21 February 2007

News Flash....South Dakota's Abortion Bill Rejected

This just in from the Coat-Hanger state.....a South Dakota senate committee killed the latest abortion bill in a lopsided 8-1 vote. So the most recent anti-choice legislation in the state didn't even make it out of committee.

The right-wing nuts in South Dakota had somehow convinced themselves that their crushing November 2006 defeat was because their ballot measure contained no provisions for rape, incest, and the heath of the mother. But even with those provisions added, the results have been the same for the anti-choice radicals.

After this humiliating defeat for the zealots, regional
Planned Parenthood President and CEO Sarah Stoesz still offered a bit of olive-branch saying today that:

"Planned Parenthood is committed to providing women with practical tools that truly reduce the rates of unintended pregnancy. We call on all those interested in preventing abortion to join with us in working to secure practical tools that prevent unintended pregnancies, such as comprehensive family planning services and education for South Dakotans."

This makes it clear that the abortion debate might be waning--at least I hope say. And as Stoesz also mentions in her statement,
"criminalizing abortion will not eliminate it." Maybe people are finally starting to figure that out.

Whistlin' Dixie in South Carolina

In a South Carolina campaign stop this week, Senator Hillary Clinton said that the Confederate flag should be removed from the statehouse grounds in Columbia because, "the nation should unite under one banner while at war."

I have some problems with her statement--it sounds like it was written by a committee of political advisers. And I believe that Clinton is swiftly gaining the reputation of being a major triangulator. She really needs a Sister Souldjah Moment soon.

But.....solidifying her African-American base, even with a weak and watered-down comment on the CSA flag is not so difficult to understand. I will give her a pass on this one. I would like to know, however, what happens when the Iraq War ends (if ever)? Does the old rebel flag go right back up the pole?

By the way--most of the left has actually criticized the NAACP for overemphasizing the Confederate flag matter. Mother Jones wrote in 2000 that the this was a “side-show” and was accentuated at the “expense of meaningful activism on issues that really matter to African-Americans.” Z-Net agreed in 2002 arguing that the flag issue was a “near textbook example of the NAACP’s strategy of elevating peripheral issues…and taking minimal action on the piles of crisis that devastate poor and working class black communities.”

Here is my complaint--it's not with Clinton, it's with our nation's inability to adequately examine this issue. I understand politics as well as the next person. I know that Senator Clinton cannot say what needs to be said about that flag. But when is someone going to be honest? Here is what needs to be told to the the pro-Confederate flag crowd:

"We are truly sorry that your Uncle Cletus died in the Civil War--we understand that he fought gallantly at Bull Run and Gettysburg. But here are the facts—the Confederate flag stands for hatred and racism—it does now; and it always has. It is a symbol of white supremacy and white power. It is a symbol of bigotry and anti-Semitism. The Confederate flag stands as a powerful statement against racial diversity, against communities of color, and against religious minorities. And while not everyone who raises that flag is a racist—that is what that the stars and bars represents. Your ancestors started that war, not for states rights, but to keep humans in bondage. And that fact can never be denied. This is why the Confederate flag should be taken down….and it should be taken down forever.”

20 February 2007

McCain and Roe v. Wade

I thoroughly enjoy blogging--it has allowed me to rediscover the joys of writing. Buddy's Books and Bait has forced me to meticulously frame my political ideas in a thoughtful and coherent fashion—and that has been extremely satisfying for me intellectually. That’s why I plan to keep blogging even if I have few readers.

But the frustrating part of researching and writing about politics is that one has to actually read all the half-baked ideas that are floating around. I know that many of my political rants are not original—and the topics are often warmed-over debates that should have been put to rest years ago. But if politicians want to raise these tired subjects, I suppose I will respond.

Which brings me to John McCain. Yesterday, McCain made his strongest statement to date on his opposition to Roe v. Wade. In order to ingratiate himself even further with conservative voters, the Arizona senator said Roe v. Wade should be overturned.

Now this is not big news, right? We know McCain is positioning himself for the 2008 Republican primaries. And while I strongly disagree with him regarding Roe, I’m not voting for him anyway.

But here is what I find maddening about McCain and the anti-abortion nuts. During the 2000 campaign, McCain was much more measured on the abortion issue. Remember, he was the self-appointed moderate back then. He declared at that time that if his daughter wanted an abortion, he would leave that decision up to her. Clearly there was some political posturing in that statement—but there is also something very slimy. So John McCain will not have the state force his daughter to carry her pregnancy to full term—but he has no trouble forcing millions of other women to do so.

This is where I return to my earlier statement—we shouldn't have to still point out these glaring inconsistencies. Even if Roe v. Wade were overturned, upper class white women will still be able to afford abortions; will still be able to travel to out-of-state clinics, will still continue to procure birth control and understand how to use it—it’s all the others, the millions of poor women, teens, and others in situations very different from John McCain’s daughter……these are the people that WILL be adversely affected if McCain and his ilk are allowed to keep appointing Fascists to the courts.

