Today Is A Dark Day

So, there were no surprises in the Supreme Court ruling in the case of Dobbs v Jackson Women’s Health, but nonetheless it was a gut punch for at least half the people in this nation.  We knew this was to be the outcome, for we read Justice Alito’s leaked opinion on May 2nd and our jaws dropped then, just as they did this morning.

What hypocrisy that yesterday the Court ruled it illegal for states to do ANYTHING to restrict the rights of gun owners, and today the same Court ruled that it is perfectly legal to do EVERYTHING possible to restrict the rights of women.  It should be noted that the majority of gun owners are, in fact, males.  Well, my friends, we women know where we stand.

But it isn’t going to stop here, and Justice Clarence Thomas, husband of insurrectionist Virginia Thomas, has already made that perfectly clear …

“We should reconsider all of this Court’s substantive due process precedents, including Griswold, Lawrence, and Obergefell. We have a duty to correct the error established in those precedents. After overruling these demonstrably erroneous decisions, the question would remain whether other constitutional provisions guarantee the myriad rights that our substantive due process cases have generated.”

The cases he refers directly to are:

  • Griswold v Connecticut – a landmark decision of the U.S. Supreme Court in which the Court ruled that the Constitution of the United States protects the liberty of married couples to buy and use contraceptives without government restriction.
  • Lawrence v. Texas – a decision of the U.S. Supreme Court in which the Court ruled that sanctions of criminal punishment for those who commit sodomy are unconstitutional.
  • Obergefell v Hodges – a landmark civil rights case in which the Supreme ruled that the fundamental right to marry is guaranteed to same-sex couples by both the Due Process Clause and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.

I have lost all respect for the United States Supreme Court, for they have taken this nation into darkness, have shirked their duty to the U.S. Constitution, to the nation, and to We the People.  Today, the Court is but another arm of the right-wing of the Republican Party, doing not what is in the best interest of the people, but what is demanded by the religious fanatics who would control every aspect of our lives.

The majority of people in this country want gun laws that will protect us and our families from such incidents as Uvalde and Buffalo.  The majority of people in this nation believe women should have the right to make their own health decisions.  But the will of the majority matters not on this dark day, for the spate of recent decisions have all gone against what the majority of people in this nation want.  This can only lead me to believe that in some sense, we are already living under an autocratic government if the will of the majority can be completely disregarded while the will of the few wins the day.  Today, it was women’s rights, but tomorrow …

First they came for the Communists
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a Communist

Then they came for the Socialists
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a Socialist

Then they came for the trade unionists
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a trade unionist

Then they came for the Jews
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a Jew

Then they came for me
And there was no one left
To speak out for me

Poem by Martin Niemöller

It’s Not About Abortion – It’s About Life

Yesterday, Planned Parenthood announced that it would withdraw from the federal family planning program known as Title X.  The Title X Family Planning program was enacted in 1970 as Title X of the Public Health Service Act. Title X is the only federal grant program dedicated solely to providing individuals with comprehensive family planning and related preventive health services. The Title X program is designed to provide access to contraceptive services, supplies, and information to all who want and need them. By law, priority is given to persons from low-income families.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), under Trump’s hand-picked Alex Azar, attached a new condition on receiving Title X funding – that the recipients, such as Planned Parenthood, can no longer make abortion referrals.  This, my friends, is nothing more than the federal government attempting to inflict the beliefs of the Christian evangelical community, a vocal minority of the population, on everyone in the nation.  It is an attempt to make religious beliefs into public policy.  It is a huge step away from being the secular nation that we started out to be, that we need to be.

But let’s be clear … while the intent may be to deprive a woman of the right to have an abortion, this is not about abortion.  This is not about whether a woman has a right to decide what is right for her, in some cases having an abortion.  This is about whether a woman has a right to live or not.  Planned Parenthood is not just about helping a woman get an abortion, and in fact that is a very small percentage of what they do.

planned-parenthood-servicesAs you can see, money spent on providing abortions is a mere 3% of their total, AND … NO FEDERAL MONIES are spent on abortion.  Now, look at some of the other things they do …

  • STD and HIV testing and treatment
  • Birth control
  • Screening for reproductive cancers (like breast, cervical, testicular, and prostate cancers)
  • Pap tests and well woman exams
  • Vaccines
  • PrEP and PEP (medicines to help prevent HIV)
  • Pregnancy services and prenatal care
  • Transgender health services, including hormone replacement therapy (HRT)
  • Vasectomy and other sterilization services
  • Condoms

Planned Parenthood saves lives.  In many rural areas, they are the only provider of the above services that may save a woman’s life.  Or a man’s, for you may note they also do screening for testicular and prostate cancers.  They provide prenatal care … the anti-abortion group might do well to consider that they are robbing that fetus they care so much about of such things as the vitamins to ensure they are healthy, and regular screenings to detect any potential problems that might be avoided with timely treatment.

Evangelicals have been calling for the government to ‘de-fund’ Planned Parenthood for decades, but instead of de-funding it, the government set a criteria that they could no longer make abortion referrals.  Planned Parenthood said, in essence, “Okay, keep your money then … for there are times that a woman’s life and health depend on abortion.”

There’s a certain irony here, too, that a large portion of what Planned Parenthood does involves birth control and family planning education, both of which significantly lower the need for abortions, and yet those who claim to be “pro-life” are depriving women of those services as well.

