Archive for August, 2012

Carrie’s Painting of the Week

Wednesday, August 29th, 2012


By Carrie Jacobson

The Berkshires Arts Festival show, in Great Barrington, MA, was a total financial bust for me. Over three loooong days of the show, not one painting sold. Not One. Ouch.

But I met some delightful people, including jeweler Cynthia Battista, who makes fascinating pieces in different kinds of metal and stone (click here to check out her work at; printmaker Leslie Peebles, who makes fantastical prints of nature and animals (click here to check out; and James Takaki, who makes metal garden ornaments in his Iron Arts studio in Vermont (click here to check out Click here for a video of James talking about what he did with a big bag of money he earned at a show in Montana.

And I got some insights, too. James thinks that shows like this one, outside of urban centers, are just on the skids. Cynthia characterized the (very few) people who came to this show as “Martha Stewart” types, who are clearly not looking for my rough, vivid paintings or her unique, strong pieces. Peter says it’s his theory that, at least in New England, the farther the show is from the coast, the less chance I have of selling.

I don’t have theories yet. I am listening, and watching, and thinking. Do you have a theory? I’d love to hear it!

This weekend, I am at Olde Mystick Village in Mystic, CT, for the Meet the Artists show. It’s a small show, and includes the fabulous and fun painter Ronet Noe, the oddly humorous Greg Stones, work by show promoter Denise Morris Curt – and many more. I hope you’ll come by, if you’re in the area. It’s Saturday, Sunday and Monday, and it will be fun!

‘Mittstorm’: Romney Plays Birther Card

Wednesday, August 29th, 2012

By Emily Theroux

“Romney isn’t using birthers and bigotry against Obama. It just looks that way,” wrote Will Saletan of Slate in “Pin the Tale on the Honky,” his send-up of the Mittstorm-of-the-Week: the deplorable birther “joke” that Willard told last Friday during a Michigan campaign stop.

“No one has ever asked to see my birth certificate. They know that this is the place that we were born and raised,”  Mitt snarked, just before Twitter went wild with writers furiously typing “#futureMittjokes.”

RNC propagandist-in-chief Reince Priebus has the unenviable job of following in Mitt’s footsteps to scrape up whatever fresh heap of elephant dung the candidate deposits on the campaign trail each time he rolls out a new crock of “strategery.”

“Have we really gotten to the point where we can’t have any levity at all in politics?” Reince wheedled, in defense of the indefensible, on CNN’s State of the Union.

His shaky premise didn’t hold up to minimal scrutiny. Mitt’s descent into the cesspool of birtherism was a calculated effort to turn the page on Todd Akin’s “legitimate rape” imbroglio before it engulfed the GOP ticket. How better to put out a conflagration about women’s reproductive rights than to change the subject to race, the third rail of American politics?

Asked by Candy Crowley during the same program whether he thought Romney’s birther comment was “code” for “appealing to the white vote,” Democratic Gov. Martin O’Malley of Maryland replied, “Look at the number of Republicans that have signed bills that make it harder to vote. When you have a party that … makes totally false ads up saying the president is trying to undo welfare reform, I think you’re going to see a lot of … coded messages from the Romney-Ryan campaign that it (are) not in keeping with an America that is … becoming more diverse.”

Priebus tried again the next day on Morning Joe to shrug off Romney’s deliberate dog whistle to white Obama haters — targeted by an opportunistic pol who’s stooped to humoring bigots in order to reach a new strategic goal. In order to win in November, Romney must now capture at least 61 percent of the white vote — a figure that will not only be extremely difficult to attain, but which will only snag Mitt “a slim national majority” if Obama isn’t able to improve on his 80 percent share of the 2008 minority vote.

‘Tweety’ eats Reince’s Wheaties (on somebody else’s show)
When one of Joe Scarborough’s panel members, Chris “Tweety” Matthews, artlessly chomped Reince’s Wheaties over Romney’s shameless racial pander (camouflaged though it was as a lighthearted comedic “Mitt Moment”), nobody there was laughing. Joe, Mika, Tom Brokaw, and the gang were clearly anxious as hell over how Tweety’s outburst might look to viewers and critics. They kept trying to “shush” the garrulous Hardball host or, failing that, to succeed at talking louder than his rant.

Funny that the crowd in Michigan last Friday didn’t laugh, either, as Lawrence O’Donnell of MSNBC pointed out. “They cheered,” he observed, as if Mitt had made an important policy pronouncement. They applauded the new knowledge that Romney was willing to go there, to be on record as not merely the Republican who was running for president but the white man who was running to win back the White House for white voters.

Priebus muttered, “Garbage,” under his breath at the end of the cable segment — to which Matthews countered, “It’s your garbage.” A headline for the right-wing site’s story about the on-air tiff, however, read, “Chris Matthews Loses It, Calls Reince Priebus Garbage.” Neither combatant had characterized the other person as “garbage,” but only what he had said.

You can bet that the headline will go viral in the Nutbag-o-sphere, especially since blogger Katie Pavlich’s “story” consists of one paragraph referring indignantly to what she believed to be unwarranted criticism of “Mitt Romney’s joke about a birth certificate.”

How low will Mitt go to attain his 61 percent goal?
Unfortunately, Mitt will find no easy path to cobbling together a national majority, after burning almost every bridge once open to him among black, Latino, and women voters. That, of course, all went up in smoke when he talked trash to the NAACP, excoriated the DREAM Act, and paid lip service to everything from passing a “fetal personhood” bill to shutting down Planned Parenthood. Now, Mitt needs to woo and win three out of every five white voters, and he’s not polling anywhere near as well as Obama does (at nearly 60 percent) among the very “college-educated plus” white women who feel the most threatened by the Republican “war on women.”

