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13 03 2012

New Hanover Commissioners choose not to accept family planning funds

Following opinions on public funding of contraceptives, the New Hanover County Board of Commissioners unanimously voted to turn down a state family planning grant that would cover contraceptive supplies along with other medical services related to family planning.

. . . .

“The answers that I got were that there were patients that were not being responsible with existing family planning that was being offered and that this would provide a more reliable solution for those people,” Catlin said at Monday afternoon’s commissioners meeting.

He added that he had an issue with “using taxpayer dollars to fund someone’s irresponsibility.”

The county’s health department was awarded $8,899 in family planning funds that would “provide medical services related to family planning including physician’s consultation, examination, prescription, continuing supervision, laboratory examination and contraceptive supplies,” according to a budget amendment item included in documents for Monday’s commissioners meeting. The county was not required to match the state grant.

Chairman Ted Davis said he thought it was a sad day when “taxpayers are asked to pay money to buy for contraceptives” for women having sex without planning responsibly.

“If these young women were responsible people and didn’t have the sex to begin with, we wouldn’t be in this situation,” Davis said.

Commissioner Jonathan Barfield said he was “one of those abstinence guys” and agreed with Davis’ comment.

. . . .

h/t Dan Savage, The Stranger

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You can’t always get what you want

28 07 2011

Completely irresponsible.

Yes, I disagree with the Republican agenda in general and the Tea Party agenda in particular. No surprise there.

And I’m not particularly happy with the Democrats, either—see my various Bam! posts—and their apparent inability even to generate an agenda (which is likely related to their lack of overall purpose).

But there are certain realities which are indifferent to ideologies and agendas, realities which include a high unemployment rate, divided government, and a wary global economy. There are, in other words, constraints on one’s aspirations, constraints which ought to discipline one’s behavior.

And yet they do not. Or, to put this another way, “limits” are apparently to be used only as an ideological battering ram by the TeaPers, rather than marking out the boundaries of a difficult debate.

Difficulty? What difficulty? We’ll simply wave our “don’t-tread-on-me-flag” and declare that our will is what is.

Why deal with reality when you are the Master of Your Own Universe?

It must be admitted, of course, that life in the real world is a little less heady, a little more complicated, and contains more than its share of frustrations. The notion of living within one’s means requires that we nail down just what we mean by “living with” and “one’s means”, and that the old Rolling Stone lyric is wrong only in that, honestly, you don’t always get even what you need.

We can change the world (the universe? not so much), but not by declaring the world changed. We have to do the work.

So, members of the House of Representatives, put down the flag and do the fucking work.

If you don’t like how and how much the government spends, you deal with that in the budget process. Want less spending? Then allocate fewer funds. Lower taxes? Ditto.

If, however, you want to increase defense spending, maintain agricultural price supports, protect subsidies for oil companies, fatten up the transportation/highway spending budget, fence out all illegal immigration, give money to survivors of tornadoes, hurricanes, drought, and fire, well, then, you have to make some decisions about those taxes.

You don’t get to say “no deficit spending” and then vote for deficit spending.

You want a balanced budget? Then produce a FUCKING BALANCED BUDGET.

And after you’ve produced an unbalanced budget, don’t pretend to have been victimized by your own actions.

Don’t say “hey, spend money on this,” and then refuse to hand over the credit card.

I’d prefer more spending: on multiple high-speed rail routes, a single-payer health plan, scientific and medical research, aggressive development of green technologies, elder care, day care, welfare, environmental protection, job (re)training, mixed- and low-income housing, education—the whole social welfarist shebang. Higher taxes, more and better services.

You want more, you have to pay more, full stop.

But maybe you don’t want to pay more. I think the anorectic approach to governance is wrong, but legitimate—or it is only legitimate if you actually lower your spending levels to match your revenues (and, frankly, if you don’t off-load any costs on to other entities). If you’re willing to tell people that they’ll receive precious little in return for the precious little they pay, then, okay.

But you don’t get say “I’ll cut—and there will be no blood.” And then double-back and proclaim your courage in dealing in “hard truths”.

Don’t paint yourself as a martyr—“I’m willing to risk my seat over this!”—for doing your fucking job, especially when you’re not doing your fucking job.

You took a job in government, a government which has obligations which predate your arrival and will incur obligations after you’re gone. Whether you like it or not, you’re responsible for those obligations.

