Friday, May 30, 2008

John McCain will overturn Roe vs Wade

Arianna Huffington wrote an article in the Huffington Post the other day about common misconceptions of McCain's stance on reproductive rights.

She begins by noting that there are a number of Clinton supporters who have said they would rather vote for McCain than Obama in November (or not vote at all), should Obama win the nomination.

She then points out that the policy differences between Clinton and Obama are minor compared with those between both Democrats and McCain - and that nowhere is this more profound than in the area of reproductive rights:

I was in Seattle last week giving a speech at a fundraising lunch for Votes! Washington, the political arm of Planned Parenthood in Washington State. At the event, the group's CEO Elaine Rose told me about a poll that Planned Parenthood had commissioned of women in 16 battleground states [pdf]. The results are startling:

Over half of all women in these states have no idea what McCain's positions are on reproductive health. Forty-nine percent of women in battleground states who currently favor McCain are pro-choice. Twenty-three percent of them believe McCain agrees with them on choice.

The good news is, 36 percent of pro-choice McCain supporters are less likely to vote for him after learning that McCain opposes Roe v. Wade and favors making most abortions illegal. That number hits 38 percent when those voters learn that McCain has also consistently voted against expanding access to programs that reduce pregnancy and the need for abortion, consistently voted in favor of abstinence-only programs, and against legislation requiring insurance companies to cover birth control.

She then goes on to say:
Since 1983, in votes in the House and the Senate (where he has served since 1987), McCain has cast 130 votes on abortion and other reproductive-rights issues. 125 of those votes were anti-choice [pdf]. Among his voting lowlights:
  • He has repeatedly voted to deny low-income women access to abortion care except in cases of rape, incest, or danger to the mother's life (although McCain is now wavering on trying to put these exceptions into the party platform).

  • He voted to shut down the Title X family-planning program, which provides millions of women with health care services ranging from birth control to breast cancer screenings.

  • He voted against legislation that established criminal and civil penalties for those who use threats and violence to keep women from gaining access to reproductive health clinics.

  • He voted to uphold the policy that bans overseas health clinics from receiving aid from America if they use their own funds to provide legal abortion services or even adopt a pro-choice position.

  • Of his anti-choice voting record, McCain has said, "I have many, many votes and it's been consistent," proudly adding: "And I've got a consistent zero from NARAL" through the years. And last month he told Chris Matthews: "The rights of the unborn is one of my most important values."

What's more, McCain has made it very clear that if he becomes president he will appoint judges in the Scalia, Roberts, Alito mold. His big judicial speech earlier this month was filled with coded buzz words that make it clear that, if given the chance, he'd replace 88-year-old Justice John Paul Stevens with an anti-choice Justice who would tip the scales against Roe v Wade. Throw in an additional anti-choice replacement for the 75-year-old Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and you can kiss the right to choose good-bye for a long, long time.

The full article is here - Unmasking McCain: His Reactionary Record on Reproductive Rights - with lots of useful links for more info.

I think it's an important consideration for anyone who's pro-choice - whether they're a Democrat or a Republican. If John McCain wins in November, there's a very real risk that Roe vs Wade will be overturned - and women across the country would be looking at a return to the bad old days of backstreet abortions, with all the health risks that that implies.

On his website, John McCain says:
John McCain believes Roe v. Wade is a flawed decision that must be overturned, and as president he will nominate judges who understand that courts should not be in the business of legislating from the bench.

Constitutional balance would be restored by the reversal of Roe v. Wade, returning the abortion question to the individual states. The difficult issue of abortion should not be decided by judicial fiat.

You can read McCain's whole statement here - John McCain: Overturning Roe v. Wade

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Sunday, May 25, 2008

Hillary, please stop this. Now.

Abraham Lincoln, James Garfield, William McKinley, John F Kennedy.

Andrew Jackson, Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry Truman, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George H W Bush, Bill Clinton, George W Bush.

Malcolm X, Martin Luther King Jr, Robert F Kennedy.

America has a long and distressing history involving the assassination and attempted assassination of presidents, presidential candidates and polarising political figures. To discuss this in terms of current political events or to revisit the spectre of political assassination in the US is pretty much taboo - especially in this year of ground-breaking (and some would say controversial and polarising) candidates.

You don't speak the unthinkable because - it's unthinkable. And dangerous (there are some pretty nutty people out there). Not to mention hurtful, insensitive, callous and stupid.

