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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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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.

Thanks for reading. Please post comments and reactions here or on our Facebook page.


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Empathy and the More Perfect Union

By Dave Thomer
Special Guest Blogger

As the Democratic National Convention opens, many speakers and presentations will attempt to convey the idea that President Barack Obama understands and cares about the challenges and opportunities that a wide variety of American citizens face. Witness, for example, Day One’s speeches by Stacy Lihn, a mother who is concerned about the cost of medical procedures necessary to save the life of her daughter with a congenital heart defect, or Lilly Ledbetter, whose remarks continue to stress the importance of wage equality. This effort aims both to convey the Democratic Party’s empathy for voters and convince the voters that they should value empathy in their public officials. Partisan Democrat that I am, I think this is a wise and necessary move.

Empathy has been an important part of Obama’s vision for a long time. In general terms, his frequent mention of the Biblical notion of being “my brother’s keeper,” modified to include being “my sister’s keeper” as well, demands a degree of empathy. In order to look out for each other, it’s necessary that we think about how our actions will affect another person. In order to think about how my actions will affect someone else, I have to understand that person’s position and circumstances. It’s not enough for me to say, “How would this affect me, if there were somehow an exact duplicate of me in a position to be affected by my action?” I have to know something about the actual person who is going to be affected.

Obama has also been more specific in citing the need for empathy. He ran into some pushback when he was getting ready to nominate Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court because he cited empathy as one of the qualifications he was looking for in a justice:

[T]he issues that come before the court are not sport. They’re life and death. And we need somebody who’s got the heart to recogni– the empathy to recognize what it’s like to be a young, teenaged mom; the empathy to understand what it’s like to be poor or African-American or gay or disabled or old. (Full Quote.)

Critics accused him of wanting a justice who would ignore the law and the Constitution in order to follow her feelings. But the law is often vague and incomplete. Certainly the Constitution is. Witness the ongoing argument over the meaning of the Second Amendment, or the fact that the notion of a right to privacy is not explicitly stated in the Constitution but must be inferred from the text based on the existence of other rights as well as our own expectations as citizens. There is always a context to be taken into account, and there are often multiple valid but conflicting interpretations that one can choose. Obama makes the explicit claim that when we do so, we should do so by understanding the effect that our chosen interpretation will have on others.

I would make the argument that this empathy isn’t just a requirement for presidents and Supreme Court justices. It’s a requirement for every citizen in a democracy. When we choose our positions on issues, or choose which candidates to support, we shouldn’t just think about how that choice affects us. We should think about how it will affect our fellow citizens, and then decide which option will have the best overall result, even if it means that we make an individual sacrifice.

There’s no formal requirement that we do this in a democracy. We can treat voting the way that many economists treat the market: a group of disconnected individuals all making their own decisions about their individual self-interest. In the aggregate these individual decisions will create a majority that will drive society forward, hopefully creating the highest possible good. I don’t like this vision of democracy because it seems short sighted and disrespectful of fellow citizens. It encourages us to treat politics and government as a matter of winners and losers. In a democracy based on self-interest it becomes rational for some voters to oppose something like the Lilly Ledbetter Act because it will redistribute certain resources. In a democracy based on empathy, we can feel and understand the unfairness of wage inequality and it becomes rational to search for a solution to that problem.

I know which of those societies I prefer, and I’ll be taking my stand on the question on election day. As important as that vote will be, it’s just as important to remember that every day, every one of us has a chance to build that society, empathic act by empathic act, and create more space for our leaders to act accordingly.

Dave Thomer is a public high school teacher and college instructor. He blogs about education, philosophy, politics, and more at NotNews.org.


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Remember This – Tracking the Lawmakers and Women’s Rights

In order to maximize accountability, we are keeping track of what candidates and elected officials do and say against women’s rights. We moved this list from its original location on our Facebook page to eventually allow for shared authorship. The list was becoming too much for our admins to maintain. And sadly, the war on women’s rights does not appear to be slowing down.

We will be updating this list regularly. Please submit any entries we may have missed to our Facebook page or Twitter account. Please be aware, this list is for elected officials or candidates who have made anti-women’s rights statements and/or sponsored/voted in favor of/signed anti-women’s rights legislation. This list is not for media figures who have made sexist or provocative statements to get attention and/or ratings. We prefer not to give them what they want.

Candidate/Elected Official Federal Level – Seeking National Office

Mitt Romney (R) – Nominee for President
Mitt Romney’s Plans for Planned Parenthood

Paul Ryan (R) – Nominee for Vice President
Paul Ryan and the Republican problem with women

Candidates/Elected Officials By State

ALABAMA

Robert J. Bentley (R) – Governor
State of Alabama Harrasses and Seeks to Close Abortion Clinic, While Women Die Needlessly in Childbirth

Jefferson Sessions (R) – U.S. Senate
Voted Against Re-Authorization of the Violence Against Women Act
Voted to block advancement of the Paycheck Fairness Act.

Richard Shelby (R) – U.S. Senate
Voted Against Re-Authorization of the Violence Against Women Act
Voted to block advancement of the Paycheck Fairness Act.

ALASKA

Wes Keller (R) – Alaska State Legislature
Wes Keller, Alaska GOP Lawmaker, Blocks Girl Scouts Resolution Over Alleged Planned Parenthood Ties

Lisa Murkowski (R) – U.S. Senate
Voted to block advancement of the Paycheck Fairness Act.

