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Rebirth in Virginia: The ERA in the 21st Century

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Image credit: ERA Action, We Are Women Coalition and Progressive Democrats of America

This week, activists in Virginia are working to convince their legislators to do something that has not been done in the 21st century: ratify the Equal Rights Amendment. Hard as it may seem to believe, the Equal Rights Amendment, the 90 year-old brain child of suffragist Alice Paul and bastion of 60s and 70s era feminism, is still not part of the U.S. Constitution. As a result, we face the reality that in 2014, the right to equal protection, regardless of gender, is not the law of the land.

To change this, ERA activists face two daunting challenges. First, the ERA did not become law in the 1970s because it fell three states short of the 38 state (three-fourths of 50) ratification threshold set forth by the Constitution. Indiana, the 35th state, ratified the ERA in 1977. No other states have ratified it since. Secondly, when the ERA was proposed to Congress in 1972, it included a ratification deadline, a deadline that passed way back in 1982. So ERA proponents including activists from the Progressive Democrats of America (PDA) have a two-pronged battle plan: 1) get Congress to approve removal of the ratification deadline (there are resolutions in the House and the Senate to do just that ) and 2) get at least three more states to ratify the ERA.

And that brings us to this week’s activity in Virginia. Virginia’s Senate already passed the most recent ERA bill but approval in the House is proving to be a tougher nut to crack. Delegate Mark Cole, Chair of the House Privileges and Elections Committee, questions the legality of the bill and has said he will not bring it out of committee to the floor for vote. Proponents of the bill hope to change that. On Wednesday, February 19, PDA will stage a call-in day in which Virginia voters can call, tweet, or email their delegates, House Speaker William Howell and/or Delegate Cole to ask them to bring the bill to the floor. in addition, there is an online petition asking Delegate Cole to bring the bill for a vote. According to PDA’s National Deputy Field Director, Andrea Miller, the petition will be delivered to the House Privileges and Elections Committee on Friday morning.

Also on Friday, activists plan to line the hallways outside the Committee room in a “silent sentinel” to send a message that Virginia citizens, particularly women, are watching what the delegates do. Friday may be the last day for the bill to be placed on the docket for this House session so Miller is hopeful that they can get several hundred voters to Richmond on Friday for the demonstration. If the bill fails to pass the Virginia House in this session, Miller says PDA will not give up in Virginia, or on their other targeted states: Arizona, Florida, Arkansas, Nevada, Louisiana and Missouri, among others.

Even though, it’s been almost forty years since a state last ratified the ERA, Miller and the other proponents are confident and determined. She calls passage of the ERA the “unfinished business” of the last century and of the civil rights movement. Though laws like the Lilly Ledbetter Act have helped give women legal options in the workplace to combat discrimination, it doesn’t go as far as an amendment could. Miller stresses that finally passing the ERA will give judicial standing to such laws and to gender discrimination cases that come before the nation’s high courts. “If we are going to lift women and families out of poverty in this country, we need pay equity. The ERA will help us get there. Finally.”

Finally indeed.

Learn more about the ERA and the three-state strategy here: www.equalrightsamendment.org


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Why Expanding VAWA Mattered: A Survivor’s Story

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Author Carissa Daniels after speaking at a Press Conference about domestic violence with Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) and Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) on April 2, 2012.

My name is Carissa Daniels. I am a mother, a student, an advocate and an activist. I am Cherokee. I am also a survivor of domestic violence. Fifteen years ago this May, I was forced to take my daughter and leave my home because of domestic violence. We spent four months homeless, living underground in the system of domestic violence shelters where victims move every 28 days to stay safe from someone who has threatened and/or tried to kill them. The same someone who said they loved them.

Nowhere in my dreams of happily ever after did it ever mention mental and emotional abuse, put-downs, physical and sexual violence. But I lived through all of those and more.

People ask why victims stay. A much better question would be “Why does someone who says he loves someone hurt that person?” As to why victims stay, I can tell you that in my case, I didn’t know that what I was living with was abuse. It’s hard to recognize because it occurs in so many different forms, and happens so gradually, you don’t even know what is going on until it is nearly too late.

I was disabled in a car crash years before meeting my ex, so I had very little income. Some abusers keep victims from working at all, or they take all the money, so she has no way to get out.

This is why renewing the Violence Against Women Act was so vital and why it was so important to not compromise on which victims receive services and protection and which don’t. VAWA helps to fund programs to support domestic violence victims who want to get safe. It enables them to have a place to go, temporarily, without cost. It gives them a roof over their head, and food to eat while they work on getting things in order and contemplating their next steps.

VAWA provides a victim with a legal advocate to help with things like an order of protection, divorce and child custody and support issues. Sometimes, when the situation is most serious, and the victim qualifies, the legal advocate can even help the victim find an attorney to help them. In my case, I nearly lost custody of my daughter because he had a significant income, while I did not. He could, and, did spend a lot of money on attorneys in an effort to take my daughter from me. If it hadn’t been for the legal advocacy program, I would have been alone while enduring four years of terrifying court battles, all in an effort to take my daughter from me.

Until now, this would not have been the case, if I lived on a reservation. If I had been assaulted on Native American lands, much of the help that is available to other victims of abuse would have been far from me. Getting an order of protection on a reservation would have been much more difficult if the House version of VAWA had become law. The Republican plan would have made it harder for the courts to issue civil orders of protection on the reservation because all applications for an order of protection would have required tribal courts to get approval from a US Attorney General. This is the current procedure for prosecution. It would not have changed under the new bill. This is part of the problem. If this hasn’t worked for prosecution up till now, why did they think it would work adding civil protection orders?

I felt a cold chill when I read this portion of the House GOP proposal because it meant even more people would die. Many abusers knew that their crimes could be committed with impunity on the reservation if you were not a tribal member. Eighty-eight percent of these crimes on the reservation are committed by non-Natives. Seventy-seven percent of people on the reservation are non-Native people, exempt from prosecution under Native law. Native women are currently two and a half times more likely to be assaulted, and more than twice as likely to be stalked, than non-Natives. Indian nations, which have sovereignty over their territories and people, have been the only governments in America without jurisdiction and local control they need to address the epidemic of domestic violence. We have given power to state and local governments to deal with domestic violence but until now we had not done so for Native American territories. The House GOP version of VAWA removed some more of the few tools the tribal courts have. While federal agencies have exclusive jurisdiction over these crimes, the U.S. courts are located hundreds of miles from the reservation, so they often decline prosecution. In any other foreign nation, they have the right to prosecute someone who commits a crime on their land. Not so with non-natives on Reservation land.

