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GOP/Tea Party Holding U.S. Government Hostage Over Title X

Posted by Sandi on Apr 8, 2011 in Political Thoughts, Women's Rights

As I’m sure you’ve all heard, its extremely likely that the U.S. Federal Government will be shut down if Congress does not agree upon and vote on a budget (H.R. 1) for the fiscal year. All throughout the day I’ve been getting news alerts saying they are close to a compromise . . . I’m sure you are wondering what is holding things up? Is it a disagreement on how much should be cut?

All I can say is that the disagreement over spending cuts has been settled for hours now, in fact the Dems met the GOP request of $30+ billion in spending cuts, but then the GOP decided to change their mind because the Tea Party wants more. And then there is the fact that Republicans attached more than 80 riders to their initial funding bill, including several that actually increase federal spending. As Senator Reid explained, ”The two main issues that are holding this matter up are the choice of women, reproductive rights, and clean air.” Thats right – the GOP/Tea Party is going to shut down the U.S. Government because ideological policy issues that will only hurt low income and middle class Americans. More so it appears that the Tea Party conservatives are launching a “War on Women.” As evidenced by the riders that include: eliminating Title X Family Planning funds for low income women (Planned Parenthood), not allowing women to purchase health coverage with their own money if it includes abortion services, redefining rape as “forcible rape,” allow hospitals to refuse to provide abortions/medical care even to victims of rape or incest, eliminate funding for programs like Head Start and WIC and limit the EPA from being able to set regulations for carbon emissions, etc (learn more about these riders here).  And as Speaker Boehner explained: ”We will continue to insist that the policy riders passed in H.R. 1 are on the table. It’s just as important to many of our members as the spending cuts themselves.” It appears that compromise is not in the GOP/Tea Party vocabulary.

Here is the thing, It may be important to freshman Tea-Party members to infringe on my rights and access to safe affordable reproductive healthcare, but it is insanely irresponsible to put ideology before your primary responsibility, which is to keep our country and government running. GOP get your people in line and stop letting your freshman members act like children who really want their dessert before dinner. Because at this point dinner may not be served on the tables of many working families. There are those families who are struggling to put food on the table because our economy has yet to begin producing enough jobs to get our country back on track — and then there are those who will not be allowed to report to work or be paid because of a government shutdown. Your attempts to hold the U.S. Government and American people hostage because of extreme ideological views is childish and if you can’t put the country’s interests ahead of your own you don’t deserve to be there.

*Images from this post are from the Rally for Women’s Health and Lobby Day in Washington, DC on April 7th 2011 (organized by NARAL Pro-Choice America & Planned Parenthood). Thousands of women came to the Capital from around the country via car, bus, plane or train to tell their representatives in the U.S. Government that their bodies and access to basic reproductive healthcare are not to be toyed with. Millions of women (and men) utilize the comprehensive health services Planned Parenthood provides which include cancer screening (breast & uterine), access to preventative contraception, STI/HIV testing, etc. Attendees met with Congressional staffers and Members of Congress to explain the importance of access to reproductive and preventative family planing care that is covered by Title X funds.

While some staff members from either side of the aisle were welcoming and willing to listen, others (Nan Hayworth, M.D. R-NY – I’m talking to you) were not! Congresswoman Hayworth has said publicly that she is both pro-choice and supports access to reproductive healthcare, but actually voted in favor of cutting Title X funding to Planned Parenthood. You see where we might find issue with that? Her staff had 20 of us stand in the hallway (we “couldn’t fit in the office”), looked as if we were torturing him (its not hard to just smile and nod, even if you disagree) and refused to explain her rationale for voting no despite her public statements. When he finally stated that for “fiscal reasons” she voted to cut Title X – a staff member from Planned Parenthood pointed out to him that for every $1 cut from Title X funds that Medicaid spending would actually increase by $3. A statistic which the staffer of course never wrote down. So here is to hoping that the Congresswoman gets her views and numbers straight in time to vote for the best interests of her constituents who utilized Planned Parenthood’s services.

For additional information about the GOP H.R. 1 riders which would greatly effect women, please read my post titled “It’s All About Jobs, Stupid! Not My Uterus!”

