Monday, November 30, 2009

Campus Informer: ROTC at Yale?

This feature is called Campus Informer, a roundup of cool and interesting stuff happening on campus (and off) around the country.
  • Yale University says that they'll reinstate the ROTC program as long as the military changes its policy on allowing openly gay men and women to serve in the military. [Yale Daily News]
  • GW students marched to fight homelessness on the national mall this Saturday. [GW Hatchet]
  • Twenty academic economists write to Congress about health care reform. [The Daily Princetonian]
  • An investigation has launched into police conduct at the UC protests in Berkeley. [The Daily Californian]
  • A former Texas A&M student is suing the school over bad academic advising. [The Battalion]
Cross posted.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Campus Informer: HBCUs May Merge, Spike Lee Tells Students to 'Do the Right Thing'

Campus Progress is bringing back a renewed version of a feature called Campus Informer, a roundup of cool and interesting stuff happening at campuses around the country. Of course, the feature isn't only limited to campuses, since Campus Progress exists for non-college youth and to make higher education more accessible and affordable. If you think something in your area should be included in Campus Informer, just email us at campusprogresseditors [at] americanprogress [dot] org.
Cross posted.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Campus Informer: Direct Lending, Rhodes Scholars, and UND Debates the Fighting Sioux Nickname

Campus Progress is bringing back a renewed version of a feature called Campus Informer, a roundup of cool and interesting stuff happening at campuses around the country. Of course, the feature isn't only limited to campuses, since Campus Progress exists for non-college youth and to make higher education more accessible and affordable. If you think something in your area should be included in Campus Informer, just email us at campusprogresseditors [at] americanprogress [dot] org.
Cross Posted.

Friday, November 20, 2009

VA Under Secretary of Benefits Steps Down, Possibly Due to GI Bill Benefits Delays

The Department of Veterans Affairs announced in a press release today that the Under Secretary for Benefits has announced that he will be stepping down.
WASHINGTON (Nov. 20, 2009) - Patrick W. Dunne, the Under Secretary for Benefits for the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), today announced his resignation for early next year. Dunne, who attained the rank of rear admiral while in the U.S. Navy, has been with VA since 2006.

As Under Secretary for Benefits since October 2008, Admiral Dunne has directed the administration of VA's disability compensation, pension, education, home loan guaranty, vocational rehabilitation and employment, and life insurance programs through a nationwide network of 57 regional offices, other special processing centers, and Veterans Benefits Administration headquarters.
I don't know Dunne's exact reasons for stepping down, but since he's only held the position about a year, and during that time there has been massive trouble with the distribution of the new Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits, it seems likely that that may have factored into his departure.

The VA received more than 25,000 applications for updated GI Bill benefits within two weeks of the new program. At the time, Dunne was quoted on PR Newswire as saying, "We are very pleased with the tremendous interest in the Post-9/11 GI Bill. The number of applications submitted in the first two weeks clearly shows the value and importance of this new benefit for Veterans."

But it quickly became clear the VA was worried about being able to process the volume of claims they received. Dunne himself noted, "Our top priority is providing our students and schools with accurate and timely benefit payments so veterans can focus all of their energy on studies," he said in a statement quoted by the Columbus Dispatch in late September.

Although veterans were scheduled to receive living stipends from the VA by Nov. 1, by the end of October, it was clear that wasn't going to happen. The Navy Times reported at the end of October that, "'It is possible, if we have not worked their case by the end of the month, that some may not receive their housing payment on the first,' VA officials said in a statement, referring to Nov. 1."

The VA was supposed to implement a new computer program that would process the new GI Bill benefits faster. But delays in implementing the program put the VA behind in processing claims. Eventually, some emergency checks were distributed to veterans that were written by hand.

In a late September story about the delays in the payments from the GI Bill program, the LA Times quoted Dunne as saying, "The learning curve has been steep for us all." Indeed.

Cross posted.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Campus Informer: UC-Santa Cruz presents list of demands; U of MN Implements Blood Alcohol Tests on Game Day

Ruck the Feegent$


Campus Progress is bringing back a renewed version of a feature called Campus Informer, a roundup of cool and interesting stuff happening at campuses around the country. Of course, the feature isn't only limited to campuses, since Campus Progress exists for non-college youth and to make higher education more accessible and affordable. If you think something in your area should be included in Campus Informer, just email us at campusprogresseditors [at] americanprogress [dot] org.Cross posted.

