Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Fraud Wins

The Los Angeles Times has a detailed report on how the anti-choice group “Center for Medical Progress” conned the nation into believing that Planned Parenthood was selling baby parts.

She was subdued and sympathetic on camera. Her recollections of collecting fetal tissue and body parts from abortion clinics in northern California lent emotional force to the anti-abortion videos that provoked a furor in Congress last summer.

In footage made public last July, Holly O’Donnell said she had been traumatized by her work for a fetal-tissue brokerage. She described feeling “pain…and death and eternity” and said she fainted the first time she touched the remains of an aborted fetus.

Unreleased footage filed in a civil court case shows that O’Donnell’s apparently spontaneous reflections were carefully rehearsed. David Daleiden, the anti-abortion activist who made the videos, is heard coaching O’Donnell through repeated takes, instructing her to repeat anecdotes, add details, speak “fluidly” and be “very natural.”

“Let’s try it two more times,” he told her at one point.

Later, O’Donnell protested: “I don’t want to tell that story again. Please don’t make me again, David.”

For more than two years, Daleiden and a small circle of anti-abortion activists went undercover into meetings of abortion providers and women’s health groups. With fake IDs and tiny hidden cameras, they sought to capture Planned Parenthood officials making inflammatory statements. O’Donnell cooperated with the filmmakers, offering an inside view of the fetal tissue trade.

The videos sparked numerous investigations into Planned Parenthood and efforts in Congress to strip the organization of its federal funding.

Now, Daleiden, head of the Irvine-based Center for Medical Progress, and his associates contend that they were acting as investigative journalists, seeking to expose illegal conduct. That is one of their defenses in lawsuits brought by Planned Parenthood and other groups, accusing them of fraud and invasion of privacy.

But unpublicized footage and court records show that the activists’ methods were geared more toward political provocation than journalism.

The Times and the Investigative Reporting Program at UC Berkeley took a detailed look at published and unreleased video footage, sworn declarations, excerpts of recorded dialogue and other court records from the lawsuits against Daleiden.

The truth is that in every state investigation into Planned Parenthood’s methods of operation, no one has turned up any wrongdoing.  And yet those states, including Florida, have cut off funding to the agency, some in defiance of federal law.

In short, these “pro-lifers” perpetrated a public fraud, were caught, and are going on trial for it, but they still got away with it because states run by anti-choice Jesus-shouters changed the laws and put women and their families in danger by depriving them of medical services from many clinics, few of which provided legal abortion services.

HT digby.

Monday, April 4, 2016

Is It Or Isn’t It Murder?

Ever since Donald Trump spoke the truth about the way most anti-abortion supporters feel — that a woman should be punished for having an abortion — the rest of the anti-choice crowd has been tying themselves in knots trying to back away from the logical conclusion that if abortion is murder, then the perpetrators should face criminal penalties.  Mr. Trump himself has changed his story several times and now, to no one’s surprise, is blaming MSNBC’s Chris Matthews for asking the question in the first place.

All the other GOP candidates are being asked the same question, and they are all finding ways to separate themselves from the answer Mr. Trump gave and yet not destroy their credibility with the anti-abortion crowd.  That leads to some rather convoluted responses, including this bit of wheel-spinning from Ohio Gov. John Kasich on ABC on Sunday:

KASICH: Well, George, I hope they — they do repeal “Roe v. Wade” and then, you know, it will be up to the states to decide how — how they want to proceed. It will be up to them to figure out what they want to do. And that’s precisely what we would do.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But you said there are legitimate and constitutional restrictions that could be put on abortion.

What are they?

KASICH: Well, George, I don’t — you know, when you say constitutional restrictions or whatever (INAUDIBLE)…

STEPHANOPOULOS: Those are your words.

KASICH: — the only thing I would tell you is I’ve been — yes, well, I don’t — I don’t know when I said it or why I said that in particular. It’s probably out of context. But, look, I am opposed to abortion in except the case of rape, incest and life of the mother. I hope “Roe v. Wade” will be repealed. And — and then it will be turned to the states and the states will have to figure out exactly what the restrictions ought to be, period, end of story.

