Thursday, August 30, 2012

Thoughts From a Disenfranchised Republican

I support, strongly, same-sex marriage and a woman's right to choose. And I believe in, among other things, a strong national defense, free trade, lower government spending, a balanced budget, lower taxes, and assistance for small business owners. In short, I am a member of the Republican Party. And it is a party I no longer recognize.

In case you hadn't heard, two months ago a member of the United States House of Representatives and a candidate for a Senate seat from the state of Missouri made a bit of a mess.

Allow me to recap. Representative Todd Akin, who is running for a Senate seat in Missouri against incumbent Claire McCaskill in a hotly contested election, was asked in a televised interview about his position on abortion in the case of rape. His response? From what he understands from doctors, pregnancy from rape is really rare, because the female body has ways of shutting down its reproductive system during a "legitimate rape" to prevent the pregnancy from happening.

So if a woman gets pregnant after being sexually assaulted, it must not have been a "legitimate rape," so she can rest easy. Or she must be to blame for the pregnancy because that mysterious rape pregnancy preventing religious process of which Congressman Akin speaks malfunctioned. Right. Well, wrong, obviously, but I won't insult your intelligence by going on a rant about all the ways that this is complete lunacy. Just google Todd Akin, and you can read rants that are far more eloquent than anything I could write here.

In the wake of this unfortunate incident, mere days away from the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Mitt Romney, the Republican nominee for President of the United States, called on Akin to drop out of the Senate election. Akin refused, graciously of course. Prominent members of the party are infuriated, sputtering around with righteous indignation telling the public that abortion is not a "real issue" in the campaign, and strutting their bad selves all over the news in an attempt to distance themselves from this hot mess.

The thing is, they can't.

I understand why they're trying. But I don't understand why they think they have any hope of succeeding.

They want it to look like this is an isolated incident. A rogue member of the party with an extreme viewpoint shared by absolutely no one. Unfortunately for us, when it comes to the once-proud Republican Party, this is a viewpoint shared by nearly everyone. And in this election cycle, issues don't get more "real" than those surrounding women's rights.

The facts speak for themselves.

Just before the convention, the final GOP platform - the Republicans "to do" list for this election cycle - was published. The platform contains a complete ban on abortion, with no exception at all for cases of pregnancy arising from rape or incest. The platform states: "We...affirm the dignity of women by protecting the sanctity of human life. Numerous studies have shown that abortion endangers the health and well-being of women, and we stand firmly against it." Translation: We affirm the dignity of women by completely depriving them of the ability to make any and all decisions about their reproductive health. Super.

This past March, a member of the Kansas House of Representatives suggested that women should purchase separate "abortion only" insurance policies which would pay for abortions in the case of rape. He suggested that women should plan ahead for rape, much like he plans ahead by purchasing life insurance and spare tires for his car. Good advice, I'll get right on that.

An Indiana state representative recently suggested that if there was a rape exception in an abortion ban, women would fake rape in order to obtain an abortion. Obviously.

200 Republican members of Congress joined none other than Todd Akin himself in co-sponsoring a Resolution which restricted the exception for federally funded abortions to cases involving pregnancies from "forcible rape."

Now I am an educated woman, but I can't decipher the difference between "forcible rape" and "legitimate rape." But Todd Akin certainly has a better grasp of nuance than I ever could.

Something else? One of those 200 co-sponsors was none other than Paul Ryan, the running mate chosen by Mitt Romney in the current presidential election. The same running mate who attached his name to a different piece of legislation that banned all abortions in the case of rape. And the very same running mate who recently said that he was in agreement with Mitt Romney that there should be an exception to an abortion ban in the case of rape. One man. Three different positions.

And round and round we go.

Somewhere in the neighborhood of 1,000 pieces of anti-abortion legislation have been introduced by Republicans across the United States since 2010. None of the other issues the Republican Party claims to be "real" in the presidential campaign - namely jobs and the economy - have had even close to that amount of attention paid to them in the past two years.

And the Republican presidential candidate himself said, while running for governor of Massachusetts, that he would protect a woman's right to choose, only to reverse himself once he rose to the national stage. So, really, we have no idea where he stands on this issue. Scary, don't you think?

The Republican Party, the party of which I myself am a member, has moved so far to to the right it is barely a shadow of its former fiscally conservative self. The issues that caused me to join up have fallen to the background. Social issues have taken center stage, and the religious right has taken control.

