Tuesday, May 16, 2017

The Morality of Abortion

the Ironic Cherry reads...

Life's Work:
A Moral Argument for Choice
by Dr. Willie Parker

This is a book with heart.  It is a short book; I wanted it to go on forever, but I wanted it to end so I could sit here and write about it.  I want to take each one of you by the hand and bring you to the library to check out your own copy of it.  I want to read it out loud to you.  I know I am unable to describe it to my own satisfaction, to the point where you can't wait to read it yourself.  But I will try.

Dr. Willie Parker begins his story by talking about "The Women."  It is the women, us, to which he has devoted his life's work.  He is a man of faith, African American, raised in the South, in poverty.  He acknowledges his hard work and intellect, but appreciates the support of family and educators that brought him to the work he now does.

He is a physician who performs abortions, visiting clinics where there are no other abortion doctors, in states where legislatures have chipped away at women's right to choose to have an abortion.  He is an activist, serving on boards from Planned Parenthood to the Center for Reproductive Rights, traveling to D.C. and throughout the country to give testimony in support of women's reproductive rights.

In Life's Work, Dr. Parker takes us through the changes in his life's philosophy, in which he went from being an Ob/Gyn who avoided abortion to becoming one of the nation's foremost advocates and front-line abortion doctors.  He speaks from a personal perspective, telling how he began to question the rigid moralism of the scripture, and how he became a "born again born again" Christian.  He also speaks clearly from a medical point of view, describing the aspects of the abortion procedure, because he knows that too much myth and distortion controls the conversation.  He tells us to speak out, speak to one another, speak without fear.

Speak without fear.  Dr. Parker has lived, since he has made his decision to work in the service of women who seek abortion, with the knowledge of the risk he is taking.  Each and every day that he walks into one of the clinics in which he works, he has to walk the gauntlet of antis carrying signs and yelling to the women who are merely seeking to live their lives freely.

He calls them "antis."  He does not give them any more title than that.  He writes about and debunks the lies that have been perpetuated, that doctors have been forced by legislators to tell.  He talks about the TRAP laws, those laws that are created under the pretense of protecting the safety of women, but which sole purpose is to close clinics and to make abortion inaccessible.

He tells us about the women and girls who come to the clinics, and those who are forced to carry a pregnancy to term because clinics have closed down or rules about waiting periods run out the legal timeline.  He tells about how doctors have been threatened, how laws have made it harder to practice.  He tells about the terrorists who threaten and who have killed.  And he talks about people who use their religious beliefs to intimidate and to control, and of the people of faith who have stepped up to help provide access to abortions to women who seek them.

Dr. Parker describes the changes in language on the left, wherein sincere abortion rights proponents tried to compromise with the antis, by talking about how abortion was a bad but necessary option, and how we need to make abortion safe, accessible and rare.  And how this reframing actually worked to fuel the antis.  He states with medical authority that abortion is not a "bad" thing; it is a medical procedure, a simple and safe one.  It does not have the essence of evil with which the religious right has attempted to imbue it.

In 2014, in PRO: Reclaiming Abortion Rights, Katha Pollitt began the conversation we needed to be having.  We needed to hear that we have no need to feel guilt or shame, we have the right to medical privacy and medical choices.  The government needs to get the hell out of our reproductive lives.  And, as borne out during the Women's March, we women (and men) are beginning to wake up from that deluded sleep that since Roe v. Wade led us to think we would no longer have to fight.

And now, Dr. Willie Parker has added another strong voice to our fight.

I hope you will take the time to give this book a read.  It is not just an important book, it is inspirational. 

Monday, May 8, 2017

The Method and Madness of Trumpcare

We should not be surprised that after all the protests, phone calls and town halls, and the first attempt at jamming the AHCA through the House, the bill was resuscitated, bribes were bribed, and it was forced through successfully last week.

We should have known that each and every time a snarky remark was made by a liberal about his failing first 100 days, Trump's determination to win grew.  Much as the truly clever and funny jabs that Obama made in 2011 at the White House Correspondent's Dinner set in concrete Donald's determination to run and win the presidency.

It is said that Donald Trump has no understanding of the complexities of health care... by Donald himself in fact.  And he really does not care, any more than he cares about refugees or American workers.  He wants to be liked, and he wants to win.  He would rather be liked by rich and powerful people than by disgruntled Americans, but if the latter can help him do the bidding of the former, he will say whatever he needs to say to get there.

