Rick Santorum is the man to watch in Iowa. After months near the bottom of polls, but living in the state and visiting all 99 counties, the former Pennsylvania Senator has surged into contention, placing third in the most recent Des Moines register poll.
He’s pointed to his ability to get elected statewide twice as a conservative senator in Pennsylvania. But he doesn’t as much mention his blistering, 18 percentage point defeat there in 2006 to Bob Casey, a conservative Democrat.
Today he explained away that loss because 2006 was an historically bad year for Republicans, who lost control of both houses of Congress.
“It was the worst election year for republicans in the history of the state, this isn’t going to be 2006,” said Santorum, who stopped between campaign stops in Iowa to talk to ABC News.
“If I was the only guy that lost and everybody else won you could say that, oh well, that guy is in trouble. We stood up and didn’t flinch. We stood up and said this is what we believed the problem are… I was prepared to stand up and fight for what I believed in, and I wasn’t supposed to win any of the elections I ever ran, and I won the first four against odds no one would have ever taken. And they were decent election years, some good, some not so good. We were able to win those elections in heavily democratic districts, because we stood up for what we believed in, and you know what and when that went south in a big way we lost, its ok, this is not that election year.”
I pointed out that Democrats say that one of the reasons Santorum lost in 2006 was because they say he’s more conservative than mainstream America. One issue was Santorum’s opposition to the Supreme Court’s 1965 ruling that invalidated a Connecticut law banning contraception. Santorum said he still feels that a state should be able to make such laws.
“The state has a right to do that, I have never questioned that the state has a right to do that. It is not a constitutional right, the state has the right to pass whatever statues they have. That is the thing I have said about the activism of the Supreme Court, they are creating rights, and they should be left up to the people to decide,” he said.
“You shouldn’t create constitutional rights when states do dumb things,” Santorum said. “Let the people decide if the states are doing dumb things get rid of the legislature and replace them as opposed to creating constitutional laws that have consequences that were before them.”
When I was little I wanted to be a lot of things: Johnny Carson’s replacement; A Dallas Cowboy Cheerleader so good I was the only one on the team; an artist with my own wing at the Boston Museum of Fine Art — you know, normal stuff. I wanted to be a lot of things, but I never — I PROMISE you — ever wanted to grow up to be someone known as “The Penis Mom”.
But here I am.
It all started way back in early November, when my 13-year-old’s teacher sent an email to parents saying they were doing a little Pumpkin Chunkin‘ — this is a very cool physics project where the kids launch pumpkins with a trébuchet. Awesome. Except the email asked for help setting up the trébuchet. Help from dads. That’s right, dads. Are there any strong dads who can help? So if you know me, you know I’m cautious. I sat down at my computer to check the facts, first looking at the calendar to see what year we were in — yep, still 2011. So with time-travel ruled out, we were only left with the possibility that we had somehow slipped into an alternate universe, one where teachers have giant balls. Balls clearly big enough to toss such gender-biased questions out into the wind without concern for where they might land. And thus began my verbal rant. I am uncertain how long it lasted, however when I finally came up for air my husband/editor had made dinner, cleaned up, and put the kids to bed.
At that point, I sat down to respond to the email.
Dear teachers and parents:
Are you guys seriously only asking for Dads?
Is lifting done with a penis?
Simple and to the point, right? But, before I hit send I remember that email goes to all parents and sometimes people reach this interesting conclusion that I am a little too edgy. So, I decide to get a second opinion from the voice of reason. I go into my editor/husband and read my response. Now, if you know my editor/husband you know how completely insane this is [Editor’s note: What?! Insane?]. It is like a Stegosaurus asking a T-Rex if she appears too aggressive. Wait, some of you may not have toddlers; let me try that again. It is like a gentle breeze asking a hurricane if he should ease up a bit on the blowing. If I am edgy, my editor husband is flying off the edge, not even realizing there was one. If I am a little over the top, he is bouncing off the top as high as he can reach. He is not the man to ask for help when you need to know how the norm will react.
And yet I do.
“Is the penis thing too much?” I ask.
“Too much? It’s insufficient. Why don’t you ask if it needs to be dads because there’s going to be some cocking on the unit? Tell them I’ll bring my friends Dick Johnson, Peter Hard-on and Chubby E. Rekshun to help…” And so it went on this way. As he continued on and on, it got quiet in my head. My hands reached for the mouse, moved the cursor over my email, and I clicked Send, thinking “Well, at least I am not him.”
