reproductive rights

The "People Who Need To Be Punched In The Face" awards…

I think that this would make a good trophy, don’t you?

Because I know myself better than anyone, I decided a long time ago that I’d never buy myself a gun.

Why? Because my Jackass Tolerance has whittled down to nothing over the last 47 years and I may decide to bust a cap in a jackass when I come across one. Seeing that as a reporter I come across jackasses often, I’d probably be considered a serial killer if given a proper firearm.

But while being a reporter means that I come across jackasses often, the Torrent of Jackass has been more like a flood of late.

Between the battle over birth control, something that I thought we all had settled already, to Voter ID laws, to the very existence of Rick Santorum and the recent reminder that we all got that it’s still not safe to be a young Black man armed with a pack of Skittles in this country, I’m awash in jackasses.

But since I don’t have a gun, and for the reasons I’ve mentioned above it’s probably a good thing, the only course of action that I could see myself taking if I ran across any of the jackasses that have littered my path of late is to do what the gentleman pictured above, Muhammad Ali, was really, really good at.

In his heyday, Ali was probably one of the best at Punching People In The Face.

Now I understand that punching people in the face when you’re not in a boxing ring is illegal. And I also realize that many of the people who most deserve to be punched in the face for their actions of late have very large people that they pay for (or in the case of our elected officials, we pay for) to protect them from having folks like me walk up and, well, punch them in the face.

But if I knew that I could punch someone in the face, and not go to jail or get busted up for it, there’s a whole line of people that I’d love to take a swing at because of their special brand of red-hot ignorance… So it is in that vein that I would like to announce the inaugural People Who Need To Be Punched In The Face Awards.

Before we start, some caveats: First of all, the People Who Need To Be Punched In The Face Awards are not literal. I do not now, or will ever, encourage anyone to punch any of these people in the face. This is a metaphoric designation. Secondly, this is non-partisan. There are going to be people of all political stripes deserving of a (metaphoric) punch in the face as this goes on.

And thirdly, I don’t think that I should be the only one having fun with this. If you know someone who deserves a People Who Need To Be Punched In The Face designation, let me know. The Mad (political) Scientist Facebook Page will be up and running soon, so you can put your recommendations either here, on the blog, or on that page.

So now, without further ado, here is the first group of People Who Need To Be Punched In The Face Awards….

Because I believe that charity begins at home, the first of this week’s People Who Need To Be Punched In The Face is Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett.

In all honesty, I didn’t know whether to nominate Gov. Corbett for his championing and signing the voter ID law that I talked about in a previous posting or for cutting education funding to the bone while allowing the Marcellus Shale drillers to make our water undrinkable for practically nothing.

But at a news conference in which he talked about how happy he was to sign a voter ID law that was totally unnecessary, Gov. Corbett was asked about yet another one of those Really Bad Ideas That Will Probably Become Law In Pennsylvania, a trans-vaginal ultrasound law.

Under this law, which has been passed in other connotations in places like Virginia, women would be forced to submit to an ultrasound featuring an internal probe before having an abortion. This is on top of the 24-hour waiting period that women are already forced to go through in Pennsylvania to obtain an abortion. His response made me say…”Wow! He should be Punched In The Face!

I sometimes wonder if the guys who come up with these laws have kids…and if so, if any of these kids are female. If you’re a dude who has female children and you can come up with some nonsense like this, I have to question how you can look these female children in the face without at least apologizing to them.

But then again, some of the most heinous of these laws that seek to take away reproductive choice have, believe it or not, been proposed by women. So what do I know?

The next recipient of a People Who Need To Be Punched In The Face Award is another person taking on the same topic: the reproductive freedom of the women in his state.

This entry comes from Georgia and it’s from the fevered mind of Rep. Terry England. Rep. England has proposed a bill that would make women who have been informed that their child will be stillborn carry the fetus to term and deliver it naturally instead of being allowed the more humane choice of having it removed.

