going on.  Of course, to any normal or rational person, this sounds like a bad idea, since the human mouth is riddled with bacteria and microorganisms that could possibly harm a newborn baby with an immature immune system.  The mohel in this case had the herpes virus in his mouth.  Herpes is far more dangerous to a baby than it is to an adult, as indicated by the one death and 10 hospitalizations.

I would go so far as to argue that non-religious circumcision (though pointless, painful, mutilating and unnecessarily traumatic) is better for the child than a bris.  At least in a medical environment there is a chance that the child will have some sort of anesthesia, that the environment will be sterile, and the child will be observed for possible complications.

But it is their right to do this to their kids, right?  Freedom of religion.  What about the rights of the children?  No baby boy has the power to say no to his circumcision (or I daresay there would be no circumcised men,) no child has the right to refuse their parents' religious homeschooling and attend public school to better prepare themselves for college, no sick child has the right to access medicine (unless they're on death's doorstep and someone intercedes in time) if their parents believe only in prayer for healing, and no child has the right to refuse religious ceremonies/rituals/teachings that they disagree with until they are 18 or they are emancipated.

Why is this? Why are we so fast to defend the rights of adults to be free to express and practice their religion, but the rights of their children who may disagree with them are so utterly dismissed?  Children have the ability to think, and therefore to decide how they think the universe works.  Why can't they come to their own conclusions and have those conclusions protected?

Enforcement of one's religion on children is child abuse, as far as I'm concerned.  Children can be forced to fast for Ramadan, to attend Catholic catechism, to don skirts and dresses only in the name of "propriety" if they are girls in a fundamentalist family, to attend "counseling" to reject the "gay lifestyle," to sit still for hours listening to sermons that amount to little more than hate speech, and all this is considered normal and protected.

Is this where our modern conservative movement got the idea that it's fine to enforce one's religious beliefs on the rest of the populace?  It makes sense to me that children, who were forced to acquiesce to their parents' beliefs, now think it's fine as adults to force the entire nation to accept their dogma as law. There is no other reason to have a National Day of Prayer, the words "under god" in the pledge of allegiance, a 10 Commandments monument on public property, or the ridiculous new restrictions on abortion.

It is true that most children are not raised in religiously oppressive or harmful homes, but I think it's important to consider the rights of children who are.  Worse than their inability to leave as the abuse is happening, is the 18 years of brainwashing they can legally be subjected to, possibly changing their minds in the end, and allowing the cycle to continue.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Abortion "Safety" Regulations

It's happening again.  There's another round of legislature worded to sound like the intent is to "improve the safety of abortion for women" in the works.  Let's be clear, here.  Abortion is one of the safest procedures you can have done.  The odds of death from surgical abortion are 1 in 160,000.  To contrast this, be aware that the odds of death from general anesthesia are 11-16 in 100,000.  The odds of death from toxic shock syndrome as a complication of having an incomplete medical (pill) abortion are less than 1 in 100,000.  In fact, only 6 of these cases have been reported in the US and Canada combined.   Odds of death from complications of pregnancy and birth are 14.5 per 100,000 births and 12 per 100,000 live births, respectively.

My question is, if these abortions are going off without a hitch, why do we have legislature aimed at making them "safer?"  Why are we not drafting bills to make pregnancy and birth safer?  Oh yeah, because then we're worried about the safety of women, not fetuses.  My mistake!  Fetal and embryonic demise is so "in" this political season as a subject of note.  Women and their rights are just blase.

Understand this: the only reason to draft these bills is to restrict access to abortion, make it more cost-prohibitive, and make it more difficult for doctors and their facilities to provide them.  It's the wording that they've chosen that allows them to feign interest in women's health and well-being, and allows others ignorant of the situation to believe them!  Do not allow anyone in your hearing to say that abortion needs to be safer or intimate that any of these bills have women's interests at their roots.  They are anti-choice, pure and simple.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

The Catholic Church is Evil. Period.

So, now that I've totally railed on the Catholic church on a personal level, I'm going to take some time to tell you why that institution is bad for our nation, and humanity as a whole.

Everyone likes to tell me how wonderful the church is, and how much charity work they do.  That argument is not going to work on me because everything they do can be done better, with a greater percentage of the money going to actually helping people, if it was done by a secular charity.  In recent news,  the Vatican been attempting to prevent nuns from attending to the types of issues we traditionally think of as christian charity work (working in homeless shelters, food kitchens and healthcare facilities) in favor of them furthering the church's political influence.  The gall that they have to so publicly state that their focus is not on helping people anymore, that it's on influencing politics, should appall everyone in this day and age.  All the good Catholicism does in the world is wiped out, and then some, by all the horrors it visits upon it.

I could rehash the priests abusing children argument, but it's old.  We all know it, we know that the church doesn't deny it anymore, and we know that they're still not holding those priests accountable for their actions.  Oh, some are being prosecuted in the US, but on the whole, the church's policy of moving molesters to new parishes, often in other countries, to sweep the issue under the rug is well known.  The fact that the Catholic church, as an organization, was content to just get away with it quietly, for the sake of keeping its name clean, for so long speaks volumes of its character.

This one issue has brought up other problems, as well.  Since homosexuals are not considered inherently sinful in the Catholic church so long as they abstain from "acting on their homosexual urges," and they are therefore encouraged (and often feel like their only real choice in life) is to become a priest.  So, with an inordinately high percentage of the priesthood known to be homosexual or bisexual, and the child molestation issue so prevalent in the news and media, the unwarranted link between homosexuality and pedophilia has become reinforced.

Furthermore, this covered up and drew attention away from the girls who had been abused, as well as the nuns who had been raped.  This is a problem inherent in a Church that vilifies sex, and treats the "sin" of masturbation the same as the sin of rape, pedophilia or murder.  Yep, everything I just listed was a "mortal sin" to be confessed and washed away by a priest's assignment of a few "Hail Mary's."  Sure they're not necessarily truly equal in the "eyes of god," but any priest will tell you that masturbation is a sin that could send you to hell just like the others.

I'm not bringing up the church's specific dogma to argue it.  They can believe whatever crazy shit they want.  The point is that this is the culture they have created.  It is one with an emphasis on guilt over sexuality.  Do what gets you off, but feel really awful about it and confess later.  This is the root of many kinks and perversions.  Kinks are fine.  Enjoy getting off while rubbing a balloon on your balls and singing showtoons on top of the kitchen table.  That does not effect my life one bit, and if it enhances yours and doesn't hurt anyone in the process, you have my blessing and sincere hope that you find someone to share in your kink.  Perversions, such as pedophilia and rape-fantasy, though, are a different story entirely.  The people who have these perversions almost always seem to have some sort of sexual guilt instilled in them early on.  So, this Catholic attitude toward sex is like spinning the wheel of chance and hoping for kink over perversion.  Odds are, most people are going to come out with kinks (or prudish hang-ups,) but it's not fair that the church gets to get away with creating any perverts, few though they are.

So, we all know that the Vatican is rich as well.  I could wax on forever about how those greedy bitches could use some of that over-the-top wealth to actually feed, clothe and educate people, but that argument is also tired.  It's been made, and we all know that the Catholic church is nowhere near that virtuous.  No, they would much rather ask their members for money, and then use that money for things like the miseducation of Africans regarding HIV.  I wonder how many HIV infections and AIDS-related deaths could be directly linked to the Catholic church's campaign to tell people that condoms don't prevent transmission of the disease?  It would be interesting to know.  Of course, killing one person with a lie like that is unconscionable, but somehow I bet the pope sleeps just fine beside his massive, silly hat.  After all, he's the voice of god on earth.

There are real problems with any religion that encourages its members to get its information from a person, rather than to read, explore, and find it themselves.  In fact, depending on which definition you use, this pyramid-style structure of leadership and funding could define the Catholic church as a cult.  The sing-song sermons, which were given in Latin until fairly recently, are designed to be hard to follow.  The wording is such that the meaning isn't always obvious, and it's clear that church members are supposed to have a relationship with the priest in which they ask his opinion directly.  He'll then spout off the pope's policies, and the congregation will just have to accept that the notions of right and wrong coming from a celibate, ancient man living in a house of gold in Italy, are from god himself.

