An Update

Hello, long lost readers! It’s me, your wayward blogger! I haven’t posted on here in ages (years) for several reasons: 1) my job is very demanding and I spend a lot of creative brain energy doing it, 2) I’m nervous about people I know in real life reading this, and 3) my personal life is crazy!

For those reasons, I’m trying out a new blog, a bit more personal and hopefully less full of piss and vinegar. (I do realize that piss and vinegar is most of what I had going for me, but what can you do?) It will be a little lighter and hopefully take less um…work?… so I will actually post once in a while. If you still want to read things that I’m writing, even if they are about being a (working) mom (of twins), you can follow here:

limevanillaice.wordpress.com

Maybe one day I’ll come back to this, but in the mean time, I love you all!

Everything you (didn’t) want to know about the debt ceiling.

“To suggest that raising the debt limit doesn’t incur more debt is laughably absurd. The very reason why you raise the debt limit is so that you can incur more debt. Otherwise what’s the point?”

Sarah Palin

It is no surprise that Sarah Palin is breath-takingly stupid, but it is surprising, or at least really depressing, that most Americans think “raising the debt ceiling” means “borrowing more money.” In fact, 62 percent said that raising the debt ceiling meant “The federal government is increasing the amount of money it borrows to pay for future expenditures.” Even more GOP respondents felt that way: 73 percent.

In response to the question, “When Congress votes to increase the debt ceiling, do you believe that means…”
In response to the question, “When Congress votes to increase the debt ceiling, do you believe that means…”

It absolutely doesn’t mean that.

That fact that a significant number of Americans have no idea what the debt ceiling is, or why it would be FUCKING TERRIBLE if we didn’t raise it, is giving me nightmares. I assume many of my dear readers already know this, but it’s also an obscure and very poorly named government process, so in an effort to cheer myself up in the face of this impending doom, here are some explanations.

What is the debt ceiling?

Congress sets a budget, funding for all of the programs and expenses for the country, and the US Treasury pays all of those bills. In 1917 we limited how debt could be issued (like selling bonds), setting a “ceiling” for the Treasury, which has to keep being raised to accommodate the budgets. So basically, we vote to buy a bunch of things, we buy them, and then we have to vote again to see if we’re allowed to pay for the things we already bought. This is a great way for asshole politicians to say they support all the programs they like and then pretend to be against all the debt those programs cause.

Some conservative groups have compared this to going to the bank to ask for more credit when you’re already in major debt, but it’s actually like calling up your mortgage company and saying that, because you are in debt, you’re not going to pay your mortgage anymore. What kind of idiot would do that, right?! The GOP kind.

What will happen if we don’t raise it?

We default on our bills.

Why should I care about that?

Most of America’s “bills” are things for us. That means Social Security payments, veterans benefits and military pay, tax refunds, Medicare, and payments to any businesses that work with the government, those all stop.

Can’t we just pay the most important ones?

During a government shutdown, we can prioritize payments because agencies basically stop paying (some of) their employees. In a debt crisis, however, the Treasury is required to pay all of its bills, it just doesn’t have the money to do it.

The Treasury makes about 100 million payments a month, all on auto-pay, far too many to go through and pick and choose (even if the computer programmers there weren’t all furloughed because of the shutdown). If we don’t have the money to make the day’s payments, they just hold off until they do. That means if we are short tomorrow, we won’t be able to pay until Friday. This compounds with each day, of course, so after a couple of days we have to catch up on multiple days.

Bottom line: bills can’t get paid, services and checks stop, and we hurt our credit and the U.S. dollar.

What will happen if we hurt our credit or the U.S. dollar?

This is where it gets really juicy: we don’t know. This has never happened in the history of the world.* Because it’s crazy. Sure, other countries have defaulted, smaller countries, but never a country like ours. We are the largest economy in the world. The US dollar is the world’s (only) reserve currency. US Treasury bonds are considered risk free, the standard in investment. This stability, this reliability, allows Americans to borrow at lower costs, granting them an advantage of more than $100 billion per year. You save money on every loan just because you are American. It’s pretty important to protect that status.

So we don’t know exactly what will happen, but we know it will be really, really bad.

Bond markets rely on government rates as a price indicator, so interest on borrowed money goes up for everyone when Treasury interest rates increase. The housing market will almost definitely implode again. And it adds to our deficit; the 2011 delay will cost taxpayers around $19 billion in interest increases over the next ten years.

Also, it will fuck up our already weak job situation. Job growth in August of 2011, during the crisis, was the worst in almost three years. Because of the lack of federal spending, the current shutdown has created a fiscal contraction. A debt crisis will cause a contraction 10-20 times that. Ben Bernanke has said it could be a “recovery-ending event.”

Image
Stocks: The last time congressional Republicans threatened to default on the nation’s debt obligations – in July and August of 2011 – investors began a massive sell-off that resulted in a nearly 20 percent drop in the S&P 500.

Eh, they’ll figure something out.

I mean, sure, probably. The problem is don’t actually know when the Treasury will run out of money. We owe different amounts on different days, so it’s not as simple as a date. Additionally, even if we don’t get to the default, the threat of a default is still really, really bad.

Remember when Standard & Poor’s downgraded our credit rating? Here’s a reminder of why they said they did it:

“The political brinksmanship of recent months highlights what we see as America’s governance and policymaking becoming less stable, less effective, and less predictable than what we previously believed.”

