Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Dude Time

            Ah, yes, it’s Dueling Dude Time out on the old campaign trail. My grandfather was poorer than your grandfather.  Yeah? Well mine dug coal.  Yeah, well mine were poor Mexican Mormon campesinos planting and harvesting tortillas under the tropical sun.  So Romney dons a manly red Datona 500 jacket and tours the Datona International Speedway in Florida, Ah, I love the smell of gasoline in the morning, it smells like . . . my wife’s two Cadillacs.  And Santorum started cranking on about his un-elite-ness and ragging on the evils of big government, declaring (without irony or a glimmer of self-awareness) that he grew up in public housing on VA grounds, raised by parents who worked for the Veterans Administration, all of which are evil government entities funded and paid for by the taxpayer.
            Then, pushing ahead into the phony class wars, Santorum accused President Obama of being a “snob” for wanting everyone to get a college education.  He further elucidated his faux outrage that Obama would diss kids who didn’t want to go to a four year college or wanted to go to trade school or study as an apprentice.  Huff-huff-huff.
            Fortunately, I watch the Daily Show and the busy little video-snippers there gleefully juxtaposed Santorum’s fake outrage with the clip of what Obama actually said, which was to encourage all kids to get at least one year of college or more or go to community college or to trade school or study as an apprentice. None of which could possibly be considered to be “snobbish,” unless you were standing four-square behind a program of keeping your kids stupid.
            Which, I’m afraid, seems to have become a right wing, conservative Republican virtue and is fast becoming a treasured American narrative: America the Dumb.  We resent Presidents who are smarter than we are or act like it.  Instead, we want Presidents we can have a beer with, Presidents who are like us – poorly educated, full of provincial resentments, xenophobic know-nothings.  That’s the ticket!
            A friend of mine who occasionally writes conservative riffs for the on-line American Spectator,( ) recently sent along a piece discussing Obama’s “otherness” problem.  And cites some of the things that apparently define that otherness to his fellow conservatives: being born in Hawaii, saying that the “Muslim summons to evening prayer [is] ‘one of the prettiest sounds on Earth,’ and being the first President “to host a ‘White House Poetry Slam,’ among other things.
            As anyone who’s followed politics, any one of those descriptives is often given a dog-whistle negative spin by the folks who can’t stand the guy.  Born in Hawaii?  That place is too exotic, too foreign.  It’s not like, well, someplace normal, like Indiana.  And the muezzin’s prayer, awwww God, what kind of weird guy would think that was anything but some foreign, anti-Christ, terrorist jihadi  thing.  Poetry Slams?  Too black.  Waaayyyy too black.  Which is “different,” which is “other,” which is BAD. In short, my friend found that Obama was “vulnerable” to attack because he was “insufficiently grounded in traditional American values.”  When I questioned what that might mean, the reply was what I call the old “America the Dumb” response: If you’re not fully grounded/schooled/raised/immersed and buy into baseball, hot dogs, Nascar, “Christianity,” and the full complement of fake American Myths, well then, you’re simply not one of us and will be vulnerable to attack as not quite American.  Which, while indeed true, is also, indeed, a sad commentary. But a perfect illustration of what Richard Hofstadter in the 1950’s described as passions held by what he identified as right-wing “pseudo-conservatives” that demonstrate an “undercurrent of provincial resentments, ‘popular’ and ‘democratic’ rebelliousness and nativism.”  To which list, I would add xenophobia, racism and know-nothingness. Such a sad, limiting brew for such a hearty, roiling, rich, multi-ethnic, multi-cultural, multi-religious country. Plus Hawaii. 
            But here it is again, as it always is in presidential politics, playing out before our eyes.  Dueling Dudes at Datona, varoom! Varoom! Coal miner-wannabes up to their eyeballs in fake coal dust, gobbling hot dogs, soothing nativist fears, evoking the class war cards (no one here but us dirt poor millionaire working men), decrying a Harvard education as snobbism, and biting the government-run Veterans Administration hand that fed and clothed one candidate so he could hit the campaign trail and bash the evils of government.

