Knitting souls with an approved wanton sounds like fun to me

It’s been a while since I said this, so it’s time for a booster shot: I really hate “framing”. It’s a sell-out that leads to people making their opponents’ arguments for them, as they try to bend over backwards to see it through the oppositions’ eyes. It’s far, far better to see your own position clearly and try to explain it well to others.

I was reminded of that by this excellent point made by Amanda: that in the process of trying to reach a subsidiary goal, making contraception available to all, many liberals are conceding a larger, more important point to the conservatives and buying into their dogma that sex is evil.

All that said, I want to be clear that it’s not enough to be outraged at the anti-contraception shit and take it as a given that it’s way out of bounds. I mean, it seems obvious that it is, but without an aggressive counterattack from the left, right wingers may gain ground in their attempts to redefine the over 99% of women in the country who have sex for fun and not just for procreation as sluts. We need to frame our arguments as a full-throated, unapologetic belief that sex is good, women are good, and women’s right to enjoy sexual pleasure without shaming or government interference is good. Unfortunately, I’m not seeing enough of that. Instead, the most important argument—that a woman has a right to be a sexual creature and that sex is good—being abandoned by all sorts of liberals and feminists. The most common form this concession takes is well-meaning, and often person conceding the argument that women who have sex for pleasure are somehow less-than don’t intend to concede it. But that’s nonetheless what they’re doing. That concession looks like this:

"Some women aren’t even taking the birth control pill for contraception! They need it for cramps/endometriosis/etc."

Every time you say this, a right winger wanting to imply that women who have sex for pleasure are sluts gets his wings. This statement and all variations on it feeds into the right wing claim that a) contraception is not health care and b) that women who have sex for pleasure are so indefensible that you have to lean on off-label uses for a contraceptive drug to justify its existence. It also does absolutely nothing to defend the non-pill contraception that’s covered by the health care act, such as IUDs or sterilization. Plus, that gives them an easy out, which is to say that they’re fine with insurance covering pills that are prescribed for non-contraception use, but just object to prescriptions for women who use them to prevent pregnancy.

It’s a very political argument to make, very short-sighted and damaging in the long run, but I can understand why people do it. You’ve got an immediate political battle to win, the defeat of a bill that strangles access to contraception. So you take the typical approach of your everyday social primate with a theory of mind: you imagine the world through your opponent’s eyes, and then you try to frame your arguments to take into account his or her values, to find reasons that they would find compelling. Unfortunately, what it accomplishes more than anything is to make particularly odious attitudes commonplace…and it makes the next fight harder.

Our problem isn’t a few bills in state legislatures. It’s the whole deeply imbedded, constantly reinforced notion that good women are sexless and chaste, while bad girls are the ones who enjoy sex and actually have sex with more partners than just the one man who owns her. That’s why those right-wingers are getting their wings: because every time we implicitly accept that premise, we dig our progressive goals a slightly deeper grave.

And oh, how deeply this poison is infiltrating our culture! The other night, I was watching Much Ado About Nothing, the Branagh version. I very much like part of the story — the banter between Benedick and Beatrice is wonderful — but another part, the relationship between Claudio, a dashing soldier, and Hero, the beautiful young bride-to-be, is horrifying. Claudio is tricked by the villain (played by Keanu Reeves, unbelievably) into thinking that Hero was playing around with another man on the side…and then he waits until the hour of the wedding to publicly shame and humiliate this woman he supposedly loves with all of his heart.


Sweet prince, you learn me noble thankfulness.
There, Leonato, take her back again:
Give not this rotten orange to your friend;
She’s but the sign and semblance of her honour.
Behold how like a maid she blushes here!
O, what authority and show of truth
Can cunning sin cover itself withal!
Comes not that blood as modest evidence
To witness simple virtue? Would you not swear,
All you that see her, that she were a maid,
By these exterior shows? But she is none:
She knows the heat of a luxurious bed;
Her blush is guiltiness, not modesty.


