Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Off Target

First I got this message from Planned Parenthood via my ever-vigilant fiancée:

Dear Friend:

Imagine walking into a pharmacy with a prescription and being told by the pharmacist, "I won't fill it. It's my right not to fill it." It's outrageous to think this is possible, but this is exactly what happened to a 26-year-old woman who presented a prescription for emergency contraception at a Target in Fenton, MO, on September 30. Join Planned Parenthood in demanding that every woman's pills be filled -- now!

This kind of thing burns me up. You think we're fighting over a woman's right to choose? No. We've taken such a great leap backward during the Bush years that we're fighting over birth control. So I clicked, then typed, then clicked, and sent my outraged form letter off to Target. Because I'm an activitst of the usual type - you know, a little lazy, but I do care. I DO! I clicked! I typed! I clicked! And I'll do it again if I have to. Oh, and I forwarded the email to most of my mailing list with this message:

A forward from Katie...

I know you're all really busy, but this is really easy (a few clicks) and really important. It isn't about abortion. It's about birth control! But that's the fight. So let's fight it. Ever shopped at a Target? Love their ads? Me too. Now let'em have it.


Maybe that's why I took this outrage to heart - I do shop at Target. They recently opened a store here in Brooklyn. I've given them my money on several occasions. Hell, I grew up on Target. Back in Houston, Target was our main man, for all the times we didn't have enough money to shop at Sears. BASTARDS!

So today Target got back to me:

Dear Target Guest,

Target places a high priority on our role as a community pharmacy and our obligation to meet the needs of the patients we serve. We expect all our team members, including our pharmacists, to provide respectful service to our guests, particularly when it comes to their health care needs.

Like many other retailers, Target has a policy that ensures a guest’s prescription for emergency contraception is filled, whether at Target or at a different pharmacy, in a timely and respectful manner. This policy meets the health care needs of our guests while respecting the diversity of our team members.

Your thoughts help us learn more about what our guests expect, so I’ll be sure to share your feedback with our pharmacy executives.

Thanks for taking the time to share your questions, thoughts and comments. I hope we’ll see you again soon at Target.


Jennifer Hanson
Target Executive Offices

A form letter? Are you freakin' kidding me, Jennifer? Sure, I sent a form letter, but I'm a civilian. I've got a job to slack off at every day, for Christ's sake! But responding to inquiries and objections from customers is Jennifer's one and only job. And on reading her letter more carefully, I decided she wasn't doing it very well. There are so many things wrong with her response, so many implicit statements about Target policy which are absolutely outrageous that I was forced to shift in pro-activist mode and write a real-live, bonafide, hand-crafted letter expressing my seething outrage at her half-baked bullshit. It goes something like this:

Dear Jennifer,

Thank you for your timely response. It was not good enough by a longshot. I wrote to you in regard to a specific incident at your Fenton, Missouri store.

I would like to know how the issue was resolved. A young woman in need was turned away by someone who decided that providing a legal prescription was not in her job description. Given your response, I must assume Target agrees with her action. You stated:

Target has a policy that ensures a guest’s prescription for emergency contraception is filled, whether at Target or at a different pharmacy, in a timely and respectful manner. This policy meets the health care needs of our guests while respecting the diversity of our team members.

If someone has to go to a different pharmacy, then the service is not timely, is it? As for "diversity" you're simply using that as cover to avoid confronting a handful of religious extremists in your ranks. You call it respect. I call it cowardice.

Frankly, I fail to understand the logic of an employee who opposes abortion AND contraception. I thought we were done fighting over the pill. Not at Target, I guess. As you know, if a woman cannot obtain contraception, she is more likely to have an abortion later. Withholding birth control, emergency or otherwise, increases the rate of abortion. Until I hear otherwise, I will assume that Target supports an increase in the number of abortions in this country. Make no mistake, unlike your employee in Fenton, most people in this country are intelligent enough to support contraception whether they oppose abortion or not. Since your policy directly contributes to an increase in the number of abortions in this country, it will please neither right nor left.

