To the Undecided Women Voters of America

We are a women’s issues page, so we invest a great deal of time in following attacks on women’s rights and making attempts through one means or another to hold those attackers accountable. We are following this election cycle closely because we are so acutely aware of what is at stake. We look at polling data over breakfast and talk campaign strategy with friends and peers while pretending to send email at work. But, we recognize that not every woman is as aware of these things as we are, not everyone can make the time, and that not every woman sees traditional “womens’ rights” issues as something that affect her directly; that’s why we are speaking right now, directly to the undecided female voter, who says she’s having a hard time deciding between Obama & Romney. It’s up to you who to vote for, but here’s why we think it should NOT be Romney/Ryan.

#1 Mitt Romney Cannot Be Trusted on Reproductive Rights

I know, I know. You’ve seen that TV ad with the nice women who look just like you, visiting Mitt’s website and finding out that it says he’s pro-life, but supports exceptions in the case of rape, incest, and life of the mother. Too bad his running mate doesn’t. Paul Ryan sponsored a bill, HR358, that would allow hospitals to decline to perform an abortion even in an emergency situation, to save a woman’s life. (Think that doesn’t happen? Read about tubal pregnancies, here.) And now you say, “that’s his running mate, not him!” However, Mitt himself has a disturbing history from his time as a young Mormon bishop; in one truly sad story, he went down to the hospital to pressure a woman about to have such a life saving procedure to not have it, because the 8-week fetus’s life was apparently more important than hers.

We’ve seen Mitt’s position on this change more times than we can count, not just during this election cycle, but over the years. When he was governor, he was adamantly pro-choice. When he started running for president, he became militantly pro-life. In the last two weeks, we’ve seen him change his mind three times about what exceptions he supports. Bottom line: You can’t trust him.

#2 Mitt Romney Cannot Be Trusted on Equal Pay for Women

If you haven’t made up your mind, there’s a good chance you probably missed the moment earlier this year, when a reporter asked Romney’s campaign if he supported equal pay legislation for women, they responded, “We’ll have to get back to you.” This just isn’t a subjective thing. Both Obama and Romney have real records that you can hold up to the light and spin around and peer at. Obama’s first act as President was to sign the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, making it easier for women to seek redress if they discover they are a victim of gender-based pay discrimination. Literally. You know that whole “On Day 1, I’m going to _______” thing? That was actually what he did on Day 1.

Now, Mitt likes to point to how he got “binders full of women” to balance out the gender gap in his gubernatorial cabinet. Aside from the fact that it was the women’s groups who sought HIM out and not the other way around, this is really just an anecdote about what a nice guy Mitt is, and how he really does like the ladies and think they’re equal. Now in all fairness, Mitt does deserve a little credit for what he did. Really. It was nice. For the women that he hired. What President Obama did was nice… for ALL women. That means you, too. Does it help you in any way that Mitt Romney had women in his cabinet? No. But it’ll be easier to pay off those student loans if you’re getting the same pay as your male colleagues for the same job.

#3 “But the Economy is a Women’s Issue Too!” Yes. And You Can’t Trust Him on That Either.

While Romney/Ryan primarily use this line as a dodge to avoid dealing with their terrible positions on “traditional” women’s issues, the economy IS a women’s issue, as women are the primary breadwinners or co-breadwinners in about half of America’s households. Everyone has suffered under the economy left to us by policies of Obama’s predecessor, He Who Shall Not Be Named. (OK, George W. Bush). So clearly, returning to a lot of the Bush-era policies that got us here, including further de-regulating Wall Street, and abolishing the Consumer Protection Agency is the way to go. This is what Mitt Romney has said on more than one occasion. Sound like a great idea to you?

We know, it’s tempting to latch onto this notion of the businessman who can come in and fix the economy and make the government run efficiently. But government and corporations are two VERY different types of entities. Being good at one doesn’t make you good at the other. In fact, historically, we’ve had very bad luck with the Businessman President. Case in point: do you see a lot of people clamoring for a return of the Hoover or Harding administrations? Can I see a show of hands? (If you’re a bit rusty on your Presidential History, go ahead and Google “Hoovervilles“. We’ll wait.)

The recovery has been slow, but let’s be honest, here. In Arizona, the housing market is moving briskly again. Employment is up in Colorado and Ohio. What we’re doing… it’s working. The last jobs report was promising. The American auto industry, a rescue operation that was somewhat unpopular at the time, is now reviving America’s manufacturing sector. For a bit of historical perspective, the Great Depression lasted the entire decade before WW2. In just four years, we’ve already come a long way from where we were in January of 2009. Remember, instead of just letting investment bankers create yet another bubble that will rain ruin on everyone when it pops, Obama is trying to rebuild from the ground up. That takes time. It would be wise of you to give it to him. Even Mitt “I’m a Turnaround Guy” Romney says it would take him eight to ten years to fix this and get things back to pre-crash levels. And it’s worth remembering that the main reason he was able to “turn around” the Salt Lake Olympics was the unprecedented $400MM-plus in federal funds he procured from Washington.