When I was young I noticed that I was told to pray to this saint or that, to pray to Jesus or the virgin Mary, but I was never really advised to pray to god himself.  My catechism instructor told me often that I wasn't supposed to pray to god directly because we could not really understand him, but that the saints and Jesus, who were once mortal, could carry my messages there better.  This sounded like such a  crock to me.  Even as a child, I thought that dealing with a "middleman" was a waste of time and effort. But it seems important to the Catholics to keep their god "untouchable," and the pope is another way of reinforcing this.

The Catholics have really pissed everyone off lately with their insistence that the women they employ not receive birth control coverage.  It is not a violation of their religious rights and freedom to make sure that all their employees are treated the same as employees everywhere else in the nation.  It is not fair to make women employed by Catholic institutions, such as colleges and hospitals, have to pay out of pocket for contraception that they do not have to pay a penny more for.  It is their way of continuing to subjugate women and treat them as though they are worth less than men.  What makes this all really ridiculous is that the Catholic institutions don't even have to offer the birth control...the insurance company does.  They're obviously doing this willingly since paying for birth control is considerably cheaper than paying for a pregnancy, birth and then a child.  But the church does not want their employees to even have the ability to obtain birth control coverage separate from them.  It's inexcusable misogyny, pure and simple, especially since over 90% of Catholic women themselves have or will use birth control in their lifetimes.

The Catholics are responsible for atrocities across the globe.  How is this tolerated by the people?  How is this possible?  It has to be the vast numbers of "casual, cultural Catholics," whom I will now refer to as CCC's.  The CCC population makes up the majority of Catholics.  They do not agree with all the church's dogma, most of them scoff at the idea that the pope is god's voice on earth, that birth control is "against god's will," that marriages preformed outside the church are invalid, that condoms do not prevent AIDS, or that women are in any way less than men.  Why the hell are they still Catholic, you ask?  Why, because their families are.  It's how they were raised, and the church has done an excellent job of convincing people that their children need a "religious foundation" to grow up to be good, moral citizens.  So, people who may move away from attending mass while they are young adults (but still claim to be Catholic) will drift back in during the pregnancy with the first child, have them baptized, and then attend church on a regular basis to start the cycle all over again.  Their children will then think that they "needed" this moral training, and have memories of baptisms, catechism, weddings, first holy communions and confirmations in the church, pancake breakfasts, bingo nights and various fundraisers put on by the nuns or the youth group.  They'll think again about how they want to be buried in the same (Catholic) cemetery as their family, and how Catholicism, though deeply flawed, is "part of their culture."  It's so deeply ingrained in the Italian, Mexican and Irish cultures in this country that it's nearly assumed that people with these backgrounds are Catholic.  They have their own traditions that intricately involve the church or its stories to make them make sense.  Keep in mind that the Catholic church accomplished this by taking the native traditions and stories and redefining them to be Catholic oriented.  So, for many CCC's (because they don't know any better,) their own culture does not make sense without Catholicism.  They have happy memories they want to pass on to their children, and there is a lot of pressure to stay within the church's ranks from family and friends.

What do CCC's have to do with AIDS in Africa, transferring child molesters across seas or birth control policy?  Well, the church couldn't do any of these things without funding.  Since the majority of Catholics are CCC's, it stand to reason that the majority of their money comes from them.  Furthermore, in this country, we don't even tax them, despite the fact that they run for-profit entities, like hospitals and universities.  The CCC's complacently allow this to happen.  By not withholding money from the church, by lending a voice to the huge number of Catholics, they are distant enablers to the horrors committed by Catholicism today.  The church is able to claim that they should have their policies allowed because x-percentage of the population is Catholic.  It's unacceptable, and most CCC's have no idea that they're even remotely contributing to it.

Friday, June 8, 2012

My Personal Catholic History

I am going to launch into why the Catholic church is an abomination that should be destroyed, but before I do that, I think it's only fair to give you my personal history with it.

I was raised Catholic. I understood that I could be a horrific "sinner" all the time, so long as I went to confession and had my slate cleaned from time to time.  It was also understood that inaction was virtuous. In other words, it was better to just avoid doing anything "wrong" in the eyes of the church, than to go out of your way to do good in the world and commit small "sins" along the way.  Animals were not ever going to heaven, and their suffering was especially ignorable, since they were ours to do with as we pleased.  After all, god put them here for us, and gave us dominion over them.  I understood that my body was a filthy, ugly thing that needed to be covered up, and that anything pleasurable was, well, sinful.  This especially extended to anything sexual.  The purest, best life was one that did not involve sex or masturbation at all.  Another decent choice was to wait until marriage to have sex with one man, with whom I wouldn't use birth control, and pop out kids for god and the church until my exhausted uterus gave out or I died a virtuous woman.  I could also practice "natural family planning," a technique that had turned all the youth group leaders into parents, themselves.  Furthermore, condoms were evil, since having one around meant that I might be planning sex, and they were deceptive tools of the liberal media, since they didn't actually prevent the transmission of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections.  Only abstinence and fidelity could do that.  Gay people were not inherently sinful, so long as they didn't act on their "urges." (believe it or not, when I heard this, I reasoned for myself that the best thing to do if you were gay was to become a priest or a nun.)  Every baby conceived was wanted by god, and so should be wanted by us, as mortals.  There was no excuse, ever, for an abortion.  A doomed mother who died carrying a baby in her belly was blessed, receiving a special place in heaven as a martyr.  This was our place in life as women, since we were never meant to be in charge of anything, except maybe a nunnery.  Men took their rightful place as leaders, and even the holiest of women, the nuns, were their servants.  In fact, the male leaders were pure and righteous because they didn't sully themselves with women at all.  Most disturbing of all to me, was how I looked at babies.  Babies came into the world with a black mark on their heads, original sin, that was only washed clean after baptism.  At that point, I looked at a baby with envy.  They were so pure and unmarred by the years of sins that my dirty little soul had committed...at 10 years of age.

Some of you might be wondering about all the sex-related issues that I knew about at such a young age.  No, the church did not typically address these issues by age 10.  But I had a mother who gave me an extensive "talk" at 10, and I brought up a lot of questions to my catechism instructors.  Most of the time they brushed them aside and tried to avoid them, but if I kept asking they'd take my aside and mumble out the church's doctrine and dogma.   So that's how I came to know how the world was supposed to work, according to the pope, at 10.

I cannot look back at my years of Catholic upbringing without a wave of revulsion for the church.  Everything I listed above was how I viewed the world at 10.  I fought against it, but deep down I'd been conditioned to believe this way.  I wrestled with self-loathing whenever I did something I knew was wrong in the eyes of my catechism instructors (and I was too shy to ever approach a priest, deacon or bishop) but I couldn't help myself.  I knew something was wrong.  Life was laid out so simply before me, but I knew there was more.  So, I went through the weekly ritual of going to church on Sunday, doing my best to occupy myself and try to ignore the sing-song sermon of love-love-GUILT-love-HATE-HATE-GUILT- HATE YOURSELF-love-love. I played with my siblings, which earned me a dirty look, then a smack, then threats.  I tried to fall asleep or zone out.  That garnered the same response.  When it was clear that my desire to no longer listen to this soul poison was not ever going to be honored, I became outright rebellious.  Activating my siblings to the cause wasn't difficult.  I don't know that they were old enough to actually think much about what was being said, but I know they were bored.  So I pretended to fall over, loudly and flat on my face in the middle of the aisle, when we had to kneel.  This was especially embarrassing for my parents because my father liked to sit in the front row.  He started moving us farther back.  My brother and I would play "bloody knuckles" against the pews in front of us when we had to hold hands and sing.  Dad moved us back farther.  I realized that the babies were a better weapon against my parents than my older siblings.  Enticing them to loudly cry, laugh or shriek, wasn't so hard.  It echoed against through the hall, and we had to move back into the "baby room."  I liked that better, but it still wasn't what I wanted.  I wanted to get away from there.  I wanted to sleep in on Sunday and stay up on Saturday night.  The tomboy in me hated the dresses and skirts I had to wear to a place I didn't respect.  Most of all, the burgeoning free-thinker in me couldn't abide the lessons I was being taught.  I ramped up my assaults on Mass, and Dad cracked down on me.  At one point in my childhood, I was grounded for 12 weeks straight.  Bad behavior in church earned me a week of grounding.  I could stop being grounded when I behaved myself in church the next week.

