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Adam Serwer: “What to Make of Mitt Romney’s Birther Joke?”

I suspect many Republicans who continue to subscribe to the birther lunacy do so because it bothers liberals and because it’s an act of symbolic defiance of a president they dislike. The problem with birtherism, however, is that the underlying assumptions driving it have always been broader than the president. Birtherism is more than just a conspiracy theory about the president’s birth. Its underlying principle is a rejection of American racial pluralism. The refusal to believe — in the face of all evidence to the contrary — that Obama is an American reads to many as saying black people don’t really count as American unless they talk like Herman Cain or Allen West.

Charlie Pierce: “The America Paul Ryan Forgot: A Vision of Freedom, by Way of Free Government, by Way of the Morrill Act”

We are now in the middle of a strange political campaign in which the very existence of a political commonwealth seems to have been made into a matter of open debate. There are places that we all own together. There are things that belong to all of us. Yosemite belongs to us. So do Iowa State and Cornell and Purdue, and everything that is taught in all those places. The government is one of those things. So are the national parks. So are the land-grant universities, born 150 years ago this summer, and delivered by a guy who doesn’t even have a statue in the hall of statutes he helped to create. Knowledge, Justin Morrill believed, knows no class, no race. It is part of of what belongs to all of us, because none of us, not one of us, built anything by ourselves. We decided that question once before. It is to our discredit as a country that we’re arguing about it again.

Jana Riess: “Can You Be a Christian and Follow Ayn Rand?”

An affinity with Ayn Rand is something I came to expect from my atheist father — who, inspired by her writings (and the disco-era bestseller Looking Out for Number One), emptied our family’s bank account, abandoned his children, and drove off into the sunset to “self-actualize” in 1984.

Not a terribly surprising script. What does surprise me is when I hear fellow Christians try to reconcile Rand’s utter selfishness with the teachings of Jesus.

John Fugelsang: “Paul Ryan vs. Jesus vs. Ayn Rand”
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  •  No, not thanks to Barack Obama. Thanks to your doctors and the people
    who will pay for your surgery.  Barack Obama is not treating you and is
    not himself paying the entire cost of your surgery.

    This kind of unselfconscious dickbaggery is why I hate you.

    are an out of touch pompous windbag who has the nerve to think himself
    the authority on all things QUILTBAG and when directly told that his
    statement is incorrect, has not the least inclination to apologize.

  • aunursa

    Could you respond to each, please? Thanks!

    I would be happy to discuss any of these points with you.  If you would like to do so, please email me at aunursa (at) comcast (dot) net.

    That goes for everyone else’s regarding your respective points, too.  Especially those who paradoxically (1) blame me for monopolizing the discussion or hijacking the thread, and then (2) blame me for skipping out on further debate.   ;-)

  • aunursa


  • Thanks to your doctors and the people who will pay for your surgery. Barack Obama is not treating you and is not himself paying the entire cost of your surgery.

    I know you’re not stupid. I demand that you stop treating me like I am. 

    Thanks to the doctors? Really? You’ve obviously never needed medical care and been unable to afford it. The doctors are being paid.

  • I have made a personal vow that if I ever get sick in the USA I will go back to Canada before I dare set foot in a doctor’s office. Period.

    Smart move. 

  • They did not even explain where babies come from or why women have menstrual periods.


    They explained those things to us in fifth grade. Then in sex ed in 9th grade (twice a week during gym class), along with “no means no”, “consent isn’t possible when someone is drunk or otherwise incapacitated”, “consent means honesty and no manipulation”, “here are the statistics on sexual abuse”, “here’s what to do and where to go if you are sexually abused”, “here’s what orgasms are” (including a video that had a camera inside the woman during piv sex with a man during which they had mutual orgasm, it was awesome), “here’s the Kinsey scale”, “mutual masturbation can’t get you pregnant and is also very safe disease-wise”, “here’s how you use condoms correctly”, “being an asshole to people who aren’t straight is not okay”, “memorize all these sexually-transmitted diseases, what they do, their treatments, and their history, have fun with the tests”, “memorize all these methods of birth control and how successful they are statistically”, “memorize your entire reproductive system and the male reproductive system and be able to label and explain every part on a test”…

    And then we learned about the human reproductive system AGAIN in 10th grade biology — which, unlike sex ed, nothing could get you out of unless you dropped out of school entirely. Thank the gods I went to school in the late 80s and early 90s.

