Wonk’s Saturday Reads: Women’s Rights, America’s Infrastructure, and Hillary’s Red Coat

Morning, news junkies…so are you ready for the gazillionth end of the world or what? I have to say, even after reading the FAQ at that link, I’m still a little unclear on the rules here in Texas. Do pregnant women have to get a sonogram before they can get raptured?

This Day in History (May 21)

  • The painting to the right is by New Deal/WPA-era artist Jerry Bywaters. Bywaters was born on this day in 1906, in Paris, TX, and died in 1989. Via the Blanton, at the Univ. of Texas:

In Oil Field Girls, Bywaters used a somber palette to describe the bleak and thinly populated west Texas landscape. With its economically depressed vistas, the town (if it can be called that) is clearly godforsaken. By contrast, the women poised to hitch a ride out of those sad environs are vivid and forceful; although they are most likely working as prostitutes, Bywaters made no apparent judgment of them, instead vesting them with a vitality, even ambition, that offers the picture’s only hope. A canny mixture of reportage and editorial commentary, Oil Field Girls is a history painting that captures a surprisingly humane narrative of a specific time and place.

I chose Oil Field Girls for the spotlight this Saturday because it reflects my mood lately, especially here in Texas. As I look at it, I’m visualizing all of us brazen little hussies at the grassroots hitching a ride out of our politically regressive environs. Something’s gotta give. The headlines, which I’ll get to in a moment, are that dreary.

First, a quick tidbit from Francine Carraro’s Jerry Bywaters: a life in art…

For Bywaters the major contribution of the New Deal art project was the nationwide advancement of art and the decentralization of the art world. The golden age of American art could come for Bywaters only with the developing of “original art of the provinces . . . [rather] than provincial imitations of New York or European art.”

If your interest is piqued by any of the above, you might enjoy a virtual mini-tour of Bywaters’ WPA murals housed in the Paris public library, via someone who was kind enough to put them up on flickr. I especially recommend Paris Fire of 1916 and Rebuilding for the story they tell. Note the young boy at the lower right corner on the first. Bywaters was ten years old at the time of the Paris fire.

And, now for the week-in-review…

Women’s Rights: Texas

I’m going to focus on a bit of what’s been going on in my state. I hope some of you chime in with what’s going on in yours.

The forced sonogram has already gotten ink, so I’m going to try to draw out some of the other angles of abortion politics in the Lone Star state. This item is from the Austin American-Statesman the other day — Abortion fight derails women’s health initiative. If you haven’t been following this development, the article at the link gives a good overview of the dynamics at play.

Also see the Houston Chronicle — Texas House approves key Medicaid funding overhaul:

AUSTIN, Texas — The Texas House voted late Thursday to strip state funding to all hospitals and clinics that perform abortions or even “abortion-related services,” endorsing an obscure amendment tacked onto an already convoluted overhaul of Medicaid funding and disbursements.

It’s despicable enough that, in a state where one in four people are uninsured no less, Rick Perry and his American Taliban flank have fast-tracked their anti-abortion agenda as an emergency legislative priority to “save lives” and this week made forced sonograms and Choose Life propaganda license plate options the law of the land in Texas while sending us on our way to stripping all state-funding from hospitals that provide abortion and abortion-related services. On top of that they’re jeopardizing the healthcare of thousands of low-income mothers and daughters. If the Women’s Health Program is not renewed, not only will it cut access to contraceptives but to screening for cancer, diabetes, blood pressure, anemia, and STDs. Unconscionable.

The control freaks can’t stand that 46% of women who access the program do it through Planned Parenthood, so women’s health be damned. State officials say the Women’s Health Program saved the state $21.4 million in 2008 by cutting back the number of births financed by Medicaid, but the state budget and taxpayer be damned too. Neither fiscally sound nor morally acceptable…but there they are, the Republican “family values” on display.

We already saw how PP’s lawsuit in Indiana went nowhere, but for what it’s worth this is what Planned Parenthood –Gulf Coast has to say:

Planned Parenthood will never back down from providing Texas women affordable reproductive health care. We have delivered a letter to Senator Deuell clarifying that if his bill passes the Senate, Planned Parenthood will pursue litigation on behalf of low-income Texas women who choose Planned Parenthood health centers for their health care.

We need your help. Please call your State Senator today and tell them to vote NO on SB 1854.

