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An inspirational girl

Look, we know there is a lot of stupid in the world.  And, over the past few weeks, the stupid has really been coming out to play.  I was all set to do a post today about two such idiotic comments, but I’m not.  I’m not going to spend much time on Tom Smith or Rush Limbaugh.  Instead I want to tell you about Alice, a 16 year old girl who has been living with cancer for the past 4 years.

But before we get to Alice, let’s touch on two people who could learn a thing or two from her.

Tom Smith – Mr. Smith is a Republican running for the United States Senate in Pennsylvania.  In an interview with a local reporter he compared the difficulty a woman faces when she is raped to when she has a pregnancy out of wedlock.   He now claims he never intended to make that comparison, but it is clear to me from the transcript that it was a deliberate comparison.  The fact that Smith has now joined the rowing chorus of men (mostly) on the right trying to minimize rape and take decisions out of the hands of the victims is horrifying to me.

Rush Limbaugh – We’ve talked about Rush once or twice on here before.  In the category of “you can’t possibly believe what you are saying, Rush” comes this latest gem.   Essentially he believes (or claims to believe) that, somehow, President Obama manipulated the weather forecast to make it look like Hurricane Isaac was going to hit Tampa.  Then, once the Republicans canceled the first day of their convention, he redirected the forecast to what was actually going on.  It would be hilarious, if there aren’t so many people who are ready to believe anything this man says.  It’s dishonest and it’s shameful.

Now, on the flip side, let’s meet Alice Pyne.   Alice is 16 and has terminal cancer.  Last year, when faced with her prognosis, she made a “bucket list” of things she wanted to do and experience.  A couple of weeks ago, thanks to the generosity of total strangers and those in her community, she completed the last item on her list.   I hope you’ll all take the time to read through her blog.  As someone who lives with a chronic medical condition – Marfan Syndrome – I have so much appreciation for how she has chosen to live her life and approached her medical challenges.  I could write volumes on Alice an others like her – people who have taken a diagnosis as an opportunity to make a difference through their deeds. Alice has gotten thousands of people to give blood, join bone marrow registries and, I’ll bet, re-evaluate how they look at life.   I’ll admit to having tears in my eyes reading about Alice and I think we call learn something from this remarkable young woman.

So why did I include her in this post?  Alice didn’t start this blog for fame or to bring attention to herself.   She and her family weren’t thinking about personal gain or their own ambitions.  She started her blog as a way to chronicle her progress towards her bucket list.  Once it went viral, however, they could have used it to promote themselves the way Rush Limbaugh loves to do.  Instead, they used it to raise awareness about bone marrow registries and have, no doubt, saved many lives through their efforts.  Reading through it, it is refreshingly honest and genuine.  Alice demonstrates a remarkable ability to care for other people, even she battles her own cancer.  An ability to care that so many, like Tom Smith, don’t seem to have.

Finally, I read about Alice’s experiences, her doctor appointments and her health struggles and I can’t help but wonder.  What if Alice lived in America and was born to a poor family who didn’t have health insurance? What if she lived in America and her family had similar policies to what many middle-class families have today? What then?  Alice’s parents never had to worry about choosing between medical care for their daughter and paying their mortgage.  They never had to worry about being dropped from coverage because Alice is a fighter and isn’t going to give in easily to this disease.  Survival doesn’t bring financial stress, rather it breeds an opportunity for this girl to inspire millions with her attitude, perspectives and accomplishments.  Would that have happened here to a poor or middle-class family?  If the Affordable Care Act is repealed, like Governor Romney and Congressman Paul want, will it ever?




A Scary Time in America

And you thought this election was going to be all about the economy.  Silly you!  In today’s of installment of “What the hell were they thinking?” I give you Rep. Todd Akin, the Republican nominee for the United States Senate in Missouri.   Akin won a tough primary battle for the right to face one of the most vulnerable incumbent senators, Claire McCaskill.  And the polls showed him doing quite well – up by 8-10 points in most.  But then Rep. Akin went on the Jaco Report and, at the risk of underselling it, things didn’t go too well.

Click here and scroll down for the full interview.  The abortion comments begin around the 4 minute mark.

Yes, you heard that right.  According to a man who has been serving in the United States House, women’s bodies have some sort-of magical ability to determine if a rape is “legitimate” and, if it is, can prevent pregnancy.  Stupidity like that, if it wasn’t so scary, would be hilarious.   Oh yeah, Akin also sits on the House Science Committee.