ARIZONA

Jan Brewer (R) – Governor
Governor Jan Brewer Signs Arizona’s Extreme New Abortion Law

Trent Franks (R) – U.S. House of Representatives
Hearing for D.C. Abortion Bill Set for Next Week
GOP Happy With Attempted D.C. Abortion Ban

Jack Harper (R) – Arizona State Legislature
Arizona Woman Emails Representative Jack Harper; Harper Calls Her “Baby-Killer”

Jon Kyl (R) – U.S. Senate
Voted Against Re-Authorization of the Violence Against Women Act
Voted to block advancement of the Paycheck Fairness Act.

Debbie Lesko (R) – Arizona State Legislature
Contraception bill to be revived in amended form

John McCain (R) – U.S. Senate
John McCain: ‘War on Women’ is ‘Imaginary,’ ‘Conjured by Democrats’
Voted to block advancement of the Paycheck Fairness Act.

Terri Proud (R) – Arizona State Legislature
Arizona Lawmaker: Women Should ‘Watch An Abortion Being Performed’ Prior To Having It

ARKANSAS

John Boozman (R) – U.S. Senate
Voted Against Re-Authorization of the Violence Against Women Act
Voted to block advancement of the Paycheck Fairness Act.

CALIFORNIA

COLORADO

CONNECTICUT

DELAWARE

FLORIDA

Kathleen Passidomo (R) – Florida State Legislature
FL GOP Rep. Says 11-Year-Old Was Gang Raped ‘Because She Was Dressed Like A 21 Year-Old Prostitute’

Marco Rubio (R) – U.S. Senate
Voted Against Re-Authorization of the Violence Against Women Act
Voted to block advancement of the Paycheck Fairness Act.

Allen West (R) – U.S. House of Representatives
Allen West: Liberal Women Are ‘Neutering American Men’

GEORGIA

Saxby Chambliss (R) – U.S. Senate
Voted Against Re-Authorization of the Violence Against Women Act
Voted to block advancement of the Paycheck Fairness Act.

Terry Engand (R) – Georgia State Legislature
Georgia Republican Compares Women to Cows, Pigs, And Chickens

Bobby Franklin (R) – George State Legislature
Georgia State Lawmaker Seeks To Redefine Rape Victims As ‘Accusers’

John Isakson (R) – U.S. Senate
Voted Against Re-Authorization of the Violence Against Women Act
Voted to block advancement of the Paycheck Fairness Act.

Doug McKillip (R) – George State Legislature
Georgia “Fetal Pain” Author OK with Forcing Women into C-Sections for Unviable Pregnancies

HAWAII

IDAHO

Michael Crapo (R) – U.S. Senate
Voted to block advancement of the Paycheck Fairness Act.

James Risch (R) – U.S. Senate
Voted Against Re-Authorization of the Violence Against Women Act
Voted to block advancement of the Paycheck Fairness Act.

Chuck Winder (R) – Idaho State Legislature
Chuck Winder, Idaho Lawmaker, Suggests Women Use Rape As Excuse For Abortions

ILLINOIS

INDIANA

Daniel Coats (R) – U.S. Senate
Voted to block advancement of the Paycheck Fairness Act.

Mike Pence (R) – U.S. House of Representatives
Mike Pence’s war on Planned Parenthood

Eric Turner (R) – Indiana State Legislature
Indiana Bill Would Force Doctors To Tell Women That Having An Abortion May Lead To Breast Cancer

IOWA

Charles Grassley (R) – U.S. Senate
Voted Against Re-Authorization of the Violence Against Women Act
Voted to block advancement of the Paycheck Fairness Act.

Steve King (R) – U.S. House of Representatives
Rep. Steve King Worries Free Birth Control Will Make Us A “Dying Civilization”
Rep. Steve King: “Planned Parenthood Is Invested in Promiscuity”

KANSAS

Lance Kizner (R) – Kansas State Legislature
Kansas House votes to Send anti-abortion bill to the Senate

Jerry Moran (R) – U.S. Senate
Voted Against Re-Authorization of the Violence Against Women Act
Voted to block advancement of the Paycheck Fairness Act.

Pat Roberts (R) – U.S. Senate
Voted Against Re-Authorization of the Violence Against Women Act
Voted to block advancement of the Paycheck Fairness Act.

KENTUCKY

Joe Bowen (R) – Kentucky State Legislature
Anti-Abortion Bill Voted Down in House Committee

Mitch McDonnell (R) – U.S. Senate
Voted Against Re-Authorization of the Violence Against Women Act
Voted to block advancement of the Paycheck Fairness Act.

Rand Paul (R) – U.S. Senate
Voted Against Re-Authorization of the Violence Against Women Act
Voted to block advancement of the Paycheck Fairness Act.
DC Budget autonomy bill pulled after Rand Paul adds amendments on guns, abortion, unions

LOUISIANA

David Vitter (R) – U.S. Senate
Voted to block advancement of the Paycheck Fairness Act.

MAINE

Susan Collins (R) – U.S. Senate
Voted to block advancement of the Paycheck Fairness Act.

MARYLAND

MASSACHUSETTS

Scott Brown (R) – U.S. Senate
Voted to block advancement of the Paycheck Fairness Act.

MICHIGAN

Gail Haines (R) – Michigan State Legislature
Michigan Anti-Abortion Bill, ‘Most Extreme in the Country’, Barrels Through State House

Pete Hoekstra (R) – Candidate for U.S. Senate
Pete Hoekstra On Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act: ‘That Thing Is A Nuisance’

Bruce Rendon (R) – Michigan State Legislature
Michigan’s Surprise Anti-Abortion Blitz

Mike Shirley (R) – Michigan State Legislature
Michigan Anti-Abortion Bill, ‘Most Extreme in the Country’, Barrels Through State House

Jim Stamas (R) – Michigan State Legislature
Lawmakers barred from speaking after “vagina” comment

MINNESOTA

MISSISSIPPI

Phil Bryant – (R) Governor
Phil Bryant, Mississippi Governor: Democrats’ ‘One Mission in Life is to Abort Children’

Thad Cochran (R) – U.S. Senate
Voted Against Re-Authorization of the Violence Against Women Act
Voted to block advancement of the Paycheck Fairness Act.

