Archive for February 23rd, 2012
By Pat Tiffin
In 2009, Laughline posted a tongue-in-cheek joke list called Spring Classes for Women. It’s time for the 2012 update: A Girl’s Guide to Health Care Decision-Making: “Why Strange Men Who Aren’t Doctors Know What’s Best For You” Slide Presentation By the State of Virginia. Opening Remarks by Darrell Issa.
I suppose the prerequisite course would be Stupid Bitch 101: How to Shut Up and Do What You’re Told. I imagine Rick Santorum has the curriculum for that.
Who’s Your Daddy?
The hapless, helpless little girl who just can’t muddle through the day has risen from the dead. Women no longer, we are now children – whose mental capacity is again directly related to breast size – in desperate need of paternal guidance to keep us from hurting ourselves. Perhaps it’s January Jones in Mad Men or the recent resurgence in biblical fanaticism, but what initially seemed like a bad joke is becoming frighteningly real.
The first indicator that caught my attention was the mandatory HPV shots for 12 year old’s in Texas. Yes, it was Texas, and we do have the Rick Perry/Merck relationship, but it was a government mandate directly related to the sexual health of young girls.
The secondary assault on Planned Parenthood was really no surprise but the legislative support at so many levels caught me off guard. It was a well-coordinated campaign, launching in numerous locations from numerous sources. It makes a person wonder what ALEC was up to in its summer camp for politicians. With each and very outrageous sound byte that the media could broadcast – remember the “not-intended-to-be-a-factual-statement” from that frisky little bubblehead John Kyl – misinformation flowed like diarrhea.
Left out of the shit stream was any concern for the health care of low-income women and rural women who don’t exactly have their pick of medical facilities. Just for the record, 76% of Planned Parenthood clients have incomes at or below 150% of the federal poverty level. Yes, they provide services for contraception (34%) and abortion (3%) along with pap smears, breast exams and screenings for HVP and cervical cancer. I won’t even begin to rehash the Komen debacle, but what was most interesting to me was how surprised Brinker and Handel were by the vehement reaction of women themselves. Maybe they didn’t realize the submissive wife thing isn’t necessarily bi-partisan.
The idea of women being incapable of determining the course of their own reproductive health is nothing new. If a 25-year-old man goes to the doctor and requests a vasectomy – with our without having children – no problem. If a 25-year-old woman goes to the doctor and requests a tubal ligation, she will get a lecture. If she has no children, she may get a flat-out no. Interestingly enough, both procedures are reversible, but only the woman’s judgement will be questioned. Does she really understand what she’s doing? How could she possibly think that she doesn’t want any or even any more children? Is she just too “emotional” to make her own decisions?
Of course she is, but don’t worry – some old white guy who couldn’t get it up with a crane has her covered.
I’m not sure how the boys in the GOP missed it, but somewhere between 1955 and 2012, upstart gals starting thinking that sex wasn’t just for men.
If sperm is the magic elixir and the egg is the lucky recipient – what happens when the egg seems to be unimpressed? As women gained ability to control pregnancy, the sexual balance shifted. An overthrow of the missionary position ensued, size did matter, technique too, and while former Republican Presidential Candidate Bob Dole hawked Erectile Dysfunction drugs, the rest of the boys sulked in silence. It’s tough on the ego when wham-bam-thank-you-ma’am is all you’ve got.
Now to be fair, I have never in my life heard a single guy say, “You’re not using birth control, are you?” Men have gotten the short stick (no pun intended) in the contraception game. Condoms have been around for about 400 years and are still a man’s only real option without vasectomy. We did see some innovation in the make up – from lamb intestine to latex – but despite the lack of complexity in the male reproductive system, it appears that’s the best we can do.
Can you imagine a guy walking into a drugstore to buy some Trojans and being told that he needs to watch a video on the danger of rubbers to procreation? If we were going to be truly equal about it, we probably need to stick a catheter up his penis while he does.
The most revealing fact about the true motivators in the fight against contraception is that not a single Republican has called to outlaw condoms. Nor is “informed consent” required for unmarried men to receive Viagra or any other drug that promotes erection – which seems to indicate they want to have sex outside of marriage. God knows the GOP doesn’t want them doing that with other men, so surely they are lusting after women – with no thought to the children who might be born out of wedlock. Pregnancy is a woman’s problem after all.
I do believe that some Republicans truly feel that abortion is morally wrong , and want to stop it the same way I want the murders in Syria stopped. But the level of aggression in the current legislation, particularly in Virginia, seems a bit too strong for guys who are trying to save unborn babies.