I do not applaud Planned Parenthood’s decision, but I do support it … it was the right thing for them to do.  However, I do not support the government’s imposition of the criteria, I do not support the evangelicals who coerced the government into setting the criteria.  Those evangelicals call themselves “pro-life”, but they are not.  They are not considering the lives of the thousands of women who rely on Planned Parenthood for birth control, annual checkups, family planning services, and much more.

There will be backlash over this.  I do not know what the end result will be, but somehow, we must continue to fund Planned Parenthood.  They do not provide abortions with Title X funds, but only with private funding.  They provide a tremendous service to women, they save lives of both babies and mothers, and they are an integral part of women’s healthcare, especially among lower income women.

I came across a short video on Scottie’s Toybox that I think explains the issue quite well … please take a minute or two … well, actually 7 minutes, but it is well worth the time spent.

Are we going to be held hostage in other areas by the evangelicals?  Are we going to let them dictate, for example, that there must be mandatory religious classes in schools?  Are we going to let them tell us that it is okay for employers to discriminate against LGBT people?  The United States is, appropriately, a secular nation, not as some would believe, a Christian nation.  Twenty-five percent, fully one-fourth of this nation are non-Christians.  We are Jews, Buddhists, Muslims, atheists and agnostics.  We have a voice, too.  We pay taxes, too.  We contribute our skills and ideas as much as any.  And 50.52% of this nation are women.  We pay taxes and have a voice, too.

Abortion is not the root of all evil.  Often a woman has an abortion because she is unable to provide for her child.  The world is already over-populated and the last thing we need are more hungry mouths to feed.  Those same people who call for an end to all abortions, also fight against their tax dollars going to help feed and shelter those children once they are born.  Pro-life???  I don’t think so … just anti-women.  If you ever doubted that it’s still a man’s world, doubt no more.mans world

U.S. Rules The World???

As I noted in a post earlier this week, there is a movement among republicans and groups who misnomer themselves as “pro-life” to overturn Roe v Wade, the Supreme Court decision from 1973 that gave women the right to make their own medical decisions when it comes to abortion.  A growing number of states have passed or are attempting to pass highly restrictive laws that contradict Roe v Wade and would take away women’s rights.  I had not planned to revisit this issue this soon, but something came to my attention that stirred my anger yet again …

Trump is trying to impose his and the evangelical’s heinous views on other nations as well, cutting off all funding to any overseas organization or clinic that will not agree to a complete ban on even discussing abortion.  The ban, dubbed the “global gag”, was actually instituted by Ronald Reagan, but has been revoked by every democratic president, and re-instated by every republican president since then.  And along came Donald Trump.  Donnie, so eager to please the only people who support him, the radical right-wing evangelicals, has decided that he (or rather people like Pat Robertson and Franklin Graham) knows what is best for the 7.7 billion people living on planet Earth.

In March, the US extended the gag, stating that any organization counselling women on abortion and using funds from elsewhere – even from its own government or a donor in another country – will no longer be eligible for any US funding.  Take, for example, an international health care agency that provides women’s health care, possibly including family planning and abortion counselling, but also treating kids with HIV in other countries … countries where there is no women’s health planning, for it is illegal.  Those organizations will no longer be eligible for any funds from the U.S., not even to take care of sick children in African nations.

My friend Jeannie, who lives in the Netherlands, told me the other day that “The Netherlands have one most liberal laws about abortion in Western Europe, but the number of actual abortions are amongst the lowest worldwide.”  Think about this, folks … facts, not fantasy.  A study published last year by the Guttmacher Institute found that countries with the most restrictive abortion laws also have the highest rates of abortion and that easier access to birth control drives down abortion rates.

A 2012 study found that when women got no-cost birth control, the number of unplanned pregnancies and abortions fell by between 62 and 78 percent. But political appointees under Trump advocate for abstinence-only approaches, which have been shown not to affect unplanned pregnancy rates.  Not to mention that they are impractical.

This isn’t just about abortion, people … this is about making women second-class citizens around the globe.  This is about men’s dominance over women.  In many nations women already have few independent rights, but in the Western world, women have come a long way in the past century or two.  In the U.S., we are now allowed to vote as we choose, to own property, and there are laws to ensure we receive equal pay and treatment in the workplace, though the reality is often something different.  And for the past nearly 50 years, we have been able to make our own health decisions.  We cannot … we must not … allow this abomination to continue.

The United States is a secular nation whereby the government does not favour any one religion over another, and no religious organization or cult should be able to influence the law of the land to the detriment of all others.  The United States is one of 195 nations on this globe, and we do not have the right to set policy in other nations.  It is the height of arrogance to think that we do.  It is time for the evangelicals to understand that they may have a place in this country, but that their beliefs are not shared by us all, and that the rest of us have rights also.  It is time for government to base decisions on facts, not the religious fantasies of one group.

If abortion rights are taken from us, the abortion rates won’t drop, but more women will die as they seek back-alley or do-it-yourself abortions.  That is an undisputable fact.  Let this nation legislate based on facts, and let other nations decide their own policy … nobody died and left the right-wing white evangelicals leaders of the world.  They will take us back to the Dark Ages if we let them.

A Snarky Snippet Friday …

It seems that the closer it comes to election day, the more fired up the rhetoric gets, the snarkier I feel.  Having just finished a three-part series on Voter Apathy, I was ready to let loose with some snark this afternoon!


A big deal …

1-mike-pence.w330.h412“I heard Oprah was in town today. And I heard Will Ferrell was going door-to-door the other day. Well, I’d like to remind Stacey (Abrams) and Oprah and Will Ferrell — I’m kind of a big deal, too.”

