Saturday, February 25, 2012

About my 'spilled semen' amendment to Oklahoma's Personhood bill

I took this stand because I'm sick of the hypocrisy of Republican lawmakers who want to police women's reproductive health
Constance Johnson's amendment to SB1433
Constance Johnson's handwritten amendment to Oklahoma senate bill 1433 – a 'Personhood' bill.
As a woman and a 31-year veteran of the legislative process in Oklahoma, I am increasingly offended by state law trends that solely focus on the female's role in the reproductive process. With Oklahoma's new, never-before-experienced Republican majority, we are seeing enactment of more and more measures that adversely affect women and their rights to access safe medical procedures when making reproductive healthcare decisions.

My action to amend the so-called "Personhood" bill – SB 1433, introduced by Senator Brian Crain (Republican, Tulsa) – represents the culmination of my and many other Oklahomans' frustration regarding the ridiculousness of our reproductive policy initiatives in Oklahoma. I have received overwhelmingly positive responses from men and women in Oklahoma – and worldwide. The Personhood bill would potentially allow governmental intrusion into families' personal lives by policing what happens to a woman's eggs without any similar thought to what happens to a man's sperm.
My amendment seeks to draw attention to the absurdity, duplicity and lack of balance inherent in the policies of this state in regard to women. Oklahoma already incarcerates more women than any other place in the world. Under the latest provisions, a woman in Oklahoma may now face additional criminal charges and potential incarceration for biological functions that produce or, in some cases, destroy eggs or embryos, such as a miscarriage. In vitro fertilization, involving the fertilization outside the womb for implantation into the womb, would also potentially represent a violation of the proposed Personhood statute.

Finally, this amendment seeks to draw humorous attention to the hypocrisy and inconsistency of this proposal – from the Republican perspective of down-sized government and less government intrusion into people's private affairs. Despite the great challenges our state faces, it is far more important that we address issues such as affordable healthcare to help improve our state's ranking of 48th in health status; to create good, secure jobs that grow our economy; and ensure that all citizens have access to quality, affordable education.

  • HerrEMott
    9 February 2012 2:04PM
    So every sperm is sacred after all
  • Damntheral
    9 February 2012 2:06PM
    Good idea to spell it out: they might not get it and vote the amendment in..
  • gillesboy
    9 February 2012 2:10PM
    I like a woman with spunk. You go girl!
  • RipThisJoint
    9 February 2012 2:11PM
    Ha, good for you, Constance! Especially when the Catholic church throws a hissy about having to provide contraception to employees, but Viagra is fine.
  • OmniGuy
    9 February 2012 2:11PM
    I can just see them wondering if they have enough law enforcement officers and prison space to round up every single male aged 10 and up for the mass murder of millions.
    It's so depressing this debate is still going on, not just in Oklahoma but in so many places where those in power should just know better.
    And every single man involved who thinks he can tell a woman what she can do with her own body should be deeply ashamed of himself.
  • Sidfishes
    9 February 2012 2:12PM
    So, these pro death penalty guys who have 'accidents' in their pants when the switch is pulled better beware.
  • Existangst
    9 February 2012 2:16PM
    I agree with your aims, but here is a biology lesson.
    There is one crucial difference between the production of eggs and sperm.
    A female is born with a fixed number of eggs in her ovaries. The ovary will produce no more eggs in her lifetime, only release them at suitable points of the cycle. It is still more than enough eggs for 1 or 2 per month for 35 years.
    In a man, the testes continue to produce millions of sperm every day. There is no limit, or fixed number of sperm that can e produced in a lifetime. There can never ever be any (religious or otherwise) justification for frowning upon masturbation (onanism). Semen is not a precious resource. In fact, the quality of sperm and semen is improved by regular masturbation, making fertilization more likely. So men, regular exercise if you and your partner want babies.
          9 February 2012 2:17PM
          The actual bill in question would define life as starting at conception. Just in case anyone was curious.
          BTW, she withdrew the amendment already. In this case, withdrawel seems to work

GOP Contenders for VP

 Vice President Hillary Clinton? Not if she can help it. Secretary of State Clinton put to rest speculation on Oct. 13, that she might accept a bid for vice president in 2012. "I do not think it's even in the realm of possibility, and in large measure because I think Vice President Biden has done an amazingly good job," she told Today.
So with Hill out of the running in the 2012 Democratic
ticket, and people buzzing about possible Republican VP candidates, Powerwall takes a look at GOP VP hopefuls -- and a few long shots

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) endorsed Mitt Romney (R-Mass.) for the GOP presidential nomination following the Republic economic debate on Oct. 11.
After months of protestations (he said "suicide" may be the only thing that could convince people he isn't
running), Christie announced that he will not run for president during a press conference on Oct. 4.
But unfortunately for the much-loved guv's supporters, Christie has said that he doesn't want the VP nomination.

