Friday, February 17, 2012


I don't have a lot of time today -- although you may have noticed that I woke up extraordinarily early this morning, by accident really -- but there's so much happening with the GOP's ongoing lemming-like race toward the edge of Contraception Cliff, that I wanted to maybe touch on a couple of points quickly if I could.

1. Greg Sargent over at the Washington Post has an interesting piece up right now laying out the Republican case for why a fight over birth control is one worth having and isn't, in fact, a political and cultural third rail that's going to electrocute them, en masse, during an election year. According to GOP strategist Whit Aryes, the issue isn't about contraception but -- wait for it -- personal freedom. He says the key is to frame the fight, at least optics-wise, as being less about birth control for women and more about the government attempting to trample on religious liberties. For those who've been paying attention, Darrell Issa has made this same basic assertion when it comes to the supposed goal of his little "Very Religious Men" dog and pony show that happened on the Hill yesterday.

The problem with this tack, of course, is that it still lays out almost flawlessly both Republican hypocrisy and the reality of the conservative mindset, at least insofar as where the American right's priorities lie when it comes to which freedoms should be protected and which can be safely sacrificed. The translation of the Aryes/Issa model goes something like this, and there's really no other way around it: Safeguarding the right of people to adhere to the tenets of an ancient superstition and not to offend their magical sky spirit trumps the right of real-world women to control of their own bodies and to easy access to something that grants them safe and healthy reproductive freedom. While the Republicans are trying to cast it as a threat to religion by governmental intrusion, it can just as easily be viewed the other way around. And while both religion and, ostensibly, personal freedom is protected by the Constitution, sorry but we've reached a point in the history of this planet where the needs of the sky spirit should never be allowed to supersede the needs or even wants of people who can, you know, be proven to actually exist.

2. Once again on the ways that this fight tips the GOP's hand when it comes to how staggeringly out-of-touch its thinking is, Matt Osborne put together a pretty good little post on what he calls the "Grandiose Old Patriarchy." The salient quote:

"(Right-wing rhetoric) always poses a zero-sum proposition: if women control their means of reproduction, men are supposedly 'diminished' from their hallowed throne at the family godhead. A perceived loss of privilege always drives resentment politics. In this case, men’s privileges under the antiquated values of the 19th Century are supposedly at risk — which is hilarious, because those values are largely extinct in our culture, even among self-described conservatives. The 'war against religion,' as Darrell Issa defines it anyway, was already fought and lost decades ago. Second point: this is another lost cause being resurrected."

Meanwhile, Irin Carmon over at Salon dissects what Rick Santorum bankroller, Bayer aspirin advocate and crazy old white guy Foster Friess's recent comments say -- loudly and unequivocally -- about the Republican worldview (read: its arrogant patriarchy):

"It’s worth looking at what he said right before (the Bayer comment): 'I get such a chuckle when these things come out. Here we have millions of our fellow Americans unemployed, we have jihadist camps being set up in Latin America, which Rick has been warning about, and people seem to be so preoccupied with sex that I think it says something about our culture. We maybe need a massive therapy session so we can concentrate on what the real issues are.' This is deeply ironic, and not just because Friess has chosen to back a candidate whose singular obsession with state regulation of sexual behavior has helped bring the more extreme stances of the anti-choice movement to the forefront. It bears repeating that Santorum said as recently as October, 'Many of the Christian faith have said, well, that’s OK, contraception is OK. It’s not OK. It’s a license to do things in a sexual realm that is counter to how things are supposed to be.'"

And how are things "supposed to be?" Exactly the way Jesus the Magic Savior dictates. Never forget that.

3. If you've managed to get through most of the blustery right-wing rhetoric on birth control and what's best for women -- and remember, we're not talking about a minority group here, we're talking about half the population -- without getting sick all over the living room floor, there's this bit of conservative pseudo-intellectual masturbation: a "think piece" in the Daily Caller that attempts to get to the bottom of that whole woman problem by asking the troll-baiting question "What Are Women For?" It's ponderous and condescending pretend existentialist horseshit from beginning to end. Feel free to give it a look -- it's so Onion-like that it's not even worth an excerpt.