Meanwhile, Here Come da Judge      

            The Supreme Court, the Roberts activist court, is about to take up a case that should be interesting:  from the L.A. Times:  “Two years ago, the Supreme Court said corporations are like people [my friend] and have the same free speech rights to spend unlimited sums on campaign ads.  Now, in a major test of human rights law, the justices will decide whether corporations are like people when they’re sued for aiding foreign regimes that kill or torture their own people.
            “It would ‘create a weird paradox,’ if the corporations are people when funding campaigns but not when they violate human rights, said Peter Weiss, vice president of the Center for Constitutional Rights in New York.”
            Weird paradox?  The Robert’s activist court? 
            The case to be heard involves the Royal Dutch Petroleum and its Shell subsidiary in the U.S.  It’s accused of aiding a former Nigerian regime to carry out torture, rape and murder. And the lawsuit is simply asking that company, which was fully complicit in those murderous outrages, be held accountable.  Just like a person fully complicit in murder and rape and torture, are supposed to be held accountable.
            Yes.  I can hear you laughing from here.  My bet is this:  The Robert’s court will continue a long, sacred U.S. tradition: Privitize Profits and stick the public with the liabilities and accountability.  In short, I’m betting Roberts, Scalia, Thomas and Alieto will rule that corporations are “people” only when it comes to accruing benefits. Liabilities are disallowed or shoved off onto governments, which will make the public pay or ignore all justice with absolute impunity. 
            After all, that’s the American Way.  Everyone knows that equal justice under the law for all only applies to some people.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Your Sunday Recipe

Roasted Peanut Soup with Honey Whipped Cream

This creamy, rich yummy soup is from Bon Appetit magazine.  Since it is Bon Appetit magazine, you were supposed to grind your own dry roasted peanuts in a food processor.  Right.  Sure. And the original recipe called for a garnish of whipped cream sweetened with Tupelo honey, but that just seemed a bit much.  So, instead, I added some cayenne pepper which took it to a more African place. Then served it with cornbread, which kept it African American Southern. 

2 large heads of garlic
4 TB olive oil
3 cups sliced onions (about 2)
3 cups thinly sliced celery stalks (about 1/2 bunch) leaves reserved for garnish
2 med.Yukon Gold potatoes, cubed 
2 TB unsalted butter
2 quarts low-salt chicken broth
2 bay leaves
1/2 + half and half or heavy cream or milk
2/3 Cup smooth peanut butter
1/8 - 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper

Preheat oven to 450'. Slice off and discard the top third from each head of garlic, drizzle with some oil, wrap in foil and bake 45 min.  Let cool and squeeze cloves out into a small bowl with any left over oil.

Heat oil in large pot and saute onions until translucent, about 15 minutes.  Add celery, butter, garlic and cook, stirring for 15 minutes more.  Add chicken broth and bay leaves and bring to a boil.  Add potato, reduce heat and simmer until potato is soft.

Remove from heat, remove bay leaves, puree/blend smooth with emersion blender, add peanut butter, spices to taste, and milk/cream to thin as needed.

Can garnish with finely few chopped celery leaves, chopped peanuts, and if you want to try it, the honey-whipped cream dollop. Serves 6 or more if used as a starter.  


Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Take Two Aspirins and Don't Call Me In The Morning