STEPHANOPOULOS: So but if — if you believe that abortion is taking of an innocent life, how would you enforce a ban on that activity?

KASICH: Well, that will be up to the states to figure out what they want to do. And, you know, obviously, when we have seen these comments that have come out earlier this week, it’s the first time I’ve seen the pro-life and the pro-choice people come together to say, you know, that we’ll have to basically work this out and trying to punish a woman would not be the appropriate way to behave.

And I think it’s going to take people, in a reasonable way, working through it.

Nice try, Governor.  “States rights” is the argument that segregationists and homophobes have been using to justify their bigotry for generations.

The most glaring inconsistent and bullshit argument is that decisions on abortion laws should be left up to the states.  But if abortion is murder, does that mean that he’s okay with it being left up to the states?  If Ohio jails a woman for having an abortion but California has drive-through abortion clinics, is that okay with him, too?  Murder is murder, regardless of state boundaries.  But hey, if it’s left up to the states, it’s all good.

Trying to temper your stand on a controversial issue that you know will backfire if you say what you really think is what passes for being a “moderate” today.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Sunday Reading

Penalty Phase — According to Zoë Carpenter in The Nation, women are already being punished for getting an abortion.

So much for Donald Trump’s relative moderation on reproductive health. During a Republican debate back in February, he offered what for today’s GOP counted as a heretical defense of Planned Parenthood. “Millions of women are helped” by the group, he said, though he also argued that it should be cut off from federal funding.

But during an interview with MSNBC on Wednesday, Trump swung himself to the outer fringes of the anti-abortion movement. “There has to be some form of punishment” for a woman who chooses to end a pregnancy, Trump said, though he didn’t specify what that might entail. What about consequences for the man who got her pregnant? That’s different, said Trump.

There are a few other conservatives who share this view—notably, National Review’s Kevin Williamson, who believes the proper punishment is hanging; and the co-chair of Ted Cruz’s pro-life committee, Troy Newman, who supports some sort of unspecified punishment for women, along with execution of abortion providers. But in general the anti-choice movement sticks to a careful public message that describes women as victims in need of protection from profit-hungry doctors. And indeed, facing criticism from his rivals, Trump backed down, and issued a statement clarifying his position to be that if abortion were to be criminalized, doctors—not women—should be prosecuted.

Obviously, criminalizing women who end their pregnancies in a country where one in every three women will do so has grotesque implications for public health and the criminal-justice system. Since at least 1500 BC women have risked imprisonment, pain, illness, and death in order to end pregnancies. There’s plenty of evidence in the historical record that criminalizing abortion makes it more dangerous, but none suggesting it will end the practice.

In fact, many states already criminalize women who end pregnancies themselves. Thirty-eight states have some sort of fetal homicide law, according to the Guttmacher Institute. Some exempt pregnant women, specifically, but many don’t. At least 17 people have been arrested or convicted for self-induced abortions in the United States, including Purvi Patel, who was sentenced to 20 years in prison last year for feticide. In 1990, a Florida teen who couldn’t afford an abortion shot herself in the abdomen, and was charged with third-degree murder. In 2009, a teenager in Utah paid a man $150 to beat her up, hoping it would cause a miscarriage; she was charged with solicitation to commit murder.

Meanwhile, pushed by the same activists who claim women shouldn’t be punished, states have been making legal abortion less and less accessible. Nearly 300 new restrictions on abortion services passed between 2011 and 2015. Texas lost half of its clinics in two years; only one remains open in Mississippi, and two in Louisiana. There are indicators that the closures are prompting more women to think about self-inducing. In 2011, when states enacted more than 90 restrictions, Google searches related to at-home abortions jumped by 40 percent, according toThe New York Times. The states with the highest rates for searches about how to a pregnancy happen to be those that restrict abortion the most.