I cannot help but ask, when we see how effective VAWA has been in other areas, the number of lives saved (incidents of domestic violence are down 63% since 1994). And in the first 6 years of its existence, VAWA saved $14.8 billion dollars in net averted social costs. Why would we not support a bill that protects ALL victims? The new portions of the Violence Against Women Act have been created after months (and in some cases, years) of research and consultation with constitutional lawyers and the tribal authorities. Constitutional experts and the native organizations have come together, working to find a solution that maximizes the help for victims while controlling the costs. They agree that it can be done without any negative impact on the rights of Non-natives. When a discussion is made about if a non-native can get a fair trial in a tribal court, the answer should be a resounding yes. The jury of their peers… their neighbors, their community are called to hear the case. Instead of displaying ignorance and prejudice, squabbling over “if” we should do it, we need to ask, “How we can make it happen?” We already know it is costing many lives, and money to do nothing.

Then there’s the question of immigration issues: Because of controversy over this, Senate Democrats removed the section in their bill that would have granted more visas to undocumented victims of domestic violence. They did so to try to compromise with the House. Rather than being willing to compromise, however, Republicans in the House removed sections these sections as well as those would have protected LGBT victims from discrimination in applying for services.

Lastly, the House GOP proposal left out of their bill updates that would protect college students. The Leadership conference on Civil and Human Rights said it well when they said that “Even in today’s polarized climate, we should be able to agree that when we send our daughters and sons to college, they should be protected from stalking, violence, date rape and sexual assault.”

My point: These omissions would have cost many lives! The more inclusive VAWA that passed last week has significant cost savings, without yet another huge loss of services to those who need it most. In fact, it will reach more people and have a significant impact on future generations, while saving money… The choice was clear. Congress needed to do what was best for victims, and stop grandstanding. Thankfully they did so in the end. If we are to make a significant difference in the fight to end domestic violence, we need to have the tools to do so. That is why, yesterday when I saw the House passed S. 47, I cried. For those who will live and one day make our world a better place. If all of us do what we can, we can make a difference in the lives of victims!


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In Stunning Last-Minute Move, Congress Does the Right Thing For Once

by Admin Jen

Well, the House finally found a way to vote on, and pass, the Senate version of the Violence Against Women Act.  It was the most convoluted, face-saving way possible, but they did it.  And as it turns out, most of our representatives don’t like domestic violence.  Pop the champagne, people.  The House has managed to sit down together and get enough of its members to agree that wife-beating is bad that they could pass something about it.  I realize this is a low bar, but we have to start somewhere and if we are really going to entertain fantasies of bi-partisanship or progress in this relentlessly, depressingly divided country, it’s a satisfying enough place to begin.

I’m not kidding.  The significance of VAWA’s passage can’t be underplayed.  It gives a glimmer of hope that we might see a more reasonable Republican party in the future.  As I’ve said elsewhere on this page, I would love to be having a spirited conversation with my conservative brethren and sistren about the role and size of government, the best way to spur economic growth, foreign policy, just about anything else than whether domestic violence should be treated as the serious crime that it is.  This really is a big damn deal.

Why do I say this?  Well, if you recall, the bill that originally sailed past the Senate last year contained expanded protections for underserved, hard-to-reach groups; namely Native Americans on reservations, illegal immigrants, and LGBT victims.  And the bills that were coming out of the House committees were conspicuously missing these expansions.  Multiple Republican House members said the expansions in the Senate bill made it “impossible” for them to vote for it, because of gay immigrant cooties or something.  America had the distinct impression that the House Republicans felt that immigrants, gays, and tribal women weren’t really women.  That they didn’t deserve the same protections as “regular” women.  By resoundingly passing the Senate’s bill, it gives the lie to all of that.  It codifies a simple recognition of the humanity of these groups.  A significant number of Republicans, in voting for this act, voted in favor of the notion that these groups are people too, and that their shared humanity matters.  It’s an encouraging thought.

Now, virtually all of the “no” votes were still Republicans… But there were lots who voted “yes”, including my own Pennsylvania congressman, Mike Fitzpatrick, a mushy moderate in a purple district who is nonetheless a Tea Party darling.  The partisan in me sometimes sits back and laughs when the rhetoric from that side of the aisle grows too sick, too sad, too hateful and misogynistic, because it clearly hurts them with women voters and, you know… decent people.  The evil voice in my head (who sounds suspiciously like Kathy Bates in “Primary Colors”) says,  “Go ahead, guys, keep giving yourself that rope, you saw how well it worked out for Richard Mourdock.”  But the truth is, I don’t want to live in that world.  I want to live in a world where the opposition is sane.  Where we really do share the same desire for the same ends, and the wrangling comes in trying to achieve them.  Where we can agree that all people are worthy of love and respect, deserving to live in a world that is as sane and safe as our loony species can manage.  (Again, a low bar, perhaps, but we can still try to raise it.)  I count a few conservatives among my friends, and they’re good people.  I promise you, they don’t sit around on their rooftops wearing hoods and taking potshots at their gay neighbors with a .22.  They aren’t Minute Men.  They really don’t deserve to be stuck with the reputation made by the louder, angrier, more reactionary cousins in their extended partisan family.  This vote brings the country one step closer to internalizing that truth.

Now, it’s not clear whether this seemingly sudden turnaround was politically motivated, motivated out of simple human decency, or some combination of the two.  It’s possible that the support for the Senate version had been there all along and the gamesmanship revolved around something else entirely.  Be assured, we’ll be researching the matter more, if only to satisfy our own curiosity as to what changed and when, and we’ll share everything we learn.  But there are two reasons to feel a glimmer of hope for the future.  One, because, after months of our own campaigning and encouraging you all to call and write your representatives, we finally have a Violence Against Women Act that reaches that many more women.

And two, because it might, just maybe, represent a tiny step in the direction of sanity for us as a people.

A girl can dream for just a minute.  Now give me the damn champers.


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W:RUN’s Women of 2012 – Women Who Shaped the Year

If it’s December, it’s time for “year in review” posts and this probably will not be our last round-up but it is one we are pretty excited about. While publications like Time pick just one “Person of the Year”, we see no reason to limit our list of female news-makers of 2012 to just one woman. What we have assembled below is a list of just a few of the women who have inspired us this year. We believe many of them will continue making news, shaping policies, and representing us well, long after 2012 is over.

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Malala Yousafzai recuperating in a UK hospital after the shooting.
Photo credit: NHS

Malala Yousafzai – Until October of this year, schoolgirl Malala Yousafzai was best known in the West for the blog she wrote for the BBC detailing her life under Taliban rule in her home in Mingora, Pakistan. She criticized the Taliban’s policies of denying education to girls, both in the blog and in a later documentary for the New York Times. Then, on October 9, Malala was shot in the head and neck by a Taliban-affiliated gunman as she rode the bus home from school. She survived the attack and is currently recuperating in a British hospital. The Taliban has vowed to repeat their attempt on her life calling her a “symbol of the infidels and obscenity.” Did we mention she is 15?