Political brinkmanship, which is the 113th Congress’ middle name (One Hundred and Thirteenth Bullshit Brinkmanship Session of the U.S. House of Idiot Representatives).

Our credit is on the line, as well as our stock markets which like to freak out over stuff like this and our job growth, since people don’t like to hire when they don’t know what the hell is happening with their investments.

Whatever, I’ll just move to Canada.

HAHAHAHAthat is the beauty of this, we will not only fuck up our economy and our country, but we will fuck up the world economy! Because of all that stuff I said earlier about how great the dollar is. The whole world depends on us keeping our shit together. Go America!

Not to put too fine a point on this, but fucking around with our debt ceiling is batshit crazytown economic suicide.

Anyway. This was probably way too long, and mostly no one cares, but I’m full of anxiety. Spread the word or something. About the debt ceiling, not my anxiety.

P.S. My source for most of this is the Bipartisan Policy Center, a—you guessed it—bipartisan nonprofit that “drives principled solutions through rigorous analysis, reasoned negotiation and respectful dialogue.” So it’s legit, y’all.

 

*We have defaulted before, once during the War of 1812 and once in the ’70’s because of “technical defaults,” but those narrow lapses wouldn’t inflict the kind of damage we could see in this default.

FOX News Is a Bad Neighbor

If you need another reason to dislike them, last week FOX & Friends called Mr. Rogers an “evil, evil man.”

It was a tongue-in-cheek reference to a Wall Street Journal article about one professor’s opinion of how Millennials have been ruined by self-confidence. Critiquing the Millennials is pretty eye-rollingly in vogue right now, but I won’t dispute the point.  Like any good Protestant Midwesterner, I think participation trophies are a pretty terrible idea and that you should beat kids at board games. I think learning to lose is as important as learning to win, and that helicopter parents probably need to let kids eat more dirt and provide them with less entertainment.

There is a fair criticism to be made about college kids who think they deserve high grades just for showing up. Maybe there is even a generational work-ethic problem.  But putting the blame on Mr. Rogers highlights one of the conservative movement’s saddest logical fallacies.

I hope you’re proud of yourself for the times you’ve said “yes,” when all it meant was extra work for you and was seemingly helpful only to someone else.

The World According to Mister Rogers: 
Important Things To Remember

The kind of “specialness” that Fred Rogers talked about wasn’t the false praise of scoreless soccer games.  He didn’t tell kids that they would be rich or famous.  He didn’t tell them that they were smart or funny or talented, but rather that they could be all of those things. He talked about hard work and practice. He encouraged curiosity, learning, and using your imagination. He taught kids that their emotions were their own responsibility and that, though they may feel angry when things didn’t go their way, they had to figure out how to deal with it. “Life is for service,” he said.

When Mr. Rogers told children that everyone is special, he meant that everyone has worth. He showcased ordinary jobs, like making apple juice and crayons. He taught kids that community and neighbors and friendship are the building blocks of a healthy life. Over and over again, he emphasized gratitude. That we are lucky and that we owe our lives to the love and support of people around us.

You’re MUCH more than your job description or your age or your income or your output.

You Are Special: Words of Wisdom for
 All Ages from a Beloved Neighbor

Conservatives don’t seem to understand that it is possible to be average and have worth.

They mock people who work full-time at fast food restaurants or as janitors as undeserving of a living wage. They deride those who demand fair hours and compensation as lazy.  In an economy where unemployed workers far outnumber job openings in every sector, they complain that food stamps and meager unemployment benefits make joblessness too cushy. Yesterday, interest rates on college loans doubled because they refused to freeze them again. Banks currently borrow money at nearly 0% interest while students will pay almost 7%.

You shouldn’t have to run a corporation to be able to afford health care. You shouldn’t have to be valedictorian or a Romney to go to college.  Average people, from sanitation workers to bank tellers, should be able to provide their families with more than debt and insecurity.

We live in a world in which we need to share responsibility. It’s easy to say “It’s not my child, not my community, not my world, not my problem.” Then there are those who see the need and respond. I consider those people my heroes.

Fred Rogers

It takes a hard and sad kind of cynicism to see the love that Mr. Rogers offered as false entitlement. Everyone could take a lesson from Mr. Rogers’ kindness, generosity, hard work, and gratitude. And for a show that spends so much time spreading misinformation and asking people to pull themselves up by the bootstraps, hosts of FOX & Friends could do well to remember these words, given when he was inducted into the Television Hall of Fame:

I feel that those of us in television are chosen to be servants. It doesn’t matter what our particular job, we are chosen to help meet the deeper needs of those who watch and listen—day and night!

We all have only one life to live on earth. And through television, we have the choice of encouraging others to demean this life or to cherish it in creative, imaginative ways.

On Kermit Gosnell and Access to Abortions

Last night the House of Representatives passed an unconstitutional 20-week abortion ban. It has no health exception and a rape exception only if a woman has reported her attack to the police. It’s called the “Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act,” and it relies on junk science that fetuses can feel pain at 20 weeks in order to limit abortions.  It also has no chance of passing at the federal level (it has and will pass at the state level). You can read up on all of its ickiness here.

