Thursday, October 01, 2015

The Newly Concerned

Drug problems and overdoses are not new. It’s just that everyone turned a blind eye until middle class kids started dying of heroin overdoses. Now, everyone is talking about the heroin epidemic. Jennifer Horn, the Chair of the NH GOP spent the summer bleating on twitter about how the budget stand off was a failure to act to help addicts. The GOP hasn’t given 2 rusty farthings about addicts in my memory. Their concern is of a very recent vintage, and one that is politically motivated.

One of the best tools the state has to help addicts is the NH Health Protection Plan, aka expanded Medicaid. The NHPP is due to sunset in December of 2016. The legislature refused to extend the program this year. Republicans are opposed to helping those 40,000 working poor folks get health coverage. This same health coverage pays for addiction treatment – something the GOP claims to be concerned about.

Over the last 30 years the number of treatment facilities in NH have dwindled considerably. We’ve chosen to send people to jail rather than invest in treatment. Here in the Live Free or Die state, our jails and prisons have become what passes for mental health and substance abuse treatment. Treatment is cheaper, but as I’ve said many times, NH will always choose the pound of cure.

I’ve read a number of pieces on addiction lately, some written by well meaning people who chose to use stereotypes to describe addicts. They’re poor, they’re from broken homes, they’ve had terrible lives … and so on. And indeed, as long as we thought the only addicts dying were THOSE people, we didn’t waste a minute of time being concerned about them.

Now that it’s hitting the middle and upper levels of the socioeconomic strata, suddenly we see some interest. Middle class parents are losing children. They aren’t being silent about it any more, either. A number of obituaries have been written in the last year or so that are very candid about their child’s battle with addiction and how they struggled to help him or her.

The opiate drugs are some of the hardest to kick. Many people get to heroin through the back door of painkillers. We’ve all read that Oxycontin and Oxycodone are incredibly addictive. When I was hospitalized last year with 4 compression fractures in my mid vertebrae, 8 broken ribs, and a crushed, split femur, I was given painkillers. The first week of my hospitalization was spent in a morphine haze. I was switched from morphine to Oxycontin when it looked as if I was going to live, and I could swallow oral medications. A couple of weeks before I left the hospital, I asked to be taken off the painkillers. I discussed it with my doctor, who put me on a tapering off regimen before we stopped. Even with the tapering off, I experienced 2 days of withdrawal.

I asked to come off the drugs. If I hadn’t, I might have left the hospital with a prescription for the drugs I’d developed a level of physical dependence on. When my prescription ended, I might have turned to heroin as the replacement. My doctors weren’t nefarious over-prescribers. I was hurt very badly, and they were trying to help manage my pain.

I asked, because I knew the drugs were affecting my thought processes, and making me tired. I worried it would affect my physical therapy, and more than anything I wanted to walk again. The opiates made me itchy and nauseous. I asked because I know about addiction. I asked because I am an addict.

Substance abuse research and treatment are lagging behind in the US. Other developed countries are way ahead of us. The US still relies heavily on the 29-day stay in a rehab facility that uses the 12-Step model of recovery. Twelve step programs aren’t for everyone – nor should they be. There should be a variety of options for treatment, the way there are for any disease.

The 12-step model comes to us from Alcoholics Anonymous, a fellowship where alcoholics come together to help each other get sober and stay sober. They are not treatment professionals. AA is very loosely organized and doesn’t have any sort of records of how successful it is. AA emphasizes the anonymous part in a couple of ways. People who attend meetings are expected to refrain from naming those whom they see at meetings. Some of the 12 traditions focus on anonymity, and the need to maintain public silence about recovery.

We don’t know who most recovering addicts are, because of that anonymity. The stories we read are full of stereotypes. We only hear the success stories of the famous. We don’t know that people in recovery walk among us, every day, in all levels of our society.

