Business groups shelling out dough to protect their interests are also affecting crucial social issues like abortion. Some of the most prolific, unrelenting and negative ads that have swamped the airwaves this election season have been aimed at prominent pro-choice candidates, writes Sharon Johnson at Women's eNews -- particularly those ads attacking California Senator Barbara Boxer's, a stalwart champion of women's rights in Washington:
But the nail-biting race in California between Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer, who is trying to defend her seat against Republican challenger Carly Fiorina, the billionaire anti-choice former CEO of Hewlett-Packard, is attracting some of the biggest money. From Sept. 1 through Oct. 10, business groups and conservative organizations spent more than $4 million on round-the-clock TV ads and mailings attacking Boxer's support on everything from the federal stimulus program to environmental restrictions on oil companies. Outside groups have spent about $121,000 helping Boxer attack her opponents, according to The Associated Press.
It's not exactly a fair balance. Johnson mentions other pro-choice candidates who are similarly under siege, including senators Russ Feingold and Patty Murray, and a number of representatives who rode in on the Obama wave and are now in trouble. Groups like NARAL and Emily's List are desperately trying to step up their own contributions to help candidates who support a woman's right to choose, but as Johnson writes, "The Citizens United decision has given business groups a tremendous advantage in courting voters." Read the full story at Women's eNews.
It's a strange day when feminist groups are defending an anti-abortion, anti-sex candidate. But thanks to some 25 year old dude who made out with Christine O'Donnell and got paid four-figures to tell the tale, that's what's happening right now. Gawker's team likely thought they had the scoop of the news cycle when they published an anonymous fratty-sounding account of a 25-year old's drunken Halloween night of canoodling with Senatorial candidate Christine O'Donnell in a ladybug costume--a night that the noted anti-masturbation and abstinence crusader actually stopped short before doing the deed. But despite the fact that the detailed story seems to paint O'Donnell as rather confused and repressed and perhaps somewaht hypocritical, the nasty, exploitative and sexist tone of the piece (particularly the guy's scorn over O'Donnell's lack of down-there waxing) compounded by the fact that O'Donnell's behavior in it doesn't explicitly contradict her public persona--have landed most of the outrage at the anonymous kiss-and-teller's feet, not at O'Donnells. Since when does consensual fooling around become an acceptable weapon against female candidates? For many women readers, the story was too reminiscent of the kind of locker-room talk that's leveled as a weapon against us. On twitter and blogs far beyond the feminist community, people have been raising their voices in displeasure, mostly at having to defend a candidate whom they otherwise loathe.
  • "Not only is this piece piggish, but it reveals nothing relevant about her politics or character," writes Salon's Tracy Clark-Flory.
  • "She didn’t do anything wrong. Suggesting otherwise is just pure sexism, particularly since the guy who wrote this clearly thinks he should be applauded for the behavior he condemns in O’Donnell," writes Pandagon's Amanda Marcotte.
  • "Today, we became hardline feminists all over again," wrote The Awl's Choire Sicha, referring to the way the story stoked outrage even among the nonpolitical.
  • "Gawker chose to reaffirm the sexual values of the religious right," said TBD's Amanda Hess.
  • Even NOW issued a statement, condemning O'Donnell's positions but writing "NOW repudiates Gawker's decision to run this piece. It operates as public sexual harassment. And like all sexual harassment, it targets not only O'Donnell, but all women contemplating stepping into the public sphere."
Meanwhile, The Smoking Gun has released the identity of the anonymous dude in question, so now he can get a taste of the spotlight he so blithely turned on his momentary paramour. Now can we get back to critiquing O'Donnell's miserable grasp of policy and terrible ideology, please?
One way to improve the economy that very few candidates are bothering to mention? The massive amount of spending in Iraq and Afghanistan, spending which has surpassed previous estimates. Linda J. Bilmes, a professor at Harvard's Kennedy School who is a "budgeting guru" writes in The Daily Beast that war spending has surpassed her wildest expecations. Along with Nobel Laureate Joseph Stiglits, Bilmes is the author of The Three Trillion Dollar War, published a few years back--and now she says three trillioin was conservative, given that we're spending "$3 billion weekly, making the wars a major reason for record-level budget deficits." Adding it all up, she says:
Taking new numbers into account, however, we now believe that our initial estimate was far too conservative—the cost of the wars will reach between $4 trillion and $6 trillion.
One of the greatest increases in spending that has led to their new estimate is that multiple deployments are leading to greater trauma, injury, PTSD and other long-term health problems which require treatment.
