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Plaid Adder

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Member since: 2001
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I just read this and want you all to read it too: "What 'Health of the Mother' Means"

Back when Ryan first babbled about ultrasounds in the VP debate, I was moved to compose a screed about what an ultrasound does and doesn't mean and how that should affect the way we understand reproductive rights. I was surprised, and very humbled, by the stories that appeared in the comments from people who had lost pregnancies, who had broken their hearts making the decision to terminate a pregnancy after discovering that the fetus would not survive birth, people who understood in a much more visceral and tragic way than I did why conception does not guarantee birth.

Here is a piece by a woman who contracted ovarian cancer during her pregnancy about some of the heartbreaking decisions she had to make:


Be warned that it will gut you. But here is the most direct and powerful statement I have yet found anywhere of why it is crucial to preserve choice for women in this situation:

"Although I do not know whether it was right to forgo the biopsy or what I would have done if I’d learned of my cancer earlier, I do know that both decisions were mine to make. I came to the present tormented and joyful moment in my life with informed consent about the risks I was taking. The full knowledge that both of our lives were in my hands, and that we might not both get out alive, made that consent meaningful. To disregard the impact of my possible sickness and death on my family was, to me, just as problematic as terminating my pregnancy. Had I been a single mother or had my job been a financial necessity for my family, I might well have weighed my choices differently. I might not have been able to take the chances that came along with skipping the biopsy. It is painful to imagine how I would feel, now, if the choice had been out of my hands—or if it had been so sharply circumscribed that it was clear that it was mine only in form, not substance."

I would like to round up every uterus-free jerk who has ever pontificated about how this "health of the mother" exception is bullshit and force them to talk to this woman for ten minutes. But that would put a lot of stress on her, and probably have no effect on them.

The Plaid Adder

All right, well, I would say that Obama won this one...

...but I believe that Mitt lost it before he showed up.

I kind of wondered, after #2, whether his campaign might just tell Romney not to do it. I didn't believe he could ever come back from that, and I think tonight proves that I was right. Romney never looked comfortable; whenever he sounded plausible, it was because he was agreeing with or copying Obama; he attempted to have his "can you say that a little louder, Candy" moment but it just came off as petulant and nobody paid him any attention; he got a horse-mounted bayonet in the gut halfway through; and at the end he started just blurting out random uncontroversial things in a desperate attempt to make SOMEBODY like him. "I like American cars!" "Research is great!" "I love teachers!" If it had gone on for another five minutes I'm sure we'd have heard "Water is wet!" and "Rainbows are pretty!"

He got demolished. I'm sorry, PBS people, but you are living in a different world where there are always two sides to every question which have to be given equal time. There are not two sides to this question. Romney didn't just lose the debate. He deflated before our very eyes.

It would be kind of a sad spectacle, were it not for the fact that Romney brought it on himself. The campaign he's run richly deserved this evisceration. Now it's happened. I feel better about the election.

I still wish politics could be better than they are.

The Plaid Adder

A Piece of the Binders Full of Women Action


The Plaid Adder

Romney's Equal Pay Answer: Two Solid Minutes of FAIL

Oh, let me count the number of myths about women in the workforce that that asshole ratified in his answer to that question. No, there are too many. I will choose only two.

1) Women are not as ambitious as men.

Because apparently, they didn't even _apply_ for jobs in his cabinet. He, big strong chivalrous man, had to heroically SEARCH for women who wanted cabinet positions in his administration. My ass! MAYBE if you are the governor of Planet Ferenginar you would run into that situation...but not in Massachusetts.

What, these women in these binders were so shy and retiring and meek that you couldn't POSSIBLY have known about them if "feminist groups" hadn't been out there searching for them? No, you asshole; if it's even true that your staff just "didn't know" there were qualified women out there, it's because you and your staff are a bunch of old boys' network cronies who cultivated complete ignorance of these women in order to avoid having to bring any girls into their clubhouse.

2) Women care more about cooking dinner for their kids than about their careers.

This is perhaps the part that pisses me off most. Because it implies a) all women are mothers (otherwise you wouldn't have to do this to get WOMEN into the workforce) b) mothers do all the parenting (because obviously MEN don't need to be home at 5:00 to cook dinner for their kids) c) women with kids don't and can't pull their own weight at the office.