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Obama: DOMA Unconstitutional!

Posted by Sandi on Feb 23, 2011 in GLBT Rights, Political Thoughts

So it seems that Obama has made good on his promise to defend the rights of gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender citizens. First by the repeal of “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” and now by refusing to defend the “Defense of Marriage Act” as Federal Law, and declaring a key section unconstitutional.

In a letter to Speaker Boehner, Attorney General Eric Holder explains:

“After careful consideration, including review of a recommendation from me, the President of the United States has made the determination that Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (“DOMA”), 1 U.S.C. § 7, i as applied to same-sex couples who are legally married under state law, violates the equal protection component of the Fifth Amendment.”

This is an extremely BIG and strategic move by the Obama Administration to defend the rights of those same-sex couples who have legally been married by law in states where their love is recognized (Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont, Iowa, Connecticut & Washington, D.C.). I have previously written posts about the effect DOMA has had on same-sex couples’ ability to relocate for jobs where marriage isn’t recognized and its effect on those couples in which one partner is not a U.S. Citizen. This new recognition of Section 3 of DOMA as unconstitutional will allow for Federal recognition of same-sex marriages that have been performed in those states and countries where its recognized. This means that same-sex couples could file their Federal Income Taxes jointly, and perhaps even apply for spousal Citizenship.

The best part of the Administration’s argument against Section 3 of DOMA’s constitutionality is that they can demonstrate that GLBT citizens are a protected class under the “Equal Protection Clause.” Despite the fact that the “political process is not closed entirely to gay and lesbian people” the courts have judged  ”political powerlessness” based upon the class of people having been subject to “heightened scrutiny.” To prove this “heightened scrutiny” – the Justice Department is using the Congressional record from the dates on which the passage of DOMA is being argued:

“The record contains numerous expressions reflecting moral disapproval of gays and lesbians and their intimate and family relationships – precisely the kind of stereotype-based thinking and animus the Equal Protection Clause is designed to guard against.vii See Cleburne, 473 U.S. at 448″ (Holder’s Letter to Boehner)

Holder has given the Speaker until March 11th, only two weeks to act and respond. All this in the middle of a major budget debate, with the possibility of a government shutdown. Speaker Boehner & the House GOP Majority is not too pleased with this, as noted in this statement:

“While Americans want Washington to focus on creating jobs and cutting spending, the President will have to explain why he thinks now is the appropriate time to stir up a controversial issue that sharply divides the nation.” – Office of Speaker Boehner

To which I reply: “what jobs?!” – the last month the GOP has been cutting funding to vital services that aid women and families, while simultaneously cutting 800,000 federal jobs. The Republicans have used “controversial issues” like “gay marriage” and “abortion” to win multiple elections and ballot initiatives across the country for the past 20-30 years. Stop being a hypocrite and take it like a man (or maybe you should just cry, like you usually do).

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It’s All About JOBS, Stupid! Not My Uterus!

Posted by Sandi on Feb 15, 2011 in Political Thoughts, Women's Rights

If you are like me, you’ve been receiving multiple action alerts  from women’s groups and democratic leaders on a daily basis the  past 2-3 weeks about the GOP assault on women. The purpose of  this post is to simply layout the pieces and intentions of the GOP’s  attacks on American women, and What YOU Can DO About It!

So much for the November 2010 Election platform of  ”Jobs, Jobs, Jobs” . . . because it seems that all the GOP has been doing since taking control of the House in January is attempt to chip away at my right to reproductive choice, privacy and health services. And boy have they been busy – in the past month 4 bills have been introduced that cut funding and restrict women’s access to vital programs that support women and families.

1) H.R. 3—the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act – This is the infamous bill introduced by Chris Smith (R-NJ) that would make it illegal for even private insurance companies to offer health coverage for abortion. But, thats not all – it also takes things a thousand steps further by redefining the term RAPE, by only allowing victims who are subjected to “forcible rape” to have access to abortion services. I don’t know about you, but last I checked no means no, and rape is rape, plain and simple. So congress has decided if the victim of a rape is drugged, mentally handicapped, under age (statutory) or a victim of incest its not “really rape” because it wasn’t “forced.” Now when people started speaking out and putting the pressure on – the GOP said they’d remove that language from the bill. But, surprise, surprise as of today the “forcible rape” language is still there and the bill has over 163 sponsors.