4. Finally, a standing-o for Carolyn Maloney and Eleanor Holmes Norton for asking the pertinent question about Darrell Issa's -- as Cesca called it -- "He Man Woman-Haters Club" hearing, then basically telling Issa where he can shove the whole thing. Maloney asked, "What I want to know is, where are the women?" of the all-male, all religious leader/scholar panel, not long before she and Norton got up and walked out.

Suck it, Issa. You smug prick.


Brian K. Brookey said...

I heard someone yesterday point out the following irony. In 1960, people were concerned that the Democractic candidate for President would take direction from the Vatican -- which was perceived as a very bad, dangerous thing. In 2012, a Democratic president is being assailed for NOT taking direction from the Vatican -- which is perceived as a very bad, dangerous thing.

The layers of hypocrisy here are just staggering. And even more scary is the idea that institutions should be allowed to decline health care to anyone with whose morals they disagree (gays, cohabitating straight couples, people who drink, dance, chew tobacco, swear -- for that matter interracial couples).

It just amazes me that birth control is an actual campaign issue in 2012.

LK3 said...

A thank you to you and Bob Cesca. Waiting for paypal to transfer my money so I can join the after party and support you two for your intelligence, time ,hard work and willingness to weed through all the insanity for us and give a smart rational, insightful opinion. I live in a very conservative area of NY so to have somewhere to go to have a sane dialogue truly keeps me sane so I thank you. You both have been on fire. And, indeed, a standing O to Carolyn Maloney and Eleanor Holmes Norton.

Steven D Skelton said...

"Safeguarding the right of people to adhere to the tenets of an ancient superstition....trumps the right of real-world women to control of their own bodies and to easy access to something that grants them safe and healthy reproductive freedom."

Framing the question that way is complete horseshit as well. So unless no organization is exempted from providing 100% free contraception, woman don't control their own bodies?

Frankly, that's a bunch of condescending and anti-feminist bullshit. Women aren't helpless to control their bodies without the men making sure they have their pills. I know dozens that do it just fine on their own.

And access can't be easy unless it's 100% paid for by an employer? That's horseshit also. Walk into planned parenthood with a couple of paycheck stubs and you'll walk out with birth control priced on a sliding scale. Walk into walgreens with $3 and you can walk out with a three pack of trojans. Sure, somewhere out there is some unfortunate woman without a walgreens/pp/or $3...but for most women, it's that easy.

Look, this isn't some super easy/cut and dried/ good guy bad guy issue. It's a serious question of the power of the 1st amendment vs. the power of the interstate commerce clause vs. the legal tradition of separation of church and state (which could be used to support arguments from either side.) It's also a question of religious tolerance.

It shouldn't be reduced down to bullshit sound-bytes by either side.

Chez said...

Please, Skelton. Don't even try to play the both-sides meme with me or with this story. The aim of the GOP in all of this has been incredibly obvious since day one and their position on it is largely indefensible. Contraception should be covered fully for a number of reasons, not the least of which is the logical argument that keeping women healthy -- and cutting down on unwanted pregnancies -- actually saves the system, employers, everyone, money in the long run. The fact is that the GOP is placing a hurdle -- maybe a small hurdle, but one that speaks volumes -- between women and something many need for both their health and reproductive freedom.

As for religious tolerance, I fully admit that I have zero -- and when it shows itself full-force is when real-world concerns are set aside in favor of lending deference to superstitious nonsense. It's immoral and it's wrong.

ntx said...

Chez, thank you for the link to The Daily Caller. Pure gold!

James Poulos: "Much good would come from a broader recognition that women have a privileged relationship with the natural world."

Wasn't it Jimmy the Greek who said, "The black is a better athlete to begin with because he's been bred to be that way." Same idea, right?

Steven D Skelton said...


Sometimes it's not a meme. There really is merit to what both sides are saying....when you can get past the blustering/posturing/showmanship and demonizing.

It is undoubtedly true that greater access to birth control benefits the entire health care system in general and women in particular. Women who use birth control are more likely to receive regular check ups and therefore catch problems sooner....I don't need to lay out the argument in favor of birth control...

Moving on

I'm sure there is an example or two out there so I can't speak in absolutes...but almost nobody wants to block women's access to birth control and it's a dick move to accuse opponents of this rule of that. I have never heard a single incident of any of these Catholic institutions attempting to force their employees (Catholic or non-Catholic) to refrain from using birth control.