I never did.  Dad finally broke when he realized that my grounding restricted the entire family from going to Disneyland.  I quietly noted my victory, and continued this pattern for years.  My parents slowly stopped making us attend weekly, then it became a monthly thing, and toward the end we just had to go before we could open presents on Christmas.  That one chafed me.  The idea that we had to endure a special, extra-long Mass, when school was out and all we wanted to do was open presents and play just irritated me to no end.  My parents eventually realized that this was an effort in futility, and took us to midnight Mass on Christmas eve to "fulfill our obligation."

The entire time this was going on my parents had been sending me to catechism.  The weekly religious classes, which my parents, who could not afford to live on their own, paid for, were a more personal reinforcement of the church's teachings.  I will say that catechism is the place where I finally learned that not all adults are worth respecting.  I had several teachers who were nice, but they were all condescending when I presented them with real questions.  I was a precocious child and an avid reader.  At age 8, I read about reincarnation and decided immediately that this was what I believed in.  When I presented my findings to her, bright-eyed and smiling, I asserted myself.  I didn't say, "This is what I think."  I told her, "This is what I know is the truth."  She stared at me for a moment, shook her head and said, "You don't believe that.  You're Catholic.  Now go sit down."  I figured that she hadn't understood me, and, thinking I was revealing some great, new knowledge, I kept going and insisted on telling other members of the class.  At this point she was annoyed, and grabbed me by the arm.  "I said no, you don't think that because you're Catholic.  You need to sit down now."  She shoved me into my seat, and I don't think I heard a word of what she said for the rest of class.  I was totally consumed by the idea of people telling me what to think and insisting that I could not reason for myself.  It truly was a pivotal moment in my childhood.  At that point I realized that I deserved to make my own conclusions.  Now contrast this with the education I was receiving as a Catholic, and you can see why I became a very rebellious teenager.

I have never had an issue talking about sex.  Even from the beginning, I felt that my questions shouldn't inspire blushing, they should just be answered with frank information.  I knew I could make a lot of prudish people, people I didn't respect anyway, uncomfortable by continually bringing up sex.  So when catechism was over and weekly youth group began, so did the continual sex talk.  I wanted intimate details about the church's stance on anal, oral, and vaginal sex.  I wanted to know all about masturbation.  Was it okay if you used a vibrator?  What about something that wasn't your hand or a vibrator?  What about someone else's hand?  I kept it up until the youth group leader suggested that I would enjoy my hour of time with them better just playing pool in the front room.  So, sometimes I played pool.  Sometimes my dad would drop me off at youth group where I'd make an appearance, and I'd go behind the church and across the street to have sex with my boyfriend at his house.  I'd always show back up a few minutes before dad had to pick me up again, and the youth group leaders never tattled on me.  I used to wonder about that, but now I realize that my power to render their youth group unproductive was enough to keep them out of my business.

I was a nuisance in the church, and I was proud of it.  I was an angry teenager, and the majority of my anger was directed at the church.  They lied to me, misunderstood me, ignored me, and wanted to control me.  I was angry that my cash-strapped parents, the ones who were desperately in debt trying to support 6 kids, including one with spina bifida, gave them money.  And the gall that the church had to ask for that money blew me away.

This upbringing, more than anything, taught me that empathy was not an effective tool for life.  No one made an attempt to empathize with me, and I was never encouraged through the church to empathize with others.  My parents taught me differently, but being sent to catechism and church to be taught the opposite of what they taught me, confused me and made me upset that they believed one way, and let the church try to teach me another.  My parents disagreed with the church on several issues, including birth control and some abortion issues, but they didn't feel that these reasons were strong enough to leave behind the church they'd been raised in.

This "cultural Catholicism" is the root of all the problems caused by the church.  I'll address that in my next post.

I finally broke my parents' will to drag me to church at the age of 16.  Mom was battle-weary from fighting with her children and enduring crying and arguing every time they took us there, and dad gave in to her begging to stop taking us.  My parents also started reading a lot of New Age-type literature at this point.  "Conversations with God" was particularly thought-inspiring to them. My religious torture ended at age 16, but a lot of damage had been done.  It would take over a decade to undo it.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

The Politics of Breastfeeding


I have to admit that I'm shocked that I have to chime in on breastfeeding as an issue today, but with the recent Time magazine article on Attachment Parenting, the New York formula ban in hospitals, and the recent photo of women in uniform nursing their babies, I feel that it's time for me to speak up.

I am a mother of two, an attachment parent, and a women who regularly attends La Leche League meetings.  We now know from recent research that women who were breastfed as babies or who watched their mothers breastfeed are more likely to breastfeed their own babies.  I know I was at a distinct advantage because I had been breastfed, had a family supportive of my breastfeeding efforts, am a college graduate, a non-smoker and I have no real modesty to speak of.

I can still tell you that breastfeeding was not easy in the beginning.  It's not always comfortable, learning to use a breast pump isn't natural, overhauling your wardrobe to make your breasts accessible 24/7 isn't something you necessarily think to do and the first time anyone breastfeeds in public it can feel awkward and strange.  By the way, this is the opinion of someone who will readily state that I had an easy time breastfeeding.

I'd like to state for the record that it is almost never the fault of the mother for not breastfeeding or not breastfeeding as long as she would like.  Despite a lot of legislature protecting women's rights to breastfeed in public, cultural biases and standards loom large in the face of a mother trying to do what is best for her baby.

Your right to breastfeed in any private or public place is protected in 45 states.  Breastfeeding is exempted from public indecency laws in 28 states (we need to work on increasing that number,) and 24 states have laws regarding breastfeeding and the workplace (again, that is a number we need to work on.)  Only 12 states and Puerto Rico will exempt women from jury duty if she is breastfeeding, and a pitiful 5 states and Puerto Rico have a breastfeeding awareness and education campaign.

It seems really simple on paper.  Breastmilk is best for your baby.  It has compounds in it that we cannot even begin to replicate in a lab, much less in commercially prepared formula.  It supplements the baby's immune system.  It's better for the baby's brain.  It's nutritionally balanced, helps prevent diarrhea and ear infections, is better for babies with reflux, lowers incidence of obesity and diabetes later in life.  It is considered a clear fluid and is therefore the only way to provide a vomiting baby with complete nutrition.  At every turn, research is finding more interesting and amazing components in human milk. It's liquid gold.  Best of all, it's free.  Who wouldn't want to give this to their baby?

Well, fighting our puritan-based society's ridiculous sexualization of our breasts is battle #1.  This problem alone is probably to blame for most women quitting or not even initiating breastfeeding.  It makes everything about breastfeeding awkward and uncomfortable.  Teens (read: the undereducated) are among the least likely to breastfeed and many of them cite how "weird" and "gross" allowing their babies to suck on a nipple is.  I would argue that it's a much less physical than the act that put the baby inside them in the first place, but that's beside the point.  They think like this because they're immature, and it is that immaturity in our society as a whole that has lead us to have any problem whatsoever with breastfeeding, no matter how much breast, nipple or areola is exposed.

I've been told it "just makes good sense" and it's "only polite" to cover up while nursing my baby in public.  Both those people got a big middle finger in the face in the form of my prompt, uncovered nursing right in front of them while I insisted on carrying on a conversation with them.  I simply refuse to use a "nursing cover," because I find them preposterous.  I won't eat with a blanket over my head, so I won't ask my baby to.  I also think it takes away the bonding aspect of nursing.  Yet women seek these covers and pay good money for them in the name of modesty and "respect."  Public breastfeeding is crucial in promoting breastfeeding because it desensitizes the public to it.  If we see it everywhere, it becomes normal and natural.  Furthermore, women who were reluctant to feed their babies in public become encouraged to do it when they see other women doing it and everyone around them perceiving it (correctly!) as "no big deal."