TAKE ACTION by Signing this Petition Against H.R.3 : http://boehnersamerica.org/splash/signup/splash01/

And enjoy this Daily Show Clip on the “forcible rape” language . . .

2) The Pence Bill or H.R. 217, the “Title X Abortion Provider Prohibition Act” - Introduced by Mike Pence, this bill’s only goal is to restrict Planned Parenthood from receiving Federal funds for family planning services that have helped millions of women by providing access to basic reproductive healthcare. With over 160 GOP sponsors the bill plans on cutting more than $70 million in funds provided by the federal government, that often go to serve those women who can normally not afford basic medical care. The majority of Planned Parenthood funding doesn’t go towards abortion, but to health services like annual GYN check-ups, birth control, and STI/STD testing.

TAKE ACTION against “The Pence Bill” and cuts to Planned Parenthood funding by calling (202) 730-9001 for the Congressional switch board or get patched through to your Congressman HERE.

3) H.R. 358, the “Protect Life ActIntroduced by Joe Pitts (R-PA), this bill would not only prohibit federal funding for abortions under the national health-care law, it would also allow doctors and hospitals to refuse to perform any abortion, even if it was needed to save the life of a pregnant woman. Current law dictates that a pregnant woman with a life-threatening condition cannot be turned away by a hospital, even if her condition requires a doctor to abort her child. A federal law, the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act (EMTALA), requires hospitals that receive federal funds (almost all of them do) to provide you with emergency treatment or transfer you to a hospital that can. This bill would undermine that law, by allowing a doctor to not only deny an abortion to a dying pregnant woman, but to also refuse to transfer that woman to a place where she might be able to receive an abortion. In fact, the hospital would not be required to do anything at all.

*The only TAKE ACTION alert I could find for this bill was from the Catholic Advocate urging their members to support the “Protect Life Act” and allow doctors to let their pregnant patients die.

UPDATE 2/16/2011 – NARAL has created an online petition against both H.R. 358 & H.R. 3 – So Please TAKE ACTION: http://www.prochoiceamerica.org/get-involved/stupak-on-steroids/call-rep-021611.html

Petitions by Change.org|Start a Petition »

4) The Continuing Resolution for FY 2011 – proposed by House Republican leaders, according to the National Women’s Law Center (NWLC) this resolution cuts support for women and girls at every stage of life:

  • Eliminates the Title X family planning programs that provide funding for contraception and other preventive care to over five million women and men each year
  • Cuts Head Start and child care for 368,000 children
  • Cuts millions from nutrition programs for pregnant women and their children
  • Cuts funding for prenatal care
  • Eliminates funding for the Women’s Educational Equity Program that helps schools comply with Title IX
  • Cuts funding for Pell grants, which help low-income women afford college, by more than $800 per student
  • Cuts funding needed to keep Social Security offices open and for meals, housing, and other supports for elderly women

TAKE ACTION Against “Continuing Resolution for FY2011′s” Drastic Cuts to services for Women and Girls by Signing this Petition!

Make no mistake, this is a full assault against women! Make sure you take action against each of these attempts to limit women’s access to vital services and programs. The only “jobs” bill the GOP leadership has introduced was the “Repeal of the Job Killing Healthcare Law” which as studies and numerous statistics have already proven actually decreases the deficit and definitely does not “kill” any jobs. In fact, the new “Affordable Care Act” has already helped thousands of my generation who are unemployed and now allowed to stay on their parents health insurance until the age of 26.

The GOP claims to be acting on a “mandate” from the people – but, the majority of Americans when asked about specific provisions within the “Affordable Care Act” overwhelmingly support the new law. Meanwhile, the majority of Americans also respect and support a woman’s right to choose – yet it appears that the GOP is allowing the conservative minority dictate their actions and could care less about the needs of the American people.

We are paying attention and we don’t like what we see! As clearly stated in MoveOn’s most recent ad against these malicious attacks on Women & Girls – We Will Never Go Back!