The question is about who pays for it.

I'm not Catholic. I don't get biblical issue with birth control. It seems kind of stupid to me.

But, I get very squeamish at forcing institutions and those of faith to violate their religious principles. Obviously, there are limits. I don't get squeamish about telling Warren Jeffs he can't fuck 12 year old girls and I don't have a problem with stopping Muslims from committing acts of terror as a part of their Jihad.

Therefore, imho, the question here is whether or not it is reasonable for these institutions to be granted waivers. I lean towards yes. Others may disagree.

But regardless, we should at least be talking about the question without all the horseshit about trying to force religious beliefs on others or controlling women's bodies or denying access to contraception.

Because none of that is true.

Chez said...

I don't have time to fully debate this, but a couple of quick things: A) While certainly the actions of some religions are far, far worse than the actions of others -- as you cited -- they're really all pretty much crazy in one way or another and in a perfect world wouldn't be allowed to in any way supersede real-world necessity or concerns. B) Really? You've never seen a Catholic organization attempt to stop women from using birth control? That's been policy in the church pretty much since the dawn of its existence. Just because it doesn't grab women by the arms and chain them to a wall (anymore) to keep them away from the pill doesn't mean there isn't significant pressure.

Steven D Skelton said...


Your gonna have to get 38 states and 2/3 of the house and senate to get that perfect world. But keep in mind, that same 1st amendment that protects their right to worship also protects your right not to. Places in the world that don't protect the right not to worship are, for the most part, the shitholes of the planet.

Of course the Catholic church attempts to persuade people to refrain from using birth control. But let me answer your question this way, I have never seen a Catholic institution attempt to prohibit the use of birth control. Doesn't mean it hasn't happened at some point somewhere....I've never heard of it.

Chez said...

Hmmm. Do you really think the First Amendment has kept religion safely out of politics and government?

Please tell me you're not that naive.

Eric said...

Steven: and what if it's a religious group's tenet of faith to deny a secular service like medical care based on sexual orientation or ethnicity? I mean, the point is that, as you say, there are limits on a religious group's religious rights. However, I think the limits are actually pretty easily drawn and not a complicated matter at all: if your religious sect is in a secular role--e.g. the role of employer, as opposed to the role of admistering a sacrament--you play by the same secular rules everybody else follows. You perform the job you've taken on, and if you can't for whatever reason, you stop performing it.

Nobody is forcing the Catholic Church to hire secretaries, nurses, doctors, teachers, etc. Play in the public sphere, follow the public's rules. Doesn't seem complicated at all.

A personal endnote: I'm an assistant public defender, meaning I'm assigned to represent people who need my legal services, not people whose morals I approve of. Do you see where I'm going with this? If I balk at representing somebody who needs my help just because I have moral qualms about their values or behavior, I have no business continuing in this job. None. And the fact I do my duty by a client to the best of my ability because I think my job is the right thing to do doesn't mean I endorse that client's actions or beliefs. It means I'm responsible. You know what I think is offensive and insulting? Someone shirking that kind of responsibility because they can't separate their "morals" from their obligations. To hell with these Church fathers.

pea said...

I love watching a bunch of guys argue about whether I should have access to birth control. Luckily for me, I do, and I can afford it. So very many more cannot.

So Steve, first of all, lots of women can't just "walk into planned parenthood" because it would actually take a bus, train or plane to get to one. Do you know how many Planned Parenthood facilities there are in Mississippi? ONE. I guess every female resident in MS better move their asses to Hattiesburg. In Alabama? TWO. And I do believe that there are no facilities that provide abortions in these states either. Well done, right wing fucktards, for providing the rock and the hard place.

Something else about poor women who live in poor states - they can't fucking afford the travel expenses to get to these places just to get a prescription for a pill which they also most likely can't afford, even if it is on a sliding scale.

Do you not understand that when someone is poor, even $3 to buy a 3-pack of Trojans is a HUGE expense? And what, so poor people are only allowed to fuck 3 times a month? If a woman has an active sexual life, suddenly that $3 (and is that before or after tax) turns into $30 and there goes the payment for the electric bill.