What Romney needs, therefore, is the stereotypical Republican: the white, older, working-class male seething with racial resentment, whom Mitt believes he can rely on to vote against his own economic interests rather than reelect the hated “Obummer” —

  • despite the Romney/Ryan plan to raise his taxes so they can even further reduce the taxes of people so rich and greedy, they’ll croak before they’ve even touched their principal, even as he dies a virtual pauper;
  • despite their plan to turn Medicare into a voucher system that will start out costing him $6,300 more a year for health care than he pays now, and escalate in each successive year he’s still alive;
  • despite  their plan to turn Medicaid into a block-grant program , so that when his wife needs nursing home care and he can’t afford long-term care insurance, he has no way to pay for it.

Everybody knows that the “MittWit” has become so desperate to break away from President Obama in the polls that the only pathway to the presidency he can envision is appealing to the “basest, racist” instincts of the lowest common denominator. White male voters may not be wild about Mitt Romney, but they hate Barack Obama so much more than they love anything — even America — that they’re willing to vote for literally anybody else.

Hordes of  ‘zombie voters’ prepare to descend on polls
If the simple fact that Mitt Romney’s face is as white as a KKK bedsheet doesn’t win over his target voters, he can always fall back on the kooky pop psychology of the Great Voter Fraud Hoax of 2012. This theory is held by purveyors of the myth that hordes of unregistered impostors are prepared to show up at polling places and “impersonate” registered voters if Americans fail to take drastic measures to stop them. These imaginary “vote-scammers” — sketchily described as urban blacks signed up fraudulently during voter-registration drives conducted by federally funded agencies, or “illegal aliens” who purloin dead people’s Social Security numbers — are so widely feared by the far right because they “tend to vote for Democrats.”

The infamous ACORN case, which led to 22 convictions in seven states after temporary workers registered ineligible or fictitious voters, involved cases of registration fraud, not impersonation fraud. “Mickey Mouse has been registered hundreds of times but Mickey has never turned up on Election Day to vote,” said Richard Hasen, a professor of political science and election law expert.

Yet Republican alarmists insist that, as GOP presidential candidate John McCain said during a 2008 debate, fraudulent registrations collected by ACORN were “one of the greatest frauds in voter history in this country, maybe destroying the fabric of democracy.”  (The Congressional Research Service “found no instances” of anyone who was “allegedly registered to vote improperly “by ACORN actually “attempting to vote at the polls.”

Even though voters are less likely to be victimized by “voter fraud” than they are to report sighting a UFO, the GOP embarked in 2011 on a nationwide effort to “shut down” this virtually nonexistent phenomenon. (News21, a national investigative reporting project, revealed earlier this month that only 10 instances of voter-impersonation fraud have occurred nationwide since 2000 — a period when 146 million people were registered to vote. The infinitesimal amount of in-person voter fraud that actually occurred equaled one out of about every 15 million prospective voters.)

Nevertheless, 34 states since 2011 have proposed or passed laws requiring that voters show state-approved photo ID cards at the polls. In other states, early voting days and extended voting hours have been curtailed — including Ohio, where Republican Secretary of State John Husted attempted to prohibit early voting in Democratic-majority counties while encouraging it in Republican-majority counties. Progressive pundits soon shamed him into abandoning his shamelessly partisan plan. In Florida, Gov. Rick Scott even tried to purge “non-residents” from the state’s voter rolls, until an analysis of a submitted list of 2,700 names revealed that 87 percent of the people on the list were minorities.

If Republicans can’t persuade more angry white men to turn out for their lackluster candidate, the Mittster still has one more ace up his sleeve. Anticipating a dearth of minority and female voters, Republicans recruited what they claim will be one million “True the Vote” poll-watchers. Should any straggling minority Dems make it through the gauntlet of GOP speed bumps and onto the threshold of the voting booth, this volunteer goon squad has promised to kick in, kick butt, and even Romney’s troubling odds.

GOP Convention attendee gets ugly with CNN employee
Just as the 2012 Republican National Convention’s roster of evening speeches was getting under way, former MSNBC anchor David Shuster tweeted: “GOP attendee ejected for throwing nuts at African-American CNN camerawoman + saying ‘This is how we feed animals.’ ”

Needless to say, this atrocious racial slur is not terribly surprising, given the venue, the occasion, and the decidedly “hostile environment” in which this professional journalist was required to work. It is, however, horrifying, degrading, and barbarous. This person must have felt emboldened by some sort of group camouflage to publicly target another human being that way, surrounded by people he imagined would harbor as much racial animus as he did.*

At least they looked as if they did. Out of 4,411 GOP delegates and alternates attending the 2012 convention, only 46 of them (a paltry 2 percent) are black, according to two Atlanta Journal-Constitution reporters who collaborated on a story about the party’s struggle with diversity. By contrast, they noted, African-Americans comprise 26 percent of the 4,000-plus delegates slated to attend the 2012 Democratic National Convention.

I don’t care how many Nikki Haleys, Ted Cruzes, Artur Davises, and Mia Loves the GOP hustles onto that convention stage for the sake of appearances. All I could see on my TV screen was a vast, monolithic ocean of white privilege, flecked with clusters of jingoistic balloons.


* Update, 8-30-12: Yesterday, the racist peanut assault incident at the GOP convention was clarified by numerous new press accounts. Two “older than middle-aged white men” rather than one, of just the sort I described above,  collaborated on tormenting the CNN camerawoman. A number of pundits criticized CNN for apparently “hushing up” the incident because the channel has recently embarked on a campaign to appear the least biased of the three major cable news networks.