Clinton: This is the most important job in the world. It's the toughest job in the world. You should be willing to campaign for every vote. You should be willing to debate anytime, anywhere. I think it's an interesting juxtaposition where we find ourselves and you know, I have been willing to do all of that during the entire process and people have been trying to push me out of this ever since Iowa and I find it...

EB: Why? Why?

Clinton: I don't know I don't know I find it curious because it is unprecedented in history. I don't understand it and between my opponent and his camp and some in the media, there has been this urgency to end this and you know historically that makes no sense, so I find it a bit of a mystery.

EB: You don't buy the party unity argument?

Clinton: I don't, because again, I've been around long enough. You know my husband did not wrap up the nomination in 1992 until he won the California primary somewhere around the middle of June

EB: June

Clinton: We all remember Bobby Kennedy was assassinated in June in California. Um you know I just I don't understand it. There's lots of speculation about why it is.

It's been clear to me for a while now that the Clinton camp has been working on a number of Plan Bs once it became virtually impossible for her to win the most delegates. These have all involved keeping the campaign going - taking it as far as a bloody battle at the convention if they have to.

Until yesterday, the most recent - and in my mind most ridiculous - strategy has been the ongoing argument about seating the Florida and Michigan delegates - even though they broke the rules, knew the consequences, and even though Clinton and her advisers agreed to those rules at the time, and have only brought up the "disenfranchisement" argument since they realised they needed the numbers in order to even get close to Obama's totals.

Clinton's argument (especially when she started comparing Florida and Michigan to the Civil Rights movement, women's suffrage and - God help us all - Zimbabwe) showed a level of hypocrisy and a willingness to continually move the goalposts and change her position as and when it suited her to do so. Not a good attribute in a president.

The "hard working Americans - white Americans" argument has been another classic example - try and make people believe that Obama can't win the white working-class vote, in the vain hope that the undecided supers can be persuaded that Clinton's the best candidate. I mean, come on, she's got a point, hasn't she? Let's look at this AlJazeera report...

Nasty... let's send out a dog whistle to those people in the Appalachians who have a problem getting their heads around a black man becoming president, shall we? Personally, I wouldn't want a president who's willing to widen the racial divide to get there, even if it's only in a relatively small part of the country.

But this latest comment by Clinton is, in my opinion, the most egregious of all. Whether she meant it this way or not, it's easy to read her comment as "I'm staying in the race in case something really bad happens to Obama..."

And that's something you just.don't.say.

Malcolm X, Martin Luther King Jr, John F Kennedy, Robert F Kennedy. Four powerful, charismatic, polarising political figures who offered great hope to some, and the coming of the apocalypse to others. Four American political giants cut down in their prime by the assassin's bullet.

Listen. We know there are racists out there. We know there are crazy people out there. We know that Obama's had Secret Service protection since May 2007 - the earliest for any presidential candidate ever - because of death threats that arose as soon as he announced his candidacy. We know that the reason why Colin Powell didn't stand in 1996 was because his wife was afraid he'd be shot. We know that many people in the black community have quietly expressed the same fear in regards to Obama.

We know this. Clinton knows this.

I think this was a major, serious, and (hopefully) campaign-ending Freudian slip by Clinton.

It's been pretty clear for ages that's she's been hanging in there, slinging mud at every opportunity (Rev Wright, Bill Ayers, "he's not a Muslim... as far as I know", white working class voters, Bittergate etc etc), hoping that something - anything - would stick, or that Obama would slip up, and make a mistake so large that his support would be fatally damaged and she could step into the nomination that she appears to believe is hers by right...

But I don't know that anyone really thought that deep within her lay even the whisper of the thought that she needs to hang in there in case the same fate that befell RFK should befall Obama. Whether it was through tiredness, cold calculation, or a slip of the tongue, I think what Hillary revealed through that comment was a glimpse into her soul. And it ain't pretty.

It should also be, in my opinion, the final nail in the coffin that is the Clinton campaign.

Hillary, please stop this. Now. And if she won't stop, then the supers or the DNC, or someone needs to step in and stop her. This has gone too far.

I'll leave the final comment to the great Keith Olbermann. He says it best (and boy, is he angry!)

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Thursday, May 15, 2008

Edwards endorses Obama - at last!

I was an Edwards girl before I was an Obama girl, and since I switched to Obama once Edwards withdrew from the race - and knew a heck of a lot of other Edwards supporters who had done the same - I've been hoping for, like, ever, that John would endorse Barack... and today he did.

At last! Hooray!

