Romney’s empty “binders full of women”

Facebook page an overnight sensation with almost 300,000 likes by Wednesday morning

Mitt Romney showed up Tuesday night talking about “binders full of women” being brought to him when he was governor. Sounds kind of kinky and certainly not something you want to be touting.

The phrase was part of Romney’s answer to a question from an audience member at the second presidential debate about how he would “rectify the inequalities in the workplace.” Referring to when he took over as Massachusetts governor, he said, “I had the chance to pull together a Cabinet, and all the applicants seemed to be men,” he said. “I went to a number of women’s groups and said, ‘Can you help us find folks?’ and they brought us whole binders full of women.”

The “binders” moment went viral immediately on Twitter, spawning @RomneysBinders and @womaninabinder Twitter handles. As of Wednesday morning, almost 300,000 people had supported a Facebook page about what a politically dumb statement it was. Romney may soon say it was “inelegant” phrasing or he didn’t finish his statement or some other excuse, but the comment shows why voters, especially women, don’t trust him and don’t believe he has their back…

In fairness, “binders” was most likely a slip of the tongue. But Romney said it in an effort to obfuscate and pivot from the issue at hand: equality for women. He avoided the real question, and that, and his remark, spoke volumes.

Even as a slip of the tongue, this odd phrase betrays Romney’s true lack of understanding, knowledge and comfort level on women’s equality.

I’m hard-pressed to understand why anyone trusts Romney. The man is a soft plastic-politician, ready to change his form and substance depending not only according to the crowd he’s talking down to; but, the year, season, and wind direction seem to have substantive effect, too.

As the Republican Party moved further and further to the Right, so did he. That is – in the primaries needed to get him the nomination. Then, he pirouettes to the center and expects the most gullible electorate in the Western world to accept his word — pressing trust beyond belief.

I hope I’m not wrong. I hope I’m not overestimating American voters.

How ’Death Panels’ can prolong life — and should they?

Average life expectancy is one of two statistics commonly used to compare the health-care systems of different nations. (The other is infant mortality.)

One of the puzzles about the U.S. system is that we spend far and away the most money per capita for health care, but we rank 50th in average life expectancy — after Macau, Malta, and Turks and Caicos, among others.

We are all familiar with statistics about how much of health-care spending takes place in the last year of life, and with stories about old people who are tortured with costly treatments they don’t want and which prolong dying but don’t extend life in any meaningful sense.

Certainly, ailing old people should be allowed to die in peace, if that’s what they want, and not be subject to excruciatingly painful surgeries and drugs that will do nothing for them. These are more the fault of lawyers than doctors. In our experience, doctors can be all too cool and rational in their thinking about the end of life. It’s fear of lawsuits (or, in a few cases, trolling for customers) that prevents doctors from behaving rationally when prescribing treatment for the old and terminally ill…

So what do we do about old people who, on balance, would rather get even older — whatever that means in terms of “quality of life” — than give up? This is one of the indelicate, unmentionable questions in the health-care debate…

In short, all the Republican talk during the health-care- reform debate about “death panels” was melodramatic and unfair, but not ridiculous. One way or another, holding down health-care costs will require policies that deny treatment to people who want it. And want it because it will extend their lives.

This goes on already, all the time. Health insurance companies have been known to deny payment for treatments deemed unnecessary. Age limits for organ transplants are another example. All policies that involve denying care because of “quality of life” considerations are, in effect, “death panels.” But no society can afford to give every citizen every possible therapy…

How do you persuade fellow citizens to accept limits on their right to consume health-care resources? The trick, we think, is to ask them when they’re healthy, not when they’re sick. If you think a $200,000 operation is going to give you a few more years to live, it’s going to be hard to convince you that it’s not worth the cost. But before then, when your odds of needing that expensive operation are the same as everybody else’s, you might well choose a system that offers a higher life expectancy, even though it costs less. In fact, why wouldn’t you?

Bloomberg View articles don’t always try to answer the questions they ask. This is one that sort of suggests alternatives; but, the final resolution isn’t settled yet. We’re stuck with politicians, insurance companies, healthcare corporations and their own versions of “death panels” in charge of negotiating with us.

You already know who has the most power in that dialectic – and it ain’t us.

Labour deploys sprinter in a chicken suit in London mayor’s race

Two short videos of a person dressed as a chicken chasing a lookalike of Boris Johnson, the incumbent Mayor, have been released on YouTube by the London Labour Party.

One shows the Mayor, sporting a blonde wig, on a Barclays hire bike in front of City Hall, the seat of local Government in London, while the other sees him being pursued down a street. The stunt, dubbed Boris Johns-hen, seeks to highlight how Mr Johnson “has chickened out of debating his opponents and defending his policies”.