— Vice President Mike Pence at a campaign event for gubernatorial candidate Brian Kemp in Georgia, reminding voters he’s a big-ticket name, too.

As one commenter said: “On one side, beloved American institutions. On the other, a man with as much charisma as an empty cottage-cheese tub.”

 


The judge can’t make up his mind …

Remember two weeks ago when I wrote a piece on some of the ways in which states are disenfranchising certain groups of voters?  One such state was North Dakota, where voter identification laws require an ID with an actual street address. Problem is that many of the Native Americans live in rural areas where their address is a P.O. box.

Late Tuesday, the Spirit Lake Tribe and six individuals filed suit in U.S. District Court to prevent North Dakota’s new voter ID laws from being implemented during next week’s mid-term elections.  Seems reasonable, yes?  Apparently not to U.S. District Judge Daniel Hovland, who declined to grant emergency relief and ruled that granting an injunction days before the election “will create as much confusion as it will alleviate.”  Say what???

Daniel Hovland

Judge Hovland

Versions of North Dakota’s voter identification law have been the subject of litigation for the past few years. Earlier this year, the very same Judge Daniel Hovland found the requirements, including identification carrying a residential street address, disproportionately burdened Native American voters.  He also found that thousands of Native Americans were less likely to possess identification that met the requirements or the documentation required to obtain identification.

So, to clarify, the judge has understood for some time that the laws are restrictive and keep thousands of Native Americans from voting, but he feels it would be too confusing to put a hold on the laws in order to allow Native Americans to vote in next week’s election.  This move is almost certain to unseat democratic Senator Heidi Heitkamp who is trailing behind her republican challenger, Kevin Cramer by 7-9 percentage points.  Does anybody smell a rat here?  Fair and honest elections?  Balderdash!!!

Heitkamp-Cramer.jpg

Heidi Heitkamp / Kevin Cramer


Another strike against women …

Okay, so the evangelical right-wing republicans are dead-set against abortion under any and all circumstances, right?  No exceptions, life begins before the cigarette is even lit, and is something sacred from that point forward.  So, doesn’t it make sense that those same people would favour birth control so that there would be far fewer abortions needed, and an added bonus, far fewer children in need of help from the government for such luxuries as medical care, food, clothing and shelter?  But no … they want to be able to determine whether their religion allows a woman access to birth control, too!

Trump is attempting to revise the rules of ACA in order to allow companies to refuse to cover birth control in their employee health plans if they have moral or religious objections.  Thus far, the courts have struck his revision down twice, but he has once again made what is said to be a minor adjustment in hopes of getting the blessing of the courts before next week’s mid-term elections.  The average cost of birth control, if not covered under an insurance plan, is $160 – $600 per year.  It may not sound like much, but to a lot of women, that may be two months’ worth of groceries.

I see this as blatant misogyny … an attempt to dictate that “Woman, you WILL have babies whether you desire to or not!” 


Even ice cream goes political …

According to a statement by Ben & Jerry’s founders, Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield …

“We cannot ignore the Trump administration’s attacks on our values, our environment, and our very humanity. We cannot stand silent while disenfranchised groups are silenced and ignored. We must act, we must resist. Introducing Pecan Resist, a new Limited Batch flavor that packs so much more than fudge and nuts under its lid. This flavor supports organizations that are working on the front lines of the resistance, supporting equality, justice, and respect for everyone. Featuring chocolate ice cream with white fudge chunks, dark fudge chunks, pecans, walnuts, and fudge-covered almonds, it’s a nutty delight that’s sending a powerful message. Together, we can resist. Learn more and find it near you here: http://benjerry.com/pecanresist

The reviews on Twitter were a mixed bag …

  • I am never purchasing anything at Ben and Jerry’s again, this is disgraceful.
  • I am proud to announce my next flavor of Ben and Jerry’s I will be eating….. none of the above. Political food makes my stomach turn.
  • My new favorite ice cream!
    That’s how you make a statement
    And take a stand!
    Well done @benandjerrys
    .. if you wanna make another
    flavor called Kid Vicious
    You have my permission!#PecanResist#TheResistance#Vote #KidVicious

And there you have it … another episode of Filosofa’s Snarky Snippets!  Happy Friday and have a great weekend, my friends!Happy Friday

Women’s ‘Rights’? HAH!

Way back in the beginning days of this nation, women were not allowed to own property, nor were they allowed to vote.  Women were basically considered, as were African-Americans, to be chattel, possessions. women-property-rightsGradually … and I do mean gradually, ever so s-l-o-w-l-y … women gained a few human rights, such as the right to own property (1848-1895) and the right to vote (1920 – 19th Amendment).  It would be 1963 before it was decided that women should receive equal pay for performing the same job duties as men.

Women’s rights has been every bit as much a struggle as were civil rights for African-Americans, albeit not as violent.  By the end of the 20th century, most would tell you that women were now fully equal in the eyes of the law to men, that the barriers for women’s equality had been removed.  Remember back in the 1970s, the advertisements for Virginia Slims cigarettes, whose slogan was “You’ve Come A Long Way, Baby!”? virginia-super-slims-advertisement1.jpgBut in this, the year 2018, I would argue that we’ve still got a long way to go.  Two issues prove my point.