Just before the two white goons pelted Patricia Carroll with peanuts and called her a zoo animal, a Puerto Rican delegate included in the convention’s program, as part of the party’s effort to put on a false show of  “highlighting diversity,” was shouted down by the crowd, with chants of “USA! USA! USA!”, after beginning her remarks in Spanish.

Me and Betty Ford

Monday, August 27th, 2012

By Jeffrey Page

For some reason unknown to me now or then, The Times Herald-Record sent me to Kansas City to cover the Republican National Convention of 1976. I wasn’t much of a political reporter, but the editors were interested in feature stories about local delegates and party leaders.

And off I went to the heartland.

The 1976 convention was exciting. After all, here was Gerald Ford, a man who was appointed vice president after Spiro Agnew had to resign and who then became president when Richard Nixon quit. And here was Ronald Reagan mounting a serious challenge to Ford, the never-elected incumbent. And here was Senator Jesse Helms of North Carolina carping that Reagan’s vice presidential choice, Senator Richard Schweiker of Pennsylvania, wasn’t conservative enough. There was talk of William F. Buckley’s mounting a challenge to Schweiker.

And finally, with Ford’s nomination, there was Reagan’s concession speech in which he paraphrased St. Matthew and referred to America as “a shining city on a hill.” It was that single line in that single speech that brought the house down and which would identify Reagan for the rest of his life. Conservatives fell in love with him after being out in the cold since the Goldwater rebellion of 1964.

Now in Kansas City, the GOP made news, I wrote features. And then Republicans seemed to come this-close to nominating me for president of the United States.

I think it was the second night of the convention. I was in the press tent a few hundred yards from the Kemper Arena, where the convention’s public business was conducted. The Kemper was a huge venue, holding about 20,000 people. I had been on the phone with an editor in Middletown and missed the last bus over to the arena. With my credentials dangling from my neck I hoofed it to the Kemper.

I was drenched with perspiration – Kansas City is not pleasant in summer – and I looked like I’d had a bad night at McNulty’s Saloon. I found an open door and walked in. If there were security guards on duty that night, they were practicing the art of invisibility.

So now I was in the arena but wasn’t sure of how to get to the press area, which I knew was not far from the rostrum, where speeches were delivered, promises were made, Jimmy Carter was dismissed, and where Reagan would come close to snatching the nomination from Ford.

I walked the perimeter of the arena and finally came to an inclined corridor leading to arena itself. I walked up the stairs and just as I reached the third or fourth step from the top, all the lights in the Kemper Arena went out. I couldn’t see a thing. The darkness didn’t stop the delegates. They just kept cheering, yelling, whistling and applauding. A voice on the PA system was saying something but I couldn’t make it out.

From across the arena a single spotlight shone up and down and side to side, like it was searching for something. Then it landed on me and stopped and 20,000 people in the Kemper started cheering even louder. I mean cheering with passion. The band played some music; I forget what it was.

I began feeling a little panicky in just that one light and with everybody cheering me. The sweat rolled down my face and chest. My shirt was soaked. I looked like hell. And still they cheered. Then I did what I knew might seem like a joke; I looked behind me, thinking the person they were expecting would be there. Or that security guards were finally arriving to drag me off to jail. But they never showed up.

So I did what had to be done.

I waved.

Nothing big. Not like Eisenhower used to do with both arms up, but just a modest little wrist shake to acknowledge the delegates’ worshipful feelings toward me. I thought about the old Frank Capra movie “Meet John Doe,” and wondered about an unknown (me) assuming leadership of a major political party. Of course Doe had to do it by threatening to commit suicide; I was not ready for that.

I would like to tell you that I also thought about who I would pick for my running mate and what I would deal with in my first 100 days, but I had no such thoughts. I simply stood there, dumbstruck and not having a clue about what to do next.

I waved again. The house lights came on and I understood what had happened. In a major breach of security, I had walked up a corridor to the point on the circumference of the arena where friends, family members and guests of Republican VIPs were seated.

They weren’t cheering me. They were cheering Betty Ford, who had been introduced by the guy in the PA system and was being seated at the moment I climbed those stairs.

Betty waved. The delegates forgot me and responded to her. They loved Betty Ford. Didn’t we all?

But I was severely annoyed. This meant that no matter what happened on Election Day, I wouldn’t be able to appoint John Lennon as my secretary of state.

Two Bobs: Unconventional Movies

Sunday, August 26th, 2012

By Bob Gaydos

The two Bobs were back at their table in Dunkin’  Donuts after a two-week hiatus. Nothing much had changed. Republicans were still courting the rich, white, arrogant and dumb, white, delusional votes. Democrats were still tying to figure out how the guy who killed bin Laden and ended the recession was still having trouble connecting with some Americans. Did I mention he was black?

“So did you watch the Republican convention, last night?” writer Bob asked ketchup-dressing Bob. (An aside here: Writer Bob had carefully perused the menu and discovered, surrounded by muffins and donuts, an entry called “egg white flats.” It came as turkey, ham or veggie options. He tried the veggie, which turned out to be rather tasty. Some might regard this as a new development.)

“Nah, I couldn’t bring myself to watch it. Too depressing.”

“Me too. They had Ann Romney and Chris Christie as the main speakers. Can you think of two more glaring examples of over-indulgence? Christie was the keynote speaker — an overweight, arrogant, bully. This is what you stand for? OK, so I can’t write about that since I didn’t watch it. Well, I probably could, but I’d rather not. Seen any movies lately?’’