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A Politician’s Role in the Twitterverse: Popularity vs. Influence

Posted by Sandi on Dec 29, 2010 in Political Thoughts, Social Media

It all began with a tweet from a college friend – and so began our Twitter discussion on the role politicians should play within the greater Twitterverse, and how they may view their own roles as part of the greater community.

Politicians are just like other tweeters, are they not? They use Twitter to share and disseminate information, while also striving to stay current and absorb additional news. Twitter is also a new way to hear from district and national constituents on specific issues that are being discussed. The real issue is that every politician approaches their use of Twitter differently, some don’t even utilize it at all.

PART II – Popularity vs. Influence

The number of followers one has on Twitter is often seen as  a badge of honor, especially for an individual who isn’t  necessarily a celebrity to begin with. It means that people  find that particular user’s tweets interesting and worthy of  following and this increases the number of people they are  able to reach and therefore influence.  For TV & movie  celebrities or politicians, much of their Twitter popularity  isn’t as genuine. They often don’t need to go through a  “worthiness litmus test” and tend to generate a following based on their already large base of fans.

According the Economist’s blog, a study was recently done by Social Computing Lab at Hewlett-Packard that analyzed twenty-two million tweets and developed an algorithem to determine if popularity and influence on Twitter are related to one another. They found it it was fairly easy to measure popularity by observing the number of followers per user, while they determined that influence was reflected by the amount of tweets that had been shared or “retweeted.”  Only 1 out of every 138 messages on Twitter that contain a link are actually “retweeted,” which shows the limited amount of tweets that are shared and users which garner influence.

They found that the most influencial American politician on Twitter is not John McCain (who has 1.7 million followers), but actually Nancy Pelosi (with only 15,964). This is due to the fact that Pelosi’s tweets are “retweeted” more and therefore more influential on the greater Twitter community. Even so, HP’s Social Computing Lab found rather good news for the Republicans: 70 of the 100 most influential members of Congress on Twitter are from the GOP. This means the Democrats have a lot of catching up to do.

Some politicians will use their Twitter accounts to tweet their daily schedules and feelings: “Happy to be here at . . .” or “Very POed at my colleagues who are not acting to pass the 9/11 Healthcare Bill. Our first-responders deserve better! #911actnow.” While it is great to show the public that you are working and involved in the community this alone isn’t going to necessarily have a real impact. A mix of good information, personal tweets, and community engagement is the ideal. A common mistake made by some politicians is to only post one style of tweet and not vary or include information that would likely be retweeted by followers. Take Congressman Ballentin’s (R-SC) latest post, one of 7 in the day: after 1,000 pieces of Lego ‘construction’, I tend to get a little cranky.”

While the Congressman posts frequently, most of his posts are personal in nature – that being said he does engage the community by responding to his Twitter followers. It doesn’t matter how loud or how often you shout, unless what it is you are putting out there is remembered and shared. Most importantly you need to understand your audience. So if a politician is only tweeting once a month, you want to make it count and ensure that you are posting information that is helpful, interesting, insightful or just funny. Ideally, a politician (or staffer) should be tweeting at least once or twice a day.

On a side note: The greater media is picking up stories from blogs and Twitter everyday. This year, a staffer was found to have accidentally tweeted “U love torturing me w this shit” on Senator Chris Dodd’s Twitter account – causing a 5 minute media firestorm. Around the same time, former Boston Mayoral candidate, Michael Flaherty was assailed by the Boston Herald for having followed “@BostonEscorts” and “@BostonSexClub.” As was mentioned in the first segment of this series, “it shouldn’t take too much time to simply see if the follower is interesting enough or worthy of following back.” This was a case of a politician simply “friending” or following back every person who followed him, or a really idiotic staffer following anything and everything that had “Boston” in its Twitter username.  Politicians are always in the watchful eye of the media, and in a 24/7 news cycle its important to double check anything and everything that is released under your name – even if its only 140 characters.

Next in the this series of posts is —  ”A Politician’s Role in the Twitterverse: Megaphone vs. Telephone”

This series of posts on “A Politician’s Role in the Twitterverse” was a joint collaboration between Sandi Fox, Smart As A Fox Consulting (@smartasafox) and Sean Hurley, Hear Forward (@seanphurley).

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