I’m going to claim a mantle I never thought I would: I’m pro-life.
Of course, that means something far different from the mainstream definition.
You won’t see me picketing Planned Parenthood clinics yelling “murderer” at women going in to get their yearly pap smear.
Instead you will see me working to make contraception available freely, so that pregnancies are prevented in the first place, and women for the large part won’t have to make the agonizing choice to abort their fetus.
You won’t see me voting for politicians who work to gut programs aimed at children and families in the cause of “fiscal responsibility”, while they line the pockets of their wealthy backers. Bill Gates doesn’t need a handout; a mother struggling to feed and care for her children does. And it’s not a “handout”: it’s an investment in fostering a strong, healthy society, one in which all its members flourish, rather than just a privileged few.
Pope Francis gave an address to a joint session of Congress today. I hope to have an essay on the broader themes of his speech for tomorrow, but today I want to focus on one aspect which seems to have tarnished his halo with leftists who have pinned their hopes on him and are now disappointed, just as they did with President Obama.
Here is the offending passage:
The Golden Rule also reminds us of our responsibility to protect and defend human life at every stage of its development.
That’s it. That was his only glancing reference to abortion. And he didn’t even use the word abortion.
But look at what he said: human life must be protected at every stage of its development.
As I’ve written before, I was raised Catholic. And although I can’t in good conscience call myself a believer any longer, that upbringing undergirds who I am. I can no more dispense with it than I can dispense with all the skeins of life which have made me who I am.
I’ve always been a liberal. And as early as I can remember, I’ve always disagreed with the Church’s position on abortion and birth control. Many times, I’ve disagreed vehemently with the Church, wanting finally to cast aside that part of me.
But as I’ve grown older, I have, I hope, grown wiser. What used to be black and white in my youth has become a symphony of grays. I still disagree with the Church on abortion and birth control. But I can respect its stance, at least on abortion.
How can I do this? Because unlike many of the evangelical Religious Right, the Catholic position on life is a total one. Again, turn to Pope Francis’ words: life must be protected at every stage of development.
Today as the US woke up, it was greeted with horrific news. The Pakistani Taliban attacked a school run by the Pakistani Army and slaughtered over 140 civilians, mostly children. Yes, the school wasn’t a military school, but an ordinary school for kids. At the same time, a car bombing in Yemen carried out by Al Qaeda claimed the lives of 20 children. And over the weekend, a crazed gunman with pretensions of Islamic State membership took a restaurant hostage in Sydney, causing his own death and the death of two hostages when the Australian special forces stormed the building.
I think the fallacy that the Taliban and AQ are “freedom fighters” combating “Western hegemony” has been put to rest. The last I checked, the children in Yemen and Peshawar weren’t on the CIA’s payroll. What the Taliban, AQ, IS, and their affiliates are is death cults. Any legitimate grievance they may have had has long faded into the rear view mirror. They now perpetuate violence, all in the service of a dark utopia. That utopia is being partly realized in the IS-held sections of Iraq like Mosul, and the results aren’t pretty, even for orthodox, conservative Muslims. It is a cult of death and austerity, a yearning for a return to some prelapsarian state which never existed. It is a search for a dark Eden which never was but should have been.
But, of course, a death cult isn’t peculiar to the Muslim world. We have our own versions here.
Rolihlahla Mandela, the son of a Thembu tribal chief, was born in Mvezo, in South Africa’s Eastern Cape on 18 July 1918. He was the first of his family to go to school. It was there he received the name Nelson – it was customary for school children to be given English names. In 1941, he fled to Johannesburg to avoid an arranged marriage. He met Walter Sisulu who helped him get work at law firm Witkin Sidelsky. Mr Mandela joined the African National Congress (ANC) in 1944.
Mr Mandela qualified as a lawyer and in 1952 set up the country’s first black law firm with Oliver Tambo.
Fearing a ban by the apartheid government, the ANC asked Mr Mandela to make plans to ensure the party could work underground.
He was arrested in 1956 and charged with treason along with 155 others. The trial lasted four-and-a-half-years, and ended with his being acquitted. In 1958, he married his second wife, Winnie Madikizela.
After police killed 69 protesters in Sharpeville in March 1960, the government feared retaliation, so it declared a state of emergency and then banned the ANC. The organisation formed a military wing, led by Mr Mandela.
In 1962, Mr Mandela was arrested and tried for leaving the country illegally. In 1963, while in prison, he was charged with sabotage. He and seven others were sentenced to life in 1964 and jailed on Robben Island.
Dire Straits and Eric Clapton at Nelson Mandela 70th Birthday tribute
The international community started to tighten sanctions which had been first imposed on the apartheid regime in 1967. By 1990, the pressure led to President FW de Klerk lifting the ban on the ANC.