Calhoun’s Can(n)ons for February 22, 2012

            It was a stunning moment.  Congressman Darrell Issa, the Grand Inquisitor of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, thought he’d found the perfect ginned-up issue – the deliciously rhetorical, preordained “investigative” hearing titled, “Lines Crossed: Separation of Church and State.  Has the Obama administration trampled on Freedom of Religion and Freedom of Conscience?”  It was to be Issa’s perfect, political-points photo-op moment – the grand inquisitor’s dais filled with a long line of somberly suited and/or Roman-collared men opining on . . . . . female birth control.
            When up popped Democrat Carolyn Malone (D-N.Y.) who asked, “What I want to know is, where are the women?  I look at this panel, and I don’t see one single individual representing the tens of millions of women across the country who want and need insurance coverage for basic preventive health care services, including family planning.  Where are the women?”
            And suddenly, Issa’s best laid plans to make political hay by pretending he was discussing weighty matters all went kerflooey as his Grand Inquisitor Table of Men went viral. And women across the country rolled their eyes.  Isn’t that just like a man, they said.  Discussing my private parts in public while I’m not even allowed in the room. Boooo!  BOOOOOO!
            And, before you knew it, here came Rick Santorum’s money-bags PAC donor, the interestingly named Foster Friess, a goofy smile constantly plastered on his face, who stunned the interviewing Andrea Mitchell into silence when he noted that he found this birth control issue all nonsense.  Sayeth Friess, “Back in my day, they used Bayer aspirin for contraceptives.  The gals put it between their knees and it wasn’t that costly.”  Heh-heh.  And THAT clip went viral and even more women rolled their eyes.  Aspirin? Knees?  Boooo!  BOOOOOO!
            While clips appeared of Santorum stumbling through a muddled explanation of his interpretation of conservative Catholic doctrine that birth control is bad because it allows people to engage in . . . well, behavior that they shouldn’t be engaging in or at least engaging in behavior with no consequences, since sex should have consequences, like punishment and suffering and hell fire and damnation and, oh, never mind.  And more eyes rolled as it was pointed out that a Pew poll showed that over 90% of Catholic women practice some form of birth control, including using the pill.  And anyway, who’s listening to a morally bankrupt Catholic hierarchy that repeatedly chose their assets over protecting their children.  Boooo! BOOOOO!  
            And before the furor could die down, the newly passed Virginia ultrasound law came up on the radar.  If signed into law, women wanting or needing an abortion would be forced to have a sonogram, which can require a medically unnecessary invasive vaginal procedure that involves a dildo-like wand being inserted into her body.  This from the conservative Republican FreeDOM! FreeDOM! Crowd.  WTF? What’s with these Republicans and their obsessive need to poke into women’s vaginas?  Booooo!  BOOOOOO!
            And suddenly the long game began taking shape out of what first looked like an incoherent muddle of oxymoronic politics and comic photo-op pratfalls: Reassertion of the white male prerogative, the sweet return to state enforced religious dogma, and, ultimately, total conservative control over all branches of government.  Patriarchy redux, Torquemada Darrell Issa of the Auto de Fe Holy House Oversight Committee, the “severe” conservative’s theocratic swirling wet dream of privilege, power, dildo-wands, knees, aspirins, and uppity women finally silenced and hobbled and sent to the back of the church.
            Where we belong.  Right.
            As if. 


Sunday, February 19, 2012

Your Sunday Poem

This by Billy Collins from his book, The Art of Drowning.


Last night I labored in a cold scriptorium
printing one large block letter at a time,
at work on some crucial document,
a lost epic, the diary of a famous aviator,
a translation from a language I do not know.

Whatever it was, I cannot raise it now
from the deep harbor of sleep
where schools of fish nuzzle the keels of boats,
but I remember writing for hours in pencil
on immense sheets of unlined paper.

Like some Bartleby of the night shift,
my copying was endless,
and as always in dreams, there was someone
who was trying to interfere with me
and someone else, a vague figure

standing off to the side, who wanted to help.
I must ask you which one you were
when I get out of bed and go downstairs
where I can hear you making the tea,
turning the pages of the morning paper.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Liberty Valance Lives!

In the classic movie, “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, is the classic line about myth and reality;  The outlaw Liberty Valance (Lee Marvin) has a showdown with our Hero (James Stewart) and Liberty ends up dead, but it turns out he was actually shot by John Wayne but the killing was credited to Stewart who then goes on to becomes famous and prosperous Senator on account of the fame.  When the truth comes out, the newspaper editor refuses to print the revelation.  Says he, “No sir!  This is the West, sir.  When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.”