I hate this whole tricolon, but maybe I hate c) the most. Because you know what, Mitt, someone does have to feed the kids. You may be interested to know, however, Mitt, that men of my generation and the generations younger than me are starting to realize the idea that the person going home early to cook dinner for the kids has to be a woman is fucked up, and to understand that by treating men as if THEY don't need any time with their partners or children, the workplace is really screwing them out of something very important. My brother just got laid off, Mitt, and I just spent some time talking to him about it, and a tiny little dagger went into my heart when, after I spent ten minutes telling him what a good father he is and how much I admire him for that, he said as if it was a horrible thing to have to admit, yeah, I guess maybe being a parent is more important than my job. IT IS. IT IS, for EVERYONE, not just for women. But NOTHING about the way our society is constructed acknowledges that or makes it possible for people to act on it. And then along comes Mitt to remind us all that only women give a shit about being available for their children. Fuck you, Mitt. My brother cares. And I have been wishing for years that the profession he's in would allow him to act on that. He didn't take his 12 weeks of FMLA leave for any of his kids when they were born, even though he coudl well afford it. I think maybe he took 2 weeks for his first child. It's not because he didn't want it. It's because he knew the guys he worked with would take that as an indication that he wasn't serious about his job. And that is exactly what you and your "flexible schedule" answer have just implied: that women--all of whom apparently reproduce--will never really take their jobs as seriously as men are supposed to.

For all the shit slung by politicians about how important children are, our economy makes it damn hard to take care of them. My wife and I both work and are both mothers. Like most women in our situation, we could only do this at first by hiring someone else to do some of the parenting work. Now, we have one of those "flexible" situations Mitt is describing. Only Mitt didn't tell you how, in order to be home by 5:00 to cook dinner, you have to go in early before your kid is even awake in the morning, and then go in to work on the weekends, because the fucking work still has to get done. No, he left us all with the impression that women can only be in the workforce if we make special accommodations for them and give them a reduced schedule.

We who work and raise children have a name for the kind of job Mitt just promised to create for all American women. We call it the Mommy Track. The Mommy Track is lateral, not vertical. You don't have a problem with the glass ceiling on the Mommy Track because the Mommy Track does not take you within striking distance of it.

And then--AND THEN--he goes on to tell us that only when the economy is thriving will employers try to recruit women again. Because WE ALL KNOW that women only get into the workforce once all the men are used up. I mean why would you let a WOMAN who WANTS a job take one away from a MAN who NEEDS it?

OK. So. You contrast this with Obama's answer, which began with him noting that women are "increasingly the breadwinners" and that this not just a women's issue but a "family issue." This is is a man who is in touch with twenty-first century reality, my friend. I don't know WHERE the fuck Mitt flew in from. The 1970s, maybe.


The Plaid Adder

The Purest Kind Of A Guy

Still taking me a little while to digest the "binders full of women" remark.

I've now seen in several places the debunking that demonstrates that the story Mitt told wasn't even true--that in fact the now-infamous "binder full of women" was a study done by a coalition of organizations called MassGAP that was specifically trying to address the underrepresentation of women in government, and not something that he ordered. Well, that's par for the course.

This is going to hurt him. Not just because binders are old-fashioned, not just because it implies that he sees no difference between an actual woman and her paper resume. Because any woman working in any profession now knows exactly what kind of guy Mitt Romney is.

A guy who can only hire women out of a "binder" prepared for him by an action group is a guy who has spent his whole career navigating the Old Boys Network. That is a guy who has gotten to where he is by having, as Roy Cohn so memorably puts it in Tony Kushner's _Angels in America_, "the ability to be a good son" to the men further up the ladder. That is a guy whose advancement has been fueled by having gone to college with this guy or played golf with that guy or joined the same country club as the other guy. That is a guy who lives in a world where influence is patrilineal and you only ever move up a step because some man in power has decided that you are "a good guy." That is a guy who has to all intents and purposes been assuming that the profession he practices--in this case, politics--is still essentially all-male.

That, at any rate, is the only way that you get to be the governor of Massachusetts in this day and age without knowing a few women who you would like to have on your team. You think that when Obama was putting his cabinet together, he had to tell his staff to fetch in a binder full of women?

Now, since the story as Mitt told it is actually a lie, it's possible that he did know a few women he wanted to appoint. But in the story as Mitt told it, not only does _he_ not know any women qualified for positions in his administration, neither do any of the men on his staff. Which would appear to be all-male, since otherwise, there'd have been at least one women in that room who showed up with a list of names to put in the pool because she knew all the guys would be recommending men.

So thanks for the binder story, Mitt. Now any woman who's ever worked in any profession dominated by men knows exactly whcih of their asshole colleagues you are.

The Plaid Adder

So, I've now read and watched the Rose Garden address about Benghazi.

And I have this to say:

1) You can tell that both Obama and Clinton feel the loss personally, her perhaps more than him. But it's sure a stark contrast to smirkin' Mitt's response, and it won't hurt for people to be watching that tape a few times between now and November.

2) I would like to know who crafted that speech because it is a masterpiece.