To the rest of the world, however, Malala Yousafzai has become a symbol of courage and determination, and of the need to demand education opportunities for all children, regardless of gender. UN Special Envoy for Global Education Gordon Brown declared November 10, 2012 “Malala Day” in support of a UN petition that demanding that all children worldwide be in school by the end of 2015. In addition, Malala has been nominated for a International Children’s Peace Prize by Desmond Tutu and there is a petition for her nomination for a Nobel Peace Prize. As of the time of this writing, Malala was third in Time Magazine’s online poll for its Person of the Year 2012 distinction.

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Saudi Olympian Sarah Attar waves to the crowd in London before competing in her race.
Photo credit: AFP/Getty Images

Women of the 2012 Olympics – By the end of the 2012 Olympic Games in London, some in the media might have gotten sidetracked in covering the non-troversy around Gabby Douglas’ hair or the beach volleyball uniforms and missed some legitimately important milestones for women in sports. For the first time in the history of the modern games, every participating nation sent at least one female athlete, an achievement made possible by increased pressure on Saudi Arabia in the final weeks before the Games. For the Saudi women (and women in other countries where the government or religious leaders actively prevent women from participating in sports), participation in the Olympics was politically significant. Sarah Attar, the 19-year old Saudi athlete who ran the 800 meter track event in London, said she hopes her presence will encourage other Saudi women to become more athletic. If that happens, Saudi Arabia may follow a path followed by Western nations, where increased participation by women in sports happens in tandem with advancement in other areas. The Saudi government plans to allow women’s suffrage for the first time, starting in 2015.

For American women, the London Games were a time to celebrate the accomplishments of Title IX, the article of the Higher Education Act that demands equal funding and opportunities in college, including (but not limited to) sports. Nowhere was that more clear than in the makeup of the team. For the first time, female athletes outnumbered males on the team. Performance-wise, the women delivered as well, winning the majority of the gold medals and the majority of the overall medals won by the U.S. team. The best part of all, it happened with billions of people watching.

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The Democratic women of the new Senate gather for a meeting with Senator Mikulski shortly after the election.
Photo credit: Senator Barbara Mikulski. (D-MD)

Women of the 113th Congress – Starting in January 2013, record numbers of female legislators will serve in the U.S. Senate, the House of Representatives and in state legislatures nationwide. While even these numbers of female lawmakers in the U.s still leaves us embarrassingly low ranked when compared to other nations and are far from gender parity given the U.S. population, it is a definite step in the right direction. (No shoe jokes, please. We’re already have enough on our hands clearing the traffic jam in the Senate ladies room!) Seeing the female candidates we supported break through, especially after the two years of misogynistic legislative Hell that began in 2010, made for an especially sweet election night. Beyond that, though, we view the 2012 election and the class of legislators it produced as something far more important than numbers. It was the logical next step in what should become the “new” normal. Now that there are 20 female United States Senators, and nearly 80 female members of the House, why should we settle for anything less? As recently as 1992, there were only two female U.S. Senators. Starting in January, the entire Congressional delegation from New Hampshire and its governor will be female. More importantly, female lawmakers are gaining power, influence and the ability to lift each other up and build a deep bench of candidates who could someday rise even higher. Why should we wring our hands wondering who will be the “next Hillary Clinton” when we have the power to develop the next TEN Hillary Clintons? Or more? Women are 53 percent of the American electorate! The answer is that we shouldn’t settle. The direction was made clear. We’re moving forward. Is our nation’s first female President a member of the 113th Congress? It’s impossible to know that now but one thing is certain, whoever she is, she will benefit from it.

So, Liz Warren, Tammy Baldwin, Tulsi Gabbard, Tammy Duckworth, Heidi Heitkamp, Kyrsten Sinema, Mazie Hirono and the rest of the Class of 2012, no pressure or anything, but it’s time to get to work.

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Cecile Richards with supporters on the steps of Florida’s capitol.
Photo credit: Planned Parenthood Action

Cecile Richards and Planned Parenthood Supporters – The Susan G. Komen Foundation learned a costly lesson this year: Do not mess with Cecile Richards and Planned Parenthood. In February of this year, the Komen Foundation, the big kid in the breast cancer funding sandbox, announced that it would stop giving financial support for cancer screenings performed at Planned Parenthood clinics, citing controversy over Planned Parenthood’s (unrelated) reproductive health services. Komen quickly learned that while it may own the pink ribbon logo, Cecile Richards has a pink army and that army was more than willing to go to work for Planned Parenthood. They took to Twitter, Facebook, online forums and the phones, calling their elected officials, signing petitions, and – most embarrassing for Komen – pulling out of its Race for the Cure events and donating that money to Planned Parenthood instead. In just two days following Komen’s funding announcement, Planned Parenthood raised over $3 million for its breast care screening program, more than three times the amount of funding it would have gotten from Komen. But it wasn’t about the money. By that time the backlash against Komen was too much, regional Komen affiliates were speaking out against the decision and at least 26 U.S. Senators had publicly called on Komen to reverse what they called a “politically-motivated” decision. On February 3, just three days after it announced it would pull funding, Komen CEO Nancy Brinker reversed course, and pledged to fund all existing grants to Planned Parenthood and to maintain the group’s eligibility for future grants. The incident proved politically embarrassing to Komen, and some argue that it has yet to fully recover its reputation.

For Richards and Planned Parenthood, the clash proved to be a key test of their political, media and social muscle. They were able to leverage their reputation with women, their social media presence, and their political power to score a victory on the national stage. (Actual quote: “Will Planned Parenthood please give Twitter back?”) Planned Parenthood would spend the rest of 2012 using these lessons  in other funding battles with states and in the November elections. While their battles with states like Arizona and Texas wear on, the numbers from the election don’t lie: the Sunlight Foundation calculated that Planned Parenthood’s PAC got the highest ROI on its campaign spending of any U.S. PAC in the 2012 cycle – with 97% of its spending on races achieving their desired outcomes. Memo to Komen, Cecile Richards and her supporters are wearing the new pink.

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Sandra Fluke unintentionally became the poster girl for the war on women but stepped up the challenge.
Photo credit: MSNBC

Sandra Fluke – Of all the things that we learned in 2011 and 2012 from the war on women, none was more irritating than this: when misogynists are faced with an articulate, educated women who has facts on her side, they will fall back on the time honored tradition of calling her a slut.  Some things never change. As part of W:RUN’s long-standing policy of not referring to certain media blowhards by name, we will not say who actually called Georgetown law-student (and now women’s rights activist) Sandra Fluke a series of derogatory names but you certainly know who it is. It’s not worth the keystrokes to type his name. It almost doesn’t even matter because ever since her Congressional testimony, and especially since her appearance at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, most of the other right-wing media talking heads and even some candidates have piled on with their criticism of Fluke for…for….being someone they really don’t like, we guess. It’s hard to tell exactly what they don’t like about Sandra Fluke except that they think she’s got some nerve talking about birth control out loud like that. In the end, Fluke had the last laugh. Mitt Romney, who famously could not muster the energy to defend her against the worst slurs, lost big in November and took many of Fluke’s harshest critics down with him. And as for He-who-shall-not-be-named? The advertiser exodus from his show following this incident has the stations that carry it reporting heavy losses. And for the record, karma probably doesn’t like being called names either…but you get our drift.