    Sex ed and home ec are the two classes in my life that I’ve used basically every single day. Besides literacy and the most basic mathematics, nothing else has come close to as useful and necessary. While I can imagine not knowing how to cook, I can’t imagine not knowing how my own body works on such a necessary level. They didn’t teach you about menstruation and reproduction?! Despicable. 

  • AnonymousSam

    I had Sex Education in two different schools. Sex Ed in School A consisted of an anatomy lesson. “This is a penis. This is a vagina. Here are the parts of each. You figure out the rest.” We had the class twice over a period of two weeks and the actual processes of sex, repercussions, physiology and the like were never touched upon in any capacity. Both classes ended with a lengthy discussion on how abstinence was the only sure way to avoid AIDS.

    Sex Ed in School B was even worse and consisted of a video which featured several awkward teens trying to appear sweet and innocent for the camera, struggling to explain how abstinence made married sex awesome.

    That was my sex education from school: “Don’t have it.”

    My class had over thirty pregnancies before graduation.

  • Hawker40

    Hi, Sam.
    Because of circumstances, I attended both a Catholic high school and a Los Angeles Public School.  I was invited to both schools 5 year reunion.  A quick reading of the handout indicated that both schools had the same number of girls technically pregnant during graduation (12), based on birthdates of children occurring in the same year, class of 1981.
    Given that the public school graduating class numbered over 2000, and the Catholic school numbered about 100, and assuming both classes were 1/2 female, the odds of pregnant at graduation would be .6 per 50 for the public school, and 12 per 50 in the Catholic School.
    Guess which school taught abstinence education…

  • Lunch Meat

    This is pathetic, but I can top that. For 6-9th grade, I went to this tiny, tiny private Christian school that was more like a homeschool co-op than anything else. Our “sex ed” was one day in 7th grade. (They might have done more in high school, but I sort of doubt it.) They sent all the boys to the other side of the building and locked the classroom door. Then, they had the bright idea to have the high school girls teach the 8th graders, which I think was supposed to teach them leadership? Or something? Whatever, the effect was that they were giggling so hard we couldn’t understand anything. I think they drew a uterus on the chalkboard, but I don’t remember if they actually told us what it was. They gave us each a little toiletry bag with sanitary pads in them. They didn’t really tell us how to use them or what to expect. And that was it. Until I was in high school and found the Internet, I thought sex was what happened when two people were naked in the same bed. Like, automatically or something, no movement or effort involved.

    Am I bitter about the effect this had on my wedding night? You bet I am.

    (I’ve asked my mom why they never told me anything else, and she told me that they thought I knew everything since I read every book in the house, including the kid ones about reproduction. Which, those were intriguing, but they didn’t really explain anything.)

  • VMink

    There’s an interesting post I read recently from another Canadian who works in the government office that manages health care.  They’re looking at the US election slightly concerned; if Romney/Ryan are elected, and their stance against making abortions illegal is not just a shibboleth but they actually bring it about, then there could be a bit of a rush for Canada by people needing to get abortions because they’d be impossible to get in the US.  I’m pretty sure that Romney/Ryan want to keep abortion as some kind of spectre hanging over, but it’s not something I’d take Vegas odds on.

    If there was anything remotely resembling a safe way to see how the Dem and Republican economic plans would comparatively work out in specifics, taking into account rational and douchebag actors, cruft, overhead, etc. etc. etc, then I’d say to test them.  As it is, even just ‘trying out’ the plans that Ryan has put forth would result in quite a lot more misery than I’d be comfortable imposing on anyone else.  Yes, the social safety net in all its various forms needs repair and needs to be made *more* sustainable and flexible and open for growth; the solution is not to throw it out and cast off all the people who are relying on it.

  • My class had over thirty pregnancies before graduation.