Modesty is the useless virtue.  It benefits no one, hinders and harms many, and has allowed this puritan "bodily shame" to continue unchecked for generations.  It's time to stop claiming that modesty has any benefits.

That brings us to the controversy over breastfeeding images in the media and politics.  This is not a sensationalist image:


This one is:


See the difference?  A mother breastfeeding her babies, staring into their faces and smiling is not a bid for attention despite the fact that she's wearing her Air Force uniform.  A sexy, young mother staring boldly into the camera while nursing her standing preschooler is definitely trying to stir up controversy and attention, and it doesn't matter that you can't actually see her boob.

I listened to the two women in the Air Force uniform on their interview for NPR, as well as a woman publicly criticizing them for doing this photo shoot.  First of all, the viral photo I posted above was one of only two shots of the women in uniform from an entire photo shoot in the park that day.  It was never intended to be exclusively about women in uniform breastfeeding.  The women also did not anticipate the uproar these photos caused.

They were informed that it was inappropriate to use their uniforms to "promote a product" such as breastfeeding.  What?  I think the military might have had a case for this argument if she had been using a Boppy nursing pillow with the logo showing, but they were just feeding their babies.  In fact, by this logic, no woman should ever be allowed to be seen bottle feeding in uniform.  That's direct promotion of the formula and bottle companies!  Except no one has ever made this argument.  Bottle feeding would be fine, but breastfeeding, an act of bonding that provides unarguably superior nutrition is under fire?  Inconceivable!

Another argument that was put forward was that this was an inappropriate action because the woman nursing twins was not being discreet enough.  Furthermore, it's been said that these women need to understand that, as military mothers, some things must be sacrificed for the sake of appearances, and breastfeeding is one of those things.

What?!  Are we so all-consumed with our Victorian need for propriety that a baby's need for proper nutrition is secondary?  The idea that someone could have the gall to make such a statement in all seriousness this day in age just floors me.  It is a baby having a meal.  Anywhere a baby needs to eat is a place where a baby should be allowed to nurse.  Period.  There are no caveats to that.

The idea that the woman is nursing multiples also doesn't seem to come into the argument for her to cover up, and I think it's because so few people have ever tried to nurse two children at once.  It's hard enough to keep any visible skin covered while feeding one baby (so I don't even bother to try,) why would anyone expect this to be an accomplishable task while nursing two?

As I see it, these two women are promoting the military as a family-friendly environment, and one that supports a woman's right to raise her child the healthiest way possible.  What could possibly be wrong with that?

That brings me to my next point: our miserable breastfeeding rates.  Are they better than they have been since the "formula boom" of the 1950's?  Yes, they absolutely are.  But we're still nowhere near where we should be.  About 75% of all women start out breastfeeding their newborns.  By 4 months it drops to just over 50%, with only about a quarter of women breastfeeding exclusively, as is recommended until at least 6 months of age.  By 6 months about 44% are breastfeeding at all, and a measly 14% are still breastfeeding exclusively.  At a year, only about 24% are still breastfeeding.  The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends at least a year of breastfeeding (6 months exclusively,) and the World Health Organization recommends 2 years.  There is no upper limit to the benefits of breastfeeding, and it should continue as long as the mother and the child are happy with it.  See what I mean when I say we still have a long way to go?

So we should be doing everything possible to boost our breastfeeding rates, right?  I mean, 85% of moms want to breastfeed exclusively for 3 months or more.  So why do just under a third of women meet that goal?

As I said before, there are lots of factors that get in the way of a mothers breastfeeding goals.  Hospital and formula sabotage are high among those.  Mothers who have had a cesarean section (a practice that is grossly abused by hospitals and doctors trying to speed the birth process along) are less likely to breastfeed immediately, and women who are unable to breastfeed within an hour of birth are less likely to breastfeed on a longer timeline.  Babies given bottles of formula and pacifiers were more likely to have problems nursing, as well.  These routine practices need to end to promote breastfeeding as a whole.

On this episode of "The View," the women discuss a proposed ban in New York, wherein formulas companies would be prohibited from giving out free formula to new mothers.  Sounds crazy, right?  I mean, I'm a huge proponent of women's rights to all choices in their lives.  Formula feeding is a valid parenting choice.  Wouldn't any good feminist be against this?


Actually, no.  An educated feminist would be applauding this ban.

Since 85% of women want to breastfeed, and free formula samples sabotage that, they should not be offered.  I am not saying that they should not be available on a request-only basis, but a policy that allows formula companies to freely use hospitals to pass out their products when women are at their most tired, vulnerable and open to any suggestion that will stop a frustrated newborn from crying, is not a feminist policy.  Furthermore, nurses need to be trained to help and encourage mothers to breastfeed, rather than bring in a bottle of formula and tell her it's okay to give "just one bottle."  "Just one bottle" helps sabotage milk production, especially in the beginning.  It helps get the baby used to a rubber nipple, and makes it more painful when they latch onto a human one.  It makes the mother feel like a failure when they see their baby gulping down inferior formula after they've struggled for an hour to get a newborn to latch on properly.

None of this is okay.  It is not okay for formula companies to offer tons of free samples in the beginning, helping to make sure that the mother's milk supply is compromised, the baby is used to the shape and fast flow of a bottle nipple, and making the mother think formula is a decent alternative.  Then they turn around and charge at least $120 a month for a supply after the free samples (and mom's breastmilk) are all dried up.  It's a cruel practice that should not be permitted, especially in a hospital that is supposed to be promoting health, not commercial gain.

One of the biggest problems I have with this clip is Whoopi Goldberg's insistence that not all women can breastfeed.  It's true that women who have had mastectomies, some who have had breast augmentations or reductions, women with extremely rare breast deformities, and some women on daily medication that isn't safe for breastfeeding are unable to.  It is estimated that 2-5% of women fall into this "unable to breastfeed" category.  I do not in any way mean to minimize the struggles of these poor women, but that is a very small percent of the population.  It's certainly far less than is believed to be unable to breastfeed by the media and the public in general!  

Not only that, most of the problems that women believe are issues that would keep them from breastfeeding exclusively can be addressed and remedied.  Low milk supply is more of a myth than a reality, but it's fixable in the rare cases where it is a problem.  Babies are never "allergic to their mother's milk," but they may be allergic to something their mother is eating.  She can simply find out what's causing the allergy through an elimination diet and stop eating the allergy culprit.  Babies with a poor latch can be coached to latch on correctly, and nipple shields can help with this problem as well as inverted nipples.  Lactation consultants, as well as a local La Leche League branch, are more than happy to help women with any of their breastfeeding issues.  

Breastfeeding benefits us all.  It lowers a woman's risk for certain cancers and other health issues, it makes babies healthier, it promotes healthy bonding, and it saves us all money! Yes, it's estimated that the United States could save $13 billion in medical bills if mothers would exclusively breastfeed to 6 months.  It also saves individual families when they breastfeed for a year at least $1400 in the first year of life because formula is no longer necessary.  

As a nation, we need to do everything we can to promote and aid in a mother's breastfeeding efforts.  It is not enough to provide a room where women can pump milk.  Breastfeeding is highest among mothers who can stay home with their children, so 6 months of paid maternity leave is something this country needs to work towards.  Large companies that provide in-house childcare go the extra mile to facilitate breastfeeding, as well as allowing parents the comfort of knowing that their children are just down the hall if they become sick or just need a little extra attention.  More education for doctors regarding breastfeeding is a must, since so few of them truly know how vital it is to health and well-being.  More education and promotion of breastfeeding for the general public might help the poor and minorities, whose breastfeeding rates are even lower than those of educated, white mothers over 30.

Much can be done to help our situation, and good political policy changes are a necessary component.