Robert Wicker (R) – U.S. Senate
Voted Against Re-Authorization of the Violence Against Women Act
Voted to block advancement of the Paycheck Fairness Act.

MISSOURI

Todd Akin (R) – U.S. House of Representatives, candidate for U.S. Senate
Planned Parenthood funding a final obstacle in shutdown negotiations
Todd Akin, GOP Senate candidate: ‘Legitimate rape’ rarely causes pregnancy

Roy Blunt (R) – U.S. Senate
Voted Against Re-Authorization of the Violence Against Women Act
Voted to block advancement of the Paycheck Fairness Act.

MONTANA

Krayton Kearns (R) – U.S. House of Representatives
TEA Party Legislator: Birth Control is “Death Nail in Coffin of our Republic”

Denny Rehberg (R) – U.S. House of Representatives, candidate for U.S. Senate
Support Tester against Rehberg’s extremism

NEBRASKA

Mike Johanns (R) – U.S. Senate
Voted Against Re-Authorization of the Violence Against Women Act

NEVADA

Dean Heller (R) – U.S. Senate
Voted to block advancement of the Paycheck Fairness Act.

NEW HAMPSHIRE

Kelly Ayotte (R) – U.S. Senate
Voted to block advancement of the Paycheck Fairness Act.

NEW JERSEY

Christopher Smith (R) – U.S. House of Representatives
Representative Chris Smith Redefines Rape

NEW MEXICO

NEW YORK

Ann Marie Buerkle (R) – U.S. House of Representatives
Buerkle Defends Vote to Cut Planned Parenthood Funding

Ruben Diaz (D) – New York State Legislature
New York Democrat Compares Pro-Choice Advocate to Hitler, “Murderers, Assassins, and Criminals”

NORTH CAROLINA

Richard Burr (R) – U.S. Senate
Voted Against Re-Authorization of the Violence Against Women Act
Voted to block advancement of the Paycheck Fairness Act.

NORTH DAKOTA

Rick Berg (R) – U.S. House of Representatives, Candidate for U.S. Senate
GOP Senate Candidate Supported Life Sentences For Rape Victims Who Obtain Abortions

OHIO

Ron Amstutz (R) – Ohio State Legislature
House Republicans move to de-fund Planned Parenthood in Ohio

John Boehner (R) – U.S. House of Representatives
Boehner shoots down bipartisan call to vote on Senate’s domestic violence bill

Josh Mandel (R) – State Treasurer, candidate for U.S. Senate
Candidate Questionnaire for Cincinnati Right to Life

Robert Portman (R) – U.S. Senate
Voted to block advancement of the Paycheck Fairness Act.

Kristina Roegner (R) – Ohio State Legislature
House Republicans move to de-fund Planned Parenthood in Ohio

Cliff Rosenberger (R) – Ohio State Legislature
House Republicans move to de-fund Planned Parenthood in Ohio

OKLAHOMA

Thomas Coburn (R) – U.S. Senate
Voted Against Re-Authorization of the Violence Against Women Act
Voted to block advancement of the Paycheck Fairness Act.

James Inhofe (R) – U.S. Senate
Voted Against Re-Authorization of the Violence Against Women Act
Voted to block advancement of the Paycheck Fairness Act.

OREGON

PENNSYLVANIA

Bob Casey (D) – U.S. Senate
Casey votes against birth control mandate, Pennsylvania senator breaks with Obama, Democratic Party

Tom Corbett (R) – Governor
Gov. Tom Corbett on pre-abortion ultrasounds: ‘Close your eyes’

Mike Fitzpatrick (R) – U.S. House of Representatives
Mike Fitzpatrick has taken every possible opportunity to vote against reproductive choice

Patrick Toomey (R) – U.S. Senate
Voted Against Re-Authorization of the Violence Against Women Act
Voted to block advancement of the Paycheck Fairness Act.

RHODE ISLAND

SOUTH CAROLINA

James DeMint (R) – U.S. Senate
Voted Against Re-Authorization of the Violence Against Women Act
Voted to block advancement of the Paycheck Fairness Act.

Lindsey Graham (R) – U.S. Senate
Voted Against Re-Authorization of the Violence Against Women Act
Voted to block advancement of the Paycheck Fairness Act.

Nikki Haley (R) – Governor
Haley claims women ‘don’t care about contraception’

SOUTH DAKOTA

John Thune (R) – U.S. Senate
Voted Against Re-Authorization of the Violence Against Women Act
Voted to block advancement of the Paycheck Fairness Act.

TENNESSEE

Lamar Alexander (R) – U.S. Senate
Voted to block advancement of the Paycheck Fairness Act.

Bob Corker (R) – U.S. Senate
Voted to block advancement of the Paycheck Fairness Act.

Matthew Hill (R) – Tennessee State Legislature
Tennessee Bill May Expose Identities Of Women Seeking Abortions

TEXAS

John Cornyn (R) – U.S. Senate
Voted Against Re-Authorization of the Violence Against Women Act
Voted to block advancement of the Paycheck Fairness Act.

Rick Perry (R) – Governor
Texas Loses Entire Women’s Health Program Over Planned Parenthood Law

UTAH

Orrin Hatch (R) – U.S. Senate
Voted Against Re-Authorization of the Violence Against Women Act
Voted to block advancement of the Paycheck Fairness Act.