#4 Hey Girl, I Know It Turns You On When I Piss People Off

Let’s just get this out of the way: Mitt Romney is a foreign policy lightweight. Negotiating deals with foreign companies is foreign policy experience in the same way that being able to see Russia from your house is foreign policy experience. Again, it’s that whole “business and government are NOT the same” thing. We’re going to forego the cheap shots about him thinking Syria is Iran’s route to the sea, and about him managing to piss off our closest ally during a trip to the London Olympics where all he had to do, (to quote conservative pundit and Dr. Zachary Smith lookalike Charles Krauthammer), was “show up, and shut up.” We’re just going to look at the fact that he spent half the foreign policy debate agreeing with President Obama, and the other half bloviating vaguely about “projecting American strength” and Obama’s fictional “apology tours”. On the stump, he’s mainly done a bunch of saber-rattling about Iran and Syria. Who cares about foreign policy and why is it a women’s issue? Well, do you want another decade of war? If you care about the deficit and the effect it can have on an economy, wars generally do run up bit of a tab (mainly paid into the pockets of the defense contractors, who coincidentally staff most of Mr. Romney’s “Military Advisory Council”. We’re just sayin’.) Want your kids shipping off to Syria and Iran? Then by all means, Romney/Ryan is your ticket.

#5 The Affordable Care Act

Maybe the ACA doesn’t affect you directly. Maybe you have insurance through your job or your husband’s and you won’t need to purchase any through exchanges. But really, friends, do you really want a President who is proud that he wants to take healthcare away from 45 million people? Do you really want to make it legal again for insurance companies to discriminate against people (and children!) with pre-existing conditions, or kick very sick people off of their rolls for manufactured reasons? Or maybe you want to make it OK for them to kick your hardworking grad-student son or daughter off of your insurance again? Do you really want to go back to paying far more for your insurance coverage based on the fact that you’re a woman? Do you really want to get rid of the contraception mandate? That’s right: insurers under Obamacare have to cover your pill, with no co-pay, because it just makes good financial sense for them, and it’s good public policy for everyone else. In Ohio alone, there are now 1.5 million uninsured who would lose access to the ACA’s subsidies that will make it possible to purchase an affordable plan through the health insurance exchange that is being created, right now, thanks to the Affordable Care Act. Do you really want to get rid of all that? Especially if you are one of the people who will be able to get insurance for the first time because of it? Mitt Romney has been pretty clear that he is going to try to repeal the law, which closely resembles his own law in Massachusetts, and replace it with…? Oh, you don’t know? Yeah. We don’t either.

Bottom line, it’s one more thing you can’t trust him on.

We are more than aware that the Obama presidency has had its flaws and its disappointments, as any other president’s first term might. Maybe the drone strikes break your heart. Maybe you’re disappointed that he didn’t close Gitmo. Maybe you wished for more bi-partisanship. It’s not as if he didn’t try, but there was no goodwill on the other side of that aisle, not even for a minute. The only way he could have gotten the opposition party to play nice is if he had laced their water with Ecstacy. Remember, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said their number one priority was … jobs? No. It was making Obama a one-term president. Doing everything they could to see to it that he failed. And look at what he managed to do in spite of that.

There are clear differences between President Obama and Governor Romney, and what you choose matters, here. Who you trust… it matters. Unless you’ve been under a rock, you know what Mitt Romney said about the 47%… He can try to walk that back and claim that he cares about 100% of America, but if you’ve not heard those tapes, it’s clear he’s only interested in people like himself. If you’re one of those lucky, rarified few, good for you. Congratulations! You’re set for life! But if you’re not… Female voter, your own interests and those of your family are at stake. Read deeply. Choose wisely. Vote well.

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This Week In Why We Need to $%!^@*# Vote – October 22nd Edition

Hello again, Voters! It’s your weekly round-up of stupid crap politicians have said and done trying to get elected, reminding you of the urgent need to vote for whomever is running against them. We’re getting into the home stretch here and you know what that means: stupid crap comes spilling out of political mouths at double speed. Rest assured, Voters, we’re armed with a bucket, hip waders, and a shovel, ready to sort it all out.

“That dumbass thing you said? It just ain’t so, Joe.” -Everyone Else

“With modern technology and science, you can’t find one instance….There is no such exception as life of the mother, and as far as health of the mother, same thing.” -Republican Congressman Joe Walsh, of Illinois

Another week, another Tea Party favorite showing their complete and total disregard for scientific facts. Walsh, who’s trailing Democrat (and future Chair of the House Committee on Being Awesome) Tammy Duckworth badly in the race for the Illinois 8th, decided to put his foot down on this whole “abortion to save the life of the mother” mumbo jumbo. Perhaps hoping to firm up his pro-life bona fides, Walsh declared on a Chicago television show that he was against abortion “without exception” and then added that science had made those exceptions unnecessary anyway. Then, beginning almost immediately after the program aired, Joe got re-acquainted with his old friend: The Wrath of the Internet. As expected, pro-choice groups like NARAL and Planned Parenthood excoriated Walsh for his comments but even more noteworthy, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists said Walsh’s comments were an example of why politicians need to “get out of our exam rooms.”  Perhaps most embarrassing for Walsh, the National Right to Life Committee – the very people he may have been trying to curry favor with – issued a statement saying that it supports allowing “abortion if it is necessary to prevent the death of the mother.” By Friday of this week, Walsh was forced to walk back his comments, though the statement he issued contradicted itself in places and raised questions about whether Walsh even understands his own abortion position.
The Takeaway: Illinois voters, we are aware that there is (sadly) no House Committee on Being Awesome but send Tammy Duckworth to Congress anyway.