‘‘Yeah, my wife and I saw “Hope Springs,” with Meryl Streep and Tommy Lee Jones. Went with another couple.”


“Well, I thought it was going to be a comedy about an older married couple trying to energize their dull life together.”

“That’s what the previews showed.”

“But it wasn’t really funny. They hadn’t had sex in four years and I found their struggles unfunny. I was disappointed. I mean, they had Steve Carrell play the therapist. He’s supposed to be funny.”

“I had a similar experience. Wanted to check out the Downing Theater in Newburgh. Never been there and heard nice things about it.”

“What did you see?”

“Beasts of the Southern Wild.”


“‘Beasts of the Southern Wild.’ Read that it won a big prize at Sundance and it was a fantasy about a young girl called Hushpuppy going in search of her mother and encountering prehistoric creatures.”

“And …?”

“Well, there were creatures. Kind of prehistoric wild boars. But they really weren’t in much of the movie. And the girl — who was terrific, a six- or seven-year-old with great screen presence — doesn’t really search for her mother so much as accidentally finds her in a ‘dance hall.’

“Mostly, it was about a lot of drinking, alcoholism really, and people being content living on the water in squalor. Although when the storm came, freeing the beasts and flooding the people’s homes, they blew up a dam that protected their more successful neighbors who lived on land. Survival. But then, when they were rescued and safe, they had to escape. They went back to the water, following the girl, who unknowingly found the mother who had abandoned her and her drunken father. Then the beasts showed up, all big and huffy, and kneeled down to the little girl instead of eating her and her friends. She kind of represented the cohesiveness of nature, or something. It was full of symbolism … lots of symbolism.

“… I really have no f****n’ clue what the movie was about.

“But we liked the theater, so we’ll probably go back. And I’ll read reviews more carefully, or stick to writing about things that happen as advertised, like Republican conventions.”



This ‘Campaign’ is No Laughing Matter

Thursday, August 23rd, 2012

By Bob Gaydos

“You want to go see ‘The Campaign’?”

The caller was my 18-year-old, about-to-leave-for-college son, Zack. So I immediately said yes. These impromptu calls have become too infrequent lately. Zack, of course, loves anything Will Ferrell does. I think he’s a talented actor who constantly takes the easy path to the cheapest joke, the filthier the better, playing dumb to reach the lowest common denominator in his audience — teenaged boys. A classic underachiever. But I thought, what the heck, it’s timely. Maybe he’ll score some political points and I’ll get a few laughs.

Both things happened, but I came away from the movie with a strange sense of sadness. Ferrell did not disappoint. The jokes were crude, sexual and occasionally hilarious. But some of the best ones had been promoted for weeks on TV. (Why do they feel a need to do that?) Mostly, though, on leaving the theater, I realized that I had stopped laughing at some point because the heavy-handed attempt at satire was simply too close to the truth and this movie wasn’t going to change things one iota.

For one thing, teenaged boys don’t vote. For another, the country really is full of the kind fickle, dumb voters portrayed in the movie — people who swear their political allegiance based on phony image, phony religion phony patriotism, phony family values — and switch it just as easily based on phony claims spread with the money of very real filthy rich people who feel they are a country unto themselves, free to do as they please to whomever they please, so long as they can afford it.

And so Ferrell gives us the Motch Brothers, in the bloated persons of Dan Akroyd and John Lithgow. They decide to grab control of a North Carolina congressional district by bankrolling the ineffectual, clueless Zach Galifianakis to run against the incumbent, the philandering, dumb Ferrell. I don’t want to give away too much of the plot, slim as it is. Suffice to say, the movie stereotypes of the real-life Koch brothers are ruthless to the core, using their wealth to try to buy a congressional district, and not caring which candidate can deliver that prize. Where’s the humor there? Like the dumb voters stereotyped, that’s the plain truth.

The movie candidates do and say stupid stuff until the end, which is all Hollywood happy, but not convincing. But the real-life candidates in this country do and say dumb stuff all the time, with no Hollywood ending. (Will the would-be senator from Missouri please shut his mouth and go home?) In Texas and Arizona they routinely get elected. The movie presents cardboard characters who could probably run and win somewhere real in America. That’s why the stereotypes, while comically exaggerated, also seem so familiar. We know these buffoons, these liars, these phonies. We vote for them (well, I don’t). We send them back to office because they tell us some cock and bull story and we never bother to call them on it. And if someone does pull their covers, we ignore it. It’s like a whole country addicted to BS. It makes us feel so good, if we hold our noses.

I guess I should have realized that Will Ferrell isn’t sophisticated enough to deliver the kind of satire needed to get people off the political BS crack pipe and I shouldn’t expect him to. And I have little faith in today’s traditional news media. I think more and more that the Internet and social media – also hugely popular with teenaged boys — represent the best hope for getting Americans, at least enough Americans, to recognize what is going on with our political system and make them want to change it.

Yes, there are a lot of liars and buffoons on the Internet, too, but they are being called out and drowned out regularly by voices of logic and reason and compassion. Young voices and old voices and middle aged voices. People who are sick and tired of the BS in American politics, much too sick and tired to think it’s funny anymore. (Did you hear what that idiot in Tennessee said about spreading AIDS?) Maybe Woody Allen could make it a laughing matter: Pass the popcorn. Woody really nailed these guys. But he only makes one movie a year and I can’t wait.

Yes, I realize I’ve been talking about myself here. I never used crack, but I’ve ingested enough political BS to last several lifetimes. Sorry, Will Ferrell, you’ll probably make millions trading on people‘s ignorance (much like the Motch brothers), but politics in America long ago ceased to be a laughing matter. It’s more like a cruel joke.