Mike Lee (R) – U.S. Senate
Voted Against Re-Authorization of the Violence Against Women A
Voted to block advancement of the Paycheck Fairness Act.

VERMONT

VIRGINIA

Bob McConnell (R) – Governor
Bob McDonnell, Virginia Governor: ‘War On Women’ Is ‘Political Theater’

William Howell (R) – Virginia State Legislature
VA Speaker And Ex-ALEC Chair Berates Woman — ‘I’m Not Speaking In Little Enough Words For You To Understand’

WEST VIRGINIA

WISCONSIN

Glenn Grothman (R) – Wisconsin State Legislature
Wisconsin State Senator Says Women Are Paid Less Because ‘Money Is More Important For Men’

Ron Johnson (R) – U.S. Senate
Voted Against Re-Authorization of the Violence Against Women Act
Voted to block advancement of the Paycheck Fairness Act.

Don Pridemore (R) – Wisconsin State Legislature
Wisconsin GOP Legislators Go After Single Mothers

WYOMING

John Barrasso (R) – U.S. Senate
Voted Against Re-Authorization of the Violence Against Women Act
Voted to block advancement of the Paycheck Fairness Act.

Michael Enzi (R) – U.S. Senate
Voted Against Re-Authorization of the Violence Against Women Act
Voted to block advancement of the Paycheck Fairness Act.

Last Updated: 9/4/2012.


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Planting the Seeds of Incipient Democracy: Five Women who changed American politics before 1900

By Deliciously Geek
Women’s Historian
Special Guest Blogger

We are all no doubt familiar with the names of women who fought for equal rights and equal suffrage: Carrie Chapman Catt, Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton are just a few who come to mind. But what about those who came before them? While the late 19th century was a hotbed of political activity for and by women as they embraced the role of “municipal housewife”, the foundation was laid even as women were stepping off the Mayflower in search of religious and political freedom.

Anne Hutchinson on Trial by Edwin Austin Abbey

First among these early political pioneers was Anne Hutchinson. Wife and mother of twelve, Anne arrived in Boston in 1634 with the impression that she and her family would be free to express themselves without censure by the government for their Puritan beliefs. She found, quickly, that she was wrong; rather than finding equality within her religion, she found that she was required first to answer to her husband and church and then to God. In response, Anne began to hold semiweekly meetings to share her beliefs- which were in some conflict with the Puritan church’s doctrine – and eventually amassed a small following of those who agreed with her “religious politics.” Her influence was so great that during the 1637 elections, her party very narrowly lost to the Winthrop party; the ultimate result was excommunication from the Puritan church and exile from the Massachusetts Bay colony. Anne’s only crime was being a woman in philosophical conflict with the local governing body.

Not long after the events in Boston, Margaret Brent arrived in Maryland to claim a land grant from Lord Baltimore. She immediately established herself as a prominent entrepreneur and attorney-in-fact, acting on behalf of her brother and occasionally for Lord Baltimore, and as a proprietress in her own right she was accorded a position in the Maryland Palatinate Assembly. Eventually Margaret was named the executrix of Governor Leonard Calvert’s estate, which included his seat in the Assembly as well. In 1648, Brent opted to finally exercise her right to both seats, which included both a “voice and vote” each. She was denied the votes because of her sex; the Assembly conceded her right to at least the voice and seat.

Notables such as Abigail Adams and Mercy Otis Warren were activists in the name of their sex during the Revolutionary period, after which there was a tacit moratorium on women’s rights. Suffrage, such as it existed in America’s infancy, was in fact granted to women in certain territories until those rights were revoked in 1807 following scandals associated with local elections. However, women were not politically silent during those years. Between 1807 and 1838, women with an interest in their federal and local governments began to organize partisan rallies and parades, petitioned state legislatures, canvassing on the part of candidates, and editing and writing for partisan publications.

Engraving of Elizabeth Oakes Smith.

Which is what Elizabeth Oakes Smith found herself doing in 1850. Elizabeth’s husband, Seba Smith, was editor of the Eastern Argus and later the Portland Daily Courier, to both of which Elizabeth had been known to contribute. However, it was her New York Tribune series “Woman and Her Needs” (1850-1851) which brought attention once again to the issue of national suffrage for women. While several states and territories had restored some suffrage rights to women by 1850 – set into motion by granting school suffrage rights to widows with children in Kentucky – there was still a lot of ground to cover, as evidenced by the 1848 Seneca Falls Convention. Elizabeth’s series was a call to arms for women to rise up and consider their plight: “The world needs the action of Woman throughout its destinies.”

And women were heeding that call. Anna Dickinson, that “Quaker lass”, was so firm in her beliefs about abolition and women’s suffrage that she addressed Congress directly in 1864 – something which had never been done before by a woman. Her arguments were so persuasive and eloquent that she became a direct influence on the results of the 1863 Congressional elections.

As critical as women were during the ante- and post-bellum periods in terms of political activism, it wasn’t until after the passage of the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments- which, respectively, abolished slavery, defined citizenship, and defended the right to vote for “citizens of the United States” regardless of race, colour, or “previous condition of servitude” – that women discovered that they had truly were second-class citizens. Because the 14th Amendment defined citizenship as “all persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States”, the hue and cry went up to exercise the rights which were clearly protected by the 15th Amendment – rights which were summarily dismissed by the male-populated governments because it was never intended for women to vote, regardless of their citizenship, race, colour, and gender.