“She goes to Washington, D.C., it’s a little bit like one of those dogs, ‘fetch,’ She goes to Washington, D.C., and get all of these taxes and red tape and bureaucracy and executive orders and agencies and brings all of this stuff and dumps it on us in Missouri.” -Republican Senate Candidate Todd Akin, of Missouri

That Todd Akin ever got elected to anything sums up what is wrong with American politics. Democrat Claire McCaskill has opened up an 8 point lead over him according to Rasmussen. We’re hoping that this is one of the last times his name will appear anywhere on this site.
The Takeaway: Missouri voters, Claire McCaskill for Senate.

“Just because they call a piece of legislation an equal pay bill doesn’t make it so. In fact, much of this legislation is, in many respects, nothing but an effort to help trial lawyers collect their fees and file lawsuits, which may not contribute at all whatsoever to increasing pay equity in the workplace.” – Republican Senator Marco Rubio, of Florida

Marco Rubio is not running for re-election this year, so he’s got all the time in the world to take his show on the road manufacturing reasons for Mitt Romney to retroactively oppose the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. And Romney now needs some help on that score after bugling a question about it earlier in the campaign and then whipping out the now legendary “binders full of women” answer to a question about the Act earlier this week. Now that he’s finally decided that he opposed the Act, Team Romney dispatched Rubio to trot out that favorite Republican boogie man: greedy trial lawyers. Never mind that this is the same shoddy reason Scott Walker gave for repealing Wisconsin’s Fair Pay law.  Walker did so even though that state’s law allowed women to bring suits in the less costly circuit court system (thereby avoiding high legal costs) and even though statistics showed that the gender wage gap in Wisconsin had started to shrink shortly after the law took effect in 2009.Walker’s never been one to let facts get in the way of politics. Rubio seems to be cut from the same cloth. His comments that laws like Lilly Ledbetter do nothing but help trial lawyers are short-sighted, offensive, and devoid of fact. The real story here is that Rubio’s comments are nothing but an attempt to help the GOP’s standard bearer out of a (ahem) bind over equal pay. Perhaps Rubio would prefer Romney’s solution on equal pay: wasn’t it something about flexible hours so women could get home in time to cook dinner?
The Takeaway: Vote for the team that unconditionally supports VAWA, Equal Pay, and a whole bunch of women’s issues that Mitt Romney is still mulling over, Obama-Biden.

“Now it’s a war on women; tomorrow it’s going to be a war on left-handed Irishmen or something like that.” -Congressman Paul Ryan, Republican nominee for Vice President.

Yeah. And it was the other guy in the VP debate who was rude. Right.
The Takeaway: Are you kidding us with this? This is how Paul Ryan talks about women behind closed doors, people. Remember that.

“I went to a number of women’s groups and said, ‘Can you help us find folks,’ and they brought us whole binders full of women.” – Mitt Romney, Republican nominee for President

It’s a meme, it’s a Twitter account, it’s a Facebook page, by now it may even be a dessert topping. But the most important things to know about Romney’s “binders full of women” debate comment, are as follows:
1. It’s not true. The story has been debunked by several media outlets by now. It’s almost sad. If you haven’t seen any of the debunking stories, follow the link or simply Google “binders full of women.”
2. Even if it were true, the story itself implies that Romney managed to work in business for many, many years and get himself elected governor of a state without having his own list of qualified female candidates to work from. (A point well expanded upon by Dick Polman, a writer for NewsWorks.) What does that say about Romney?
3. It didn’t answer the question about fair pay. That’s probably the least surprising of all.
The Takeaway: There is nothing else to say. Obama/Biden.

See you next week, Voters.

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Five Female Journalists Kicking Ass This Election Season

Love or hate “The Newsroom”, that show and more to the point, its main character, Will McAvoy, have become part of the American consciousness (for as long as its attention span will last).  McAvoy is the tough, super-ethical journalist, challenging the weasels and liars, taking no prisoners and suffering no fools.  The one America seems to be longing for.  I mean, some point to Chris Matthews, and he can be good at times, but he also just likes to yell.  You have this feeling if you went out to dinner with him, ordering would be like:

“I’ll have the duck a l’orange and a white wine please.”

“Excellent.  And for you Mr. Matthews?”


Ahem, anyway.  Back on topic.  My husband and I watched the first season of The Newsroom, and found it mostly annoying because there was too much fluff in the storyline about the romantic lives of its young, unmarried characters.  The emotional, smart but lovably flaky female characters that sort of swirled around in a cloud of estrogen around the tough, stoic McAvoy as he brought down the hammer of truth every night.  We assume that this crap was in there to keep it interesting for the female viewers.  The funny thing is, watching the actual news on the actual teevee this election season, it seems that the lady journalists were not really paying attention to that junk because they were too busy watching McAvoy swing said hammer of truth and practicing their downstroke:

1)  Soledad O’Brien:  Yes, I recently learned that Soledad O’Brien comes from my home town.  Graduated from the same high school as me, some years ahead.  This in no way biases me with regard to the ass-whipping she delivered to John Sununu.  You know Sununu?  He’s the lying weasel that Mitt Romney dispatches to talk to the media for him when he’s too busy being a lying liar someplace else.