This is not the first time this rationalization has gotten me into trouble.
Within hours my penis-lifting comment had apparently bunched more than a few panties.
Parents were horrified. Who knew this might happen? Not us. OK, we probably knew — but seriously? Asking exclusively for dads to help is offensive on so many levels to me. I am freakishly strong and could mount a trébuchet with the best of them [Editor’s note: Um, honey, you don’t actually mount a trébuchet]. As someone who was a single mom for a good long time, I take issue with the assumption that every home has a dad to contribute. But most of all, I resent the message we are giving to our daughters that because of their gender, they are unwelcome to participate in physical tasks — that they are not strong enough and that only a man qualifies. I resent the message to all our children that we judge the value of contribution based on sex and not competence. What the hell year is this? I better double-check that.
So, I received a slap-on-the-wrist email about how correspondence should be g-rated because some of the students are on the email list. I was slightly confused by this because, in my mind, “penis” is g-rated. Honestly, I would love to have been more colorful — but that would have been inappropriate. I was also slightly confused because it seemed perfectly OK with everyone to send socially regressive requests out that diminish our girl’s sense of worth, but they are now circling the wagons because I used the word penis? To thirteen-year-olds? Really?
To further complicate and add humor to this situation, I signed the note Karen. Now I did this mostly because my name is Karen. However, that also happens to be the name of the school principal. This caused quite stir because everyone thought the principal sent the penis note. Tee hee hee. I didn’t plan it that way, but I love a good farcical mix up.
Karen the principal sent out a note of clarification, reminding us that emails must be “all Disney all the time.” Tee hee hee. That part made me laugh — however the next part did not:
“For the record I’m not a fan of lifting things though, and I don’t really like the mud ”
This is what the principal said in response to the email protesting asking for only dads. Hmm… interesting. So, don’t rock the boat about gender discrimination because we girls don’t like getting all dirty and doing hard work.
This does not make me feel better.
Ladies, this is not a situation of the men holding us back — we are holding ourselves back because we don’t want to step forward if it is icky and muddy. If you want equal pay, guess what? It comes with equal obligation to show up for Pumpkin Chunkin.
Asking for strong parents is smart. Asking for only the ones with a penis is inefficient and a little too Mad Men for 2011.
When I showed the email thread to my thirteen year old boy, I was a little worried he would be embarrassed and ask me why I can’t be more like normal moms. But he didn’t. Instead he offered “Screw them — that is cool.”
Now, I could focus on the fact that my boy just said “Screw them” and how wildly inappropriate that is — or I could just be happy knowing I am doing something right with that boy and embrace the fact that I am now known at school functions and throughout the land as “The Penis Mom.”
Workers are dropping out of the labor force in droves, and they are mostly women. In fact, many are young women. But they are not dropping out forever; instead, these young women seem to be postponing their working lives to get more education. There are now — for the first time in three decades — more young women in school than in the work force.
“I was working part-time at Starbucks for a year and a half,” said Laura Baker, 24, who started a master’s program in strategic communications this fall at the University of Denver. “I wasn’t willing to just stay there. I had to do something.”
Many economists initially thought that the shrinking labor force — which drove down November’s unemployment rate — was caused primarily by discouraged older workers giving up on the job market. Instead, many of the workers on the sidelines are young people upgrading their skills, which could portend something like the postwar economic boom, when millions of World War II veterans went to college through the G.I. Bill instead of immediately entering, and overwhelming, the job market.
Now, as was the case then, one sex is the primary beneficiary. Though young women in their late teens and early 20’s view today’s economic lull as an opportunity to upgrade their skills, their male counterparts are more likely to take whatever job they can find. The longer-term consequences, economists say, are that the next generation of women may have a significant advantage over their male counterparts, whose career options are already becoming constrained.
For now at least, many young women still feel that the deck is stacked against them.
“Almost everyone in my program is female,” said Ms. Baker, who hopes a master’s degree will help her get a job running communications at a nonprofit group. “That’s partly because of the program, but also because as women we feel like we have to be more educated to be able to compete in really any field.”
Women still earn significantly less than men. And in the two and a half years since the recovery officially began, men age 16 to 24 have gained 178,000 jobs, while their female counterparts have lost 255,000 positions, according to the Labor Department.
Apparently discouraged by scant openings, 412,000 young women have dropped out of the labor force entirely in the last two and a half years, meaning they are not looking for work.