Laws that restrict access to legal abortion services and those that criminalize self-induced abortion are on a collision course, and it’s women who are caught in the middle. As Dani McClain reported recently, the problem is big enough that legal experts have formed a new coalition to help women who are prosecuted for taking medication or otherwise trying to end their own pregnancies—which, the group says, has become “the only available or acceptable method of abortion to growing numbers of people.”

Feel The Math — Paul Krugman on Bernie Sanders’ tough road ahead.

The Sanders campaign has come much further than almost anyone expected, to the point where Sanders can have a lot of influence on the shape of the race. But with influence comes responsibility, and it’s time to lay out some guidelines for good and bad behavior.

The first thing to say is that it’s still very unlikely that Sanders can win the nomination. Don’t tell me about national polls (and cherry-pick the polls that show your guy getting close); at this point it’s all about delegate counts, where Clinton has a substantial lead with the voting more than half over. The Times’s Upshot has a nice calculator that takes account of what we know about demographic factors – Sanders does well in very white states and in caucuses, not so much elsewhere – and lets you experiment with various overall leads in what remains of the race. To overtake Clinton in pledged delegates, Sanders would need to win by about a 13 point margin from here on in…

[…]

Now, as the bumper stickers don’t quite say, stuff happens. But at this point it’s something like a 90 percent probability that Hillary Clinton will be the Democratic nominee. Anyone denying that arithmetic is basically pulling a con job on Sanders supporters.

So what does that say about appropriate behavior on the part of her rival? Two things, I’d argue.

First, the Sanders campaign needs to stop feeding the right-wing disinformation machine. Engaging in innuendo suggesting, without evidence, that Clinton is corrupt is, at this point, basically campaigning on behalf of the RNC. If Sanders really believes, as he says, that it’s all-important to keep the White House out of Republican hands, he should stop all that – and tell his staff to stop it too.

Second, it’s time for Sanders to engage in some citizenship. The presidency isn’t the only office on the line; down-ballot races for the Senate and even the House are going to be crucial. Clinton has been raising money for other races; Sanders hasn’t, and is still being evasive on whether he will ever do so. Not acceptable.

Oh, and the Sanders campaign is saying that it will try to flip superdelegates even if it loses the unpledged delegates and the popular vote. Remember when evil Hillary was going to use superdelegates to steal the nomination? Double standards aside, what makes the campaign think that he will get any backing from a party he refuses to lift a finger to help?

It’s important to realize that there are some real conflicts of interest here. For Sanders campaign staff, and also for anyone who has been backing his insurgency, it’s been one heck of a ride, and they would understandably like it to go on as long as possible. But we’ve now reached the point where what’s fun for the campaign isn’t at all the same as what’s good for America.

Sanders doesn’t need to drop out, but he needs to start acting responsibly.

Aretha — David Remnick in The New Yorker on the Queen of Soul.

Late on a winter night, Aretha Franklin sat in the dressing room of Caesars Windsor Hotel and Casino, in Ontario. She did not wear the expression of someone who has just brought boundless joy to a few thousand souls.

“What was with the sound?” she said, in a tone somewhere between perplexity and irritation. Feedback had pierced a verse of “My Funny Valentine,” and before she sat down at the piano to play “Inseparable,” a tribute to the late Natalie Cole, she narrowed her gaze and called on a “Mr. Lowery” to fix the levels once and for all. Miss Franklin, as nearly everyone in her circle tends to call her, was distinctly, if politely, displeased. “For a time up there, I just couldn’t hear myself right,” she said.

On the counter in front of her, next to her makeup mirror and hairbrush, were small stacks of hundred-dollar bills. She collects on the spot or she does not sing. The cash goes into her handbag and the handbag either stays with her security team or goes out onstage and resides, within eyeshot, on the piano. “It’s the era she grew up in—she saw so many people, like Ray Charles and B. B. King, get ripped off,” a close friend, the television host and author Tavis Smiley, told me. “There is the sense in her very often that people are out to harm you. And she won’t have it. You are not going to disrespect her.”