The first, is whether a woman has sovereign rights over her own body, and anyone but a fool knows the answer to that is that ‘no’. There is a push today, mainly by the Republican Party on behalf of the evangelical Christians, to deny women access to both birth control and abortion.  Strange, don’t you think, that there is no hue and cry about men obtaining drugs such as Viagra, but women and birth control is a different matter.

In 1973, the issue of abortion was settled by the Supreme Court in the case of Roe v Wade, and it was ruled that a woman has the right to seek an abortion if she so chooses.  But the ruling has been the subject of much criticism by Christian churches, and in 2016, when Donald Trump was campaigning for the office of president, he appealed to the evangelicals by promising to appoint judges who would overturn Roe v Wade.

Furthermore, access to birth control has been challenged and although the Affordable Care Act (ACA) requires that employer-sponsored health insurance must provide coverage for birth control, again the Christian groups stepped in and the courts have ruled against women’s rights.  Newly-minted Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch is partly to thank for that one.

There is much, much more I could say about these assaults on women’s rights, but I want to move on to my second point, which is the one prevalent in today’s news, and that is the right of women to be respected, to be taken seriously, to not be turned into a sex object and the brunt of male perversity.

The subject, of course, is Dr. Christine Blasely, the woman who came forth to tell of the time, some 30+ years ago, that Brett Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her during a party.  I won’t re-hash the details, for you’ve heard various versions likely hundreds of times in the past week unless you’ve been in a coma.  But my point is the abysmal treatment Dr. Blasely has been afforded ever since she came forward.  She has been called a ‘liar’, it has been suggested that she made up the story at the behest of the Democratic party, and she has received death threats.

Donald Trump and the members of our not-so-illustrious congress have cast aspersion on this woman and attempted every trick in the book to browbeat and bully her.  And in so doing, they have set women’s equality back decades.  Rather than jump to claim she is lying, why didn’t those in charge of the confirmation hearings order an investigation to bring the event into the open, to put to rest any doubts?  Why?  Because they know.  Somewhere deep down, they know that she is not lying.  They know that their esteemed Brett Kavanaugh is guilty as charged.  They know that this will likely, if taken seriously, be the nail in the coffin of Kavanaugh’s confirmation.  And they know the price they will pay from the ‘man’ in the Oval Office if they fail to complete their mission of confirming Kavanaugh quickly before the democrats find their voice in November.

  • Senator Scott Newman: “Even if true, teenagers! Frankly, I don’t believe her.”
  • Kavanaugh spokesperson/activist Josh Marshall says it’s not clear that the incident was attempted rape as opposed to just “rough horseplay”.

Remember in 2016 when the Access Hollywood tape came out with Donald Trump making disparaging remarks about his treatment of women?  His defenders, despite evidence that he was indeed guilty of multiple cases of sexual abuse, brushed it off as only “locker room talk”.

Tell me, folks … if the tables were turned … if a female nominee were accused by a man of having groped him, attempted to disrobe him, and clapped her hand over his mouth in order to keep him from calling for help, would the senators be so glib?  I think not.  I think they would pretend to be horrified and decide early on that she was not qualified to sit on the bench of the U.S. Supreme Court.  But, the ‘good ol’ boys’ network is alive and well, and instead of horror, there is a wink-wink, a knowing smile, and ultimately a confirmation of a man with too little integrity.

But understand, please, that Dr. Blasely is not the first, nor will she be the last woman to be treated in such a manner.  Women throughout the ages have been disbelieved or expected to accept sexual abuse as their due.  Sure, we’ve “come a long way, baby”, but make no mistake … women do not have equal rights in 21st century America, and I despair that we ever will.

**  Here are links to two excellent timelines of the history of women’s rights, in case you’re interested:

Idiot of the Week — Rep. Mike Kelly

 

Idiot of the Week medalI hadn’t planned to do an Idiot of the Week column today.  It is, after all, Christmas Eve and it seems a bit uncharitable.  Besides that, I was working on a piece about the Koch Brothers, David & Charles, and was trying to stay focused on that.  But this one person just kept jumping onto my radar screen, practically screaming, “PICK ME, PICK ME!!!”  Okay, Representative Mike Kelly of Pennsylvania, you asked for it, you got it.

Friends, please allow me to formally introduce U.S. Representative George Joseph “Mike” Kelly Jr, a republican representing the 3rd Congressional district of Pennsylvania.  Kelly came onto my radar last night by way of his appearance on Fox News on Friday, where he said …

“I will tell you what. For those people on the Trump train or not on the Trump train, this is high-speed rail right now. And so if you’re not on the Trump train, you get on the train or get off the tracks. You’re gonna get run over. Look, the House had done its work in the appropriations. We had our 12 bills ready to go. Unfortunately, it didn’t get through the Senate. But the big news — the big news is for America, you look at today, and I can tell you walking around the streets of Pittsburgh, people walking more erect, not just whispering ‘Merry Christmas’ but saying ‘Hey, Merry Christmas.’ You can feel it, you can see it. And I’m not just pumping sunshine for the sake of pumping sunshine. I am telling you, this is a different country. In 11 months, this president has changed the entire complexion of our entire country and our place in the world. We are no longer leading from behind, we are leading from the front and everybody else is looking to us and saying ‘go, go, go.’”

Oh please. Since it wouldn’t be Filosofa’s Word if I didn’t inject a few comments; 1) Yes, Trump has changed the “complexion” of the country — he has given it a severe case of acne, and 2) You are quite right that we are no longer “leading from behind” — we are no longer leading.  Period. Since Trump’s approval rating in Pennsylvania is just 29%, below the national rate, I am curious as to who all these ebullient people riding the “Trump train” might be.  So this is Mr. Kelly’s most recent bout of idiocy, but taking a look back, I find that it is far from his first.