And so we continue to stigmatize addicts, which only serves to keep people who need help from coming forward. Addiction is regarded as a moral failing (read any online comment section) instead of what it truly is – a public health problem.

We are failing our young people. The cost of a college education leaves them buried under a mountain of debt. We aren’t creating decent paying jobs any more. We create a lot of low wage service jobs. The property taxes in our state mean that home ownership is no longer part of the American dream for many. They’ve been conditioned to understand that government is the root of all evil, that our elected officials don’t believe in science but do believe strongly in obstruction, and that there is really little hope for the future. Upward mobility is a thing of the past. It can’t be a surprise that some turn to the relatively inexpensive comfort of heroin. In fact, if they were spending their escapist dollars at our state liquor stores, we might not hear so much from the newly concerned.

A good place to start is renewing the NHPP. We need all the resources we can muster to fight the pernicious evil of opiate addiction. We need more and better treatment options in our state. We need more compassion and fewer fingers waving and stereotyping. I wish I were more optimistic.

This was published as an op-ed in the October 2 edition of the Conway Daily Sun newspaper. 

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Feeding the Unicorn

At the end of the last legislative session, Governor Hassan vetoed the state budget that was written by the far right libertea crowd, with an assist from the Koch brothers. This week, the Governor announced that a compromise had been reached.

All summer long, the NH GOP has attacked the governor for vetoing their budget. Their budget enacted business tax cuts that would have left $90 million dollar holes in future budgets, yet they claimed it was responsible. Somehow, magically, a pristine white unicorn would ride in on that wave of tax cuts and fart rainbow fairy dust all over the state, and all that needs funding would somehow magically be funded. Infrastructure! State parks! State employees! Feed that unicorn some beans!

NH does not ever budget in a fiscally responsible way. Most of us wouldn’t patronize a business that was attempting to run with broken equipment and a leaky roof, because the owner was too cheap to invest in his business. That is exactly the business model by which we run our state.

Our Republican brethren are still mired in the trickle down theories embraced by their beloved/invented Saint Ronnie. That those theories have been disproven time and time again doesn’t matter to these folks. They are incapable of grasping reality. They have no plan for the future.

The Democrats aren’t much better. They make a little noise, but ultimately they cave in to the pledge politics that rule our state. Governor Hassan has made a deal that is politically expedient, but it’s not responsible. It will, however, allow her to run for the US Senate, without too much GOP braying about how she vetoed their budget. The agreement also gives cover to those House Republicans pondering a run for governor.

This budget does not ensure that there is enough money to run our state in a responsible way. The Department of Corrections doesn’t have sufficient staff, so they are soliciting volunteers to work as file clerks. The site reminds us that these are unpaid, volunteer positions. There will be a background check, they say. There will be a two-hour orientation. There is no mention of confidentiality.  This is a perfect illustration of how dysfunctional our state has become.

Volunteers. Remember former Governor Craig Benson’s volunteers? He had an entire shadow government comprised of his Cabletron cronies who were called “volunteers.” He refused to give us the names of the volunteers or list their duties – at least not until the scandals started breaking. Volunteer Linda Pepin negotiated a no-bid contract for state employees health care, despite the fact that she wasn’t qualified or empowered to do so. She took only one bid. Benson fired Pepin. He asked his AG, Peter Heed to look into the matter. Heed was a Benson appointee, (that was bad enough) and he included Kelly Ayotte, (then assistant AG) in the investigation. Ayotte had been Benson’s attorney only months before. The Benson administration was rife with corruption, which is why he only served one term. It’s also why Republicans never trot him out as a success story. Oh, and he still hasn’t paid the artist he commissioned to paint his portrait which was intended to hang in the State House. Sleazy till the end.

Volunteers are wonderful. We rely on them to keep our towns running, in so many ways. We should not rely on them to fill positions that should be filled by paid employees, or to run our state government, a la Benson.