And of course the most important thing - most of my friends take the pill to control some other health-related issue, like cramps, skin problems and other hormonal issues. A condom can't do jack squat about that.

GOD, men are so fucking irritating sometimes. Keep your faces out of my cunt unless I want it there. Sheesh.

pea said...

By the way, that's not to say I'm not happy there are a lot of you fellas sticking up for womankind. So to speak.

Steven D Skelton said...


I stopped reading after the first sentence of your comment. It was so fucking stupid, I really don't care what you had to say after that.

But I promise to read the rest of it if you can tell me exactly who on this comment thread is taking the con side of whether or not you should have access to birth control.

Anonymous said...

@Steven D Skeleton said:

"Of course the Catholic church attempts to persuade people to refrain from using birth control. But let me answer your question this way, I have never seen a Catholic institution attempt to prohibit the use of birth control. Doesn't mean it hasn't happened at some point somewhere....I've never heard of it."

Talk about horseshit or just plain ignorance. Sheesh!

Pope claims condoms could make African Aids crisis worse
Pontiff's remarks on first visit to continent outrage health agencies trying to halt spread of HIV and Aids

How do you like them zygotes?

Anonymous said...

---I was rushed and too eager to respond to @Steve so I forgot to add this in to my earlier response:

You see the church doesn't have to prohibit anything, just the mere mention of it being said by the pope is practically like an edict from on high that is a prohibition to most of the uneducated people in Africa, likely to be exposed to HIV. Missionaries have laid all the groundwork necessary so that the church doesn't really have to use the legal means to enforce the sadistic and primitive ideology.

Now, how about them zygotes?

Mart said...

The real tragedy is all the trillions of Pastor seeds that have run down the drain or into the anus' of little boys. These men should be forced to dump their seed into a woman's private parts to make fine fat cheeked babies as dictated by the Bible.

As Missouri's Senator Roy Blunt recent amendment that any large employer can opt out of health care provisions for any moral reason makes clear; this is all typical Republican BS - this time to tear apart the best provisions of Obamacares piece by piece. Don't improve it fellows, just make sure the worst health care system of any industrialized nation stays that way.

Read somewhere that the Church contraceptive ruling was made the 30's by Pope Pious I Ain't Getting Any and Neither Should You the II. He based it on God getting mad at some dude for jagging off.

Steven D Skelton said...

Anon 6:57

Are you stupid, disabled or illiterate?

The pope spoke out against condom usage in Africa. Stupid...sure...but that in now way refutes the comment you cut and pasted.

Do me a favor...if you want to disagree, that's great. That's why we are all here. But please don't ever respond to me with something so patently stupid ever again.

Why don't you be more like Chez or commenter Eric instead? See, they put some thought into what they said. That makes for an enjoyable conversation. We can share ideas and maybe when it's over we will have gained a little perspective.

But your comment reminds me of arguing with a drunk lying in a pool of his own puke about whether it's time to go. All you get back is fucking inanity.

Oh, and grow a fucking set. Put your name on what you have to say.

Steven D Skelton said...


I would like to apologize for my last comment. I shouldn't have been personal in my response. I comment quite a bit on a few sites, and I hold myself to a higher standard than that.

What you said was fucking stupid, but that doesn't mean you are. I don't know you from Adam. For all I know, you're a bright and well meaning guy (or gal) and you just missed the mark on that one.

I wouldn't want someone judging me off of one stupid comment, and I should refrain from doing the same.

pea said...


Fuck you.


Anonymous said...

