Wednesday, October 29, 2008

It's about equality, silly!

Hard to imagine, but once upon a time, your blogstress was married. Because that is not a condition she is eager to repeat, she is often delinquent in weighing in on the issue of marriage equality. (It is, of course, all about me.)

But the fights over same-sex marriage now being waged across the country -- most notably, in California, where the Proposition 8 ballot measure threatens that state's equal-rights application of its marriage law -- are about more that your or my right to marry the consenting adult of our choice. This battle is about the fundamental equality of all human beings. Period.

Marriage indeed comes with serious responsibilities, as well as significant privileges. For instance, where there is no same-sex marriage, you likely cannot name your same-sex partner as the beneficiary of your pension, if you have one. You cannot be named "next of kin," so you may be barred from visiting your partner in the hospital. If a same-sex couple raises a child together, one partner may lose all right to custody should that couple break up.

And that's just the part about gay people. Then there's everybody else.

The war against "gay marriage" is not simply a war against queer folk, though we're clearly in the cross-hairs. Its a form of "spiritual warfare" waged on behalf of a world view that would subjugate women, inflict on unwilling participants a restrictive and fear-based religion, and marginalize any group that constitutes a minority.

Is that the world in which you want to live?

In California, vote no on Proposition 8. For information on ballot measures in your state, check out Hans Johnson's list at Progressive Victory [PDF file].

For more info on the bloggerific Write to Marry Day event, check out Mombian

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Palin's Pal: A Feminist of Her Own

cross-posted from The Huffington Post

Can you be a supporter of Sarah Palin and still be a feminist? Well, I guess you could call yourself a feminist -- that is, if you think that, as a woman, you still have rights equal to those of a man when:

* You do not have the right of self-determination over your own body
* Even if impregnated through rape or incest you are forced to bear a child
* You're told you're entitled to equal pay, but forbidden to sue for it under most circumstances
* Information on how to prevent your own pregnancy is withheld from you in sex education classes
* If you're a spiritually powerful or otherwise unusual woman, your harassment can justified as protection from "witchcraft"

In that case, I guess it could be said that Elaine Lafferty, a former Ms. magazine editor proudly stumping for Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin, is a feminist. Otherwise, it just doesn't add up.

In an apparent diversion from answering the question of how a femiminst could possibly support an anti-choice ticket that also opposes legislation that would lengthen the statute of limitations in pay discrimination suits, Elaine Lafferty, in an essay appearing on The Daily Beast, admonished as sexist other feminists who challenged Palin's intelligence. This she conflated with actual sexism directed at Palin by male commentators. Nice try. But just because men (including right-wing men) have made sexist comments about Palin, and a few feminists, for good reason (given the media record), have mistaken Palin for being less intelligent than she is doesn't mean that Palin's a feminist. It just means she's a woman (a.k.a, sexism target) who can't name her least favorite Supreme Court cases, or tell us what magazines she reads.

The two feminists Lafferty insults are pioneers -- one was Ms.'s first and longest-serving editor; the other created and produces the first all-women political talk show.

I don't take lightly this challenging of Lafferty's feminist credentials; I've been on the receiving end of such criticism myself, from time to time, and I know the sting. But I've never supported an opponent of women't rights, and as a former Ms. staffer myself (before Lafferty's time), I feel betrayed by her support of a candidate who, taking advantage of an opening won by the efforts of feminists, would set back the cause of women's rights by decades.

I can't imagine how, as a feminist, one can support a candidate who couldn't bring herself to describe, in her interview by NBC's Brian Williams, an abortion clinic bomber as a "terrorist." Bill Ayers, she said, was a terrorist, but "others who would want to engage in harming innocent Americans or facilities that uh, it would be unacceptable. I don't know if you're going to use the word terrorist there."

Does Palin doubt that Claudia Gilmore, paralyzed from the chest down by the shotgun of an anti-choice fanatic, is a victim of terrorism? Perhaps during the long plane rides she describes in her Daily Beast essay, Lafferty could put that question to Palin, since she's the only feminist writer with any access to the candidate. (Would that Kathy G. or Ann Friedman could put a few questions to her.)