In addition to the normal anti-choice points, the author, Trent Franks, is framing his argument and his bill around the Kermit Gosnell case. I’d like to tell you why I find that surreal.

You’re most likely a human, so ask yourself: would you go to a doctor like that? Would you spend two minutes in that clinic for a checkup, let alone an invasive procedure? Gosnell is a butcher who hired unlicensed staff, including a high school student, to administer anesthesia and perform surgical duties. His clinic was covered in blood and filled with filthy, rusted over instruments. He was storing fetal remains in milk jugs and cat food containers. The smell of his clinic was described by investigators as “unbearable.” If you are interesting in being horrified even further, read this (no joke though, not for the weak stomached).

His is a story about murder, not abortion. It is a story of the absolute failure of a health department to enforce even the most basic of health regulations. It is a story about a community of women, mostly of color, who were so desperate and hopeless that they walked into the set of a horror movie and decided to stay. And the Republicans’ answer to this problem is to ban more abortions? To restrict access further?

Late-term abortions are by far the grossest to describe (you know, like any surgery would be), and bans on them are the easiest to sell. But those bans are also the cruelest for the women they hurt.

They target women who want to be mothers. They hit the woman whose late-term tests show her baby will die minutes after it is born. They force her to carry around a doomed fetus that she wanted, knowing it will never live to be a child.  And perhaps, saddest and most ironic, that family loses the ability to choose to protect their child from a painful slow death waiting for them outside the womb.*

Food Not RequiredThey target women who are sick. The difference between saving a mother’s health and a mother’s life isn’t always clear. Without a health exception, a woman could be forced to forgo chemotherapy. These bans target the mother who will birth a baby without a brain or kidneys and who will then lose the ability to try another child.

They target the poorest of the poor, women without resources. These women have to save money or travel, sometimes hundreds of miles, and then book hotel rooms for punitive waiting periods.

Study after study tells us the same thing: abortion restrictions do not stop abortions. In fact, worldwide abortion rates are down most in countries where there are the fewest restrictions on abortions and family planning resources.

Restrictions do, however, increase one number: the rates of injury and death from illegal procedures. The more barriers we put up to safe, legal abortions, the more women will be forced to turn to dangerous, frightening alternatives.

And if you don’t think that’s possible in America, just ask the patients of Kermit Gosnell.

 

*I want to be clear that I am not trying to imply that ending this type of pregnancy is better or worse than carrying it to term. I know two incredible, brilliant women who had to make this horrific decision and they each chose what they thought was right for their family. My only point is that there are some families who feel ending the pregnancy is an act of love for their child and they ought to be able to make that decision for their family.

Seriously, What Do You Have Against Equality?

I have attempted to write this post at least 13 times and never posted it. It’s too important and I have never been able to say everything I wanted to say in the perfect way so I let entry after entry pile up. But with this week’s Supreme Court hearings on marriage, I’m going to try to hit “publish” this time. Sorry it’s so long!

Being against gay marriage is an indefensible position.

I say this knowing that a pretty large portion of people I love are against it. People who are kind and good and want to make the world a better place, people whom I respect, those people are wrong.

Let’s get the easy ones out of the way: non-religious reasons. There really aren’t many, but they basically break down to the children, slippery slope, and definition argument.

Studies (that use reputable methods) show that there is very little difference between gay and straight parents, though kids of two parent, stable homes do fare better. More importantly, marriage isn’t restricted to child-bearing people. Straight people don’t have kids, gay people do, and a ton of kids have one parent. If children were really in danger we could still outlaw gay adoption (I mean, if we were homophobic assholes we could do that). This is a crazy stupid argument.

Next: If we let women marry women, what’s to stop people from marrying dogs/robots/cantaloupes/children/roller derby teams? Well… we are. We are making rules right now and none of those things are on the table. We’re asking if two consenting adults should be able to marry each other, not if llamas have the mental capacity to make long-term romantic commitments to people (they don’t) . This is like saying, if we let surgery patients take morphine, what’s to stop babies from taking it? Really dumb, right?

Marriage Equality

Then there’s the weird definition argument. Seriously, what is this? We live in the time of “blogs” and the atrocity that is “awesome.” The definition has changed, since marriage is no longer a Family Inc. merger or domestic slavery, but even if it hadn’t,  what’s the big fucking deal? Are you a Webster? Do you get residuals on straight-marriage-definition use? WHY DOES THIS ARGUMENT EXIST?

In conclusion, there are no logical non-religious reasons to oppose gay marriage, so let’s move on.

When talking about the morality of homosexuality, the religious debate is… debatable. There are clearly gay couples in the Bible. Ruth loved Naomi and was “more to [her] than seven sons.” Giant killer/man-after-God’s-own-heart David’s soul was “bound” to Jonathan’s and he loved him above any women (also, they got naked together and “exchanged swords” if ya know whatimean). These relationships are celebrated. Jesus talks about how some eunuchs, sometimes a euphemism for homosexuals, are born that way and it’s fine. But there are arguably contrary passages.

Leviticus. It takes a special kind of cognitive dissidence to use the “gays are an abomination” line while ignoring the other abominations: round haircuts, poly blend fabrics, planting more than one seed in your field, interest on loans. Or ignoring the things that are not abominations like murdering your kids or owning slaves. I have never ever met a Christian who lives up to Leviticus codes but, whatever, the abomination line is there. The other verses that refer to same-sex relations are either talking about gang raping angels (a bit not good) or turning from one’s natural orientation (which gay people are not doing)… but OK. Paul says some shit that could be interpreted to mean no gays allowed (so I guess they can join us women in the “no talking” section of the church).