Already being compared to Barack Obama for his star quality and ethnic background (his parents were Cuban exiles), Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) says there's no way he'll be on the 2012 ticket, but the VP buzz started even before he won the 2010 Senate race.
When asked whether he'd accept the slot on the 2012 ticket if offered, Rubio responded, "The answer's going to be no." Oh well, we'll have to keep looking.

Bobby Jindal
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal is giving his support to Texas Gov. Rick Perry. On accepting a VP nomination, Jindal didn't totally cross it off the list while on Meet the Press in 2010, saying, "I'm not gonna turn down something that's not been offered for me.”

The former Minnesota governor was on John McCain's VP shortlist back in 2008, so it's reasonable to assume he could make the cut this time (it's nice to be from a swing state). He's thrown his weight behind Romney, so now the former presidential candidate might just have to wait and see if Romney accepts such an endorsement --
or goes so far as bringing him onto his team.

 Mitt Romney
Just because Pawlenty and Christie like Romney for the top spot doesn't mean everybody does (just ask Bobby Jindal). So maybe Romney could take the path he hasn't chosen thus far and go for VP. It might help him conquer some of that awkwardness.

Perry has been a big threat to Romney... so why don't they just team up?! It's hard to imagine, but the Texas guv and former Massachusetts leader bring quite the diverse combination to the table. We're just not sure the West Wing could hold these two big egos, but if Perry falls in the polls, it might be an option.
Maybe, just maybe, he'd be willing to take the No. 2 spot (back in 2008, running for president worked out for Joe Biden). In any case, Perry is very popular with Tea Party activists and his fellow Texans (granted, it's not exactly a swing state)

Rick Santorum
Like Christie, Santorum could give a more moderate GOP candidate some Tea Party credentials. However, it's tough to see the former senator from Pennsylvania giving anyone a big boost. Even among hardcore conservatives, Santorum's popularity is anemic at best.

Want some fire in the race? Look no further than the representative from Minnesota. She's making her case to be prez, but she could be the better version of Sarah Palin as a VP candidate in 2012. How does Romney/Bachmann sound?
In any case, it's hard to imagine the Tea Party firebrand would want to be second fiddle, but boy, would it be fun.

The former Utah governor has already made a few slips this campaign season, most notably telling Piers Morgan on CNN that he would "be the first person to sign up" if asked by Michele Bachmann to serve as her vice president. We're guessing Bachmann wishes he'd just drop out of the presidential race already so she could be
that much closer to winning the nomination.

We don't know if the former New York mayor would cheer a VP offer, but he could help a more conservative candidate fight for swing states like Pennsylvania and Florida. However, the 2012 GOP candidate may be leaning toward jumping into the race for the top spot -- if things get "desperate."

Jon Kyl
The other Arizona senator is retiring from office next year, and he's already said the VP job is the only political office he's interested in. Currently the Senate minority whip, Kyl is popular with conservatives for giving President Obama some big headaches. However, Kyl -- who's closing in on 70 -- may be a bit old for the job.
(Age certainly didn't seem to be an edge for the other Arizona senator, John McCain, in 2008.)

The Donald as No. 2? We don't think it's likely, either. But we never expected him to (almost) run for president in the first place, so who knows?

Romney calls for 20 percent lower taxes; omits details on how to pay for them

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, seeking to kick-start his presidential campaign among recalcitrant conservatives, will propose cutting the top income tax for individuals to 28%, advisers said today.

Mr. Romney's earlier economic plan called only for preserving the current top tax rate of 35%, while holding out the promise of lower rates later in an overhaul of the tax code. But facing a major challenge from upstart Republican rival Rick Santorum, he has chosen to outline such an overhaul today in Arizona ahead of critical Feb. 28 primaries there and in  Michigan -- and before a televised debate tonight in Mesa.

Mr. Romney's top economic adviser, Glenn Hubbard, said the plan would cut all six current tax brackets -- 10%, 15%, 25%, 28%, 33%, 35%, depending on a taxpayer's income - by the same proportion of 20%. That would produce this new set of tax brackets: 8%, 12%, 20%, 22.4%, 26.4%, and 28%. "It's a marginal rate cut for every American," Mr. Hubbard said.