All of this by way of a story in the NY Times today at  wherein you will meet a Westminster Dog Show winner, a racing/show husky who is the descendent of one of the overlooked heroes of the original race to Nome to deliver diphtheria serum.  And, no, it wasn’t Balto.

As often happens in such cases, one of the “heroes” of that race, got overlooked, while the other went on to become famous.  Balto got a statue and some movies, including Disney’s animated film, “Balto, and is now the first name that pops up when discussing the  annual commemorative Iditarod race, while Togo dropped off the map.

Happily, Togo has been finally honored for his role in this rescue effort, as the New York Times story shows.  But, Liberty’s Rule still rules.

If you want to read a fabulous book about the Iditarod, get a copy of Libby Riddles book, “Race Across Alaska; First Woman to Win the Iditarod tells her story.”  It’s an  exciting read and an informative, a nail biter account of an often brutal race that’s killingly hard on both dogs and people.  And a terrific account of how extraordinary these dogs are.  If you go to Libby’s website,  you can order autographed copies of the book (would make great gifts for all your dog loving friends) AND she’s also got a great droll t-shirt with her image with one of her dogs, and the words:  “Alaska.  Where Men are Men and Women Win The Iditarod.    

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Your Sunday Poem

This droll piece is by Ruth Stone from "What Love Comes To.  New & Selected Poems."

The Follies of My Youth 

 It's taken me eighty-five years
to become mediocre.
How brilliant I was;
how I threw it away like used Kleenex.
I never walked the side streets of New York,
I never played tennis,
I never swam in the Olympic pool --
I know my boundaries.

My neighbor's daughter
married into the Hogg Drugstore
and died of uterine cancer at thirty.
What was all that for?
At a party given by this new rich family
I ignored my partner, the short brother.
The short brother and the tall brother
were twins.  I wanted to dance with the tall one.
The short one went inside and cried.
His mother made cruel remarks about me.

Could I have done the same as the neighbor's daughter,
married the short Hogg brother, and died young, too?
Here I am, old and poor.
Where is that short twin now?
Where is his loyal mother?
But I didn't think of bettering myself;
there were too many books in the world.
There was so much I wanted to read.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Are you done now?

The dust-up was profoundly stupid.  Employers, under the Affordable Care Act (ObamaCare) would be required to offer their employees medical coverage that included birth control, thereby insuring all women would have full coverage.  Religious institutions would be exempt if they were primarily religious but not exempt if they were primarily operating in the public sector, such as various Catholic Hospitals that employ and serve all kinds of non-Catholics. The morally bankrupt Catholic Bishops and, since it's an election year, the profoundly cynical, hypocritical, morally bankrupt Republicans came conveniently unglued and we had the ridiculous spectacle of Mitt Romney declaring this insurance coverage to be an attack on religion, conveniently forgetting that his own Romney Care- Massachusetts  health care plan did exactly the same thing.  And the usual conservative brayers joined in to portray President Obama  as a Christian-hating Muslim who was trying to destroy the First Amendment and attack our religious freedoms! Awwww Gawwwwd!

Uh, no.  The Affordable Care Act was just trying to make sure that women employees had insurance plans that gave them full access to whatever reproductive health needs they might have and various religious institutions had a year to work out any work-around, or make adjustments they needed in order to satisfy their religious scruples while still treating all their employees equally.   That's all.  One year to solve any problems the issue might include. 

In less than a week, Boom! the biggest issue was solved.  Not a year.  A few days.  And it didn't require all the shrieking and cynical moral posturing.  Just some good faith common sense and a willingness to compromise.  And, of course, the old wink and nudge.  As usual.

And you wonder why Congress can't get anything done. And you have just had a glimpse of how cynically stupid the "culture war" issues will play out this coming election year.

Time to move to France.    


