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Dr. Congresswoman joins the GOP’s ‘War on the Uterus’

By: Cliff Weathers Tuesday February 28, 2012 5:07 am

With the economy desperately trying to pull out of a dive and yet another Middle East war possibly on the horizon, the  Republican party is squarely focused on limiting women’s health choices. And while men’s impotence drugs, like Viagra and Cialis, are doled out by health plans without a whimper from Republicans, “the pill,” or any other type of contraceptive used by women, is somehow problematic for conservatives.

Inexplicably, the GOP has leaped past the conservative drone against abortion. They’re now standing up against women’s ability to choose birth control. This has led women across the U.S. to collectively ask: “Aren’t there other places to look, instead of up our skirts?

As they always do, when Republicans don’t have an issue to run on, they create an issue. So they’re introducing legislation that would let employers select which benefits to offer based upon subjective moral values. The legislation would create broad exemptions to the Affordable Care Act to the point where it would become almost meaningless. Senate Minority leader Mitch McConnell is hoping that the legislation is voted on by Congress within days.

The new health-care law requires health insurance plans to offer specific services and benefits. Among those benefits is birth control. Last week, Senator Roy Blunt offered a “conscience amendment” to the law, offering it as a way to quell religious employers’ disagreement with providing access to birth control.

New York Catholic Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the celibate American religious leader, proclaimed that female employees of Catholic institutions, such as hospitals and universities, are exempt from the reproductive health benefits that other insured women receive as part of their plans. Dolan described the policy to universally offer such care as “unconscionable” and said that it “represents a challenge and a compromise of our religious liberty.”

But the War on the Uterus isn’t about religious liberty, it’s about rallying social conservatives against a President that’s enjoying a political regeneration as the nation responds to a milder economic prospect. So conservatives are fabricating social controversies and Dolan was their anointed authority for this one. They believed that Dolan–just elevated from Archbishop last week–was a believable, popular figure and that his views would be sympathetically received by the public. It is notably ironic that they trotted out a man who neither feels love for a wife or a daughter as being their standard-bearer about women’s health issues.

And even supposedly moderate Republicans are lining up behind Dolan and the GOP leadership. Republican Congresswoman Dr. Nan Hayworth ran as a pro-choice candidate in 2010. But since, she has seemingly flip-flopped on the issue, joining the House majority and voting for bills that would restrict funding to groups like Planned Parenthood.

It’s shameful that Hayworth has failed to acknowledge that contraceptive coverage is a health issue, not a sex issue. Especially since she is a former medical doctor and her husband, Scott, is a practicing gynecologist in Westchester County. The Hayworths certainly know that women seek out contraception for many reasons beyond avoiding pregnancy. Women seek it out to to treat or prevent serious health conditions such as dysmenorrhea, ectopic pregnancy, ovarian cysts, and endometriosis among others. Oral birth control can also help cause menstrual cycles to occur regularly and predictably, decrease the risk of iron deficiency, and help prevent osteoporosis. To deny any woman such coverage is to deny her access to vital health care.

Hayworth recently told that she agrees with the Catholic Bishops and believes that contraception is a First Amendment issue and employers have the right to deny coverage for anything that they find objectionable.”I agree with our Catholic bishops, who say this is not enough,” she told them after a speech by House Majority Leader Eric Cantor in New York.

Hayworth also told that she’s not concerned about contraception becoming a divisive issue in 2012 election. Asked by the website whether she thinks that Republicans might be branded as the anti-contraception party, Hayworth said, “No, not at all.”

Too late Nan, the name is indelible and added to your résumé.

This article is reposted from NYaltnews, an alternative news and opinion site for the Empire State.



American Taliban: The GOP risks becoming Santorum’s Sharia Party

By: Cliff Weathers Monday February 20, 2012 1:06 pm
Rick Santorum

Rick Santorum. Photo courtesy of Gage Skidmore on Flickr

Rick Santorum is rallying the base, and base is the operative word. Through carefully crafted dog-whistle messaging, Santorum has appealed to all the hate that occupies the darkest bands of our social spectrum.

When Santorum says that he doesn’t want to give black (or “blah”) people entitlements, when he says gays and lesbians are not socially acceptable, when he speaks with disdain about our public schools, and when he says women shouldn’t benefit from prenatal testing or contraceptive coverage, he inserts his religious dogma before fair governing and elevates his own piety before reason.

Santorum vaulted from a footnote in the Republican primaries to a contender through his appeal to a hostile and xenophobic aggregation of voters. Call Santorum the anti-black, anti-gay, anti-science, anti-woman populist. Worse yet is what he stands for; Santorum believes in religious indoctrination in our schools, and that this nation is a Christian one. If Santorum was a Muslim, those who praise him would vow to fight him. After all, the societal message that he outlines is not at all different from the Sharia Law that the religious right loves to demonize.