Watching convention footage, I can't help but wonder, where are the moderate Republicans? The ones that I, and Republicans like me look to as a guidepost on issues of importance, and voices of reason in an ever-fractured party. Why is the spotlight not shining brighter on Condoleezza Rice, Maine Senators Olympia Snow and Susan Collins, and party members like them?

On Tuesday night, the first night of the Republican National Convention, Rick Santorum gave a speech in which he said that the Party lifts all children "born and unborn." And in Ann Romney's speech she made a big hairy deal about how she and Mitt have a "Real Marriage," which I'm pretty sure was supposed to mean "Not a Gay Marriage." And we are supposed to believe that these social issues are not the issues of importance to this modern incarnation of the Republican party?

And oh by the way, the GOP Platform also calls for a complete ban on gay marriage by saying that the party embraces "the principal that all Americans should be treated with respect and dignity." I'm pretty sure telling an entire group of Americans that they can't get married doesn't respect or dignify them. I'm pretty sure it makes them feel small, frustrated, and furious.

Ugh, just get out of our bodies and our bedrooms already. Go balance the budget and create some jobs or something.

The social wing of the Republican Party touts "religious freedom," but what they are really saying is that the rest of the party, and the country, is free to practice the religious right's radical brand of religion. I guess maybe they were assuming that the entire left wing of the party, those of us who want to be fiscally conservative and socially liberal - those of us who just want anyone who wants to get married to be able to get married, and who want women to be able to decide for themselves when and whether to have babies - just wouldn't notice.

We noticed.

So the socially conservative core of the Republican Party can run their 4 minute miles away from the Todd Akin mess, and call on him to drop out all they want. It won't work, because we know better. We know that they are the same as he is. Its just that he had the unfortunate luck to have a radical soundbite caught on film. We know that a pro-choice and pro-marriage equality Republican stands no chance of getting nominated for high government office anymore. We know that the party no longer stands chiefly for fiscally conservative values. We know that electing one of today's Republicans means less control over ourselves and our choices, not more.

So maybe it's time to let them know. It's time to tell the radical right hand of the Republican Party, of my party, that the left hand knows what they're selling.

And this time around, we're not buying.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Women Really Can't Have It All

"[She] knew there were women who worked successfully out of the home. They ran businesses, created empires, and managed to raise happy, healthy, well-adjusted children who went on to graduate magna cum laude from Harvard or became world-renowned concert pianists. Possibly both. These women accomplished all this while cooking gourmet meals, furnishing their homes with Italian antiques, giving clever, intelligent interviews with Money Magazine and People, and maintaining a brilliant marriage with an active and enviable sex life and never tipping the scales at an ounce over their idea weight. She knew those women were out there. If she'd had a gun, she'd have hunted every last one of them down and shot them like rabid dogs for the good of womankind."

                                  Nora Roberts

Monday, August 27, 2012

Don't Call on Me

"Don't call on me...Don't call on me...Don't call on me..."

That was the endless loop in my head as my Torts professor consulted the class roster to choose his victim.

Every day we danced this dance.

He posed a question about a case. Fifty of us silently sat, our hands glued to our laps. No one moved a muscle. No one volunteered an answer. He picked up the roster and scanned the list as fifty stomachs churned. As fifty brains hoped and prayed that they read the assignment accurately enough. But we knew. We knew that there was not enough accuracy in the world to satisfy Professor David Chang.

The most ardent adopter of the dreaded Socratic Method, every person he called on was eviscerated. Humiliated. Some ran for the bathroom after class, tears streaming.

Some ran for the bathroom because he banned us from going for the entirety of his ninety minute class. "Be an adult and wait until the end of class," he told us on the first day of school. One day a girl dared to break the rule. Upon her return, Professor Chang actually stopped speaking until she was settled back in her seat. The longest and quietest 30 seconds of our lives. That was the first and last time anyone visited the bathroom during Torts class.

Was this really what we signed up for? Was it supposed to be like this? I read One L, and I watched The Paper Chase, but I thought somehow that those stories were exaggerations. The exception perhaps, rather than the rule. I never imagined, even in my sweatiest anxiety dreams during the summer before my first year, that I would live a law school horror of my very own.