Similarly, our estimates for the economic and social costs associated with returning veterans can be expected to rise by at least a third—the staggering toll of repeated deployments over the past decade.
Another skyrocketing cost is associated with the climbing price of oil, which was relatively cheap when we first sent troops overseas after 9/11. And yet the candidates have been remarkable silent on calling for a faster drawdown of our troops in these unbelievably taxing military engagements. Read the full story at The Daily Beast.
Todd Lally, who is running for congress in Kentucky, claims that because he's never seen gender discrimination, it's really not an issue. It's a particularly shameful position given the dismal position of women's health and well-being in the state. His first foot-in-moutj moment came during a debate when he was asked about Kentucky's women. He said
"I look at women's issues like any other issue. We have equal rights in this country, we have fought--women have fought very hard for those equal rights. Uh, it's up to them. I mean my wife is a working woman, she works very, very hard and she's been very successful. I've not seen any barriers in her career and I don't believe that exists."
Lally's opponent followed up with him by citing specific examples of the wage gap based on two hypothetical people with bachelor degrees, and Lally responded by saying that: "is the male's degree in electrical engineering and the female's is in education?" Some people never learn. Watch a video of the exchange compiled by local Democrats: Read in-depth response to Lally's ridiculousness at DoubleX and TPMDC.
A Canadian campus is being hounded by an anonymous pervy videographer. The guy, known as leggingspy on YouTube before his account got taken down, had been posting multiple videos showing close-ups of the posteriors of leggings-clad students, including a few even more egregiously violating upskirt shots. The problem has gotten so widespread that campus security at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, where leggingspy has been prowling, issued an official warning to students and local police are looking into the case. Of course, the novelty of this particular voyeur's obsession with leggings and his new media aptitude have given him the media spotlight and made him a target for condemnation and maybe even legal action. But this isn't the first campus that's dealt with harassment of female students whether it's by stares, leering, catcalling groping, or picture-taking. And no matter who's doing it, how or why, that kind of objectifying privacy-invading is totally unacceptable and it also invades the safe space that campuses should ideally be. As Anna North writes at Jezebel:
I'm aware that videotaping women's butts in leggings will probably never be illegal. But doing so the way LeggingSpy did is certainly immoral, and it perpetuates a culture in which women are forced to be objects of sexual titillation wherever they go and whatever they do. All the women of Dalhousie who wore leggings for comfort, ease, mobility, or a desire to look cute for friends and partners but not for strangers with hidden cameras have been given a sad reminder that being female all too often makes them a target for harassment.
Read more at Jezebel and at the Toronto Sun.
The Catholic Church of Lucerne, Switzerland, is flying in the face of church doctrine and accepted practice for clergy by handing out rainbow-colored condoms to coincide with an HIV-AIDS awareness campaign. The website reports:
The Catholic church of Lucerne set up a stand to coincide with the Aids truck’s stay in the city. As part of its campaign, the church produced 3,000 custom-wrapped condoms to distribute. Reactions have been mixed, with criticism from other branches of the Swiss Catholic Church. The condom packaging features a stylised skyline of the city’s Catholic churches under a rainbow-coloured spray of condoms. The motto reads: “Forgetfulness is contagious. Protect your neighbour as you would yourself.” The church’s URL is printed on the back.
While local youth interviewed in the story say the condoms are "cool," and appreciate the church's effort to get with the times Pope Ratzinger and his friends in the Vatican are sure to be displeased. The church's official position remains opposed to contraception, even to stop the spread of AIDS and other deadly diseases in the developing world. But Catholic laypeople, particularly in Europe and the US, are notoriously lax about this restriction and use birth control with impunity. As Amie Newman reports in a pre-election piece called "Five Myths About Catholic Voters": "Sexually active Catholic women older than 18 are just as likely (98%) to have used some form of contraception banned by the Vatican as women in the general population (99%)." It would be a fabulous trend if other clergy around the world followed the Lucerne church's lead and defy the Vatican to help their communities with potentialy life-saving condoms.
Maura Kelly, a writer for popular women's glossy Marie Claire, has attracted a still-raging firestorm of criticism for an online column about TV show "Mike and Molly" titled "Should Fatties Get a Room?" in which she aired her own squeamishness about being in the presence of the overweight. The most offending paragraph:
I think I'd be grossed out if I had to watch two characters with rolls and rolls of fat kissing each other ... because I'd be grossed out if I had to watch them doing anything. To be brutally honest, even in real life, I find it aesthetically displeasing to watch a very, very fat person simply walk across a room — just like I'd find it distressing if I saw a very drunk person stumbling across a bar or a heroine addict slumping in a chair.