Photograph of Myra Bradwell taken circa 1870 by C.D. Mosher

No one was better equipped to challenge these unspoken prohibitions than Myra Colby Bradwell. The first woman to be admitted to the bar in Illinois, Myra began her legal education as her husband’s apprentice and then later as founder and editor of the Chicago Legal News. She penned the Illinois Married Women’s Property Act (1861) and Earnings Act (1869), which gave married women individual rights to their personal property and funds earned through work. In 1869, Myra applied to the Illinois State Bar for her license to practice law in her own name; she was summarily denied on the grounds that as a married woman, she was legally prohibited from entering into legal contracts on her own. She brought her case before the Illinois State Supreme Court, where she was denied admittance to the legal profession because of her sex; and again in 1873, claiming that her 14th Amendment rights were being ignored, she went before the United States Supreme Court to appeal her case; she was summarily denied her license again. Rather than work against a legal system which was obviously not supporting her rights, Myra focused on her newspaper and becoming an activist for women’s rights, honing her abilities as a student and writer of law. In 1890, the Illinois State Supreme Court acted on its own accord (and in accordance with a law the court itself passed in 1872 which prohibited discrimination from employment based on gender) and reversed its initial decision of 1870, granting Myra the right to practice law in Illinois.

As we all know, women were granted the vote in 1920 – thirty years after Myra Bradwell was given her license to practice law, and nearly 300 years after Anne Hutchinson first challenged the patriarchal stronghold of the Puritan Massachusetts Bay Colony. The journey from first heterodoxical thought to 93 women currently serving in Congress, 9 incumbent female governors, and countless female local and state officials has been tumultuous, fiery, and occasionally violent; but at the end of the day, it has been rewarding and enriching not only for women, but for American society as a whole.

All images are public domain and courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.


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5 Things We try NOT to do at Women Rise Up Now

We’re less than three months from a very important election day and we don’t think anyone has any illusions about how brutal the next ninety days will be. With so much riding on the outcome of the Presidential, Congressional, and local races, the only thing we know for sure is that the tone is going to get ugly. And fast. It’s the reality of American politics, unfortunately. We can’t control the overall tone that this election will take but we can control how we react to it and what we add to it.

With that in mind, we wanted to take this opportunity to say a bit about how we manage this page (and the related accounts) and select the information we share with you on a daily basis. Managing this page takes time, obviously, but it also takes a strong understanding of who we are as citizens and the kind of political discussion we want to be associated with. So before we go any further into this election year madness, we want to share with you our list of the five things we try NOT to do when choosing content for this page.

5 Things We Try NOT To Do:

  1. Give coverage to the media talking heads who peddle “outrageous statement of the day” politics. – Scroll through our page’s history and you’ll notice a distinct lack of content mentioning Rush Limbaugh, Glen Beck, Ann Coulter, or Bill Maher. There’s a reason for this. We don’t think these and many of the other talking heads actually contribute anything meaningful to political discourse in this country. More often, they are in the business of self-promotion and their main tactic is to say something inflammatory in order to outrage a large group of people, and have that statement be repeated throughout the media echo chamber. The ultimate goal, in many cases, seems to be to keep their names front and center in the media consciousness, at the expense of lawmakers and actual issues. The result is a population of citizens who may know that they disagree with Beck or Maher, but have no idea where their own elected officials stand or vote on any given issue. This makes no sense to us. We believe in holding the lawmakers accountable, not the talking heads.  While boycotts of certain egregious media offenders have their place, our primary concern is typically directed at those who make the laws.
  1.  Target the spouses, children, and other family members of candidates and elected officials. – Candidates and lawmakers choose to run for office and accept the increased media scrutiny that comes with that decision. They are employed by their constituents so any activities that can impact how they fulfill (or fail to fulfill) that commitment to their employers is fair game as far as we are concerned. However, for the most part, what their family members do, say, read, or buy is not and that information typically has no place on our page. The exception to this, of course, is whether what that family member does creates a conflict of interest for the candidate or lawmaker. We have major issues with reporters following a candidate or lawmaker’s children to the mall to see what they are buying. We do not have issues with reporters writing a story about lobbying work that a candidate’s spouse or family member has done that overlaps with pertinent taxpayer issues. In addition, we believe in treating adult family members as adults and leaving underage family members out of the media spotlight. The media needs to have a damn good reason to report on the activities of a politician’s young children or grandchildren.
  1. Stray too far from our women’s rights focus. – There are a lot of political issues we are passionate about, not just women’s rights. And though we know that many of you out there likely share our views on some of these issues, we do try to keep most of our content focused on news and commentary involving gender equality and reproductive freedom in the United States. Our mission at the start of this project was to cover these issues and thoroughly and as respectfully as time and the social media tools would allow. To include the dozens of other issues we care about (the environment, gay rights, poverty, education, etc.) would limit our ability to fulfill that mission. We do however, like to take the time to acknowledge those who are covering those issues in social media in the same way we follow women’s rights. We try to support them with links and feedback whenever possible. Also, in acknowledgement that we are now more connected as a global society than at any point in human history, we try to post content about international women’s rights issues on regular basis. We believe women’s rights are human rights, no matter where on the planet you happen to be.
  1. Spread false information or bad facts. – Information moves faster then ever on social media, news outlets compete fiercely to break news, often at the expense of fact checking, and there is a small but active percentage of people who knowingly spread false information about political opponents. Therefore, as curators of information, we have to be careful, skeptical, and thorough in choosing what we share. What do we do to make sure that we don’t give you bad information? We follow three basic guidelines: we try to stick with reputable news sources,  we verify quotes, events, and stats with multiple media outlets whenever possible, and we try cite our sources with active links so our followers can check things out for themselves. Are we always perfect? Not by a long shot, but if we mess up, we tell you and we encourage you to tell us when you think we’ve messed up.
  1. Pretend to be non-partisan. – We have a point of view. A liberal one. We’ve never made any attempt to conceal this from our followers and we’re certainly not going to start now. Most of the lawmakers we support tend to be Democrats and most of the ones we disagree with tend to be Republicans, though there are some exceptions. The beauty of the size of the social media world is that there are people doing what we do, with as much passion as we do it, from a conservative viewpoint. That is their right. Anyone who disagrees with our viewpoint is free to do so respectfully and/or to seek out those places that share their viewpoint. We don’t stand for trolling, name calling, or any other such nonsense. The “ban” button exists for a reason and we use it when we need to. The Internet is big enough for all views. These happen to be ours. We believe the real enemy of a republic is not the group on the other side of a given argument, it’s the apathy of its citizens.