A woman in need of emergency contraception is in a difficult situation, often desperate and emotionally fragile. If refused service, she will naturally assume that refusal represents official company policy. She is unlikely to challenge the employee and demand that someone else fill the prescription. She will go home, agonize, maybe go to another pharmacy, maybe not. She is likely to become pregnant, and then, because of your shortsighted policy, have to face the horrifying prospect of obtaining an abortion at a later date. Shame on you!

Further, as your policy makes clear, an entire store could refuse to fill a prescription. Why else promise to have it filled "at a different pharmacy"? Am I to believe that if an entire store opposes birth control, its employees will nevertheless provide the information necessary to get a prescription filled elsewhere? Where in Fenton did your customer have her prescription filled? If the Target in Fenton refused to deliver birth control, am I to believe a local mom-and-pop operation stepped up in your place? Do you know? I assume you keep a record of these referals?

You just opened a new Target a few blocks from my home in Brooklyn, at the Atlantic Center on Flatbush Avenue. I will not be shopping there again. Nor will my hundred contacts, nor their hundred contacts in Texas, California, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Washington, Michigan, Florida. A form letter will not get our business back. If you continue kowtowing to religious extremists and refuse service to the vast majority of Americans, you will never get it back.

Thank you for your time.

-Todd Smith

Friday, October 07, 2005

Contractual Obligations and Metooism

A recent CBS News' poll shows the President's approval ratings on, well, everything at all-time lows. There has been much celebrating over at Daily Kos, and in the left-wing blogosphere generally. I'm not sure why. There is an assumption that the scandal-plagued Republican party is near collapse and that all Democrats have to do to retake the House and Senate in 2006 is pick up the pieces. Forgive me, but that sounds suspiciously like the Democratic strategy of 2000 and 2004. Call it the stealth strategy: You can't see us, but we're here, and we're not as bad as those guys. Really! We all know how well that worked. Keeping your head down in a shooting war may save you getting your head blown off, but it isn't likely to produce the kind of victory (in the form of an earth-shaking electoral re-alignment) that the country is ripe for. That would require the Democrats to buy a clue and come up with a program informed by a governing philosophy, in short their own version of the Contract With America. The Gingrich Revolution could not have happened without the Contract, which offered voters not the sense that the Republicans stood for something, but the proof in black and white.

I'm no Bob Shrum, but I have a few ideas for a Democratic version of the Contract. We have the right to be bold, even visionary. We can over-reach. The public will forgive us. The key is to fearlessly describe the America we all dream of living in. Each item in the Contract should be a direct repudiation of Crony Republicanism.

1) Ban Senators, House members, and political appointees from engaging in legalized bribery - i.e. lobbying - for the length of any Congress or Administration in which they serve. That could mean a 7 year ban from K Street in the case of White House staffers who leave a two-term administration in its first year.

2) Institute public financing of campaigns, and ramp up the McCain-Feingold limits. Choke the influence of corporate cash. Donations to candidates are not a form of free speech - as Mitch McConnell once claimed - they are bribes. I keep hearing candidates say things along the lines of, Enron only donated $10,000 to my campaign. You think I can be bought so cheap? Which I don't consider an entirely rhetorical question. It sounds more like a warning to potential donors that influence costs a lot more than 10 grand. The idea that certain amounts do not affect a poltician is utter bullshit. My brother loans me 40 bucks, I kiss his ass until it's paid back. That's human nature.

3) Push for a Constitutional amendment to eliminate the electoral college and institute direct election of the President. Had this democratic reform been in place in 2000, we wouldn't be discussing this Bushit.

4) Raise the Minimum wage by the exact same percentage that Congressional pay has been raised each of the last ten years. Begin paying male Senators and Congressmen the minimum wage. (Female Senators and Congresswomen can stay at their current pay grade.)