Among young men, the labor force fell during the recession but has been flat since the recovery began. Today, across all age groups, an unemployed female worker is 35 percent more likely to drop out of the labor force in the next month than an unemployed male worker.
Some studies suggest that women are pickier about their job choices than men. Already earning lower pay, women are less willing to work when wages fall further, especially if they are able to rely on an employed (and these days, often newly re-employed) husband. Women are also more reluctant to work night or weekend shifts, according to government data on how Americans spend their time, partly because they have more family responsibilities.
“The jobs out there just aren’t very good, and men seem more willing to take them for whatever reason,” said Jonathan L. Willis, an economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City. “The women are looking at those same jobs and saying, ‘I’ll be more productive elsewhere.’ ”
Then there are societal influences that affect a person’s willingness to take a lesser job or return to school.
“There is still this heavy cultural message that men should be out there earning money and supporting themselves, and they feel more distressed by losing their breadwinner role,” said Stephanie Coontz, director of research at the Council on Contemporary Families. “We’ve made much more progress overcoming the ‘feminine mystique’ than this masculine mystique.”
While these roles evolve, community colleges are reporting record enrollment.
Both men and women are going back to school, but the growth in enrollment is significantly larger for women (who dominated college campuses even before the financial crisis). In the last two years, the number of women ages 18 to 24 in school rose by 130,000, compared with a gain of 53,000 for young men.
The education gap aside, in some ways young women will already have an advantage over men in the coming decade. Many of the occupations expected to have the most growth, like home health aides and dental hygienists, have traditionally been filled by women. That is not to say that men cannot take those positions, but they may not want to.
“Today young girls are told they can do anything, go into any occupation. But if boys express any interest in traditionally female occupations, they get teased and bullied,” Ms. Coontz said. “Lots of guys are not understanding what’s happening to traditional low-income or middle-income male jobs.”
Jobs in the male-dominated manufacturing industry and in other sectors involving manual labor have been, and still are, in structural decline. These careers can also be hard to maintain indefinitely because youthful strength eventually fades. And now many manufacturing workers do not have pensions to carry them through when their bodies do break down.
“It doesn’t surprise me that in a poor economy women are ramping up their schooling,” said Heather Boushey, an economist at the Center for American Progress, a left-leaning research organization. “The real question is: Why aren’t more men doing that too?”
The main risk in going back to school is the accompanying student loan debt. Tuition increases have been outpacing inflation for years, a trend accelerated by state budget cuts.
“Our funding per student has been cut 25 percent in the last three years,” said Stephen Scott, the president of Wake Technical Community College in Raleigh, N.C., which is one of the fastest-growing community colleges in the country. Consequently, class sizes have risen, and so has tuition. But the students — again, mostly women — still pour in.
“We now have 6,000 students on a waiting list because we didn’t have the resources to offer more classes,” he said.
Those attending more expensive private schools, like Ms. Baker, will have an even tougher time guaranteeing that their educational investment pays off. Including the loans that financed her undergraduate education at Wartburg College in Waverly, Iowa, she will complete her master’s program next year owing about $200,000 in debt.
“I have to have faith that I will eventually get a good job that pays enough to pay my living expenses and pay back my loans,” she said, “and hopefully make me happy in the process.”
Michelle Hickman, 35, says she was nursing her 5-month-old infant at a Webster Target when several employees asked her to move to the fitting room.
Texas law allows for breastfeeding in private or public, but Hickman says the employees continued to direct her to the dressing room even after she mentioned her rights.
“I was sitting down in the store in a remote area,” Hickman told CNN anchor Isha Sesay on Wednesday. “Not a single person came by that was a customer and I was completely covered with a large blanket. So I don’t see how they find it that offensive.”
Target said it has a longstanding policy of supporting breastfeeding in its stores.
“Guests who choose to breastfeed in public areas of the store are welcome to do so without being made to feel uncomfortable,” Target spokeswoman Jessica Carlson told CNN.
“Additionally, we support the use of fitting rooms for women who wish to breastfeed their babies, even if others are waiting to use the fitting rooms,” her statement read.
“We continually educate our team members in stores across the country on store policies to ensure all guests have a great experience. We worked with this guest directly to address her concerns and are sorry any inconvenience it has caused,” Carlson said.
In a show of solidarity with Hickman, women from Kansas to North Carolina to Florida held “nurse-ins” at Target stores.
In Wilmington, North Carolina, more than a dozen women sat comfortably on the ground with their legs crossed while nursing their babies, most of whom were covered by wraps or blankets. Similar scenes played out at Target stores in Sarasota, Florida; Wichita, Kansas; and Houston.