Monday, June 4, 2012

The First Amendment, Religion and "small government"

A dear, rather conservative friend of mine posed a question to me a few days ago.  He asked how far should First Amendment freedoms stretch?  He asked this question in the context of California's Prop 8, since many Mormons backed this hate-bill to keep their adoption and other programs from being dismantled because they need the ability to discriminate against gay people.  That's their "freedom of speech," by the way.  I'm a firm advocate of First Amendment rights, to be sure, but I think in this country today we are blurring the line between speech and action.

I believe it is a bigot's right to think he is superior (for whatever convoluted reason) to women, blacks, Latinos and homosexuals.  He can have a website, a private clubhouse and even an organization to promote and air his stupidity.  I do not believe he has the right to start up a "whites only" adoption agency and use his First Amendment rights as a shield against any criticism for doing so.  He can't have a "whites only" school or hospital, either.  He certainly does not have the right to use his convictions as a reason to be shielded from disciplinary action if he chooses to enact violence on someone he believes he is superior to.  These things are not "free speech."

My view of the First Amendment extends to religious organizations, as well.  I do not believe that Catholic hospitals should have the right to deny a woman an abortion that would save her life.  I do not believe that the Mormon church should be allowed to run an adoption agency that will never consider adopting children out to a healthy, committed gay couple with the means to give those children a good and fulfilling life.  I do not believe that churches should be able to use tax dollars to fund "therapists" that will tell your gay son how wrong he is to be gay or tell an abused woman how important it is to submit fully to her husband.

Everything I listed above is unacceptable.  I think you should be allowed to say whatever you want,  but do not expect to access federal or local tax dollars to fund it.  I also have come to realize that there are some basic agencies and services that religion should not be allowed to have a hand in.  There should be NO religious adoption agencies.  If the birth mother wants the child raised in a certain religion, it is her right to choose a couple from that religion to raise her baby.  But no adoption services should be operated solely from a church.  That service begs for governmental oversight.  The same with hospitals, pharmacies, and other basic human services.

In other words, you can have your religion and be proud of it.  Go to your religious services, take religious classes, practice your religion in your home and teach it to your children.  Use your OWN money to send your kids to a religious school.  But do not expect to have those beliefs enforced on anyone outside your church and especially don't expect special treatment or government money because of those beliefs.  Enjoy them on your own time and dime.

In the past few days, as I thought over my view on First Amendment rights, I also began to really think about the concept of "small government," as well.  I've realized that my own beliefs on this front have evolved over my lifetime, and I can now say I do NOT believe in small government.  I am not afraid of government programs designed to help the less fortunate or in paying higher taxes to fund those programs.  The power of "big government" does not scare me in the least.  In fact, every time someone tells me that "big government" is a bad thing, and I bring up the fact that the poor need help feeding their children or finding a warm place to sleep, they state that they can get help from their local church.

No!  A religious answer to a secular problem is wrong.  So an atheist who is down on his luck has to choke down his pride and sacrifice his beliefs to get a hot meal?  A secular humanist mother needs to go to a church that will help provide her children with daycare so she can get a job, but she just has to accept the indoctrination of her children that comes with that "free" help?  Unacceptable!

No, the power of "big church" scares the shit out of me.  When churches have taken our tax dollars to fund their hate speech, to further their agenda, and to wield enough power to have their demands written into law, that scares me.  It scares me a whole hell of a lot more than the idea of funding a welfare program that gives women the opportunity to stay home with their babies until they're old enough to go to school.  It makes the idea of someone fearing Universal Healthcare laughable.  It makes me believe that small government is not what we need to be focusing on; "small religion" should be our goal!

We need to take back our country from the churches!  Religion is slowly choking out our country's ability to be great by allowing its fundamentalists to infiltrate the government.  No faith-based program should be allowed to access federal dollars.  Period.  If you want to feed the homeless or provide an after-school program for inner city kids, I applaud you.  But either fund it from your church's coffers, or keep your religion out of it.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

"Gendercide" in the US...what a crock!

"Gendercide," or sex selective abortion is in the news right now because of a ridiculous "sting video" from the anti-choice group Live Action.  It should be noted that they were so heavy-handed with their intent that Planned Parenthood knew what they were doing before this video was released.



From this video, we should draw the conclusion that sex-selective abortion is a problem in our country, that males are clearly favored in our society, even as babies, and that obtaining a sex-selective abortion would be an easy matter.  None of these things are true, by the way.

First of all, gender selective abortion is a problem in places like India and China.  In fact, it is illegal to find out the gender via ultrasound in India and China, although those with money seem to be able to find the right facilities to do it anyway.  The natural birth rates favor males, with 101-105 males born for every 100 females.  So, any deviation from this should indicate human intervention or possibly a severe problem with one gender or the other in a culture or nation.  China's birth ratio is estimated to be 116-120 males for every 100 females, and India's birth ratio is reported to be 830-914 girls for every 1,000 boys.  After a few simple calculations, that makes their ratio 109-120 males for every 100 females.  This is what a country's birth ratio looks like when sex-selective abortion is a problem.

I have to admit, though, that I do not think sex-selective abortion should be illegal in these countries.  Why?  Because sex-selective abortion prevents gender-based infanticide and abandonment of children of the unwanted gender!  Of course, infanticide is illegal in both countries, but that does not stop some desperate people from doing what they feel their culture is encouraging them to do.  Newborns are so delicate, that suffocating one without leaving any evidence is incredibly easy, and no one would be the wiser if the mother simply reported that the baby had been stillborn or died shortly after of unknown causes or sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS.)

The method of getting the male a poor family so desires is not in sex-selective abortion, which is illegal and therefore prohibitively expensive for them.  So, the unethical poor family commits female infanticide, while the ethical one simply keeps having children until the one they want is finally born.  So, making sex-selective abortion illegal is contributing to overpopulation, as well.

I think it's obvious that these difficult-to-enforce laws are not making women any more valued in these cultures.  Cultural change must come about in order to make women as valued as men, and these well-intentioned laws aren't going to change that.  I think that these countries need to suffer the consequences of an unbalanced society for a generation or so, before this swing to equality and appreciation for women will happen.  Clearly the disparity in gender ratio is already in place, now I think it's time to let the chips fall where they may.  If men have to compete for a small pool of women, perhaps they will start to value them.  At least we can expect overpopulation to be less of a problem, since there will be so many men unable to find a mate.

So, now that I've illustrated what a problem with sex-selective abortion looks like, here is why we do not have one in the US: our birth ratio is 104.7 males per 100 females. There is no reason to believe that the people of the United States need to intervene on abortions on the basis of gender.

Furthermore, the Live Action people who made that video are morons.  If they had done their research, they would realize that baby girls are more highly prized than baby boys in the US and the UK today.  In fact, this was highlighted in the documentary "Eight Boys and Wanting a Girl."  This information is based on a sex-selective IVF procedure called PGD, or pre-implantation genetic diagnosis.  It was originally pioneered to predetermine which embryos were carriers of genetic disorders or abnormalities, but doctors quickly realized that this was the first non-abortive procedure that could virtually guarantee the gender of a baby.  It's been used for this purpose ever since, and couples come from all over the globe to balance their families, since sex-selective PGD is illegal in many countries including the UK, Ireland, Australia, Canada, Norway, India and China, just to name a few.

This brings up an interesting point: if we're so worried about sex-selective abortion, why are we not pushing for insurance to cover gender-selective PGD?  And why are we not pushing to decriminalize the practice in other countries?

In the US, more baby girls are requested than baby boys in fertility treatments.  Did you also know that most people seeking to select for gender are not simply choosing to have a family of all girls or all boys?  No, according to Dr. Daniel Potter, a fertility doctor who specializes in PGD for gender selection, the majority want the opposite gender of the one they already have in order to balance their family.  There is an unspoken bias in this country against single-gender families, and the desperation of women wanting to have a daughter to relate to, or men wanting a son to pass his traditions on to should not be swept under the rug.  By the way, the actress in the video above claimed to be wanting a boy because she already had a girl.