It might be interesting to note that this is not a new issue that Akin just happened to bring up. The House passed a bill earlier this year with full Republican support and 16 Democrats which would have added language to the Federal Abortion Ban (which includes rape exemptions) to differentiate between “forcible” rape and other rape. The bill never made it to the Senate floor but, if it had passed, women who had been the victims of non-forcible rape (statutory rape, rapes that involve drugs, or verbal threats) would not be exempted from the ban. My guess is that Akin misspoke and meant to say forcible rape, not legitimate.  To quote President Obama on this “Rape is rape.”  Done.  Simple.  Right.

Either way, this is just another in a series of moves by factions of a Republican party that is so far out of touch with modern times, I shudder to think what they will come up with next.   Now, I will acknowledge that many prominent Republicans have tried to distance themselves from Akin but it just doesn’t ring true in most cases.  Mitt Romney, through a spokesperson, says that “Governor Romney and Congressman Ryan disagree with Mr. Akin’s statement, and a Romney-Ryan administration would not oppose abortion in instances of rape…”  Problem is, Congressman Ryan was a co-sponsor of the “forcible rape” bill and the RNC sub-committee tasked with the creation of a party platform approved this afternoon anti-choice language with NO exemptions (not health of the mother, not rape of any kind, nothing).    Romney will be the leader of a party that believes a crucial issue this year is ensuring that Government doesn’t help women who get raped have abortions.  This isn’t just Congressman Akin – this is a a GOP strategy.

Consider other instances, just in the past 12 months:

  • Rush Limbaugh calls Sandra Fluke a “slut” for testifying before Congress regarding contraception
  • Presidential Candidate Rick Santorum said, in regards to abortion in cases of rape that “women should make the best of a bad situation”
  • Kansas lawmaker, Pete DeGraaf, suggested that women should plan ahead for being raped by buying abortion-only policies in the same way that he keeps a spare tire in his car.
  • Legislatures across the country have introduced nearly 1,000 bills relating to female reproductive rights – nearly all of them designed to limit a woman’s ability to control her own medical decisions.  (SIDE NOTE: Don’t you find it remarkable that the same Congress so concerned with “Obamacare” taking healthcare decisions away from the individual is so ok with it when it comes to these issues?)

This isn’t about religious freedom.  This isn’t about one man making a gaffe.  This is about a group of people – mostly men – who have decided that the pre-1950s era limits on women’s freedoms were the way to go.  This is about a group of people who want to control a woman’s body.  It is terrifying to me that these people serve in our government and I shudder to think what the United States of America would look like if they were in charge.

I’ll close with the words of Eve Ensler, in her heartfelt and powerful letter to Congressman Akin on the Huffington Post today.

“You didn’t make some glib throw away remark. You made a very specific ignorant statement clearly indicating you have no awareness of what it means to be raped. And not a casual statement, but one made with the intention of legislating the experience of women who have been raped. Perhaps more terrifying: it was a window into the psyche of the GOP…Why don’t you spend your time ending rape rather than redefining it? Spend your energy going after those perpetrators who so easily destroy women rather than parsing out manipulative language that minimizes their destruction.”

Will Rush leave?

As you may remember, back on March 9,  Rush Limbaugh announced on his intention to leave the USA if the healthcare bill passed.  Well, it has passed and now the Rush watch begins.  With a Facebook group “Help Rush Limbaugh remember to leave the country” reaching over 57,000 members (as of 8 AM EST. on 3/22) and growing rapidly, it will quite interesting to see how if/how he responds.  Now, to be fair he is far from the first person to make the exodus threat (see re-election of Bush, George W.) but it is still quite amusing.  However, if does decide to be true to his word and needs help packing, he should feel free to email me.    

Of course, as David Frum points out in his excellent column, the passing of healthcare may be exactly what Rush was hoping for.   If Frum is right, and I think he is, not only will Rush be sticking around, he may become more popular than ever.  The same people who helped Congressman Wilson raise millions of dollars after he shouted “You Lie” at the President are going to look to Rush to help fuel their anger which, in turn, will continue to drive up his ratings…exactly what he wants.    But, in all likelihood, those people would vote for the conservative candidate anyway so it doesn’t really hurt the Democratic party.  It is the moderates on both sides of the aisle who tend to decide elections and those voters have shown that they do not have patience for the lack of civility and incredible disrespect that Rush’s fans demonstrate.   