It’s a weak argument, but I’ll give it to them. Let’s pretend these people are clairvoyant and can know God’s heart enough to tell everyone else what he wants.

Our laws may be based on morality, but the marriage debate isn’t about the wrongness or rightness of homosexuality. It’s about the morality of recognizing a legal contract.

And it’s fucking cynical, but the opposition knows that.

How do I know they know? Because they aren’t doing anything to stop gay marriages. Churches right now, I would guess in every state, can and are marrying gay people. Marriage as a sacrament is determined by individual denominations and religions and there is no law that says anyone can’t be joined in a holy covenant. Gays are getting married! Non-believers are partaking in the Eucharist! People are being sprinkle-baptized and pool-baptized and baptized for dead people! Some churches use grape juice for communion, while others use wine, and mega-churches have all adopted those terrible chiclet-crackers for the body of Christ! IT’S SACRAMENT PANDEMONIUM OUT THERE! Won’t someone think of the children?!

What gay people can’t do is get legal recognition for their unions.

Blocking gay marriage isn’t about a religious ritual. It is about making sure that gay people can’t get tax breaks, joint adopt kids, see their spouses in the hospital, have end-of-life-care authority, receive social security survivor payments, or take medical leave to care for one another.

Stopping marriage equality won’t stop people from being gay.

It won’t make them go out and find opposite-sex partners and have a bunch of babies.

It won’t stop them from committing to stand beside each other through better or worse, in sickness and health, until death do they part.

It will only make their lives unfairly harder.

Don’t kid yourself; that is what you are fighting for.

Stuart and John

Is it moral to deny hospital rights to partners because you find them gross? Because God finds them gross?

The Bible’s stance on homosexuality may be debatable, but it’s pretty beat-you-over-the-head-clear about loving your neighbor. Jesus says you should do it. A lot. He hung out with the whores and tax-collectors and sinners. He said the people without sin could go ahead and start judging (I’m lookin’ at you, divorced people bitching about the sanctity of marriage) and that everybody else could shut the hell up. I don’t think he’d tell Stuart and John here that they shouldn’t be able to take time off of work to nurse each other back to health because they are both men. I don’t think he’d be thrilled that they can’t provide the other health insurance through their jobs. I don’t think he’d wish poverty on the survivor after his bread winning spouse dies.

I think, even if he thought gay sex was super icky, even if he was all, hate the sin love the sinner!, these things would make him pretty fucking sad.

I am hurt by the glibness with which people brush off equal rights and post hateful, mocking graphics about “Adam and Steve” or unequal sign profile pictures on Facebook. There is so much disdain for people just trying to mind their own business. And I’ve had this argument enough times to know that nothing I say will make a difference, but I hope the Supreme Court does the right thing now instead of ten years from now.

Because it’s coming no matter what. The arc of the moral universe bends toward justice. The world only spins forward. Love never fails.

Some Further Explanation

I haven’t written in months because I’ve been working 50-80 hours a week. But today I decided to respond to a comment from my Penn Jillette post, and my response went on so long, I thought I’d just make it a post. I promise I’ll write more after this election.

Sharon wrote: 

“I do know that time and time again corporations have proven that they care a hell of a lot more for profit margins than they do for human life.” The same isn’t %100 true for the government? Do you really think the government gives one F$@% about individual human life? Do you really think they care about you or the people who are starving? They care about the American population as a whole, because without us they’re nothing, but don’t think for one second that they care about some starving kid in the streets of Baltimore. Democrat/republican, conservative/liberal, it doesn’t matter. They care about power. They care about money. They care about votes.

“And I know that in one of the richest countries in the world no one should starve to death.” Agreed, although I’m not sure how or why people still call a nation that is almost $16,000,000,000,000 in debt “rich”. You must mean “a nation that has the richest people per capita,” but I digress. At the same time, in ANY country in the world (America included) people shouldn’t be rewarded for doing nothing. I realize many people who need Welfare actually need Welfare and aren’t just lazy bums doing nothing, but a lot of them are. Why should the American taxpayer have to give money to people who simply exploit the system? It is also a system which offers no incentive to become educated or learn a trade and get off the government handouts and start earning for yourself. In New York State, there are two types of Benefit Cards. One can only be used for food, the other is treated as cash. There are literally hundreds of stories of people using these cash benefit cards to buy alcohol, cigarettes, and even lottery tickets. Perfectly legal. I do not see why I, or anyone, should have to pay to feed someones alcohol, tobacco or gambling addiction. Even with the “food only” benefit cards, many people still stock up on either crap (chips, soda, general junk food) or buy gourmet items, like 7 dollar a gallon ice cream. There was a recent story about a guy using his “food only” benefit card to buy shrimp. Not a huge deal. Except he wasn’t eating the shrimp or feeding his family with it. He was using the shrimp as fishing bait. And not to catch fish to feed his family (why should he even need to do that, he’s already getting food stamps), no no, this was for sport fishing. And he admitted it. And he didn’t see what the big deal was. Our money paying for this type of stuff is not exactly “contributing financially to the upkeep of the organization that allows you to make a whole lot of money.”