“Things like this are really wonderful because it takes a lot of mother-to-mother support and even though none of us know the mother in Texas, it’s just a matter of everyone pulling together and saying, it is OK, don’t feel bad about it,” Emily Barnhill, mother of an 18-month-old boy, told CNN Wilmington affiliate WECT.
A Facebook page created to show support for Hickman called “Target Nurse-In” had nearly 7,000 members by late Wednesday.
“Let’s show them just how many mamas they’ve offended. We have the right to shop and meet our babies’ needs while doing so,” the Facebook pages “about me” section said. “Public humiliation for doing so will not be tolerated,” it added.
Earlier this year, a Utah woman breastfeeding in a Whole Foods sparked a nationwide “nurse-in” after she said she was asked by employees to move locations. In early December, a nursing mother in Brighton, United Kingdom, invited a nursing “flash mob” to join her after she was told to stop nursing her baby in a cafe.
In an interesting move that should finally bring the United States’ fast-and-loose advertising rules and regulations into line with the UK and EU, the National Advertising Division (NAD) — the advertising industry’s self-regulating watchdog — has moved to ban the misleading use of photo-shopping and enhanced post-production in cosmetics adverts.
The ban stems from a Procter & Gamble (P&G) CoverGirl ad that photo-shopped a model’s eyelashes to exaggerate the effects of NatureLuxe Mousse Mascara. There was a footnote in the ad’s spiel about the photo being manipulated, but according to the director of the NAD, that simply isn’t enough: “You can’t use a photograph to demonstrate how a cosmetic will look after it is applied to a woman’s face and then — in the mice type — have a disclosure that says ‘okay, not really.’” The NAD ruled that the ad was unacceptable, and P&G has since discontinued it.
So far, so sensible — but some further words from the NAD ruling pose some tricky questions about the continued use of any post production in advertising. Citing a similar situation in the UK, where ads featuring very enhanced versions of Julia Roberts (pictured above) and Christy Turlington were banned, the NAD questions whether photo-shopping is necessary when “professional styling, make-up, photography and the product’s inherent covering and smoothing nature” are already at use. In other words, it sounds like Photoshop is the straw that broke the camel’s back.
Where does this leave other forms of advertising? The human face (and the multibillion dollar cosmetics industry) is obviously a touchy subject, but looking at the bigger picture, almost all television, film, and print advertising uses a combination of “professional styling” and post production to make something look better than it actually is. Will Burger King have to replace those impossibly juicy burgers that hang above the counter with something altogether less plastic and more real? What about those video game ads that don’t feature actual game play — and have tiny-font warnings to that effect — will they be banned too? Extrapolating outwards, what about photographers who photo-shop their work? Or people who photo-shop themselves before placing an image on a dating website?
WASHINGTON (AP) — House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosisaid Sunday that Sen. Scott Brown’s wisecrack about Democratic rival Elizabeth Warren shows he is clueless about women.
During a Democratic primary debate Tuesday, Warren was asked about Brown’s decision to pose nude in a magazine during law school. Asked how she paid for college, Warren said she kept her clothes on.
“Thank God,” Brown laughed during a radio interview about the comment afterward. He later said he was joking.
Nonetheless, Pelosi said Brown should take that comment back.
“I thought it spoke volumes about how clueless Sen. Brown is,” the California Democrat said on ABC’s “This Week.” ”It really spoke volumes about, really, disrespect for women he may not even realize.”
Democrats hope to oust Brown from the Senate seat once held by Ted Kennedy.
The freshman senator has defended his decision to pose for the magazine, saying modeling was his best opportunity to pay for school.
“Let them throw stones. I did what I had to do,” Brown added. “But not for having that opportunity I never would have been able to pay for school.”
Brown attended Tufts University and Boston College Law School, both private universities. Warren, a Harvard law professor and consumer advocate, attended the University of Houston and received a law degree from Rutgers University, both of which are public schools.
Warren, speaking to reporters Thursday afternoon, tried to take Brown’s remark in stride.
“I’ll survive a few jabs from Scott Brown over my appearance,” she said.
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.), a proponent of the bill, told voters last week that its purpose is “to ensure that no taxpayer dollars flow to health care plans that cover abortion and no health care worker has to participate in abortions against their will.”