PS: But hey, Zack, don’t hesitate to call if you want to catch another movie. My treat.

Legitimate Rape-gate’s ‘Akin Plank’ Clobbers V.P. Candidate Paul Ryan

Wednesday, August 22nd, 2012

By Emily Theroux

Democrats are calling “no exemptions for rape victims” the “Akin Plank” of the 2012 Republican Party platform — no matter how peevishly Mitt Romney demands that rape cases remain exempt from the GOP’s customary call for a constitutional ban on abortions.

In the irony to beat all ironies, “Governor Ultrasound” — Virginia’s Bob McDonnell, who wanted to be vice-president so badly that he dropped the “mandate” from the ultrasound bill that had made his nickname a household word — ended up chairing the GOP’s platform committee. Having flubbed his shot at national office, McDonnell re-upped the anti-exemption plank during the same week that GOP Senate candidate Todd Akin made the rape issue a bigger headache for Romney’s chosen veep candidate than it probably ever would have been for McDonnell.

Todd Akin/AP

Akin, the Senate wannabe, opened a copious can of worms this week on the topic that never fails to trip up Republican candidates, primarily because they can’t stop bringing it up. The resulting abortion flap has entangled GOP vice-presidential candidate Paul Ryan and brought the Republican “war on women” roaring back to life.

The buzz about Missouri Democratic incumbent Claire McCaskill was that she really wanted to run against Todd Akin, so she ponied up for GOP primary ads calling Akin “too conservative.” After winning the primary, Akin spoke two bewildering words during a St. Louis TV interview that could help McCaskill and the Democratic Party hang on to their Senate majority: “legitimate rape.”

“It seems to me, from what I understand from doctors,” Akin said, that pregnancy resulting from rape is “really rare. If it’s a ‘legitimate’ rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”

A puzzled America heaved a collective sigh and chorused: WTF?

‘Real women’ (i.e., decent ones) ‘ don’t get pregnant from rape’

Paul Ryan

Things only got worse when Akin tried to explain, to the dozens of reporters who subsequently besieged him, what in God’s name he was talking about. Aiming for specificity, he fell back on religious-right claptrap from legislation he had co-sponsored in January 2011 with numerous House members, including Paul Ryan — H.R. 3, the “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion” bill, designed to severely restrict government funding for abortions covered by the rape and incest exemptions provided by the 1976 Hyde Amendment,  a semi-truce between abortion rights supporters and pro-life forces that has defined rape and incest for the past 36 years.

By redefining rape  as “forcible rape” and incest as “incest “with a minor”, GOP culture warriors could exclude from taxpayer-funded coverage all abortions of pregnancies resulting from:

  • Statutory rape (sex with underaged partners, whether forced or “willing”);
  • Coerced rape (any rape that occurs without the victim’s consent or against her will, whether the rapist is a date, an acquaintance, a stranger met in a bar, or an ex-husband or ex-partner);
  • Rape of a woman with limited mental capacity or mental instability;
  • Rape of an unconscious woman or one impaired by drugs or alcohol;
  • Incest with anyone over 18 years old.

Akin’s notion that female physiology prevents  “forcible” (i.e., “legitimate”) rape from resulting in pregnancy came from a 1972 article written by Dr. Fred Mecklenburg, then a medical school professor. Ever since Mecklenburg argued that a traumatized rape victim “will not ovulate even if she is ‘scheduled’ to,” anti-abortion activists have based their argument that no rape exceptions to abortion bans are necessary on Mecklenburg’s theories, which are partly based on horrific experiments conducted at Nazi death camps.

I gathered that Akin (who, incredibly, sits on the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology) wasn’t speaking entirely for himself and didn’t mean “okay” when he said “legitimate.” What he did mean, however, was equally offensive and a classic example of circular reasoning. Women who claim they were impregnated during rape weren’t really raped, the theory goes, because it’s nearly impossible for a woman to get pregnant during “forcible” rape — the only kind of unwanted sexual assault that ever befalls virtuous women wearing proper, unprovocative attire.

If your “forcible” attacker isn’t holding a knife to your throat, and you really resist him by issuing unholy screams, kicking him in the “man-parts,” or resorting to strategic eye-gouging (things a woman who wasn’t “asking for it” would always do), then some mysterious bodily mechanism dispensing spermicidal “secretions” kicks in, and voila! — you don’t get knocked up!

Terry O'Neill of NOW

Therefore, as Terry O’Neill, president of the National Organization for Women, summarized the theory’s flawless logic, if a woman does get pregnant, then by definition, “she cannot have been raped.” (This lunacy is even more disheartening when you factor in the National Women’s Law Center’s grim statistics: At least 32,000 American women per year are impregnated by their rapists (very likely a lowball number, since an estimated 54 percent of rapes aren’t reported .)

What conservative politicians don’t appear to know about human anatomy is staggering. The “forcible rape” canard is junk-science propaganda devised by anti-abortion radicals and partisan quacks like Dr. John Willke (once president of the National Right to Life Committee), who were enlisted to boost the religious right’s agenda. Willke, who has written several books about this theory and is considered something of a “guru” to the pro-life movement, is another of Akin’s unnamed sources of medical expertise. During his last presidential run in 2008, Mitt courted and won Willke’s endorsement.