On 11 February 1990, Mr Mandela was freed after 27 years in prison. Crowds cheered as he and his wife Winnie left the prison grounds. The next year, Mr Mandela was elected ANC president at the party’s first national conference. Talks began on forming a new, multi-racial democracy.
Karen Grigsby Bates: As soon as he made his remarks on race Friday, President Obama found himself part of intense conversation around the nation. In dozens of cities across the country Saturday, protesters held coordinated rallies and vigils over the not-guilty verdict in the shooting death of an unarmed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Fla. Many African Americans insist that understanding the context for black distress over the Zimmerman verdict is key to honest discussions about race.
“You know we’re not looked upon as the people who fought for this country; we’re looked upon as the burden of this country,” he says. White Americans, Narcisse says, probably didn’t get the president’s story of being followed while shopping because it isn’t part of their experience, as it is his.
“That’s what you gotta think about,” he says. “When you walk into a store, do they follow you around? Have you ever had that happen to you?” In Atlanta, Emory University professor Tyrone Forman likes that Obama encouraged white Americans to consider what might happen if the situation were reversed. What, Forman asks, if Trayvon Martin had been Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg — who also wears hoodies, just as Trayvon did the night he was killed? “We can imagine a very different scenario would have transpired that evening in Sanford, Florida,” Forman said. “And I think it’s that context that President Obama was alluding to, and trying to open a conversation about.”
Danari Hankerson, 5, of York, turns around to face a singer singing “Lift Every Voice and Sing” at a vigil for Trayvon Martin on Saturday outside the York County Judicial Center
Diya Cruz, left, marches from Frank Ogawa Plaza to the Fruitvale BART station with other protesters after a rally in Oakland, Calif.
Gene Demby: President Obama’s surprise remarks Friday afternoon about the Trayvon Martin case, racial profiling and race more broadly was almost certainly his most extensive remarks about the role race plays in American life — and the role it has played in his own — since his presidency began. For Obama, discussing race has been especially treacherous. When he weighed in on the case last year — “If I had a son, he’d look like Trayvon” — his comments were viewed by many as an attempt to humanize Trayvon and empathize with his family, while many other people felt he was attempting to put his thumb on the scale in the case. (His comments came before George Zimmerman had been charged.)
But that’s perhaps what made the president’s surprise remarks in the White House briefing room so fascinating. “You know, when Trayvon Martin was first shot I said that this could have been my son,” he said. “Another way of saying that is, Trayvon Martin could have been me 35 years ago.” The president tried to contextualize the reaction that so many African-Americans had to the trial and the issue of racial profiling by talking about his own experiences.
It’s not clear just yet what prompted the president to revisit the verdict, but his statements came just days after Attorney General Eric Holder sharply critiqued stand your ground self-defense laws like the ones in Florida. In his comments, Holder got pretty personal as well. The week since the verdict has seen countless black men recount and lament being treated with suspicion as they moved through the world. Now, remarkably, the president of the United States and the nation’s top law enforcement official add their voices to that chorus.
Scott Neuman: Hundreds of people across the country attended “Justice For Trayvon” rallies calling for civil rights charges against George Zimmerman in the wake of his acquittal a week ago in the fatal shooting of black teen Trayvon Martin. The Rev. Al Sharpton’s National Action Network organized the events following last Saturday’s verdict in Sanford, Fla., in which six jurors accepted Zimmerman’s claim of self-defense during a scuffle with Martin in February 2012.
Trayvon Martin’s mother, Sybrina Fulton, attended the event in New York, where Sharpton called on those gathered to create a new, peaceful movement for change, reports NPR’s Dan Bobkoff. “Not only do I vow to you to do what i can for Trayvon Martin, I promise you I will work hard for your children too because it’s important,” Fulton told the crowd.
Meanwhile, Trayvon’s father, Tracy Martin, spoke at similar rally in Miami. “I’d like the world to know that Trayvon was my son. He was a loved child. He did nothing wrong and we’re not going to let them persecute him he way that they have,” Martin said.
David Maraniss: The first black president speaks out first as a black American
Trayvon Martin, the president said, could have been him 35 years ago. That would have been Barack Obama at age 17, then known as Barry and living in Honolulu. He had a bushy Afro. Hoodies were not in style then, or often needed in balmy Hawaii. His customary hangout outfit was flip-flops, called “slippers” on the island, shell bracelet, OP shorts and a tee.
Imagine if Barry Obama had been shot and killed, unarmed, during a confrontation with a self-deputized neighborhood watch enforcer, perhaps in some exclusive development on the far side of Diamond Head after leaving home to get shave ice. The news reports would have painted a complicated picture of the young victim, a variation on how Martin was portrayed decades later in Florida:
Lives with his grandparents; father not around, mother somewhere overseas. Pretty good student, sometimes distracted. Likes to play pickup hoops and smoke pot. Hangs out with buddies who call themselves the Choom Gang. Depending on who is providing the physical description, he could seem unprepossessing or intimidating, easygoing or brooding. And black.