The budget agreement does not include reauthorizing the NH Health Protection Program, (aka expanded Medicaid) which insures some 40,000 low-income working folk in our state. The NH GOP spent the summer carping about the heroin epidemic, and how the governor was allegedly contributing to it by refusing to sign off on their odious budget. As treatment experts have said again and again, the NHHPP is one of the best tools they have in the fight against addiction, because it pays for substance abuse treatment. It appears their concern for the dead and the dying was no more than a cudgel for them to beat the governor with. In the governor’s statement, on this agreement, she states that she is taking Republican leadership at their word that they will take up legislation reauthorizing the NHHPP as soon as possible. Given that these are the same folks who refused to honor the contract negotiated in good faith between the state and the state employees, I don’t share her willingness to take them at their word.

What this budget does is tread water in the name of political expediency. What it does not do is move our state forward in any way. This budget kicks the infrastructure can down the road, as it has been kicked by previous legislatures for decades now. We will still have hundreds of bridges on the state’s red list for being structurally impaired. It will not move us from our pathetic ranking of 50th place in state spending on our state university system. NH college students will continue to graduate with the highest debt load in the nation.

None of this, by the way, is attractive to business. Big businesses locate in states that have robust infrastructure. They want good roads, bridges, ports, and airports. They want to move their employees to states where housing is affordable. NH has the second highest property taxes in the nation. Our telecommunications infrastructure is lacking, especially in the top half of the state. The companies that serve our telecommunication needs are few and hardly competitively priced.

Better feed that unicorn some beans.

Published as an op-ed in the Sept. 18 edition of the Conway Daily Sun newspaper.

Thursday, September 03, 2015

Disappointing Girls

We start disappointing girls before they are born. The baby shower filled with little pink items is where it all begins. The pink faucet continues to flow after the girl child is born. It’s challenging to buy baby clothes or little girl clothes that aren’t pink, don’t mention princesses, and don’t sport any glitter. Also: boys AND girls wear blue. Boys do not wear pink.

Girls get girl toys. They get dolls. They get kitchens. They get all things Disney princess. They get pink bicycles. They may be referred to as “Daddy’s little princess.” Their brother will be called, “the little man.” The focus is always on appearance. Boys are Big or Strong. Girls are Petite, Cute, and Beautiful. They learn to be sweet. They learn to sit down and act like a little lady. Pink is the color of lowered expectations.

The way to judge the importance of a thing is by who engages in it. Girls and women do not play football, though women’s tax dollars go toward building huge arenas that persons of their gender will never be allowed to use.  Women are not allowed to participate in military combat. Boys and men do not participate in beauty contests.

Girls are judged, harshly, on their looks for their whole lives. As women, they will be told by strangers to smile. When men are not smiling, it’s obviously because they are thinking important thoughts. When women are not smiling, it’s because they are bitches.

Our little pinkettes go forward into a world where women are not equal. All of the major religions teach that women are lesser beings. Ole Adam laid the blame on Eve the moment he had the opportunity. These teachings have had a definite trickle down effect. As a result, women are still oppressed in most countries in the world. In some countries crude surgeries are done on women’s genitals. In others, men determine the rights of women, including their right to bodily autonomy.

We may bemoan the dearth of women in the fields of science and math, but in a world where boys are Smart and girls are Pretty it’s really no surprise that girls are pushed toward traditional girl/woman fields. Women who enter fields that have been dominated by men do not get a warm welcome. If they are lucky, they are bullied and demeaned. If they are not, they are beaten, raped, and sometimes murdered, as we see in the US military.

In the 1970’s, feminists began to push back against the traditional attitudes about the crime of rape. They began the first rape crisis centers. They pushed back against the routine legal and societal blaming of women for their own rapes. Things got a little better. Like everything else, that improvement is starting to recede. Constant vigilance is the price of any gains made by women. 