Thursday, February 09, 2012

Gaak, Well, There Goes California

            Once again, the forces of  destruction are about to rain down on poor California.  People are going to run riot in the streets.  Whole towns will be swallowed whole.  Small children will weep and run amok.
            Yes, once again, judges have ruled that Prop 8 is unconstitutional.  This time it was the Ninth Circuit court.  So, the state Supreme Court and now one clump of judicial feds have basically found that “Proposition 8 serves no purpose, and has no effect, other than to lessen the status and human dignity of gay men and lesbians in California.”
            Let’s repeat that:  “Proposition 8 serves no purpose, and has no effect, other than to lessen the status and human dignity of gay men and lesbians in California.”
            So what is it about that brief, honest observation is so impossible for so many people to accept?
            Besides the inability to be honest about one’s true feelings and motives, may I suggest another reason this battle has been so fierce and long and irrational?  Words.  Wrong words that describe the wrong issue and hence create a wrong reality.
            Take the acronym, “DOMA.” Defense of Marriage.  Defense.  Did anybody recall gay people saying they wanted to eliminate marriage?  Destroy it? Get rid of it?  Change the laws so the states wouldn’t be allowed to marry anybody any more? Kaput, no more marriage anywhere?
            I didn’t either.  All I saw was a bunch of people who wanted to join the ranks of the married, have marriage ceremonies of their own, so the net result was MORE marriage, not less.  How do you “defend” against people who want to join you as fellow participants?  You don’t “defend” a castle against friends who show up and say, “Hey, we want to join you.”  You “defend” against enemies who are trying to destroy you.
            So, there was the false reality – gay people as “the enemy” that needed “defending” against because, somehow, their getting married would “destroy” marriage. Yet, not once during this whole battle, did I hear from any straight couple explaining just how, exactly, their marriage would be “destroyed” if a gay couple next door got married.  Not a single explanation that made any sense. Not one.
            If a whole gaggle of people had been honest from day one (We don’t like gay people and anyway, full civil rights and privileges go only to the people the dominant majority says should receive them; nobody else.), they wouldn’t have deceived and trapped themselves and others in the false language of their own making.
            Luckily, the courts have seen through those lies.  Unfortunately, gay people will still have to wait for their full rights for several more years and pray that the Supreme court will also concur that, “Although the Constitution permits communities to enact most laws they believe to be desirable, it requires that there be at least a legitimate reason for the passage of a law that treats different classes of people differently. There was no such reason that proposition 8 could have been enacted.  All that Proposition 8 accomplished was to take away from same-sex couples the right to be granted marriage licenses and thus legally to use the designation ‘marriage.’  Proposition 8 serves no purpose, and has no effect, other than to lessen the status and human dignity of gay men and lesbians in California.”
            Meanwhile, the hate and fear continues. Comedian Ellen Degeneres is now the subject of a boycott by a so-called “Million Moms,” who want her removed as the spokesperson for J.C. Penny.  Ellen noted dryly on her TV show, the Million Moms’ Facebook page shows a membership of 45,000 so she guessed they just rounded up to get their fake number.

Meanwhile, Never Miss An Opportunity To Gin Up The Culture Wars 

            The Republican culture wars heated up over the issue of the “Obama Care” program requiring that insurance companies offer full, comprehensive coverage for all women’s health issues, including birth control, to all businesses that offer insurance to their employees, including Catholic institutions that primarily “serve the public interest,” with exemptions made for institutions that are primarily religious and not serving “the public.”  These provisions are already in place at Catholic institutions in 28 states and these institutions have made different kinds of “wink-nudge” accommodations.  Like Hawaii, “where the rule is in effect, but where employees at religious institutions that do not offer free contraception can get birth control through side benefits, which the employees nominally pay for but which often end up being free.”
            Considering that polls show that the vast majority of even Catholic women use birth control of some kind, and a good number of people working at Catholic institutions such as hospitals are not Catholic, all this “wink-nudge” has been going on under the Bishop’s noses for years. 
            But, it’s an election year, so you can be sure that a Church under real scrutiny for years of child molesting that went unexamined at best, and covered up at worst, won’t lose an opportunity to flip the frame and come out playing the role of victim here – Christianity under assault! And Republicans sure aren’t going to miss a chance to portray our Muslim Kenyan Christian-Hating President as a man out to “Destroy Religious Freedom!”  
            The issue is simple:  Equal insurance coverage requirements for all employees whose employers offer insurance, with exceptions for primarily religious institutions, and all kinds of wink-nudge accommodations to allow Catholics to pretend that the wink-nudge accommodations aren’t there.  Win-Win. 
            But in the culture wars, the political wars, women’s bodies, women’s reproductive health, will once again be used as a fake battlefield. While Catholics suit up in fake hair-shirts to play the fake victim card, and Republicans gin up the fake outrage.
            The real question is this:  Are women stupid enough to fall for this?  Stay tuned. 