People need food, clothing, shelter, etc. However, that is not the government’s job. This is where I will forever disagree with Dems/Progressives. I do not believe it is the job of the federal, or state, or any local government to feed, clothe and house their citizens. The government is not your parent. They are not there to make sure you get three healthy meals a day, provide you a home and tuck you in at night.

As a side note, I volunteer three times a week in a soup kitchen, once a week at a food bank and have probably donated over $15,000 (almost half of my annual salary) in my short lifetime (I don’t donate that amount annually, obviously I can’t afford to) to charities. Just throwing that out there before I get attacked as someone who doesn’t care about their fellow man or hates the indigent and also so maybe you can think about actually helping others instead of sitting on your high horse condemning those who disagree with you politically without actually doing dick to help. (Jillette excluded, he’s a public figure and can come across as a dick, even if you did take him out of context). “Activist” doesn’t mean writing a shitty blog filled with your stupid opinions that maybe five people slightly care about, it actually requires taking ACTION.

Hi, Sharon, thanks for your thoughts. I got more comments from my Libertarian post than any other. Most of them were just ragey nonsense, and many of them were full of sexist insults (shocking, I know) so I ignored them.  But with the election days away and my brain exhausted, I thought answering you might be a nice break.

This is how I feel about your comment.

I’m not arguing that elected officials don’t care about votes or power; I’m arguing that being dependent on votes make them accountable to the American people in a way that being accountable to profit margins doesn’t.  It certainly isn’t a perfect system but every election you have a chance to vote, and you have a chance to work to get others to see your point of view. If politicians need votes, then they need to make sure their constituents are happy with their positions. I don’t give two shits about whether my Congressman cares about “individual human life” as long as he votes for health care reform. You will never, ever have the chance to vote out the CEOs of banks who nearly caused a GLOBAL DEPRESSION. If a business can make a sliver more by exploiting immigrants or poisoning local drinking water or cutting safety corners, they will do it EVERY TIME. The problem with our system isn’t that elected officials want to continue being elected, it’s that our electorate isn’t educated on policies or politicians, our media doesn’t educate our electorate, and we allow corporations to purposely mislead our electorate.

Your second point is boring.  Poor people are lazy? Put some effort into this. I’m glad you’ve got a bunch of anecdotal evidence, “literally hundreds of stories” even, but that same bullshit argument has been making the rounds since Reagan decided hating poor black women was a pretty good platform to unite America. I know it’s hard not feel jealous when you meet a shrimp-guy. Who wouldn’t trade the monotony of a steady paycheck, a safe neighborhood, career opportunities, and a 401K for the luxurious glamour of food stamps, section 8 housing, and unlimited lottery tickets! Anyway, you’re right, there are probably abuses out there, but I have a sneaky suspicion it has more to do with unlivable wages and lack of education and career opportunities than laziness, because poor people are not inhuman parasites… but semantics! We don’t craft social safety net programs around fear that the poors might buy junk food. Making sure people have access to homes and food and education is not just moral, it’s fiscally beneficial. You want to talk about exploiting the system? Let’s talk corporate subsidies and tax loopholes. You want to talk about getting paid to do nothing? Let’s talk about using family money to make millions in capital gains and paying lower tax rates than I do. Let’s talk about the military industrial complex. I guarantee you those things are contributing more to our debt than unemployment pay and bus tokens.  I guess my point is I do not see why I, or anyone, should have to pay to feed corporate America’s addiction to unlimited wealth at any cost.

And finally, I don’t call myself an activist because I write a blog. I don’t even call myself a blogger. I am an activist because I am. I volunteer. I donate. I rally. I protest. I phone bank. I knock on doors. In fact, my current job is the political director of a congressional campaign. This shit is my life.

You know, Sharon, it’s easy to say all politicians are corrupt. It’s easy to say that the government can’t do anything good and that Democrats and Republicans are the same. Then you get to check out. You get to pretend that poor people are lazy and that a system that has helped you access education and career opportunities and safe streets also denies some people those things. You get to sit back and say what does it matter who we elect? They’re all the same anyway. Fuck. That. I work with politicians and I’ve worked for politicians. I’ve worked for nonprofits and I’ve owned a small business. There are bad politicians. And there are some really, really good politicians. There are bad policies and there are policies that save lives every day. Quit being lazy. Do some research. Volunteer for a candidate. Run for office.  Representative governments are a reflection of their people, and if you think our government is intrinsically useless and corrupt then you have a far darker view of Americans than I do.

Things You Probably Already Know

Someone the other day asked me if I thought all these Republican shenanigans with birth control and ultrasound raping and single mom shaming, etc, etc, was shocking. My answer? Fuck no. This is Republicanism at its finest. For years and years they have been hiding behind this “compassionate conservative” bullshit. See, people used to think Republicans were mean heartless assholes (because they were) so they had to pretend that their incredibly heartless asshole policies were really just a way to help poor (stupid, lazy, black, female, immigrant) people. But they’ve been spewing that bullshit for so long, that people have forgotten and they are free to come out of their awful troll shells and say what they really think, such as:

And a billion gillion other horrific things. This is a dumb list because you already know all of it. No matter how much you pay attention to the news, you can probably name like 12 quotes from this month alone about how women should embrace forced sterilization and set aside their kidneys for potential mandatory fetal transplants. They are a parody of themselves. If Republicans had their way, women would exercise their voting rights by encouraging their husbands to vote. This should not be a surprise to you. If you have a uterus, Republicans would like you to sit down, shut up, have babies, and make them dinner. Republican women would like you to do all those things and join a book club where you can read the Bible and Atlas Shrugged and talk about how sad sluts who don’t do those things are. This is not a new war on women, this is an open war on women. Better start pressing your handmaid uniforms!