This is a freaking mess here in the “Don’t Mess with…” state. Meanwhile, the peanut gallery tried to “draft Rick Perry” again. Even Perry sorta yawned this time, with Perry adviser Dave Carney laying it on extra thick and saying Guv Goodhair “doesn’t have the fire to be president. Well, he sure does have the the fire to gut women’s health and health coverage in general apparently.

A few more notes out of Texas…

  • Check out this wild little extended metaphor/thought experiment from E.R. Bills in Fort Worth, via Dissident Voice — We Have Bigger Abbortive Problems Than Abortion. That’s all you’re going to get in the way of a teaser. If I excerpted, it would ruin the fun.

Maryland abortion provider under attack

Just a quick link on this, but it’s important. The American Independent has the scoop on “Summer of Mercy 2.0” — Radical anti-choice group targeting new abortion provider, previously went after George Tiller.

American Dystopia: News and Views

I’ve got a lot to cover so I’m not going to quote extensively from BAR this weekend, but I do want to point you to Bruce A. Dixon’s report this week, which echoes what I have long maintained about Obama being more of a “Don’t make ME do it” president than a “Make me do it” one like FDR.

Speaking of things Obama doesn’t want any of us to make him do too much about… Scripps Howard columnist Ann McFeatters on America’s Crumbling Infrastructure:

MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow has been trying to raise the alert, filming short TV commercials in front of such monuments to government efficiency as the Hoover Dam. Individuals, corporations, cities and states do not build such things, she rightly notes; only nations can do it.

For 30 years, the United States has defied the need to repair and upgrade its infrastructure, spending the money on war, on defense, on entitlements — everything but making sure the roof wouldn’t leak. Leaks are appearing.

Of course if the oligarchy can keep the populace regularly fed on urban myths and religious claptrap about how we are all going to be buried under earthquake rubble or some other such hocus pocus within a matter of hours, I suppose they think we won’t disturb our beautiful minds too much over such leaks increasingly appearing in our infrastructure.

McFeatters references the 2011 Infrastructure report from the Urban Land Institute which warns that we will reach a breaking point in 5-10 years.

She ends her editorial with the grim picture of where we are headed:

If we do not act, which looks likely because of the determination in Washington to cut spending — Congress consistently refuses to pass a surface transportation planning act, this is what will happen:

Americans will spend an ever-greater portion of their incomes on services such as tap water, some of which will be undrinkable. There will be new tolls on highway driving and bridges and existing tolls will dramatically increase. Gasoline prices will soar, pushed by higher federal gas taxes.

Some cash-strapped cities will simply stop providing basic services, letting private companies take them over. Road maintenance in rural areas will become problematic. Bridges will collapse and not be rebuilt.

The badly needed new national electric grid to save energy will not be developed. A state-of-the-art satellite air traffic control system will not be built.

In 30 years, there will be almost 100 million more people living in the United States, but the infrastructure will not support 400 million Americans.

The really sad and disturbing part for me is that this seems like the oligarchy’s plan. An entire generation will be left behind so that no profit will.

Next up, a must-read essay in the American Chronicle by Gary Ater — ARE WE TODAY FAILING THE EFFORTS OF OUR PARENTS AND GRANDPARENTS? Ater goes through the New Deal Alphabet Soup listing several projects that would have never been built without these government agencies and calling it “one of the greatest infrastructure legacies of anything that could ever have been passed on to its inheritors,” and then asks:

But how are we inheritors treating that legacy today?

Well, as an example, due to a lack of maintenance, thousands of our nation´s bridges, built by our parents and grandparents decades ago, are in the position today to replicate the 2007 collapse of the Interstate 35 bridge in Minnesota. That bridge was listed as being in serious trouble, but it was still allowed to carry 140,000 cars every day until the day it collapsed. This situation could easily be replicated across the country with other federal buildings, hydroelectric dams, coal burning and nuclear power plants, schools, hospitals, libraries, airports, rail stations, levees, canals, tunnels and roads and highways. At any time, any of these old 1930 to 1960 structures, roads, bridges or past projects could go the way of Minnesota´s I-35 bridge.

And as it was in the 1930´s, the conservatives are once again saying, “America cannot afford to spend tax-payers revenue on its critical infrastructure situation”.

I say, as it was back then, in today´s down economy, we can´t afford NOT to invest in American workers and their ability to restore, or build new, all that we have inherited over the past decades.