I am not being sarcastic. If you read that speech closely, you will realize that it is so constructed that whether the attacks turned out to be spontaneously motivated by the film or whether they turned out to be a calculated terrorist attack, retroactively that speech will prove that Obama was right.

Because early in the speech, Obama asserts that while they deplore the denigration of anyone's faith there is categorically no excuse for "senseless violence." Then, later in the speech, he links the Benghazi attack to September 11 and says, "No acts of terror will weaken our resolve," etc. He does not explicitly say "the Benghazi attack was an act of terror;" but it is so strongly implied that virtually anyone, looking back after the fact, will agree that this is what he meant. He also does not explicitly say that the attacks were motivated by outrage over the film. But, had it turned out that they were, the speech implies that strongly enough that he's covered there too.

The one thing that is absolutely clear is that it is always referred to as an "attack" and the people who carried it out are always referred to as "attackers"--never as 'protestors.'

This tells me that at the time that speech was written, nobody was entirely sure what the story was--but it also tells me that there was a strong suspicion that this was not going to turn out to be a spontaneous event. It also tells me he's got people on his team who are really good at what they do, which oddly enough I find very reassuring.

3) Mitt's attack on Obama for "not knowing" that it was a terrorist attack soon enough has always been, from my POV, dishonest, no matter how you parse the Rose Garden speech. Why would you want your President out there boldly proclaiming that things are one way when in fact he and his staff know that there are still multiple possible explanations? Why would you want your president broadcasting to the nation things that would, at that point, no doubt still have been classified information? Wouldn't you prefer a president who thought that actually getting to the bottom of this was more important than posturing for the cameras?

Well, I guess if you would, then you would be voting for Obama. Whereas if you what you want from a president is ill-considered impulsive potentially destructive grand-standing, well, you probably voted for George W. Bush a couple times, and you're probably voting for Romney come fall.

Anyway. I'm glad Mitt got the smackdown he's been cruising for ever since that smirking press conference. Man I will be happy when he drops back below the radar.

The Plaid Adder

Pot & Kettle

So, I have really enjoyed watching that picture of a pristine Paul Ryan 'washing' an equally pristine pot in a clean soup kitchen circulate round and round the Interworld. It evokes a kind of dark nostalgia for the Bush years, during which the staged photo-op was raised to an art form. Probably no one will ever top the infamous flight suit photo under the sadly wrong "Mission Accomplished" banner...but coming in a close second, for me, was the photo of Bush 'serving turkey' to the troops in Iraq tht was unleashed with such fanfare one November.

Still. Looking at this picture of a man totally not helping the poor in any way while trying to make it look like he is was also, in a way, depressing. Because in a way it's a picture of all the ways in which charity, by itself, cannot solve our problems.

I have done some volunteering in my life, and the thing I found I enjoyed the most was working in soup kitchens. I like cooking; I like watching people eat food I have made and enjoy it; and I like the fact that it is simple. You make food and people eat it and then they're not as hungry as they were when they came in. A lot of charitable enterprises have unintended negative consequences. But you can be pretty sure that giving someone a meal isn't going to do them much damage. It is also simpler than most of what I do in the rest of my life. It was a good thing for me that whatever had gone wrong with my work during the week, I could at least go help feed a hundred people and that would usually work out OK. At the soup kitchen where I put in most of my volunteer time, they got a lot of donations from local restaurants, so you could usually make something that was actually a pleasure to eat. Now we go to a church that has a very well-developed food pantry (this is what they call it instead of "soup kitchen," which is really a misnomer these days) which not only feeds people on site but packs bags of groceries for people to take home with them. Their schedule makes it impossible for me to cook there, but I help out packing the take-away bags sometimes. There are two kinds: the bag of groceries for people who have access to a kitchen, and the bag of groceries for people who don't have a stove, a can opener, plates, or, basically, a home.

This is important work. They feed a shitload of people. It does matter. But it is not enough. It cannot be enough. Private charity can never and will never truly compensate for the failures of public policy. Charity cannot match the scale of the need. There are too many people who have nowhere to live, too many people who have nothing to eat, too many people who are "food insecure," which is what we evidently call it now when a family cannot be sure where its next meal is coming from.

We believe in charity; we engage in it; we are training PJ to believe in it. Still, when we all take our donated school supplies to church for the local public school, which cannot afford to keep its own students outfitted because of the insane way our city's property taxes are siphoned off to fund private development, and PJ talks with that heartbreaking confidence about how much this will help people, it just makes you want to cry. Yes, it helps some. A truly just and sane approach to public education in this country would help a lot more.