Not only will they force a woman to have an unnecessary ultrasound (and make her or the insurance company pay for it), the boys want the procedure to be transvaginal. In other words, a device that looks a little like a gun (and that reminds us of…?) is inserted into the vaginal canal to supposedly to get better pictures than the normal abdominal procedure used by expectant parents. Apparently the government believes it can cram a camera up someone’s vagina just to make sure the poor confused little girl is properly informed about the procedure she’s already decided to have.
These attacks are not about women’s health, they are about women’s SEXUAL health, or more accurately, women’s sexual freedom. That is the ultimate fighting ground for conservative men. Women are not allowed to be in charge of their sex lives.
Yesterday the governor of Virginia backed off the transvaginal procedure after public outcry He said forcing a woman to have an invasive procedure in the name of informed consent is unacceptable. Perhaps the references to rape caught his attention? Forcing a women to have any procedure that she doesn’t request and isn’t medically- necessary to her safety as determined by her physician – is not about education.
Informed consent is the patient’s responsibility. For a party that’s fully intent on destroying government-funded healthcare – this little detour into the vagina seems bit contradictory. Unless it’s more about consent by force than information.
Yesterday, a GOP legislator decided that the Girl Scouts are a sleeper cell for Planned Parenthood. Though I’ve never seen the badge for abortion, apparently those little Brownies are being indoctrinated by feminists. Let’s strap them to a table, get those Crocs in the stirrups – clearly they need a little “informed consent.”
© 2012, agentleman.
Four Dudes and a Table By GAIL COLLINS
The 20th Republican debate! I have now spent more time watching the Republican presidential candidates on television than two seasons of “Downton Abbey.” Perhaps it would be easier if Newt Gingrich wore a tuxedo.
Also, I am pretty sure the folks at Downton Abbey never spent an episode arguing about earmarks. Republicans, why are we still discussing earmarks? If the American people cared passionately about earmarks, wouldn’t they have elected John McCain?
My personal favorite debate moment on Wednesday night was when the candidates were asked to describe themselves in one word and Newt Gingrich said “cheerful.” Not an adjective you frequently hear when Newt is the topic, but you do appreciate the aspiration, particularly when Mitt Romney went for “resolute.”
Remember Newt Gingrich? Won the South Carolina primary? Now he’s an also-ran, and his latest solution to his dwindling poll numbers has been to buy time for an infomercial in which he sits behind a desk and talks about energy for 30 minutes. Newt has always had a touching faith in the attention span of the average voter.
Over on the other end of the table — exciting breakthrough, that table — was Ron Paul. He, too, has a new TV ad, directed at the youth of America, which begins with a picture of Rick Santorum. “Is this dude serious?” the announcer demands. “Fiscal conservative? Really?”
The ad then goes on to say that Santorum’s votes to raise the debt ceiling were “not groovy.” I am not an absolute expert on the speech patterns of young people, but I am feeling pretty confident that they do not use the word “groovy.”
Still, welcome back, Ron Paul! Good luck with that recount of the Maine caucus vote!
The prime seats at the center of the table went to Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum, one of whom is going to be the nominee for president of the United States.
Take your pick, Republicans. On one hand, the guy who once drove to Canada with the family dog strapped to the roof of the car. On the other, the guy who won his first Congressional race by criticizing his opponent for moving his family to Washington. And then later moved his own family to Washington, but said it didn’t count because the Senate was different from the House.
Much of the debate involved the two front-runners squabbling, and Santorum proved that even if the subject was rutabagas, he would still find a way to point out that Massachusetts passed its universal health care law when Mitt Romney was governor.
When the topic turned to a murky discussion of contraception, in which birth control pills seemed to get the blame for rising rates of unwed motherhood, Santorum suddenly said: “The whole reason this issue is alive is because of the bill that you drafted in Massachusetts, Romneycare.”
Romney then announced that everything — I think this included both unwed motherhood and the Obama health care reform — happened because Santorum had endorsed Arlen Specter for the U.S. Senate in 2004.
The Arizona crowd was totally on Romney’s side. This was no easy task, since it required a lot of booing and cheering at those obscure earmark arguments. But Mitt needed all the help he could get. He’s facing a must-win primary next week in Michigan, which is, of course, his home state. Along with Massachusetts and New Hampshire and California, where he has, um, homes. Michigan appears to be the only Romney home state where Romney does not have an actual residence.