What do you mean, my lord?


Not to be married,
Not to knit my soul to an approved wanton.

It’s a terrible scene, full of Shakespearean viciousness, and all of the contempt and hatred falls on poor Hero for her supposed licentiousness. And then, of course, the true villains are exposed and her true and good chastity vindicated. The resolution was just as appalling as the accusation, because it simply endorses Claudio’s behavior, that it’s perfectly reasonable to scorn and despise a woman if she’d ever shown passion for another human being.

Just once, it would be nice if the heroine turned out to be a lusty, experienced sexual partner and the moment of revelation, in which the horrible accusations are shown to be base and dishonest, didn’t involve showing she was innocent of the crime of sex, but instead involved the man realizing that he loved her anyway, and that there was nothing wrong with a woman enjoying sex…and realizing that the wedding night was going to be phenomenal (for him, if not for her; in the play, Claudio also brags about his abstinence, so I suspect he’s going to be a bit of a disappointment.)

But no, we keep perpetuating this view. We keep supporting the men and women and religions and other institutions that make sure young people are ignorant and ashamed — we look the other way or don’t even see it as a problem ourselves, but it’s really just another kind of child abuse. Let’s keep the children terrified of hell, ashamed of their bodies, and disgusted by their sexual feelings…because, by god, that’s how our parents raised us, and no way are those little brats going to grow up to find joy in what has been denied us!

I favor making contraception available to all because I think everyone should be able to have happy, safe, consensual sex. It’s also a nice bonus that some forms of contraception alleviate menstrual problems or side-effects like migraines, but it’s dishonest and bad framing to pretend that those are the real reasons we should encourage sex education, or insist that health insurance cover prophylaxis, and every time we sweep the most important issue of happy sexy time under the rug, we are pandering to the prudish conservatives.

And don’t get me started on that abortion slogan of “safe, legal, and rare”: I want abortion to be safe, legal, and available as often as women need or want it.

That anti-intellectual Santorum

Rick Santorum really hates universities.

On the president’s efforts to boost college attendance, Santorum said, "I understand why Barack Obama wants to send every kid to college, because of their indoctrination mills, absolutely … The indoctrination that is going on at the university level is a harm to our country."

He claimed that "62 percent of kids who go into college with a faith commitment leave without it," but declined to cite a source for the figure. And he floated the idea of requiring universities that receive public funds have "intellectual diversity" on campus.

Universities are places where one goes to experience diversity and learn about reality, so we already have opportunities to experience "intellectual diversity" — the problem is that they are places where diverse views are questioned and criticized. What he wants is not diversity, but that his fundamentalist/evangelical Christian views can be presented in a protected environment on campus, where they won’t wither under the scathing light of reality-based scrutiny.

Oh, and I don’t know where his 62% figure came from specifically, but it’s in the ballpark of numbers often thrown around by conservative Christians. It’s total nonsense. 62% of our students don’t graduate as atheists (I wish!); what it means is that large numbers of students come to the university and change their minds. They arrive with a very narrow, very specific version of evangelical Christianity which the antique purists insist they must hang on to, or go to hell…and they leave, usually still entirely Christian and even mostly church-going Christian, but they tend to soften and have more inclusive, liberal views. That constitutes apostasy to these culture warriors like Santorum.

Ken Ham is big on beating his breast over all the defections from literalist Christianity that go on in the colleges. He’s even got a book on it called Already Gone in which he blames it all on “millions of years” and the abandonment of a strict interpretation of Genesis.

(By the way, you can tell an evangelical Christian has a book when they plug it by telling you you can order them in “cartons of 48″.)

Isn’t the US supposed to be over this now?

A good ol’ boy named Gordon Warren Epperly has filed a lawsuit in Alaska to keep Obama off the ballot. The reasoning behind it is…well, see for yourself.