    My class had two, out of about 125 girls. One was a girl who skipped school almost all the time. The other was a girl whose parents didn’t let her take sex ed. There were two girls in our class whose parents didn’t allow them to take sex ed. I was friends with the one who did NOT get pregnant, and she ended up getting sex ed second-hand anyway, because sex ed was the #1 topic of discussion at lunch while the rest of us were taking it. I’m sure she would have been much better off if it hadn’t been filtered through a bunch of 13 and 14-year olds.

  • AnonymousSam

    My significant other can cite an even better one. Apparently the
    “education” in the schools here are as such that one can be led to have
    the impression that “penis” is the technical term for a girl’s rear end.

    I thought it was bad that I didn’t realize there was penetration
    involved in sex. My understanding of it up until my early-mid teen years
    was that it involved rubbing crotches together (it wasn’t until I was
    around 14 that I learned about ejaculation, much less where it went),
    and babies just sort of happened. Somehow.

    Oh yes, I’m glad I
    stayed a virgin throughout my school years. I’d hate to think what kind
    of explanation they’d have given me for pregnancy. It’d have probably
    involved storks.

  • AnonymousSam

    My graduating class had a lot of people (though to be fair, I imagine quite a lot of them didn’t actually make it to graduation — the drop-out rate in that area is significantly higher than the national average of about 25%), probably around a hundred-fifty girls. Of them, I personally knew four who had gotten pregnant by the time I left school myself and another three who I knew by acquaintance or as “that bitch” (I said it before, my area generated a lot of woof woof woof).

    One of those three had actually had an abortion in seventh grade. The clinic gave her a bag of condoms and told her how to use them (which, from what I gathered, really was telling her something she’d never heard about). She brought the bag to school to show them off and was promptly suspended for the rest of the school year. A boy who’d asked her for one was suspended for two weeks.

    So yeah, our school had a very unhelpful attitude toward sex education. By constantly acting like it was some horrible, shameful thing they couldn’t talk about if they’d wanted to, all they did was make kids curious to see what it was. The vast majority of people I knew in school were parents before they had their first job.

  • there could be a bit of a rush for Canada by people needing to get abortions because they’d be impossible to get in the US

    They’ll still be possible to get. Some good, principled doctors will perform abortions anyway. Other than that, people will find shady providers and will perform them on themselves. Lots and lots of women will die and otherwise injure their bodies permanently who would not have if abortion were legal — but women will still get abortions. Until the right-wing figures out a way to disallow women access to our own bodies, that is.

  • Carstonio

    Do many people honestly believe that teens would remain unaware of the existence of sex if they weren’t informed about it? Or are they simply uncomfortable with the whole subject?

  • Emcee, cubed

    My public school sex education in the early-mid 80’s consisted of:

    1. 8th grade health class. It was a three day section. Day 1 consisted primarily of the teacher spending half the class on a lecture about taking the material seriously, and anyone making jokes would get detention. The rest of the class was mainly anatomy: this is the male reproductive stuff, this is the female reproductive stuff (in this way we got to learn about testes, urethra, etc. for the male, and the ovaries, uterus, and fallopean tubes of the female. It was strictly about reproduction, not sex, so we didn’t learn about the clitoris, the prostate, (I think even the vagina wasn’t specifically mentioned.) Day 2 was a test on what we learned on day 1. And Day 3 was watching the after-school special about where babies come from. (Which is great for biology, but doesn’t deal with sex. I think we’d all already seen it on television anyway.)

    2. 10th grade health class, This consisted of a single day. The teacher handed out index cards, and told us to write down any questions we had about sex. He then went through the cards and answered the ones he felt like answering. Yes, this was about as helpful as it sounds.

    Luckily, during 7th grade, I was going through religious education at our local UU church. The curriculum was About Your Sexuality, and was one of the most comprehensive sex ed courses I’ve ever seen. We dealt with a number of topics, such as masturbation and homosexuality, birth control and STDs (this was ’81 or so, so AIDS wasn’t on the radar yet.) I learned more there than I did at even college level courses. Probably one of the best things that ever happened to me.

  • AnonymousSam

    I think their assumption is that parents know better than anyone when and how to teach children about sex and they were only providing classes out of an obligation to the state, so they weren’t about to make it comprehensive if they could help it.

  • The vast majority of people I knew in school were parents before they had their first job.

    Wow. What a completely broken system.