In his attempts to make up for that oversight, Mitt has really been laying it on thick. “I love this state!” he told Michiganders at one campaign stop. “It seems right here! Trees are the right height!”
In another ploy to re-win the love of the state whose major industry he wanted to send into bankruptcy, Romney got Donald Trump to record robo-calls that will tell innocent Michigan phone answerers that Mitt Romney, is a “good man” while Rick Santorum, is a “career politician.”
Romney thinks Michigan voters will like him better because he has earned the respect of Donald Trump. A person who claimed he had to postpone plans to run for president himself and save the nation because of a conflict with the airing dates for “Celebrity Apprentice.”
Well, there’s always Santorum. The career politician! Actually, Trump was entirely unfair on this point — Santorum has been out of office since 2006, when he was defeated for re-election by one of the widest margins in American history.
Take your pick, Republican primary voters. If neither one works for you, there’s always Newt. Or Ron Paul. Some choice, dudes. Not groovy.
© 2012, agentleman.
GOP Debate: Republican Candidates Face Off In Arizona
By DAVID ESPO, ASSOCIATED PRESS
MESA, Ariz. — Primed for a fight, Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum traded fiery accusations about health care, spending earmarks and federal bailouts Wednesday night in the 20th and possibly final debate of the roller-coaster race for the Republican presidential nomination.
With pivotal primaries in Arizona and Michigan just six days distant, Romney and Santorum sparred more aggressively than in past debates, sometimes talking over each other’s answers.
Texas Rep. Ron Paul chimed in from the side, saying with a smile that Santorum was a fake conservative who had voted for programs that he now says he wants to repeal. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich acted almost as a referee at times.
The most animated clash of the evening focused on health care.
Santorum, surging in the presidential race, said that Romney had used government funds to “fund a federal takeover of health care in Massachusetts,” a reference to the state law that was enacted during Romney’s term as governor. The law includes a requirement for individuals to purchase coverage that is similar to the one in President Barack Obama’s landmark federal law that Romney and other Republicans have vowed to repeal.
In rebuttal, Romney said Santorum, a former Pennsylvania senator, bore responsibility for passage of the health care law that Obama won from a Democratic-controlled Congress in 2010, even though he wasn’t in office at the time. He said that in a primary battle in 2004, Santorum had supported then-Sen. Arlen Specter, who later switched parties and voted for the law Obama wanted.
“He voted for Obamacare. If you had not supported him, if we had said no to Arlen Specter, we would not have Obamacare,” Romney contended.
Santorum was the aggressor on bailouts.
While all four of the Republicans on the debate stage opposed the federal bailout of the auto industry in 2008 and 2009, Santorum said he had voted against other government-funded rescue efforts.
“With respect to Governor Romney that was not the case, he supported the folks on Wall Street and bailed out Wall Street – was all for it – and when it came to the auto workers and the folks in Detroit, he said no. That to me is not a principled consistent position.”
The debate had a different look from the 19 that preceded it. Instead of standing behind lecterns, the four presidential rivals sat in chairs lined up side by side.
There was another difference, as well, in the form of polls that underscored the gains that Obama has made in his bid for re-election.
An Associated Press-Gfk poll released Wednesday found that Obama would defeat any of the four remaining Republican contenders in a hypothetical matchup. It also found that the nation is showing more optimism about the state of the economy, the dominant issue in the race.
But for two hours, Romney, Santorum, Paul and Gingrich had a different campaign in mind, their own race for the Republican nomination and the right to oppose Obama in the fall.
After a brief lull, the campaign calendar calls for 13 primaries and caucuses between next Tuesday, when Arizona and Michigan have primaries, and March 6, a 10-state Super Tuesday.
Romney is campaigning confidently in Arizona, so much so that his campaign has not aired any television ads.
But the former Massachusetts governor faces an unexpectedly strong challenge in his home state of Michigan, where Santorum is hoping to spring an upset. Santorum’s candidacy has rebounded in the two weeks since he won caucuses in Minnesota, Colorado and a non-binding primary in Missouri.
The result is a multimillion-dollar barrage of television commercials in Michigan in which the candidates and their allies swap accusations in hopes of tipping the race.
In all, 518 Republican National Convention delegates are at stake between Feb. 28 and March 6, three times the number awarded in the states that have voted since the beginning of the year. It takes 1,144 to win the nomination.
The dynamic of the campaign – Santorum challenging Romney – made their clashes inevitable.