Ian Millhisher: The fact that Perez emerged as Obama’s most controversial cabinet appointment reflects a very significant bias in our confirmation process. Secretary Perez has two Ivy League degrees, including a law degree with honors from Harvard Law School. The market salary for an attorney in private practice with an honors Harvard JD is $160,000 a year — and that’s in their very first year after graduation. Perez, as an experienced attorney with years of senior-level government service, obviously could command substantially more money. At any point in his career — from the day he graduated from Harvard through today — Perez could have left public service and chosen a career that would have made him very rich very quickly. He never once took this path. Instead, Secretary Perez spent his entire career in public service — as a law clerk to a federal judge, as a prosecutor in the same Civil Rights Division he would go on to lead, as an adviser to Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-MA) on civil rights, and in various high-level civil rights and labor policy jobs at the state and federal level. When his law school classmates were plotting how to convert their six-figure associate salaries into seven-figure partnerships, Perez put white supremacists in prison.
The career advice young people can learn from the confirmation of Tom Perez as Labor Secretary thkpr.gs/13mUdqz
It’s unlikely that conservatives opposed his nomination simply because he chose public service over wealth, however. What really drove this opposition was the way he conducted himself throughout his career. Secretary Perez pushed basic labor protections such as a minimum wagefor domestic workers when he served on the Montgomery County City Council, an effort that ultimately succeeded after he left the council. He promised to “throw the book” at employers who withheld pay from immigrant workers. He saved a key prong of federal fair housing law from an attempt to neuter it in the Supreme Court, and he used that very aspect of the law to collect hundreds of millions of dollars from major banks that charged minority homeowners more than whites seeking a mortgage. He also reinvigorated the Civil Right’s Division’s historic commitment to protecting voting rights after the Bush Administration largely shunned that role. Indeed, Perezled the push against voter ID, a common method used by conservatives to shift the electorate rightward, in Texas and South Carolina.
Josh Israel: In his first gubernatorial debate against Democratic nominee Terry McAuliffe, Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinellii II (R) admitted Saturday that his extreme anti-LGBT views have not changed. While reaffirming his extreme earlier comments about what he termed “the personal challenge of homosexuality,” he suggested that he would create an economically positive environment that would help LGBT Virginians.
McAuliffe repeatedly attacked Cuccinelli throughout the Virginia Bar Association debate in Hot Springs, VA for his record of demonizing science, women’s health, and LGBT people. Twice, McAuliffe noted that Cuccinelli had called LGBT Virginians “soulless” and “self-destructive” and that his attempts to rescind non-discrimination protections have hurt Virginia’s business climate. Cuccinelli consistently ignored the attacks until moderator Judy Woodruff asked him directly about his previous comments. Cuccinelli responded briefly, saying, “My personal beliefs about the personal challenges of homosexuality haven’t changed.”
A tear ran down five-year-old Jacob Charley’s face while holding a “Black Life Matters” sign as thousands gathered to take part in a prayer vigil and rally in honor of Trayvon Martin in front of the Richard Russell Federal Building, Atlanta, July 20
Rebecca Leber: On Saturday, 100 cities held rallies organized by the National Action Network for Trayvon Martin, where large crowds demanded a federal civil rights investigation into the fatal shooting of the unarmed teen. “Trayvon could have been anyone’s child,” Trayvon’s father, Tracy Martin, said at a rally in Miami. “That’s the message that’s being sent to the world.” Celebrities, lawmakers, and religious leaders also joined the rallies on Saturday.
Wayne T. Price: Dr. Biju Matthews, a Titusville-based cardiologist, believes the Affordable Care Act is going to create a new wave of medical consumers armed with something they haven’t had before — health insurance. And many of those newly insured, Matthews said, are not going to have primary care physicians, nor are they going to want to go to a hospital emergency room for run-of-the-mill medical care, like cuts, colds or sore throats.
That’s why Matthews and his medical partner, Dr. Naresh Mody, opened Chiron Urgent Care earlier this month, next to their cardiology practice on North Washington Avenue in Titusville. “It’s definitely a good service,” Matthews said, “and it’s already picked up within two or three weeks. We’re seeing a lot more than we expected in our initial pro forma.” With just months to go before the individual mandates from the Affordable Care Act kick in, walk-in clinics like Chiron Urgent Care are seen as one of the medical niches with the potential for rapid growth.
First Lady Michelle Obama greets children during her visit to the Naval Air Station Oceana Summer Camp in Virginia Beach, Va., July 21, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Samantha Appleton)
Tara Culp-Ressler: California’s teen birth rate has plummeted to the lowest level that it’s been in the past 20 years, according to new data from the state’s health department. The state’s rate now stands at 28 births for every 1,000 teenage girls — a 60 percent drop since 1991, when the rate peaked at 70.9 births for every 1,000 girls.