The Senate Doesn't Wear 'I'm With Stupak' T-Shirt

Today, Rep. Lois Capps (D-CA) is smiling. (Flickr/jdlasica)

The Senate released its health care bill last night, named the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (you can read it yourself, in PDF form). The Senate bill has some things about abortion that give the pro-choice community hope after the Stupak-Pitts amendment.

The New York Times has a nice side-by-side comparison of the two bills, and on abortion, the Senate bill looks much closer to what the pro-choice community was pushing for initially in the House bill -- closer to what's called the Capps amendment. Huffington Post reports that Capps herself is somewhat happy with the Senate compromise. "'I am pleased that the Senate has adopted a reasonable, common ground approach on this difficult question,' she said in a statement."

The Senate bill allows insurers to decide if they want to include abortion in each plan (much as they do now, and 87 percent of private plans already choose to provide such coverage). The Senate plan also says that private plans that receive federal subsidies to make the plans more affordable to individuals can provide abortion coverage, so long as they don't use the federal money to pay for the abortion coverage. The Senate bill also allows the public option to provide abortion, again, as long as it federal dollars aren't used to pay for it.

Under the Senate bill, each state is required to have at least one plan that provides abortion coverage and at least one plan does not include abortion coverage.

But, as Eleanor Clift pointed out at Newsweek, the abortion fight isn't over yet:
There are two numbers to watch: (1) Can an anti-abortion amendment offered by, say, Utah Republican Orrin Hatch, or pro-life Democrat Bob Casey, get 60 votes? Probably not, but Reid will have to get 60 votes to even proceed with debate on the bill. (2) Getting that 60 could mean putting stronger anti-abortion language in the bill to get those red-state Democrats.
But in the meantime, the pro-life community is pretty mad. The National Right to Life, one of the biggest pro-life groups in America, said in a statement that the Senate bill "substituted completely unacceptable language that would result in coverage of abortion on demand in two big new federal government programs ... National Right to Life will continue to fight for the Stupak-Pitts Amendment."

There's also funding set aside for abstinence only education:
Leave it to the United States Senate to prove my prediction slightly off. Their provision would restore a program called Title V, which, since the Welfare Reform Act of 1996, has allocated a yearly $50 million in grants to abstinence-only education programs. Obama let the program lapse in June, leaving some abstinence-only groups in dire straits. So in September, Sen. Orrin Hatch offered an amendment to restore Title V via heath-care reform, which (much to the outrage of liberal groups) just squeaked through the Senate Finance Committee with a 12–11 vote. A similar amendment, offered in the House by Rep. Terry Lee from Nebraska, died in committee.

If the Senate language survives reconciliation, the Title V program will be extended through 2014. This will not, however, bring abstinence funding back to the levels of the past decade. In 2008, Title V grants accounted for just under 25 percent of the federal abstinence budget (the rest of the budget came from other abstinence-only funding sources not restored in the Senate bill, including Community Based Abstinence Education Grants and the Adolescent Family Life Act).
On another reproductive health front, abstinence only groups are declaring victory. “It is encouraging that the hard work of grassroots constituencies from across the country have prevailed to ensure these common-sense programs will continue,” said executive director of the National Abstinence Education Association, Valerie Huber to The Americano. But abstinence-only programming has been scientifically proven to be ineffective.

UPDATE: Jodi Jacobson over at RH Reality Check has a more in-depth look at abortion in the Senate health care bill.

Cross posted.

The Real Story with College Athletes and Graduation Rates


(Flickr/Illinois Springfield)

Late last night, the Associated Press reported that the Associated Press released its own report that its graduation rates were higher than ever. The AP reported the story as "dispelling myths" that athletes aren't good students. But it's always a little suspicious when the organization releases a report that analyzes itself.

The NCAA says that "nearly four out of five student-athletes earn their diplomas on time, an all-time high." But when you examine what "on time" means, it looks at six-year graduation rates, not four-year rates. The analysis also excludes transfer students. The federal numbers for college athletes are significantly lower than the 79 percent graduation rate touted by the NCAA. The 2008 federal analysis shows that college athlete graduation rates hover closer to 60 percent for Division I (data that incidentally can be found on the NCAA's own website). They point out that female athletes outperform male athletes on graduation rates, but this is unsurprising, since this is also the case among non-athletes as well.

That's not to say that there aren't student athletes that are also excellent academics, and I understand that the NCAA is often fighting stereotypes about athletes. But the AP got spun here. The NCAA released its own statistics that are significantly different than federal numbers and expanding the definition of "on time" is to make its numbers look better.