So with those principles in mind, onto the conventions, the debates, and the election. We’ve got some exciting content planned for the next three months and we look forward to sharing it with you!

by -Pattie


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A Beginner’s Guide to Making Political Phone Calls

Originally posted
10 Jul 2012

One of the things we learned at the big march back in April (or I guess, already kind of suspected but had confirmed) was that when it comes to political issues,  phone calls are by far the most effective means of making your voice heard.  Yes, go ahead.  We know you want to make a pun, there.

Done?  OK.  Moving on:

We were lucky enough to chat with some nice women from NOW who confirmed this suspicion.  Yes, emails are nice, bombing someone’s facebook page is lovely, but phone calls make the biggest dent.  Emails and posts can be deleted without much of a second thought, but phone calls, especially if there are enough of them, actually require the staff’s time and energy.  And if enough phone calls come in, it can really make an impression with the politician or decision-maker of choice.

So, we felt that since we often encourage you all to reach out and touch someone or other, it was incumbent upon us to put up a few tips for those of you who may have some heebie jeebies about picking up that phone.

They Will Not Bite You.  The staff in a politician’s office is supposed to be nice to the public.  Politicians don’t want mean attack dogs answering their phones… It would be kind of bad for their image.  They are paid to be friendly.  You are most likely not the first caller they’ve spoken to that day who is upset about something.  In all likelihood, they have already spoken to someone who was much madder about something than you are.  They’re not there to argue with you.  They’re not there to trace your call and send black helicopters to your house.  As long as you conduct yourself nicely, nobody is going to holler at you or threaten to kill your dog.  In fact, someone has probably done that to *them* today.  Which brings us to point two….

Conduct Yourself Nicely.  You don’t know the opinions of the person answering the phone.  It could be a summer intern who just wanted the political experience even though they don’t agree with all of their employer’s positions.  It could be the congressman’s black sheep hippie niece who needed a job for a few weeks to save up money to go to Burning Man.  You have no idea.  So there is no reason whatsoever to be rude or to yell.  Not only do you not have to do that, it’s better if you don’t.  Simply call, tell the person that you wanted to make your feelings about Issue X known to the politician/decision maker/whomever, state those feelings, thank them, and hang up.

Have a Script.  If you’re prone to nervousness, get stage fright, aren’t good with confrontation… don’t worry.  Write down what you want to say and practice it a couple of times.  Be as clear and specific as possible.  Mention the bill name or number, if there is one.  And keep it simple.  Again, these people are busy.  They have all kinds of other stuff to do for their employer, whoever that might be, so unless you are talking to their public relations person (and it’s extremely unlikely that that’s who would be answering the phone), they’re not really interested in arguing or getting into a back and forth with anybody.  They don’t have time.  They have to refill the water cooler, order more toner for the copy machine, get the senator’s coffee, and answer the other six phone lines that are ringing.  And if we’re lucky, on the other six phone lines …are people just like you.

So have no fear!  It’s easy to do!  Like most things you’ve never done before, it might be a little scary the first time, but once you do it, you’ll discover the extent to which it’s totally not a big deal.  In fact, it might even feel a little anti-climactic!  It usually takes about thirty seconds or less and usually everyone’s so very polite that you’ll be wondering what you were so nervous about.  (Unless you’re a raging jerk on the phone, which we strongly discourage.)   However, the value of those thirty seconds is nearly impossible to quantify.  You are, at that point, part of a collective voice that, if loud enough, can sway decision making.   It wasn’t hard, and it didn’t cost you anything but a little time.  And as I’ve said elsewhere, it might be good for you too.  It’s claiming just a little bit of power for yourself.

Look, email’s better than nothing.  But why settle for hamburgers when you can have steak?   Pick up that phone!


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You Hear Me, Hillbilly Boy? This Ain’t Over By A Damn Sight.

Originally posted
3 Jul 2012

Well, the story broke on a couple of blogs this morning and is now working its way up into the “respectable” media.  Joe Walsh, the Congressman from the great state of Illinois, is on record as having attacked his opponent, Tammy Duckworth, an army Colonel who lost both of her legs in an attack while she was piloting a helicopter in Iraq, as being “not a hero,” because she talks about her service and her sacrifice as part of her campaign.  The story is gaining traction and appears to be getting picked up by more and more news outlets which are broadcasting the appropriate level of outrage for such comments.  If they do nothing else well, the mainstream media does do outrage well.

But before we get too confident and start assuming that Walsh has signed his own pink slip with this douchebaggery, I think it’s worth pointing out to everyone that has any stake at all in this election that… This is what Republicans do.  We generally avoid partisanship on this page to the extent that we possibly can, but in my adult life, I have only seen this tactic employed by chickenhawk Republicans.  When they are running against an opponent who is a decorated veteran with proven evidence of sacrifice for country, and said chickenhawk has nothing in their record that shows a similar capacity for bravery and self-sacrifice… This is what they do.  They try to smear their opponent’s record.  They attack their service.

Is it an outrageously ballsy, sleazy gambit?  Absolutely.  However, there’s a simple reason they keep doing it.  It works.