With all that said, are you worried? Can these schmucks possibly win this game? Obama is 20 points ahead of Mittens and 26 ahead of Santorum in lady votes.  I think all this lady-hating, or lating, is confusing them; maybe they think if they talk about silencing women enough, women will just be silent. We’re a majority. And for the last couple decades, we vote more. My point is… I like it. Every time a Republican talks about whores, a baby feminist gets her wings…I mean… wordpress.

Another Post About Lady Parts

With the release of the latest Twilight movie and TLC’s new show, Laugh at These Awkward People! or Nervous Adults Who Can’t Kiss or whatever, which is  all about people who are still virgins even though they are oldish, virginity has been on my mind a lot lately. In that light, I’d like to make an announcement:

Virginity isn’t a thing.

For real, you guys, it’s 2011. Can we all please stop pretending that the general vicinity that your genitalia have been relative to another person’s genitalia is a state of being? It’s just this word we made up to shame or reward ladies before we had paternity tests. Doctors can’t look at your vagina and be like, “yep, this one’s always been penis free!” because hymens break all the time for no reason (or for the obvious reason that tampons are giant wads of dry cotton in  hardish cardboard tubes) and sometimes never break, or don’t exist in the first place. And let’s pretend for a minute that there were any kind of expectation on men to stay sex-free (OK, OK, I’m sure in the history of oppressive sex ideas, some men have been expected to abstain, but let’s get real, even in most fundamentalist sects, guys’ sexuality is given a pass or at least ignored) there is obviously no physical difference before or after.

Emotionally… sure. For some people having sex is a life changing thing. And for some people (who are just as valid and great) it’s not anything. Likewise, going to Graceland could be a momentous occasion (for someone, I mean, who may or may not be me [OK, it’s me… Graceland was like the 4th biggest event in my life]), but there’s no special word for people who have never been to that hallowed icon of Americana in Memphis. Experiences are what you make them, and consensual sex can be a big deal or not. Yes, it is possible to regularly have safe sex with no unintended consequences of any kind (I’ve got years of baby- and infection-free sex under my belt!).

The whole idea is so vague and stupid it’s laughable. We seem to universally accept that it involves P-in-V intercourse, even though there are way more (arguably) intimate and/or scandalous and kinky things to do on the spectrum of sexing. There’s also a whole group of people who have sex without penises or vaginas. Are all gay people virgins? Or just all lesbians, since, for something that’s totally aimed at ladies, the whole thing is completely penis-centric . PIV penetration (alone) doesn’t do it for 75% percent of women. SEVENTY FIVE. But, somehow, it’s the gold-standard in sex? Super lame. Unfortunately, for a lot of straight couples, PIV is sex with those things that actually get women off considered extras. And I will part from my radical feminist sisters in saying that I know there are a lot of women who enjoy PIV with or without an orgasm, but the fact that the male orgasm is required for our definition of sex, while the female orgasm is looked at as a bonus at best, and an annoyance at worst, is a crazy level of fucked-up-ness.

Which brings us to the part of this post where I try to tone down my asshole-ish nature and not offend everyone I know. Because there are a ton of women in my life who are waiting until they are married to have sex. They are smart, intelligent, strong, beautiful women whose convictions and commitment I whole-heartedly admire. But the idea that virginity is sacred or needs to be “saved” is, in my opinion, a fundamental misunderstanding of what sex is, but also and more importantly, what marriage is.

The idea that intercourse is more important or intimate than sleeping in late on Sundays or inside jokes or going through the crisis of losing a job or a loved one together is preposterous. Yes, it is part of an intimate relationship, but it’s just one part. And it can’t be used up or ruined just because you’ve done it before (Side note because some adults still believe this bizarre myth: sex does not make vaginas “loose” [barfbarfbarf]. Vaginas are made out of muscles [what did you think they were made of?] and muscles don’t’ work that way. It’s science.).   It will also never live up to years of anticipation and fantasy. You may or may not like your first time. If it’s on your wedding night, I assure you that you won’t have the energy to do it properly.

It’s funny to me that it gets so wrapped up in the “family values” package, since I think the abstinence campaign really denigrates what marriage is. Like the only thing different between being married and dating is boning. As if marriage were so fragile that simply knowing your partner had been with someone else could break it. Marriage isn’t a jack-in-the-box where if you pop it early there’s nothing left to look forward to. It’s this (ideally) life-long journey—an experiment in sacrifice and devotion and voluntary obligations and unconditional commitment and personal transformation. You don’t have to manufacture some kind of surprise or novel thing for it; marriage will give you discoveries and adventures all by itself.

Which is not to say that it is in any way my place to tell anyone who to have sex with or when to do it. If waiting until marriage is the right time, then that’s what you should do. However, like food and sleep, a healthy sex life is a need for most humans and denying it when you are ready, when you do have someone you want it with, can make a person crazy. It can also make a person do crazy things like have unprotected sex or get married to someone they just want to have sex with.