So start acting like it.





When I grow up I want to be an old woman

19 03 2011

Allie knows me too well:

 

I’d put in things like “opening mail” and “keeping on top of coursework”, and I do manage to clean the cat box every day, but otherwise, yeah.

Wally Torta Muzik (Muzik Torta?) has the same thing going on:

My father used to ask me when I was going to grow up. Except he often used to insert “the hell” between “when” and “I”. And I would answer him “April 12, 1978.” . . .Now, suddenly, in a warp of time, space, and some a them string-theory dimensions, I find myself way way over on the other side of April 12, 1978 without having made the slightest bit of progress in my quest.

So I’m in good company, I guess, even though I can’t really draw.

Which mean I’m behind good company.

Figures.

h/t: Hyperbole and a Half and CrackskullBob





Your Captain says: Put your head in your hands.

20 01 2010

There are days—many days, actually—when it sucks to be a student of politics.

This is one of them.

Not because Martha Coakley lost in Massachusetts to a nice head of hair (although that’s not really helping my mood), but because the crappiness of political analysis in this country has gone critical.

That’s called  a shitstorm, my friends, and we’ve been livin’ in it for too many years.

Given the constant effluvia, you’d think I’d be used to it by now, hunkered down in a cave of indifference and/or utterly uncaring of the stench of politics.

But no, if you care about politics, ain’t no way to plug oneself up against the raining—or shall I say reigning?—of nonsense.

Please note that this is not strictly or even mainly about partisan politics. I’m a pinko, so I know I’m always going to lose. Sometimes I get to vote for people who are within shouting (really loud!) distance of my agenda, and that’s nice, but, really, socialists don’t have much goin’ on in this country.

Nor is this (directly) about nasty language, gossip, hypocrisy, and the hypercompetitiveness of candidates.

Nooo, this is more about the structure of politics in the US, how we—left, right, and otherwise—do politics.

First: the nastiness. Well, duh. I may hold and Arendtian/Aristotelian understanding of politics as the sphere of the good life, but neither of them had much of a theory of actual governance. And actual governance is hard, performed by people with strong and conflicting opinions, people who had to scratch and spit and shed blood to get into the position to govern.

I don’t know that this is in every way the best way to find politicians, but if you want responsive government, then there’s election by lot, election through competition, and . . . what else?

Thus, given that competition is built into our system, you’d think that journalists and pundits and the politicians themselves would not be surprised when candidates compete! And that they would be similarly phlegmatic when those in the throes of competition get angry, trash talk, and otherwise behave as if they want and expect to win.

No. Instead of sobriety or stoicism, we get titillation, as seen most recently in Game Change, by the alleged journalists Mark Halperin and John Heilemann. Oo! Hillary said a bad word! Or famously temperamental Senator McCain yelled bad words at his wife! Or the other candidates really didn’t like Mitt Romney!

Over three hundred interviews with over two hundred witnesses/participants/soreheads on ‘deep background’ and we get Gossip Pols?

But the omnipresent irritation of the presence of pundits is not, however, the main target of this rant.

Nope, I’m just going to go ahead and smack all of us as lousy citizens.

Not because each of us individually is a lousy citizen, but because we have created a system in which it is very difficult to be a good citizen.

Politicians who know better say we can cut the deficit without raising taxes or reducing or eliminating popular programs or entitlements.

Pundits who know better ponder the re-election chances of a president three years ahead of the election.

Citizens who know better say we want lower taxes and less government and clean streets and good schools and safe cities.

We want one-hundred-percent protection against terrorism and cheap flights with easy check-in procedures.

We want excellent teachers and low property taxes.

We want cheap water and few regulations.

You see how this could continue; you could probably add your own 2 or 3 or twenty.

It’s not that Americans are more stupid than anyone else, or even more covetous. It’s that we’ve gotten so used to thinking of our wants as rights that we’ve neglected to do the hard work of accounting for our wants; instead, we demand, and castigate any negotiations over those demands.

(Oh, and when there’s any kind of inequality, we err in the other direction by confusing want and need, and punish those who are attempt to translate those needs into rights.)

Politicians respond to this, we respond to the politicians, and the pundits keep smug score.

The problem is systemic. Individual citizens may understand that if you wanna get, you gotta give, and adjust their expectations accordingly. I don’t like taxes, but am willing to pay them in order to create a more generous social-welfare net; libertarians might like some government services, but are willing to forgo them in order to lower their tax burden; social conservatives might be willing to trade liberty for authority. At that individual or local level, some of us, perhaps many or most of us, get it.