One of the groups of peons that Trump has courted successfully is the republican Congress.  Don't laugh.  They may be a lot richer than the rest of us, but they aren't in the same league as the Kochs or Vladimir Putin.  They are just rich enough to be insecure about keeping that wealth.  They are just rich enough to know that losing could be just around the corner.  In other words, except for the money, they are a lot like the middle class Trump supporter.

Ryan and McConnell and their cronies want nothing more than to be in the club, and Donald Trump can smell that vulnerability.  When he bused all those senators to the White House for that meeting on North Korea, it had all the makings of a Trump sales pitch.  Inviting a group of powerful people to "his" house is to Trump like inviting the Chinese president to share his delicious chocolate cake at Mar-a-Lago.  It puts the power in his hands.

Imagine his surprise when even republican senators were unimpressed.

Donald Trump is a man of limited intellect but a craving for attention and approval that has created a finely-honed instinct for manipulating others.  Of course, he couldn't have done it without his father's wealth and influence, but what he developed has worked quite well for him in his businesses -- even when he lost he made sure he won, regardless of who he had to throw under the bus to do it.

What looks like erratic behavior is really a pattern of responses that is coming to be fairly predictable:  assumption of success; disbelief followed by rage -- insults and attacks; withdrawing briefly to regroup; followed by approach and flattery; and then the deal.

He has done this with each of his primary opponents, with the media, with foreign leaders, and now with Congress.

But he is finding that he is playing in a different league these days.  Even psycho leaders like Duterte of the Philippines are offering fairly lame excuses to avoid looking like they want to be seen associating with our own psycho leader.  And he was brushed off by the inaptly named Freedom Caucus, the group formerly known as the Tea Party, when he tried to prod them into the original AHCA bill.

Like a rat learning to press the lever to get another rice krispie, however, Trump is a good learner.  He knew how to get Paul Ryan to be his House lapdog, and it didn't take that much more wheeling and dealing to sell the really bad health insurance bill to the people that were actually looking for really bad health insurance to pawn off on the American people.

But that group of people in Congress who are just insecure enough that they will work with Trump to get what they need don't mind throwing him under the bus either.  So what we all tried to call "RyanCare" is now "TrumpCare."  And the republicans who have been at the art of the political dirty deal far longer than Trump, have laid the ground work for laying the blame on him AND gotten their nasty piece of legislation passed.

There are a couple of important factors here, things we need to keep front and center as we watch -- and even try to influence -- the outcome of this struggle.

First of all, we need to stop pretending that the Senate is that much more grown up and responsible than the House.  They are mostly smarter, and definitely shrewder, than their wacky counterparts, but they are still rabid about success, and equally insecure about their futures.  They are in the pockets of the insurance and pharmaceutical industries, but because they can't count on guaranteed gerrymandered districts, they have to pretend to be listening to and working for all their constituents.

We in South Carolina have learned the hard way to never make the mistake of assuming that Lindsey Graham is on our side.  He is on Lindsey Graham's side, the side of the right wing, whether it be religious or corporate.  He was tickled that he could vote Neil Gorsuch onto the Supreme Court, and did whatever mental maneuvers were necessary to defend his desires.  This is true of Mitch McConnell, Tom Cotton, Marco Rubio, and all the other folks that have been bought by corporate money.

And that leads us back to Trumpcare.  It is a truly egregious scheme, a tax cut for the really wealthy that takes health care away from pregnant women, cancer patients and sick children.  But in that, it is not much different than what has been happening to workers and education since the 80's, and what will be happening to our environment.  Every piece of which will make us sicker, less able to care for ourselves and our families, and less able to fight the plutocratic oligarchy that has managed to lie, cheat and steal their way into Washington.

The irony is, you can call it Trumpcare, but Trump doesn't care.  Ryan and the rest of the right-wingnuts are looking for continued wealth and security.  But the joke is on them.  The only ones Trump cares about are Trumps.  And every single damn thing he has done since he came into office has profited the Trumps.  That is the other thing we need to keep remembering to keep our eyes on.

Talk about the art of your deal made in hell.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Unsubscribing from The DCCC

I imagine most of you are getting the same kind of hysterical emails from the DCCC that I am, with headings like:


"SHOCKING NEWS! (Special Election)"



or the ever hopeful:


They all turn out to be fund-raising emails (of course), and they aren't asking for much, even $1.  But they are like a three-year-old who really, really, really, wants JUST ONE MORE cookie.  The begging never ends.

The content is either we have Trump on the run, or Trump has us on the run.  In other words, moronic.  There is nothing about issues, or about why any of us would want to care, much less donate a dollar.