Congress/Prez for Sale.  Cheap, Considering.
            Stephen Colbert gave formal thanks for the 22 rich guys who, to date, have financed the Republican Primary via the Super PACS.  Then wittily declared that he sure those 22 will pick a president he likes.
            At the same time, President Obama, who originally decried Super PACS, has succumbed to unleashing the Democratic PACS and so turned into Omar Sharif in “Lawrence of Arabia.”  Remember the scene, the Turkish retreat from Deraa, the demoralized army fleeing while behind them massed Lawrence’s band of fierce Bedouin and Lawrence declared, “No quarter! No quarter,” and at first Omar objected, then, caught up in the moment, brandished his sword and galloped into battle.  No quarter!  And the slaughter commenced.
            We will now see what will be unleashed by the Roberts’ Supreme Court and their Citizens United disaster.  Battle of the Super PACS.  Government by Twenty-Two?  Forty-Four?  Which returns us to the pre-Jacksonian America: Rule by Rich Aristocrats. 
            Who needs One man, one vote, anyway? 

Sunday, February 05, 2012

Your Sunday Poem

Wislawa Szymborska died a few days ago.  The poetry world will be a far emptier place without her.  But we have her wonderful work still with us.  Celebrate her life.  Go to the bookstore to buy a volume of her work. "Poems New and Collected," would be a good start.  It will be a nice gift to yourself.  Read a few poems during a break in the Superbowl.  Szymborska would have taken delight in that.  Might have even written a poem about it.

Nothing's a Gift

Nothing's a gift, it's all on loan.
I'm drowning in debts up to my ears.
I'll have to pay for myself
with my self,
give up my life for my life.

Here's how it's arranged:
The heart can be repossessed,
the liver, too,
and each single finger and toe.

Too late to tear up the terms,
my debts will be repaid,
and I'll be fleeced,
or, more precisely, flayed.

I move about the planet
in a crush of other debtors.
Some are saddled with the burden
of paying off their wings.
Others must, willy-nilly,
account for every leaf.

Every tissue in us lies
on the debit side.
Not a tentacle or tendril
is for keeps.

The inventory, infinitely detailed,
implies we'll be left
not just empty-handed
but handless, too.

I can't remember where, when, and why
I let someone open
this account in my name.

We call the protest against this
the soul, And it's the only item
not included on the list.

Saturday, February 04, 2012

What The Hell Happened To You People?

It was an interesting, intense, short ker-fluffle -- Susan G. Komen for the Cure foundation against Planned Parenthood.  1.3 million Twitter posts.  Planned Parenthood won.  For now.  But I have to ask, (as the New York Times put it) "Nancy G. Brinker, the polished Republican donor who founded the Komen after her sister died of breast cancer: " What were you thinking?

The Susan G. Komen organization is noted for its breathtakingly successful media savvy -- smart, slick, well organized, they don't miss a fund-raising trick.  For thirty years they've built a formidable reputation.  Their main event -- the Susan G. Komen Run -- is one of the best known breast cancer fund-rasing events around, all those pink ribbons, pink t-shirts, pink, pink, pink everything. They have ferociously guarded their "brand," and marketed that brand very, very smartly.  In short, they're at the top of their game in understanding the delicate relationship of credibility, trust and hardball all non-profits must play.  And play it they did.  Very, very well.