Sex-selective abortion is quickly becoming another method for the anti-choice movement to unnecessarily restrict abortion access. Arizona has already made it illegal, and other states are looking to ban it, as well.  It is estimated that 77% of the US population supports a ban on sex-selective abortion, a  ban which is certainly an answer in search of a problem.  This ban is destructive because it chips away at our already-crumbling right to choose.  Furthermore, making this ban enforceable would be a terrible encroachment on prenatal care in this country and a disservice to doctors.  It would also make inroads to making it illegal to abort for gender-specific abnormalities and disorders.

Some of these bans are worded in such a way that the onus is on the doctor to determine whether an abortion is being performed for sex-selective purposes.  So, if a doctor doesn't adequately grill their already desperate and anxious patient, they can then be fined and/or subject to criminal charges?  What about women who are aborting because they've found out they are carrying a child with an X-linked disorder such as Hunter's syndrome or hemophilia?  They certainly would not be aborting if the child were a girl (because the baby could not possibly have the disease,) so is this a sex-selective abortion?

This is ridiculous ban is also totally unenforceable as it stands.  A woman can find out the gender at an 11 week chorionic villus sampling (CVS) and then when she goes in for an abortion claim that it's because she just doesn't want the pregnancy.  As long as she doesn't mention gender, no one would be the wiser.  So are we now going to ban any test that might reveal the gender of the fetus?  That would be a measure punishing the majority (since most women now find out the gender of their fetuses during routine ultrasounds) of the population for an unnecessary ban on a practice that is not known to occur in this country.  Sounds a little extreme to me!

Sex selective abortions would be, for the vast majority of the population, a second trimester abortion, subject to all the regulation, high fees and difficult access that any second trimester abortion is.  This is a subject I've already explained at length in a previous blog post, so I won't rehash it here.

In the end, sex-selective abortion should remain legal because abortion, or the removal of a unwanted pregnancy, should remain a choice between a woman and her doctor.  An unwanted pregnancy is an unwanted pregnancy, regardless of how much information a mother has about it.





Thursday, May 24, 2012

Sign online!

There are quite a few online efforts to improve conditions for us now, and I think it's important for as many people as possible to participate.  I've heard before that online petitions "don't amount to anything," or "are easily ignored," but it's important to note that this is an election year.  An overwhelmingly unpopular idea is a lot harder to ignore than it was last year.  I'd advocate signing the following:

These two are for ending the "corporations are people" Citizens United decision:


This one is more of a mockery to let the legislature know that women's rights are worth more than corporations' rights:


This one is to revoke Fox's ability to post "news" that has no truth to it:


This one is, I think, the most important one, especially for Arizona.  It's a petition for the IRS to get rid of Cathi Herrod and her disgusting Center for Arizona Policy as a tax-exempt organization.  It should also stop them from being able to re-organize!


Online petitions take two minutes out of your day, and help point out to our politicians that we are angry and willing to add our names to the list of complainers.  Change often starts small, and we cannot afford to let things stay as they are!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Empathy

Just because I'm straight doesn't mean that fighting for gay rights isn't important, and that restricting gay rights doesn't diminish us all.

Just because my husband has always had a job that provided good, quality health insurance, doesn't mean that I shouldn't be concerned about health care reform.

Just because I am a stay at home mom, doesn't mean that making sure women have the opportunity to have both a career and a family isn't worth fighting for.

Just because I am married and have a stable family and home environment doesn't mean that abortion restrictions couldn't have dire consequences for me, my health and my family.

Just because I'm in my 30's doesn't mean I no longer want the legal alcoholic drinking age reduced to 18, or even 16.

Just because my children are young, doesn't mean I'm not pushing for comprehensive sex education and contraceptive availability for teens now.

Just because I don't live in Tennessee, or Mississippi, or South Dakota, doesn't mean that I should remain unconcerned when heinous anti-woman legislature is passed there.

Just because I'm pro-choice doesn't mean I'll ever have an abortion.

Just because I want to home school my children, or put them in a good charter school, doesn't mean I'm not constantly pushing for better public education.

Just because you're white doesn't mean that allowing brown people to be treated as less doesn't dehumanize you.

Just because you've never needed food stamps, welfare, or some form of public assistance doesn't mean that they are unnecessary programs.

Just because five guilty men were set free does not mean one innocent one should be sentenced to death.

Just because you are retired, and your children are grown, does not mean funding for public education is no longer important.

Just because you have never been depressed does not mean depression isn't real.

~

Empathy is the ability to relate or identify with another.

The ability to empathize is something children must be taught.  They are not born with it, and their parents, peers and role models are supposed to help instill them with a firm sense of concern for the well-being for people who are not them.

Psychopaths and sociopaths lack a sense of empathy.  They tend to have shallow emotions, but are often intelligent and very charming.

We live in sad, desperate times when so many of our laws and policies could have been proposed by children or psychopaths.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Cathi Herrod: Destroying Arizona One Bill at a Time

Pissed off about what's going on in the Arizona Legislature?  I am.  You should be.  It's clear that, in the GOP's War on Women, the State of Arizona is playing a major part...and this bitch is leading the charge:


Yep, Cathi Herrod, of the so-called Center for Arizona Policy, is a fundamentalist Christian lobbyist who is more powerful than our entire elected minority, and indeed more powerful than some of the Republican majority.  She has Debbie Lesko, Nancy Barto and Jan Brewer herself in her pocket.  It's time we take action and call for her to be kicked out of the Arizona Legislature!  It is wrong that she walks around like she owns the place!  It is wrong that she wields more power than elected officials!  It is wrong that a well-funded fundamentalist is able to strip women of their rights and their very personhood through her anti-choice and hate-fueled bill writing.

She's not just out to fuck over women, either.  She hates the gays with a passion, as well.  Look at how she single-handedly killed a bi-partisan anti-bullying bill, which had already passed the senate:


This woman will stop at nothing until Arizona stands alone as a theocratic state.  Our power against her is limited, but our best move now is to spread awareness.  Most citizens of Arizona have never heard the name Cathi Herrod and do not know about the Center for Arizona Policy, and we can change that.  Our power lies in exposing her.  Please help by contacting Phoenix CPHO Channel 5 news and tell them we want more in-depth coverage on Herrod and her evil works!

Here is the email address for CBS 5:
cbs5gm@cbs5az.com

Here is a link to submit a request for Channel 12:
http://www.azcentral.com/12news/contact/http://www.azcentral.com/12news/contact/

Here is a sample letter:

I am a concerned Arizona voter who appreciates that you dare to cover Cathi Herrod, of the Center for Arizona Policy, and her bold moves to control the Arizona Legislature.  You are one of the few news organizations who dare to do so, and that's important to me.  I would like to request more in-depth coverage on her and her organization, as I think this is a sadly underreported issue and that most Arizona voters would be aghast if they truly knew what was going on.  Thank you for providing quality news, and I look forward to seeing more news stories about this.

See?  It's so easy.  I have written the letter for you.  All you have to do is copy and paste it.  Please, help stand up for our rights, spread the word about this heinous woman and her fundy agenda, and tell at least a few people about her.  No one seems to even know this is happening!

Friday, May 18, 2012

Researching your candidates

I'm going to do everything I can to make this post interesting, but unfortunately, almost no one thinks that researching before voting is fun.  It's SO important, though.

The GOP has truly driven home the point that they do not need to elect one of their own on a national stage if they can fully exploit the state and local elections.  They've succeeded, and now here we are with a ton of tea partiers infecting our state with crazy legislation designed to restrict women's rights, benefit corporations, and overall make life harder for the average American while they walk away with more money in their pockets.

So, who do we vote for when we make it to the polls?  First of all, early ballots are an EXCELLENT idea.  If you get your ballot in the mail and can fill it out at the kitchen table, you can take your time, look up candidates and proposals on the internet, maybe even ask someone who is politically involved how they are voting and why.  On the spot, in the voting booth, we often forget which way we were going to cast our votes on more obscure issues, even if we were sure of what we were going to do before we left the house.  If you haven't registered to vote and signed up for early ballots, please do yourself, and the state in general, a favor and do it now!