Isn’t this obvious? Does McCain see the inconsistency—or not? Isn’t it so damned clear that abortion laws are written to keep poor and minority women from having sex and producing babies that, according to conservatives at least, the taxpayers will then have to support? These restrictive laws were never intended for nice, white Republican girls—we trust them of course. If they get pregnant, it was probably due to special circumstance. McCain’s daughter will never have to deal with these life-changing reproductive issues—the rules will never apply to her.

Do you think McCain knows this? Should I/we email his office and point it out? I really don’t get it. Maybe this is just an example of white privilege. A case where a white politician doesn't even fathom how different people are affected by his decisions. Am I missing something?

George W. and George W.

Thank you President Bush for making such dumbass statements that I have something to write about.

Yesterday (President's Day), our illustrious leader compared himself favorably to George Washington. We all know that George Washington is still considered one of America's greatest leaders. Bush on the other hand (and I will quote
Wonkette on this one), "is a jackass who actually lost one election to Al Gore and nearly lost another to John Kerry. He lost both wars he started." Well-said.

Bush drew parallels between what Washington faced and the troubles that he now confronts with the War on Terror. The president stated that Washington and his "ragged Continental Army" faced disaster, but in the end, "General Washington understood that the Revolutionary War was a test of wills, and his will was unbreakable." An obvious reference to his unbreakable will against all odds in the current Iraq mess--which he started.

Yes, these two men have so much in common. Sometimes you just can't believe what this guy says. I don't think any additional comments are necessary.

19 February 2007

Drew Gilpin Faust

While this might be relatively old news, I still want to offer my heartfelt delight and glee for Drew Gilpin Faust, recently named the first female president of Harvard University. The obvious reasons have been discussed in the media for the past week—I want to simply make a few personal comments.

Primarily, let’s not forget what an esteemed and respected historian she is. Dr. Faust has written two seminal books: Mothers of Invention: Women of the Slaveholding South in the American Civil War (University of North Carolina Press, 1996); and James Henry Hammond and the Old South: A Design for Mastery (LSU, 1982).

The media has mentioned Mothers of Invention , but only briefly (but what should we expect from the American media). In that book, Faust challenges some of the common stereotypes of the "helpless" Southern white women—and then shows how the War changed her plight completely. Southern white women (and Faust writes primarily about upper and middle class women), were compelled to take charge of their own lives during the War when most of the Southern men were away. That independence led to significant changes in gender relationships after the conflict. Mothers of Invention is an important work on a variety of historical topics: the Civil War, the old and new South, as well as women and gender roles.

I first picked up James Henry Hammond and the Old South nearly twenty years ago as I searched for dissertation information. This remains one of the absolute best sources on the Old South—the worldview of the large plantation owners, the master-slave relationship, and how the antebellum Southern ideology was crumbling as the Civil War approached.

Both of these books are worth reading. And I almost forgot, I actually assigned another of her works in a Civil War class I taught several years ago. Faust’s The Creation of Confederate Nationalism (LSU, 1990) is short book/long essay on the intellectual roots of Confederate identity. It’s a difficult read, but a concise and well-written introduction to a difficult intellectual topic.

Maybe soon, it will cease to be national news when a women becomes a university president. And
I do think we are swiftly reaching that point. But this is Harvard, and Larry Summers—as much as I liked him as a Clinton economic advisor—seemed to be more of a divider than a uniter (not to mention his unfortunate comments regarding women in the sciences).

But we can’t let this milestone pass without some joy and celebration. It’s another step in remaking the society and workplace--and both of those institutions need alterations. And yes, it also enrages those right-wingers. As I have mentioned before in Books and Bait—I get giddy when something disturbs their cultural sensibilities--and we all know what they think of feminists.

When the announcement was initially reported by the Harvard Crimson, I immediately emailed my friend Katie, who took history classes with Dr. Faust at Penn. Katie is currently a local political activist, consultant, writer (she is hard at work on a novel), and radical feminist. I asked Katie if she had any comments about Faust and whether she thought her former professor would be tough enough to conquer the old boy’s network at Harvard. Katie, always good for a colorful quote, immediately responded with:

"SHE FUCKING ROCKS! She should do her lecture on Civil War weaponry if they doubt her toughness. I love her, I have a big crush on her.”

I trust Katie's judgement--and I think Harvard is in good hands. Let's keep tearing down those ceilings.

"Bad" President's Day

In order to properly celebrate President's Day 2007--I thought I would publish a list of the 5 worst.....and also the 5 best presidents. I know these lists are purely personal and don't mean much; but they are fun to make and they often start some fruitful discussions. So here are my choices:

5 Worst American Presidents
Warren G. Harding (1921-1923)--he did take a nice picture though.
George W. Bush (2001-2009)--and sinking fast.
James Buchanan (1857-1861)
Franklin Pierce (1853-1857)
Andrew Johnson (1865-1869)
others considered: Millard Fillmore, Ulysses S. Grant, Calvin Coolidge, William H. Taft

5 Best Presidents
Abraham Lincoln (1861-1865)--my favorite Lincoln picture.
Franklin D. Roosevelt (1933-1945)
George Washington (1789-1797)
Thomas Jefferson (1801-1809)
Theodore Roosevelt (1901-1909)--close call between TR and Jefferson
others considered: Andrew Jackson, Woodrow Wilson, Dwight D. Eisenhower