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Health care reform, round two. Can it happen this time? Also, 90s rock music and feminism, and an old and new pop star join forces to fight HIV.
Links in this episode:
On this episode of Reality Cast, I’ll be talking to Marisa
Meltzer about feminism in 90s music.
Also, it’s back to the grind of fighting over health care reform. Also, Lady Gaga and Cyndi Lauper make
corporate charity shilling look good.
Bill Maher can be a real sexist pig sometimes, but once in
awhile he has a moment of clarity.
For instance, he was talking about the teabaggers and how they pine for
the 1950s, and how racist and sexist and homophobic that really is. And I loved his example.
Apparently, Ricky used to take Lucy over his knee and spank
her when he thought she’d really screwed up. And Maher’s right; that people long for this time, when schools
were segregated and the birth control pill was illegal and gays were thrown in
jail, isn’t cute. It’s downright
I’ve given you a break, in part because Congress has taken a
break. But now it’s back on. Health care reform, possibly part
deux. Barack Obama has decided to
treat health care reform like a boxing match, and figures that now we’re just
on round two of the pre-midterm-election health care reform fight. Another summit, another push, another
campaign to win the public over on a bill that is just a wee bit complicated
for political junkies, much less the average member of the voting public.
The battle is being fought on two fronts: overcoming the
filibuster and overcoming the teabaggers deliberate sowing of ignorance and misinformation. The filibuster is the main issue right
now, because the current Senate rules require 60 votes to invoke cloture, and
that’s become a substitute for actually having a vote on legislation. Right now, the Republicans have a
standing order to filibuster any major legislation Democrats offer, and they’ve
filibustered more than twice as many bills in a single session than ever before
in history. Joe Biden expressed
amazement at how bad it’s gotten.
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Stephen Colbert expressed the same idea more comically:
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Of course, another option is for the House to just pass the
Senate bill as is, but a lot of House members don’t want to do that. And a big reason is reproductive
rights. Both bills have unsavory,
misogynist amendments aimed at depriving women of private insurance funding for
abortion. I’m coming around in
general to the idea that getting rid of the filibuster is the better strategy,
even if it’s complicated. It’s
being used to shut down government altogether, and that’s simply intolerable.
Now that even watering down bills doesn’t work to get them passed, the
filibuster needs to go.
Just when I’m despairing that anything could get done about
health care, I take a look at the right wing media, and how desperate they’re
getting. Any token relationship to
the truth was abandoned in their messages a long time ago. For instance, President Clinton had to
get stents in his heart recently, and the right wing media machine went into
full blown lying mode about the availability of this common procedure after
health care reform. Peter Johnson
on Fox and Friends played this card.
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Part of what he’s doing here is trying to raise fears about
government funding for research into effectiveness, research that could hurt
the bottom line mainly at drug companies, who are interested in stopping
anything that shows that less expensive treatments might work better than the
ones that boost their profit margins the most. If you’re worried about dying, effectiveness research is
your best friend, because it helps determine if you can get by with less
invasive measures. People do die
during surgery, you know. If you
can avoid it, it’s better than just doing it because you can.
Rush Limbaugh didn’t even try to tie his lies to some sort
of plausible sounding explanation, but just went full blown hysteria.
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And maybe Rush Limbaugh bathes in the blood of puppies and
dines on kittens for dinner. Hey,
you never know! While we’re just making stuff up, let’s go all the
way. What’s really frustrating
about this is that half the reason to do health care reform is to make sure
that old, retired people are able to get the health care they need. Right now, Medicare is gobbling up our
government’s purse, and the only way to stop it is to pass comprehensive health
care reform that controls costs.
If you want old people to get health care, then you should want health
Of course, the irony of all this is that the only procedure
that the current bill actually forbids is abortion. And it was the conservatives who are crying about
restrictions that put that single restriction in.
I’ll admit to feeling conflicted over the trend of AIDS
consumerism. You know what I
mean—clothing companies selling red clothes draped over Bono in order to
raise money and awareness of the fight against HIV worldwide. On one hand, anything that helps this
global battle to increase awareness and funding has got to be an overall good. On the other hand, it’s hard not to
think about how these companies may have cynical motivations, using this as PR
to improve their image and their profits.
But at the end of the day, I’m not going to begrudge improved profits if
they’re effective at raising money and awareness. Which was why I was in an open-minded mood watching Cyndi
Lauper and Lady Gaga on Good Morning America shill for MAC cosmetics, who has a
campaign of selling lipsticks to raise money to fight against HIV in
women. They actually did a bang-up
job of talking about how women around the world are at high risk of getting
They then went on to suggest that perhaps make-up and other
feminine accoutrements could be a way to start conversations about safer sex
practices. I think a lot of people
might scoff at this, but having read in the past about domestic violence
outreach that targets beauty salons, I’m actually intrigued by this idea. Beauty rituals, love them or hate them,
but they indisputably create a female-centered space that has an aura of
privacy, and women often open up and talk about important stuff in those
spaces. The stereotype put forward
in movies like "Steel Magnolias" is cheesy, but not far from the truth.
What made this entire segment kind of a delight to watch was
that the interviewer kept trying to make this interview about Lady Gaga’s rise
to fame, which is a rather tedious bit of celebrity puff piecing, and she and
Cyndi Lauper would have none of it.
They wanted to talk about women and AIDS, and dammit it, they were going
to talk about it. And about the
importance of relationships when it comes to improving people’s sexual safety
It’s just awesome seeing some pop star on TV resisting the
culture of treating female pop stars like they’re dumb bimbos with nothing of
importance to say. Of course,
going back to the interview with Marisa today, what’s heartbreaking about all
this is that this is ground that people like Lady Gaga are trying to win back
after losing it. Feminist activism
for sexual health and rights was a big part of the music scene in the 90s, with
Rock for Choice and TLC flinging condoms around and Salt ‘n’ Pepa doing the
song "Let’s Talk About Sex". And
now even though HIV activism is a socially acceptable thing to do, it’s usually
only because people have created this distance from it, focusing on
generalities about the disease and not talking about specifics. So Lady Gaga getting really specific on
Good Morning America is a shock to
our newly conservative mores, and a welcome one. Plus, she was wearing a big glittery crown while doing this
speech. That draws attention.
When it comes to celebrity activism, I do think that this is
a real strength, getting to people on a personal level and talking to them
about personal responsibility and relationships. Why? Well,
musicians tend to be taken as authorities on this subject, like it or not. People have a very personal
relationship to music, and feel it speaks to them where they live. And when musicians talk frankly about
sex and condom use, that goes a long way to normalizing it. I know that for people of my generation
and in my general raised by MTV culture, condoms are completely normal and not
weird at all. And it has very
little to do with what we were taught in school, especially since sex education
was non-existent in a lot of places.
But it has a lot to do with the fact that our pop cultural icons were
out there talking about safe sex.
Also, abortion, sexual harassment, rape, all that stuff. You didn’t need to have a degree in
women’s studies to understand that stuff, because music talked to you about
it. And kids these days seem to be
missing out. They’re getting pop
stars that brag about their purity rings shoved on them. So I’m glad to see Lady Gaga trying to
push the pendulum in the other direction.
And now for the Wisdom of Wingnuts, pretty much the wisdom
of Glenn Beck edition. Glenn Beck
is on a crusade to convince people to "give up" Social Security, and he has
some weird argument about how life spans are so much longer now than in the
30s. And then he drops this bomb.
Of course, life spans grew in large part because of social
welfare programs, including health care ones like mandatory vaccines. The idea that more health care somehow
means less health is just silly, especially under reform that would concentrate
more energies into prevention.