Radicalized candidates like Santorum are nothing new in Republican primaries. Pat Buchanan, David Duke, and Pat Roberston all fueled far-right vitriol in the past contests. But it has been the “kinder, gentler” Republicans; the Doles, Bushes, and McCains, who have succeeded because of their broader appeal.

But Santorum thrives in today’s polarized political atmosphere and is threatening to win Michigan, the nation’s eighth most populous state and the boyhood home of Mitt Romney. A win there on March 6 will not only knock Romney from front-runner status, it could knock the former Massachusetts governor out of serious contention in November, if he gets that far.

Yes, Super Tuesday is still far off and the largest remaining states—California, Texas, New York, Illinois, and Pennsylvania have not yet spoken. Romney may do well in those states and win the nomination after all. But the last thing the GOP needs is a bloodied nominee going into the convention. This is not Barack Obama versus Hillary Clinton; this is not choosing between two candidates who differ in style more than vision. This is the fight for the very soul of the Republican Party.

The next #OccupyWallStreet might not be tweeted

By: Cliff Weathers Sunday October 9, 2011 6:19 am
Photo courtesty of mattwi1s0n on Flickr

If you’ve been listening to the newscasters and pundits, they’re working that false meme of #OccupyWallStreet lacking focus and clear goals. You may be incredibly frustrated by this, and that’s probably what inspired you to read this post and many other contributions about #OccupyWallStreet by bloggers and citizen journalists.

It’s no wonder why #OccupyWallStreet is getting such bad press. A media that fawns at the feet of advertising Mammon will quickly sell out the truth.

As I write this, countless journalists are taking calls and reading emails from corporate public relations hacks whose only job is to control the narrative.

Why Democrats must embrace Occupy Wall Street

By: Cliff Weathers Saturday October 1, 2011 7:24 pm

Unless you live in a cave or watch Fox News (not that the two are mutually exclusive) you’re likely beginning to hear about Occupy Wall Street, a movement opposed to the negative influence corporations and the wealthiest one percent have over American politics.

Occupy Wall Street recognizes the lack of legal repercussions over the global financial crisis and seeks to draw public attention to this. It was inspired by the Arab Spring movement, particularly the protests in Cairo’s Tahrir Square which resulted in the 2011 Egyptian Revolution.

The aim of the demonstration is to begin a sustained occupation of Wall Street and to draw attention to the misdeeds of the banking industry and to call for structural economic reforms. Organizers intend for the occupation to last “as long as it takes to meet our demands.”

When Occupy Wall Street began on September 17, scant attention was paid to it by the mainstream, corporate media. The major networks, cable news networks, and newspapers treated it as an afterthought, if at all. CurrentTV host Keith Olbermann was critical of his colleagues in the mainstream media:

Why isn’t any major news outlet covering this? … If that’s a Tea Party protest in front of Wall Street …, it’s the lead story on every network newscast.

It was not until brutal and questionable actions by the New York City Police Department against non-violent demonstrators, such as the use of pepper spray on those already corralled into “kettles,” that there has been some broad media recognition of Occupy Wall Street.

GOP Congresswoman says America was “foolish and selfish” before 9/11

By: Cliff Weathers Monday September 12, 2011 11:41 am

This odd and troubling video is just another example of how disconnected GOP Representative Nan Hayworth (NY-19) is with her constituency and American culture. In it, Hayworth inappropriately discusses how foolishly America acted in the weeks’s leading to the 9/11 terror attacks, even citing the movie American Beauty as an ironic example of commentary in regards to our societal decadence.

“I remember thinking at the time,” says Hayworth during a YouTube address, “that we had had a summer that was marked by foolish and selfish behavior that was really beneath the dignity of this nation.”

“I remember watching a film, actually the night before the attacks called American Beauty,” she continues.”That film takes a rather dismal view of American character. And strange coincidence indeed that the very next morning we discover in the most brutal possible way that we had reached a crossroads in our history.”

And why does Hayworth find this film and the 9/11 attacks to constitute a “strange coincidence?” Is Hayworth implying that our behavior as a society was a contributing factor to the terrorist attacks?

American Beauty was released in 1999 and starred Kevin Spacey, Annette Bening, and Mina Suvari. For those who have not seen it, it is a twisted morality play critical of middle-class America. It does take a dim view of gun culture, homophobia, and mindless ambition.

When constituents were outraged by Hayworth’s statements on her official YouTube page, ratings and comments were disabled and removed, presumably by staff members. However, you can watch and comment on the pertinent clip from the video here.

