ONE: “It’s all dudes.”
The most indelible quote from a week full of indelible quotes came from Senator Patty Murray of Washington, who remarked that seeing a photo of the all-male panel giving testimony at Congressman Darrell Issa’s hearing on contraception coverage was “like stepping into a time machine and going back 50 years.”
Beyond the sorry specifics of the Issa hearing, Murray’s comment is an on-point description of the bedrock philosophy underlying the modern Republican Party, although in some cases a 50-year regression is insufficient; 100 or even 150 years might be a more appropriate number, depending on the issue.
Issa indulged in some of his usual obfuscation – oh, hell, let’s just call it what it is: bullshitting – when it came to explaining why a woman put forward by Democratic members of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform was denied the chance to testify:
… Issa Thursday said Democrats could not add their witness because she was not a member of the clergy, but a student at Georgetown. He also faulted Democrats for not submitting the name of the witness, Georgetown Law Center student Sandra Fluke, in time.
Issa’s staff sent a letter to the Democrats, saying, “As the hearing is not about reproductive rights but instead about the administration’s actions as they relate to freedom of religion and conscience, he believes that Ms. Fluke is not an appropriate witness.”
Got that? The Democrats’ witness wasn’t eligible because she’s not a member of the clergy. Oh, and also her name wasn’t submitted in time. Oh, and the hearing about reproductive rights wasn’t really about reproductive rights. Or all of the above. Yeah, that’s it, all of the above.
Issa’s little farce prompted a senator’s grandson to provide the week’s runner-up in the indelible quote department:
Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., said her 16-year-old grandson saw the photo and instantaneously knew something was off. “It’s all dudes,” Boxer said, quoting her grandson.
House Democrats heard testimony from Fluke today, but the Republican majority on the Committee on House Administration would not allow the testimony to be televised.
TWO: Speak Loudly and Carry a Big Stick
Twice this week, the Republican-dominated House of Delegates postponed voting on a measure to require Virginia women seeking an abortion to undergo a transvaginal ultrasound, involving the insertion of a metal imaging probe into the vagina.
A scathing Dahlia Lithwick piece last week in Slate put the proposed legislation in sharp perspective:
… the law provides that women seeking an abortion in Virginia will be forcibly penetrated for no medical reason. I am not the first person to note that under any other set of facts, that would constitute rape under state law.
What’s more, a provision of the law that has received almost no media attention would ensure that a certification by the doctor that the patient either did or didn’t “avail herself of the opportunity” to view the ultrasound or listen to the fetal heartbeat will go into the woman’s medical record. Whether she wants it there or not. I guess they were all out of scarlet letters in Richmond.
So the problem is not just that the woman and her physician (the core relationship protected in Roe) no longer matter at all in deciding whether an abortion is proper. It is that the physician is being commandeered by the state to perform a medically unnecessary procedure upon a woman…
Throughout the controversy, Republicans availed themselves of the opportunity to indulge in some of the more revolting political rhetoric in recent memory:
[Deputy House Majority Leader C. Todd] Gilbert [(R-Shenandoah)], who opposes abortion rights, shocked opponents of a bill that would require women to undergo an ultrasound before an abortion when he said: “In the vast majority of these cases, these are matters of lifestyle convenience.”
Gilbert later apologized, but only after video of his comments went viral. Even worse, another legislator, whose exact identity seems to have eluded scrutiny so far:
… suggested that women who consent to sex also consent to vaginal probing.
Yesterday, the House of Delegates approved the bill, albeit with revisions suggested by Governor Bob McDonnell, who, although an idiot, is not stupid:
… under pressure from pro-choice activists, as well as stinging ridicule from late-night television comics, McDonnell tweaked the bill to require only non-intrusive abdominal ultrasounds…
Well, maybe a little stupid. McDonnell commented:
“Mandating an invasive procedure in order to give informed consent is not a proper role for the state… No person should be directed to undergo an invasive procedure by the state, without their consent, as a precondition to another medical procedure.”
In McDonnell’s Virginia, a proper role for the state is to mandate pointless, potentially humiliating and fiscally wasteful procedures, not invasive ones.
THREE: Warrior within What, Now?
Wasilla High School last appeared in Take Five when then-principal Dwight Probasco first barred the school’s “symphonic jazz” choir from performing the Queen classic “Bohemian Rhapsody” following a purported complaint from a parent about composer Freddie Mercury’s sexual orientation, and later permitted them to sing an abridged version which omitted the lines about the song’s narrator killing a man.
Probasco has since retired, and I’m sure new principal Amy Spargo hoped her administration could get underway without controversy. Guess again, Ms. Spargo:
Jim Dault and Shala Dobson are proud to display their artwork at Wasilla High School. After all, the Meadow Lakes artists are Valley residents and have a familial connection with the school.
That’s why Jan. 29 was an exciting day, Dault said. That’s the day they installed their sculpture “Warrior Within” in front of the Mat-Su Borough School District’s largest high school. Three days later, however, the $100,000 work of art, contracted through the state’s Percent For Art Program, was covered by tarps and has remained under wraps since.
The reason? Some students think the stone and concrete sculpture that features a pair of shields surrounded by feathers resembles female genitalia…
Spargo ordered the sculpture covered pending review by a committee of parents, teachers, students and admin staff. The piece, though, had already been reviewed and approved by a committee convened under Alaska’s Percent for Art program (which mandates that one percent of capital construction costs of public buildings be devoted to public art). It had also been approved in advance by the Mat-Su Borough school district. The principal, however, is determined to pursue the matter her way, although she doesn’t exempt herself from criticism:
Spargo said she welcomes all opinions to the debate, but those who cry censorship “never had to run a school before. This is my judgment on how to move forward. The artists have been delightful people, they’re wonderful professionals, they delivered what the contract says. … But the (negative) response was large, and it was pretty consistent that there wasn’t a lot of appreciation; however, I don’t think there was any prep work on my part to prepare the student body for it. It’s a great concept about thinking about what it really means to be a warrior.”
I’ve always assumed being a warrior had something to do with strength, courage and resolve, even when confronted with something (very vaguely) reminiscent of female genitalia. Continue reading Take Five (The Boys of Bummer edition)