As stated above, for an Individual to be a candidate for the office of president of the United States, the candidate must meet the qualifications set forth in the United States Constitution and one of those qualifications is that the Candidate shall be a "natural born citizen" of the United States. As Barack Hussein Obama II is of the "mulatto" race, his status of citizenship is founded upon the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. Before the [purported] ratification of the Fourteenth Amendment, the race of "Negro" or "mulatto" had no standing to be citizens of the United States under the United States Constitution.

What a charming reminder of the United States’ racist history and current strain of virulent racism.

Learn to lobby — power to the godless people!

Mary was rather disappointed at this news — it came too late for us, we have already booked our tickets, and we have to miss it all. But you don’t! If you’re coming to the Reason Rally, you can also sign up with the Secular Coalition to get training in lobbying. Learn how to take the reins of power into your hands and change America’s course!

Secular Coalition to Flood Capitol Hill with Godless Voters to Lobby Representatives

Lobby Day for Reason: March 23, 2012

WASHINGTON, DC— The Secular Coalition for America today announced the Lobby Day for Reason, a free lobbying day for secular Americans to take place on March 23, 2012, on Capitol Hill.

The Lobby Day for Reason will offer secular-minded individuals a morning of free lobbying training followed by the opportunity to meet with congressional staff to discuss issues related to the separation of church and state. Lunch, snacks, and materials are included.

The event will coincide with the Reason Rally, expected to be the largest secular gathering in American history, co-sponsored by the Secular Coalition for America. Lobby Day for Reason is free and will begin at 8:30 am on March 23, 2012, at the Hyatt Regency, located at 400 New Jersey Ave. NW, Washington, DC.

This event will encourage and support secular and nontheistic Americans to speak out to the elected officials who were put in office to serve all of their constituents regardless of religious beliefs. The Secular Coalition will support these taxpaying Americans as they put faces to the nontheist and secular communities and tell their federal representatives that they are voters and are paying attention to issues.

The lobbying training will be led by Amanda Knief, government relations manager for the Secular Coalition.

"We want to have a wave of godless voters flood the halls of every congressional building to show all of America that secular and nontheistic Americans are here, that we expect our elected officials to represent our issues, and that we care about our country just as much as any American," Knief said. Only by participating in the very system that is working against our communities right now can we hope to change things.

While studies show that up to 15 percent of the U.S. population—or roughly 50 million Americans—are secular, the visibility of our community is still low. Secular Americans often hide their nontheistic viewpoints and ideologies because they fear persecution. A 2006 study conducted by the University of Minnesota’s Department of Sociology found that atheists are the least trusted minority group in America–many of the respondents associated atheism with immorality, including criminal behavior, extreme materialism and elitism. A 2011 study by the University of British Columbia found only rapists were distrusted to a comparable degree as atheists. The Secular Coalition is working to change this by making the voices of all secular Americans–atheists, agnostics, humanists and freethinkers–heard by the Administration and Congressional representatives.

2012 will mark the second consecutive year that the Secular Coalition will host a lobby day. The 2011 lobby day included more than 80 people making almost 50 lobbying visits in one afternoon. The Secular Coalition expects the 2012 event to draw even more secular Americans due to its timing the day before the Reason Rally.

To register or for more information, go to The Secular Coalition encourages early registration those who register early will more likely be able to have visits with their Senators’ and Representatives’ offices.

Keep that Santorum out of our science

Jeez…Rick Santorum, young earth creationist, climate change denialist, anti-stem cell research crusader, fundamentalist/evangelical Christian, has just accused liberals of being anti-science. He might have been right if he’d been talking about the liberals who are mushy-headed over alternative medicine, but in this case, he’s pinning his accusation on the fact that we don’t want to burn more coal.

Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum charged on Monday that President Barack Obama and Democrats were “anti-science” because they refused to exploit the Earth’s natural resources to the limits of technology.

Over the weekend the candidate had been criticized for saying that President Barack Obama followed a theology that was not “based on the Bible.” He later insisted that he was talking about the president siding with “radical environmentalists.”