2) Martha Raddatz:  OK, look.  I love Jim Lehrer.  I’m not gonna rip on Grampa Jim.  And I’m not trying to blame him for Obama’s dreadful performance in the first debate, by any stretch.  But it wasn’t a great night for Grampa Jim.  You all know what people said.  Phrases like “potted plant” got thrown around.  It was awful.

Cue Martha Raddatz.  I wasn’t sure how she’d be, because I’ve seen her in a few contexts and never seen her bust a Soledad on someone, but dang.  She came in and acted like a goddamn journalist.  She was calmly authoritative, she asked follow-up questions … that’s debate moderating, kids.  Alex Wagner, if you have any fantasies about moderating a debate in the future… You’d best watch the tapes from that debate and let Auntie Martha show you how it’s done.

Of course, her candidates were lambs compared the presidential candidates…

3) Candy Crowley:  I might get shit for this one from some people, but I. Do. Not. Care.  Candy had a hard time making Mitt or Barack stick to their time limits, and Mitt had his Imperious CEO on, talking over her constantly and arguing with her over whether his time was up or whether he got to have another turn to respond.  I heard people complain that President Obama got more time than Mitt, but Mitt was constantly ignoring what is, if I’m not mistaken, Rule #1 of debating:  don’t be a dick to the moderator.  He got what he had coming.

There’s a lot of flap over whether it was appropriate for her to fact-check Romney when he backed himself into a rhetorical corner with that puzzling line of attack about whether Obama used the phrase “act of terror” in the Rose Garden or not.  Here’s what I have to say:  Candy’s a journalist.  As someone, somewhere recently said, (and if it’s you, speak up so I can cite you!) if they just wanted someone to stand there with a microphone, looking pretty, they could have gotten Ryan Seacrest. It’s debatable whether she should have inserted herself at that moment, honestly, but she did so in a way that shot down his weird semantic argument while acknowledging Romney’s larger point, attempted to be fair, wrap up that question, and move things along.  But maybe most importantly, she struck a blow for the town hall moderator being more than just what journalist Carole Simpson referred to as “The Lady With the Microphone”.  And for that, we have to take a moment to raise our glasses and say, “Good job, Candy.”

Look at what an impossible job she had:

4) Carol Costello – I have no bias here, never really had feelings one way or the other about Carol Costello.  But I have to give props to her for challenging an anti-gay bigot on the air on CNN, calling him out for what he actually was, and then when he kept on going with his hate speech (and yeah she did call it that), she sent him packing.  And she never once lost her cool with the guy, which is more than I’d be able to do in the same circumstances.  By the time he got to comparing LGBT tolerance with poisoned Halloween candy, I would have probably been cursing him out on the air.  Of course, I would be a bad broadcast journalist, because I fucking curse a lot.

And lastly…

5)  Rachel Maddow – Because, always Rachel Maddow.  Always.

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Debater Hater

by Siobhan Carroll, W:RUN Contributor
Braevehearts blog

Ninety more minutes of extremely dull, choreographed talking points I’ve heard and read a million times already? Can’t wait!

Tonight Barack Obama and Mitt Romney head into round 2 of the Great Debates of 2012. I am an engaged voter who reads information from all sides and prides myself on making informed decisions. In high school I was an award-winning Lincoln-Douglas debater. And no, I was not super cool. What makes you ask that?

Yet I cannot bring myself to watch the debates. Once upon a time they served the venerable function of allowing the public the opportunity to see/hear/read about the candidates in a format that compared and contrasted their views, direct from the horses’ mouths. A hundred years ago it may have been a voter’s only opportunity to do so before the invention and wide use of radio. Hell before the very late 1800s I doubt most Americans even knew what the candidates looked like outside of pencil sketches. Now all we do is talk about widow’s peaks and Eddie Munster. And those delightful workout photos!

But today the magic of technology and the 24 hour news cycle means we are inundated with candidate information constantly. It’s to the point that there are videos of Mitt Romney debating himself on his flip-floppy issues. I think I know what he eats for lunch before he does. We have gone from one extreme to the other- from minimal information about our candidates to too much.

The debates frankly aren’t for people like me who consume media constantly and already have our minds made up. They are for the increasingly rare undecided voter who believes he or she will see something in one of these guys that will sway their vote. It could be anything from a policy statement to a hand gesture that makes this voter feel comfortable with one or the other.

Most importantly, they are increasingly an act of theatre. You only need to skim the memorandum of understanding released yesterday by Time Magazine to see that. The campaigns are less about the candidates themselves and their positions, and more about the carefully constructed narrative surrounding both Obama and Romney. Not long ago debates were meant to pierce the veil and allow the public to see the candidates for who they are*, but now they are just one more slog through rhetoric and even outright lies. The extraordinary mendacity of Romney during the last debate and the media still declaring him the “winner” is one unsettling example of this.