After a number of critics -- including readers in an over 1600 comment-long thread -- jumped on Kelly for sounding like a bully and infecting others with her own diseased-seeming mindset, she apologized yesterday, explaining that she was an eating disorder survivor and blaming her "anorexic mindset" for the "extreme reaction" visible in the column. In a disclaimer now running at the bottom of the column, she writes, " A lot of what I said was unnecessary. It wasn't productive, either." Particularly irritating to bloggers is the apparent hypocrisy from Marie Claire higher-ups, who have endeavored to posit their magazine as a more open-minded, less patriarchy-kowtowing alternative to rival glossies. In her own column at The Frisky, Jessica Wakeman blames Marie Claire's editors for exploiting Kelly's very personal body-image hang-ups in the name of "provocation." Irin Carmon at Jezebel writes that "What separates Kelly's "extreme reaction" from say, a fat-hating Internet commenter is the platform she was given in a major national magazine's web site." Read more at Jezebel and The Frisky.
Last night President Obama sat down for a long conversation with the Daily Show's Jon Stewart in advance of next Tuesday's midterm elections. The two men talked about a range of topics from the filibuster, to candidates distancing themselves from the President's agenda, to whether health care reform went far enough and whether the Obama campaign with its optimistic "Yes We Can" slogan, underestimated an impassable Washington system. Obama was sharp and defended his administration's record ably--and said that "yes we can" didn't mean overnight change. Although he hedged some questions, his strong appearance brought up the question: where has this guy been the past few months? Why haven't we seen more of him? Watch the videos below.
The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Barack Obama Pt. 1
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical HumorRally to Restore Sanity

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Barack Obama Pt. 2
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical HumorRally to Restore Sanity

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Barack Obama Pt. 3
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical HumorRally to Restore Sanity
Mikhail Gorbachev, the former leader of a country which knows quite bit about quagmires in Afghanistan, says the U.S. is in one right now. And we should get out as soon as possible. As the situation in Afghanistan for American and NATO troops worsens--and civilians bear the brunt of the burden--current American plans call for the beginning of a withdrawal in 2011. "Victory is impossible in Afghanistan. Obama is right to pull the troops out. No matter how difficult it will be," Mr Gorbachev--who himself pulled Soviet troops out of the war-ravaged country after a miserable, bloody 10-year occupation--told the BBC today. He admitted that because of America's role training and arming militants to oppose that Soviet occupation, a withdrawal would be far from easy or cost-free. "But what's the alternative - another Vietnam? Sending in half-a-million troops? That wouldn't work," he told the BBC. Ironically, now Russia itself may provide some help to the NATO effort in Afghanistan. According to Voice of America, "NATO is now urging Russia to provide military hardware and training for Afghan forces. Moscow has said it is willing to help." Read the full stories at the BBC and Voice of America. Read Jim Hightower's Alternet op-ed about ending the bloodshed in Afghanistan.
Another way that the new and improved health care system has hung women out to dry. Thanks to health care reform, individuals can now take care of personal health needs with IRS-sheltered flex accounts. Unless they're breast-feeding moms. While the accounts cover things like denture adhesive, acne medication, and astroturf for allergy-prone kids, they exclude breast pumps, a groundbreaking innovation which has allowed countless working moms to feed their infants healthy breast milk. Because despite studies showing the benefits of breastfeeding, breast pumps, which can cost upwards of $500, aren't considered preventative care by the IRS, which is apparently now moonlighting as a medical approval board. Women's and children's health groups are none too pleased with this revelation, published in the New York Times. Jodi Jacobson at RH Reality Check writes a particularly scathing response:
While breastfeeding equipment and supplies weren't covered before health reform, the whole purpose of reform (please help me out here if I missed the "purpose" of reform) was to improve upon and eliminate disparities in health care, including those disparities based on sex and gender. And another major goal of the health care overhaul was to control medical costs by encouraging preventive approaches to health. This underscores the nonsensical nature of excluding supplies and support for breastfeeding, one of the most effective preventive "interventions," you can find.
A similar debate has been roiling over whether birth control qualifies as preventative care--(actually, it defines preventative, but the government doesn't seem to think so). The real question is, would the IRS and other agencies really be having these nitty-gritty arguments over beneficial vs. preventative if the needs in question were specific to the male half of the population? One has to wonder. Read more at the NY Times and RH Reality Check.