Akin’s pro-life demagoguery is part of a coordinated attempt to “redefine” rape, incest, threats to a pregnant woman’s life, the inception of human life, contraception, in-vitro fertilization, and similar issues over which the GOP’s evangelical Christian wing continually pressures the party to slide rightward. Akin’s “House-mate,” fellow culture warrior Paul Ryan, with whom the Missouri Tea Partier has co-sponsored dozens of anti-abortion bills, is up to his ears in this anti-women crusade – and Romney is trying to keep women voters from finding out about it.

‘Bruises don’t define rape; the lack of consent does’
House Republicans, as ever consumed with controlling women’s bodies instead of creating jobs, proposed their failed bill in order to keep women they perceived as rape-victim “posers” (my term, not theirs) from trying to trick Medicaid into paying for “non-exemptible” abortions. The Old Boys’ Club of conservative white men who control Congress believe that women who claim to have “gotten pregnant from rape” really engaged in something that ardent pro-lifers privately term “consensual rape.”

H.R. 3’s sponsors were cagey enough to refrain from putting that explosive terminology in the bill, but the language of “forcible rape” proved so horrific to women’s rights advocates and the public that activist groups and EMILY’s List started an online petition campaign to pressure the House to remove it. “Bruises and broken bones do not define rape,” the petition stated. “A lack of consent does.” Republicans had to delete the offending definition entirely. (The propagandists had been saying it for so long, they had no idea how bizarre and scary it would sound to normal people.)

Not all rapes may technically be “forcible” — but do pro-lifers really believe they shouldn’t be classified as rape? Would they want their teenaged daughters to bear the children of adult predators — or of their own grandfathers, brothers, or uncles — which happens entirely too often, in families of all social classes? A national study found that the majority of rape-related pregnancy cases “occurred among adolescents and resulted from assault by a known, often-related perpetrator.” One-half of all pregnancies in under-aged girls are caused by adult men. That sounds frighteningly “forcible” to me.

These caveats are “distinctions without a difference” in the convoluted world view of Ryan, Akin, et. al., who believe that all abortions should be criminalized. The only exception that Ryan says he makes is for emergency abortions performed solely to save the life of the mother — even though he voted for H.R. 358  (called the “Let Women Die Act” by women’s rights groups), which would permit hospitals to refuse to perform emergency abortion procedures on women who would die without them.

‘Legitimate Rape-gate’ exposes Ryan’s radical social agenda

Mitt Romney

Mitt Romney desperately wanted the “GOP war on women” trope to evaporate. Indeed, without the constant media attention to abortion and birth control, the gap in women voters’ approval between Romney and Obama had shrunk to only 15 points — before “Legitimate Rape-gate” propelled the issue onto the front burner again.

Establishment Republicans jumped all over Akin, calling his statement “dumb” because it exposed their backroom culture-war machinations and Paul Ryan’s involvement in them. Desperately hoping to isolate the Romney/Ryan ticket from “AkinPain,” the party blamed it all on the poor sucker whose comments had gone viral. Karl Rove unceremoniously yanked every cent of expected Crossroads GPS funding from the campaign coffers of the party scapegoat. GOP poobahs, from Mitch McConnell to Scott Brown to Kelly Ayotte, called for Akin to abandon his Senate run. But a defiant Akin skipped out on the official deadline for quitting the election, vowing to soldier on alone.

The “Double-R” Republicans at the top of the ticket were also quick to throw Akin’s candidacy under the bus. “Indefensible!” chortled Tweedle-Rom, flanked by Tweedle-Ry, during a local TV appearance. Mealy-Mouthed Mitt did all the pandering so Forcible-Rape Ryan wouldn’t have to publicly contradict his own orthodoxy.

“A Romney/Ryan administration wouldn’t oppose abortion in instances of rape,” Mitt wheedled, madly spinning an issue that, by the following day, had become a Mitt-averse plank of the Republican Party platform. The entire country knew that Mitt was “at odds” with his own party’s national platform.

Throughout Mitt’s sanctimonious denunciation — as if Akin were alone in his insensitivity to American women — a sheepish Veepster gazed gratefully at his personal “white knight,” the only man on earth who could prevent a hostile takeover of Ryan by his own past.

My husband, Lance, and I watched as Mitt, like the perennially apologetic father of Dennis the Menace, groveled to half of the electorate over Little Paulie’s wayward baseball. Lance put words in Mitt’s mouth:

“Don’t worry, Mrs. Wilson. My son will pay for the broken window.”

Questions for Todd Akin

Tuesday, August 21st, 2012

By Jeffrey Page

This is a certainty. Rep. Todd Akin, who is 65, knows less about human reproduction than a precocious 12-year old. His explanation of the relationship between rape and pregnancy is right out of the Dark Ages.

“It seems to be,” he said, “first of all, from what I understand from doctors, it’s really rare. If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to shut the whole thing down,” he said.

As a result of Akin’s bizarre reference to “legitimate rape” – is that the kind where you ask permission? – the Republican Establishment, such as it is, called for him to withdraw from the Senate race in Missouri. But he promptly told Mitt Romney, Karl Rove and Senator Scott Brown, (R-Mass.) and others to go to hell. In the incumbent, Democrat Claire McCaskill, Akin sees easy pickings and nothing like a little ignorance on pregnancy is going to knock him out of the campaign.

Quit the race? When a day after his idiotic remark, Akin apologized but made sure to inform listeners to Mike Huckabee’s radio program that he was running by the grace of you know who? Romney and other critics must be nuts.

So that’s how it stands.

Except that when you ignorantly dismiss an issue affecting half the American population, there are questions you are required to answer.

Congressman Akin:

–How “really rare” is it for a woman who has been raped to get pregnant? You attribute this to some doctors. Identify them.

How many doctors told you that such pregnancies are really rare? Was it more than two?