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The 2012 Presidential Debate Moderators.
Photo credit: the New York Times

The Moderators: Candy Crowley and Martha Raddatz – After a twenty-year gap, the Commission on Presidential Debates finally selected two women to moderate debates this election cycle: awarding Martha Raddatz the Vice Presidential debate and Candy Crowley the (often maligned) town-hall debate. Jim Lehrer and Bob Schieffer were given the remaining Presidential debates. Leading up to the debates, former debate moderator Carole Simpson publicly worried that in giving women these “lesser” contests, they might still be marginalized, and others in the chattering classes shared that worry. Then we watched the debates. and gave each other giant estrogen fueled high-gives because – to be frank – Raddatz and Crowley Kicked. Ass.

Raddatz, charged with moderating the Vice Presidential debate between two high energy candidates (and after most observers agreed that Lehrer pretty much lost control of the first Obama/Romney debate) drew high praise. Seated onstage between Biden and Ryan, Raddatz was a calm yet decisive force between two notoriously explosive personalities. She challenged Biden on Benghazi intelligence and demanded “specifics” and “math” from Ryan on his budget. She didn’t always get straight answers but she didn’t back down. While we took issue at her framing her abortion question in religion, we can hardly think of another moderator – male or female – who could have kept order between these two candidates better than Raddatz did.

Crowley, in particular, took heat from the right for fact-checking Romney’s claims on Benghazi but it is often overlooked that she did not handle the President with kid gloves either. She challenged him on unemployment and several times sharpened the audience’s questions about the economy with tougher numbers. In short, she heeded Simpson’s advice and refused to allow herself to be marginalized. Both Raddatz and Crowley did what journalists are supposed to do: lead with the facts. That’s the whole point of giving the roles of debate moderators to journalists in the first place, isn’t it? This year, two extraordinary women got their chance to do it  and they certainly made the most of it.

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Maddow on set, sadly without the glasses.
Photo credit: NBC Universal

Rachel Maddow – In TV news, election night coverage – especially presidential election night coverage – goes to the “A” team. To the undisputed stars of the networks. It’s not a perk, it’s a right. You rise to the top of a given news team and that’s your prize. You get to tell the viewing audience the results of all the races, especially the top one. In 2008, MSNBC gave the honor of reporting that the nation had elected Barack Obama to Keith Olbermann, then its top star. In 2012, it was Rachel Maddow who made the network’s official call that Obama had been re-elected. Maddow, the first openly gay anchor of a prime time news program, readily announces herself as a liberal nerd – something that instantly endears her to the younger demographics that are increasingly hard to reach for cable news networks.

That Maddow is the now MSNBC’s top star says a lot about the network’s plan to reach a generation of Americans who’d rather get their news from Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert. (Insert your own joke about the hipster glasses here.) To that end, Maddow’s biggest 2012 moment actually came after November 6, when her eloquent summary of the results and “other real stuff” went viral two days after the election. It was nearly impossible to be online without running into versions of the clip on social media, blogs, and even in liberal fundraising emails. It was popping up in our newsfeeds days, even weeks after the election. That clip did exactly what MSNBC is hoping Maddow’s geeky brand of gravitas will do: expand the reach of their news onto different platforms. In a quieter way, Maddow may be able to help  MSNBC do what CBS tried to do with Katie Couric: win with a woman at the wheel.

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Savita Halappanavar, in an undated photo provided by her family.
Photo credit: Irish Times

Savita Halappanavar – Tragically, Savita Halappanavar did not live to see the end of 2012 but her life, and death, may become a watershed moment for the Irish government and its traditionally strong (some say, inextricable) tie to the Roman Catholic Church. Savita Halappanavar was a 31-year old dentist from India who moved to Ireland with her husband. This past October, when 17 weeks pregnant with her first child, she went to a Galway hospital complaining of severe back pain. According to Savita’s husband, the hospital concluded that she was having a miscarriage. Savita’s condition worsened steadily over but when she requested an abortion to end the pregnancy, the hospital allegedly refused, stating that Ireland was “a Catholic country.” Finally, when the fetus’ heartbeat could no longer be detected, doctors removed it but by then Savita had developed septicemia, and she later died. Her death prompted demonstrations throughout Ireland and England, outrage from Indian officials, demands that the Irish government clarify its abortion laws, and most recently, a possible hearing before the European Court of Human Rights.

Given that multiple inquiries are also ongoing in Ireland, it does not seem that the question of whether the hospital bears legal responsibility for Savita Halappanavar’s death will be settled anytime soon. However, the discussion about women’s reproductive freedom that it has sparked in Ireland and in other countries was clearly long overdue. Welcome or not, it now has to happen.

Who else should be on this list? Tell us in the comments here or on our Facebook page.


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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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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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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.


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This Week In Why We Need to $%!^@*# Vote – October 1st Edition

Welcome back, people. 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. As you may already know, one particularly misogynistic lawmaker tried to run away with all five slots this week but we’re not going to to let him. He does, however, grab three of them.

This photo of Todd Akin and an awesomely placed sign are courtesy of bloggingwhileblue.com, a great blog run by some equally awesome Georgia Democrats.

“She had a confidence and was much more ladylike [in 2006], but in the debate on Friday she came out swinging, and I think that’s because she feels threatened.” -Republican U.S. Senate Candidate Todd Akin, from Missouri

But wait, he’s not done… Still discussing Democrat Claire McCaskill’s debate stance, he said:

“The first two minutes, wow, it’s like somebody let a wildcat out of the cage,”

All together now… “Ladylike?” “Wildcat?  *facepalm*
He really doesn’t see how sexist and condescending that is, does he? You’d think that after insulting rape victims all over the planet and becoming his party’s poster boy for the war on women (and that’s REALLY saying something in today’s GOP), someone would have given him a big book titled “Shit Not to Say So As Not to Look Like More of a Misogynistic Jerk” and told him to read it! Perhaps they did and he just fed it into his TelePromptr?
The icing on the Akin Turd-Cake this week came in the form of a video released by the McCaskill camp (Internet videos, the gift that just keeps on giving). In it, Akin is responding to a constituent question about equal pay and he says:

I believe in free enterprise. I don’t think the government should be telling people what you pay and what you don’t pay. I think it’s about freedom. If someone what’s to hire somebody and they agree on a salary, that’s fine, however it wants to work. So, the government sticking its nose into all kinds of things has gotten us into huge trouble.