Which is why their decision last year to allow one new Board Member, Karen Handle, former secretary of state in Georgia and an outspoken opponent of all things Planned Parenthood, to run this organization off into a ditch. The dumbness of that decision is what is so astounding.  Like they suddenly all suffered some kind of sudden brain death and forgot 30 years of PR smarts?

The issue wasn't a new one.  Anti-abortion foes had been picketing its fund-raising events for years, trying to disrupt their races or harassing their sponsors, and so forth. So the Komenites knew, from day one, that their efforts to give grant monies to Planned Parenthood for breast screening was politicized by anti-abortion foes from the beginning.  But Komen soldiered on, trying to keep their efforts out of the politics of abortion by trying to get along by going along, whistling past the graveyard.

Big mistake on two fronts.  The Abortion Wars have been structured by anti-abortion foes into a purely black/white issue: Pro-choice or No-Choice.  Period.  No grey areas.  No cross overs. No exceptions. Nothing. End of discussion. Which means, in this War there are two choices only: Complete Capitulation or Push Back.  That's it.

Komen's Mistake One was it tried to have it both ways: Fund the breast exam/screening portion of Planned Parenthood, which met their own mission goals of preventing/early detection/treatment of breast cancer while distancing themselves from the small percent of abortion services provided by Planned Parenthood.  That, and a hope that playing nice-nice and focusing on their smooth PR machine would keep their skirt ruffles out of the politically muddy trenches. Which was and remains impossible.This war gives no quarter, takes no prisoners, allows nobody to remain on the sidelines.

Mistake Two was when the Komen board decided to separate from Planned Parenthood but kept their plans quiet, hoping nobody would notice.  That one decision is clear evidence that some kind of PR brain death occurred in that Board room.  First rule of any organization is to control the message.  If you're going to make a controversial business decision involving some kind of direction change, mission statement revamps, whatever, you start the roll-out often years in advance, controlling the message every step of the way, so when the change takes place, nobody notices or cares.  They've been prepped, your skirt ruffles have been carefully kept clean, and  if the change is fraught with political hysteria and/or political bullying, all the fingerprints have been removed.

In this particular defunding case, the given reasons for the change didn't even begin to pass the smell test.  And instead of fingerprints, there were huge, reeking, politically muddy boot tracks all over this thing.

The Feb. 4 New York Times story notes, "The Komen foundation itself now finds itself even more caught between these two poles.  'Is it possible for a woman's health organization to stay out of the abortion issue and help all women?' asked Mr. Raffaelli, the Komen board member.  'I don't know the answer to that yet.  What we were doing before was angering the right-to-life crowd.  Then, with our decision in December, we upset the pro-choice crowd. And now we're going to make the right-to-life crowd mad all over again.  How do we stop doing that?'"

The answer, of course, is simple: No.  Not possible to help all women and keep out of the abortion issue.   It's either one or the other and so you pick your side and when threatened, you push back. You can make it clear that your foundation will be taking its mission from any and all anti-abortion organizations and you will refuse to fund any group they do not approve of.  Or you can tell the anti-abortion groups that you are focused on breast cancer, women's health and saving lives and if your grantees don't meet with the anti-abortion group's approval, then they can shove off.

In the Abortion Wars, you cannot have it both ways.  Organizations and their donors and supporters must pick their political path, make their position clear, push back against bullying, coercion, and political harassment, accept the consequences of their choice, and then pull up their big girl panties and set to work with what they've got.

In the real world, that's what "choice" is all about.  