Cross posted.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Camups Informer: Prostests at NYU Against Anti-Muslim Sentiment, MIT Grad Students Push for Immigration Reform

Campus Progress is bringing back a renewed version of a feature called Campus Informer, a roundup of cool and interesting stuff happening at campuses around the country. Of course, the feature isn't only limited to campuses, since Campus Progress exists for non-college youth and to make higher education more accessible and affordable. If you think something in your area should be included in Campus Informer, just email us at campusprogresseditors [at] americanprogress [dot] org.
Cross posted.

Study: 'Industry-Wide Effect' of Stupak Amendment Will Eliminate Abortion Coverage

(Flickr/Brian Rendel)

Via TPMDC, a George Washington University School of Public Health study of public health shows that the Stupak-Pitts amendment would eventually eliminate all abortion coverage. "We conclude that treatment exclusions required under the Stupak-Pitts Amendment will have an industry-wide effect, eliminating coverage of medically indicated abortions over time for all women, not only those whose coverage is derived through a health insurance exchange," the study says.

The study also calls out the rider alternative, an add-on women could purchase separately to cover abortion (incidentally, this is how many insurance providers handle coverage for pregnancy now), as bullshit:
In our view, the terms and impact of the Amendment will work to defeat the development of a supplemental coverage market for medically indicated abortions. In any supplemental coverage arrangement, it is essential that the supplemental coverage be administered in conjunction with basic coverage. This intertwined administration approach is barred under Stupak/Pitts because of the prohibition against financial comingling. This bar is in addition to the challenges inherent in administering any supplemental policy. These challenges would be magnified in the case of medically indicated abortions because, given the relatively low number of medically indicated abortions, the coverage supplement would apply to only a handful of procedures for a handful of conditions. Furthermore, the House legislation contains no direct economic incentive to create such a market. Indeed, it is not clear how such a market even would be regulated or whether it would be subject to the requirements that apply to all products offered inside the exchange. Finally, because supplemental coverage must of necessity commingle funds with basic coverage, the impact of Stupak/Pitts on states’ ability to offer supplemental Medicaid coverage to women insured through a subsidized exchange plan is in doubt.
In other words, the Stupak/Pitts amendment is just as bad as feminists have been saying all along.

Cross posted

Sarah Palin: Giving Her Away


The Young America's Foundation's "Conservative Marketplace" has a FREE poster of Sarah Palin. (Other bargain-basement items include a copy of Wit and Wisdom of Conservatism for 18 cents and a copy of the Declaration of Independence and Constitution for a quarter.)

Apparently they didn't get the message that she's no longer popular, even among conservatives. Yesterday TPM reported that a new CBS poll shows only 41 percent of self-identified conservatives want her to run for President in 2012 and 50 percent said they didn't want her to run.

Cross posted.

Campus Informer: Hip Hop with Hamburgers, Student Beer in Local Bars

Campus Progress is bringing back a renewed version of a feature called Campus Informer, a roundup of cool and interesting stuff happening at campuses around the country. Of course, the feature isn't only limited to campuses, since Campus Progress exists for non-college youth and to make higher education more accessible and affordable. If you think something in your area should be included in Campus Informer, just email us at campusprogresseditors [at] americanprogress [dot] org.
Cross posted.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Postponing the ENDA Vote

The House Education and Labor Committee was supposed to hold a markup hearing and vote on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, a piece of legislation that would ban employers from firing individuals due to their sexual orientation or gender identity. However, the committee sent out an email late in the day yesterday saying that the vote has been postponed, "rescheduled TBA."

Although the legalization of same-sex marriage has taken the forefront of the debate in LGBT issues, many feel this legislation is a key component of civil rights. While marriage often gets mucked up with religious debates, ENDA is often seen as a reasonable advancement for civil rights that has to do with workplace security. The ACLU reports that it is legal to fire or refuse to hire someone because of their sexual orientation currently in 29 states. It is also legal to practice job discrimination against someone due to gender identity in 38 states.

ENDA would actually make a difference for those LGBT individuals that feel they have been treated unfairly in the workplace. It's unclear when the House committee will reschedule the vote, but let's hope it's soon.

Cross posted.