But he added that Mr. Romney is committed to making his plan both "revenue neutral" -- meaning it won't add to the budget deficit -- and "distributionally neutral" -- meaning that it won't shift the tax burden from upper-income Americans to middle and working class Americans. Since the largest benefits from rate reduction would go to upper income taxpayers, so will the burdens of "base broadening" reductions in existing deductions needed to keep the government from hemorrhaging revenue, he explained.

Reducing large tax deductions, such as the ones for home mortgage interest and state and local taxes, is politically treacherous because of their popularity with voters and elected officials alike. For now, at least, Mr. Romney will dodge any potential backlash by avoiding any specifics.

Mr. Romney will pledge to work with Congress on "limiting them," Mr. Hubbard said, but "It is not his intention to take on any specific deduction or exclusion and eliminate it."

Mr. Romney has praised the work of President Obama's Simpson-Bowles deficit reduction commission, and criticized the Democratic incumbent for ignoring its work. But Mr. Romney is also rejecting the commission recommendation that tax overhaul produce increased government revenue to cut the deficit, while embracing its recommendation to cut the top tax rate to 29% or lower.

Mr. Hubbard contrasted Mr. Romney's "pro-growth" plan with Mr. Obama's proposal to raise taxes on individuals earning more than $200,000 and households earning more than $250,000. He argued that would hurt economic growth by crimping small businesses, many of which file under the individual tax code.

Mr. Hubbard, who advised former President George W. Bush and now is dean of the business school at Columbia University, also cast the Romney plan as superior to that of Mr. Santorum. The former
Pennsylvania senator would also cut the top individual rate to 28%, the level it reached after Congress and the White House agreed on a tax overhaul plan during Ronald Reagan's presidency, which preserving only one more tax bracket of 10%. In the name of "national security", Mr. Santorum has also proposed a zero tax rate for manufacturing businesses as a means of preserving and expanding that economic sector.

The Santorum plan would dramatically expand the budget deficit, Mr. Hubbard said, and the zero rate for manufacturing would result in "significant capital misallocation." "Net-net, it's a job destroyer, not a job creator," Mr. Hubbard said.

Both Mr. Santorum and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who has proposed an optional "flat tax" system of 15%, have accused Mr. Romney of timidity. With his new proposal, Mr. Romney seeks to counter that charge in advance of tonight's debate.

Mr. Romney's plan aims to balance two competing priorities of different Republican factions. By proposing to cut the top rate, he bids for support among supply-side conservatives who contend that lower marginal rates are the key ingredient for producing economic growth.

But by vowing to offset the loss of revenue by eliminating some deductions, he responds to concerns among deficit hawks about expanding the tide of red ink that has the federal government spending an estimated $1.3-trillion more than it takes in this year.

And by insisting that those unspecified reductions will fall most heavily on the affluent, he seeks to limit his own exposure as a wealthy former financial industry executive who himself has paid taxes at only around the 15% rate because most of his income comes from capital gains. Mr. Romney would maintain the current 15% rate on dividends and capital gains.

Mr. Obama has proposed to tax the "carried interest" received by many hedge fund and private equity executives at higher ordinary income rates rather than as capital gains, arguing that current law gives them an undue advantage. Mr. Hubbard said a President Romney would ask his Treasury Secretary to study tackle the "devilishly hard question" of whether current law should change and tax some of that income at ordinary income rates.

Mr. Romney had previously proposed eliminating capital gains taxes on taxpayers earning less than $200,000. That drew fire from some conservatives, and campaign rivals such as Mr. Gingrich, on grounds that gave unwarranted preference to a specific group and would have small economic impact since those taxpayers receive relatively little in capital gains anyway.

Mr. Romney also proposes to eliminate both the estate tax and the Alternative Minimum Tax, while cutting the top corporate tax rate from 35% to 25%.

Mr. Hubbard said three different revenue streams would keep the plan from increasing the budget deficit: the "dynamic" effects of economic growth, the additional income that would be subject to taxation through "base broadening", and spending cuts Mr. Romney plans that would reach $500-billion per year by 2016. The campaign promised more specifics on those spending cuts within the next week.