I much prefer to read the post-debate analysis, work through websites like factcheck.org and Washington Post’s fact checker to see who lied and to what extent. It nauseates me that Romney has seen a bump from the first debate, where he lied so hard I thought his eyes would pop out of his head. After the week-long convention extravaganzas, the months of primary campaigning and now the home stretch of the full presidential campaign, I just can’t take anymore. I want the commercials, the donation solicitation emails, the inflammatory comments on news articles to just stop. Maybe we should impose a two-week quiet period right before election day, where we can all meditate on our choices, clear our heads, take a deep breath and exercise our right to vote.

After all, the only thing in this election that isn’t out in the open are the choices I make in the voting booth on November 6th.

*None of this applies to Joe Biden. He is awesome and a national treasure. He is my spirit animal and he can laugh his ass off at Paul Ryan anytime he wants. Malarkey 2016!

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This Week In Why We Need to $%!^@*# Vote – October 15th Edition

Hello again, Voters! It’s your weekly round-up of stupid crap politicians have said and done trying to get elected, reminding you of the urgent need to vote for whomever is running against them. It’s been another busy week of debates, obfuscations, bizarre rape comments, fuzzy science and even fuzzier math. How do we keep it all straight? Well, as a wise gentlemen from Delaware once said, “fact matter” – so let’s get down to this week’s facts.

Wisconsin Rep. Roger Rivard (R-Rice Lake) is the latest GOP lawmaker in trouble over comments on rape.

“What the whole genesis of it was, it was advice to me, telling me, ‘If you’re going to go down that road, you may have consensual sex that night and then the next morning it may be rape.’ So the way he said it was, ‘Just remember, Roger, some girls, they rape so easy. It may be rape the next morning.'” – Wisconsin State Legislator Roger Rivard (R-Rice Lake)

Forcible rape, legitimate rape, now “some girls rape easy?” Even though they ran from Akin, (and now Paul Ryan has run from Rivard) the GOP in this country is setting a clear pattern of adding dubious qualifiers in front of the word rape these days. From this little-known Wisconsin legislator to Akin to VP nominee Paul Ryan, who enthusiastically supported the last year’s attempt to redefine rape. What exactly is the end game here? Fewer abortions that qualify for coverage? Or drastic cultural, legal, and political confusion on the entire concept of rape? Because it sure seems like we’re headed for both.

The Takeaway: Rice Lake, Wisconsin voters can choose Democrat Stephen J. Smith on Election Day. For the rest of us, this is more evidence that we need to pay close attention to the language lawmakers use when referring to rape. Those who choose to qualify the seriousness of this crime with their words and actions must be held accountable.

“I’ve taken a look at both sides of the thing and it seems to me that evolution takes a tremendous amount of faith…To have all of the sudden all the different things that have to be lined up to create something as sophisticated as life, it takes a lot of faith. I don’t see it as even a matter of science because I don’t know that you can prove one or the other.” -Republican Senate Candidate Todd Akin, of Missouri

If you’re thinking that we should just rename this feature “This Week in Todd Akin is $%!^@*# Crazy” – don’t think we haven’t considered it. So, this week the guy who came up with magical rape sperm-fighting vaginas is saying that there’s no science behind evolution. The easy response to this is to quip that “any thinking women who listens to the kind that crap Akin spouts would have cause to doubt his participation in evolution” and move on. But we can’t leave it at that because a) the race for Senate between Akin and Democrat Claire McCaskill is still mind-bloggingly tight (WTF, Missouri?) and b) have we mentioned that Akin sits on the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology? It’s long past time that we made the connection between the fact that our nation lags behind the rest of the developed world in science and the fact that we keep electing lawmakers who DON’T. BELIEVE. IN. SCIENCE.
The Takeaway: Missouri voters, Claire McCaskill for Senate. We’ve been over this.
Everyone else, your homework this week is to find out where all of your elected officials stand on science education. Report back on our Facebook page with what you find.

“There was no pregnancy and there was no abortion, I was attempting to use strong language to get her to tell me the truth.” -Republican Congressman Scott DesJarlais of Tennessee

We posted about the bizarre recorded conversation between Tennessee Congressman DesJarlais and his patient/mistress in which the avowed pro-life lawmaker pressures her have an abortion. Well, we’d love to know Todd Akin thinks DesJarlais explanation is just a “theory” too because it sure pushes the limits of credulity. The woman, who DesJarlais admits to sleeping with, is now not his mistress. He admits that it’s his voice on the recording telling the woman, “You told me you’d have an abortion, and now we’re getting too far along without one,” but now he says that the woman was never pregnant. She was never pregnant yet he agreed that he would accompany her Atlanta for the procedure and also berated her for the situation: “Well, I didn’t want to be in your life either, but you lied to me about something that caused us to be in this situation, and that’s not my fault, that’s yours.” (Gee, now what could that be referring to?) Perhaps Akin will use this debacle as fodder for his “women who aren’t pregnant get abortions” theory.
The Takeaway: Tennessee Voters, Democrat Eric Stewart is a good alternative to DesJarlais. For everyone else, in case this whole thing hasn’t freaked you out enough, Dr. DesJarlais’ current legislative committee assignments include the following:
Subcommittee on Health, Employment, Labor, and Pensions
Subcommittee on Health Care, District of Columbia, Census and the National Archives
Subcommittee on Regulatory Affairs, Stimulus Oversight and Government Spending

“[Y]ou go to the hospital, you get treated, you get care, and it’s paid for, either by charity, the government or by the hospital. We don’t have people that become ill, who die in their apartment because they don’t have insurance.” -Mitt Romney, Republican nominee for president.