5) Require the conversion of every automobile sold in America to hybrid technology by 2010, rather than the generation GWB has given automakers to come up with hydrogen fuel cell technology. Hybrid technology exists now, and we should begin curtailing our use of Saudi Arabian, Venezuelan, Iranian and Russian oil now.

6) Etc. etc.

I can't think of a better time for a Democratic Contract With America than right now. In a few days we may see Karl Rove being frog-marched out of the White House. If God exists, we may even see the Vice President taken into custody (let me dream). If at that time the Democrats aren't ready to say enough is enough and present the electorate with a real alternative, our best chance will be lost. As others have noted, people want something to vote for, not just against. In the absence of a well-defined alternative to the Republican party, Americans will seek out incorruptible Republicans, those hardy few who will return the party to its true Conservative roots. Some Republicans understand this and they are already stepping up to the plate. Yesterday the McCain bill passed the Senate 90-9. Here we have a Republican standing against torture and the worst offenses of the Cheney Administration (Lindsay Graham and Chuck Hagel also come to mind) while even the bravest Democrats seem content to whisper Me too!

Me too! doesn't win elections. Never has, never will.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Die, Yahoo!

You know how everything is so fucked up these days it's hard to know where to begin? How it's hard to distinguish one level of fuckedupness...really fucked up, for example, like when Google kowtows to a Chinese government desperate to apply democracy retardant to Market Maoism by agreeing to censor certain incendiary terms - among them, democracy and freedom - from its Sino Search Engine, from a whole other level of fuckedupness...mind blowingly, earth threateningly, Communist cocksuckingly fucked up, like when Yahoo assisted the Chinese Ministry of Information, aka the Secret Police in their recent effort to track down a journalist who forwarded an internal government memo (warning Chinese reporters against covering the upcoming anniversary of Tiananmen Square) to his colleagues in the West. As if fingering this freedom fighter wasn't enough, Yahoo then provided information that helped guarantee a conviction. His sentence for Yahooing: ten years in a Chinese prison camp.

It may be hard in times like these to make such fine distinctions, hard to point to a single instance of injustice and say, "Other things are fucked, but this so perfectly epitomizes the true fuckedupness of the world we live in that this must be our singular and unyielding point of attack," but we have no choice. We must prioritize, and having prioritized, we must be willing to point fingers and scream, J'ACCUSE!

So let's dig our conscience and our passion for justice out of the black hole we tossed them in years ago and commit to taking on these corporate Eichmans. Because this isn't about China persecuting a democrat. It's about an American company enabling that persecution. Or as Yahoo put it: "just abiding by local laws." (Sounds a lot like "just following orders" doesn't it?) If we don't put a stop to this, the future of freedom is threatened, and not just in China.

Now I don't Yahoo. I hate their name, their ads, their site and their search engine. But some of you do. Well... STOP! Cancel any and all services you have with the company, urge all your contacts to do the same, and let Yahoo know exactly why you are taking this action. Something along the lines of -

Dear Yahoo,

I don't do business with sniveling cowards who suck Communist cock. I don't do business with companies that enable dictatorships to crush democracy.

I once hoped the internet would break the back of totalitarian regimes everywhere by giving people unrestricted access to the marketplace of ideas. Little did I suspect Yahoo would come along and collaborate with the Chinese government in the same way the Vichy government once collaborated with the Nazis, turning over democrats to Chinese authorities just as Vichy once turned over Resistance fighters to the Gestapo. Little did I suspect that you would voluntarily sign the Orwellian "Public Pledge on Self-Discipline for the China Internet Industry." Little did I suspect that you would go along to get along, in the name of profits.

If you had the name of that lone hero who stood down an entire column of tanks after Tiananmen Square, would you hand it over to the Chinese authorities if it was the difference between obtaining or not obtaining a lucrative contract?

I will be passing this information along to everyone I know, urging them to boycott your company and all its services, here and around the world. I sincerely hope that our protest, however modest it may now seem, chokes the life out of you, before you choke the life out of Chinese democracy.


a nameless democrat