In advance of Mr. Romney's tax plan, Mr. Obama's Treasury Department proposed its own corporate tax overhaul plan cutting the top corporate rate to 28% by eliminating some existing corporate deductions. Part of the Obama plan includes a minimum tax on the overseas income of U.S.-based corporations. Mr. Hubbard, accusing the administration of a "full-throttle attack on multinationals", said Mr. Romney will propose shifting to a territorial system that would not tax corporate income earned overseas.

*** UPDATE *** At an event earlier today, Romney alluded to which cuts and deductions he would go after, especially on the rich. He said the highest-income earner, in fact, should keep "paying their current share ... or more."

"And in order to limit any impact on the deficit," Romney said, "because I don't want to add to the deficit, and also to ensure that we continue to have progressivity as we've had in the past with our code, I'm going to limit the deductions and exemptions particularly for high income folks. And by the way, I want to make sure you understand, for middle income folks. And by the way, I want to make sure that you understand for middle-income families, the deductibility of home mortgage interest and charitable contributions -- those things will continue, but for high-income folks, we’re going to cut back on that, so that we make sure the top 1 percent keeps paying the current share they’re paying or more. We want middle-income Americans to be the place we focus our help, because it’s middle-income Americans that have been hurt by this Obama economy."

10 GOP endorsements that still matter in 2012’s presidential election

It's amazin' how quickly her political influence has faded--but the overheated and overvalued political obsession of 2009 and 2010 still has one trick up her sleeve this election cycle: her primary endorsement. The Palin seal of approval could boost the numbers of any candidate in the field by rallying the conservative populist
base. Significantly, Palin praised Gingrich back in October when he was stuck in the middle of the pack, saying he would "clobber Barack Obama in any debate" and giving high marks for the way "he seems to be above a lot of the bickering that goes on" at the debates. A Palin endorsement would solidify Gingrich's status as a conservative alternative to Romney, while Palin also could play spoiler by choosing another candidate.

2. Jeb Bush
His father and brother won't get into the endorsement game as former presidents, but Jeb has the freedom that comes with being a former swing-state governor and policy leader in the GOP. With Bush family loyalist Karl Rove taking shots at Perry and now Gingrich, it will be interesting to see whether a Bush family member will
throw his weight behind Team Romney. This endorsement would signify the establishment's rallying around Romney, for better or worse. For what it's worth, Jeb's son backed Jon Huntsman early on.

3. Terry Branstad
The popular governor of Iowa represents the center-right of the Republican Party in his state. He's remained mum to date and has only four weeks left to make an impact on the 2012 presidential race. On paper, he'd be a logical Romney fan, but the amiable and mustachioed 2008 Rudy Giuliani supporter has criticized the former
Massachusetts governor for spending so little time in the state before November. Branstad's likely to keep his peace at this stage, but his support still could be a game changer in the Iowa caucuses.

Everyone's back-of-the-napkin electoral-math favorite VP nominee has resisted endorsements to date, just as he's said he would decline an invitation to join the 2012 ticket. But his endorsement could provide dramatic help in the pivotal primary state of Florida, perhaps even more than Jeb Bush's, though they would be likely to move together
if either got in the fray. This rising Senate star could rally Tea Partiers as well as Hispanics in the Sunshine State, the traditional tiebreaker for the January primaries.

This is the ultimate two-fer endorsement: a national Tea Party leader and South Carolina senator. More than any one else in the Palmetto State, DeMint could shift momentum if he decides to endorse. A rumor that he would back Romney was quickly swatted down by the senator's staff, and he seems sanguine about supporting
any nominee over Barack Obama. But DeMint is the real power player in S.C. politics, known for corralling the congressional delegation in his direction by any means necessary.

The former GOP nominee is still widely respected, distrusted though he may be by the talk-radio crowd. His endorsement would give the imprimatur of national leadership as well as resonate with independents in the states with open primaries, most notably New Hampshire, which he won twice. He's one of the few
politicians who has earned the right to be considered a hero based on personal courage. Historically, he's been a leader of the center-right, but Romney didn't win many fans among his GOP primary competitors in the 2008 campaign.

The South Carolina governor has been courted by conservatives since she moved into the governor's mansion after the 2010 election. On paper, she's a rising star, the second Indian-American Republican governor after Louisiana's Jindal and the first woman to hold the post in South Carolina. In the state, however, her
reputation is a bit more complicated. After weathering a campaign sex scandal and receiving middling reviews from her onetime colleagues in the state legislature, Haley's job-approval ratings are slightly underwater, with 41 percent approving and 43 percent disapproving. Nonetheless, her support would capture headlines and attention all around the Palmetto State, possibly reverberating both right and center.