–What were their sources? Police records? FBI crime statistics? Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention? Oh, wait. These agencies don’t differentiate between legitimate rape and illegitimate rape, so what information did you examine? You did actually see this information, didn’t you?

–What precisely is a “legitimate rape?” How does a legitimate rape differ from an illegitimate rape? Has anyone else ever used the word “legitimate” to describe a rape? Or are you breaking new ground?

–Do you have any idea of what you’re talking about when you say that a woman’s body “has ways to try to shut the whole thing down”? What are those ways?

–In your apology you said your comment was ill-conceived and wrong, and that you apologize. But you also said, “I used the wrong words in the wrong way.” Please elaborate. And please give an example of how someone could use the wrong words in the right way.

–Please explain why your initial statement and subsequent apology appear on your campaign web site, but not on your Congressional site?

Todd Akin, who is old enough to qualify for Medicare, is the father of six children. You’d think by this time he would know a little something about sex.


No Cell Phones at Nana’s Table

Monday, August 20th, 2012

By Jean Webster

When our children and grandchildren visit during the summer we total ten people around the yellow wood dining room table. The three extra leaves mean we all fit at the same table at mealtimes.

This July the view from my kitchen made me smile, at first. It brought to mind my Italian grandmother’s basement dining room. That table held all our family for Christmas, Thanksgiving and Easter dinners. While her tablecloth was white, we use cloth place mats and (often) cloth napkins, with a different colored ring for each person.

But, the difference between Grandma’s table and mine is more than tablecloth versus place mats. That 1950’s tableau included no extraneous gadgets … no “social media.” The only annoyance was when “the boys” started jiggling their legs in rhythm, making dishes and silverware bounce around on the table.

When I looked over my family scene last month nearly everyone waiting for blueberry pancakes was looking down, engrossed. Our son on his Mac, checking projects at work. Our daughter and daughter-in-law checking emails on their iPads. The grandchildren – including an 18 year old, a 15-year old and two 13-year olds – were likewise captivated by their phones or iPadS. All at my dining room table!

(The only person not on a phone was our son-in-law. He was reading the newspaper. How to please the in-laws. )

I know this isn’t a new topic among people of a certain age and their younger family and friends. I too grew up in the mid-20th century, with one telephone in the house, a mailbox on the door, and paper and pen for writing letters.

I admit that I’ve been working on computers since the early ’80’s, and I couldn’t do without mine. It’s much easier than a typewriter, even the electric ones. And, I love email. It gives me the chance to keep in touch with family and friends all over the world.  And yes, I have a cell phone. But that’s all it is. A portable phone. For emergencies, or to let people know I’ll be late, or … “Help, I need directions.” Honestly.

It wasn’t easy convincing a bunch of grownups that there were just too many gadgets at Nana’s table. We got some stony looks – mostly from our own children. (Shades of their teenage years.)  And excuses. “Checking in at work.” “You know, we’re never off, even when we’re hundreds of miles away.” In the end, we convinced them: No electronics at mealtimes.

Eventually, after everybody but the 15-year old and a 13-year old had left, we were stricter. No electronics at the table at any time. That included evenings when we were playing games after dinner. “Mexican Train, anyone?”

In Maine we have a “distracted driving law,” but because a few pedestrians  have been struck when crossing the street while “on the phone,” there is now talk of a law regarding distracted walkers. It’s still in the talking stage.

However, we had to come up with our own “no cell phone” decree in our 125-year old candy store in Boothbay Harbor. To us, cell phones and a 19th century candy store do not mix. But, it took an annoying customer for us to generate a rule.

Last summer a woman stood in the midst of our store talking in full voice on her phone while her two young kids ran around. When one of them asked her, “Can we get this candy?” she snapped back, “Can’t you see I’m on the phone.” After she left, we decided we needed a new rule. We put up a nice colorful sign on the door, which says “Welcome! You are entering a cell phone free zone.”

Does it work? In fact, one day this summer a man came in and dropped his cell phone on the counter by the cash register. He picked it up when he paid the bill.

Sandwich: Baloney from Management

Sunday, August 19th, 2012

By Michael Kaufman

A young woman who works at a nearby A&P supermarket told me recently about an interaction with the store manager. The manager approached her with a smile on his face and congratulated her for all the good work she has done since starting her job there. Then he handed her a reward—a piece of paper telling her she is eligible for a raffle drawing among those similarly commended. The prize: a free sandwich from the store’s deli department.

“I didn’t know how to react,” she said. She was thankful her work had been noticed and acknowledged by management. But if all they are giving is a sandwich from the store’s own deli department, she thought it seemed awfully cheap of them. Why not give a sandwich to all the commended workers? She hastened to add that she likes the sandwiches made by her colleagues in the deli department even though they are not on the same level as, say, Katz’s or Carnegie in New York. But the point was moot. Someone else won the sandwich.

“I’d have preferred to have gotten a raise,” she said. She has been working at minimum wage since starting the job but salaries are currently frozen and there is nothing her union can do about it because A&P is in bankruptcy and it was all it could do to hold on to at least some of the healthcare and retirement benefits previously won in contract negotiations. She is among the seven percent of workers in the private sector in the United States who belong to a union. Among them are many who work for companies that have also filed for bankruptcy and received court permission to make drastic cuts, such as American Airlines.

“My union, the Comunications Workers of America (CWA), is organizing 10,000 passenger service workers at American Airlines,” says Hetty Rosenstein, New Jersey director of the CWA. “The airline is refusing to provide the National Mediation Board with an employee list, flat-out defying the law. And they’ve gotten a Bush-appointed judge to block the election, at least temporarily.”