NY-26 aftermath: Paul Ryan unravels on Moanin’ Joe

By: Cliff Weathers Wednesday May 25, 2011 7:25 am

On Morning Joe this a.m, Congressman Paul Ryan seemed manic, defensive, and vexed. His frustration, anger, and paranoia were palpable. Those hypnotic blue eyes are now puffy and red from exhaustion. Dare I say that Ryan’s beginning to look disheveled? He couldn’t stay on message while he continued to drone on about the GOP’s “premium support” Medicare plan, but he’s beginning to sound like a hostage reading his own ransom demand.

In the segment, it seems that Ryan is trying to recast his message. His new plan is to tie his Medicare plan to the Brookings Institution and Bill Clinton’s health care task force. That’s right, Ryan is saying it was the liberals idea all along. Unfortunately Ryan’s plan doesn’t come close to resembling the “Premium Support” espoused by Brookings. In fact, Henry Aaron of the Brookings Institution denies the similarities and even exposes Ryan’s plan as not being premium support at all, but smoke and mirrors.

And while the public may not be able to articulate it, they know that it’s odd for the Republicans to want to disassemble the Affordable Health Care act, only to turn around and try to create market-based exchanges for the elderly and poor. The public also knows that they will rely on health care services extensively in the final few years of their life, and probably even more in those final days. So, if you’re throwing your seniors out into the private-sector marketplace, you know that the health insurance companies will do whatever it takes not to enroll these people. It’s not very profitable to be stuck with the sick and dying after all.

Aaron pulls no punches when talking about the GOP’s health-care initiative:

There’s one provision of the Ryan bill that stands out as being hands-down the worst, and that is giving the seniors who are poor enough to also be on Medicaid a medical savings account. Does he know who these people are? They’re very sick, they’re very poor and many of them have cognitive as well as physical problems. They would be asked to cope with the inevitable headaches of dealing with private insurance and managing a personal checking account to pay periodic bills. This is not a sensible proposal.

No, not sensible at all and not what the Brookings Institution originally prescribed, it seems.

Ryan’s primary goal has not been for properly caring for the elderly, but to confuse the public mind and create yet another giveaway to the bloated health insurance behemoths. It has been to reduce the financial security of the middle class, while insuring the financial security of corporations.

However, yesterday’s vote clearly shows that a majority of Americans have seen through his charade. And now you are seeing one of the greatest political meltdowns since Joe McCarthy was called out by Joseph Nye Welch during his communist witch hunt.

If the Democratic Party plays it smart, it will ride this message until November 2012.

GOP Congresswoman Gets Sham Award From Big Pharma Front Organization

By: Cliff Weathers Sunday May 15, 2011 11:17 am

Nan Hayworth‘s office sent out a press release on Thursday that included a picture of the Congresswoman receiving an award beneath a sign saying, “Senior Citizens Thank You For Protecting Medicare and Social Security.” It appeared to be a perfect photo opportunity for Hayworth, being honored by a group known as the “60 Plus Association” for legislating in their best interests.

But there are two big problems with this picture. First, Nan Hayworth just voted to kill Medicare, if you’re one of the few that has forgotten. And second, the 60 Plus Association is not a senior citizen’s group at all, it’s just a front organization for the pharmaceutical industry. This is a crass attempt by Hayworth to once again deceive her constituents, particularly the elderly.

Back in 2003, the AARP Bulletin recognized 60 Plus as a front group for Big Pharma. The publication claimed that the organization wasn’t even receiving membership dues from seniors at the time and that “virtually all of their largest contributions in recent years have come from the same source—the nation’s pharmaceutical industry.

The Bulletin revealed that 60 Plus was well funded by the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), Citizens for Better Medicare, and four pharmaceutical companies, Hanwha International, Merck, Pfizer, and Wyeth-Ayerst. Currently, as a 501(c)(4) tax-exempt organization may legally accept corporate donations, but is not required to disclose its funding sources, which it doesn’t.

60 Plus has also been a favorite cause in among Beltway conservatives. Lobbyist, Republican operative, and convicted felon Jack Abramoff once instructed an Indian tribe he represented to contribute to 60 Plus. Abramoff told the tribe that a donation would help it get support among GOP leadership for its legislative causes.

Since its inception, the 60 Plus Association has had the back of Big Pharma, helping the industry with mass mailings, press releases, and lobbying efforts. It was one of three industry-backed associations that backed the infamous “astroturf” issue ads of Citizens for Better Medicare (another drug industry front group) during the 2000 elections.

Also notable was 60 Plus’s support of lawsuit by PhRMA against the state of Maine, in their issuance of a “friend of the court” brief. PhRMA sued to stop the State from implementing Maine Rx, a law that reduces prices for Medicare drugs by enabling the state to offer discounted prescription drugs to the working poor and elderly through bulk purchases from manufacturers. The trial ultimately went to the Supreme Court, which eventually allowed Maine to implement the trail-blazing program.