Historically, women have been regarded as chattel or as plunder. This really hasn’t changed, as we saw in the recent trial of a young man accused of rape at St. Paul’s School in Concord. This elite private school has a tradition known as the “Senior Salute” where boys compete to “score” with as many girls as they can before graduation. Tradition is defined as an established pattern of behavior, a social custom, or cultural continuity. When the administrators at St. Paul’s tell us that they knew nothing of this, they are almost certainly lying through their expensively maintained teeth. The boys kept lists, shared them, and named names. It was all about keeping score.

The young man was accused and the girl was put on trial. The jury found that she didn’t resist enough. Even though 4 of his friends testified against him, even though there was physical evidence, she was found questionable because she didn’t march immediately to the police station to demand justice. Like many rape victims, she was confused and emotional after being raped by someone she knew. The media coverage of the case was abhorrent – particularly the live tweeting by reporters from inside the courtroom. I seldom praise the Union Leader newspaper, but they refused to publish the victim’s name. Other publications were not so principled. The behavior of the media is something that should concern us locally, given that Nate Kibby goes on trial early next year

There’s a lot of lip service about how seriously we take the crime of rape. The fact that there are thousands of rape kits languishing untested in police stations around the country gives lie to any pretense of seriousness. The libertea crowd tells us that women need to carry guns to protect themselves. They are using women to justify their desire to eliminate all restrictions on gun ownership. In NH the libertea legislators routinely vote against domestic violence bills, because a domestic violence conviction means that a guy would lose his guns. If women started shooting men on a regular basis, they’d change their tune about female gun ownership in a big hurry.

We aren’t interested in teaching boys and men not to rape. Rape is part and parcel of male privilege in our society. It’s up to girls and women not to be provocatively dressed, not to be in any situation that might be construed as “asking for it,” and above all, in the event of a rape to behave in a textbook manner. 

Saint Paul’s School turned a blind eye to the rape culture on their campus. As a result, the future captains of industry have learned that girls/women are disposable plunder. The girls of St. Paul’s have learned that they are - at best - a fungible commodity. The rest of us have learned, once again, why girls and women do not report their rapes. We start disappointing girls before they are born.

This was published as an op-ed in the 9-4-2015 edition of the Conway Daily Sun newspaper 

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Jordan Ulery: 11 Years of Taking Orders From Special Interests

NH State Rep. Jordan Ulery, being interviewed at his 11th ALEC Conference shows why he shouldn't be anywhere near a state budget:

There's no thought for the future, no interest in planning ahead, only an interest in not spending any money. That's their idea of success. This is why NH, the 7th wealthiest state in the nation has the 11th worst infrastructure. 

That Ulery brings the model legislation written by pHARMA, Exxon Mobile, the NRA, or the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation  back to NH and tries to pass them off as something created here at home is shameful. 

Eleven years of taking marching orders from special interests! Bravo, Representative Ulery! 

Thursday, August 20, 2015

A Nation of Petty Vigilantes

Those of us who spend time on social media have seen the Facebook memes about rescuing dogs or babies in cars. They’re followed by outraged comments from the huffy judgment posse vowing they’d happily toss a brick through someone’s window to save the day.

We’ve all become very comfortable with minding other people’s business. It’s one thing to save a dog trapped for a long time in a hot car. It’s another to be a jerk to someone who just ran into the store for a few minutes. Then there are those who call the police when they see unsupervised children walking to the park or (as happened to a friend of mine) standing out in front of their house. A practice called “Free Range Parenting” has become a thing, because of the busybodies that call the police about unsupervised children. Free Range parents allow their kids walk to the corner store or the park unaccompanied. The absence of parental hovering is alarming to many people who appear to have little else to do. 

When I was 8 years old, I rode my bike around town, unsupervised. No one called the police. Kids were expected to play outside and entertain themselves. Over the years adults have become conditioned to fear for their children’s lives if they’re outside alone, even though the likelihood of their being kidnapped by a stranger is almost nonexistent.  (At the same time we bemoan the fact that kids sit inside all day.) Actual crime rates are going down, but the perception of crime is going up.