We know that this is going to shock you but Romney’s flat wrong on this. (We hope you were sitting down for that.) Facts matter, and we found these facts from a 2009 study published in the American Journal of Public Health which states that a “[l]ack of health insurance is associated with as many as 44,789 deaths per year in the United States.” Several other studies echo these findings. What’s more, Romney knows he’s wrong on this. The 2006 version of Romney said the following:

“There ought to be enough money to help people get insurance because an insured individual has a better chance of having an excellent medical experience than the one who has not. An insured individual is more likely to go to a primary care physician or a clinic to get evaluated for their conditions and to get early treatment, to get pharmaceutical treatment, as opposed to showing up in the emergency room where the treatment is more expensive and less effective than if they got preventive and primary care.”

What’s the difference between Romney2006 and Romney2012? The newly programmed version has a nationwide conservative base to pander to, versus a statewide liberal-leaning population. He says what they want to hear. His principles, beliefs, and facts are infinitely malleable to fit his audience.
The Takeaway: Facts don’t matter to this Romney. And that’s dangerous. Remember what happened the last time we had a president who wasn’t fond of facts? We’re still cleaning that mess up. We have to let Obama/Biden finish the job.

“We don’t think that unelected judges should make this decision.” – Representative Paul Ryan, Republican nominee for Vice President.

Paul Ryan said this during the Vice Presidential debate in answer to this question from moderator Martha Raddatz: “Should those who believe that abortion should remain legal be worried?” If he were being honest and succinct he could have just answered. “Yes.” Because we all know the real answer to that question is really “Yes, you should be really $%!^@*# worried.” It would have been one of the few true things Ryan said in that debate.
The Takeaway: Mitt Romney may trying to dance to the center but he’s made it clear that Ryan and the far right will set the agenda on abortion. Obama/Biden is choice to make to keep having the right to choose.

See you next week, people.

P.S. If you have a quote you think should be included in a future snark-filled edition of “This Week” send it over to womenriseupnow@gmail.com with the subject line: This Week.

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One More Word About Fourtin

We have been moving forward in our efforts to understand the Fourtin case and how something like this happens under the current justice system. Outrage can be effective for getting things done, but it’s important that we are responsible in directing it to the right places.  In digging further into the details of the case and the workings of the law, we’d like to share what we’ve learned, and what we feel may be the best way to move forward in terms of minimizing the instances of it happening again.

First, Richard Fourtin cannot be tried again for this crime.  It would appear that double jeopardy prevents that. The likelihood of this getting elevated to the U.S. Supreme Court seems fairly slim. The prosecution in this case has made a motion to have the Connecticut Supreme Court reconsider its verdict, which they may or may not grant, due to the public outrage that has been in part supported by this page. In discussing this issue with a number of attorneys and others familiar with the law, it appears that the Justices ruled in accordance with the law and the error most likely lies with the prosecution. We’ll explain:

The statutes for second-degree assault and fourth degree assault both contain a number of subsections each. Both contain a provision for assaulting with a mentally disabled person (specifically, *just* mentally disabled, not physically), as well as the now infamous “physically helpless” subsection. It’s anyone’s guess as to why, but the prosecution chose to go with the “physically helpless” provision rather than the one dealing with the victim’s mental disability, and therein lies the problem.

You don’t simply charge someone with second-degree assault, you charge them with a specific subsection of the statute. It is sort of stratification, if you will, intended (we suppose) to clarify the nature of the assault. But –and here’s the part that is hanging up a lot of people- even if evidence is presented during the trial that indicates the defendant might be guilty under a different subsection of the law… if that’s not what he’s being charged with, the prosecution is out of luck.  He’s supposed to have a reasonable chance to defend himself against what he’s specifically being charged with. That’s due process, as we understand it.

“Physically helpless” under Connecticut law as it stands is really defined so narrowly that it would seem to only apply to someone who is unconscious or drugged to the point of being unable to speak or move, and therefore is unable to communicate resistance to their attacker. We aren’t sure why the statute doesn’t simply say “unconscious” or something similar to avoid confusion and misuse of the statute, but that’s another story.  Often the law is written in intentionally vague ways to allow for circumstances that those writing it may not foresee.   It’s an acknowledgement that those writing the law cannot predict everything.  However, it’s worth noting that misuse of this statute is actually not unprecedented; in the majority opinion they actually mention another case in which a victim was strapped to a gurney but conscious during her assault and actually voiced to her attacker that she wanted him to stop, however, they could not convict on this count, because they were charging with the “physically helpless” subsection – which as it turns out, boils down to assaulting someone who cannot communicate. It does not, as has been previously stated here and elsewhere, indicate the degree of resistance that the victim did or didn’t offer.

Now, there’s a lot of information about this case that we do not have. We have not pored over hours of court transcripts. We discovered, though, in reading the majority opinion, that in fact, as much as the victim’s ability to move were limited, that she did have methods at her disposal of communicating dissent. Kicking, biting, scratching, screeching, and so forth, were things she was able to do in order to communicate resistance to an assault.  It would appear that whether she actually did these things or not is, under this very peculiar statute, beside the point. I know, I know, but listen: the law is not looking, in this case, for whether someone did or didn’t consent, merely whether they were physically capable of doing so or not. And if someone is assaulting a person who is capable of communicating, it’s not assaulting a “physically helpless person,” as defined by the law under which Fourtin was being charged.