Franklin has won eighteen Grammy awards, sold tens of millions of records, and is generally acknowledged to be the greatest singer in the history of postwar popular music. James Brown, Sam Cooke, Etta James, Otis Redding, Ray Charles: even they cannot match her power, her range from gospel to jazz, R. & B., and pop. At the 1998 Grammys, Luciano Pavarotti called in sick with a sore throat and Aretha, with twenty minutes’ notice, sang “Nessun dorma” for him. What distinguishes her is not merely the breadth of her catalogue or the cataract force of her vocal instrument; it’s her musical intelligence, her way of singing behind the beat, of spraying a wash of notes over a single word or syllable, of constructing, moment by moment, the emotional power of a three-minute song. “Respect” is as precise an artifact as a Ming vase.

“There are certain women singers who possess, beyond all the boundaries of our admiration for their art, an uncanny power to evoke our love,” Ralph Ellison wrote in a 1958 essay on Mahalia Jackson. “Indeed, we feel that if the idea of aristocracy is more than mere class conceit, then these surely are our natural queens.” In 1967, at the Regal Theatre, in Chicago, the d.j. Pervis Spann presided over a coronation in which he placed a crown on Franklin’s head and pronounced her the Queen of Soul.

The Queen does not rehearse the band—not for a casino gig in Windsor, Ontario. She leaves it to her longtime musical director, a seventy-nine-year-old former child actor and doo-wop singer named H. B. Barnum, to assemble her usual rhythm section and backup singers and pair them with some local union horn and string players, and run them through a three-hour scan of anything Franklin might choose to sing: the hits from the late sixties and early seventies—“Chain of Fools,” “Spirit in the Dark,” “Think”—along with more recent recordings. Sometimes, Franklin will switch things up and pull out a jazz tune—“Cherokee” or “Skylark”—but that is rare. Her greatest concern is husbanding her voice and her energies. When she wears a fur coat onstage, it’s partly to keep warm and prevent her voice from closing up. But it’s also because that’s what the old I’ve-earned-it-now-I’m-gonna-wear-it gospel stars often did: they wore the mink. Midway through her set, she makes what she calls a “false exit,” and slips backstage and lets the band noodle while she rests. “It’s a fifteen-round fight, and so she paces herself,” Barnum says. “Aretha is not thirty years old.” She is seventy-four.

Franklin doesn’t get around much anymore. For the past thirty-four years, she has refused to fly, which means that she hasn’t been able to perform in favorite haunts from the late sixties, like the Olympia, in Paris, or the Concertgebouw, in Amsterdam. When she does travel, it’s by bus. Not a Greyhound, exactly, but, still, it’s exhausting. A trip not long ago from her house, outside Detroit, to Los Angeles proved too much to contemplate again. “That one just wore me out,” she said. “It’s a nice bus, but it took days! ” She has attended anxious-flyer classes and said that she’s determined to get on a plane again soon. “I’m thinking about making the flight from Detroit to Chicago,” she said. “Baby steps.”

Even if the concert in Windsor was a shadow of her stage work a generation ago, there were intermittent moments of sublimity. Naturally, she has lost range and stamina, but she is miles better than Sinatra at a similar age. And she has survived longer than nearly any contemporary. In Windsor, she lagged for a while and then ripped up the B. B. King twelve-bar blues “Sweet Sixteen.” Performing “Chain of Fools,” a replica of the Reverend Elijah Fair’s gospel tune “Pains of Life,” she managed to make it just as greasy as when she recorded it, in 1968.

Before the show, I was talking with people in the aisles. More than a few said they hadn’t seen Franklin or paid much attention to her recordings for years. It was an older crowd, but they hadn’t come to see an oldies show. What reawakened them, they said, was precisely what had reawakened me: a video, gone viral, of Franklin singing “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman” at last December’s Kennedy Center Honors. Watch it if you haven’t: in under five minutes, your life will improve by a minimum of forty-seven per cent.