 The US media is better at mongering fear than providing useful information. If you watch morning shows like “Good Morning America” every day there’s almost always some new, dire warning for parents. The average TV newscast involves ginning up at least one kind of fear. That fear endless stream of fear creates a sort of evil combo plate. Combine the ginned up fear with the kind of isolation caused by the constant ginning up of fear, add a side order of overwhelming feelings of powerlessness, another side of anonymous comment sections, and garnish with a constant stream of celebrity gossip masquerading as news and voila - we become a nation of pissy, petty vigilantes.

Homeless children growing up in shelters? Yawn. We save our collective outrage to comment about on a photo of some celebrity dad who puts his kid in a backpack or a car seat the wrong way. Cecil the lion’s death created more outrage than the fact that none of the Wall St. bankers who destroyed the economy went to prison.

WMUR’s website is filled with stories from all over the country that have one specific purpose – feeding the outrage machine. As a result, anonymous commenters leave hundreds of comments about stories they have almost no information on. They all think they’re Sherlock Holmes, but they’re more like Nancy Grace. Those of us who followed the story of a local teen who was missing for a long time read all kinds of terrible comments (before and after she was found) from anonymous comment section vigilantes, eager to pass judgment. It’s awful that she and her family were subjected to that.

At a different place on the outrage spectrum, not everyone who is charged with a crime is prosecuted. The gossipmongers-passing-for-media write huge front-page stories sensationalizing an arrest, and the comment section quarterbacks write hateful comments. They don’t stop there. They harass people on social media, and that harassment can move into the real lives of the falsely accused. Those same media outlets never write big front-page retractions about dropped charges or exonerations. They are unconcerned about being complicit in ruining lives. Sensationalism sells.

This is playing out in our presidential primary. Donald Trump is one of the pissiest, pettiest celebrities on the planet. He believes he’s uniquely qualified to judge women’s looks, and has had plenty to say about them. He churlishly offers up his judgments even though no one has asked for them. In a culture where the most untalented and meaningless of celebrities are lionized by media, he’s the logical end result. He spent years saying that Barack Obama wasn’t born in the US. Is it any surprise that he’s announced that all Mexicans are criminals and rapists? He’s the darling of the GOP base. They love him for “speaking his mind.” (So does drunk Uncle Joe at Christmas, but no one wants him to run for president.) How far do we really think Trumpelistiltskin would have gone in life if he hadn’t been born into a wealthy family?

Bernie Sanders is in trouble for not caving in to the gossip media. He was asked about Hillary’s hair over the weekend, and was a bit curt with the reporter about being asked this inane question. Now some folks are miffed that he didn’t answer this Big Important Feminist Question about Hillary’s hair. He talks a lot about income inequality. As a woman who has been paid less than male counterparts in a few workplaces, that’s more important to me than Hillary’s hair, or what Bernie Sanders thinks about Hillary’s hair. Bernie has a stellar voting record on women’s issues. Instead of being asked about his record, he gets asked about hair. It’s enough to make you weep.

 The thing about answering those kinds of questions is that it only encourages the mainstream media to ask more of them. Where are the questions about the $8.5 trillion the Pentagon can’t account for? The Pentagon has never been audited. It gets a huge chunk of our taxpayer dollars, but we are completely unconcerned by what they’re doing with all that money. We’d rather give some poor single mother the stinkeye for buying her kids some sweets with a SNAP card. After all, she’s a moocher wasting our tax dollars! That the Pentagon is the world’s biggest moocher doesn’t occur to them. They don’t know about it, because it’s never mentioned on the nightly news. Reporters aren’t asking about it, because they have important questions about hair. It pales in comparison to crucial issues like “deflategate.”