In fact, the Affordable Care Act already keeps public dollars separate from the private insurance payments that cover abortion. A federal judge ruled in August that the anti-abortion group Susan B. Anthony List had to stop making the claim on its website that “Obamacare” subsidizes abortions because the assertion is false.
“The express language of the [Affordable Care Act] does not provide for taxpayer-funded abortion,” the opinion states. “That is a fact, and it is clear on its face.”
H.R. 358, introduced by Rep. Joe Pitts (R-Pa.), goes beyond the issue of taxpayer dollars to place actual limits on the way a woman spends her own money. The bill would prevent a woman from buying a private insurance plan that includes abortion coverage through a state health care exchange, even though most insurance plans currently cover abortion.
An even more controversial aspect of the bill would allow hospitals that are morally opposed to abortion, such as Catholic institutions, to do nothing for a woman who requires an emergency abortion procedure to save her life. Current law requires that hospitals give patients in life-threatening situations whatever care they need, regardless of the patient’s financial situation, but the Protect Life Act would make a hospital’s obligation to provide care in medical emergencies secondary to its refusal to provide abortions.
“Congress has passed refusal laws before, but it’s never blatantly tried to override emergency care protections,” said Sarah Lipton-Lubet, policy counsel at the American Civil Liberties Union. “We’ve heard proponents of this bill say that women don’t need emergency abortion care, but that is really just willful blindness to the facts.”
According to the American Journal of Public Health, Catholic hospitals already have a years-long history of ignoring the emergency care law to avoid performing abortions. In late 2009, an Arizona bishop excommunicated a nun who authorized an abortion procedure for a woman who otherwise might have died of pulmonary hypertension at a Catholic hospital in Phoenix.
Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) said she personally faced a situation in which an abortion was medically necessary.
“I was pregnant, I was miscarrying, I was bleeding,” she said on the House floor Thursday. “If I had to go from one hospital to the next trying to find one emergency room that would take me in, who knows if I would even be here today. What my colleagues on the other side of the aisle are trying to do is misogynist.”
Despite a strong showing in the House, the bill is unlikely to pass in the Democrat-controlled Senate, and the White House said on Wednesday that President Barack Obama will veto the legislation if it ever reaches his desk.
“The Administration strongly opposes H.R. 358 because … the legislation intrudes on women’s reproductive freedom and access to health care and unnecessarily restricts the private insurance choices that women and their families have today,” the White House said in a statement.
Thousands of women inmates from California prisons could soon be released to be reunited with their families under a program the state began implementing on Monday.
The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation said offenders whose crimes were nonviolent, nonserious and not sexual, with less than two years remaining on their sentences, are eligible for the Alternative Custody Program, which was signed into law in 2010 by then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.
“Approximately two-thirds of CDCR’s female inmates are mothers whose children are either with relatives or are in foster care,” CDCR Secretary Matthew Cate said in a press release. “ACP is a step in breaking the intergenerational cycle of incarceration, as family involvement is one of the biggest indicators of an inmate’s rehabilitation.”
About 45% of the state’s 10,000 female inmates may be eligible for the program, the CDCR said. It may be made available to male inmates in the future, the department said.
Those admitted to the program will wear electronic monitors and be supervised by a parole agent, the CDCR said. They can serve their remaining time at home or in a residential substance-abuse or transitional-care facility, according to the agency.
The prisoners will be allowed to find jobs or attend classes during their release, the department said.
The state of California should save about $6 million a year under the program, the CDCR estimated.
California is under federal pressure to reduce inmate populations. The Supreme Court this summer upheld a lower court ruling that medical and mental health care for inmates in the state prison system falls below the level required by the Constitution.
Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law in April a plan to reduce prison crowding by moving 33,000 low-level offenders to county jails. But the state is cash-strapped, and funding for that plan, estimated at $460 million in the first year, must be approved by voters in November.
California has the nation’s largest prison system.
GENEVA — A U.N. human rights expert has criticized the United States for failing to properly protect women from domestic violence, citing a 1999 Colorado child slaying case.
The U.N. investigator on violence against women, Rashida Manjoo, says U.S. laws on domestic violence lack substance and aren’t properly enforced.
Manjoo singled out the case of Colorado woman Jessica Lenahan whose three daughters were killed by her estranged husband. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights last week sided with Lenahan in a complaint against the United States.
The Washington-based civil-rights tribunal recommended the U.S. government carry out a full investigation of the case and strengthen legislation against domestic violence.
Officials at the U.S. mission in Geneva were unable immediately to comment Tuesday.