So, on second thought, I say stick around Rush.  Ramble away and make the moderates mad.  Fire up your base to say stupid and offensive things.  Finally, and most importantly, continue to make sure that when people think of the Republican party they think of you instead of some of the more reasonable Republicans.  If you do that for us, I promise that we’ll stay in power and will continue to do things that make the Country better, which will keep your ratings strong.  It’s a win-win!

Link for 10/30/09 – A scary scary man

Today’s link is a clip of Ruth Limbaugh discussing the latest outbreak of the H1N1.   He critiques the Administration claim that the vaccine is a result of less-than-expected yield from manufacturers (how could anything be the fault of the private sector) and references a CBS report which suggests that the H1N1 flu is being improperly diagnosed and that those with a “probable” or “likely” case of the flu probably didn’t have it.  From there, he blames the government for this misdiagnosis because they tabulate results and goes into his main point that the CDC and the Obama administration are using the Swine Flu as a tool to convince people to support the Obama healthcare plan.

Ok, so let’s start back at the beginning.

1. Rush- Not getting expected yield is ABSOLUTELY possible and, in fact, likely.  According to foxnews, Novartis, one of the main manufacturers was getting only about 23% of expected yield.  Other firms, including GSK and Sanofi, saw similar problems which were mostly attributed to an ineffective seed virus.  The fixes that Rush mocked Kathleen Sibelius for are actually a replacement of the seed virus which has caused significant yield increases (up more than 40% at Novartis).   I know you think that, somehow, President Obama must have snuck in (probably using his kids as a decoy) to labs across the world and altered the seed virus just enough to cause the low yields and is now trying to blame that poor defense-less private sector but, uhh…you’re wrong.

2. The CBS report is certainly a troubling one and an important one to read.  However, no where in the report is there the slightest suggestion that the Obama Administration is trying to artificially pump up the number of H1N1 cases for political purposes.  In fact, according to the report, the CDC made the decision to stop counting and testing probable H1N1 cases because they had already made the decision that it was a pandemic and the resources were better used elsewhere (like getting more vaccines).  Even the states, like CA, that are gathering their own information, admit that they “support CDC policy to stop counting individual cases, maintaining that [they have] the resources to gather more specific testing data than the CDC.”  If you want to rail against something, Rush, why not talk about the fact that the CDC doesn’t have the resources they need.  Oh wait, that is a government program.  I forgot, you think they are all evil.

So this brings us to Rush’s main point.  That the Obama administration is somehow manipulating the public by creating a false sense of panic in order to push through policies that the public would never accept under normal circumstances.  What policies you ask?  Well the invasion of a country of course.  Oh.  That was the last president?  Ok, well how about a law designed to give the government unprecedented rights and strip citizens of many of the freedoms that this country was founded on.  That sounds like a Democrat with their big government….what?  Oh, that was the last president too?  A president Rush supported and never complained made these claims against?  That sounds hypocritical…  Well, I’m sure when Tom Ridge admitted that “he was pressured to raise the terror alert to help Bush win re-election in 2004” Rush was ready to jump all over Bush right?  I mean Bush wanted to manipulate the public by creating a false sense of panic in order to cement his re-election and serve another four years as an unpopular president.  Rush – you claim that Obama is using Swine Flu as a “tool” to make the public do what you want them to do.  Even if that were true, isn’t that EXACTLY what Bush did with the terror alert.    Isn’t it worse to manipulate the public to send young men and women into harms way, than to manipulate them into getting better healthcare?  What am I missing here?  Why is this the battle you fight? 

In writing this, I have come to realize that it is not only Rush I’m mad at.  He is an entertainer.  He knows people only tune in because he says ridiculous things and he loves the publicity that comes with it.  I just wasted a whole blog post on a man who has the intelligence level of a piece of seaweed.   He and Jon Stewart are very similar (well only Jon is smart).  They both take extreme positions and entertain people in their defense of those positions.  However, Stewart is very open about the fact that his is a comedy show.  He isn’t trying to preach the gospel, he is trying to be funny.  Rush, on the other hand, either thinks he is preaching the gospel or has come to the conclusion that the way for him to be rich is to make people think he is.  And they flock to him.  And they don’t think for themselves, they just listen and believe….like some creepy cult.  And that my friends, that is a problem.