We deserve President Trump.


published as an op-ed in the August 21, 2015 edition of the Conway Daily Sun newspaper 

Saturday, August 08, 2015

GOP Women? You Built This

Now that the Donald has insulted Megyn Kelly of Fox News, the women of the GOP are finally getting a little miffed at his misogyny. They've ignored it for years. Trumpelstiltskin has said a gazillion terrible things about women. They didn't care when it was Rosie O'Donnell. They didn't care when it was NY Times writer Gail Collins. They didn't care LAST MONTH when he referred to a lawyer who needed to pump breast milk for her baby as "disgusting." 

The doughty women of the GOP happily turned ignored all of it until he insulted a Fox News "reporter." After all, the Fox news audience is the GOP voter bloc. Angry old white guys. 

All of a sudden the women of the NH GOP are outraged, as we see in this story in the Boston Globe .

In New Hampshire, home to the nation’s earliest presidential primary, the state’s leading Republican women called Trump’s comments improper, “I don’t think women in New Hampshire will appreciate them,” said US Senator Kelly Ayotte.
“Megyn Kelly is an intelligent, educated, successful professional woman, and Donald Trump’s comments were out of line and unacceptable,” said the New Hampshire Republican Party’s chairwoman, Jennifer Horn. “There is a big difference between not being politically correct and being disrespectful, and [Thursday] night Donald Trump was being disrespectful to women.”
One More 
Fran Wendelboe, a longtime New Hampshire Republican official who has had regular contact with Trump’s operation for years, predicted his comments about women will hurt his campaign and hurt the GOP. 
“He is saying these things at a time when the Republican Party has an opportunity to reach out to women in 2016,” Wendelboe said. 
“There is no doubt in my mind that this is going to turn people off,” she said. “But then again, I thought that about his comment that McCain not being a war hero, and I was wrong.”
Jennifer Horn NH GOP Chair, has ignored all manner of sexist commentary from NH GOP men. She didn't say boo about Rep. Peter Hansen of Amherst referring to women as "vaginas" back in 2013. When NH GOP Executive Director Matt Mowers tweeted out insulting remarks about Senator Jeanne Shaheen, Mrs. Horn was silent. She had nothing to say about sexist emails sent out on the NH House list serve by Jordan Ulery and Gary Hopper. Not a peep out of Mrs. Horn when State Rep. Will Infantine announced on the House floor that "men are more motivated" workers than women. Horn remained silent when Rep. Gary Hopper blamed working women for breaking up families.
As for Fran Wendelboe - step into the wayback machine, and travel with me all the way to .....last month:
With Donald Trump’s entry into the race, he is the new golden boy, as a straight talker unafraid to be boxed in by political correctness. 
Only last month, the Donald was a straight talker and a golden boy. How quickly that changed, eh, Fran??
Both Horn and Wendelboe have turned a blind eye to the misogynist men of the GOP insulting women for years. Now, suddenly they're clutching their pearls because he insulted Megyn Kelly. Their hypocrisy is nauseating. 
As for the pearl clutching, I have no sympathy. Not an iota. You let this happen, women of the GOP. You turned a blind eye - and now you're paying for it. You built this. 

Friday, August 07, 2015


Jeb! Bush recently spoke at the Send North America conference, a large evangelical gathering. Jeb! said he wasn’t sure we need half a billion dollars for women’s health issues. His handlers have been getting tons of aerobic exercise trying to backpedal on that statement. It’s not wise to be so honest about the fact that women are regarded as the disposable gender. Jeb! and the rest of the GOP candidates have seized on defunding Planned Parenthood as a way to stand out from the rest of the pack (who all have identical ideology) and ride to the White House on a wave of loathing for women. Oh, wait – those loathers call themselves “pro-life.” The only “life” they care about is that of an imaginary fetus. Once it becomes real, they lose interest in it. They certainly have no interest in making sure it has access to health care, food, housing, or education.

