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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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Debater Hater

by Siobhan Carroll, W:RUN Contributor
Braevehearts blog

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See you next week, people.

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


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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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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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RNC Day 3 – Convention Cop

By Deliciously Geek
Guest Blogger and Women’s Historian

So in what could only be called “a tragic failure to refuse” I blindly agreed to be Thursday’s “Convention Cop” for WRUN. No doubt the admins could have found someone a little more passionate, a little more knowledgeable about politics  – but on what should be the biggest night of the convention, with Romney speaking for himself finally, you lovely lot have little old me.

I am not a politician, an activist, or even a partisan – I’m first a feminist and an historian. And what you get in response to tonight’s RNC coverage will no doubt reflect those perspectives.

To begin with, the Reagan-worshipping Gingriches, Newt and the ever-plastic Callista compared Romney’s popularity to the actor-turned-president. This was followed by the inevitable Carter-Obama comparison and how, during each of their terms, neither was able to turn around the government they had been handed- which is probably the most important overlooked fact of the entire rhetoric. Carter inherited his government from Gerald Ford, perhaps the most accidentally-comedic president since Taft; Ford himself had inherited a broken, war-scarred government, and he was inept at worst, unprepared at best. Obama inherited a country which had spent seven years fighting a “war on terror” that it was nowhere near to winning. Not once has anyone given a thought about where the country had come from before Democrats such as Carter, Clinton, and Obama were elected.

Have the Gingriches, and those who are like-minded, completely forgotten the principles of Reaganomics? I suppose I can offer a quick refresher: In 1980, Reagan proposed a phased-in 30% tax cut, the bulk of which would be concentrated in the upper-income brackets. This focus on those who had the most wealth was based on the idea that they would spend more, which would in turn boost the middle-income economy, causing them to spend more and boost the lower-income economy. This supposed “trickle-down theory” was meant to stimulate the entire economy from the top down. The key word here was trickle- that’s all that was left when it finally reached those of the lowest income brackets. Under Reagan, the economy fluctuated wildly, and that paired with trillions in defense spending caused the largest deficit the country had ever seen: the national debt tripled between 1980 and 1988.

…And this is the America the GOP wants to restore? “The decade of greed” is best left to the history and economics books. We are no longer at war with a gas-giant like the Soviet Union. We are no longer trying to quash Communism at every corner. Ladies (and the occasional gentleman), we are only fighting the legacy of those years.

Whew – that got deep. Let’s bring in the comic relief – Mr. Clint Eastwood! Now, I love me some Eastwood – Dirty Harry, the Good the Bad and the Ugly, Any Which Way but Loose – but I’m wondering who thought it would be a good idea to allow him to speak tonight. He might have had a few amusing things to say, but frankly, he just looked ridiculous talking to the empty chair he kept affectionately referring to as “Mr. President.” Get this man a handler – that would make MY day.

Eastwood awkwardly segued to Mark Rubio, the former VP-would be hopeful from Florida. As early as last fall, I even conceded that the smart move would be to choose Rubio as a running mate – he had the melting pot written all over him. The problem, I think, is that Rubio comes from Florida, that state of dangling chad and Jeb Bush. While his ethnic background might have been a boon, his political background and experience might have been more of a hindrance.  So let’s hear him speak about not being chosen, and why we should believe Romney is the man for the mission.

Rubio’s focus seemed to be twofold: you can come from nothing and become something; and our path to economic salvation is by trusting in god. Time for an ethics lesson and an history lesson.

Couched in a number of similar phrases, Rubio said, “[Obama] tells Americans that they’re worse off because others are better off. That people got rich by making others poor”. This is a cold, harsh truth of capitalism: one cannot prosper, under capitalist theory, without someone else falling into poverty. In order for a capitalist economy to function properly, there must be always be some small percentage of unemployment, some percentage of the population in abject poverty, in order to keep the cost of commodities (food, land, and even labor itself) down and market prices even. Not a pretty picture if you spend time considering just how much we Americans value our “enlightened capitalist” views.

Now the history lesson:
Rubio eventually claimed that “America was founded on the principle that every person has God-given rights.” The problem here is that America was founded on the principles of the Enlightenment: there is a natural order to the universe, and as human beings we are granted natural rights which include life, liberty, and property. We have the right to self-government; we have the right to form a government as a way to protect those rights, in order to advance humanity and society as a whole, with the full knowledge that we give up some of our natural rights in order to form said government. Our founding fathers were faithful students of the Enlightenment, not religious men, who wanted nothing more than for the white landed males to find happiness (self-actualization) within a self-administered government. The original motto of our country was E Pluribus Unum – “one from many”- referring to the unifying of the various colonies into one federal unit. There was no mention of god or trust, just the firm assertion that in solidarity there is strength.

Perhaps Rubio could take a pointer from that lesson – his speech was very much about himself, not about what his party could do for this country. He wasn’t priming the audience for Romney. He was promoting himself for 2016.

But because we are still mired in 2012, Romney made his grand entrance like the great white bride making her short-lived but glorious voyage down the aisle. Thankfully, there were no hideously dressed bridesmaids… I take that back. There was this guy.

Romney’s speech was perhaps best summed up when he said “I was born in the middle of the century in the middle of the country” – he could have stopped there and we would have all come to the same conclusion: Romney is middle of the road. His delivery was clearly rehearsed, perhaps coached by Mr. Cleaver, and it seemed as if applause and laugh tracks were timed appropriately. He predictably emphasized Obama’s shortcomings in the last few years, he managed to say many words with little substance, and he made promises that he will no doubt be unable to keep should he be elected. That is the lot of politicians.

However, the tame, controlled Romney was briefly overcome when he got to the following: “What America needs is jobs. Lots of jobs.” No one can argue with that – our unemployment rate is uncomfortable at best; middle-aged experienced employees are competing with college-dropouts for retail and entry-level positions at the most base rate of pay. Romney worked himself into a frenzy by the time he got to “by 2020, North America will be energy independent by taking full advantage of our oil and coal and gas and nuclear and renewables” and he topped it off with the icing of Republican cake: “I will protect the sanctity of life. I will honor the institution of marriage. And I will guarantee America’s first liberty: the freedom of religion.” Freedom of, or freedom from? Romney ended his appearance with a group prayer after the children and grandchildren had been trotted out for public adoration.

This has been called Romney’s “speech of his life” – but not for its content or its promise. This was a speech about his life, about Romney the man, and his obviously passionate views about his family and his values. In anyone else, this might be admirable. In a politician, this can be terrifying – especially in a politician who seems to have studied acting under Hugh Beaumont or Robert Young.  As I watch and listen to Romney speak, I keep thinking he’s playing a politician. He sounds…fake.  Perhaps he really, truly, fundamentally believes what he’s saying, but his delivery comes across like an overblown Will Ferrell role.  And honestly, this shakes my very soul – we put an actor in the White House once. Look at what happened. Look. Carefully.


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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