“I accept the fact that the president’s a Christian,” Santorum told CBS host Bob Schieffer on Sunday. “I just said when you have world view that elevates the Earth above man and says that we can’t take those resources because we’re going to harm the Earth — like things that are not scientifically proven like the politicization of the whole global warming debate.”

The scientific view is that global warming is occurring, and that it’s driven by anthropogenic production of greenhouse gases; the politicized, ideologically demented view is a denial of the evidence. Like Santorum’s nonsense.

This is a speech he gave to the crowds in Ohio:

But if we don’t provide those opportunities for those jobs that can sustain a family, for power in this country that is affordable, not just coal but all energy. It drove the economy of Southwestern Pennsylvania, Eastern Ohio for a long time. And through a variety of things — yes, problems with management, problems with negotiations — but actually there were bigger problems. The bigger problems of environmental regulation. In many cases environmental regulation that has gone extreme, particularly in this administration.

What they have done? And I referred to it the other day and I got criticized by some of our, well, less-than-erudite members of the national press corps who have a difficulty understanding when you refer to someone’s ideology to the point where they elevate Earth, and they say that, well, men and humanity is just of a variety of different species on the Earth and should be treated no differently.

Whereas, we all know that man has a responsibility of stewards of the Earth, that we are good stewards and we have a responsibility to be good stewards. Why? Because unlike the Earth, we’re intelligent and we can actually manage things.

Did Santorum just call the press “less-than-erudite” while arguing against the idea that humans are one of a variety of different species on the planet? What a maroon.

And yes, we’re intelligent, and we should try to manage things. So what does that make a head-in-the-sand denialist like Santorum who wants to allow unrestricted, unmanaged exploitation of natural resources? Not a good steward, I would say.

Our illness is their profit

Have you ever walked around an 19th century (or earlier) graveyard? It gives you a depressing snapshot of the old reality: so many young women dead in childbirth, so many children reaped by diseases. We’ve been fortunate, we residents of the late 20th and early 21st centuries, that so many of those lethal conditions are treatable, and we’re mostly able to live without fear of our children dying in our arms. But here in the United States, we may have been living in a brief window of time in which treatments are both available and affordable, and are moving into an era where they’re available, but only the lucky top few percent are actually available to take advantage them.

I’m one of those lucky ones: I’ve got a good secure job with adequate health insurance. I had my own little health scare a year and a half ago, and I obediently marched into the hospital for a full battery of the most up-to-date treatments, and I walked back out with almost all of the expenses fully covered by my insurance. I could even urge everyone to get checked out at the slightest twinge. But this isn’t true for everyone.

Take, for example, Kevin Zelnio: a smart guy with an advanced degree, working as a writer and scientist-at-large, relatively young and healthy, with a young family — and he’s uninsured, like almost 50 million Americans. When they get a cough or a nagging ache, they can’t just go to the doctor to get it checked out, to prevent something more severe developing. Even the most basic and most essential of preventive medicine is prohibitively expensive.

When I started my family 6 years ago, I was on a path to a career in research and teaching. We had amazing health insurance through my institution and my wife and children-to-be were generously covered, no-questions-asked by the state of Pennsylvania during, and a year after, the pregnancies. We never saw a bill. After I got “real jobs” upon completing my Masters degree, I entered a grey zone of contract teaching and research employment at universities. With a decent, regular salary we were ineligible for state aid, yet didn’t make enough to afford extra costs. Furthermore, the quality of the insurance kept lowering until I wasn’t even sure what I was paying for – even as the premium costs were rising.

It reached rock bottom last Spring when we attempted to actually use our insurance that I bought for $1400 every six months while a contract lecturer and beginning PhD student at a North Carolinian university. My boy was starting Kindergarten and needed to be current on his vaccines. Of course, both kids needed to be current, so we took them in one-by-one, got their shots and check-ups, handed over the insurance information, paid our co-pay and went on our way. Never thinking about it, assuming that insurance would do the job we paid them to do.