Aretha comes out onstage looking like the fanciest church lady in Christendom: fierce red lipstick, floor-length mink, a brocaded pink-and-gold dress that Bessie Smith would have worn if she’d sold tens of millions of records. Aretha sits down at the piano. She adjusts the mike. Then she proceeds to punch out a series of gospel chords in 12/8 time, and, if you have an ounce of sap left in you, you are overcome. A huge orchestra wells up beneath her, and four crack backup singers sliver their perfectly timed accents (“Ah-hoo!”) in front of her lines. Aretha is singing with a power that rivals her own self of three or four decades ago.

Up in the first tier, sitting next to the Obamas, Carole King is about to fall over the rail. She is an honoree, and wrote “A Natural Woman” with her first husband, Gerry Goffin. From the moment Franklin starts the first verse—“Looking out on the morning rain, / I used to feel . . . so uninspired”—King is rolling her eyes back in her head and waving on the music as if in a kind of ecstatic possession. She soon spots Obama wiping a tear from his cheek. (“The cool cat wept!” King told me later. “I loved that.”)

King hadn’t seen Franklin in a long time, and when she had Franklin was not performing at this level of intensity. “Seeing her sit down to play the piano put me rungs higher on the levels of joy,” King says. And when Franklin gets up from the piano bench to finish off the song—“That’s a piece of theatre, and she’s a diva in the best sense, so, of course, she had to do that at the perfect moment”—the joy deepens.

King recalls how the song came about. It was 1967, and she and Goffin were in Manhattan, walking along Broadway, and Jerry Wexler, of Atlantic Records, pulled up beside them in a limousine, rolled down the window, and said, “I’m looking for a really big hit for Aretha. How about writing a song called ‘A Natural Woman.’ ” He rolled up the window and the car drove off. King and Goffin went home to Jersey. That night, after tucking their kids into bed, they sat down and wrote the music and the lyrics. By the next morning, they had a hit.

“I hear these things in my head, where they might go, how they might sound,” King says. “But I don’t have the chops to do it myself. So it was like witnessing a dream realized.”

Beyond the music itself, the moment everyone talked about after Franklin’s performance at the Kennedy Center was the way, just before the final chorus, as she was reaching the all-out crescendo, she stripped off her mink and let it fall to the floor. Whoosh! Dropping the fur—it’s an old gospel move, a gesture of emotional abandon, of letting loose. At Mahalia Jackson’s wake, Clara Ward, one of Aretha’s greatest influences, threw her mink stole at the open casket after she sang “Beams of Heaven.” The fur is part of the drama, the royal persona. When Franklin went to see Diahann Carroll in a production of “Sunset Boulevard,” in Toronto, she had two seats: one for her, one for the mink.

Backstage in Windsor, I asked Franklin about that night in D.C. Her mood brightened. “One of the three or four greatest nights of my life,” she said.

Doonesbury — Bully-bros.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Glutton For Punishment

Donald Trump’s unfavorability rating is in the 60% range.  Yesterday he decided that wasn’t good enough; he’s gotta hit 100%.  This may help.

“Well, people in certain parts of the Republican Party and conservative Republicans would say yes, they should be punished,” Trump replied.

The problem with that is that while a great number of anti-choice advocates think that women decide to get abortions the same way they decide to get a manicure, they know that saying that they should be punished for getting one is way over the line.  Mr. Trump does not have a problem with blurting out whatever he says without thinking it through.  Thus this.

After the shit hit the fan yesterday afternoon, he reversed himself, releasing a statement saying that no, of course women shouldn’t be punished; how could you think I could ever say such a thing?

About the unfavorability rating: he may be as popular with the general electorate as a raging case of shingles, but among the primary base, he’ll still win.  In fact, this may even help him.  He thinks that translates into popularity among everyone.  He hasn’t thought that one through, either.

PS: Someone needs to explain to him how the Supreme Court works.

Short Takes

President Obama commuted the sentences of 61 people convicted of non-violent drug offenses.