The question was about the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay act so it’s only natural that most news outlets reported that Akin’s response suggests he is not is favor of laws mandating equal pay for women. In reading Akin’s comments, however, my conclusion is that he believes “free enterprise” means that the government shouldn’t be able to set any guidelines for pay. At all.  How about that minimum wage and those laws that say you can’t pay people of different races and religions different salaries? Are those causing “huge trouble” too? And now that the RNC  and party leadership love him again, do they support all of his views?

The Takeaway: Missouri voters, are you kidding us with this? Vote Claire McCaskill for Senate.

“One of the principles is that we need to support people who have a history and know what it is like to sign the front of a paycheck, not the back of a paycheck. The front of a paycheck also includes you took a risk and you build a business on your own — without the federal government standing next to you as you’re signing a personal guarantee. It’s just you and your wife and your banker; you know that’s it.”-Republican Congressman Mike Fitzpatrick, from Pennsylvania’s 8th District

Another week, another video, this time it’s one of Pennsylvania Congressman Mike Fitzpatrick following Romney’s lead and writing off over half his constituency when meeting with the Kitchen Table Patriots, a Tea Party group. Indeed, it didn’t take long for analysts to dub the video Fitzpatrick’s “47% moment.” The head of Pennsylvania’s AFL-CIO said Fitzpatrick’s comments “imply that people who receive paychecks rather than own businesses are somehow less important to the American economy.” Nope, in working for and cashing those paychecks, we don’t contribute anything, serve anyone, or buy anything such as cars, homes, manufactured goods, college educations for our kids, etc. Nope, we’re just entitled slackers, signing the backs of checks and then doing absolutely nothing with them.
Also troubling to me is Fitzpatrick’s outdated word choice in describing the front-of-paycheck signers who took risks: “you, your wife and your banker.” Really? Is it 1950 where Fitzpatrick lives and no women – single or  married – are starting businesses on their own? Or are these women just not invited to his Kitchen Table Patriots meetings?
The Takeaway: Voters in the PA 8th, vote Kathy Boockvar for Congress.

“Certainly, this first term, I did not lead with wanting to compromise. Now the hope is, after this election … no matter how it shakes out, we now have to decide how to figure out how to build a house.” – Republican Congressman Joe Walsh, from Illinois’ 8th District

So…basically, you were an obstructionist Tea Party asshole in your first term, determined not to assist the President in anyway that might potentially improve the economy. But now that Tammy Duckworth is kicking your ass in the polls, you decide to tell the press than in your second term, you’ll “build a house.” Riiiight. How about this, Joe? We boot you off the government payroll forcing you to “get a job” as you so succinctly told Sandra Fluke to do and we replace you with someone who gives a damn about all Americans, not just those in the Tea Party?
The Takeway: Voters in the IL 8th, vote Tammy Duckworth for Congress.


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This Week In Why We Need to $%!^@*# Vote!

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.

“There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. All right, there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it. That that’s an entitlement. And the government should give it to them. And they will vote for this president no matter what…These are people who pay no income tax.” -Mitt Romney, Republican nominee for President

From the look on Mitt’s face, he’s finally done the arithmetic on his ’47 percent’ comments.

Topping the list this week is a no-brainer. It’s Williard “Mittens” Romney himself for the instant classic hidden video-recorded diatribe against half the friggin’ country. HALF the country. Who he wants to vote for him. As Bill Clinton would say, did he do the arithmetic on that one?

The video also contained such gems as “It would be helpful to be, uh, Latino” and his brilliant plan for “kicking the ball down the field” on the Isreali/Palestinian conflict. The really scary part? With Voter ID laws suppressing the vote in key states, this video still has a chance of some day ending up in the Willard Romney Presidential Library. That thought alone should be enough to get you out of bed bright and early on Election Day morning.
The Takeaway: Vote Barack Obama and Joe Biden

[The Affordable Care Act’s contraception mandate] will be gone on day one. I can guarantee you that.” -Rep. Paul Ryan, Republican nominee for Vice President

Mitt’s second chair wasn’t too fair behind in the Mind-numbingly Stupid Things Coming out of the Pie-hole Department, though in Rep. Paul Ryan’s case, there was no collective media WTF response to his words.  That’s mostly because the words he said are already front and center on the Romney/Ryan platform. All Ryan did was reveal just how high on their agenda repealing the contraception mandate is.  It’s ‘day one’ important to them, people. That’s right. Not foreign policy, not education, not even the economy. Revoking access to contraception for millions of American women trumps all of that. If this surprises you at all, we can only assume that you slept through the entire 112th Congress.
The Takeaway: Vote Barack Obama and Joe Biden

“We will never have the elite, smart people on our side, because they believe they should have the power to tell you what to do. So our colleges and universities, they’re not going to be on our side.“ -Former Senator and Republican Presidential Candidate Rick Santorum

Only at the Values Voters Summit can you say to your followers that, basically, they’re not all that smart and they’ll give you a standing ovation. Also, do we need to point out the irony of him lamenting that ‘smart people’ believe they should tell everyone what to do when his party’s platform says that half the population shouldn’t have control over their own bodies? No? Didn’t think so.
The Takeaway: This guy came in second – second! – to Mitt Romney for the Republican nomination. Think about that.

“[W]ho better than me, who’s already finished one of the entitlement programs, to come up with programs to do away with Medicaid and Medicare? Let’s block-grant what the state has, and allow the states to determine what’s going to go into Medicaid. And Medicare, let’s wait until everyone that right now is under 55 reaches 55 by age [sic] 2020, and give them a choice whether they want to purchase health insurance with a subsidy from the federal government, or stay on Medicare.” – Republican Senate Candidate Tommy Thompson of Wisconsin

In case you were wondering why Tommy Thompson is having trouble getting Wisconsin seniors to not back over him with their cars, let alone vote for him, this quote from a speech he gave last May should clear things right up. He wants to phase out Medicare and Medicaid; he said it. There’s video. Fellow Wisconsinite Paul Ryan agrees with him, though he has his own plan for it. So now when both guys go to senior centers and yammer on and on about how much they now want to “reform” and “strengthen” Medicare, the seniors don’t seem to be buying it. Those pesky Internet videos. They’re making it mighty hard to lie to voters these days.
The Takeaway: Wisconsin voters, vote Tammy Baldwin for Senate

“Party bosses dictating who is allowed to advance through the party and make all the decisions – it’s just like 1776 in that way. That was when colonists “rose up and said, ‘Not in my home, you don’t come and rape my daughters and my … wife. But that is where we are again.” -Lulli Akin, wife of Senate Candidate Todd Akin, of Missouri

Yes, Lulli Akin is not the candidate herself so what she says shouldn’t be subjected to the same scrutiny but come on… Why has everyone in the Akin campaign not been given strict orders to never make rape comparisons or use rape metaphors at all in front of the press? Ever! Is the GOP snubbing you? Are you losing the election? Yeah, that sucks. But it’s not rape. Rape is terrible, horrific, and way fucking worse than losing a damn election. Until you figure that out, just stop talking.
The Takeaway: Missouri voters, vote Claire McCaskill for Senate


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DNC Day 2 – Convention Cop

As promised, WRUN Admin Pattie here, back to do this Convention Cop thing again, this time for the Democrats. As I mentioned last week, I’ve been a registered Democrat since I turned 18. Those expecting a non-partisan take on this evening’s event will be disappointed (though thanks for stopping by). As always, I will try to be fair and will point out what statements, affirmations, and issues I disagree with because even though this is the party named on my voter registration card, I don’t always like what they do and say.