Friday, February 03, 2012

Spending Spree

Calhoun’s Can(n)ons for February 3, 2012

Happy Days are heeeeere again, The sky’s of blue are cleeeeear again

            Oh, thank goodness.  We’re saved!  Our economic woes are finally over.  The worst crash and burn since the Great Depression is about to lift.  We’ll soon be rolling in money.   The mighty economic engines of our various newly formed political super PACS have been unleashed in the recent Republican primaries and if the waterfall of moolah keeps up at the same pace it did in Florida, we’ll all be on Easy Street.
            Who would have thunk?  Here we’ve all been mooning around begging for Jobs! Jobs! Jobs! Begging somebody, somewhere to plueeeze, plueeze bring manufacturing back, restore our great Rust Belt, put people to work. And all the while, there it was, staring us in the face all along --the greatest Rain Maker in history, thanks to the Supreme Court.  Yes, the Super PACSs!
             Mitt Romney’s “Restore Our Future” super PAC blew through nearly $17 million in Florida alone, while Newt Gingrich’s “Winning Our Future” super PAC got a good run at spending its $10 million donation from gambling tycoon, Sheldon Adelson. Talk about Trickle Down.
            And look what all that money bought: Ron Paul mostly skated outside the thundering elephant rumble, poking the candidates with sharp pointy “issues” questions that nobody wanted to address. Rick Santorum was exposed as a dead-baby-hugging, gay-on-dog homophobe loony who can’t wait to nuke Iran to keep it from getting nukes. Mitt exposed his primary rival as a hypocritical, bloviating, philandering, sleazy, untrustworthy Washington lobbyist whack-a-doodle who wants to colonize the moon.  Newt exposed his rival as a flip-flopping, hypocritical, wooden-headed, tin-eared, job-destroying, blood-sucking Bain Capital predator Mormon who loves to fire people.  Oh, and a . . Massachusetts Moderate.
            Well, who knew?  In total, the GOP candidates and/or their PACS have spent about $53 million, with $25 million on TV ads alone. Oh, lucky Florida and South Carolina!  Heck, even comedian Stephen Colbert’s PAC has reported out that it raised $1.02 million and spent a nice chunk of that in Colbert’s South Carolina faux campaign. All that nice money raining down on the primary states.  Keep that up for a few more months – next up, Nevada! Arizona! - – and single-handedly the Republican PACS will lift the economy, state by state, all without raising a single tax. 
            And soon, President Obama’s campaign war chest and PAC, which is nearing $82 million in donations, will meet up with “American Crossroads,” Karl Rove’s Pac, which already has over $51 million, with more coming in, and you’re looking at a real job-creating economic engine of unimagined power.
            Think of all the trickle-down jobs what will be created – precinct walkers, phone callers, mailer stuffers, poster printers, Quick Response Teams of copy writers, rumor mongers (and rumor blockers), and all those jobs required to create TV ads stuffed to the gills with innuendo, spin, flat out Swift-Boaty lies and scary music.

            And what will we get for all that money?  Well, we’ll learn that President Obama is a Kenyan muslim socialist who wants to make abortion mandatory, kill old people with his “Obama Care death panels,” give rich people’s money to dirty, lazy, undeserving Saul Alinsky poor people, become a surrender monkey by appeasing Iran and turn America into . . . France.  While Mitt Romney will destroy the unions, reduce the minimum wage to zero, turn the major corporate players of American business into one big Bain Capital predator which will devour all small business, destroy Medicare and Social Security, fire the 99% to further enrich the 1% (his peeps) and make Mormonism the official national religion.
            And frugal little Ron Paul with his tiny war chest will nimbly keep dancing just off stage asking annoying “issues” questions that nobody will answer.
            But, really, who cares if all that money is basically going to be wasted on sheer crap?  Or that the American electorate is about to be badly served, at best, or grotesquely misled, at worst. Or that the voters still seem blissfully unaware that Congress is still the dog that wags the presidential tail; unless they change Congress, they’ll just end up with more do-nothingness.  Which is what happens when the focus moves away from imperfect real people imperfectly trying to solve real problems and becomes the faked-up persona in thrall to the deadly Cult of Political Purity  – election autos-de-fe, American style.   
            No, nobody cares about all that.  It’s raining money and for a few minutes, which seems to be the maximum extent of our attention span, happy days are here again. Until the political money rain stops and it becomes clear once again that despite the billions, the balloons, the confetti, the clowns with their toootle horns, the wolf is still on the doorstep.