The former New York City mayor is still one of the most i- demand surrogates in the Republican field, broadly popular with the base while retaining an ability to connect with independents. And of all the candidates who considered getting in the 2012 race, Giuliani was the only one whom polls showed consistently beating
Obama head to head. Giuliani's endorsement—and, yes, I used to work for him—can still back a punch and get voters’ attention, especially in swing states. Crucially, he retains credibility with both establishment and insurgent Republicans. Both Gingrich and Romney would benefit from his endorsement, big-time. In addition, Perry was a supporter of Giuliani's in 2008, and the former mayor values loyalty. Somehow, I don't think Ron Paul is in contention for Giuliani's consideration.

The Herminator will find that his power-broker status declines with every day he's out of the race, but his 8 or so percent diehard supporters can still be directed to another candidate and do them some good, to the extent that standing on the same stage doesn't call up images of Ginger White mentally shopping while in bed.
Endorsing fast will be the best way to keep his relevance intact beyond the memory of the 9-9-9 mantra.

10. Rick Scott
Four years ago, Florida Gov. Charlie Crist was widely courted by the GOP presidential candidates. Scott, who's now governor, has been almost invisible in the 2012 debate, despite Florida's expected status as tiebreaker after New Hampshire and South Carolina. The problem is that Scott is unpopular—awkward,
should-we-be-seen-with-him-in-public unpopular. In the latest polls, only 37 percent of Floridians approve of the Tea Party–backed governor, while 52 percent disprove. In Scott's defense, that's up from 27 percent approval just five months after taking office. Still, in a GOP primary, a Scott endorsement is likely to help slightly more than it will hurt. In the general election, the GOP nominee will be acting like Scott doesn't exist

In battle over reproductive rights, female legislators fight back -- with a bit of humor

A group of Democratic women from Georgia, frustrated by recent bills limiting women’s reproductive rights, decided it was time to turn the tables on the men.

Their proposed bill would amend the state’s current abortion law by banning men from getting vasectomies. 

“Thousands of children are deprived of birth in this state every year because of the lack of state regulation of vasectomies, said Rep. Yasmin Neal, a Democrat from the Atlanta suburb of Jonesboro, in a
video statement  

on Wednesday. “The day has come where men should face the same pressure and invasion of privacy that women have faced for years.

Neal, who spearheaded the bill, tells NBC News her intention is to “shin[e] light on the double standard women face in the United States.”

The anti-vasectomy bill borrows some language directly from H.B. 954, a recently drafted anti-abortion bill in Georgia that would punish abortions performed after the 20th week of pregnancy with prison sentences between one and 10 years.

But Neal is not the only Democrat trying to use a bit of humor -- or exaggeration –- to combat legislation limiting women’s reproductive rights.

Constance Johnson, a Democratic state senator in Oklahoma, believed a proposed bill  in her state -- which would require women to undergo an ultrasound and listen and see the fetus before an abortion -- went too far.

So she proposed that zygotes should have the same rights as adults, and added: “However, any action in which a man ejaculates or otherwise deposits semen anywhere but in a woman's vagina shall be interpreted and construed as an action against an unborn child.”

That means no masturbating. No wet dreaming. No blow jobs or facials or pulling out and coming on your lady’s stomach, dudes. No gay sex, unless a vagina’s around to catch the precious seed. No Boston cream pies.

“My amendment seeks to draw attention to the absurdity, duplicity, lack of balance, and ridiculous sexism inherent in the policies of this state in regard to women,” Johnson wrote in a column for The Guardian. She later willingly withdrew her amendment.

Opponents of abortion rights aren’t laughing.

Georgia State Rep. Doug McKillip (R), who sponsored the anti-abortion bill in the state, says Neal and her supporters are misunderstanding the issue.

McKillip -- who at the time of his interview with NBC News had not read Neal’s bill -- argues that his legislation is intended to protect life.

“This is a serious topic, not one that should be dealt with tongue-in-cheek,” he said.

“She’s making a mockery of the system,” added Genevieve Wilson, co-executive for Georgia Right for Life.

“She’s ignoring the fact that children are being torn limb by limb.”

Neal counters, “We are very serious about proving a point, but also a serious bill was dropped.”

She continues, “I also find it ironic how a bill about men’s rights is ‘funny, tongue and cheek or humorous’ 
but a bill about women is ‘serious’ and needs to be debated, that's not fair.”

To the Republican Presidential Candidates