But since we are treated as a mass or series of masses by politicians and pundits, and are sometimes too eager to associate ourselves with some mass or another, we get a politics based on the ebbs and flows of the mass, and the reaction cycle between mass, politician, and pundit.

And that’s exactly what our system has become: reactionary. No thinking, no leading, no acting—only re-acting to the latest outrage du jour.

Irresponsibility, all around.

What does this mean? Not much, really. We can probably chug along in our politically-irresponsibly ways for years, if not decades, which means that it’s possible that something could happen in the meantime to break us out of this cycle.

But even a slo-mo degradation is still degradation.

Which helps to explain the occasional rants by those of us who do care about our politics.





This ain’t no party, this ain’t no disco

22 11 2009

I am not a Republican.

But, god help me, I agree with Republican Senator Lindsay Graham on at least one issue. In response to a question recently about Glenn Beck, he responded “Here’s what I worry about. How many people in my business are going to be controlled by what’s said on the radio or in a TV commercial?”

His business, of course, is the business of politics—or, more to the point, the business of governance.

It’s a key distinction, that between politics and governance, once which those who lack the responsibility for so governing find it convenient to overlook.

The NY Times notes that M. Beck, along with Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham, and Mike Huckabee are all rallying the troops to do. . . something they want. It’s the usual boilerplate of a deracinated American conservative movement: low/flat/no taxes; low/flat/cut spending; stop illegal immigration/drug smuggling; energy independence—more drilling/mining/nuke-power production; responsible environmental stewardship; small government; victory in Iraq; keep Guantanamo open. . . are you noticing any problems here?

As in, complete incoherence? Close the borders but do so with less spending; win in Iraq and lower taxes; shrink the size of government and give it the power to torture and detain people indefinitely; no redistribution and give parents vouchers for education; tap your head and rub your tummy at the same time. . . oh, wait. . . .

There’s more, of course, and I could provide the links to their sites, but why give them the page views?

More to the point, why send you off to emptiness? There’s nothing at the Beck, Hannity, and Ingraham sites beyond a list of conflicting demands. At least Huckabee’s plans are tethered to reality, such as it is: he seeks to raise money for Republican candidates.

Then again, Huckabee is the only one of the Fab Four who has actually served in government, that is, who has actually had to take responsibility for his words and deeds.

This is what underlies Senator Graham’s lament: Beck can cry and Ingraham sneer and Hannity harrumpf and at the end of the day they leave the studio and let others clean up their kleenex and spittle. And if shit goes bad, well, it’s just fodder for tomorrow’s broadcast cannon.

I’m a big fan of the First Amendment, just as I’m a big fan of democracy, and I tend to think the fewer rules attached to either speech or participation, the better. And that goes for these bloviators and their followers, as well.

But I’m also a civic republican (note the ‘little r’), and think that politics works best as requires something more than tears and outrage from its participants; democratic politics in particular requires an engagement which goes beyond oneself.

A concept of citizenship, as it were.

This is an odd argument for someone as decidedly not-patriotic and anti-nationalist as I am, but I do recognize obligations to the those with whom I share a political space, i.e., my fellow citizens.

These obligations are basic, and don’t require much agreement with those fellows, and hardly demand one bow to to the government.

But it does require at the very least a recognition that one does share a political space, a space beyond one’s living room or therapist’s office or tavern booth, in which one might just have to set aside one’s personal concerns for a consideration of public matters.

I think most people in office get it, even the people who I’d rather not hold any office beyond that of dogcatcher (and some not even that—I’m lookin’ at you, Michelle Bachmann). They go through the hassles of campaigning because they actually want to accomplish something. Sure, they want to inflate their successes and evade their failures, but at least they put themselves through the process whereby they might in some way be held accountable for both.

But The Media Personality™? No, he or she mashes up resentment and principle and incoherence and general sky-pie-edness and then dances on by the difficulties of actual decision-making, policy-formation, and, oh, yes, governance.

This all-partying/no-hangover mentality is not, alas, confined to the right. But right now they’re the ones smashing open the kegs and spiking the kool-aid and inviting the  palin-drones and tea-baggers to Drink! Drink! Drink!

Designated drivers need not apply.