Romney said Santorum voted five times while in Congress to raise the government’s ability to borrow, supported retention of a law that favors construction unions and supported increased spending for Planned Parenthood. He said federal spending rose 78 percent overall while the former Pennsylvania senator was in Congress.
Santorum retorted that government spending declined as a percentage of the economy when he was in the Senate, and he noted that when Romney was asked last year if he would support a then-pending debt-limit increase, “he said yes.”
There was a clash over federal spending earmarks, as well, and Gingrich sought to intervene as if serving as a referee instead of a debate participant.
He said he supported the earmarks that Romney had sought for the Olympics in Salt Lake City in 2002, then accused Romney of observing a double standard by running television ads attacking Santorum for having voted for different earmarks.
He said it was silly for Romney to take the position that “what you got was right and what he got was wrong.”
In the hours leading to Wednesday night’s debate, Romney called for a 20 percent across-the-board cut in personal income taxes as part of a program he said would revitalize the economy and help create jobs. The top tax rate would drop from 35 percent to 28 percent, and some popular breaks would be scaled back for upper-income taxpayers. However, aides provided scant details.
“We’ve got to have more jobs, less debt and smaller government, they go together,” Romney said in an appearance in nearby Chandler. “By lowering those marginal rates, we help businesses that pay at the individual tax rate to have more money so they can hire more people.”
Romney’s proposal sharpened his differences with Obama, who favors allowing tax cuts enacted under President Bush to expire on higher incomes.
Santorum, who has emerged as Romney’s leading challenger in the Republican race, campaigned at a tea party gathering in Tucson, where he said his rival’s new tax proposal largely mirrored one he had had already made.
“Welcome to the party, governor, it’s great to have you along,” he said.
Santorum’s rise in the race has left Gingrich and Paul on the outside looking for a way in.
The former House speaker has yet to recover from a campaign nosedive that began after he won the South Carolina primary on Jan. 21, and he is pinning his hopes on his home state of Georgia to begin a comeback on March 6.
His campaign announced plans Wednesday to buy 30-minute blocks of television time in upcoming primary and caucus states for an infomercial on reducing energy prices.
Gingrich’s decision not to campaign in Michigan so far has allowed Santorum to compete against Romney without also having to fend off a rival for the votes of conservatives.
Paul has yet to win any primaries or caucuses.
He has weighed in against Santorum, though, airing an ad in Michigan that challenges the former senator’s claim of taking a conservative line against federal spending. The ad says Santorum voted to raise the debt limit five times, and also supported legislation that created a prescription drug benefit under Medicare.
© 2012, agentleman.
Debt Slavery: 30 Facts About Debt In America That Will Blow Your Mind
When most people think about America’s debt problem, they think of the debt of the federal government. But that is only part of the story. The sad truth is that debt slavery has become a way of life for tens of millions of American families. Over the past several decades, most Americans have willingly allowed themselves to become enslaved to debt. These days, most of us are busy either going into even more debt or paying off the debt that we have accumulated in the past. When your finances are dominated by debt, it makes it really hard to ever get ahead. Incredibly, 43 percent of all American families spend more than they earn each year. Even while median household income continues to decline (now less than $50,000 a year), median household debt continues to go up. According to the Federal Reserve, median household debt in America has risen to $75,600. Many Americans spend decades caught in the trap of debt slavery. Large numbers of them never even escape at all and die in debt. It can be a lot of fun to spend lots of money and go into lots of debt, but it can be absolutely soul crushing to toil and labor for years paying off those debts while making others wealthy in the process. Hopefully this article will inspire many people to try to escape the chains of debt slavery once and for all.
Because the truth is that the American people need a wake up call. Consumer borrowing rose by another $19.3 billion in December. Right now it is sitting at a grand total of $2.5 trillion according to the Federal Reserve.
Overall, consumer debt in America has increased by a whopping 1700% since 1971.
We always criticize the federal government for going into so much debt, but we rarely criticize ourselves for our own addiction to debt.
Debt slavery is destroying millions of lives all across this country, and it is imperative that we educate the American people about the dangers of all this debt.
The following are 30 facts about debt in America that will absolutely blow your mind….
Credit Card Debt
#1 Today, 46% of all Americans carry a credit card balance from month to month.
#2 Overall, Americans are carrying a grand total of $798 billion in credit card debt.
#3 If you were alive when Jesus was born and you spent a million dollars every single day since then, you still would not have spent $798 billion by now.