While it has been correctly pointed out in other blogs (including this good one by public defender Gideon) that the statement of the victim having the mental capacity of a three year old is not mentioned anywhere in the opinion, it seems clear from additional reading on his and other sites that she had certain skill areas which did fit that description, and certainly not much above first or second grade level in even the strongest of her skill areas. It has been mentioned that she had nothing in the way of sex education. While it may be overly facile to say she had the “mental capacity of a three year old”, it is more than adequate even in the opinions as written, to say that she was still not what anyone would consider an adult in the sense that we understand it, nor adequately prepared in any manner for sexual intercourse; the Justices in fact did not understand why the prosecution chose to pursue a conviction under the physically helpless part of the statute rather than the mental disability portion.

We have seen a great deal of traffic and interest in this issue. We are grateful for that, but we also want to be clear that we are trying to handle this issue in a responsible way. Is it madness that someone can commit an assault, that there is ample evidence to show as much, and yet the perpetrator can walk away because of a prosecutorial mistake? Yes. What can be done about it? Regardless of whether the prosecution in this case is successful in its quest to get the court to reconsider its decision, our problem remains – what to do, to keep this from happening again? Where to direct the energies of reasonable outrage about it?

We do not suggest reaching out to the justices further. If they decide to overturn their own verdict, that is their choice, and perhaps they can find another way to interpret the statute that will allow them to do so. But this is unfortunately the law working to deliver a verdict which, as we’ve talked about elsewhere, is unfair, but is legally just. We also do not advocate seeking out the prosecutor to give them a piece of your mind: they are already doing everything they can do to right this mistake. A public statement from their office explaining their choice to prosecute under that particular statute would be nice, but we feel would offer little in terms of concrete benefit to future victims.

We suggest starting with the Governor’s office. Ask him to lean on the legislature to either expand the physically helpless statute (in light of its seeming repeated misuse), or else create a specific statute to deal with assaulting the disabled. We may also suggest that if you are in the State of Connecticut, that you reach out to your local legislators as well. We wish there were more that could be done. We wish there a way to affect the Fourtin decision but barring the Court agreeing to reconsider its verdict and ultimately overturn it, it appears that there’s nothing more that can be done on this terrible case.

Reach out to the governor here:

Governor Dannel P. Malloy
State Capitol
210 Capitol Avenue
Hartford, CT 06106

Tel: (860) 566-4840
Toll-Free: (800) 406-1527
TDD: (860) 524-7397
Fax: (860) 524-7395

If you don’t know your local state representatives, you can look them up here:


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Marissa Mayer and the Politics of Maternity Leave

by Siobhan Carrol, W:RUN Contributor
(Braevehearts blog)

Marissa Mayer, Yahoo! CEO and woman whose life decisions we are apparently all qualified to judge

Yahoo’s newly minted CEO delivered on her newest project last week- a baby boy. All are reportedly doing well and I hope Ms. Mayer is enjoying some time with her new family.

When Mayer was first appointed CEO a few months ago she famously stated that she would be taking a few weeks of maternity leave and working throughout. Cue the judgment, moral outrage, and unwanted opinions of the internets. Commentary ran the gamut from those who thought she had no idea what she was in for, to those who thought she had a responsibility to the rest of us to set a precedent and take a full leave, to those who simply shrugged and said it was her choice. These are broad generalizations I’m making, but the fact is that there is no national maternity leave policy to guide (and protect) a new working mother’s rights in the US, which leaves us open to all sorts of judgment and interpretation about our dedication and capabilities as workers and as mothers.

The Family Medical Leave Act is a federal law that allows for up to 12 weeks unpaid leave to deal with a medical condition, childbirth, adoption, or to care for a sick family member. It protects your job during that timeframe so you return to the same or similar job function upon your return to work. This sounds great, right? Now raise your hand if you can afford to be out of work for 12 weeks without being paid. Yeah, that’s what I thought.

Most companies cover this by providing short term disability insurance, which generally covers 6 weeks of leave at 80% of pay, but can vary depending on what your employer chooses. This is helpful, but still leaves you at 40% of pay over 3 months, while you are confronting costs like diapers, formula, and breast feeding supplies and the mortgage.

I also bristle at the notion of being labeled “disabled” after having a baby. Having a newborn to take care of and heal from delivering isn’t a disability- it is the goddamn circle of life. Giving a new family time to settle in and adjust isn’t a vacation- it is good parenting and part of the social fabric. I wasn’t broken, I didn’t need a handicapped hang-tag, I just needed time. For the record, so did my husband and his two weeks of paternity leave were a joke. The amount of coffee he consumed during weeks three through eight were roughly equivalent to the exports of Sumatra.

All this is to say that Marissa Mayer is a stand-in for all of our issues as a country and a culture when it comes to maternity leave. We have no specific maternity leave policy as a country- FMLA covers all medical issues, which is great, but which undermines the unique experience of having a child. Establishing breast feeding, acclimating siblings to a new baby,  understanding any health issues the mother or child might have- these are fundamental building blocks of life, not gravy on the mashed potatoes of time away from the office.