    The vast majority of people I still know from school — well, that’s skewed. All my friends graduated and went to at least community college, though actually I don’t know of anyone from our entire graduating class went did not go on to at least community college. There must have been a couple people. But anyway, none of them had kids before their late twenties. Actually the past couple years have been the time when the ones who wanted babied almost all started having them. They’re all 34-36. The one guy I know from school whose oldest kid (of two) is starting school this year has older kids than anyone else I went to school with and still know.

    It wasn’t a rich or liberal school district by any means, either. Just not a terribly poor or hugely right-wing one. It had its problems. But at least it was interested in what actually worked, in keeping kids as safe as possible while they were in school, and in producing people who had as many tools as the school could practically give them to be competent adults.

  • I suspect the lack of sex-positivity in Canadian and USian culture is a big part of it. When culture on the one hand sexualizes a lot of things, but on the other, makes a bunch of rather unconnected no-nos about the whole subject, it doesn’t create a very comfortable space for adults to explain to children what sex is about and why it is important to understand it properly.

    Example: On the one hand it is easy to view pictures of women or men whose clothes leave virtually nothing to the imagination, but on the other, Justin Timberlake OMG HDU YANK THE PIECE OF CLOTHING OFF JANET JACKSON – well, the shitstorm that came down after that would make you wonder if people really have any sense of due proportion anymore.

    I like to make this analogy:

    You wouldn’t treat an expensive 800 MHz NMR spectrometer like a kleenex. You’d read the instruction manual for the software, and for the proper procedure to shim the magnets and how it establishes the “lock” to correctly give you the frequencies you want (does it use TMS? Or does it use a deuterated solvent? etc) and so on.

    In short, you would learn everything you needed to know before you used it. And if you still weren’t sure, you’d ask an expert.

    Sex is like the expensive 800 MHz NMR spectrometer. When used and done properly, it’s amazing like sliced bread.

    But if used improperly, a whole raft of unintended consequences can happen, and that usually makes people rather upset.

    I really wish more people grasped the importance of treating sex as a thing that really does merit a proper instruction manual and expert training.

  • hagsrus

     This is extremely good news, but if it’s not being too intrusive, may I ask about the process of  getting the insurance and how the ACA affected it? There’s somebody I’m trying to explain things to, and having a real-life example would probably ease the struggle a bit!

  • Actually, at least in the U.S., Janet Jackson was the one who was blamed for Justin Timberlake ripping a piece of clothing off her. He got away absolutely scot free. 

  • Lunch Meat

    parents know better than anyone when and how to teach children about sex

    Ha! Even if parents do know more about sex than their kids’ friends (not always a guarantee in less functional relationships), they don’t know better about how to teach it–there’s a reason we have special training for teachers! And few of them are actually comfortable talking about it.

    I don’t understand why sex ed is different from any other subject for education.* Couldn’t you just as easily say “All these kids’ parents probably do math at work, so we’ll just leave it to the parents to teach math”?

    Even if kids aren’t “supposed” to be having sex in high school, they’re still going to do it eventually! When else are they supposed to learn?

    *I do understand, it’s because the powers that be don’t want anyone to enjoy sex or have it any more than the bare minimum. But I don’t understand why this logics to other people.

  • leftofabbie

    You are mistaken.  I had a driver’s license long before I had access to my birth certificate.  I’m 64 and never had to produce it (back in the 1960’s) to get a driver’s license or a marriage license, to register for college in the early 1970’s; not until I applied for a passport  (in the 1990’s) did any authoritative licensing body or educational institution require my birth certificate for verification for anything.

  • I would not be able to get insurance that would cover anything related to my disability without the ACA, full stop. Because of the ACA, I will be getting that insurance.

    I can’t detail the process because in my case, it’s “have a fiancé who does almost everything so all you have to do is sign things and make one phone call, for which he has written down what you should say.” Between pain and painkillers, I would not be able to do this on my own. I will poke him to explain the process here.

  • AnonymousSam

    Actually, um… we actually do have politicians who think that home schooling is the proper way to educate children, some of whom would like to get rid of public schools altogether. FWIW, School A required me to have a parental consent form signed to attend their Sex Ed class.

    When else are they supposed to learn?

    While consummating their Christian heterosexual marriage, duh.