Now we could talk about how doing that would lead to the mother possibly dying because carrying a dead body inside of you for any length of time has to be harmful. But in the mind of this Person Who Really Needs To Be Punched In The Face, it should be okay.

I mean, livestock do it all of the time…

So let’s review: Women with stillborn children should be forced to carry those children to term because hey, chickens and cows do it…so why can’t they?

As Forrest Gump would say, “Stupid is as stupid does…”

But as Your Mad (political) Scientist Says, somebody needs to be Punched In The Face…

Last but not least, my last People Who Need To Be Punched In The Face Award “winner” is another one of those examples of why you don’t have to worry about Your Mad (political) Scientist moving anywhere below the Mason/Dixon Line.

You see, while Pennsylvania has passed some really stupid laws based on some really bad ideas, most of those really, really bad ideas have come from the American South. Among those laws is a law that allows folks to, well, be able to shoot first and ask questions never if they feel threatened by someone. Notice I say “feel threatened”. This person doesn’t actually have to do anything to you.

And it is a manifestation of what happened when one of these laws was followed in Florida that leads to my making George Zimmerman and the Sanford, Fla. Police Department the last of my  People Who Need To Be Punched In The Face.

You probably know the story now. On Feb. 24, 17-year-old Trayvon Martin walked to a convenience store in Sanford to get a pack of Skittles for his little brother and an iced tea for himself. As he walked down the street with his hoodie over his head, town watch person George Zimmerman observed Trayvon as he was “walking around, looking about”.

By the end of the night, Trayvon was dead by the hand of Zimmerman, who had been the subject of a complaint from other residents regarding his Town Watch approach. He had called Sanford police when he first saw Trayvon…and the police told him not to get out of the car. But Zimmerman not only followed Trayvon around, but he got out of the car, fought with him, and later shot him.

Just in case you want to hear the 9-1-1 tapes connected to this incident, here they are:

My favorite part of the whole thing: when Zimmerman says “The assholes always get away…”

Now you have stalking. You have a guy shooting an unarmed kid. You have a guy disobeying a direct order from police. So tell me again why Zimmerman isn’t occupying a cell in Administrative Detention (where they put inmates that would get beaten to death in General Population) in Sanford?

Because the Sanford Police don’t think that Zimmerman has done anything wrong. They say that he’s a good guy and that this is a clean shoot.

Shenanigans! Shenanigans, big time!

Now I understand that Zimmerman has moved from his home and isn’t taking calls because people are threatening him behind Trayvon’s death. While I don’t think that’s cool, I also don’t think it’s cool that he’s walking around after shooting a 17-year-old armed with a bag of Skittles and a can of iced tea.

Notice that I haven’t even brought up the whole White Man/Black Kid thing…

But it’s kind of the reason why I hope the Department of Justice takes a look at this. It’s obvious to me that if we’re waiting for the Sanford Police to do something, we’re gonna have a long wait. Maybe the Justice Department will move a little faster. Or at all. That seems like the only way that the Martin family will get justice…

And that, ladies and gentlemen, ends this week’s People Who Need To Be Punched In The Face Awards.

Hope that you had as much fun as I did picking the winners! Remember: you can leave your own nominations on the blog here or on our Facebook page once it’s up and running. Thank you and Goodnight!

Are you smarter than a Pennsylvanian?

Former PA Senator Rick Santorum…notice I said “former”

Because he’s probably the only photographer I’ve ever worked with that is as big a wiseacre as I am, one of my former colleagues at the Bucks County Courier Times, Harry Sircely, took a picture of me interviewing former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, the dude who is currently the frontrunner for the Republican nomination for President of the United States.

I was covering a National Day of Prayer event in Bucks County at the time. Once a year, the folks who organize the annual Day of Prayer take this time to mix politics and religion in a blatant way instead of the more stealth way that it’s usually done. So naturally, Rick Santorum, a man who believes that this blatant mixing should be done more than once a year, would be a good guest speaker at one of these.