And here's a naked man running and then hitting a fence:


I hope that made it more interesting.  Anyway, we need to understand what the offices we are voting on DO, as well.  For example, I had no idea that voting for a candidate on the County Board of Supervisors would have any real effect in my life.  But I do hate Sheriff Joe Arpaio, and the county board of supervisors decides his budget.  They could have cut it at any time, but they have decided to give him free reign.  So, now I'll be campaigning for Lilia Alvarez in District 3, and I'm hoping someone comes along to challenge Denny Barney for District 1, which is my district.  Denny is both an unchallenged Republican and an incumbent who has done nothing to help us choke off Arpaio's cash supply.  We've been unable to directly vote out Arpaio thus far, but sometimes the best way to get rid of a weed is to quit watering it instead of vainly trying to pull it out.

I know a lot of people just vote along party lines, and I'll admit to having been guilty of just voting for anyone with a D next to their name in previous elections.  In general, the Dems clearly have the rights and interests of the people in mind more than the GOP.  However, this does not help you when there are no Democratic candidates, when there are a lot of Democratic candidates, or when party is not noted on the ballot, like in the case of voting for judges.

One of my friends says she just votes for women in these cases.  Once again, in general, that's not a terrible idea, but traitors like Nancy Barto, Debbie Lesko and the infamous Jan Brewer have proven that's not always an indicator of a sane politician.  If they have a political record, checking out sites like:

http://votesmart.org/

can help you decide which candidates are most likely to vote or rule with your rights and interests in mind.  Checking out who the opposition is supporting is often helpful, as well as checking corporate support.  For example, Wal-Mart has never backed anyone I'd consider worthy of office.

Of course, then there's ALEC.  Check out my previous post on ALEC, and you'll see why NO ONE receiving funds from ALEC deserves your vote.

As for proposals, the easiest way to decide whether it would be ethical to support a prop you are unsure of is to check out who is supporting it and who is opposed to the proposition.  For example, last time around there was a vote on a proposition regarding the regulations for caging pregnant farm animals.  The ASPCA was for it, various factory farms were opposed.  Clearly the interests of the animals' welfare lies with the ASPCA, so I cast my vote for it.

We have quite a bit of time before the election rolls around in November, but there are already tons of ads and signs everywhere.  Do yourself a favor: stop watching TV!  Use the DVR so you can fast forward through the commercials, watch movies and shows via Netflix, Hulu or Amazon Prime, stick to commercial-free stations like PBS, and rent DVDs instead.  These attack ads are not only tiring in their constant exposure, they represent a TON of misinformation, political spin and justification in the name of generating votes.  As for the radio, try Pandora and online radio to have all the music and none of the political advertising.  NPR is my personal favorite source for news.

After the early ballot form comes out, I'll be posting my own recommendations on a voting "cheat sheet," and the reasons for my choices.

To wrap it up, stop watching/listening to political ads, register for early ballots, and start researching your issues and candidates.  This is what you can do for us now.  We have win back our state, and it's only going to happen if we all get out and take it back!







Thursday, May 17, 2012

"Morality" vs Ethics

I think I now understand the concept of "activist burnout" that I was warned about.  It's not a desire to no longer be involved, or a lack of ability to help with the issue at hand.  It's more of a creeping depression at the overwhelming amount of work necessary to fix things.  It's a nagging doubt, a bit of hopelessness at the seemingly insurmountable number of assholes out there with one single goal: to fuck over innocent people and/or make money while doing it.

I'm not done.  Not by a long shot.  But the initial thrust of energy I had, powered by sheer anger and outrage, is cooling.  I need to stoke it into a long-burning flame, rather than let it flicker and die.  It's helpful to take note of our victories, even our small ones, to stay encouraged.  I also find it helpful to stay abreast of the news, noting that they are out there, waiting for us to tire and lay down so they can use us as a stair-step to their next heinous abuse of power.  I, for one, will not be letting anyone take away my rights laying down!

I'm sure many of you have seen, or at least heard of, Mississippi State Senator Bubba Carpenter's statement regarding women dying from "coat hanger abortions."  If not, I sadly cannot provide the video here because the Alcorn County GOP has removed it.  My guess is because it was incredibly damning to them and their cause, and it fully illustrates the contempt for women that the anti-choice movement and the GOP in general cultivate.

Here is the transcript of that awful video:



"We have literally stopped abortion in the state of Mississippi. Three blocks from the Capitol sits the only abortion clinic in the state of Mississippi. A bill was drafted. It said, if you would perform an abortion in the state of Mississippi, you must be a certified OB/GYN and you must have admitting privileges to a hospital. Anybody here in the medical field knows how hard it is to get admitting privileges to a hospital...
"It's going to be challenged, of course, in the Supreme Court and all -- but literally, we stopped abortion in the state of Mississippi, legally, without having to--  Roe vs. Wade. So we've done that. I was proud of it. The governor signed it into law. And of course, there you have the other side. They're like, 'Well, the poor pitiful women that can't afford to go out of state are just going to start doing them at home with a coat hanger.' That's what we've heard over and over and over.
"But hey, you have to have moral values. You have to start somewhere, and that’s what we've decided to do. This became law and the governor signed it, and I think for one time, we were first in the nation in the state of Mississippi."
Sadly, there is something lost in reading it his statement.  Bubba's "But hey..." came out with the same shrug and lack of anything resembling emotion with which one might use the phrase "You gotta break a few eggs to make an omelette."  So a few are gonna die painfully, Whoop-dee-doo!  At least we're saving some fetuses that will end up born addicted to drugs and in the foster care system to be abused and become a drain on society!

This man proudly states, "You gotta have morals."  What the hell does he mean by that?  His morals clearly dictate that allowing desperate women to accidentally kill themselves (taking their fetuses down with them, by the way) in shame and fear is clearly the more upstanding route than allowing them to safely and legally rid themselves of an unwanted pregnancy.  This same man must have been directed by his "morals" to vote against a comprehensive high school sex education program intended to prevent  unwanted pregnancies (and therefore, help prevent abortion.)  He also voted against a higher cigarette tax, against an increase in Medicaid funding, against an early parole program for non-violent offenders with good behavior records...but he did vote to legalize deer baiting.  This man has some real "morals!"

This is something my husband and I have often spoken of.  We both hate the word "moral."  Although in Webster's the words ethic and moral are considered interchangeable, I think it's safe to say that "moral" has taken on an unshakeable religious connotation.  I don't use it anymore when I speak of someone's character as an upstanding citizen.  I always say "ethics."  The word "ethics" implies a judgement between that which is right or wrong based on logic, reason, facts, and a general respect for other living beings.  I have a strong ethical character, and that's worth more than the "morals" Bubba gets from some Mississippi baptist hate pulpit.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Gay Rights & Obama's Endorsement

Hallelujah, he finally said it!  We all knew that Barack Obama felt this way for years, but that the political environment  was sadly not going to be receptive to such an announcement.  Thankfully, things are changing, bit by bit, and gay marriage is becoming more palatable in the eyes of the average American.

I think it's important to note that President Obama has not necessarily done himself any favors by announcing this in an election year.  Yes, he's going to have a fuller swing of the LGTBQ community behind him, but overall the black community, which he's always been able to count on for support, is generally against it.  As a dear, politically savvy friend put it, "He took a real gamble."

And here we are.  Now that North Carolina has overwhelmingly shown the country that they are bigoted and homophobic with the passing of Amendment 1, we now have a president and a vice president who are supporters of gay marriage.  Okay, maybe that's a bit too harsh.  Everyone who showed up for a Sunday Republican primary in North Carolina (i.e. only the most fervent of liberals, and the entirety of the conservative vote) decided that it was important to alienate gays, single parents and their children, endangering their health insurance and their security.  Apparently there were a lot of churches in the state preaching about how important it was to pass this.  Gee, I wonder why their congregations then left and went straight to the voting booths to spread this hate.  It was truly a masterful manipulation on the part of the GOP to have this amendment voted on on a Sunday during a primary vote when there was no Democratic primary candidate to vote on.  Perfect.  The churches and the Republicans only.