Kelly-1In March 2017, Mr. Kelly launched a conspiracy theory that President Obama was running a “shadow government”  with the intention of undermining Trump.

“President Obama himself said he was going to stay in Washington until his daughter graduated. I think we ought to pitch in to let him go someplace else, because he is only there for one purpose and one purpose only, and that is to run a shadow government that is going to totally upset the new agenda. It just doesn’t make sense. And people sit back and they say to me, ‘My gosh, why can’t you guys get this done?’ I say, ‘We’ve got a new CEO, we’ve got some new heads in the different departments, but the same people are there, and they don’t believe that the new owners or the new managers should be running the ship.’”

When asked to comment, a spokesperson for his office said …

“Rep. Kelly does not believe that President Obama is personally operating a shadow government, He does believe it would be helpful to the new administration if the former president would personally call for an end to all leaks and obstruction by personnel from his administration who currently serve in the executive branch.”

Seriously???  

In June 2015, Mr. Kelly took on the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), comparing it to a terrorist organization:

“You talk about terrorism — you can do it in a lot of different ways. But you terrorize the people who supply everything this country needs to be great — and you keep them on the sidelines — my goodness, what have we become? When a government can level on you taxes and regulations that makes it impossible for you to compete, then you’re going to stay on the sidelines.”

kelly-2And where, exactly, will you be when there is no oxygen to breathe, no food to eat, for we have destroyed the planet, Mr. Kelly, huh?

Kelly authored the Coal Country Protection Act, legislation which attempted to reverse the EPA’s carbon rule and any regulation that aimed to limit carbon from power plants.  The legislation failed, until Trump took office and signed similar legislation.

And then there was the time that Kelly just had to put his two cents worth in after the Supreme Court upheld a ruling to allow same-sex marriage in the 2015 case of Obergefell v. Hodges:

“The high court had a responsibility to follow the Constitution but instead chose to follow the wishes of a political movement. The natural, traditional definition of marriage that I and millions of others believe in worldwide remains a cornerstone of human civilization. To redefine this institution, especially on a national scale, carries uncertain consequences and deserves serious scrutiny. Today’s ruling rips this critical debate from the democratic process by redefining marriage for all 50 states. Going forward, defenders of our Constitution have a renewed duty to protect every single citizen’s First Amendment rights and guarantee that no person or organization’s religious freedom is in any way undermined by today’s controversial decision.”

kelly-4I do believe that Mr. Kelly fails to understand the 1st Amendment … I wonder if he has ever read the Constitution?  But wait, for I have saved the best for last! Mr. Kelly, not surprisingly, didn’t much like the Affordable Care Act (ACA), lovingly dubbed by republicans as ‘Obamacare’. He referred to the employer mandate to provide contraception coverage as “an attack on Americans’ constitutionally protected religious rights” and claimed that August 1, 2012, would go down in infamy as “the day that religious freedom died”. A bit of a drama queen, don’t you think?  But he went on to compare it to the attack on Pearl Harbor and 9/11!!!

“I know in your mind, you can think of the times America was attacked. One is Dec. 7, that’s Pearl Harbor Day. The other is Sept. 11, and that’s the day the terrorists attacked. I want you to remember Aug. 1, 2012, the attack on our religious freedom. That is a day that will live in infamy, along with those other dates.”

Okay, my friends in Pennsylvania … you need to get this guy out of office next November.  He ran virtually uncontested in 2016, but there are two challengers for the 2018 elections. He has been in office for four terms … eight years … get him out!!!

kelly-3Meanwhile, Mr. Kelly, for your backward and bigoted ways, and for your truly misguided belief that Donald Trump is somehow “pumping sunshine” into our lives, I award you this most coveted, most honoured award, Filosofa’s Idiot of the Week award.  Please display it with pride, for you have certainly earned it!

Another Strike Against Women …

I am beginning to wonder why we have Congress at all, for it seems that Trump and his administration are doing pretty much whatever Trump wants done without the approval of our elected officials.  Executive orders and cabinet-level decisions have become the norm, bypassing the legislative branch altogether.

Legislative:  having the power to make laws

By now you have all heard the news, that the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) “rolled back” (translation: eradicated) the ACA requirement that employer’s insurance plans cover contraception (birth control).  Now any company can refuse to provide insurance plans that include birth control based on ‘religious or moral’ grounds.  Let us not kid ourselves here … companies will indeed cite religious or moral grounds and they will indeed drop coverage of birth control, but the real reason will be because it will save them money.  General Motors is a company, owned by a group of shareholders, none of whom give a whit whether their employees use birth control or not.  But they do care about seeing the value of their stock go up, they do care about their dividend check.

I understand why some people have strong feelings about abortion.  It is, as it should be, a topic to be seriously considered, and while I fully support a woman’s right to choose, I can also see why others may feel differently.  But birth control???  In this, the 21st century, people still have moral objections to birth control? I do not believe that more than a very small percentage can actually wish a family to have an unlimited number of children that they can barely afford to feed.  I cannot believe that any thinking person wishes to see the population of the world soar, just as food supplies are diminishing due to the effects of climate change.  I have a hard time seeing that those people really want to be responsible for children being born into families where they will be abused and neglected.  If that is what the religious right are supporting, I really have to question the moral values they claim.