Here’s the line-up for the night and rest assured, readers, I am fully caffeinated:

Speeches from the Time Warner Cable Arena:
7:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.:
• Rep. Nancy Pelosi (Calif.)
• Agriculture Secretary and former Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack
• Sen. Barbara Mikulski (Md.)
• Education Secretary Arne Duncan
• Progress for People Video: Education
• American Voices Remarks
• Former Gov. Jim Hunt (N.C.)
• Remarks and Video Presentation in Memoriam
• Former Charlotte Mayor Harvey B. Gantt
• Jessica Sanchez, Singer/Songwriter

8:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m.
• Stronger Together Video: Women’s Health
• Elizabeth Ann “Libby” Bruce
• Cecile Richards, President of Planned Parenthood Federation of America
• Rep. Steny Hoyer (Md.)
• Rep. Barney Frank (Mass.)
• American Heroes Video: Veterans
• Ed Meagher
• Veterans Affairs Secretary General Eric Shinseki
• Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter
• Gov. John Hickenlooper (Colo.)
• Sister Simone Campbell, Executive Director of Roman Catholic Social Justice Organization, NETWORK
• Gov. Jack Markell (Del.)

9:00 p.m. – 10:00 p.m.:
• Karen Mills
• Progress for People Video: Small Business
• Bill Butcher
• Calif. attorney general Kamala D. Harris
• Stronger Together Video: Immigration
• Benita Veliz, DREAM Act Activist
• Cristina Saralegui, Journalist, Actress, and Talk Show Host
• Sandra Fluke, Attorney and Women’s Rights Activist
• Austin Ligon, Co-Founder and Former CEO of CarMax, Inc.
• An Economy Build to Last Video: Auto-Industry
• Karen Eusanio
• Bob King, President of the International Union, United Automobile, Aerospace and Agricultural Implement Workers of America (UAW)
• Randy Johnson, Cindy Hewitt, and David Foster, Former Employees at companies controlled by Romney’s Bain Capital
• Rep. Chris Van Hollen (Md.)

10:00 p.m. – 11:00 p.m.:
• Jim Sinegal, Co-Founder and Former CEO of Costco
• Elizabeth Warren, Candidate for Senate, Massachusetts
• DNC chair Antonio R. Villaraigosa
• Former president Bill Clinton
• Roll Call Vote
• Alice Germond, Secretary of the Democratic National Committee
• Benediction
• Rabbi David Wolpe, Sinai Temple, Los Angeles, California
• Retire Colors
• Recess

Reaction to remarks by Nancy Pelosi:
Nancy Pelosi leads with the fact that she was the first mother and grandmother to be Speaker of the House. Nice touch. That segues nicely into the “Drive for 25”  – the Democratic push to get the 25 more House seats they need for a majority. While praising Obama for leading on Health Care and Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, she says he was blocked at almost every turn by the GOP and specifically on the DREAM Act. (Shout out to Latino voters!)
The money part of the speech is her list of items “on the ballot” in this election: Medicare, Social Security, Women’s rights (nice), Citizens United (also, nice inclusion), the “character of the country.”
Has Pelosi set the tone for the night: focus more on programs and specific issues, less on the overall economy? We’ll see. Twitter pundits mention that Pelosi should have listed the 2011 debt battle as evidence of one of the ways the GOP tried to hamstring the President. Probably. Maybe she’s leaving that for another speaker.

Reaction to remarks by Tom Vilsack:
Vilsack is apparently here to make the case that the Dems are better for rural America. Most interesting point is that he seems to be the only speaker at either convention to mention the Mid-west drought. Congress famously failed to act on drought relief or a farm bill before breaking for recess on August. Unfortunately, Vilsack does not chide Congress for this, I wish he did. He gives the President credit for his actions in redirecting Agriculture Department funds and purchases to help aid farmers after Congress failed to reach a consensus. The farm bill and drought relief is, sadly, a prime example of not only how Congressional Republicans and Democrats failed to work together, but of how the Senate and the House failed to reach consensus with competing legislation. Each chamber wants to do things their way and only their way so in the end, nothing is done.

Reaction to the Democratic Women of the Senate Video/Tribute:
The music annoys me. It’s a little too cutesy for a tribute to female lawmakers in my opinion.

The 12 Democratic women of the Senate march out and my first thought is, “We need more than that.” Then, maybe we would have had a chance of advancing a Paycheck Fairness Bill?

Reaction to remarks from Sen. Barbara Mikulski:
Speaking of the Paycheck Fairness Bill, its sponsor is at the mike. “Every issue is a woman’s issue. Equal pay for equal work is an all-American issue,” she says. Word to that. Mikulski repeats what is becoming a point made by many female speakers that this convention: The Affordable Care Act makes it illegal for insurers to charge women more for care. Like the video, some of Mikulski’s turns of phrase are too cutesy for my taste – “We work on macro issues and macaroni and cheese issues” – but her ending point is her best. To finish the work of the recovery, “We need reinforcements.” Read: elect more women. We’re working on it!

Reaction to remarks from Arne Duncan:
The appearance of Arne Duncan signals that we’re entering an education block of speakers. As mentioned last week, my household is very much “the choir” to preach to on this issue. Two adults working in public education plus one child attending an urban public school.

Duncan’s speech is quotable, which is fine, but I find myself wishing for more on K through 12 class size and the importance of saving teaching jobs in urban school districts, in hopes of achieving the kinds of student teacher ratios that more affluent districts can tout.