Exactly 6 months later we received bills, after I no longer had insurance (I had to leave my phd for variety of reasons), and addressed to our kids’ names and not mine, the policy holder, for substantial amounts. Apparently, my daughter owed over $400 and my son owed over $1600 to the doctor office, which was the net left over after the insurance contributed about $200 for each visit.

The Zelnios are paying more for simple vaccinations and check-ups than I had to personally cough up for a week of cardiac care and surgery in a hospital. That is a deep injustice. That is wrong. That shouldn’t be happening in what we arrogantly call the richest country on earth, but it is. And you don’t get to claim that people in these situations “deserve” it.

Most of the uninsured in this country aren’t lazy, freeloading hobos who don’t wanna work. They span a wide variety of demographics. As a 30 something, white male with advanced college degree who works full time as a self-employed consultant and writer are you surprised that I cannot afford health insurance for my family? In fact, the majority of uninsured are in my age range and are full or part time workers earning incomes above 100% the federal poverty level. The fact of the matter for many of the uninsured is that employment-sponsored coverage has been in decline due to the escalating costs of health care. Employers can’t remain competitive and pay double the costs they were paying a decade ago for insuring their workers.

The uninsured are locked out of basic health maintenance: now imagine a crisis, a life-threatening illness striking one of your kids. The Zelnios don’t have to imagine, it happened; read the whole thing.

This is madness. All this country has is this paltry compromise called Obamacare, which doesn’t even touch the fundamental problems of our rapacious insurance industry and complacent medical system, and the Republicans want to revoke even that. The people who are the heart of this country are driven into bankruptcy while the people who are little more than parasitic tumors, the obscenely wealthy, flourish. That is not a formula for survival.

(Also on Sb)

Minnesota Republicans wallow in Santorum

So the sanctimonious godbot wins the Minnesota caucuses, with the demented Libertarian gnome in second, and the obscenely rich Mormon robot taking third. It’s not very exciting — nothing but churning Santorum.

You know why a different Republican candidate seems to be surging every week? Because all of them suck.

And that’s all the political insight you need to understand the current chaos on the American right wing.

Good news from the Susan G. Komen Foundation!

Karen Handel, the conservative anti-choice executive who led the foundation into an embarrassing public relations debacle, has announced that she is resigning her position. This exit is most excellent news on a couple of levels. It means one bad apple has been shooed out of an influential position. It means that the Susan G. Komen Foundation recognizes the importance of the whole of women’s health issues (we hope!), and could signify a smarter, better direction for the organization and make it a palatable option in the future. And what’s really cool about this whole noisy process is that the pro-choice movement flexed its muscles and won.

Rise up! We are strong!

Say what, Ron Paul?

No one seriously wants this loon in the White House, do they? I’m having trouble parsing this:

On the eve of Saturday’s Nevada caucus, Ron Paul sits down with Piers Morgan for a revealing interview, during which the Republican from Texas shares his views on rape and abortion: "If it’s an honest rape, that individual should go immediately to the emergency room, I would give them a shot of estrogen."

The estrogen, I understand: it’ll prevent any potential pregnancy. But what is an “honest” rape? What is a “dishonest” rape, and what would he do with a woman who was dishonestly raped? He seems to be making weebly distinctions with no meaning at all.

Komen changes course

I don’t think it will help, but after the Susan G. Komen foundation cut funding to Planned Parenthood, they’ve now backed down and said they’ll continue existing grants. After the wingnuts were exposed in the Komen leadership, though, I can’t honestly say that I trust them anymore, and I’d be looking for better recipients of my donations (like the BCRF)…and after this reversal, I imagine the fundies who have been slapping each other on the back and congratulating themselves on their influence won’t be so happy, either.

This has been a very bad week for Komen. I would hope that there is some substantial turnover in management, because this has been a case of rank mismanagement of the foundation’s reputation.