Jeb! distinguished himself when he was Governor of Florida, by defunding Planned Parenthood.  He further burnished his fauxlife cred by getting involved in the end of life decisions of the Schiavo family. The fauxlifers don’t usually bother much with the born, until the end of their lives approaches. They really love a chance to get involved in a big right-to-die situation, and especially if the patient involved is female. Terry Schiavo wasn’t the only one. Remember Karen Ann Quinlan or Nancy Cruzan? More recently the fauxlife crowd scored a twofer, by trying to force the family of Marlise Munoz to keep her on life support. Munoz was ghoulishly kept on life support, against the wishes of her family, for two months because she was pregnant when she died. Fauxlifers are also intent on making sure we all suffer as much as possible rather than choose to end our own lives with medical assistance in the event of a terminal illness.

Some anti-abortion terrorists doctored some videotapes about Planned Parenthood, and now the GOP is using this as another weapon in the ongoing war against women. It’s the equivalent of Jimmy “the pimp” O’Keefe’s highly edited sting against ACORN. You remember ACORN – the community based organization that advocated for health care, housing, and voter registration in low and moderate-income neighborhoods. ACORN was completely destroyed by those fake videos. By the time they were exonerated, the damage had been done. In August of 2013 Congress was gearing up for a 13th vote to defund ACORN. ACORN had been defunct for 3 years at the time. I wouldn’t be surprised to learn they’re STILL voting on ACORN. They’ve voted 56 times to repeal the Affordable Health Care Act, and there’s talk of another vote in the fall.

The Planned Parenthood videos are similar in that respect. Highly edited, for the most emotional possible ginning up of the fauxlifers. Planned Parenthood is selling body parts of the BAYBEEZ!  It’s not true, but truth doesn’t matter to this crowd.  These people don’t care that some BAYBEEZ grow up to be homeless, or hungry, or get lead poisoned as the result of a sleazy slumlord. They’ll vote against any kind of funding to protect children and families. They’ll vote against “inconveniencing” landlords by forcing them to eliminate lead paint from their buildings. After all, landlords are in business! Congressmen and Senators who can’t lift a finger to do anything that needs doing in the US House or Senate have all kinds of energy to spare for interfering in women’s lives. They are desperate to ensure that low and moderate-income women have even fewer health care options.

Imagine how much better things would be going here in the USA if these elected officials were interested in finding a way to repair our failing state and national infrastructures. Roads and bridges aren’t sexy, we are told. (Apparently making women’s reproductive decisions IS sexy.) What if our alleged leaders were all about finding a way to be competitive in telecommunications infrastructure? The US ranks far behind other countries in terms of internet speed, connectivity, and the availability of public wifi. South Korea has the fastest internet speed and the cheapest prices in the world. The best speeds that consumers can buy in major US cities are half as fast, and cost $300 a month. One would think that the boosters of “American exceptionalism” would be interested in ensuring that there is, in fact, such a thing. One would be wrong. As long as we have more guns, sell more weapons, and have the biggest war machine, we are exceptional. The country is falling apart, but hey – we can force women to serve as involuntary incubators! USA! USA!

In Texas, Governor Smart Glasses and the Texas legislature cut the state’s family planning budget by 2/3 as a way of “wiping out the abortion industry.” They succeeded in closing 53 women’s health clinics around the state. Not a one of those clinics that closed performed abortions. All those closings succeed in doing is to make it harder for women to access screenings and health services. The other unspoken goal is to ensure that women don’t have access to contraception, either. After all, he who has control of women’s reproductive decisions has control of women’s lives.

In civilized countries, women’s health and reproductive decisions are their own business. In civilized countries, there is universal health care, family leave, subsidized childcare, and no wage gap for women. In civilized countries children don’t die every day because they found a gun in the bedroom. This is another issue that shows the fauxlifers for what they are. They don’t have any problem accepting the idea that the tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of infants and children.

Women having bodily autonomy is unacceptable. Guns and moar gunz? Now that’s REAL freedom.

Published as an oped in the Conway Daily Sun newspaper on August 7, 2015