Illegal Contributions to Scott Vanderhoef Alleged

By: Cliff Weathers Friday October 29, 2010 1:43 pm

Scott Vanderhoef

Scott Vanderhoef, already well-known for his “play-for-pay” style of politics in New York’s political tinderbox, Rockland County, took in thousands in illegal campaign contributions during his 2009 County Executive Race, it was alleged yesterday.

Vanderhoef‘s rival in the 38th State Senate District race, David Carlucci, released information showing that the Rockland County Executive took in $9,205 from contractors during a County election cycle, which is illegal under a Rockland County law passed in 1999, which forbids such contributions–a law that Vanderhoef himself tried to quash with a veto.

Data from Vanderhoef’s campaign finance records, available online at the New York State Board of Elections website, show that he accepted over $170,000 in the last five years from companies engaging in business with the county. And while taking such donations in non-election years might not be illegal, it certainly calls into question Vanderhoef’s ethics as a politician and the influence of “pay-to-play” politics in our County government, which often results in wasteful spending.

Still, taking donations of more than $100 from contracted companies during an election cycle is illegal and Vanderhoef got dozens of these questionable contributions, all of which were above $100. And Carlucci’s campaign was quick to point out that Vanderhoef may owe Rockland taxpayers more than a refund and an apology:

Vanderhoef should owe Rockland County taxpayers – at the very least – $36,470.00 in fines for these campaign finance violations. And Vanderhoef may owe thousands more in fines if appropriate investigation by county attorneys demonstrates that dozens of other contractors who gave more than $100 to Vanderhoef were on approved vendor lists at the time of the contributions.

Carlucci’s campaign also points out that Vanderhoef accepted at least $2100 in over-the-limit contributions during 2007, another county election year, but not a year when Vanderhoef was running for County Executive. Vanderhoef ran for Lieutenant Governor in 2006.

Records show that contractors made contributions to Vanderhoef before, during and after bidding on county contracts worth millions, including those with current contracts, former contractors, and bidders for contracts. The list of contractors includes law firms, bond counsel, financial advisers, accounting firms, auditors, insurance brokers, construction companies, and road builders that either had county contracts, were seeking county contracts or both.

For one contract award, five award recipients gave donations to Vanderhoef. Combined, they gave $43,050 in donations. At least three of the awardees made contributions totaling $20,450 during the time of their contract. Further investigation is likely to show many illegal campaign finance violations from just this single contract.

More stunning relevations from the Carlucci camp:

The depth of Vanderhoef’s entanglements is illustrated by the fact that just one contractor, the law firm of Saretsky Katz Dranoff & Glass is”

• One of the awardees on the Health and Hospitals contracts;

• One of the biggest contractor-contributors to Vanderhoef;

• Appears to have violated county campaign finance law many times; and

• Is led by partner Eric Dranoff, who is Chairman of the Rockland County IDA and an ex officio member of the Rockland County Economic Development Corp. with Vanderhoef.

Carlucci’s campaign could only review the past five years of campaign finance records, because these records are only readily available for those years. Prior records are not available to the public without a subpoena or a Freedom of Information Act request as part of an investigation. And digging through those records and mating them to the names of businesses contracted by the county would be a daunting and arduous task.

This writer doesn’t see much hope in Vanderhoef suddenly changing his ways if he gets to Albany. We agree; the sheer volume of donations from contractors clearly suggests a strong potential for Albany-style “pay to play” arrangements between Vanderhoef’s government and political operations going forward.

Despite a the County’s obvious laws concerning pay-to-play contracting, Vanderhoef appears to have willingly violated the laws of Rockland County more than a dozen times, according to the Carlucci camp. But the final number of violations is still unclear, there may be more than what the Carlucci campaign has found. Knowing this will require investigation by the County.

The County election law in question is as follows:

(1) No individual, corporation, lobbyist or other entity doing business with the County of Rockland shall make a donation, in the aggregate, of more than $100 to any candidate during any primary, special or general election campaign.

(2) No candidate shall knowingly accept any such donation in excess of $100. (Chapter 223 Campaign Finance Reform Financial disclosure — See Ch. 66, Art. II.)

Penalties for offenses.

Violation of this chapter shall be punishable, for the first offense, by a fine of not less than $250 or three times the amount illegally contributed, whichever is greater, and each subsequent violation shall be punishable by a fine not less than $500 or four times the amount illegally contributed, whichever is greater, to be enforced through a civil procedure by the County Attorney. (§ 223-5)

But along with outrageous patronage appointments and the sneaking through of Vanderhoef’s 12.5 percent raise,  this latest revelation really puts this all in perspective who Scott Vanderhoef really represents. Vanderhoef currently gives lip-service to reform in Albany as it is on the minds of many voters. Still, back in 1999, the County legislature voted to ban pay-to-play campaign contributions, and Vanderhoef vetoed this campaign-finance reform. However, the Legislature overrode his veto. But don’t let legalities get in the way of one of New York’s most ambitious politicians.