He shifts to higher ed: “higher-ed is an economic necessity,” Duncan argues and mentions the President’s very laudable work to secure Pell Grants and keep student loan rates low. The Obama Administration gets a lot of criticism on K through 12 education, much of it valid, but I argue that they don’t get the credit they deserve on higher ed. Lost in the bickering over the debt battle is the little-known fact that the entire debt deal almost fell apart because some in the House GOP wanted to cut the Pell program to the bone. That the Pell program emerged with more funding and increased annual awards is remarkable. This is an important point to me because, as a employee of a large urban community college, I see firsthand everyday that Pell Grants assist lower-middle class and poor students, many of whom are the first in their families to obtain any kind of higher education. If you’re going to make the case that America can still provide a “path to the middle-class that goes through America’s classrooms,” you need to fund Pell Grants. Full stop.

Reaction to Pell Grant video and remarks by Miami-Dade Student Johanny Adames:
OK, the tactic of putting real people out there to make the case for the President is paying off. She’s terrific. I’m getting misty because I see this young lady and thousands like her everyday at my college. She is the face of millions of part-time college students in this country, who work, take care of families, and go to school.
Some background, Miami Dade College, one of the largest community colleges in the country, is a favorite of the Obama Administration. The President made a commencement speech there in 2011.

Reaction to remarks by Jim Hunt:
Hunt is making the business case for education and is doing a terrific job of it. His recount of the North Carolina education-to-research jobs-success story is causing some on Twitter to joke that he’s running for another term as governor. “Magic didn’t do it in NC. Education did it” is going to resonate. Gives Obama credit for focusing on community colleges more than any other president. I think it’s necessary to add that that is in no small part due to Dr. Jill Biden’s dedication to community colleges. Let’s give credit where credit is due.

Reaction to remarks by Elizabeth Ann “Libby” Bruce:
Interesting that Bruce is making the case for Planned Parenthood by recounting her experience with endometriosis, which is a condition that is often treated with hormonal contraception. The same contraception that the Blunt Amendment and other GOP-backed legislation tried to get bumped out of the Affordable Care Act. By the way, it’s a condition that I also suffer from. Once again, I am the choir.

Reaction to remarks by Cecile Richards:
As a speaker, Cecile is not her mom, the late force of nature Anne Richards, but she’s pretty damn good. She leads with a blunt (ha!) assessment of the Congressional GOP: “On day one they came after women’s health and have not let up since…It’s like we woke up in a bad episode of Mad Men.” Hey, I think I made that point!
She adds in some folksy Texas charm to chip away at the Romney-Ryan claim that their budget plan and proposed legislation helps women:  “any more help from Mitt Romney and I’m going to have to take in ironing.” OK, yes, I did LOL at that one because it’s something MY grandmother would say and she’s definitely not from Texas. Overall I think Cecile Richards did Planned Parenthood proud.

Reaction to remarks by Steny Hoyer:
Leads with the well-known Mitch McConnell quote that the Republicans’ top priority was to make Obama a one-term president. Don’t expect that that will be the only time the speakers refer to that McConnell quote tonight. Not quite “we built that” but it will reappear, trust me. Hoyer then transitions into a Jesse Jackson quote to sharpen the point: “they want to drown the captain, and they’re prepared to sink the ship to do so.” That was unexpected but it’s a great line. Hoyer riffs on the theme of GOP obstructionism for a while before wrapping it up.

Around this time it dawned on me that most of the night was still to come. Yikes! Also, around this time I began to notice some scuttle on Twitter that the Dems were shaking up the speaker schedule for various reasons. A few speakers had been dropped or moved to Thursday. Hmmmm…

Reaction to remarks from Gov. John Hickenlooper:
Hickenlooper’s theme of “we, not just me” is very well executed, especially when paired with his point about the history of the American west not being just “rugged individualism but about communities.” It makes me wonder if it’s a very subtle jab at Romney’s attempt to be the heir to Ronald Reagan, who as an actor, did much to extend myths about the American cowboy. Even if it’s not intended as such, it’s great. Hickenlooper has been underrated as a speaker but I’m not sure I’ll make that mistake again. He’s not overly folksy but calming in a way that few politicians are and after the summer that Colorado has had, calming may be just what is needed right now.

Reaction to remarks from Sister Simone Campbell from Network:
You know for all the talk from the GOP about the Democrats ‘getting rid of God’, quite a few of the speakers have mentioned faith. Strickland quoted the Bible on day one and Sister Simone Campbell, one of the Nuns on the Bus is in a prime speaking spot on day two. Sister Simone is phenomenal as a speaker. Right off the bat she fires up the audience and shores up her position by saying “I am my sister’s keeper. I am my brother’s keeper” well-known to the delegates and home viewers as one of the most resonating lines of Obama’s 2004 DNC speech. The audience on her side, Sister Simone then sets about making the moral case against the Ryan budget. What could be more powerful than a nun repeatedly saying “it’s just wrong” on national television? Why did no one think to give her a ruler? (Yes, I went to Catholic school.)

Her best line might have been her defense of the Affordable Care Act which she says will stop people from dying unnecessarily due to lack of care. “This is part of my pro-life stance and the right thing to do.”  Zing. The Vatican may not be pleased.

We transition into the Small Business block.

Reaction to remarks from Gov. Jack Markell:
Making the business case for Obama. Decent job with content, poor delivery.

Reaction to remarks from Karen Mills:
Little known fact: before Obama, the head of the Small Business Administration was not a cabinet position.

Reaction to video/remarks from Bill Butcher:
At this time of night, Butcher should probably have NOT led with the fact that he did not bring free beer. I know I need it. Another well-chosen “average American” on the podium. Butcher does a nice job, with well-placed shout-outs to the Recovery Act and to small local banks. (As an aside, I’m of the mindset that it’s probably not a bad thing that Obama’s acceptance speech got moved from the Bank of America Stadium back to the Time Warner Arena,  given that bank’s less than stellar reputation.)

Reaction to remarks from Kamala Harris:
It’s always interesting to me to see the various ways politicians try to tell their personal stories through discussions about key issues. For Harris, the Attorney General of California who helped broker a $25 Billion dollar settlement with five major banks over the housing crises, she links her story to the home  ownership dream. More precisely, her mother’s purchase of a new home when Harris was a child and the pride the family felt. Read: “I am an average American like you who takes pridae in owning a home.” Along the way, she tries to ding Romney, citing an interview he gave with a Las Vegas newspaper in which he said that the housing market should “run its course and hit the bottom.”

Did he say that? Yup, but in fairness to Romney, that’s not all he said. Even so, the Romney housing plan is light on details.

Reaction to DREAM Act video and remarks from Benita Veliz:
Veliz is the first undocumented person to speak a national political convention. This is important and it is being noticed by Latinos. Many of the Spanish-language news sites I searched prior to this evening’s speeches mentioned Veliz’s speech tonight, not Clinton’s, as the moment to watch. For those who don’t know, Veliz’s presence at the convention is made possible by the fact that by executive order, Veliz and millions of other undocumented young people, are no longer “illegal.” Obama signed the order after the DREAM Act stalled in Congress.