Campus Informer: Princeton's Male Cheerleader, a New 'Twilight' Class, and More

(Flickr/Joe Shlabotnik)

Campus Progress
is bringing back a renewed version of a feature called Campus Informer, a roundup of cool and interesting stuff happening at campuses around the country. Of course, the feature isn't only limited to campuses, since Campus Progress exists for non-college youth and to make higher education more accessible and affordable. If you think something in your area should be included in Campus Informer, just email us at campusprogresseditors [at] americanprogress [dot] org.
Cross posted.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Double X Folds Back into Slate

secondary_DoubleX_logoDouble X, a "new kind of women's magazine" that also had a habit of publishing some anti-feminst screeds (although I'm still a big fan of many of Double X's writers, including Amanda Marcotte and Latoya Peterson), has announced that it will be folding back into Slate. Double X will become its "own section, with our XX Factor blog, articles, and special projects already in the works," announce editors Emily Bazelon and Hanna Rosin.

Double X didn't exactly get a warm reception among other popular feminist and women's sites when it first arrived. Ann Friedman, deputy editor at The American Prospect (and one of the editors at, labeled the new site "an eerie resemblance to the women's pages of yore." Her main argument was that rather than having a site especially for women, top news magazines and blogs should just have women integrated into the product.

Well, it looks like Friedman will get her wish. Gawker noted when it reported the news, "As you can see from the logo, Double X never made it out of beta." It's not yet clear if the consolidation will result in layoffs. If it does, I'm sorry to hear it in an era where the number of media jobs are endlessly shrinking.

Cross posted.

Sarah Palin: So Rogue, She's Unpopular

Sarah Palin

(Flickr/Bruce Tuten)

On the campaign trail last fall, Sarah Palin, with her Alaskan accent, said, "Our opponents think that they have the women's vote all locked up, which is a little presumptuous. A little presumptuous since only our side has a woman on the ticket."

A year later, not only did Palin never make it to the vice presidency, but on the advent of the release of her book, Going Rogue, she is more unpopular than ever – at least, politically. In a Washington Post poll today, Sarah Palin has remarkable unpopularity ratings.

Respondents were asked if they would vote for Palin in 2012 if she ran for president; 53 percent said they would definitely not vote for her. Only 9 percent said they definitely would.

Another question asked, regardless of whether respondents would vote for her, was did they think Palin was "qualified" to run for president. A full 60 percent said she was not qualified to run for president, with only 38 percent thinking she was qualified.

Palin seems to like to paint herself as a popular, charismatic woman that simply gets attacked by the left wing, but far more people identify with her lack of qualifications than they do with the left.

Cross posted.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Understanding Stupak

The Stupak amendment, an amendment that would essentially create incentives for private insurance plans to drop abortion coverage, has whipped the reproductive rights community into a frenzy. But there's been some confusion about the details of the Stupak amendment. But there's been some great work published in the last couple of days. Here are some great resources for understanding the amendment:
  • Planned Parenthood's "real life" analysis of the whole House health care reform bill. [RH Reality Check]
  • Ruth Marcus says that the health care reform bill is supposed to increase choice, but apparently not for women. [Washington Post]
  • A New York Times editorial calls the amendment a "sharp departure from current practice." [NYTimes]
  • Robert Pear reports what's next for the Stupak amendment, and what Obama's position is on it. [NYTimes]
  • Robin Marty, the director of special projects at the Center for Independent Media, asks the essential question of how the Stupak amendment will affect women who miscarry. [RH Reality Check]
  • Former Campus Progress associate editor Dana Goldstein reports on the activists fallout from the amendment's passage. [Daily Beast]
  • Emily Douglas does an analysis of how the bill will affect women. [The Nation]
  • And finally, the director of CAPAF's Women's Health and Rights program, Jessica Arons lays out why the Stupak amendment is a "monumental setback" for women's rights. [Wonk Room]
Cross posted.

New Site for Veteran Benefits

A new veterans information site, Today's G.I. Bill, has been launched this week by the Lumina Foundation. The site aims to put all of the information about access, eligibility, and benefits for veterans all in one place. The Lumina foundation funds a lot of higher-education access information endeavors, and this seems to be its latest project.

The site could be useful for veterans seeking to understand their benefits, but much of the site links to other tools (the housing stipend section links to the Department of Defense's Basic Allowance for Housing tool and the section addressing the Yellow Ribbon Program, which outlines private institutions that provide a benefit for veterans, links to the Department of Veterans Affairs' list of participating institutions). Increasing information for veterans will help ensure they have access to the benefits expanded by the Post-9/11 G.I. Bill update that went into effect earlier this year.

