Thursday, January 29, 2009

Politics, One: Women, Zero

Last week, I was very buoyed by President Obama’s eloquent speeches and talk of rising above politics, particularly with his repealing the Global Gag rule. Today, I am sorely disappointed by Obama’s selling out to Republican conservatives, removing a provision in the proposed Economic Stimulus package that would have provided family planning coverage through Medicaid to more low-income women. This pandering to the right is at the expense of women’s health care needs and economic well-being.

The Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice's president, Rev. Carlton Veazey, notes that a woman living in poverty is four times as likely to have an unintended pregnancy and five times as likely to have an unintended birth as a higher-income counterpart. Allowing more access to family planning services and contraceptives enables a woman to better choose when and how many children she might be able to support and nurture, and allows her to time pregnancies to enable her to become more educated or further advance herself. Denying these services is perpetuating the old efforts to keep the women barefoot and pregnant—and is in stark contrast to what is in the best interests of the women. Nor does it illustrate the promise of rational, evidence based decision-making.

The decision to cut family planning is short-sighted in other ways, too. Economically, a 2007 Congressional Budget Office report estimated that this Medicaid provision would save the government $200 million over five years by decreasing costs related to pregnancies and post-natal care.

Additionally, didn’t Obama say his goal was to reduce unwanted pregnancies and the need for abortions? This is an odd way of going about it.

With the tanking economy and sky-rocketing unemployment, women are facing loss of jobs, healthcare, or their housing. They should not have the added burden of facing unintended pregnancies through misogynist policies.

It is ironic that women’s needs got short shrift in an obvious attempt to curry favor and win Republican support for the economic package—even though those votes were not necessary for passage. How successful was this strategy? It garnered zero votes.

So, once again, the score is Politics, One: Women, Zero.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

A Refreshing News Model-Rachel Maddow

I don’t watch much TV…but while surfing around before the election, I stumbled upon the Rachel Maddow show, and was immediately enthralled. I have continued to watch her show regularly and remain quite impressed. While the presentation is, on occasion, a bit too light for my taste, I love her wry and perceptive take on the news. This past week had two outstanding shows you can view via podcasts, or by getting transcripts.

First, there was Mon 12/15’s clips on the NSA’s warrantless wiretapping and the first interview granted by whistleblower Thomas Tamm. Her subsequent commentary on Bush’s reign was insightful and right-on target. She continued the week with commentaries on absurd aspects of the financial bailouts, environmental and foreign policies, among others. Monday’s show brought us a scathing analysis of the application and oversight of the $700 billion TARP loans, the double standards in access to financial help, and the lack of transparency:

“That‘s it actually. That‘s the whole two pages. That is the full application process for a piece of the $700 billion worth of our money that the government is doling out.

Have you ever applied for a loan for anything? House, car, small business, anything? Have you ever applied for public assistance, unemployment, food stamps welfare? If you haven‘t, I can tell you this, the application asks for more of a commitment than name, address, how much do you want, anything else we should know, love, Bilbo Baggins.

For regular humans—that‘s not what getting a loan is like. It‘s certainly not what getting welfare is like, which is why I‘m going to try to turn myself into a bank holding company. Then maybe we all should.”

The final event prompting this post was her frank admission and obvious remorse on Monday, when she confessed to having made an error in making a background check on her guest, economist Laura Tyson. When David Sirota called her attention to an overlooked conflict-of-interest that might well have tainted Tyson’s comments, Dr. Maddow promptly issued an apology, castigating herself in the process.

I had been immediately impressed by Rachel Maddow’s credentials—she is certainly no bimbo, unlike many of the young “reporters” who uncritically read scripts on some of the major news streams. Her bio notes that she holds a degree in public policy from Stanford University. At graduation she was awarded the John Gardner Public Service and Leadership Development Fellowship. She was then awarded a Rhodes Scholarship in 1995, and used it to study at Oxford University, where she received her doctorate. She has a long-standing passion for social justice issues, having previously focused on prison reform, HIV/AIDS, and Health Care Reform.

It has been a joy to watch a bright, highly-educated young woman anchoring a prominent show. This week’s candid admission of error greatly raised my esteem for Dr. Maddow, as it reflected an unusual level of integrity and humility. Rachel has earned a loyal follower here.