Virginity is just another way of saying that sex is what we value in women. It’s the other side of the teenage-girls-in-stilettos-and-micro-skirts coin. On the one side you’re objectified as a thing to have sex with, and on the other side you’re objectified as an “untouched” thing that only one lucky person gets to have sex with, but in either case, it’s all about being a thing to have sex with. Who has or has not been in your vagina has nothing to do with who you are. It’s not a reflection on your “purity” and it’s not a badge of honor or shame. It’s not a thing. Really. I promise.

This Week in Asshole White Guys Give Stupid Advice News

This asshole white guy gave some really terrible advice to poor black kids. It basically consisted of “Just be exceptional. And really, really lucky.”

Maria Bamford has a really funny bit about being a comedian and the advice everyone gives her which is generally something like “If I were you, I would get a TV show, make a million dollars and then just coast.” I find people have this kind of advice for all walks of life, but financially stable white men seem to be particularly fond of giving it to people without their privileges. Are you a poor black kid? Just find a computer, home school yourself and coast. Are you repeatedly sexually harassed or assaulted by strangers on the street or at parties? Just wear conservative clothes, take a self-defense class, and coast.  Are you fleeing from a life of poverty to give your kids a shot at a future? Just become a citizen the legal way and coast. Are you being threatened daily because some people don’t like your sexual orientation? Just don’t tell people and coast! Do police disproportionately target your demographic way more than any other? Just always follow every traffic law, be nice to cops, and coast. Are you saddened by the lack of positive representation of people who look like you in popular media and offended by the gross, stereotypical tropes you get instead? Just write a script, raise millions of dollars to have it produced, and coast (this particular gem is almost verbatim what a friend recently told me). It’s so easy! Why haven’t you people thought of this earlier!

Let me give you some advice. If your solution to systemic oppression is to tell the oppressed individuals to “Just do ___,” shut the fuck up. Seriously, right now, shut the fuck up. If it were as easy as teaching yourself to read/using the internet/driving better/using a condom/learning self-defense/dressing differently/making lentil soup/getting a job at McDonald’s/telling your boss to stop/becoming a citizen/being above average, smart, or gifted/raising millions of dollars and MAKING A MAJOR MOTION PICTURE/ just being exceptional, and if any of those things were something someone could wake up and choose to do, there wouldn’t be a problem.

In other words, why don’t you just stop perpetuating ignorance and bigotry, start dismantling the systemic injustice you and anyone with privilege in this country benefits from, and, you know… coast.

Edited to add: I have a new facebook page that has sort of embarrassingly low “likes” and, while I hate doing this, if maybe you wanted to like it or something that would be cool or whatever youguysIhatepromotingmyselfI’msosorry.  Affirmation!

An Open Letter to John J. Wall

The other day I received this letter as a forward:

Dear American liberals, leftists, social pro-gressives, socialists, regressives, Marxists, and Obama supporters, et. al.:

We have stuck together since the late 1950s for the sake of the kids, but the whole of this latest election process has made me realize that I want a divorce. I know we tolerated each other for many years for the sake of future generations, but sadly, this relationship has clearly run its course.

Our two ideological sides of America cannot and will not ever agree on what is right for us all, so let’s just end it on friendly terms. We can smile and chalk it up to irreconcilable differences and go our own way.

Here is a model separation agreement:

1. Our two groups can equitably divide up the country by land mass, each taking a similar portion. That will be the difficult part, but I am sure our two sides can come to a friendly agreement. After that, it should be relatively easy. Our respective representatives can effortlessly divide other assets since both sides had such distinct and disparate tastes.

2. We don’t like redistributive taxes, so you can keep them.

3. You are welcome to the liberal judges and the ACLU.

4. Since you hate guns and war, we’ll take our firearms, the cops, the NRA, and the military.

5. We’ll take the nasty, smelly oil industry and you can go with wind, solar, and bio-diesel.

6. You can keep Oprah, Michael Moore, and Rosie O’Donnell. You are, however, responsible for finding a bio-diesel vehicle big enough to move all three of them.

7. We’ll keep capitalism, greedy corporations, pharmaceutical companies, Wal-Mart, and Wall Street.

8. You can have your beloved lifelong welfare dwellers, food stamps, homeless home-boys, hippies, druggies, and illegal aliens.

9. We’ll keep the hot Alaskan hockey moms, greedy CEO’s and rednecks.

10. We’ll keep the Bibles and give you NBC and Hollywood .

11. You can make nice with Iran and Palestine and we’ll retain the right to invade and hammer places that threaten us.

12. You can have the peace-niks and war protesters. When our allies or our way of life are under assault, we’ll help provide them security.

13. We’ll keep our Judeo-Christian values.

14. You are welcome to Islam, Scientology, Humanism, political correctness, and Shirley McLain.. You can also have the U.N., but we will no longer be paying the bill.

15. We’ll keep the SUV’s, pickup trucks, and oversized luxury cars. You can take every Yugo station wagon you can find.

16. You can give everyone healthcare if you can find any practicing doctors..

17. We’ll continue to believe healthcare is an earned luxury and not a right.

18. We’ll keep “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” and “The National Anthem.”

19. I’m sure you’ll be happy to substitute “Imagine”, “I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing”, “Kum Ba Ya,” or “We Are the World”.