After sitting through a breakfast that for me consisted of a danish, a couple of slices of bacon (eggs from a carton and I don’t get along), a glass of cranberry juice and lots of coffee and listening to Santorum’s speech, I went to interview him. I guess that I must have asked a question that he didn’t like because the picture that Harry shot of Santorum and I is one of him looking like he wanted to punch me…something that I was kind of proud of, by the way.

Now I bring this up for two reasons: one, because it is yet another one of those Reasons I Refuse To Ever Return To A Newsroom On Purpose. I say this because there were times at the Courier Times that I felt like I was being hazed. Why? Because I felt like folks were sending me to places like the National Day of Prayer and the Christian Coalition Rally at the 2000 Republican National Convention as a test. I felt like the editors were saying “Hey, let’s send Denise to this and watch what happens!”

And secondly, I bring this up because the GOP is coming real close to putting Rick Santorum up as its nominee for President of the United States for 2012. He’s leading former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney by 10 percentage points in nationwide polls and is riding some momentum due to recent caucus wins and strong showings in GOP primaries.

As someone who is insane enough to follow politics, this says to me that any moderates remaining in the Republican Party are basically being told to “pound sand”! If you’ve noticed, all of the folks vying for the GOP nomination, even Romney who was at one time moderate enough to be elected governor of Massachusetts, is going so far to the right that they soon will be unable to make left turns. While this rightward turn may make someone like Romney a little more trustworthy to the hardcore true believers who will actually decide who gets to go against President Barack Obama in November, it may also make it harder to trend toward the center and attract independents when it’s time for voters to hit the polls.

But as a Pennsylvanian, the fact that Rick Santorum is having so strong a showing in the GOP primaries makes me say “Are y’all friggin’ nuts?!”

You see, having lived in Pennsylvania since 1996, I’ve found that the state that I call home can make my head spin so hard that I feel like Linda Blair in The Exorcist…or Nicki Minaj on Grammy night…whichever frame of reference works for you.

I truly believe that when Democratic political strategist James Carville described Pennsylvania by saying “There’s Philadelphia, there’s Pittsburgh, and the rest is Alabama”, he was being kind. I lived in the state’s Alabama section, so I’ve experienced this firsthand. Throughout that time, Santorum was our Senator, and while our other senator at the time, Arlen Spector, was known for being an effective statesman, Santorum was known for only two things: opposing abortion and pissing off gays and lesbians.

Because it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than it is to defeat an incumbent in Pennsylvania, Santorum kept getting elected. People complained vehemently about him, but he brought Alabama (and Dauphin County, which is where Pittsburgh is located) to the polls. He was from that area and folks tend to support their homeboys in the Keystone State.

However in 2006, the Democrats here in Pennsylvania got kinda smart. They brought Bob Casey Jr. in to run against Santorum, something that basically amounted to a name change. Casey is the son of former Pennsylvania Gov. Bob Casey, of “Planned Parenthood v. Casey” fame. (Google it.) A lot of pro-choice women in Pennsylvania were put between a rock and a hard place because no matter who won this election, they lost. It basically amounted to changing the seat from a hardcore, anti-choice Catholic Republican to a hardcore, anti-choice Catholic Democrat. Casey won…but women lost.

But the election did what it was supposed to, which was to get Rick Santorum out of office. Unfortunately, we’ve sicced him on the rest of you.

And here’s what that has meant so far…

He started out campaign season by telling folks in Iowa in a pretty matter-of-fact way “I don’t want to make black people’s lives better by giving them someone else’s money; I want to give them the opportunity to go out and earn the money…”

Now there’s a couple of things wrong with that statement: one, statistics show that there are more white folks on welfare than anyone else and two, the statistics I just mentioned mean that it’s not just black folks that aren’t working out there, it’s everybody.

However, Santorum didn’t stop there because that would be too much like right.