My other four professors were different. Nicer, somehow. I was never nervous in their classes. I did the reading, and I answered their questions when I was called on. Sometimes I was right, and sometimes I was wrong. If I was wrong, someone else jumped in to help. In those classes, we all wore the same color uniform. We were a team. We could get through this together.

But Torts different. Torts was a solo sport. If you got called on, you were on your own. You were treading water in the open sea, with no land in sight and no hope of rescue. No one came to your aid, for fear that the current would sweep them under as well, and then two would go down instead of just one.

Even in a class of fifty, Torts was a lonely, terrifying place to be.

And so I worked. Hard. I read cases over and over until I had them practically committed to memory. I anticipated every potential question, and took notes on the answers. I spent hours upon hours reading outlines on obscure parts of the law I promptly forgot the minute class was over.

And still, I felt unprepared.

So I prayed. Hard. To any and every deity I thought might be listening. There was no place for monotheism when I was sitting in Torts class. I prayed that he wouldn't call on me.

And it worked.

Until the day it didn't.

"Ms. Brinn, summarize the negligence cause of action that the Plaintiff used to prevail in the lower courts in the case of Palsgraf v. Long Island Railroad, and explain why Justice Cardozo rejected that cause of action on appeal."

I remember the question as if he asked me yesterday.

But staring out my office window on the 26th floor of my New York City law firm, I can't remember the answer I gave.

Or whether it was right or wrong.

Joining some amazing writers who blog and bloggers who write over at Yeah Write and The Speakeasy

Wednesday, August 22, 2012


"I'm happy that I have brought laughter because I have been shown by many the value of it in so many lives, in so many ways."

                                         Lucille Ball

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Thinking of Fall

When I stepped off the elevator yesterday, there was a chill in the lobby. At first I thought it was because of the air conditioner that hums in the lobby all summer long. But the front doors of my building were open, and the lobby was devoid of the rattling of the old window unit. I realized, with unrestrained glee, that the chill was coming from the outside, accompanied by a smell that means only one thing.

Fall is coming.

Every August there are a few days in the last couple weeks of the month that feel like this. That give just a hint of what is to come. I think in Manhattan, where we spend the summer sweltering on subway platforms, and melting as we walk through the streets, we feel these days more acutely. The days that signal the changing of the seasons from summer to fall. And fall is, without a doubt, my favorite season of all.

I love fall for its cool days and chilly nights. For its spicy scents. For its pumpkin flavored drinks and gingerbread desserts. I love the cozy feeling of shorter days and longer nights. I love running through brightly-hued falling leaves, and taking my boots and sweaters down from the high shelves in my closet where they have lived, out of sight, all summer long.

Even though I know there are still some hot days to come before summer releases its sticky grip, today, I am thinking of fall.

Part of the reason I love this season so much is that I think I have never stopped operating on a school year, even though it has been four years since I have actually been in school. I still feel that unique thrill each and every August when notebooks and pens replace flip-flops and sunscreen in the "seasonal" aisle of Target and my local drugstores. I just love school supplies. Especially the pens. Don't laugh. I know you do too.

Fall still feels like a beginning to me, despite its proximity to the actual end of the calendar year, and no matter how far away I get from my student years, I don't think that will even change. As the leaves start to turn and fall, I will always think of the excitement of college move-in days, the stress of the first days of my law school years, and brand new apartments with September first leases.

Fall is the beginning of the Jewish year; a time when we celebrate our most important and awe-inspiring holidays. A time when we reflect on our past year, and make our wishes for the year to come. A time when we can wipe our slate clean, and live as we mean to go on.

Fall means Steeler football Sundays.

And it was fall when I walked down the aisle on my wedding day surrounded my family, friends, and the colors of the season. Now in the fall I celebrate my wedding anniversary, and plan and dream about all the fun still to come.

It might still be August, and summer may still have some heat to pour out yet, but today, I'm thinking of fall.

And maybe buying some school supplies on the way home too.

Monday, August 20, 2012

A Story About Shoes

I was sure I could fit in, if only I had the Steve Madden brown square stacked heel penny loafers. 

I was 14, and it was my first year at a brand new school in a brand new city. I didn't know a soul. There was a group of girls that hung out together every morning by the lockers. Blond-haired, blue-eyed and beautiful, they stood tall like they owned the school. And lets be honest, their fathers probably did. The blond and blue girls laughed. The boys flocked. 