Public health experts directly attribute this success to state laws that require California’s public schools to offer comprehensive sex ed classes with scientifically accurate information about birth control. State officials also credited family planning programs that provide community-based resources to teens. “We do believe that our programs are behind these numbers,” Karen Ramstrom, the chief of the program standards branch at the California Department of Public Health’s maternal child and adolescent health division, told the Los Angeles Times.
President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden walk from the Oval Office to the motorcade on the South Lawn driveway, July 21, 2010. They traveled to the Ronald Reagan Building in Washington, D.C., to sign the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
Nancy Giles: When Trayvon Martin was shot and killed by George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer, in Sanford, Fla., last year, my nephew Julius was living with me, and I worried about him all the time. Julius is 23, bright, well-spoken, funny, never been in trouble, and wears a baseball cap and a hooded sweat shirt, like a lot of young people his age. He worked days and weekends, and when he went out at night to meet his friends, we had the regular drill: Do you have your ID? Is your cell phone charged? Do you have one of my business cards? What’s with the pants? Is that sweatshirt warm enough?
He knew what I meant, and would shake his head and make some adjustments. And I’d watch him and blink — and see his little boy face singing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” in his sweet, little kid voice. I was relieved that there were no “Stand Your Ground” laws in New York and New Jersey, but still worried that Julius might be stopped and frisked by the NYPD — not because he’d done anything, but because (according to the language of “Stop and Frisk”) he could be stopped if the police had a “reasonable suspicion” of . . . something.
President Barack Obama shakes hands with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi after signing the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act at the Ronald Reagan Building in Washington, D.C., July 21, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
First Lady Michelle Obama colors props for a theater production with children during a visit to the Naval Air Station Oceana Summer Camp in Virginia Beach, Va., July 21, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Samantha Appleton)
President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden ride in the motorcade from the White House to the Ronald Reagan Building in Washington, D.C., July 21, 2010, to sign the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
I’m confident some of my “political” involvement matches that of others, at least of my generation. (Okay, I don’t presume to say that it exactly matches, but, at the very least, it is representative.)
I started noticing national politics as a (part-Irish, Catholic) teenager in high school, when JFK came on the scene (even the nuns were happy) and I’d race home from school to watch his wonderful afternoon press conferences.
Being from the Northeast (where we and so many people in this vast country lived in a white, middle-class bubble), I also had the awful awakening in the ’60s to what for decades (outside of our bubble) had led up to the Civil Rights movement – and what was still going on, most specifically in the South, suddenly publicized on TV news programs – and suffered along with the nation when the best of the best leaders of “our time” were assassinated.
All of it cut me to the core, and left an impression on my heart that remains today.
After that, many baby boomers set out to “change the world,” which, we are just finding out, we didn’t.
I never felt connected to politics after the ’60s … so many of us were crushed by all of the events that had occurred, at least one of which (the shooting of Lee Harvey Oswald by Jack Ruby) we watched live on our black and white TVs. I remember thinking our nation was lost. At the very least, my generation was experiencing what later might have been called varying levels of human rights post-traumatic stress disorder.
Steve Benen: After three consecutive weeks of discouraging news, today’s report from the Department of Labor on initial unemployment claims pointed to a sharp improvement in the data.
Indeed, the new numbers not only reverse the discouraging trend, they’re back to the level we saw in mid-March, which is near a four-year low.
…. It’s worth emphasizing that week-to-week results can vary widely, and it’s best not to read too much significance into any one report. Still, it’s generally heartening when the numbers are at least pointing in the right direction.
E.J. Dionne: We expect some hypocrisy in politics, but it was still jaw-dropping to behold Republicans accusing President Obama of politicizing the anniversary of the killing of Osama bin Laden. Wasn’t it just eight years ago that the GOP organized an entire presidential campaign — including the choreography of its 2004 national convention — around the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and George W. Bush’s response to them?
Obama’s opponents don’t just think we have short attention spans. They imagine we have no memories whatsoever…
…. On foreign policy, Obama has kept his 2008 promise to turn history’s page. The nation is in no mood to turn it back.
MSNBC: GM posted a profit of $1 billion in the first quarter, beating Wall Street expectations on strong demand in its key North American market.
GM also said the U.S. economy was improving and it expected its core North American results in the second and third quarters to largely match the first quarter due to scheduled downtime at its large truck plants.
As recently as 2002, Romney had called his support for abortion rights “unequivocal”. But in May 2005, he told USA Today that he was “in a different place”. Two months later, he began saying that Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision protecting abortion rights, had cheapened life. He vetoed a bill promoting emergency contraception, which he had supported as a candidate. (link)
As bjw2 said when posting this video in the comments, “we could just keep going all night”.