Karl Rove did it John McCain in 2000.  Employed a whisper campaign on behalf of George W. Bush, suggesting that because McCain endured unimaginable torture in Vietnam, that he might have snakes in his brain and therefore be unfit to lead.  Remember Max Cleland, the Senator from Georgia?  The triple-amputee who lost his limbs in Vietnam?  And need we remind anyone about the sorry spectacle that was the swift-boating of John Kerry?  They do it because it works.

It used to be that a person’s military service was sacrosanct in America.  An untouchable thing.  While we as a nation are probably closer to the late Roman empire (fat, decadent, wealthy, I’m not going to go on here), we still like to think of ourselves as rugged Spartans warriors.  We like to lionize soldiers, or pretend we do, while we play “Call of Duty 3” or whatever.  And the fact is, that the percentage of active duty military in America is much lower than during most of our previous wars.  We lack the visceral connection to war and combat that previous generations have had.  So, it’s actually not that big a surprise that someone with the balls to attack someone’s military service somehow, perversely, benefits from doing so.

So, as we head into the Fourth of July, a holiday about patriotism, please remember who the real patriots are… Hint: it’s not the guy who was dodging child support while his opponent was getting her legs blown off in Iraq.  But more importantly, don’t let anyone you know forget it.  This country has a disconnect with the brutal realities of what war requires of a person.  We can’t allow that disconnect to be exploited by the cynical, the craven, the phony patriots among us. That means you, Joe Walsh.  You’re not getting away with it, chickenhawk.

Happy Fourth of July!


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Kiss Me, I’m Feminish: A Word on Women’s Rites

15 Jun 2012

Before I write another  word, I want to start by saying, I like most of the Christians I know.  They’re mostly nice people.  This is for the ones that are trying to fuck it up for everyone.  They know who they are.

Anyway,  I’ve put it all together.  I have the solution for all the scary bullshit going on in America that is all coming from the fundamentalist Christians and eagerly abetted by the craven,  vote-grubbing politicians who worship them.  And it’s so simple, I don’t know why it hasn’t been done yet.

It came to me after watching a few moments of video of that “radio host,” Caiden Cowger.  For those of you who missed out on the phenomenon, I’ll try to sum up without trashing him too hard.  After all, it’s unseemly for an adult to pick on a 14-year-old boy, even if he is a 14 year old Glenn Beck impersonator spewing hate and homophobia.  And even if he, for some reason, has been given a megaphone for his hate and homophobia in the form of a radio show and an inexplicably popular YouTube channel which both get subsequently shut down for hate speech.  Because, Caiden, sweetie pie, that’s what they call it when you go on rage-filled rants against  gay people and say insane things like “President Obama is making kids gay.”

Anyhow, so many of the pages I follow were posting about this kid, that I felt obliged to at least watch a few highlights to see if it was really all that.  And, it was.  <shiver>   But anyway, he said something in one of his rants, and it was like a bolt of lightning to the side of my head.  He said, “Homosexuality is a perverted belief.”

Now, we’re not going to pick on poor Caiden and deconstruct that statement to show what’s stupid about it (hint: everything).  But it hit me:  Homosexuality is a belief?  That’s what Caiden said, and he would know, right?  Then, why not simply go the extra half-mile and enshrine it into a religion, with a church and the whole nine?  Then suddenly gays could simply cry “religious persecution” just like all these right-wing Christian whiners bitching about taking America back (to 300 B.C.)!

Now, I’m not talking about gay churches.  Those exist already, and are mostly unloved by both Christians and gays.  I’m talking about Gay as A Religion.  The First Church of Gay.  Our Lady of DeGeneres!  St. Leah of DeLaria!  Elton John could dust off a few of those old sequined capes and be the Gay Pope!  The Holy Trinity?  RuPaul, Carson Kressley, and Harvey Fierstein!   They could steal all the gays that it took to put on John Paul II’s funeral extravaganza, and then *every* Sunday could be like that!

If you’re smart, you know where I’m going with this.  Yes, that’s right.  We feminists clearly just need to make our own church.  Or, temple, if you like.  We’ll let the gays riff on Catholicism, since the line is so blurry anyhow.  Temple Beth Fallopia is what I’ve got on my mind.  Lose the star of David and place a giant golden uterus over the door.  At Temple Beth Fallopia, paid maternity leave is a divine commandment, freedom to leave an abusive marriage is a god-given right, the ingestion of the Pill is a holy ritual, and abortion is a mitzvah!  What?  You want to defund Planned Parenthood!?  You fuckers are infringing on my religious freedom.  What do I mean, my religious freedom?  I’m Feminish!  That’s right, byotches.  Feminish.  There’s my temple.    We get together on Saturdays and read off of a scroll in a language that you won’t understand because we use words like “reproductive freedom”, “available contraception”, and “equal pay for equal work.”   You want to pay me less than a man?  Yeah, uh, sorry, but my God says you can’t do that.  It infringes on the free practice of my religion.

So go ahead, North Dakota and Texas.  Bring on those religious exemption laws.  We will just make churches for every goddamned thing.  Then who’s going to be laughing?  The pharmacist who tried to deny me a  prescription because he “thinks” it “might” cause an abortion?  Or me, because the asshole pharmacist is infringing on my sacred practice of a highly revered religious rite?

I’ll hand it to you, you fundamentalist psychopaths, you’re ballsy, and getting ballsier.  This is a side effect of you being batshit crazy.  But we’re crazier.  And we’ve had it with your shit.  Sit the fuck down, and shut the fuck up, or there will be a Temple Beth Fallopia on every goddamn corner.  And a First Church of Gay.  Hey, immigrants?  Pot smokers?  Any of you guys want in?