Still, there have been problems with implementing the new program, with the VA falling behind on issuing many checks to veterans and higher education institutions. One veteran, a student at Cuesta College, reported that as of Friday his first check had only recently arrived. Veterans are turning to student loans to pay for tuition, housing, and books until their benefit checks. The new Post-9/11 G.I. Bill program is a huge expansion of benefits, so it's somewhat expected that the department may have trouble handling the increased volume of requests. But for many veterans who are starting to take out expensive loans and work part-time jobs to make up the difference, it can be a long time to wait.

Cross posted

Fort Hood Has Experienced Other Kinds of Violence

Although the investigation of the shooting at Fort Hood last week is still underway, it seems clear that it wasn't the result of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). But in the New York Times today, Michael Moss and Ray Rivera report on a different kind of violence that has been happening, quietly, in the town of Killeen, Tx, the town surrounding Ft. Hood.
Reports of domestic abuse have grown by 75 percent since 2001. At the same time, violent crime in Killeen has risen 22 percent while declining 7 percent in towns of similar size in other parts of the country. [...]

Since 2003, there have been 76 suicides by personnel assigned to Fort Hood, with 10 this year, according to military officials.

The shooting last week earned national attention, but in many ways, it is a freak occurrence. Domestic violence, violent crime, and suicide is far more typical in this Army base town.

Estimates vary, but the National Alliance on Mental Illness says some experts predict about 15 percent of veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan will develop some form of PTSD. But the policy on how to treat PTSD is a bit underdeveloped. So far, the only way to treat PTSD is through therapy with a psychiatrist or psychologist, but the Veterans Administration doesn't employ nearly enough of them to effectively treat all of the cases of PTSD that can develop in veterans (and the DOD has a similar problem with active-duty soldiers). Furthermore, mental health professionals are a really expensive kind of employee that requires a lot of specialized training. How to effectively (and cheaply) treat the soldiers and veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan for PTSD is somewhat of a quagmire that lawmakers, the military, and activists continue to grapple with. It becomes complicated by some individuals who are reluctant to seek help because of the stigma that can sometimes be associated with seeking help from a mental health professional.

It's true that the majority of veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan will return from duty, well adjusted and quickly readapt to civilian life. But for a minority of soldiers, the problems of PTSD extend to their families and their surrounding communities.

Cross posted.

Monday, November 9, 2009

AZ Student Newspaper Theft Kerfuffle Misses the Real Issue

The editor of the Arizona Daily Wildcat has a pretty awesome rant on the opinion page regarding the suspected theft of thousands of copies of an edition of the paper to hide a 269-word item in which a woman reported she had been drugged at a Phi Kappa Psi party. The editor Shain Bergan, wrote today,

Let’s run through the stupidity, shall we?

First, Nick Kovaleski and Alex Cornell leave their homework at the dump site. Where’s the Spanish teacher in all of this? Then Phi Psi leadership—that’s you, Keith Peters and Daniel Levy—come to the Wildcat offices wanting our evidence, and then slink out like the rats you are when we ask you to go on the record. Minutes after you left the offices, you placed a call to the University of Arizona Police Department claiming someone who looked like they might work for the Daily Wildcat was found dumpster diving at your house the previous night. That guy, you claim, is actually our 60-year-old production manager who found the homework.

No one’s buying this crap.

A fraternity worth a damn would have raised holy hell after the Police Beat item went out, shouting its innocence from the hilltops. But you didn’t shout your innocence, did you, Phi Psi? Instead, you snuck into your cars in the wee hours of the morning and decided to hide the information at the source—by stealing thousands of the very newspaper that printed an item where a woman claimed you might have drugged her.

If anything, Phi Kappa Psi made things worse for themselves. What would have been a forgettable Police Beat item has turned into a firestorm picked up by news outlets local and national.

Well, Phi Psi, you got off scot-free. All of the legal and judicial avenues have been exhausted. Only one thing left for you to do—grow some balls and confess already.

Let’s call a spade a spade. You stole our newspapers. I don’t even want the $8,500 back. I just want your names and faces forever associated with censorship and idiocy.

Sadly, this incident only gained notoriety when the paper was stolen. It's important to remember here that the real story is that someone at this fraternity drugged a woman, possibly with the intention of raping her. It's also pretty terrible that members of the fraternity were allegedly willing to steal so many papers, but it's mostly terrible that a woman got drugged in the first place.

Cross posted.