I read a very interesting diary on DailyKos today that made the argument that the the timing of the announcement was perfect - and I have to say, it made a lot of sense to me.

TallJames said:

Endorsing before North Carolina would have been a waste because they knew they were going to crush there. Endorsing before West Virginia would make Hillary's predicted victory look even stronger (i.e. "Barack can't win even with Edwards' endorsement").

Endorse after W.V. and, in a single move, completely blunt the numerical, symbolic, psychological and media victory that Hillary could have proclaimed.

Oh yeah, and put on a powerful piece of political theater that viscerally and visually demonstrated what a united Democratic party looks like on prime time TV.

I like the way you think, dude!

I also LOVED the way Edwards spoke in his endorsement speech with Obama today. My God! What a speech! Fantastic!

My dream ticket has been Obama:Edwards for quite a while now, and I could SO see this speech as a VP nominee's opening statement.


I'm sure it won't happen, and there are plenty of other great possibilities for VP (just not Hillary though, PLEASE!), but still, a girl can dream, can't she?

Part One of Edwards' speech

Part Two of Edwards' speech

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Sunday, May 04, 2008

Bugger the drugs, I'm changing my attitude!

Being in constant pain is not fun. I've started to feel like a victim. The pain battered away at my defences until it broke through and beat me down. I had begun to feel so fragile I was afraid to sneeze in case I put my neck out of alignment again.

The cocktail of drugs I blogged about a week ago has been my doctor's answer to pretty much everything. As I said last week, I decided to take myself off the codeine because of the nightmares and the hallucinations (not to mention the constipation!), so on Sunday night I chucked them out and went cold turkey.

There are some pretty unpleasant stories out there in Google-land about taking oneself off morphine-derivatives - but they're generally from people who've been self-medicating for years, taking up to 100 tabs a day. Crikey! My six a day for a month didn't come close... Even for the worst cases the come-down only lasts a week or so, so I suppose all-told it wasn't too bad, but psychologically it wasn't that great.

This week I hit rock bottom. I had my second osteopathic treatment on Monday, and on Tuesday I felt pretty bloody awful. The osteo had changed the pains, from the incredibly aggravating zizzy pain in my arm, to sharp shooting pains in my neck, shoulder blade, shoulder, elbow, arm and hand. I was happy that the zizzy stuff had gone, but I wasn't too keen on what had replaced it! And because I'd taken myself off the codeine, I was pretty much on my own for the first day or so.

On Wednesday I asked my doctor for a different pain-killer that wasn't morphine-based, and she suggested Acupan (2 x 30mg of Nefopam hydrochloride, three times a day). Off the codeine, onto the Acupan. Problem is, one of the side-effects of Acupan is feelings of nervousness or anxiety, which are quite rare, just as the nightmares and hallucinations are a rare side-effect of codeine - but guess what, I got them.

They'd start with a feeling of fear in my tummy, that swiftly rose up my body towards my throat, and which I'd have to push away by breathing deeply to calm myself down. It was horrible - like the feeling you get when you've drunk waaay too much coffee, only much worse. It was strongest at night when I was trying to get to sleep, and for the past few nights I've tossed and turned in my bed, desperate to fall asleep, but being unable to because of the waves of anxiety continually flowing through me.

It felt as though the Acupan was fighting with the sleeping pills I've been taking, particularly because another side-effect of the Acupan is insomnia. Doh!

So I've decided I'm getting off Acupan too, seeing as it doesn't actually help much with the pain (this weekend I got up latelatelate, missed a dose of painkillers and didn't really notice any difference in pain levels), and I really don't like the anxiety thing. So I've given up the Acupan. Today was my first day without it.

After a month of taking the "sleeping pills" I decided belatedly to Google those too, which I did last night. To my surprise, the Amitrip I've been taking isn't actually a sleeping pill, it's an anti-depressant. Fuck me! Apparently doctors often prescribe anti-depressants as a first-step sleeping pill, because they're not as strong as the real thing.

Anyway, I've decided I'm not really into taking anti-depressants, particularly as they haven't been working particularly effectively as sleeping pills since I came off the codeine and onto the Acupan. Googling has also opened my eyes to the fact that many people lose the ability to go to sleep naturally once they start using sleeping pills, and I really really don't want to go there, so... tossing out the Amitrip!

And while I'm at it, I've decided to give up the anti-inflammatories too. Well I figure after a month my body must be un-inflamed, surely... Which means I also get to give up the drugs to protect my tummy from the anti-inflammatories. Excellent!