Does anybody besides me find it odd that there is such a hue and cry over birth control for women, yet nobody seems bothered, nobody says a word about the fact that a large number of insurance plans cover Viagra for men, a drug that has no actual medical benefit, but is merely for men’s … pleasure?  Am I the only one who sees a disparity here? Women’s economic, physical and emotional health vs. men’s pleasure.  Hmmmm … tell me again that it is not still a man’s world?

This action on the part of HHS will certainly be challenged, for already women’s health care groups are preparing lawsuits, and ultimately the issue is likely to end up on the docket of the Supreme Court.  Meanwhile, how many women will suffer? In light of today’s action, I would suggest that the Department of Health and Human Services should be renamed to the Department of Religious and Moral Services, for they have shown their disregard for both health and humans.

In August, Trump struck another blow against women’s rights when he suspended a proposed policy that would have required companies to disclose pay data to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission for the purpose of identifying gender and racial pay gaps.  This action, combined with today’s announcement are a reversal of rights that women have fought for in the past decades and set a course that is disturbing, to say the least.

But the even bigger aspect, as I see, is the fact that this administration has been busily abusing its power for more than eight long months, and one must ask the question:  what next?  I think it would be best if we return to having the legislative branch, Congress, make the laws based on what is best for the nation as a whole, not merely one segment of religious zealots.

Donnie Dark Strikes Another Blow At Planet Earth … And Women

“The world has enough for everyone’s need, but not enough for everyone’s greed.” – Mahatma Gandhi

There are currently some 7.5 billion people with whom we share a planet.  Think about that for a minute … 7.5.  Billion.  People.  That’s a lot of people.  The point of this post is not the over-population of earth, but we need to put this into perspective.  Most, myself included, would argue that we need to control population globally, not just in the underdeveloped nations, not just in the wealthier western nations, but globally.  Is there evidence that the earth is overpopulated?

The population of our earth only hit the one billion mark in the early 1800s, and it was only in the 1920s that we hit two billion.  And today, less than a century later, we are at the 7.5 billion mark and counting – growing.  Yay us … we learned to make babies. It is predicted that, given current growth rates, the human population of the earth will exceed 11 billion by the end of this century.  Can the earth support 11+ billion people?  Most scientists think it is doubtful.  Most believe the maximum sustainable population for this planet is somewhere between 9-10 billion.

Harvard University sociobiologist Edward O. Wilson, bases his estimate on calculations of the Earth’s available resources. As Wilson pointed out in his book “The Future of Life” (Knopf, 2002), “The constraints of the biosphere are fixed.”

Aside from the limited availability of freshwater, there are indeed constraints on the amount of food that Earth can produce, just as Malthus argued more than 200 years ago. Even in the case of maximum efficiency, in which all the grains grown are dedicated to feeding humans (instead of livestock, which is an inefficient way to convert plant energy into food energy), there’s still a limit to how far the available quantities can stretch. “If everyone agreed to become vegetarian, leaving little or nothing for livestock, the present 1.4 billion hectares of arable land (3.5 billion acres) would support about 10 billion people,” Wilson wrote. – Live Science, 11 October 2011

David Satterthwaite, a senior fellow at the International Institute for Environment and Development in London, has a slightly different take on the issue of over-population:

“It is not the number of people on the planet that is the issue – but the number of consumers and the scale and nature of their consumption.”

He posits that since most of the growth over the next two decades is predicted to be in urban centres in what are currently low and middle-income countries, and those people consume little, then perhaps overpopulation isn’t quite the dire threat that other scientists think it to be.  While Satterthwaite’s reasoning may or may not be sound – I am certainly no scientist and therefore cannot say – it is, I believe, a rather inhumane argument — as long as we can keep the poor, poor, then we will have enough water, food, and energy for all. Either way, the earth is not expanding, nor is it likely to, and humans are expanding.

The United States is already overpopulated. As far back as 1972, the Presidential Commission on Population Growth and the American Future recommended population stabilization, saying that over-population is the root cause of land and resource shortages, ecological degradation and urban congestion. The current population of the United States is, as of this writing, 326,330,503 and growing by the minute. Granted, the rate of growth has slowed in recent years, but we still add about 2 million to our population each year.

The defenders of population growth are almost universally institutional, not individuals. The public is generally concerned about continued population growth. The discrepancy between citizen and institutional interests is clear. Individuals benefit from moderate population density, open spaces, and a healthy environment. Institutions benefit from increased membership and large consumer markets and labor pools.

I could easily write a couple of posts about the topic of human overpopulation alone, but again, that is not my purpose tonight, so let us move on.

At the end of May, the Trump administration drafted a proposal that would virtually remove the birth control mandate from the Affordable Care Act. Under current law, most all insurance plans are required to cover birth control.  If Trump’s proposed regulation is finalized, that mandate will, for all intents and purposes, be gone.  Any company, from non-profits to major publicly-held corporations, will be able to claim exemption from the rule if they simply state they have a ‘moral’ objection.  ‘Moral’ is not defined in the proposal.  This proposed regulation does not have to be approved by Congress, but like an executive order, becomes law upon being published.

We have just looked at the issue of over-population from a long-range, global view, and it should be obvious to anyone who can read and think that birth control is one means to slow the population growth rate.  But now let us zoom in and talk about it from a national, and also an individual level.  Nationwide, there are an estimated 12 million single-parent households in the U.S., half of which are below the poverty line.  These are families that do not need another mouth to feed, and they are also mothers who cannot afford to shell out up to $50 each month for birth control.