Mark Schmitt: Progressive Thoughts on Title IX

Mark Schmitt is going to be at Progressivism on Tap tonight at Busboys and Poets, a happy hour here in Washington, D.C., where a smart progressive sits and talks about some interesting stuff. But Schmitt (who now edits a publication where I used to work) also wrote a really adorable column about how his daughter, an 8-year-old Little League player, is a symbol of hope for progressive change in America. After all, half a century ago, before Title IX was enacted, his daughter would have been banned from the sport.
Her routine participation in Little League still seems something of a miracle. It's certainly more than was imagined by the authors of Title IX, the 1972 amendment that did not even mention athletics in its requirement that federally funded education programs not discriminate by gender (with extensive exceptions for single-sex colleges, fraternities, sororities, and beauty pageants). A year later, the National Organization for Women launched a case that would ultimately lead Congress to change the Little League's congressional charter to refer to "young people" instead of "boys" and to eliminate its reference to promoting "manhood."

As one watches these kids round the bases and cheer one another on, it's also obvious that there's a lot more to it than just athletics. This generation of children is unfailingly decent to one another, respectful of one another's different personalities, and attentive to and proud of one another's successes. The petty cruelties of childhood are rare. Political scientists have marveled at the distinctive attitudes of "millennials," born roughly between 1982 and 2003. (Thus, a single generation seems to encompass both my daughter and many of my co-workers!) They are characterized above all by tolerance but also by cooperation, liberal political views, and respect for public institutions. They form the basis not just for the Obama Democratic coalition but for the hope of a progressive politics in the future. And the kind of equality promoted by Title IX surely has had something to do with that.

Schmitt is pointing out something important. There's a study that shows fathers of daughters tend to be more progressive on social issues. It's the same with families of someone who is openly gay – they tend to be more likely to support gay rights. Schmitt's daughter, and many others in the Millennial generation (that's us!) are lucky to have the opportunities we do. Here's hoping that translates into a more progressive tomorrow. Who knows, maybe one day, Schmitt's daughter will be president.

Cross posted

How Health Care Reform Screws Over Women (and All of Us)

Over the weekend, the House of Representatives passed a (somewhat final) version of the health care reform bill. There are a lot of good things about this bill. It'll provide coverage to a lot of people that didn't previously have coverage, make health care more affordable, and increase options for health insurance. These are good things. But I'm still not happy. Because this health care reform bill, although it has a lot of good aims, falls short in key ways.

One of the biggest problems with the bill the House voted on this weekend is that it includes the Stupak-Pitts amendment, one that, according to a Planned Parenthood press release, would:

  • Prohibit individuals who receive the affordability tax credits from purchasing a private insurance plan that covers abortion, despite the fact that a majority of health insurance plans currently cover abortion.
  • Result in a de facto ban on private insurance companies providing abortion coverage in the health insurance exchange, since the vast majority of participants would receive affordability tax credits.
  • Prohibit the public option from providing abortion care, despite the fact that it would be funded through private premium dollars.

This means that the Stupak-Pitts amendment is actually an amendment that outlaws federal funding for a legal and sometimes medically necessary procedure, abortion.

Rachel Maddow, on Meet The Press this weekend, said, "[The Stupak amendment] is the biggest restriction on abortion funding since the Hyde amendment. It's the biggest restriction on abortion access in a generation."

In other words, in a bill that seeks to increase health care for Americans, it actually restricts abortion coverage -- health care coverage -- for thousands if not millions of women in this country. Feminist groups are mad about the Stupak-Pitts amendment. NARAL president Nancy Keenan released a statement that said,
It is unconscionable that anti-choice lawmakers would use health reform to attack women's health and privacy, but that's exactly what happened on the House floor [Saturday night]. Even though the bill already included a ban on federal funding for abortion and a requirement that only women's personal funds could pay for abortion care, Reps. Stupak and Pitts took their obsession with attacking a woman's right to choose to a whole new level. We will hold those lawmakers who sided with the extreme Stupak-Pitts amendment accountable for abandoning women and capitulating to the most extreme fringe of the anti-choice movement.
Planned Parenthood's Cecile Richards wrote in a statement released by Planned Parenthood,
Planned Parenthood strongly opposes the Stupak/Pitts amendment which would result in women losing health benefits they have today. This amendment would violate the spirit of health care reform, which is meant to guarantee quality, affordable health care coverage for all, by creating a two-tiered system that would punish women, particularly those with low and modest incomes.

But others actually blame feminist groups for the Hyde amendment. Jane Hamsher at FireDogLake wrote a scathing post blaming such feminist groups for the amendment, saying, "There is no price for bucking Planned Parenthood and NARAL."