I can also chuck out the laxatives I was prescribed to combat the constipation caused by the codeine... and voila!

From what feels like a dozen different drugs to just one - good old Neurofen. I know it works (it always fixes my headaches, even though it couldn't cope with the severe pain I was in at the start of this whole mess), and it doesn't feel like it's fighting with my body like every single pill I've been prescribed so far.

But what's really important is that at the same time as giving up (almost) all the drugs, I've also decided to change my attitude to what's been happening to me for the last month.

By the end of this week I'd really had enough of being beaten down by the pain, and for a couple of days, I just gave up and let it win. I didn't go to work on Thursday or Friday, I just stayed in bed half the day, and slept, and dozed, and did nothing much, and felt sorry for myself, and focused on every little twinge, every pain, every ache, every sense of someone's-sticking-a-knife-in-my-back. Too.much.pain. It was no fun at all.

And then, for no apparent reason, I decided yesterday I was absolutely sick of feeling like a victim. I was fed up with feeling so fragile that I was afraid to sneeze. I had had enough of holding myself so carefully that I was tensing up all the time. And I was over feeling sorry for myself.

So now I've decided that I'm absolutely fine, and that my body is healthy and whole - with the occasional (or even constant) sharp ache in my neck, shoulder and arm. That's how I'm looking at it now, instead of seeing myself as a big mass of pain with a person hidden somewhere inside.

Over the past couple of weeks I've had three osteopathic treatments, and I think the focus on natural healing that you get with osteo is important too. It goes well with the acupuncture I've been having, and goes very well with the whole getting off the drugs thing.

Last Sunday I went to Batucada practice for the first time in about 6 weeks. I didn't go to play - there's no way I was ready for drumming, but I went to listen and to hang out with the gang. Thing is, the vibrations from the 50-odd drums in the room set my arm off something horrible, and I was in mad pain for the whole of the rest of the day and into the night.

This week I went again, with my new attitude, and without that hideous zizzy pain in my arm that had got so badly set off last week. We had a caixa sectional practice before the full rehearsal, but we couldn't get into the rehearsal room because we didn't have a key. Instead of hanging around waiting for a key to turn up we decided to practise the rhythms by singing them, and tapping them out on our legs and bodies with our hands. Hey! I can do this! I thought. So I did. My right arm is very weak, and it got pretty tired, but I did OK, and the pain really wasn't so bad.

Once the key turned up and we started our full rehearsal, I planned to sit it out and just listen like I did last week - but the rhythm was so infectious, and I felt so good, I got up and joined the caixa line and practiced stepping and drumming with my hands on my legs like we'd done in the sectional. Wow! Really not much pain at all!

Went to the pub afterwards, felt fine, came home, felt even better, and now I'm sitting here on the sofa typing this with BOTH HANDS for the first time in a month - ands there's virtually no pain at all, just a little bit of discomfort now and again.

OK this is so weird. How did I go from being at rock bottom less than a week ago, to feeling like I'm almost recovered today?

I have noticed that over the last few days the numbness in my fingers and hand has been diminishing. (I think it's the osteo doing its thing). This is the primary symptom that showed the specialist I'd trapped a nerve around C6 (not C2 and C3 as I thought when I blogged last week). So I guess that the stretching of my spine by my osteopath is freeing up the nerve again...

I think the reason why I feel so great today is due to a perfect storm of good things all coming together at once.

Osteo beginning to work. Come off all those nasty drugs that have been fighting with my body and with each other. Change my attitude to the pain. Change my attitude to the way I cope with the pain. Go do something I really enjoy with people I really like. Stop feeling sorry for myself.

How cool.

One thing I have learned over this past month, which I will try very hard to keep in the forefront of my mind, is that you should never ever take your good health and fitness for granted. It can be gone in an instant, and illness or hurt can take over your life and change it drasically - and for the worse.

The other thing that I have learned is that if the bad stuff does happen, there's a huge amount you can do to make it as bad as it can be - and there's a huge amount you can do to make it as good as it can be. It all depends upon your attitude, your point of view, and your inner strength.

I know that there were many times over the past four or five weeks where I definitely did not have the inner strength to combat how bad I was feeling, and where I was pretty much powerless to help myself. That's what happens when you're being attacked by never-ending pain, and there's not always anything you can do about that.

But I also know that somehow, once the pain was at a low enough level for me to deal with it better, some part of me came bouncing back up and said "Bugger the drugs, I'm changing my attitude!"

And by golly - it works!

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