So, what are you going to do, angry Christians? You want to make our governments into religious-exemption pez dispensers and then duke it out in court over every last case of who’s infringing upon whom?  Let’s do it!  I’m serious. Maybe it will finally make you appreciate what religious freedom actually means.  And, for that matter, freedom in general.  Remember: your freedoms to swing your fist around wildly…?  Yeah.  Ends when it smashes into my nose.   My freedoms are precious to me.  So back the hell up or I will be forced to make them holy.  It’s your call.


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What’s REALLY The Matter With Kansas and How (Maybe) to Fix It

29 May 2012

We currently have three administrators here at Women: Rise Up Now. My two partners live in the Northeast; I’ve spent my life in the Southwest (Arizona) and, primarily, the Midwest (Illinois).

My beloved father hails from Kansas. My paternal grandparents were born and raised in Kansas, and I have family there still. A huge source of pride for me is that one of my great-uncles, William Rockhill Nelson, co-founded the Pulitzer Prize-winning newspaper that is now called the Kansas City Star. When Katharine Lee Bates wrote about “amber waves of grain,” she was remembering the wheat fields of Kansas – part of America’s beauty, indeed! I myself have written hundreds of pages of fiction set in Kansas, simply because Emporia seemed the perfect home for my kind, earnest, hard-working characters.

In short, I love the place. Kansas, you occupy my heart.

I think that until the 1990’s, most Americans thought that Kansas was just a black-and-white setting. You know, the land that Dorothy left in order to find Technicolor? Until, of course, she realized she’d rather return to black-and-white than stay in the magical land where she just might get to ride around in bubbles with her eyes dyed to match her gown. Yup, she decided to leave that colorful place, where she could have friends, where she was competent and important, where she was more than just a girl who needed to shut the hell up and do as she was told. She decided to leave the land where she’d proven herself strong enough and worthy enough to keep – get ready for it – a yapping terrier. Because back in Kansas, that dog was scheduled for execution.

Sure, after Dorothy clicked her heels and woke up in bed, they all acted happy and thankful that the tornado didn’t kill her – but I bet the next day, they turned Toto over to the sheriff to have his little brains blown out. Oh, and speaking of the tornado? Although Auntie Em cried out for Dorothy, they all wound up leaving the kid to fend off death alone.
“She got herself into this mess, what with being irresponsible and all; she’ll survive it or she won’t, Em, so getcher ass into this dark hole with us men straight-away!”

I have hidden in basements, I’ve run through blinding rain and golfball-sized hail to reach a storm cellar; no way in hell did I ever, or would I ever, leave someone behind. I would never have said, “Ah, it’s her own damn fault, and I don’t feel like taking any risks for her sake.” I would have found her and helped her – her and her little dog, too.

Kansas is a bunch of adjectives I feel silly using – beautiful, bountiful, haunting. Longtime Kansans are tough, stoic, quick-witted, suspicious people who find themselves saying, “I and the other guy did thus-and-so,” rather than “the other guy and I did thus-and-so,” because Kansans know that the most important element of any personal story is the person telling it.

In the 1990’s, the rest of the country slowly became aware of Fred Phelps. (I’d known about him for a few years already, because he used to preach on the quad at the university I attended; nasty stuff that I’ll write about some other time.) So along with seeing Kansas as a black-and-white state, folks now saw it as the land of queer-hating, funeral-protesting nutbars.

Unless one lived in Arizona. I moved there in the mid-90’s, and Kansas was the go-to place for abortions that even Arizona wouldn’t allow. Honestly, my first day in Arizona, I flipped through my local phone book and was stunned at the ads for abortion services. I’d never seen such a thing in my home state of Illinois! Illinois allows first-trimester abortions only, and the protestors outside abortion clinics are – get this – polite. Those I’ve seen are, anyway. If a woman is on the fence about having an abortion, I bet those rude scary protestors frighten her into running inside the clinic and getting the thing done. The polite protesters in Illinois, on the other hand, just might have stopped a few abortions for women who weren’t really sure that abortion was the right choice for them. Could it be that screaming “baby killer” at a worn-out pregnant person isn’t the way to win her over? Hmmmm.
OK, so, back to Kansas. What’s happening there now is that unless they want to become pregnant, women and girls cannot choose any sexual activity except for masturbation, or sex with other females, or sex with sterile men. Druggists are permitted to be on the lookout for women and girls who want sex but not babies. They are legally allowed to say, “NO, I won’t fill your prescription! My preacher says NO! I’m pretty sure that God says NO! So, NO! And I’m not transferring this prescription order to another pharmacist, because I don’t have to. Ha ha on YOU, you bad, bad girl….”

What is going on in Kansas? When did the land of John Brown, the land of butting out if it’s nunya, become the land that is all up in every Kansas woman’s nether regions? I gave birth, and getting that kid’s head out of my vagina was agony. No way is there room for the state of Kansas in there. I assume that is the case for Kansas women as well. From what I know of my grandmother, they aren’t a different species from the rest of us or anything. They just tend to be quieter. And they say, “I and the other guy.”

So, maybe the solution is for true Kansans to fight that ingrained urge to be stoic and quiet, and instead be all about “I and the other guy.” The most important part of any personal story is the person telling it, right? All true Kansans know this.

Kansans, I am begging you to be… well… not quiet. Just for now. You can be quiet later. I know it’s not easy for you to speak up and complain; you are proud people, rightfully so. But for now, please speak up. You don’t have to agree with my politics, or even agree with me about abortion. But if you are a Kansan, I know you. And I know that people bossing other people chaps your proud, stoic, Kansan ass.

~by Erin