#4 Right now, there are more than 600 million active credit cards in the United States.
#5 For households that have credit card debt, the average amount of credit card debt is an astounding $15,799.
#6 If you can believe it, one out of every seven Americans has at least 10 credit cards.
#7 The average interest rate on a credit card that is carrying a balance is now up to 13.10 percent.
#8 According to the credit card calculator on the Federal Reserve website, if you have a $10,000 credit card balance and you are being charged a rate of 13.10 percent and you only make the minimum payment each time, it will take you 27 years to pay it off and you will end up paying back a total of $21,271.
#9 There is one credit card company out there, First Premier, that charges interest rates of up to 49.9 percent. Amazingly, First Premier has 2.6 million customers.
Auto Loan Debt
#10 The length of auto loans in America just keeps getting longer and longer. If you can believe it, 45 percent of all new car loans being made today are for more than 6 years.
#11 Approximately 70 percent of all car purchases in the United States involve an auto loan.
#12 A subprime auto loan bubble is steadily building. Today, 45 percent of all auto loans are made to subprime borrowers. At some point that is going to be a massive problem.
#13 Total home mortgage debt in the United States is now about 5 times larger than it was just 20 years ago.
#14 Mortgage debt as a percentage of GDP has more than tripled since 1955.
#15 According to the Mortgage Bankers Association, approximately 8 million Americans are at least one month behind on their mortgage payments.
#16 Historically, the percentage of residential mortgages in foreclosure in the United States has tended to hover between 1 and 1.5 percent. Today, it is up around 4.5 percent.
#17 According to Dylan Ratigan, 46 percent of all mortgaged properties in Florida are underwater, 50 percent of all mortgaged properties in Arizona are underwater and 63 percent of all mortgaged properties in Nevada are underwater.
#18 Overall, nearly 29 percent of all homes with a mortgage in the United States are underwater.
#19 If you can believe it, the mortgage lenders now have more equity in U.S. homes than the American people do.
#20 Medical debt is a major problem for a growing number of Americans. One study discovered that approximately 41 percent of all working age Americans either have medical bill problems or are currently paying off medical debt.
#21 Sadly, the number of Americans that are protected by health insurance continues to decline. An all-time record 49.9 million Americans do not have any health insurance at all right now, and the percentage of Americans covered by employer-based health plans has fallen for 11 years in a row.
#22 But even if you do have health insurance, there is still a good chance that you could end up with huge medical debt problems. According to a report published in The American Journal of Medicine, medical bills are a major factor in more than 60 percent of the personal bankruptcies in the United States. Of those bankruptcies that were caused by medical bills, approximately 75 percent of them involved individuals that actually did have health insurance.
Student Loan Debt
#23 Total student loan debt in the United States is rapidly approaching 1 trillion dollars.
#24 If you went out right now and starting spending one dollar every single second, it would take you more than 31,000 years to spend one trillion dollars.
#25 In America today, approximately two-thirds of all college students graduate with student loan debt.
#26 The average student loan debt load is now approximately $25,000.
#27 After adjusting for inflation, U.S. college students are borrowing about twice as much money as they did a decade ago.
#28 One survey found that 23 percent of all college students actually use credit cards to pay for tuition or fees.
#29 The student loan default rate has nearly doubled since 2005.
#30 Student loans made to directly to parents have increased by 75 percent since the 2005-2006 academic year.
At this point, most Americans are up to their eyeballs in debt. According to a recent study conducted by the BlackRock Investment Institute, the ratio of household debt to personal income in the United States is now 154 percent.
Our entire economy has become based on credit.
Do you need a car?
Just get an auto loan.
Do you need a house?
Just get a mortgage.
Do you need to fill up your house with stuff?
Just get a credit card.
Do you need an education?
Just get a student loan.
In fact, if you are anything like a typical American, you probably have a mortgage you can barely afford, you probably have at least one auto loan, you probably have several credit card balances and you probably have a student loan that you deeply regret.
So what should you do if you are drowning in debt?
First, make a firm decision that you are going to break the chains of debt slavery once and for all.
Secondly, come up with a plan to reduce your debt. Paying off debt that carries a high rate of interest first (such as credit card debt) is usually a good idea.
The big financial institutions want to get us into as much debt as possible, because all of this debt makes them incredibly wealthy.
Don’t play their game.
Yes, that may mean that you may have to put off certain purchases until you can come up with the money, but in the long run you will be much better off.
© 2012, agentleman.