After offending African Americans, he decided to piss women off.

As part of that chunk of the GOP that refuses to recognize that the whole “keep ’em barefoot and pregnant” philosophy won’t work in the Age of Facebook, Santorum has become a general in the Fight Against Contraception. Because Health Care Reform requires religious-based employers who hire folks outside the faith to cover birth control for their female employees, Santorum joined a bunch of Catholic bishops in saying that this is a abridgment of religious freedom.

When President Obama compromised and told these institutions that the insurance companies themselves would provide the contraception and they didn’t have to, it still wasn’t enough for Santorum, who believes that contraception is a product of “radical feminism” and has “ruined the family and society.”

Heck, one of his surrogates said basically that women should go back to a more old fashioned brand of birth control…a Bayer aspirin between your knees.

(Oh, yeah! That worked…)

And don’t even get me started on his views regarding pre-natal testing (he thinks it’ll lead to more abortions…really…I’m not kiddin’…) and public schools (they shouldn’t exist…)

He’s also not really big on women in the military…or women in the workforce…or women doing anything other than bearing children and having dinner on the table when the man comes home from work…

(If he’s got a job, that is..)

But while he’s got problems with people of color and with women demanding their right to be something other than pregnant, Santorum saves his special ire for members of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trangendered and Questioning community.

One of the reasons why Pennsylvanians finally showed Santorum the door is because his views regarding gay and lesbian issues were such that the entire state was being made a laughing stock because of them…that and the fact that gays and lesbians live in “Alabama” too…

In the World According to Rick Santorum, allowing gays and lesbians to marry will lead to allowing people to enter the bounds of holy matrimony with everything from their cousins to their family pet, which is why he’s since proposed abolishing the entire Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals because it struck down California’s Proposition 8 as unconstitutional.

Now when you want to get rid of an entire court of appeals over one issue, you’re kinda hardcore.

(Do I have to say the whole “How seriously should I take any ritual that can be performed legally by an Elvis Impersonator and that Michael Jackson was allowed to enter into twice” thing? No. Good.)

Now all I’ve given you is the highlights.

But I don’t think that I’ve explained to you why that picture of me and former Sen. Santorum features him looking at me like he wanted to knock me out.

One thing that I’ve always enjoyed about being a reporter is the fact that I have a constitutionally protected right to ask questions….even if those questions piss you off. If you don’t wanna answer them, fine. If you don’t like that I’ve challenged you, okay. But I have that right.

I exercised it with Santorum….and I think that I remember the question I asked. It was “If abortion is made illegal and women are made to have more kids, are you going to advocate that more money be added to the government’s allocation to public schools and for other assistance for these kids?”

Most of the time, asking conservatives a question like that, especially a conservative that counts among his legislative achievements so-called welfare reform, will make them look at you like they want to punch you in the mouth. But to me, it’s a legitimate question, especially since I know that you will greet these mothers and these children with a special brand of contempt if they’re hungry, homeless, or worse yet, ill.

To be honest, I get why Rick Santorum is doing what he’s doing and saying what he’s saying. He’s found an audience. He’s got a group of people in the hard right wing of the Republican Party that will not only listen to what he’s saying, but will slurp it up like a kitten drinks milk.

But if he’s the Republican nominee, the question is gonna be “Are you smarter than a Pennsylvanian?”

For years, Pennsylvanians allowed Santorum to represent them, but after a while, we grew tired of his schtick. It wasn’t doing anything for us. It wasn’t bringing us anything but ridicule. We decided we had enough.

While his schtick nationally might make social conservatives dance in the aisles because they might be one step closer to putting women back in their “place”, might be able to get rid of that “Black Muslim Terrorist” currently occupying the White House and will be able to put all of those gays and lesbians brave enough to serve their country back into the closet, Santorum hasn’t talked much about the one thing that everyone in America needs right now: a job.

Are you smarter than a Pennsylvanian?

We may find out come November.