With no real refutation, Lafferty dismisses as hogwash any association of Palin with the far right. So, we are to make nothing of Palin's recent video shout-out to the annual convention of the Alaska Independence Party -- itself a secessionist movement and the state affiliate of the Constitution Party, whose platform calls for a return to the biblical law of the Old Testament. "The goal of the Constitution Party is to restore American jurisprudence to its Biblical foundations..." reads the platform preamble, which also claims the United States as a nation founded by Christians. First Dude Todd Palin belonged to the Alaska Independence Party for seven years -- until around the time his wife embarked on an unsuccessful run for the office of lieutenant governor in 2002.

I'm wondering if, on those long plane rides, Lafferty has asked Palin about the Wasilla City Council photo of her with a copy of the John Birch Society's magazine, The New American, sitting on the desk before her. The Birch Society, an anti-communist organization, also stands in opposition to most equal-rights movements, including the women's movement, according to the Web site of Political Research Associates, which researches right-wing organizations.

And while the blessing Palin received from one Rev. Thomas Muthee (famously preserved on video) asking for protection from "all forms of witchcraft" may seem pretty comical, it's really not when one considers that Muthee has a record of harassing women as "witches," having even driven one woman out of her hometown for allegedly causing accidents. It's a misogynist ruse as old as the Inquisition, and not one to be taken lightly as a part of Palin's belief system.

As far as I can tell, the biggest difference between Sarah Palin and Phyllis Schlafly is that Palin has expressed support for Title IX, the law that opened up educational opportunities, especially in athletic competition, to women. But other than that, she's pretty dern Schlaflyesque.

Like Sarah Palin, Phyllis Schlafly has long been the target of sexism in her own party. One of the conservative movement's foremost intellects, Schlafly is rarely celebrated as such, and instead finds herself relegated to the G.O.P.'s ladies' auxiliary. So, if I, as a feminist, decided to support Phyllis Schlafly in a bid for a job that offers a direct line of ascendency to the presidency -- would I still be a feminist? After all, I'd just be defending a target of sexism from people -- feminists -- who say mean stuff about her. And isn't that what feminism's all about -- empowering a female opponent of women's empowerment because she's victim of sexism? And to think that, all these years, I've gotten it wrong.

Hat-tip to Frank Gilligan of Beltway Sewer for the Blue Hampshire link.

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Friday, October 24, 2008

For more info on this bloggerific event, check out Mombian

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Thursday, October 02, 2008

The Palin Chronicles: Wedge-Setting 101

Cross-posted from The Huffington Post

While at first she seemed a formidable force, Sarah Palin, in recent days, has offered her critics the delight of feeling blithely superior as she stammered her way through questions put to her by two network news anchors. But while liberals and progressives revel in the riches of embarrassment that Palin has rendered in her interviews with Katie Couric and Charles Gibson, they're missing the opportunity to exploit the Palin boondoggle for all it's worth.

Taking on Palin's shortcomings on their merits is all well and good but, alas, there are plenty of people, a.k.a. right-wing voters, who don't give a hoot about what she knows and doesn't know, so long as she opposes abortion and same-sex marriage. A bigger bang for the buck exists in exploiting the fissures within the right that the Palin candidacy has exposed.

Yes, a certain cadre of conservative columnists has called on Palin to remove herself from the McCain ticket for the sake of the cause. These folks -- George Will, David Brooks, Kathleen Parker, David Frum, Charles Krauthamer -- are mortified by the apparent know-nothingness exhibited by John McCain's vice presidential pick. But in reality, their opinions mean more to their counterparts on the left than they do to the foot soldiers of their own movement. These columnists are the right's own elite -- not the movement conservatives. As John McCain himself sneeringly described them, they are "Georgetown cocktail-party person[s]".

Movement conservatives, on the other hand, will have nothing of this notion that Palin is the problem. McCain's sinking numbers, they say, stem from his refusal to let Palin be Palin.

At the Constitution Day celebration of the Conservative Caucus two weeks ago, I had the occasion to speak with Howard Phillips, founder of the Conservative Caucus and the Constitution Party, the theocratic third party to which Todd Palin belonged for seven years through its Alaska affiliate, the Alaska Independence Party.