  • Oh, god, that’s even worse. Blame the woman for the man’s actions. (>_<)

  • I had to produce a birth certificate and two other forms of identification to get my license renewed when I let it lapse. (It fell through the cracks when I threw my back out.) I need a driver’s license or state ID for a marriage license. Getting the birth certificate was also a pain. It’s a good thing I signed the lease and one of the utility bills is in my name, because I have no clue how I’d have gotten ID otherwise.

  • You know, the people being purposely dense about Romney’s birth certificate crack are obviously struggling to avoid admitting that they may believe, in some way, that Barack Obama is not a legitimate President only due to his skin color.

    A far stronger case could be made for George W. Bush not being a legitimate President due to the dodgy election results involved, especially in 2000.

    And let’s not forget how many Republicans blew their stack over Clinton becoming President and doing everything they could to cast him as an “illegitimate” President, though they couldn’t attack him as well on that front because he had a commanding lead in the popular and electoral votes, and was a Christian white guy.

    But they attacked him anyway – his “unconventional” wife – his occasional philandering – his willingness to be around black people – all that was used against him in any way possible.

  • AnonymousSam

    You’re right. To the point that I didn’t even remember Timberlake being involved in the incident at all.

    Holy shit!

    Considering TEH EVUL NIPPUL is still cited as the harbinger of the downfall of society’s morality, that really says something for just how much our culture hates women, doesn’t it?

  • Beroli

    Hi, I’m Lliira’s fiance.

    The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act created a program called the Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan, which will exist until the full Act goes into effect in 2014, insurance companies can no longer refuse to cover pre-existing conditions, and the program is no longer needed. It (quoting from their website) “provides a new health coverage option for people who have been without
    health coverage for at least 6 months and have a pre-existing condition
    or have been denied health coverage because of their health condition.”

    Unfortunately, it’s not quite as simple (in Florida; some states are better than others) as the first clause makes it sound; their actual forms require a letter from an insurance company stating either: 1) that they won’t insure you, 2) that they will insure you but with a not-your-preexisting-condition rider, or 3) that they will insure you but with a premium at least twice their standard premium. So we’re having to go through more paperwork with an insurance company before we can actually send PCIP their paperwork. The people I spoke to at PCIP assure me that the insurance company cannot legally refuse to provide such a letter (unless they want to say “Yes, we’ll insure her at our standard rate and cover her preexisting condition,” which of course they do not).

  • leftofabbie

    The point I was making is that fifty years ago, your birth certificate wasn’t a requirement for proving that you were who you said you were.  I realize that has changed since then.  I’m sure Romney had to produce his to get his passport, just as I did.  

  • AnonymousSam

    I’m in the same boat as Lliira; I’ll need to show my birth certificate in order to renew my license or get a state ID, along with many, many other pieces of ID. Since they’re actually demanding more proof of identification than I actually have (and I don’t mean what I have access to, I mean existing pieces period), I can’t get either one until I get my documents reviewed by a specialist to make sure that I’m not actually a terrorist. They’re in no hurry to help me get that set up.

    It’s been a frustrating three years now.

  • When else are they supposed to learn?While consummating their Christian heterosexual marriage, duh.


  • leftofabbie

    I can empathize; it took a notarized affadavit from my mother and my certificate of confirmation from my church to get my original birth certificate changed to the correct information; a long and costly process, but I finally have it.  Now I have the passport as well, so things are much simpler.  Good luck in your endeavor to get yours issued to you.  It’s more blowback from 9-11, thanks to George W. Bush for being on the watch for us.  (sarc)

  • Carstonio

    Maybe it isn’t broken, it just has far different goals. Given the number of homosexuality opponents who argue that it threatens the survival of the human species, it’s possible that many, many people subconsciously believe that every fertile human has a duty to procreate. The systems described here work well if one assumes that the goal is to keep turning out babies as soon as teens’ bodies are ready. They are horribly inefficient if one assumes that the goal is for teens to use their sexuality knowledgeably and to control their fertility.

  • AnonymousSam

    Well hey, if you don’t believe sex should be enjoyable or often repeated, the thought of two people awkwardly fumbling under the sheets while they try to adhere to social and marital expectations probably doesn’t strike you as nearly as much of a bad thing as it does people with common sense.