This is perhaps because that being anti-choice is no longer a partisan issue. The Stupak-Pitts amendment was lead by many anti-choice Democrats, including the amendment's sponsors, Congressman Bart Stupak (D-MI). While there is a group called Republicans for Choice, they're mostly a fringe group that maintains little power within their party and grudgingly endorsed the McCain-Palin ticket in 2008.

Furthermore, the bill the House voted on bans undocumented immigrants from insurance exchanges (despite the fact that they receive coverage in emergency rooms -- the most expensive kind of care -- whether they can afford to pay or not and raising the cost of care fore everyone else). Without complete and comprehensive coverage and access for women and undocumented workers, we have health care reform that fundamentally exacerbates long-standing class differences.

The current situation for women seeking abortion care isn't good. Even though abortion is legal -- and has been for decades -- it is becoming increasingly likely that if you have money than you have access to abortion. If you don't than that access disappears. While the majority of health insurance plans cover abortion in some capacity, those that are insured tend to be among those employed at higher-paying salary jobs or those that can afford to purchase insurance on their own. Access is an issue even for those that can afford abortion care. Nearly 90 percent of counties in the United States have no abortion provider, meaning that a woman seeking abortion will have to travel (often several hours) to another county to obtain an abortion. Many states where abortion coverage is scarce have also passed laws that require women to make multiple appointments, meaning that a working-class woman who has no sick leave would have to give up two days of work to make the appointment. Furthermore, the Hyde amendment, a law passed decades ago, has restricted federal funds -- often the only way some poor women can obtain medical coverage -- from paying for abortions. This means that women often delay abortions later until they can save up enough money to pay for the procedure, making the abortion a more dangerous procedure for the woman.

The situation isn't completely hopeless. Some are hoping that the amendment will be pulled during reconciliation. Others are advocating for an amendment to the Senate's health care bill that would repeal the Hyde amendment. Francis Kissling, founding president of Catholics for Free Choice, wrote,

If nothing else happens as a result of this defeat, complete and total dedication to overturning Hyde must be the centerpiece, indeed the single objective of our movement. It is not clear if the effect of the Stupak Amendment will be that the door will close on ever restoring federal funds for abortion, but every effort to make sure that does not happen must be made. We must convince enough people that the only immorality is using poor women as a way of expressing one’s moral outrage. Either we all have the right to choose or none of us has it.
President Obama has always supported overturning Hyde and we now need to insist that having achieved his political objective with strong support from the women’s movement, he must take up the true moral cause – giving women with no or low resources the same right of conscience as those with sufficient money to pay for their own abortions have always had.
This seems an unlikely scenario, but it is precisely because it is unlikely that it's so worrisome. The debate over abortion (and for that matter, access on all health care) has moved unbelievably far to the right. We're no longer talking about expanding access to reproductive care, even with a pro-choice president and a pro-choice Congress. Instead, we're talking about how to combat new proposals for restricting abortion. As Latoya Peterson put it at Jezebel, "Ladies and gentlemen, we got hosed."

Cross posted.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

How to Know When a Joke Is Sexist

Today DCist has an interview with Top Chef contestant and Zaytinya chef Mike Isabella. He was a contestant that came under fire after the first episode where he made a remark about losing to "a girl," another talented Top Chef contestant Jen Carrol, who managed to shuck clams at a faster clip than Isabella. In the interview, Isabella expressed regret for making the remark:

You personally drew fire for being perceived as obnoxious and even sexist at the start of the show, then went on to become one of the more likable and vibrant personalities. When you said the “lose to a girl” stuff at the beginning of the competition, did you ever imagine the words would come back the way they did? Have people finally learned to take a joke?

I never thought it would come out like that. You don’t know what’s gonna be aired or how it’s gonna be perceived. When I saw it the first night I thought it was pretty funny and some of my old cooks and friends, I got some e-mails like “typical Isabella being a wiseass.” But to me it was a joke, they knew it was a joke, but a lot of people who didn’t know me didn’t realize that and I didn’t realize that I upset a lot of people and I kind of felt really bad and I was just really nervous after that episode went on. I was like, “how else was I gonna come across?”

If I could have done it again I would have never said it. It wasn’t to mean any harm. I grew up with my mother and my sister and that was it in a broken family. So for me respect for women is one of the biggest things in the world. Jen thought she was better than me obviously because she worked at Le Bernardin, which is the number one seafood restaurant in the world. She thought she was faster. I was just joking with her when we were talking a little smack. That’s really it. It was a little upsetting in the beginning, but I knew once people got to know me throughout the season that they would really start to like me. They knew that I wasn't malicious or anything like that.