Perhaps if we had a national comprehensive, specific maternity/paternity leave plan that was meant to benefit new families rather than their employers, one individual’s choices wouldn’t induce so much hand-wringing for the rest of us. We’d all like to be Marissa Mayer and have a whole buffet of work/life balance options to choose from, but I’m willing to accept a standard menu that actually reflects the reality of today’s American family.

Note: I apologize for the food analogies. I’m hungry.

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This Week In Why We Need to $%!^@*# Vote – October 8th Edition

Hello again, Voters! It’s your weekly round-up of stupid crap politicians have said and done trying to get elected, reminding you of the urgent need to vote for whomever is running against them. It’s been a busy week, what with all the debating, lying, and Big-Bird saving going on. But don’t you worry, some of the the country’s most outrageous lawmakers still made time to say incomprehensible nonsense, and we’re calling them out on it. Once again, we have a lawmaker trying to hog the whole list but more on that later. Let’s start the list off with our second favorite indecisive Massachusetts Republican.

Let me see, here. That’s a great question, I think Justice Scalia is a very good judge.” -Republican Senator Scott Brown, of Massachusetts

Warren facepalms as Brown digs himself a Scalia-sized hole during their second debate. Photo credit: C-SPAN

If you are a Republican Senator from Massachusetts, who’s having trouble convincing voters that you’re really and truly pro-choice (pay no attention to that anti-choice PAC money behind the curtain), this is probably not the way you want to answer when David Gregory asks “Who’s your model Supreme Court Justice?” Not unless you want the debate audience to turn on you and your Democratic opponent to literally facepalm to avoid laughing out loud at your dumb ass. Which is exactly what happened.

You see, if you’re already having trouble proving your pro-choice bona fides, you don’t want to give that kind of public love to a Justice who has repeatedly called the Roe v. Wade ruling a “lousy opinion” that should be overturned. Brown’s further handling of the “model justice” question was not much better. He hastily spit out the names of a few more sitting justices – including Sotomayor and Roberts who are both no favorites of Brown’s party – before trailing off without fully answering the question. The Boston Globe has since stated that Brown’s statement has made Scalia’s stance on abortion a “flashpoint” in the race. Ooops.
The Takeaway: Massachusetts voters, vote Elizabeth Warren for Senate.

“You find that along with the culture of death go all kinds of other lawbreaking — the not following good sanitary procedures, giving abortions to women who are not actually pregnant, cheating on taxes, all these kinds of things, the misuse of anesthetic so that people die or almost die.” – Republican Senate Candidate Todd Akin, of Missouri

You didn’t really think we’d get through this week without Akin on this list, did you? Well, apparently neither did he. And before you say that this isn’t fair, he technically delivered this bit of idiocy in 2008, not this week, we say that you’re right, but he doubled-down on it this week, when video of the 2008 speech surfaced. Akin’s allies in the anti-choice movement were quick to lend their “support” to his claims, even though they themselves have histories of being called out for lying about abortion providers. If you’re sick of hearing about Akin, believe us, so are we. But the problem is, with the RNC back behind Akin and most of the PAC money restored, this is still a tight race. Until this race breaks open, we’ll have to tolerate Akin’s delusions for a while longer. But hopefully not beyond November 6.
The Takeaway: Missouri Voters, Claire McCaskill. Seriously, it’s not that hard.

“All that stuff I was taught about evolution and embryology and the Big Bang Theory, all that is lies straight from the pit of Hell. And it’s lies to try to keep me and all the folks who were taught that from understanding that they need a savior.” – Republican Representative Paul Broun, of Georgia

This quote would be bad enough if it didn’t come from a Representative who sits on the House Science Committee. But it did, and he actually does. He’s a medical doctor with a B.S. in Chemistry…who also happens to believe that the Earth is only about 9,000 years old. Does this matter? Pardon the pun but Hell, yes it matters! Check out this second quote taken from the same speech Broun gave at the Liberty Baptist Church Sportsman’s Banquet last month, about the bible:

“It teaches us how to run our lives individually, how to run our families, how to run our churches. But it teaches us how to run all of public policy and everything in society. And that’s the reason as your congressman I hold the holy Bible as being the major directions to me of how I vote in Washington, D.C., and I’ll continue to do that.”

And one more, for those of you who may thinking that Broun was simply catering to his church audience, take a look at this quote delivered in support of HR 1096: the Sanctity of Human Life Act, the latest attempt by Republicans in Congress to grant personhood to zygotes.

The greatest moral issue that this Nation faces today is the killing of 4,000 babies every single day through abortion. God cannot and will not continue to bless this land while this atrocious practice continues.

Separation of church and state, anyone? Bueller? Bueller? You got that part about the Science Committee right? We can’t stress that enough.
The Takeaway: This isn’t just about Broun – who is running unopposed, by the way – nice job, Georgia. This is about all the elected officials who flaunt their opposition to science and reason while making key decisions about education, technology, and yes, women’s rights that impact us all. Lawmakers like Broun aren’t just in Congress, they’re in state legislatures, on school boards, in city councils, everywhere. They’re there because people who value science don’t vote or don’t play close enough attention. They’re there because people who think like Broun worked harder to put them there. 2012 needs to be the year we work harder to get them out.