I have had some terrible jobs in my life, but I have never had to fund-raise.  I may be wrong, and this ham-handed, annoying, harassing technique may actually bring in millions of dollars, and may get people really fired up about the candidate.  So I asked a group of friends who had the DCCC for a penpal how they responded.  "I don't even read those anymore."  "I just throw them away."  "No, I've never given them anything."  My unofficial poll was unanimous.

And it isn't just DCCC.  Other Democratic groups, including candidates themselves, have taken on that exact same format, although I have to say, Archie does work to achieve a folksier tone in his messages (I may have made a fortune at Goldman Sachs, but I really am still one of y'all.).

Now a couple of months ago, our own South Carolina Democratic Party actually changed their modus operandi, and began to send messages that were actually relevant to issues that affected our lives.  And today, first out of the corral, with a bright new party chairman and a candidate for the general election, came the SCDP's email, with the heading:

"SC's Next Congressman:  Archie Parnell"

Trav Robertson, SCDP via bounce.myngp.com 

9:53 AM (4 hours ago)
to me
Dear Agnes,
As the general election campaign in the 5th Congressional District special election begins, I want to thank all three Democratic candidates—Alexis Frank, Les Murphy, and Archie Parnell—for throwing their hats into the ring and for running a positive, issues-focused campaign.  Pursuing elective office requires significant sacrifice, but in this challenging time, we need Democrats throughout South Carolina to follow their example and become candidates for offices up and down the ballot.  
Congratulations to Archie Parnell on becoming the Democratic nominee!  Archie won the most votes of any candidate in either party, reflecting broad support among voters who want a congressman who will fight for people in the 5th District.  Archie is committed to lowering the cost of prescription drugs, cutting taxes for the middle class, protecting Social Security and Medicare, and preventing corporations from hoarding money overseas to avoid paying their fair share of taxes.
The choice on June 20 will be clear.  Join us in uniting behind Archie Parnell, and let's put him on the path to victory!
Trav Robertson
Chair, SCDP 
Paid for by the South Carolina Democratic Party
South Carolina Democratic Party
915 Lady Street, Suite 111
Columbia SC 29201 United States

Not to be too snarky, but you just can't turn SC blue by telling us we can do it.  Or that it is important.  I truly hope you plan on pacing yourselves with the Parnell emails.  Because: congrats, SCDP, you've managed to be the first to begin the process of immunizing the voters to the fact that there is an election coming up.  And sending a special message to the young potential voters by encapsulating Archie's goals of tackling the cost of prescription drugs and protecting Medicare and Social Security.

What I would like to suggest here is:

1.  Stop sending fund-raising emails.  Nobody reads them anymore, nobody likes them, they are an insult to our intelligence.  In fact, if you do find someone who donates a dollar every time they get an email, you might want to consider that it is being sent ironically.

2.  If you really, really, really want people to get involved in this election, tell them what is going on.  Busy people can't possibly know all the terrible things the House of Representatives has been up to.  If you send a news alert every couple days that has one sentence about a bill that those creeps are voting on or actually passed, with a message that Archie Parnell (or Jon Ossoff, or that bluegrass musician in Montana) would oppose those bills or even would propose their own bill)... well, now even I might be interested.  You could even put an unobtrusive link at the bottom for donations and I wouldn't mind.  Just for god's sake, end with the name of the candidate, the office, and the DATE OF THE ELECTION -- for god's sake.

Because when you don't do that, it's like you aren't even pretending this is about winning an election and changing the bad things that are being done to our country by the republican Congress.  It's like you want people to just send you money for the sake of making money.  Jeez, even Donald Trump sends out a pair of socks when he gets a donation.

3.  Actually listen to the people.  Pay somebody to not just put some thought into those emails, but one who understands the issues and will respond to people who attempt to communicate.  This is actually the most important thing you can do to get a candidate elected.  Because if somebody is going out of their way to send you a message, a reply is going to be memorable, and appreciated.  Enough so that they might even end up sending a donation and more important, telling their friends about it.

It seems that Archie Parnell had a lot of people on the ground being his surrogate.  I don't think that is going to work because Archie just doesn't have the passion to fight for the people, and it shows.  But I hope I am wrong.  Jon Ossoff has the passion.  He is also a progressive, despite what Bernie thinks.  He understands the issues as well as the quality of life that is at stake.  Ossoff might have been helped by the DCCC but it is communicating his message to people who got excited about him that will win him the election.

If the DCCC can help with that, maybe their emails won't get sent to spam quite so often.  And maybe next time I find myself on their email list, I won't hit "unsubscribe."