Every morning I watched them and wondered. I wondered how I could make myself a part of their group. How I could make myself popular like them. I was in eighth grade and miserably alone. How many mornings had to pass, I wondered, until the big, red, "New Girl" badge I wore would finally disappear. 

We all dressed in the same uniform; short khaki skirts and stiff white button down shirts embroidered with a "B". But the blond-haired, blue-eyed and beautiful girls all wore the Steve Madden brown square stacked heel penny loafers. Those shoes were my ticket out of anonymity. My pathway to happiness. I knew it for sure.

So I asked - begged - my parents to take me to the mall to get a pair. The answer was a firm and resounding no. "They are too expensive," said my dad. "You don't need to wear heels to school," said my mom. I tried to explain that these were not just shoes. These were magic. But the answer was still no.

I had never before, nor have I ever since, wanted - needed - a pair of shoes this badly. My days were consumed with longing. I imagined how they would feel on my feet. How they would look. What I would say to the blond-haired, blue-eyed and beautiful girls once I finally had the Steve Madden brown square stacked heel penny loafers. Once I was no longer the new girl. No longer invisible.

It took nearly four long months of waiting and wondering and begging, but finally my parents relented, and the shoes were mine. In my bedroom, I opened the white box slowly. Reverently. Removed the lid with its triumphant black logo. Took out the shoes that I was certain would change everything.

When my alarm rang the next day I proudly put on my Steve Madden brown square stacked heel penny loafers and went to school.

But nothing was different. Not that day, and not for the hundreds of high school days that followed.

But I didn't stop wearing the shoes. Just in case.

The lines of this memory are not blurred and softened by time, as memories often are. Its images are still vivid. The edges sharp as knives. My eyes still fill and my stomach clenches tight as I think about that young girl, scared and alone, wanting deeply to fit in where she very much did not belong. 

A few years ago I found my Steve Madden brown square stacked heel penny loafers all the way in the back of my closet. They were scuffed and scarred with desperation, longing, and loneliness. I almost tossed them in the "throw away" pile. But then I didn't. Couldn't. Wouldn't.

They went through a lot, those shoes of mine. But they are still here.

And so am I.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Bear It With a Smile, and Learn From Your Mistakes: Happy 100th Birthday Julia Child

In honor of what would have been the late, great Julia Child's 100th birthday...
Things I learned from her: be fearless, love deeply, and always, always cook with butter.

"We ate lunch with painful politeness and avoided discussing its taste. I made sure not to apologize for it. This was a rule of mine. I don't believe in twisting yourself into knots of excuses and explanations over the food you make. Maybe the cat has fallen into the stew, or the lettuce has frozen, or the cake has collapsed. Eh bien, tant pis. Usually one's cooking is better than one thinks it is. And if the food is truly vile, then the cook must simply grit her teeth and bear it with a smile, and learn from her mistakes."

                                            Julia Child
                                            My Life in France

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Easing Back Into Life

For sixteen glorious days, I was completely and utterly consumed by the Olympics. I stayed up late, woke up early, and was extraordinarily unproductive in any part of my life that did not involve medal counts and NBC Olympics coverage. I watched hours and hours of coverage on TV, and I streamed it on the internet (thank you NBC for this amazing fuel for my Olympics obsession). I read articles, and watched highlights. I followed my favorite athletes on Twitter, and learned more facts about their personal lives, training habits, and eating regimens than anyone would ever need to know, save the athletes themselves.

I sat glued to my TV as athletes from 204 countries marched into Olympic stadium for opening ceremonies. I welcomed the veteran athletes to my living room, and wondered for them whether these games would measure up to their last. I cheered for the young athletes, and got excited for all their Olympic appearances to come. And I felt nostalgic as some of the best finished their final races and played their final games, having announced that these Olympics would be their last.

I get a tiny bit fanatical about major (and lets be honest, minor) pop culture moments. And the Olympics is the biggest pop culture game in town. 

So, now that the torch has been extinguished, the athletes have gone home, and "London 2012" has been replaced with "Rio 2016," what's a girl to do? I could start counting down to the 2014 winter games (541 days, in case anyone is interested), but that seems a little obsessive, even for me. So instead, I'll spend the week setting my DVR to tape the Olympians' appearances on The Today Show, Good Morning America, The Late Show, The Tonight Show, and the like. And I will read articles about how London is cleaning up, and shaking off the hangover of a two-week long party. And I will ponder what NBC does with Bob Costas in between Olympic games, and why he never, ever seems to age. And I will go back to my regularly scheduled TV shows that have been sadly neglected as I soaked in Olympic glory - not because I reached my television-watching capacity, if there even is such a thing, but simply because there weren't enough hours in the day to fit it all in. I had to sleep sometime. 