The campaign to elect Ken Livingstone says Mr Johnson has in recent months declined to attend hustings with the candidates for the mayoralty hosted by UK Feminista, a womens equality campaign, and the Federation of Small Business.Mr Livingstone has asked Mr Johnson to take part in a televised debate on his proposals to cut Tube fares. A spokesman for the Mayor said he saw “no merit” in the event because Mr Livingstones figures were not credible.


Who will God vote for in the Republican primaries?

Vote for me or burn in hell. I can’t imagine someone running for office saying that. And yet four candidates — Michele Bachmann, Herman Cain, Rick Perry and Rick Santorum — have said they had a sense that God was leading them to run.

How far can we be from “vote for me or burn in hell” when it seems we’re already comfortable with “vote for me, I’ve been called by God”?

There was a time when if a candidate wanted to inject faith into a campaign he or she would be photographed going to church or shaking the Rev. Billy Graham’s hand.

Now it seems many GOP campaigns aren’t complete without claiming God’s seal of approval, which suggests the other candidates may be running without it. Such a sentiment is an ideological piñata for comedians like Bill Maher and Jon Stewart, but for conservatives trying to secure the GOP nomination, it’s a highly manipulative campaign tool…

But why aren’t we questioning the candidates who make these kinds of statements the same way we would question whether God actually wanted a particular athlete to win a game?

I do believe a person’s faith is personal, but I’m not the one using it to get votes. Four candidates have claimed a level of divine intervention with their campaign, which either means the creator of heaven and Earth is hedging his bets or somebody’s mistaken…

If I could trade places with Anderson Cooper, who is moderating Tuesday’s debate, I would ask, “Now which ones of you were really called by God and which ones are hearing voices in your head?” then let them discuss among themselves.

God-baiting each other is probably something the nutball right-wing does in private, anyway. In public, they save it for the Democrats – who are only a smidge less opportunistic at pulling the same stunt.

The smartest line Obama came up with was the tag he started partway through his campaign for the presidency: “God bless you – and God bless the United States of America.”

You could practically see the Technicolor sunset fade away while WW2 fighter planes passed overhead in a salute to this courageous nation saving the world once again.


Another church moves closer to the 21st Century

A debate that has raged within the Presbyterian Church for more than three decades culminated Tuesday with ratification of a measure allowing the ordination of gay and lesbian ministers and lay leaders, while giving regional church bodies the ability to decide for themselves. Leaving the truly bigoted branches to maintain their backwardness.

With the vote of its regional organization in Minnesota, the Presbyterian Church USA became the fourth mainline Protestant church to allow gay ordination, following the Episcopal and Evangelical Lutheran churches and the United Church of Christ. The Minnesota vote was closely followed by one in Los Angeles.

“This is an important moment in the Christian communion,” said Michael Adee, a Presbyterian elder who heads an organization that fought for gay ordination. “I rejoice that Presbyterians are focusing on what matters most: faith and character, not a person’s marital status or sexual orientation…”

Linda Fleming, an elder and deacon at Knox Presbyterian Church in Ladera Heights, which hosted the Pacific Presbytery meeting, said she was among those who had changed her mind on the issue in recent years.

“I finally decided at the age of 63 that it is inevitable,” she said. “I think it’s like letting black people come to white churches, or letting women become ministers. It’s inevitable.”

Interesting to see the easy understanding between this and other issues of civil rights. Anyone think Congress will come to the same level of understanding anytime, soon?

Reactionaries and bigots aren’t limited to smaller political bodies – like churches. Our “leading” elected political body down in Washington, DC, makes a point of tailing along decades behind the spirit of the land and expanding knowledge.

RTFA for lots of details and history. The mother church, the Free Church of Scotland, must be croaking over this.

Porn stars to take part in Cambridge debate

Shelley’s preferred position – for praying, nowadays

The historic Cambridge University Union has invited adult film stars to take part in an organised debate.

The Cambridge Union Society, which was founded in 1815, is famed for inviting international politicians and academics to its regular debating sessions. But the union is now organising a debate where students will be entertained by guest speakers including three adult film stars.

First on the bill is stripper and pornographic film actor Johnny Anglais, who was suspended from his teaching job after his work as a porn star was revealed.

He will be joined by Anna Arrowsmith, who is the UK’s first female adult movie director and once stood as a Liberal Democrat MP candidate.

US porn actress-turned-chaplain Shelley Lubben will also join the debate and discuss the question: ”This house believes that pornography does a good public service.”

Incoming union president Lauren Davidson told Cambridge student newspaper The Tab that she believes pornography is a ”hot topic” in modern society…

”At the Union this term we’ve got the traditional debates on politics, foreign policy and the media, but I thought it was important to look at the bigger picture and debate a wider range of hot topics.