This fight, at times, seems like an endless one.  Sure, there are states where gay marriage is legal.  So, a lesbian couple can go there and get married, but then when one of them has a baby that they planned and conceived in love with the aid of artificial insemination, the other still has to legally adopt their child after the birth despite the fact that there is a spot on the birth certificate for the other parent, regardless of gender.  More than that, they are married, but that is no guarantee that the medical insurance that the one partner has will cover the other.  This is what happened to a couple in New Hampshire.  They are actually considering getting a divorce so that the young mother can get a life-saving surgery to remove the brain tumor that was discovered just after she became pregnant.  Her partner's workplace-provided insurance does not cover same-sex partners, and they are ineligible for state aid because they are married.

What was the point of telling you this story (besides depressing everyone who hears it?)   It's to point out that there's so much more to this issue, the issue of gay rights and equality.  If we just worry about voting to "allow" our gay brothers and sisters to marry on an individual state level with no other protections, this is the kind of thing that can happen.  It's unacceptable.  Any rights available to a married couple should be available to a gay married couple, period!

I am tired the language surrounding gay rights, as well.  They are not waiting to be "given" their rights, they are waiting to realize them.  They are human beings, just like the heterosexual population, and they deserve human rights.  Why are we arguing about "redefining marriage," something that has been "redefined" throughout history.  Between polygamy, anti-miscegination, arranged marriage, child brides and laws regarding possession and slavery, I do believe this term has been "redefined" an awful lot.  Why are we concerned about allowing consenting adults to make a life together, regardless of their genders?

And yes, you can most certainly read into that statement that I am for legalized polygamy between consenting adults.  The key words here are consenting and adults.  I think two women who want to share a husband are crazy.  I also think people who marry someone within a month or two of knowing them are crazy, as well.  But that's legal, and polygamy between consenting adults should be, too.

Back to the subject at hand: gay marriage.  Recently, on NPR, the President of the National Organization for Marriage (NOM,) Brian Brown, stated outright that it's all about "framing the question."  He explained that when you ask people if gay marriage should be illegal, the majority of them say no.  But then if you ask those same people if we should "redefine marriage," they will say no, that marriage should remain a legal contract between one man and one woman.  He further stated that the idea of "making gay marriage illegal" conjures up images of monogamous, innocent gay couples being arrested in their homes.  Then he had the gall to inform the listeners that it is wrong to categorize anyone opposed to gay marriage as "bigoted," since then the majority of many states would be bigots.

This is crap!  Unacceptable!  I just can't believe that people are so easily swayed by language, but it's true.  Perhaps we need to take the initiative and write our own legislation "protecting the rights of gay people from persecution based on religion and bigotry."  And guess what?  Sometimes the majority of the population is composed of bigots!  Back when the Jim Crow laws were being enforced, the majority of people in the South supported them and THEY WERE BIGOTS.  It does not matter that an idea is popular if it is an idea that treats human beings as though they are worth less than the ruling class.  Period.




Monday, May 14, 2012

WTF is ALEC?

In our state it's amazing how many of our legislators are bought and paid for by ALEC.  If you were unaware (as I was not too long ago,) ALEC is the American Legislative Exchange Council, a conservative group of businesses and legislators.  It has been around since the 1970s, but it has only recently become part of the public consciousness because it is not merely a lobbying group.  They are responsible for actually drafting the legislature that furthers the goals of its corporations and conservative ideals.  It is so insidious because it is a conglomeration of legislators working behind the scenes directly with corporations to draft bills that directly benefit the members of ALEC, not the American people!  Some of their goals include removing environmental protections to benefit corporations, removing early-release programs for model prisoners so that corporations can make more prison-profit, privatizing the school system, encouraging "tort reform" so that corporations receive more protection from lawsuits, and especially influencing voter registration policy and election policy.  They are most interested in gaining control of government on the state level (although they would LOVE to have one of their members for president, as well.)  They keep their meetings and conferences closed to the public, and no media coverage is permitted.  More than that, up until now, their tax-exempt status has remained unquestioned.  

If you consider yourself conservative, consider this: with ALEC in charge, corporations are defining the conservative agenda.  "Small government" is their rallying cry, while they work to take it over.  Do not play into their hands!  Educate yourself!  ALEC is dangerous to the American people, and NONE of their members deserve your votes.  Here are some of their members from our state:

Arizona Representatives:

Cecil Ash
Judy M. Burges
Steve Court
Chester Crandell
Jeff Dial
John Fillmore
Doris Goodale
David M. Gowan, Sr.
Rick Gray
John Kavanagh
Nancy McLain
Javan D. Mesnard
Frank Pratt
Amanda A. Reeve
David Burnell Smith
Kimberly Yee
Michelle Ugenti

Arizona Senators:

Nancy K. Barto
Rich Crandall
Adam Driggs
Gail Griffin
Lori Klein
Albert Anthony Melvin
Don Shooter
Steven B. Yarbrough

Also, our Speaker of the House, Andy M. Tobin, Sr. and our AZ House Majority Whip Debbie Lesko are on that list.


We should certainly be aware of the corporations behind ALEC, as well as the ones who have left it.


Corporations that have left ALEC:


Coca-Cola
Pepsi
Kraft
McDonald's
Wendy's 
Mars
Intuit
Arizona Public Service
Blue Cross Blue Shield
Proctor and Gamble
Kaplan
Reed Elsevier
YUM! Brands
American Traffic Solutions


In addition, shockingly, the Gates Foundation and the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards had once had ties to ALEC.  The Gates foundation made a single donation and they vow to never have anything to do with ALEC again.  The NBPTS was a member of ALEC under the previous leadership and they will not renew.


Corporations that are still screwing the American people...I mean, are members/supporters of ALEC (There are TOO many to list here, but I'll list the most household of names.  You can find the rest of the list here:


1-800-CONTACTS
3M
Amazon.com
American Express
Anheuser Busch
AOL 
ARCO
AstraZeneca
Bank of America
Best Buy
Boeing
BP America, Inc.
Bristol Meyers Squibb
CenturyLink
Chevron
Chrysler Corporation
Comcast
Conoco Phillips
CVS
Dell Inc
DirecTV
eBay
Eli Lilly and Company
Farmers Group, Inc
FedEx
Ford Motor Company
Frito-Lay
Fruit of the Loom
GEICO
General Motors Corporation
Gerber 
Hiram Walker and Sons
Hewlett Packard
Honeywell
Humana
IBM
Intel
JC Penney
John Deere
Liberty Mutual
Mary Kay Cosmetics
Merck
Microsoft
MillerCoors
Monsanto
Motorola
Nestle
Outback Steakhouse
Pennzoil
PG&E
Sanofi-Aventis
Sara Lee
Seagram and Sons
Shaklee
Shell Oil Company
Sony
Sprint
State Farm Insurance
T-Mobile
Texaco
Texas Roadhouse
Time Warner Cable
Tropicana
Unilever
United Airlines
United Healthcare
Verizon
VISA
Walgreen's
Waste Management
Yahoo!


These companies have members on ALEC's corporate board:


CenterPoint 360
Bayer
AT&T
American Bail Coalition
Altria Group (formerly PhillipMorris)
Diageo
Energy Future Holdings
ExxonMobile
GlaxoSmithKlein
Johnson & Johnson
Koch Companies Public Sector
Peabody Energy
Pfizer
PhRMA
Reynolds American
Salt River Project
State Farm Insurance
United Parcel Service
Walmart


Non-Profits that are members/supporters of ALEC (again, there are WAY too many to list here.  For a complete list go to this website) Again, think about the goals of ALEC as you look at this list to fully understand the conflicts of interest for some of these organizations:


Americans United for Life
Center for Education Reform
Council for Affordable Health Insurance
Family Research Council
Goldwater Institute
Heritage Foundation
Institute for Energy Research
National Association of Charter School Authorizers
National Rifle Association
National Right to Life Committee
Prison Fellowship Ministries
The Republican Legislative Campaign Committee
RestoringFreedom.org, Inc
State Budget Solutions
State Policy Network


ALEC is too big, and too awful to describe in one blog entry.  Please go to ALECexposed.org/ for the most current and in-depth information.