Before the government bailout of General Motors, tens of thousands of retired GM workers lost their benefits; some lost their homes as a result. Yet the bailout neglected to include restoration of benefits for retirees, and the United Auto Workers union had to make numerous concessions in contract negotiations with GM. These examples and many others illustrate the bogusness of the notion that “big labor” is on equal footing with corporate wealth in their respective ability to fund political campaigns as allowed by the infamous Citizens United ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court.

In coming days we will be hearing and reading the latest news about negotiations between Verizon management and the CWA. According to Rosenstein, Verizon has made $25-billion in profits over the past five years. Its top five executives are paid in excess of $25 million per year. Company officials will rely on the corporate media (in which they advertise heavily) to convey their message that the employees have “outrageous” salaries and benefits (particularly healthcare and retirement benefits) that are “out of line” with industry norms (i.e., wages and benefits of non-unionized workers at competing companies).

Management hopes that people who work under less desirable conditions will be unsympathetic to the Verizon employees and that public opinion will help force the union to cave. They know that widespread hostility and resentment has already been created against public employees. “In Wisconsin, the Koch brothers outspent us by $25 million and Scott Walker did not get recalled,” notes Rosenstein, who describes Verizon as “a company that continues to rake in mega-profits while demanding an end to worker pensions.”

Rosenstein thinks labor organizers today should think of themselves as part of a “resistance movement” against the corporate power that threatens an end to democracy in the U.S.. She knows that won’t “turn around the corporate onslaught” and it will not deter the “corporate plan to deprive our movement of resources so that we can’t fight, or the repression of voting rights, or all the other depressing developments.

“Our enemy is big, rich, and bad,” she acknowledges. “But we can go at it like David goes after Goliath. Not like ‘big labor’ taking on ‘big corporate’ but like resistance fighters slinging a shot between their eyes.”

My neighbor up the hill, a CWA member who works for Verizon, has a sign on his lawn that says “Support a fair contract for Verizon workers.” It includes a powerful depiction of a handful of Verizon executives labeled the “one percent” standing above a large group of employees, the “99 percent.” Down the hill lives a young woman who works at the A&P and wishes him well. She knows a victory for the Verizon workers might hasten the day she’ll get a raise instead of a chance to win a sandwich.

Michael can be reached at

Stuck With Harry Reid

Wednesday, August 15th, 2012

By Jeffrey Page

A late note on Harry Reid, the Democratic majority leader of the Senate, who is an idiot. Of this there can be no doubt. It was Reid, after all, the supposedly distinguished gentleman from Nevada, who said Barack Obama has “no Negro dialect unless he wanted to have one.” That was not in the Stone Age of American politics, but just two years ago. He also chided Obama for his different vocal inflections when speaking before the NAACP and less formal gatherings.

Negro dialect?” In 2010? (Reid also noted for anyone who cared to listen, that Obama was a “light-skinned” black person.

And now, along comes Harry Reid jumping into the fray over whether Mitt Romney has paid any income tax for the last decade or so. He has not, Reid said. He asserted this on the floor of the Senate, where members can’t be sued for what they say. Someone who worked at Romney’s Bain Capital slipped Reid this juicy bit of information, he said. But alas, it was a confidential tip so Harry was unable to reveal the source’s identity.

And there it hangs: The belief that Romney paid no taxes. Clearly, Reid accomplished what he set out to do.

Meanwhile, some of Romney’s defenders don’t sound very helpful when they go into attack mode against Reid.

First up was Reince Priebus, the chairman of the Republican National Committee, who called Reid “a dirty liar” on national TV.

There are problems with Priebus’s logic. If Romney’s tax affairs are Romney’s business and no one else’s, as he and his allies insist, how could Priebus conclude that Reid was lying? He never backed up his “dirty liar” assertion by saying Romney showed him his 1040s. I think Priebus knows as much about Romney’s taxes as I do. Which is nothing at all.

Then there was Senator Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. discussing Reid on television: “I think he’s lying about his statement of knowing something about Romney. I think he has created an issue here. I think he’s making things up.”

Not exactly a ringing endorsement of Romney and his relationship with the Internal Revenue Service. Graham thinks Reid is lying, thinks Reid has created an issue, thinks Reid is making things up. If you’re waiting for Graham to say something for certain, let me know when it comes. In the meantime, his use of think needs a little work. Because if I say I think he’s a dolt it means I can’t be sure.

Interesting part of this contretemps is that, unless I’m seriously mistaken, that was about the extent of the defense of Mitt and his tax habits. The Messrs. Paul, Gingrich, Perry, Cain, Huntsman, Pawlenty, Santorum, and Ms. Bachmann, all of whom had plenty to say (mostly negative) about Romney before he crushed them, have been uncharacteristically silent in their presumed outrage over Reid’s charge against their presumed nominee.

Finally there was Romney himself. In a campaign stop in Nevada, he declared: “Let me also say categorically: I have paid taxes every year. A lot of taxes. A lot of taxes.”

So have I, so have I, Mitt. So has everybody else in this country. We pay sales tax, county tax, village tax, school tax, gasoline tax, and, oh yes, federal and state income taxes.

Here are the questions that apparently will not be answered and thus will not go away. Which taxes do you pay, Mitt? A lot, you say? What’s a lot, Mitt? How much in flat dollars? And how much as a percentage of your adjusted gross income?

Obama’s man David Axelrod put it plainly: Mitt Romney ought to take 10 seconds and release his tax returns. “Why don’t they just put it to rest?” Axlerod said. “What is it that he is hiding?”