It just goes to show that the kinds of jokes you might make with your friends might seem in jest -- the whole, it's all okay to make a sexist joke because I have a lot of respect for women mentality -- shows that a sexist joke will be interpreted as such out of context. And fundamentally it isn't the context that matters. Isabella learned the hard way that if you're making a remark you'd be embarrassed to have your mom or sister hear it, you probably shouldn't say it.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

David Brooks Gets Judgy on Relationships, Fears Text Messaging

Today David Brooks, columnist for the New York Times, seems to have been reading a few too many New York magazine online sex diaries. Brooks seems horrified at what he reads, saying "the choice of a Prius can be a more sanctified act that the choice of an erotic partner."

Brooks goes down the tired old path of decrying the "hookup culture," where people occasionally have causal sexual encounters rather than asking partners to the sock hop and grope each other in the back of a car. Brooks wistfully says:

Once upon a time — in what we might think of as the “Happy Days” era — courtship was governed by a set of guardrails. Potential partners generally met within the context of larger social institutions: neighborhoods, schools, workplaces and families. There were certain accepted social scripts. The purpose of these scripts — dating, going steady, delaying sex — was to guide young people on the path from short-term desire to long-term commitment.

I get really tired of this attitude from the older generation of people looking down at young people because they have more choices with their sex lives than the previous generation. The same, tired tropes of feminism and technology are destroying the "good ol' days" era of dating is absurd and reductionist.

Brooks seems to be selectively remembering the glorified version of Happy Days, a show created in the 1970s that depicted an idealized version 1950s. Brooks' so-called Happy Days era is a nice idea, but the trouble is that it's a fantasy that never existed in real life. Brooks seems to forget a lot of people had really unhappy marriages in the 1950s.

Anyone who watches Mad Men has seen the struggles of Sal, a man who is curious about his attraction to men but feels obligated to have the wife and home that social pressures demanded. Sal was not happy, and his experience is probably more historically accurate than that of the characters depicted on Happy Days. (As I recall, "The Fonz" always had multiple women hanging off of his arms, yet Brooks hardly decries him. Perhaps he's only bothered by the fact that women can have multiple partners now.)

Today, thanks to more open attitudes about sexuality, people can seek the kinds of sex that were taboo in the 1950s and have more fulfilling partnerships. It's true that relationships today aren't still without their problems, but the freedom to be honest about sexuality and not being tied to partnerships where people are unhappy is a good tradeoff. Furthermore, many people still manage to find happily committed relationships in this era of "general disenchantment."

Brooks thinks this denigration is all because technology. "Suitors now contact each other in an instantaneous, frictionless sphere separated from larger social institutions and commitments," Brooks writes. Brooks seems to believe that etiquette and communicating through technology like texting are completely separate. But much as social rules have developed for communicating in person and over the telephone, the similar rules have developed about communicating via text messaging. Brooks himself even hints at this when he says, "The atmosphere is fluid, like an eBay auction. This leads to a series of marketing strategies. You don’t want to appear too enthusiastic. You want to invent detached nicknames for partners."

I hate to break it to Brooks, but such "marketing strategies" are nothing new. Women have long been used to "marketing" themselves with makeup, clothing, and behaviors. Now that the dating playing field has leveled a little bit, men are on the hook for marketing themselves as well. Whether that happens through the technology of texting or through fashion is merely a matter of medium.

In the end, Brooks ends up sounding like a cranky old man.

This does not mean that young people today are worse or shallower than young people in the past. It does mean they get less help. People once lived within a pattern of being, which educated the emotions, guided the temporary toward the permanent and linked everyday urges to higher things. The accumulated wisdom of the community steered couples as they tried to earn each other’s commitment.
Today there are fewer norms that guide in that way. Today’s technology seems to threaten the sort of recurring and stable reciprocity that is the building block of trust.

Um, help? Brooks seems to think that young people are stumbling around blindly, struggling to tie their own shoes without the social norms outlined by Happy Days. Every generation is always trying to figure out the rules of relationships, not because of technology or texting, but because they don't have as much life experience with relationships yet. Technology is no "threat" to today's relationships.

Young people today are using the same rules about social interactions as they always have; it's just that they're no longer confined to a limited amount of possibilities depicted on a mediocre sitcom.

Cross posted.

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