War on religion? Don’t make me laugh. The Republicans and Tea-publicans need a big distraction from the sorry set of presidential candidates that they have fielded. And the churches need a big distraction from all those costly court settlements - a way to rally their dispirited troops, in a a fake “war on religion”. One of the legitimate functions of government is to promote equality and fairness for all, by having everyone play by the same rules. Absolutely NO ONE is coming into our Churches and trying to tell parishioners what to believe...or forcing them to use contraception. BUT If the Bishops (and other denominations) want to start businesses that employ millions of people of varying faiths -or no "faith" at all- THEN they must play by the rules that other workers live by. ..ESPECIALLY if the churches use our tax dollars in the process.  Just because a religious group in America claims to believe something, we cannot excuse them from obeying the law in the PUBLIC arena, based on that belief. They can legally attempt to change the law, not to deny it outright. And if they want to plunge overtly into politics from the pulpit, then they should give up their tax-exempt status. Are they churches, or are they super-pacs? They need to decide- or have the IRS decide for them. Did I miss something, or when it comes to the "sanctity of life", is every single righteous Catholic still a card carrying conscientious objector, still refusing to take up arms,  still totally against the death penalty, and still against contraception and birth-control in all its forms? Oh well, hypocrisy is often at the heart of politics, and politics masquerading as religion even more so. This country is an invigorating mixture of all the diversity that life has to offer, drawing its strength FROM that diversity. But TRUE religious freedom gives everyone the right to make personal decisions, including whether to use birth control, based on our own beliefs and according to what is best for our health and our families. It fiercely protects the rights of all of us to practice our faith. It does not, however, give anyone, including the bishops, the right to impose their beliefs on others and discriminate in the name of religious liberty. People of faith should not let themselves be used as pawns in a fake war “against religion”’. The ONLY war going on here is a war against women and families who want to control their own futures. THAT’S what I call liberty! It’s a war ...a war between the lies about religious liberty, and the truth. Don’t believe the hype! Think for yourself! Postcript: An interesting point to consider is this: Mitt Romney tried to score some points by telling us that his dad was born in Mexico. HOWEVER, the REASON for that was that his Mormon Grand-dad LEFT the US in the 1880’s because laws against polygamy were passed in the US (and being a Mormon, his Grand-dad wanted to keep his multiple wives). SO... if we follow the “logic” of the people crying crocodile tears about a non-existent “war on religion”, then the US should have allowed polygamy (and who knows what else) just because a particular religion claimed it as their belief. GIVE ME A BREAK!

Claude Weaver said...

Mr. Skelton, I can't speak for anyone else, but here is how I see the issue:

1) Republicans cannot honestly crow about removing government control from personal lives, but try to use said control to dictate the personal decisions of millions of women. It is hypocrisy on a ludicrous level.

2) As far as the religious justification goes, the problem comes in when a person forced to abide by someone else's morality. If a woman makes the decision that she does not want birth control, for any reason, it is indeed her decision. Nobody is trying to force these women to use this.

3) The conservative argument against birth control doesn't just suffer from hypocrisy; it suffers from the arrogant means used to promote it. There has been no attempt to even acknowledge that there are women who choose not to follow a particular dogma that they approve of. In nearly every hypothetical they have presented, women are lust-filled creatures that cannot or will not resist the urge to have sex if the threat of conception is not held against them.

4) Religion, regardless of how some may categorize it as either an opiate, a scam, or a form of brainwashing, still requires a level of remittance. A person still has the choice to allow a church to have influence in their lives. THAT is what I think of when I hear freedom of religion. What these men are arguing for is not that.

5) Finally, the religious institutions who are so put out by this requirement are treading on thin ice regarding another law: equal opportunity employment. If they are not willing to provide the proper compensation (which includes health coverage if stated as such) for these jobs, then hey are basically telling any woman who does not subscribe to a morality that has no bearing on their abililty to do the job to not even bother working there, even if everything else was acceptable.

For someone who claims to have such a desire for civil conversation, you are certainly quick to dismiss others' opinions as stupid simply because they do not jive with yours.

Steven D Skelton said...

For Fuck's sake...where do you people get that I'm against birth control or women using birth control?

Ah fuck amongst yourselves.

Chez said...

You know I appreciate your comments, man, but I think you're missing the point just a little. No, of course you're not personally against birth control or women using birth control. But you're arguing, to some extent, in favor of those who are using the contraceptive issue to flex their masculine muscle, transfer the decision on how easy the access to birth control is into the hands of a moralistic few (who don't approve of birth control), and once again penalize a woman for her desire to have the most reproductive freedom possible. Their motives are 100% transparent here -- and you're sort of backing them.

kanye said...

This isn't about healthcare or 1st Amendment protections; religiosity or icky women-parts. It certainly isn't "just the sound of ideologies clashing".

Griswold has always been the endgame. And by that, I mean Griswold v. Connecticut.

They're going after the "Right to Privacy", and if this fight is fought on terms other than that, it will be lost.