No charges filed in the Minneapolis shooting of an unarmed man by two police officers.

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee banned non-essential state travel to North Carolina because of the recently-passed LGBT law.

Ice sheet forecast suggests disastrous sea level rise by 2100.

F.D.A. eases abortion pill access.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Rick Scott Hates Women

Well, yes, I know that’s a dramatic headline, but what other conclusion can you come to when you read this?

Gov. Rick Scott of Florida signed a law on Friday that cut state funding to clinics that perform abortions.

State funding of abortion was already prohibited in Florida, but the law signed by the Republican governor also cut off funding for preventive services at clinics that also provide abortions.

The law appeared to be aimed at Planned Parenthood, which said on Friday that it could mean the end of birth control, cancer screenings, tests for diseases and other services for thousands of low-income women in Florida.

The organization said in a statement that it serves more than 67,000 patients in the state each year, and that many of them rely on public funding to pay for their health care.

Cecile Richards, the president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said in a statement that the new law seemed “designed to rip health care away from those most at risk.”

Mr. Scott signed the law along with 67 other bills addressing a variety of topics, including medical marijuana and the composition of a highway commission in Miami-Dade County.

But he did not specifically comment on the abortion law, which has been controversial. In a news release, his office tersely said it “revises regulations for licensed abortion clinics.” The law also requires doctors who perform abortions to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital or for the clinic to have a transfer agreement there.

To be completely fair, Planned Parenthood does not limit its services exclusively to women.  It provides health services to men as well, and yes, men do need to avail themselves of breast cancer screening.  So to say that by signing a bill that takes away funding from Planned Parenthood is part of Mr. Scott’s hatred of women is unfair.  He apparently hates all poor people, regardless of gender.

The rule on admitting privileges is on the books in several other states, mostly notably Texas, where it is already under review by the Supreme Court.  The article does not say whether or not the Florida Legislature has allocated funds to pay the legal cost of the inevitable lawsuits that will arise out of this new law, but I’m sure that Gov. Scott will find some way to pay for it; probably by cutting more money from public education.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Slippery Slope

Via the Tampa Times:

Florida lawmakers are moving forward with a near-total ban on abortions in the state, plus a second bill placing new requirements on doctors who perform abortions.

By an 8-3 vote Monday afternoon, a House criminal justice panel voted to advance the more sweeping legislation (HB 865), which would make performing an abortion or operating an abortion clinic a first-degree felony in Florida, punishable by up to 30 years in prison. Just hours earlier, the U.S. Supreme Court reiterated its longstanding ruling affirming women’s right to the procedure.

“The bill recognizes that both the mother and the baby are citizens of the state of Florida … and we are therefore compelled to protect their lives,” said Rep. Charles Van Zant, R-Keystone Heights, the bill’s sponsor.

He has put forward similar legislation for seven years, but it had never before been considered by a committee, the first step required to pass a bill into law, until Rep. Carlos Trujillo, R-Miami, agreed to consider it Monday. Trujillo, the chairman of the House Criminal Justice Subcommittee, did not discuss the bill during debate and left the committee room afterward without commenting.

“The Legislature finds that all human life comes from the Creator, has an inherent value that cannot be quantified by man, and begins at the earliest biological development of a fertilized human egg,” the bill says.

I don’t see any provision in the bill to pay for the lawsuits that will undoubtedly be filed to overturn this blatantly unconstitutional law if Gov. Scott signs it.  Which means the taxpayers of Florida will be on the hook for it.

Also, isn’t total control of women the first step down the road to Sharia law?  Are these legislators ready to embrace radical Islam?

Reversal of Fortune

The Republicans and the anti-choice movement just got their heads handed to them by a grand jury in Houston.

A grand jury here that was investigating accusations of misconduct against Planned Parenthood has instead indicted two abortion opponents who made undercover videos of the organization.