20. We’ll practice trickledown economics and you can continue to give trickle up poverty your best shot.

21. Since it often so offends you, we’ll keep our history, our name and our constitution and our flag.

22. Would you agree to this? If so, please pass it along to other like-minded liberal and conservative patriots and if you do not agree, just hit delete. In the spirit of friendly parting, I’ll bet you answer which one of us will need whose help in 15 years.

Sincerely,

John J. Wall

Law Student and an American

P.S.: Also, please take Ted Turner, Sean Penn, Martin Sheen, Barbara Streisand, and Jane Fonda with you.

P.S.S..: And you won’t have to “Press 1 for English” when you call our country.

John J. Wall, you have no idea how many times we have asked ourselves if this would be possible. Most of your terms sound reasonable, though I have to say I’m a little disappointed by some of your stereotypes. We get Yugo station wagons? Did you miss car day at the Fox News School of Leftist Generalizations? We get the hybrid/electric cars, thankyaverymuch. Before we proceed, however, let me make sure I have your demands correct.

We get judges and an organization that has been fighting for civil rights for almost 100 years, and you get guns and the military? I’m not sure “Democrats hate war” will hold up considering, um, all the actions of every elected Democrat of the last 10 years, give or take about 20.  I also suspect you’re going to have a pretty hard time filling your ranks if you’re giving us the minorities and the poors. With that said, you can keep your military industrial complex and we will happily take the Judicial system and civil rights. I hope it works out for you!

We’ll definitely take green and new technologies off your hands. I honestly don’t care about Oprah, Michael Moore, or Rosie O’Donnell, but good job with the fat jokes! Those people do struggle with their weight! HILARIOUS! I can’t wait for a country free of our comics so that classic Republican humor can really thrive! You might be in Republimerica if… you’ve ever accidentally lit the smog around your house on fire with your unfiltered cigarettes.

I doubt you have any better an understanding of capatalism than you do socialism, so I’m not sure you can be trusted with the whole economic theory. We’ll take those progressive taxes and all the social programs they fund. I’m sure if you ask nicely your corporations will let you sleep in one of their parking garages when you’re too old to make them money. We’ll take the “welfare dwellers, food stamps, homeless home-boys, hippies, druggies, and illegal aliens,” or to cut through your very sneaky code, “non-white people.” You can have your raging racism! You’ve given us “Hollywood” and “NBC,” but I assume that includes all of the “liberal media,” in which case I hope we’ll still be able to download your Fox News produced movies of nothing but Bible stories. I have to object to giving up “Judeo-Christian values” since we all know the Jews and liberal Christians over here are going to want to practice freely. We’ll be keeping our freedom of religion along with our civil rights, though it will actually apply to all religions in our country. And yes, we’ll take the “peace-nicks” (again, this is a little dated, can you get a newer version of Trite Clichés for Dummies?), protesters, and all those other people who dare to critically question the status quo.

You can continue to believe healthcare is an earned luxury and not a right. That healthcare is an earned luxury and not a right. That healthcare is a luxury and not a right. Healthcare is a luxury. Sorry, in theory I know that’s your position, it’s just hard to believe that humans can actually espouse such unbelievable, inhumane bullshit out loud. You actually think that being able to not die of preventable conditions is something for only rich people. Sure, I might have called you racist, classist, and misogynist, but sometimes I forget that it’s not rhetoric, you actually have no problem letting the poor, disproportionately made up of women and people of color, die in the streets if they can’t find a way into the heath insurance industry.  Please, by all means, you take that. Have fun.

Trickle down economics is all yours. Which brings me to evidence-based policies, science, and education. You keep believing the only science you need is in a 2000 year old book, and trying to make that “trickle-down” shit work, despite it’s failure to help any non-rich person ever in the history of America. We’ll keep our evidence-based sex education, prison reform, environmental policies, and Keynesian economics.  Oh yeah, and our universities, since there’s nothing you people hate more than education. I wish you luck with your for-profit doctors and their Genesis-based understanding of anatomy.

Which brings us to names and flags and songs. Listen, I like those songs and our flag, and I’m a little surprised you don’t want to just switch over to the good ol’ Battle Flag of the Confederacy, but I’ll concede. Considering we’re going to have all the artists, intellectuals, and general creatives (not to mention the gays!) I’m sure we can come up with something to replace them all.

All in all, John, I think this sounds like a pretty great idea. I look forward to our amicable split, and in the spirit of goodwill, let me extend the first invitation. If you ever get tired of your dirty, unregulated, uneducated, gun-littered, military state, where the only civil rights question is whether or not the rich can legally marry their bank accounts and the carcasses of the poor rot in the streets, you are more than welcome to vacation with us. You may have to pay some reasonable taxes on your vacation home, however, so I won’t expect to see you too soon.

Sincerely,

A

Pisces and Cheese Enthusiast (Because titles are just facts about ourselves, right?)

P.S. We’ve already established that we’re taking Hollywood, so you don’t have to specify actors. That said, you can keep Kirk Cameron.

P.P.S. “P.S.” stands for “Post Script,” so a second post script would be “Post Post Script,” not “Post Script Script.” But then again, your new home puts no value on education, so I doubt it will matter.