‘Sexuality is something that everyone is very aware of and I want to create a proper discussion around it…”

The groundbreaking debate will be held on February 17 in the Cambridge Union Society’s historic debating chamber on Bridge street.

Will there be visual aids?

Tea Party goons stomp woman at Kentucky debate – UPDATED

While the Kentucky Senatorial debate on Monday night was markedly more cordial than usual, a fight that broke out before the event was anything but.

A female activist was stomped on by a supporter of Kentucky GOP candidate Rand Paul after she attempted to approach him before his final debate with Democrat Jack Conway…

The 24-year-old woman with the liberal group, identified as Lauren Valle by local media, tripped and fell after someone ripped a blond wig off her head. She is then seen on video being wrestled to a curb by one man. After she is placed face down, another man stomps on her shoulder and head with his foot…

Police said Valle was trying to get a photo with the Tea Party favorite holding a sign that said “employee of the month award.” The satirical prize was from Republicorp, a fake business MoveOn created to symbolize what it says is a cozy relationship between corporate America and the GOP…

“She was subsequently stopped and thrown to the ground by a group of individuals who were gathered there for the debate,” police information officer Sherelle Roberts said. “It was caught on video. You can see the woman being thrown to the ground, there was a gentleman who stepped on her head…”

The man who stomped on her has not yet been identified. Police said they are searching for him…

Paul’s campaign released a statement on the melee, calling it “incredibly unfortunate.”

Most “unfortunate” – is that it was recorded. Unlike back in the day – when civil rights activists were often beaten by racist gangs. Nowadays, every group seems to contain a few people with video cameras. Even the lowly cell phone often has video capability.

Some of those videographers are there to record attacks on citizens – to be shared with their bubbas. Some are there to record predictable assaults by police generally in place to maintain law and order on behalf of rightwing politicians.

Respectable “analysts” will fall over themselves, today, making it their duty to blather about the ordinary Americans who make up the Tea Party Movement. Balderdash. Yes, there also were average Americans who populated the White Citizens Council and the Klan, the John Birch Society and Minutemen. There are typical Americans who join militant anti-abortion crusades that deliver murder to the medical community, as well.

They willingly joined the generalized fear, cowardice and anger that characterizes the American right wing. Where’s the surprise at violent attacks? Just another debate tactic for teabaggers.

UPDATE: Thanks to the comment from “bubby” identifying the attackers – including an official of the Rand Paul campaign.

Decision time for doctors about placebos

Last week we were treated to the sight of hundreds of British doctors voting on whether homeopathy has a place in the NHS – a surreal spectacle on a par with watching a geologists’ union arguing what their position on the likelihood of a flat Earth should be. Naturally BMA members voted overwhelmingly in favour of the motion that homeopathy should not be provided on the NHS, but many among their ranks were sceptical of the move, and not all of them were believers in 18th century magic.

In fact their arguments weren’t really about homeopathy at all, but made a compelling case for a wider debate about British medicine’s elephant in the room – the placebo…

Before we continue, let’s be clear, an argument for placebos is in no way an argument for homeopathy. For one thing, homeopathy is a rip-off – why should the NHS pay a fiver a time for magic sugar pills when a tube of Smarties costs 50p, comes in lots of different colours and has pretty much the same evidence base?

And as happy as many people are to believe that medical training can be replaced by Google and a DVD box set of House MD, the fact is that homeopaths are not trained in the same way that doctors are to make diagnoses or give out prescriptions. Nobody claims that all real doctors are perfect either, but with the best will in the world, giving homeopaths responsibility for front-line medicine is like letting toddlers fix your car because they can drive a go-kart and make “vroom vroom” noises…

But the committee’s discussion of placebos focused on ethics rather than pragmatism, and in the real world the ethics may not be as clearcut…

“We do not require doctors to use only evidence-based treatments, in any form of medical care, but we do expect doctors to do their best to ensure that any treatment they offer is in the patient’s best interests. This will generally mean that any known risks of the treatment are outweighed by the potential benefits to the patient.”

There are no easy answers here, and with existing guidance as vague as this doctors are left to make their own judgement calls about the use of placebos.

I believe homeopathy should be consigned to the history books, so I’m happy to see doctors standing up to ignorance and calling for a ban. But a bigger debate should be had about the role of placebos in healthcare, because at the moment they’re being used anyway, and simply banning them one by one on an ad hoc basis probably doesn’t constitute an effective health policy.

Good discussion about placebos. Doctors both sides of the pond pretty much agree – although I have to admit I get extra chuckles living in one of the better known Southwest Spa towns offering every treatment specialist from Wiccan to Space Alien intervention.