Prosecutors in Harris County said one of the leaders of the Center for Medical Progress — an anti-abortion group that made secretly recorded videos purporting to show Planned Parenthood officials trying to illegally profit from the sale of fetal tissue — had been indicted on a charge of tampering with a governmental record, a felony, and on a misdemeanor charge related to purchasing human organs.

That leader, David R. Daleiden, 27, the director of the center, had posed as a biotechnology representative to infiltrate Planned Parenthood affiliates and surreptitiously record his efforts to procure tissue for research. Another center employee, Sandra S. Merritt, 62, was indicted on a felony charge of tampering with a governmental record.

The record-tampering charges accused Mr. Daleiden and Ms. Merritt of making and presenting fake California driver’s licenses, with the intent to defraud, for their April meeting at Planned Parenthood in Houston.

Abortion opponents claimed that the videos, which were released starting in July, revealed that Planned Parenthood was engaged in the illegal sale of body parts — a charge that the organization has denied and that has not been supported in numerous congressional and state investigations triggered by the release of the videos.

On Monday, the Harris County district attorney, Devon Anderson, said in a statement that grand jurors had cleared Planned Parenthood of any wrongdoing.

She declined to provide details about the case against Mr. Daleiden and Ms. Merritt, including any documents or evidence presented to the grand jury, citing state law on the secrecy of grand jury proceedings.

“As I stated at the outset of this investigation, we must go where the evidence leads us,” Ms. Anderson said. “All the evidence uncovered in the course of this investigation was presented to the grand jury. I respect their decision on this difficult case.”

In a statement on Monday night, Mr. Daleiden said: “The Center for Medical Progress uses the same undercover techniques that investigative journalists have used for decades in exercising our First Amendment rights to freedom of speech and of the press, and follows all applicable laws. We respect the processes of the Harris County district attorney, and note that buying fetal tissue requires a seller as well. Planned Parenthood still cannot deny the admissions from their leadership about fetal organ sales captured on video for all the world to see.”

The release of the videos last summer created a furor and gave new strength to the conservative drive to defund Planned Parenthood. The organization was forced to apologize for the casual tone that one of its officials had used to discuss a possible transfer of fetal tissue to what she believed was a legitimate medical company. But Planned Parenthood said the fees being discussed were to cover costs and were legal.

No word yet on whether or not Carly Fiorina, who has based a good deal of her presidential campaign on demonizing Planned Parenthood and claiming that she saw a non-existent video of dismembered foetuses, has apologized or owned up to making stuff up.  Not that it would make any difference; she and the rest of the anti-choicers will go on lying and demonizing PP.

But it is righteous justice, especially since the grand jury was supposed to investigate PP and ended up indicting the accusers instead.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Short Takes

San Bernardino couple plotted attack two years ago.

Chicago Mayor Emmanuel demands sweeping police reforms.

President Obama took a swipe at Donald Trump while commemorating the 150th anniversary of the ratification of the 13th Amendment.

The Supreme Court heard arguments on a University of Texas affirmative action case.

Planned Parenthood shooter proclaims he’s a “warrior for babies.”

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

“They Got What They Deserved”

When someone shoots up a medical clinic and three people are killed, you’d think that civilized people would condemn that as a horrible thing.  But there are those who shrug it off as collateral damage.

The National Right to Life Committee said it “unequivocally condemns unlawful activities and acts of violence regardless of motivation,” and Americans United for Life said, “We categorically condemn this violence.” But in interviews with MSNBC, some grassroots abortion opponents across the country also pointed the finger at legal abortion itself.

“After all these years and millions of babies that have gone to their death, violence is to be anticipated,” said Judie Brown, president of American Life League, in a phone interview with MSNBC. “Because it’s acceptable to violently kill a baby, so why isn’t it acceptable to violently kill other people?”

“We never approve of violence against anybody, whether it’s the unborn babies or the clients of Planned Parenthood or anybody else,” Ann Scheidler, vice president of the Pro-Life Action League, told MSNBC. But, she added, “it’s not the fault of the pro-life movement that someone found out that Planned Parenthood is doing these things. It’s the fault of Planned Parenthood for selling the baby parts.”

