Yesterday, the world's biggest business asociation, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, launched a $2 million ad campaign designed to "protect employer-sponsored health care." The campaign, aimed at fending off any proposal to create a "public option" for insurance coverage, represents the opening salvo in the business community's attack on health care reform. (See one ad below.)

Until now, most of corporate America has remained on the sidelines while liberal groups and unions have jammed the airwaves with ads attacking conservative Democrats opposed to the public plan option. Virtually the only ads opposing the public option so far have come from  Rick Scott, a rich guy who made his money running a hospital chain guilty of epic fraud. Part of the business groups' reticence has come from disagreement on the various reform proposals, but also from an admonition from the White House and Sen. Max Baucus threatening to ban them from the bargaining table should they run attack ads before any bills were even in play. Now that the bills are on the House floor, the advertising floodgates are apparently swinging open.

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), a DC non profit, announced Wednesday that it is suing the Secret Service because the Obama administration is following Bush-era practice and refusing to release White House visitor logs. CREW wants to know which health care executives were visiting the White House, and when. The Most Transparent Administration EverTM doesn't want to tell. So now we get a lawsuit. The White House doesn't really have a leg to stand on here: even if it could make the legal case that it should be able to withhold the visitor logs, there's no way it can make the good government case. The president serves the public; the public should know who has his ear. The only reason the White House is getting away with withholding these records for now is that the media (and Congress) don't seem to care enough to draw attention to it.

A co-worker's tweet this morning drew my attention to a blog post on how to respond to rape jokes. The author of the blog post lays out 5 possible responses when someone jokes that a woman wanted it, or was so unattractive she should be glad to get raped:

1. Keep quiet and feel uncomfortable.

2. Try to top the joke with a more offensive one.

3. Initiate a Very Serious Conversation in which you state rape is never funny.

4. Initiate a Very Serious Conversation II in which you disclose your own rape, and mention that you were definitely NOT laughing during it.

5. Talk outside the box. As in, "I knew this guy in college, and he totally got raped during rush and had to go to the doctor! He's in therapy now! It was hilarious!"

 

In government health care reform debates, abortion coverage is the third rail. Should some abortion be implicitly, if not explicitly, covered? Should Congress promote the use of contraception? And if abortion were covered, would Barack Obama's mother have had one?

Those hoping for compromise on the issue suffered a setback yesterday when Rep. Tim Ryan (D-OH) was "booted" from Democrats for Life, the anti-choice arm of the Democratic Party, for sponsoring legislation that would have supported the use of contraception to reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies.

In a statement last week, Ryan said, "I can't figure out for the life of me how to stop pregnancies without contraception. Don't be mad at me for wanting to solve the problem."

As Atrios writes, Ryan's effort seems like a good faith attempt to find common ground on the abortion issue, but the anti-choice movement proved once again that it is against "any sex without a good chance of 'consequences' for the woman taking part."

Neither health care reform bill in the House or Senate mentions abortion explicitly. But the discussion raises a larger question about DC compromise on social issues. Since he began his campaign for president more than two years ago, Barack Obama has been consistent in advocating "common ground" on divisive issues like abortion. But the anti-choice rejection of contraception indicates that common ground on this particular issue may be impossible.

Can conservatives, for example, accept compromise on health care if it includes contraception or (gasp!) abortion? And will liberals accept compromise without it?

Are Dems pulling the vacation card? First Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) said the Senate should work on health care through August if it had to. Now House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is singing a similar tune. "I want a bill," she told reporters today. And if the legislation can get to a vote of the full House, she thinks it will pass. "I have no doubt we have the votes on the floor of the House to pass this legislation," she said.

Offering to work through vacation to get health care done could prove to be a potent political tool for Democrats. Republicans want to delay the bill. But they could be made to look bad if they want to go on vacation while the Dems want to stay and work. It could be a win-win for the Democrats: either the threat of working over vacation makes negotiations move faster, or the reality of working through vacation allows them to get the bill done. You might want to bet on the former: no one wants to spend August in DC.

If you were a nine-year-old girl in the year 1989 like I was, you might remember the movie Troop Beverly Hills, wherein a star-studded cast of scouts (including Tori Spelling, singer Jenny Lewis, and Margeaux from Punky Brewster) earns badges in accessorizing, shopping, and other mall-related pursuits. I mention this fine film not just because I wanted to (though that was part of it) but because today I heard about another non-traditional scout discipline: creationism.

Answers in Genesis blog reports that the Girl Scouts of America has bestowed its highest honor, the Gold Award, on Wisconsin teen Annie Wichman. Her winning accomplishments: amassing a library of creation literature for her church, building a model of Noah's ark, and teaching creationism to elementary schoolers. She called her project Alternate Universe.

I'm not convinced that this is an implicit endorsement of creationism on the part of the Girl Scouts of America. According to the Gold Award website, a winning projects is:

...something that a girl can be passionate about—in thought, deed, and action. The project is something that fulfills a need within a girl's community (whether local or global), creates change, and hopefully, is something that becomes ongoing.

The goal isn't scientific accuracy. It's personal fulfillment and community involvement. The teaching component irks me a little, especially if it was part of a science lesson in a public school instead of Sunday school at church. But overall, Wichman's project seems pretty innocuous.