Tom Price, Secretary of Health and Human Services, when asked by a reporter where low-income women would be left if the mandate was rolled back, replied, “Bring me one woman who has been left behind. Bring me one. There’s not one. The fact of the matter is this is a trampling on religious freedom and religious liberty in this country.”  Gem of a guy, don’t you think?  And now we see why Trump selected him to run “Health and HUMAN Services”. One problem is that since the administration is comprised almost exclusively of Trump’s millionaire buddies, they have no concept of how hard it can be for a family barely able to put food on the table, to scrape up $50/month for birth control pills!

The Trump administration has a similar response, claiming that women can turn to federally subsidized family planning programs.  But now think about this one.  They are also proposing cuts to Medicaid as well as threatening to entirely de-fund Planned Parenthood!  So where are all those “federally subsidized family planning programs”???

Trump-earthTrump & Co. have already proven their disdain for Planet Earth by removing environmental regulations via executive order, restarting oil pipeline projects without proper environmental impact studies, and announcing his intention to withdraw from the Paris Climate Accords.  This proposal to roll back the birth control mandate is yet another slap in the face to our planet, but also to every woman in the United States.  I understand that abortion is a thorny issue, and I understand why.  I am personally pro-choice, but I understand why abortion is a deal-breaker to many.  However … birth control should not be a controversial issue, and I DO NOT understand any moral objections, religious or otherwise.  And, for those who are so against abortion, the reality is that if we reduce women’s access to affordable birth control, we will see an increase in abortions.

Congressional-oversightThere is a reason that our Constitution calls for three branches of federal government.  All presidents, bar none, have used executive orders and such to bypass Congress when action needed to be swift.  Some have abused the privilege, but I know of none who have taken the level of abuse to the extent that Trump has.  There is no valid justification for this latest regulation which, like so many of his other proposals, is destined to hurt the very people who supported and voted for him.  Fortunately, some states are taking counter actions, including California, Nevada, Illinois, Vermont and Maryland.  Hats off to them, and I hope every state jumps on this bandwagon!  Oh, and one final note … though not mandated, and not covered at 100%, most insurance policies DO cover some portion of the cost of Viagra.  Anybody still think it isn’t a ‘man’s world’????

mans world.jpg

Thoughts on Hypocrisy …

The right to life is a moral principle based on the belief that a human being has the right to live and, in particular, should not be killed by another human being. The concept of a right to life arises in debates on issues of capital punishment, war, abortion, euthanasia, justifiable homicide and, by extension, public health care.

It seems to me that those who vociferously claim to be “pro-life” would cherry-pick the instances in which they support another’s right to life.  For example, pro-lifers are against abortion … in all cases.  Yet, once a child is born to a mother who does not have the wherewithal to provide for that child, then the same pro-lifers who forbade the mother from having an abortion, turn their backs.  They are unwilling to have their tax dollars used to support the child, to provide medical care for the child, or a free education.  So in essence, they are crueler than those of us who would support a woman’s right to choose, since they have insisted on this child being born, but are now willing to allow it to live in abject poverty, without his basic needs being met.  Listening to the song In The Ghetto, originally by Elvis Presley, one stanza in particular jumps out:

People, don’t you understand

The child needs a helping hand

Or he’ll grow to be an angry young man some day?

Take a look at you and me

Are we too blind to see

Do we simply turn our heads, and look the other way?

Rather than making it harder for women to have abortions, why not make it less necessary for a woman to need an abortion?  Ever hear the saying, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”?  But instead, the very same ones who decry abortions, have routinely and consistently spoken out to de-fund Planned Parenthood, an organization that provides counseling, health care and contraceptives to women.  And many who consider themselves ‘pro-lifers’, are also against contraceptives.  Think about the Hobby Lobby and other similar cases.  So, they want to deny women a right to birth control, but also deny her the right to do what she feels is best in the case of an unwanted pregnancy.

Those same people who unconditionally oppose a woman’s right to seek an abortion, are by large the same who support capital punishment, seeing no problem with taking a man’s life for a crime he may have committed, even when his guilt may be in question.

And almost to a person, those who claim to be pro-life see no problem with advocating for every person in the nation, regardless of mental state, emotional health, capability, or temperament, to own and carry a firearm.  They applaud when somebody takes the life of another, claiming it was “self-defense” … even though more often than not, it was not self-defense at all.  They also applaud when police brutally murder a black man, frequently without reason.  Just don’t kill a small pocket of cells within a woman’s womb, but kill all the people who might have committed crimes.

Where is that moral outrage on the part of pro-lifers when Trump is threatening to ban refugees because they are Muslims … how do they justify that they are anti-immigration?  Do not the lives of those men, women and children living in conditions whereby bombs are being dropped over their heads over night matter?  Do not the lives of Syrians, Iraqis, Afghanis, and Yeminis count in the ‘pro-life’ ideology?

Let us speak for a moment of drones dropping bombs on unsuspecting civilians in the Middle East.  Or what of the “mother of all bombs” recently dropped in Afghanistan, or the Tomahawk missiles in Syria?  Each of these took lives.  If you support any of these, especially in the cases where civilians were killed, you cannot claim to be pro-life.