Ater goes on to say that we need to replace everyone who doesn’t want to rebuild America with everyone who does. Unfortunately, at the end of a piece that was otherwise astute, he seems to suggest that we can do that by making a choice between Republicans and Democrats in 2012. I’d argue that the American people already made that choice in 2008 and look where it got us. It’s not as simple as who we pick on election day.

For a contrast, and since the wingnuts will just reflexively and mindlessly yell “socialist!” at anyone not in their tribe anyway, I would like to take a look at what actual socialists are saying and put it out there for discussion. This is a recent opinion piece in the WSWS by the SEP’s National Secretary Joseph Kishore — The social counterrevolution in America and the tasks of the working class:

The general strikes in Toledo, San Francisco and Minneapolis in 1934, followed by the great sit-down strikes in Michigan in 1936 and 1937, propelled the reforms of the New Deal, including Social Security, and the gains of manufacturing workers throughout the country. Medicare and Medicaid in the 1960s were the byproduct of the mass mobilization of workers in the civil rights movement, combined with the militant labor struggles of the post-war period.

For the last 40 years, these gains have been under persistent attack. Vast sums of wealth were transferred upwards, into the hands of the financial and corporate elite, fueling the stock market mania of the 1990s and 2000s.

Now under the Obama administration, this scorched earth policy is entering a new phase. The first step was taken last year under the guise of “health care reform,” a drive to reduce corporate and government spending under the fraudulent slogan of “universal coverage.” Now, there is little attempt to hide the fact that what the administration is seeking is a sharp reduction in access to health care and other social programs.

This assault takes place at the same time as the sums of money controlled by the wealthy reach record highs. Corporate profits in the first quarter of this year are expected to break the record set the previous quarter of $1.68 trillion at an annualized rate. CEO pay for 2010 exceeded the previous record levels set prior to the crash. The combined net wealth of just the 400 richest Americans is, at last count, $1.37 trillion—approximately the same amount that would be saved over an entire decade through cuts in Medicaid that will threaten the lives and health of millions of people.

Another view from the WSWS (which picks up where Dakinikat’s Who are they protecting…? expose left off last weekend) — Victims of Mississippi flood must be made whole:

The Obama administration has allocated only a minimal amount in grants for temporary housing and other emergency needs. It is urging those affected—most of whom have no flood insurance or means of rebuilding—to apply for federal disaster and other government loans. In addition to having to pay interest, those who qualify for federal disaster loans are compelled to buy flood insurance to qualify for future assistance.

Like the Bush administration’s response to Hurricane Katrina, the Obama administration has shown callousness and indifference to the plight of the workers and poor families hit by the latest disaster.

The diversion of floodwaters helps ExxonMobil and other big oil companies operating refineries along the Mississippi River, but the administration has never raised that these corporations—rolling in cash from skyrocketing gas prices—should in any way help compensate those being flooded out of their homes and farms.

I don’t want to end on such a miserable note, so let’s turn to our Energizer Secretary.


As Obama pointed out this week, Hillary is approaching her one million frequent flier mark. In honor of Hill’s globetrotting, here’s my choice for pic of the month… Hillary wheeling down in Greenland on May 12th, in a cheerful red coat:

A couple more Hillary items from this week, briefly:

On Hillary’s agenda next week: London and Paris…

Mr Toner said Ms Clinton will also deliver keynote remarks in support of the launch of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation’s (UNESCO) Global Partnership for Girls’ and Women’s Education.

The Global Partnership will bring together companies, non-governmental organisations, and governments to develop innovative programmes to deliver education to women and girls, he said.

Well, now we’re full circle from where I started at the beginning of this post…as Bill Clinton (no doubt influenced by Hillary) said in an interview to Slate’s DoubleX a couple years ago, putting all the girls in the world in school is the only proven stragety to slowing the birthrate (hence less abortions) and raising per capita income.

Sheros on the Screen

A few super quick links to wrap things up:

  • RH Reality Check on why Bridesmaids is striking a chord. Obviously portraying women as human beings is a good start, if in fact that’s what Bridesmaids does. I still would like to judge for myself. I’ll probably go see it this weekend or next.
  • Anyone else following Top Chef Masters right now think they’re dropping the anvils all over the place about a woman actually winning this season? I’m thinking it will come down to Naomi and Traci.

The End! What’s on your blogging list?

[originally posted at Let Them Listen; crossposted at Sky Dancing and Taylor Marsh]