"Well, Pat Buchanan did a good column in which he said that she's a great gal, but she's being ruined by McCain, who's making her toe the party line," Phillips told me, in apparent concurrence.

In his September 16 column, Buchanan alleges that, during the Republican National Convention, the McCain campaign called off a meeting that Palin had scheduled with Phyllis Schlafly, the intellectual force behind the New Right's theory and rhetoric (and who will never be acknowledged as such because she is a woman). The McCain people, Buchanan said, said that Palin needed to rest up for her convention speech, but whisked her, instead, into a meeting with Sen. Joseph Lieberman and the American Israel Public Affairs Commitee (AIPAC), one of Buchanan's least favorite organizations on the planet. He goes on to say that Sarah Palin has become a neocon "project."

The neocons, he wrote, "are moving even now to capture this princess of the right and hope of the party."

Richard Viguerie, who with Phillips and Paul Weyrich, virtually founded the religious right, weighed in several days ago with similar sentiments: "McCain has to get rid of these Bush people around Palin," he wrote on Sept. 28, "along with the lobbyists and the folks from the Washington PR firms, and replace them with principled conservatives who have experience making the case for conservatism."

I, for one, have been flummoxed by Palin's sudden inarticulateness on matters for which movement conservatives generally have a raft of pat answers gleaned from their movement's literature. And that's where the problem may indeed lie. As The Guardian's Michael Tomasky recently suggested, it's possible that the reading Palin has done is largely in the journals of the right, and she may have been advised not to mention any of them, thus explaining her ridiculous reply to Katie Couric's question, "[W]hat newspapers and magazines did you regularly read before you were tapped for this?" Palin: "Um, all of them..."

In fact, a photograph has surfaced of Palin at her Wasilla City Council desk; before her lays a loose leaf binder open to a publication by the John Birch Society, which made its name opposing both communism and the civil rights movement.

Buchanan suggested that Palin, left to her own devices, shows her true colors. "Sarah Palin is no neocon," he wrote. "She did not come by her beliefs by studying Leo Strauss. She is a traditionalist whose values are those of family, faith, community and country, not some utopian ideology."

Right. Her values lie in a dystopian theology -- but that's a column for another day. Back to Buchanan:

Wasilla, Alaska, is not a natural habitat of neoconservatives.

And her unrehearsed answers to Gibson's questions reveal her natural conservatism. Asked if she agrees with the Bush Doctrine, Palin asked for clarification. "In what respect, Charlie?"

Gibson: "Do we have the right of an anticipatory self-defense?"

Yes, said Palin, "if there is legitimate and enough intelligence that tells us that a strike is imminent against (the) American people, we have every right to defend our country. In fact, the president has the obligation, the duty to defend."

Exactly. The intelligence must be legit and the threat "imminent."

I imagine the same goes for the Supreme Court cases. The cases she would oppose as a movement conservative -- Griswold, which gave us contraception; Marbury, which gave us judicial review, for example -- would tip her hand, should she utter their names. So, instead, she was rendered mute.

At the Values Voter Summit in Washington, D.C., last month, Family Research Council President Tony Perkins told me, "I think there is no question that there was a lack of enthusiasm [for John McCain] among social conservative voters until he made that pick." They trust McCain, those social conservatives, as much as they trust elites like Will and Brooks. "You know, when there was discussion of a pro-abortion-rights running mate, nothing could dampen the base more than that, when 73 percent of delegates to the Republican convention were identified as pro-life," Perkins explained.

And who was one of those prospective "pro-abortion-rights running mate[s]"? Joe Lieberman, the guy for whom Buchanan's "princess of the right" was made to snub Phyllis Schlafly, la doyenne du droit.

If progressives really want to derail McCain's Zig-Zag Express, they'll put as much effort into playing up the backstage drama of establishment v. right wing as they will playing to the hall. Dare the Republican establishment to truly own Palin, and wave her defection from her right-wing colleagues before their eyes.

Don't allow Pat Buchanan to play a normal Republican on TV; challenge him to defend his columns on MSNBC. Make George Will answer to Richard Viguerie's complaint during his ABC News gig. If nobody will do that, e-mail the networks.

Step one: set wedge. Step two: grab mallet.

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