And it's unlikely that scouts will soon add creationism badges to their sashes, though given the panoply of activities that can earn you an insignia these days (my favorite: Couch Potato. "Watching TV can be a fun, educational activity, a way to de-stress and relax sometimes. Or it can be a very unhealthy way to pass the time. It all depends on how and what you watch.") it's not entirely out of the question.

So: If you were to design a creationism badge, what might it look like? I favor dinosaur with rider.


When I was a junior in high school, I was pretty sure the only other feminist in my small town was my AAUW card-carrying mother. I also thought that a dial up modem was the height of technology.

Since then, technology has made it possible for teenaged feminists to do much more to connect with each other and the world.

Miranda, a soon-to-be high school senior, is the brains behind Women's Glib, a feminist community blog made up of self-proclaimed "nerdy foul-mouthed youth." Since starting the blog this winter, she has already been featured as a guest blogger on long-running blog Feministe.

The fantasticly titled FBomb was started by 16-year-old founder Julie Zeilinger and has been highlighted by Feministing and other feminist blogs, and caught like wildfire after being highlighted on Jezebel.

Both blogs are at once accessible and enlightening, wittily covering everything from the gendered implications of high school popularity and dating to Sonia Sotomayor's nomination. But not all attention has been positive. A week after the online media blitz, F-Bomb founder Zeilinger Tweeted:

"older feminist readers I'm a teen its for teens can't be perfect don't have a degree. get some perspective plz & stop writing mean comments!"

Miranda ended her Feministe guest blogging stint with remorse for a post that asked for the community's advice on being a womanist ally.

Here at Mother Jones, we've had our own share of contentious conversation on generational feminism. But these young women also point out other rifts contemporary feminism is working to untangle.

Not only are these young women actively working to expand their political viewpoint—and the tools they need to work within their communities—they are negotiating their personal and online identities in real time for the world to see. As both of the blogs note, simply claiming the title "feminist" is a powerful act, for both teenagers and adults (there is a reason Julie Z. called her blog The FBomb), and these bloggers are actively working to ensure more people claim it, grapple with its meaning, and work towards achieving its goals.

As Julie Z's twitter bio screams: "badass teenage feminists who give a shit unite!"

If you want to be a Very Serious Person in the foreign policy wonk community, Stephen Walt lays out the rules of the road here.  I'm not sure he's correct about #5 and #6, but the others sound about right.  Via Dan Drezner.

NRA's Backfire

How did that happen? The NRA was just wiped in a 58-39 Senate vote that defeated an amendment to a military spending bill that would allow folks with concealed weapons permits to carry their hidden guns into another state. The measure would have forced states with tough guns laws to accept gun-toting visitors from states with weaker laws.

It was an unusual loss for the gun lobby. A quite pleased Paul Helmke, president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, said, "I am hopeful that our Congress will now start addressing proactive measures to reduce gun violence in this country by doing things like requiring background checks for all gun sales, particularly at gun shows.  We make it too easy for dangerous people to get dangerous weapons in America.”

And don't forget about reviving the ban on assault weapons--which President Barack Obama supports but doesn't like to talk about.

This one vote may not represent a larger turn-around. But the NRA effort to spread concealed weapons throughout the country has backfired, showing that it possesses less political clout than might be assumed.

 

Righteous Anger

It's true, as Josh Marshall said yesterday, that the political and institutional landscape is more receptive to healthcare reform this year than it was in 1994.  We have bigger majorities in Congress; the GOP is in tatters; the HMO revolution has failed; the AMA and the hospital industry are willing to play ball; unions are working with us; business opposition is far more muted; and Obama's legislative strategy is more sophisticated than Clinton's.

Oh, and the public mood is more favorable to healthcare reform too.  Right?  Bob Somerby doesn't think so:

In fact, the Democrats “went into this round” with a public which is massively clueless about health care reform — and massively lacking in righteous anger, in angry desire for change....Real progressives would work for years — for decades — to develop public understanding and anger about such complex affairs. It takes a long, aggressive struggle to develop progressive political frameworks. As Krugman explained, the other side has pimped its poll-tested narratives down through all those years. But our own denatured “liberal leaders” are too fat and happy to fight against that. When have you ever seen them fight to develop a winning politics about anything known to this earth?

I'm not quite that gloomy, but I think Bob is basically right.  Sure, if you take a survey and ask people if they "support healthcare reform," a large majority will say yes.  But while that may be better than a large majority saying no, it's mostly meaningless.  Most repondents haven't thought about it much, don't really know what healthcare "reform" is, and will switch views in a millisecond once they see a single TV attack ad.  What you need isn't people willing to murmur yes to a pollster, it's people pissed off enough to inundate their congressmen with phone calls.  But we don't have that.

Even though it's an even day and I'm supposed to be pessimistic about healthcare, I still think it's more likely than not that we'll get a fairly decent bill passed this year.  Call it 60-40, maybe a little better.  But the odds would be a lot shorter if liberals had done a better job over the past decade of getting middle class voters as angry about their healthcare as they get over, say, a pothole outside their front door.  Note to Dems: it's still not too late.