But before all that happens, I think we should take a moment to honor the most transcendent athletes of the summer Olympic games. A group that made these Olympics something to remember, and who made history with their sheer numbers, soaring achievements and stunning poise. I am talking about the U.S. female gold medal winners. 

For the first time in history, women outnumbered men on the U.S. Olympic team 269-261. Our women athletes accounted for 63% of the gold medals won by the U.S. team, winning 29 out of 46. They set five world records across two sports. If the United States women were their own country, they would tie for third place in total gold medals won in this Olympic games. That is something to talk about. 

There are a lot of them, and they are worth mentioning. Our biggest congratulations and heartfelt thanks to: Claire Donahue, Katie Ledecky, Rachel Bootsma, Jessica Hardy, Shannon Vreeland, Missy Franklin, Breeja Larson, Allison Schmitt, Allyson Felix, Dana Vollmer, Rebecca Soni, Aly Raisman, Gabby Douglas, Carmelita Jeter, Sanya Richards-Ross, Serena Williams, Venus Williams, Dee Dee Trotter, Lauryn Williams, Kayla Harrison, Kim Rhode, Kerri Walsh Jennings, Misty May-Treanor, Jamie Gray, Jenn Suhr, Kristin Armstrong, Keshia Baker, Alyssa Anderson, Diamond Dixon, Brittney Reese, Bianca Knight, Jeneba Tarmoh, Tianna Madison, Claressa Shields, Lauren Perdue, Francena McCorory, and the U.S. women’s gymnastics team, soccer team, basketball team, water polo team, and women’s eight rowing team.

We are amazed. And we are proud. 

What was your favorite moment of the London games? Are you, as I am, suffering from Summer Olympics withdrawal?

Friday, August 10, 2012

Runners Never Settle

It was a night for U.S. runners at London's Olympic Stadium. 

Ashton Eaton and Trey Hardee take Gold and Silver in the Men's Decathlon. 

10 Events. 2 Days. World's Greatest Athletes.

Manteo Mitchell runs the first leg of the preliminary round of the Men's 4x400 relay with a broken leg. A post race x-ray showed that Mitchell suffered a complete break of his left fibula.

His team wins the heat.

After the race he was quoted as saying "As soon as I took the first step past the 200-meter mark, I felt it break. I heard it. I even put out a little war cry, but the crowd was so loud you couldn't hear it. I just wanted to lie down. I saw Josh Mance motioning me in for me to hand (the baton) off to him, which lifted me. I didn't want to let those three guys down, or the team down, so I just ran on it. Every step I took, it got more painful. But I was out there already. I just wanted to finish and do what I was called in to do...Even though track is an individual sport, you've got three guys depending on you."

Tianna Madison, Jeneba Tarmoh, Bianca Knight, and Lauryn Williams win their preliminary heat of the Women's 4x100 Meter Relay

They cross the finish line nearly one full second ahead of the second place finishers.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Quotable Wednesdays 7: Highlights

Because I love me some Olympics, for the next 2 Wednesday, Quotable Wednesdays becomes Amazing Photo Highlight Wednesdays. Check out the pictures below for the best highlights of Olympics Day 11.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Olympic Highlight of the Day

Lashinda Demus Wins Her 400m Hurdles Semifinal

To Cheers of "GO MOMMY" From Her Twin Boys in the Stands

For more Olympic moments from London see ThisThis, and This

Monday, August 6, 2012

Runner Wins Gold

"I'm going to lay my gold medal on top of his Super Bowl Rings"

Sanya Richards-Ross
Olympic Gold Medalist - Women's 400 Meter
Wife of former New York Giants Cornerback Aaron Ross

God I love runners.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Quotable Wednesdays 6: Pictures

Because I love me some Olympics, for the next 2 Wednesday, Quotable Wednesdays becomes Amazing Photo Highlight Wednesdays. I may or may not have been up until the early hours of the morning watching the U.S. Fab Five take gold, and Michael Phelps become the most decorated Olympian of all time. So worth it. Check out the pictures below for the best highlights of Olympics Day 4.