  • There is a Republican mythology of “we don’t need affirmative action anymore and blacks are all just shiftless and lazy and they are TOO TOTES TREATED THE SAME HDU SAY OTHERWISE WHITE PRIVILEGE WHAT WHITE PRIVILEGE LA LA LA LA”

    The thing I find absolutely bizarre is that Mitt Romney committed the equivalent of heresy against that shibboleth by admitting in front of the NAACP, in public, that blacks still have it worse off compared to whites.

    It really makes me wonder if he believes anything at all other than in his money.

  • Lunch Meat

    When else are they supposed to learn?
    While consummating their Christian heterosexual marriage, duh.

    Which is really useful if your goal is to create women who are terrified of sex.

  • AnonymousSam

    It isn’t?

  • If it were just confused fumbling it wouldn’t be so bad. We all go through a certain amount of confused fumbling anyway, no matter how much sex ed we’ve had. But having your first sexual experience with  someone who does not understand the need for foreplay, has no clue how to start going about it, and is probably embarrassed by the idea sticking his penis in your vagina is a perfect way to cause severe and traumatizing pain to women.

  • AnonymousSam

    Ugh, that’s going to be even more fun. I had my name legally changed about a decade ago, and while I still have all the legal documents to prove that the name on my birth certificate changed to the name I use now, I just know someone is going to look at both of them and decide that my name is actually Muhammad ali-Mahal Muhammad and QUICK GET THE SHOES THOSE SOCKS MIGHT HAVE A BOMB

    Never mind that I’m pretty sure my family line has nothing but Caucasian blood for the last ten generations and the furthest out of the country I’ve ever been was southern Ontario.

    I’ve been off the grid for years now, not out of choice, but because my best efforts have had no luck in convincing the government that I belong here. I have no doubt that in the wrong neighborhood (say, Polk County), I’d be locked up on suspicion of being an illegal immigrant/terrorist/same thing.

  • AnonymousSam

    That’s assuming the male has any idea where he’s supposed to stick it. Or that he’s supposed to use his sticker for anything at all — I knew a few girls (my SO did as well) who thought that pregnancy comes from kissing, which paints a rather sad picture of how their first encounters would turn out.

    A random search of “can I get pregnant from kissing” turns up depressing results.

  • It just occurred to me that there may be people here in the same boat, or who want to help people who are. So here’s a link to help out:

  • Lunch Meat

    But having your first sexual experience with  someone who does not
    understand the need for foreplay, has no clue how to start going about
    it, and is probably embarrassed by the idea sticking his penis in your
    vagina is a perfect way to cause severe and traumatizing pain to women.

    I was extremely lucky–I have about the most respectful, considerate husband imaginable, and he did have sexual experience and knew what to do. Still, I didn’t have any idea what to expect. I knew it would hurt (which all of pop culture describes as “it hurt a little and then it went away and then it started to feel good–in what universe?) but I had no idea that I was supposed to do stuff beforehand to make sure it would even fit. Worst pain I’ve ever felt that I can remember.

  • I didn’t have all that much pain, though it did hurt and I was sore for a week. Overall it was a great experience though. Great enough that we did it twice more the next day, when it still hurt, but was also really, really fun. 

    Before I had a boyfriend, I couldn’t even get a tampon in, so I think my experience being good was due to actions and not anatomy. I’m sorry your experience wasn’t good.

  • hagsrus

     Thank you. I fervently hope it will all work out!

  • leftofabbie

    Think positive, you have to realize that the wheels grind slowly in the state and federal bureaucracies!  They do eventually come through, however.

  •  Anyone else notice that when Herman Cain was on The Daily Show, he claimed that the reason polls showed Romney getting 0% of the black vote was because the throngs of black conservatives were at work when they called?

    I’m a bit amazed at the brazenness of the race-baiting wrapped up in that.

  • Wow. It takes some chutzpah to imply that.

    Hell, aren’t something like 50% of blacks now in the ‘middle class’? They didn’t get there doing nothing. (-_-)

  • Turcano

    In other words, he has a secret plan to fix the healthcare system.

    Edit: Gamnit, got ninja’d.