Let me tell you what I think.  I think that in order for a person to be honestly considered pro-life, that person must be:

  • Pro-immigration
  • Against capital punishment
  • Pro-national health care
  • Pro-social services for the poor
  • Anti-discrimination of every type, including religious
  • Pro-gun regulation, including at a minimum, a ban on assault-type weapons
  • Anti-war

There are others, but I think you see my point.  Nobody is truly pro-life … perhaps Mother Teresa was, or perhaps Pope Francis is, but for the rest of us, there are circumstances in which we are in support of ending a life.  Right?  Wrong?  I do not pretend to know.  I know only what my own conscience tells me.  And my own conscience, while not a fan of abortion, believes in a woman’s right to choice because I am not inside that woman’s mind, I cannot know her circumstances.  It may be that she knows she cannot take proper care of that child for whatever reason.  That is not mine to judge.  But I believe there are far worse examples of taking a life than to take the life of a fetus whose life would quite possibly be a tragedy from day one.

One final note:  The population on earth is 7.5 billion people and counting.  So far this year, 2017, there have been some 48 million births, and fewer than 20 million deaths. The world is already overpopulated, and some would deny a woman birth control???

Next time somebody claims to be ‘pro-life’, ask them if they support capital punishment, random killings in the Middle East, or if they wish to repeal ACA which provides health care for those who would otherwise have none.

I do not ask that you agree with this commentary, but merely that you think about it.

Thoughts on Zubik …

I have a simple question.  Why is birth control such a controversial topic?  I understand the various reasons some people are against abortion, and, while I fully support a woman’s right to choose, right of control over her own body, it took me some years to come to that conclusion.  I readily admit that.  But what I am talking about here is birth control.  We are not talking about a fetus, a fertilized egg, or anything for which there can be any debate about “when life begins”.  We are talking about preventing pregnancy, not terminating it.

A look at some cold hard facts surrounding children born to parents who were not ready to be parents:

  • On any given day, there are approximately 415,000 children in foster care in the United States.
  • In 2014, over 650,000 children spent time in U.S. foster care. On average, children remain in state care for nearly two years and seven percent of children in foster care have languished there for five or more years.
  • There are 423,773 children in the U.S. foster care system; 114,556 of these children are available for adoption.
  • Approximately 5 children die every day because of child abuse.
  • Children under the age of one were most vulnerable and accounted for 40.9% of all fatalities;
  • 5% of maltreatment-related fatality victims were age six and under.
  • 6% of child fatalities resulted from neglect alone, 26.3% from physical abuse alone, and 21.9% from both neglect and physical abuse.
  • Most child fatalities (82.8%) were the result of maltreatment by one or both parents
  • Mothers acting alone were the perpetrators in 32.4% of child abuse- and neglect-related fatalities.
  • 9 million cases of child abuse are reported every year in the United States.
  • Children who experience child abuse and neglect are 59% more likely to be arrested as a juvenile, 28% more likely to be arrested as an adult, and 30% more likely to commit violent crime.
  • About 80% of 21-year-olds who were abused as children met criteria for at least one psychological disorder.
  • 14% of all men and 36% of all women in prison were abused as children.
  • Abused children are less likely to practice safe sex, putting them at greater risk for STDs. They’re also 25% more likely to experience teen pregnancy.

So tell me again why some find birth control “immoral” or objectionable?

In the beginning, ACA, (Obamacare) included a provision that employers must provide to their employees heathcare insurance that would include birth control.  Religious employers such as Hobby Lobby and Chick-Fil-A objected, saying they should not be forced to pay for birth control when they object on religious/moral grounds.  So, in 2014, the case of Burwell v Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. came before the Supreme Court in an effort to overturn the birth control clause under ACA.  In layman’s terms, the Supreme Court said, “Okay, sure.  Then we will give you a simple form to fill out, saying that you are objecting on religious grounds, and then the insurance company and/or the U.S. government will bear the burden of providing birth control coverage to those women employed by you.”   But noooooooo …. filling out a form is asking too much!  And now along comes Zubik!

The case of Zubik v Burwell requests “full exemptions”, meaning that religious organizations who decide that they object to covering the costs of birth control on moral/religious grounds, should not be required to even do so much as fill out a simple form.  The reality is not that the form is too cumbersome … it is a single-page form!  The reality is that these companies are determined to do everything in their power to prevent their employees from obtaining birth control coverage.

Which brings me back to my original question: WHY?  Do they really prefer the idea of children being abused, even killed, rather than a woman taking a daily pill?  Do they really prefer thinking about all the children who suffer abuse and/or neglect because they have no responsible parent to protect them?  Or is it just easier to not think about it at all? The very same people who are against birth control are willing to turn a blind eye to the 36,000 plus humans in the U.S. who are murdered … yes, murdered … by guns every year!  This is a world where teenagers experiment with sex, get pregnant, have babies … babies that they are not, by any stretch of the imagination, prepared to take care of.  This is a world where middle-income working couples plan to reach certain financial goals before settling in to start a family, but with that choice taken away from them, they have a child and leave him/her to strangers to raise while they continue to pursue their financial goals.

Readily available and affordable birth control is not a panacea to conquering teen pregnancies, child abuse, or child neglect, but it is a start.  Those who are so offended by abortion should welcome making birth control available to all.  Without access to birth control, there will be more abortions, there will be more teen pregnancies, and there will be higher numbers of abused and neglected children.  That is not an opinion, it is a fact. I cannot comprehend how anybody in light of the statistics above, finds birth control objectionable.  Even so, the government asks only that an organization finding it objectionable on religious grounds fill out a form – a single-page form.  Is that really so hard?  Think about it.