What was Paul Ryan doing in that soup kitchen anyway? Why did they want that photo? Because this is the only visible form conservative "compassion" is allowed to take: the individual rich person, out of the goodness of his heart and fullness of his wallet, donating a little time and money to make life slightly better for a few people some of the time. This is as photogenic as "trickle-down economics" will ever get. If they wanted an image of their guys doing something to help the 47%--hell, to help the 99%--this was the only way they could get it. Even if the work he was doing had been real--and I'd kind of enjoy seeing Ryan do some real cleanup work at a soup kitchen; I've done it myself, and you come out a lot messier, not to say wetter, wrinklier, and smellier, than you went in--it would still, in a sense, have been a lie. Because if he and Romney get elected, they are going to make way more people "food insecure" than that kitchen can ever feed.

The fact that this photo turned out to be pure image--that in fact, what we have is not a picture of work being done but a picture of a man treating a kitchen that feeds hungry people as if it were a movie set--is of course delectable to the connoisseur of irony. But the real irony, the one that scalds me, is the implication that scrubbing a few pots somehow balances out the record of legislative ruthlessness that seeks to strip out more and more public support for the poor even as it moves more and more of the country's wealth away from ordinary Americans. For the scale to balance, Paul Ryan would have to frickin' live in a soup kitchen--and Mitt Romney with him--and wash dishes from sunup to sundown for the rest of his natural life.

The Plaid Adder

Enough with the LOLRyans. I demand LOLBidens!

Yeah, Ryan. I remember the first ultrasound where we saw a fetal heartbeat too.

And yet I remain pro-choice.

And here is why, moved up from the bottom of the thread:

We had a lot of emotional experiences related to ultrasounds during Mrs. Plaidder's pregnancy with PJ. Some exhilarating, some heartbreaking. That is what pregnancy is like. There are so many opportunities for things to go wrong. It is a perilous nine months, and one of the things you learn by making that journey is that conception does not guarantee life.

I know so many women who have had one miscarriage, two miscarriages, multiple rounds of failed IVFs, stillbirths...all while desperately wanting to keep the children they lost. I remember the way a friend described looking at the ultrasound that showed that their daughter's heart had stopped beating--a day before her due date. I know what a fetus whose heart stopped beating days ago looks like on an ultrasound.

All the women I know who lost these pregnancies grieved over them. No matter how far along they were. Eight weeks, seven months, nine months minus a day. The loss of the pregnancy is the loss of the child you begin dreaming of the day that test goes positive. Whatever stage it's at.

We came to the decision, early in PJ's gestational period, that we would never be able to bring ourselves to terminate this pregnancy, no matter what the genetic testing showed; so we didn't pay for the genetic screening they push on you everywhere now. It was somewhat startling to discover that when it came to us, there was nothing that could have made us decide to terminate--not even knowing that the child had trisomy-13 or whatever it is that they scare you with to sell the tests.

That is the decision that WE made. That is the decision that WE had the RIGHT to make. And what we want is for EVERY woman to have the RIGHT to make her own decisions about her own pregnancy.That is what WE learned from all those ultrasounds. For me or Paul Ryan or anyone else to tell some woman who wants to end her pregnancy no, don't do it, that's not what I would do is just as wrong as it would have been for our doctors to say you must take the test, and if it is positive, you must abort. About something this personal, this vital, this potentially life-changing and all-consuming, it is the people going through the pregnancy who MUST have the right to make the decisions. Anything else is a brutal violation of your human rights.

Conception, gestation, delivery, all these things are so much more chancy and indeterminate and unpredictable than these people want you to believe. Life may or may not begin at conception. But women going through this know all too well that conception does not guarantee birth. I know. I have spent more nights than you want to know trying to answer the question why. Why could this baby not have lived? Why was I allowed to conceive but not to give birth? Why does God, or why does nature, allow fetuses and embryos to be created which are genetically non-viable and therefore doomed never to be born? Why all this waste of potential life?

This shit is complicated, it is emotional, it is hard, it is a source of real grief for so many women. And when I see a guy like Paul Ryan tell a story like this and then look out at us with his Disney doe eyes as if that makes it all so simple...well, I am going to see if I can get through this paragraph without using any more profanity. What you saw on that ultrasound, Paul, was possibility. A possible child and an actual child are two different things. Trust me. People break their hearts on that difference.

It's all so simple to you, you arrogant...well, OK, I'm in a new paragraph now, but still, serentiy now. All right. There are many things I am sick of. One is the way the right manipulates fetal imaging for its own purposes. Because what htey are doing is playing with the heartshaking emotions attached to pregnancy in an attempt to score their bullshit political points. And that is not OK, all right? Our hearts are not your fucking playthings, any more than our bodies are.

The Plaid Adder

Let's make this the VP Debate Plaidder House Party Thread. Drinks are on me!

...I at least am confident that it won't be boring.

Enjoy, everyone,

The Plaid Adder
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