Reaction to remarks from Cristina Saralegui:
Cristina is apparently the Latina “Oprah”. If pulling Oprah into politics was an achievement in 2008, this is easily as important, perhaps even more so because of the battle for Latino voters. Her speech is a fluid blend of English and Spanish. She’s not the first convention speaker to do that this year, but she’s doing it very well. “The promise of America is in danger,” she warns. ” Governor Romney calls young people like [Benita] ‘illegal aliens.’ President Obama calls them ‘dreamers.’ That is the difference in this election.” What is notable here is that Christina does not simply ask “su gente” to vote. She asks them to organize, register other voters, and spread the word about the difference between Obama and Romney. Powerful appeal.

And we’re transitioning into a block about the auto industry.

Reaction to auto industry video:
There have been a several good videos tonight but this one is the best. This is the one directed squarely at middle America.

Reaction to remarks from Karen Eusanio, GM autoworker:
More “average American” voters nailing their moments on the stage. Key quote: “Because he put himself in our shoes, he put us back on our feet.” Which reminds me, have you read our guest blog post on empathy? You should.

Reaction to remarks from Bob King:
Starts off with are Margaret Chase quote. Nice. He’s the wonkiest, most professorial union leader I’ve ever seen and though his delivery is labored (ha!), his points are very good. “Obama met the test of moral character” he says of the auto industry rescue. “It was not universally popular but it was absolutely right.”
Nice reminder about Labor Day. “Generations of workers fought for the right to organize and collectively bargain. Look at Wisconsin…that’s why unions matter.” That mention of Wisconsin is not an accident. It pulled Ryan into the conversation without needing to mention this name.

Reaction to remarks from Randy Johnson, Cindy Hewitt, and David Foster, Former Employees at companies controlled by Romney’s Bain Capital:
Very emotional speeches from all three, and all three follow the same cadence down to the “we know businesses sometimes fail but…” Trying to fact check these is tricky. There are differing reports as to how much money Bain made off of these endeavors. Interesting that the last story from the steelworker takes a direct shot at Romney over his end date as Bain’s CEO, itself a subject of considerable debate.

Pairing these two segments together is not accidental at all. The message the Democrats want to present: Obama saved jobs, Romney destroyed them and made money doing so.

Reaction to remarks from Chris Van Hollen:
Another theme of the night emerging: “let’s all fact check Ryan!” It’s Van Hollen’s turn and he looks like he’s enjoying it. On the debt: “Paul Ryan voted for ALL of it” and “Congressman Ryan, America is literally in your debt.”

Disputes the GOP claim that the President does not have a plan for reduce the deficit: “He does! It’s on the Internet!” It is. As is the jobs plan. And he adds that the Bush tax cuts “lifted the yachts while the other boats ran aground.” Props to Van Hollen for being brief and quotable when I needed a caffeine break.

Reaction to remarks from Sandra Fluke:
The moment that many in women’s rights activism have been waiting for. Fluke’s victory lap over he-who-shall-not be-named. Calls Romney-Ryan future for women’s health an “offensive relic.” It’s notable that Fluke is the first speaker of the night to bring up the Violence Against Women Act, though not by name. Which makes me more disappointed in Pelosi’s speech.

Fluke calls out Romney for not denouncing…you-know-who and implies that this is a severe character defect. Obama by contrast, thinks of his “daughters, not his delegates.” It should be noted that the timing of Fluke’s speech is one of the key deviations from tonight’s schedule. She was shifted into the network television coverage from an earlier slot. The fight for women’s votes is important. Prime time important.

Reaction to remarks from Jim Sinegal
Poor guy to have to follow Sandra. I apologize, but I did not hear much of what he said beyond his discussion of his company’s superior wages and benefits for its workers. It was good stuff but I think his speech and delivery suffered because of the timing shift. He should have been in the block with the auto industry and Bain employees. The crowd was not patient with him either. They were ready for Warren and Clinton.

Reaction to remarks by Elizabeth Warren:
Nice welcome from the crowd. Thanks to Emily’s List and the Democratic National Committee’s mailings, the delegates know who Warren is and the importance of her race. This is Teddy Kennedy’s seat after all, to Dems, it is blasphemy to have anyone but a Dem in it.

Even without the bio, I challenge anyone to not have guessed that Warren had been a teacher. Her delivery gives her away and that’s not a knock. She is smart to focus on the “corporations are not people” thing and to directly challenge Romney on that point. Interesting that speech addresses Romney and not her opponent, Scott Brown. That seems deliberate as well. She ends on two key points: one a Biblical reference and one a tribute to Ted Kennedy. What was I saying about blasphemy? Yeah. Overall, her national debut is a success. She’s measured and professorial but passionate. Can that translate to a win over a pro-choice male candidate? We will see.

It’s time for the big gun. Tonight’s headliner.

Reaction to remarks by President Bill Clinton:
Between the video and the song, I’m 16 again, watching my first DNC in 1992. He’s…extremely Bill Clinton. Did he just flirt with the First Lady? Did I just express surprise at that?

He pays compliments to his wife and the State Department because if he didn’t there would be Hell to pay in the media. Even more compliments to the President. Nicely done.
He’s all charm to start, then Professor Bill comes out. Watch out. Goes after the GOP for getting rid of their top moderates. Though he does not mention Senator Dick Lugar by name, that’s who he’s alluding to. This is vintage Bill Clinton circa 1992, 1993. Never thought I’d see this again.

Holy crap, he’s not stopping. Taxes, Medicare, Welfare. Took that one personally, he says. Twitter says he went off the prepared remarks five minutes ago. This is AD-LIBBED!!!??

Now he’s after Ryan! It takes Brass!

My co-admin just posted “Arithmetic!” on Facebook and then presumably, passed out. (Just kidding.)

Journalists on Twitter are losing their minds at how much of this is not in their prepared texts.
Crowd is chanting “four more years” but it’s not clear on for whom? Obama or Bill?

My husband is sitting next to me in stunned silence. Only Bill Clinton would adlib a wonky, nearly hour-long takedown of the opposing party’s entire platform on live television. With a smile. Everyone remember why the GOP hated Bill? Because he could do that.

He’s done. The crowd may have let him go on longer. Bow and hug to Obama. Like Paul Ryan’s speech last week, that one’s going to be a bear to fact check but it was unlike anything I’ve seen or heard done at a political convention.

Years ago, when Bill Clinton left office, my mom was still upset over what had happened in the last half of his presidency and I don’t blame her. There will always be a question of just how much Clinton could have accomplished if he had more control over his baser leanings. Still, I told her that I thought history would be kind to Bill Clinton. Kinder than it would be to other recent presidents. I stand by that. Was tonight’s epic speech about Obama vs. Romney or about Bill Clinton’s legacy? We won’t know for sure until November but my knowledge of Clinton tells me that it was probably a bit of both.

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