Abortion is still legal in this country, as is the use of fetal tissue in medical research.  There are strict guidelines for both and Planned Parenthood, by all accounts, including through investigations conducted by states with anti-choice legislatures and attorneys general, has been doing both within those legal guidelines.

Justifying the death of people by the terrorists is terrorism itself.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Sunday Reading

Stop The Terror — Dr. Jennifer Conti in Slate on the anti-abortion terrorism.

As news continues to unfold about Friday’s Planned Parenthood shooting in Colorado Springs, one thing is clear: Domestic terrorism remains unchecked, even on the day after Thanksgiving. To label this an isolated act of violence would be naïve. In 2015 alone, there has been unprecedented harassment from anti-choice extremists, including most recently, a series of slanderous manipulated videos used to attack Planned Parenthood’s fetal tissue donation programs. And now this.

We can speculate long and hard about the gunman’s motives or targets, but what is more significant—what keeps me up at night as an OB/GYN physician—is the concern that we as a nation have become complacent. Was it truly a shock that something so horrific emerged only weeks after anti–Planned Parenthood rhetoric dominated the presidential candidate debates? What was all of this manipulative campaigning if not an invitation to incite hate? And now this.

A few people were injured and only a few people died, some headlines will say. That’s not so many compared to the recent acts of terrorism in Paris. But here’s the irony: This is a homegrown terrorist, one that no amount of passport authentication or refugee rejection could have stopped. We spend all this effort agonizing over external threats, all the while overlooking the extremism, bigotry, and hatred that lives down the street. And now this.

This is a sign of crisis. When women are too scared to seek medical care for fear of being shot on the way to clinic, we are in crisis mode. This is beyond bullying and this is no longer simply a politicizing issue. This is a runaway train on which nobody is pulling the brakes. How far does this have to play out before we can stop pretending that abortion care is not real health care? Since 1977, there have been eight murders, 17 attempted murders, 42 bombings, 186 arsons, and thousands of incidents of criminal activity associated with U.S. abortion clinics. These numbers do not include what happened in Colorado Springs.

As a physician, I worry about patients. I worry that women will be too scared or intimidated to seek the medical care they deserve and need. I also worry about the men and women who work daily to maintain access to reproductive health care: clinic staff, legislators, advocates. This is the point of terrorism, though, is it not—to incite fear and paralysis? So what then is the solution? The solution is strength and bravery in numbers, and it’s a more accurate depiction of abortion in the media. It’s also government accountability.

In 1998, after the shooting of abortion provider Barnett Slepian, the U.S. Department of Justice established a Task Force on Violence Against Health Care Providers. This is the group that coordinates national investigations of incidents like that in Colorado Springs. There are also efforts in place to prevent such tragedies from happening in the first place. The Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act prohibits any violent, threatening, damaging, or obstructive act that interferes with obtaining or providing abortions. These are the laws. How we choose to uphold them, however, is a different story.

Anti-choice terrorism can be stopped. When it’s recognized for what it truly is, and when preventing it is given enough support on both sides of the aisle, this can be stopped. As with many critical issues, the first step is often the most difficult—recognizing that there is a problem. We are there now, and we need legitimate, sustainable solutions before this happens again.

See also John Nichols in The Nation on the silence from the GOP field on the shooting.

Doonesbury — Catching up.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Short Takes

Turkey shot down a Russian warplane.

Two men were arrested in Minneapolis as suspects in the shooting at the Black Lives Manner protest.

The State Department says the global alert for overseas travelers will be in effect until February.

A Chicago police officer has been charged with murder in the death of an unarmed black man.

A federal court has ruled that Wisconsin’s abortion law is unconstitutional.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Friday, November 13, 2015

No Academic Freedom For You, Little Lady

A Missouri state legislator is trying to shut down a doctoral dissertation on Missouri’s abortion laws.

Missouri state Sen. Kurt Schaefer (R-Columbia) claimed in a letter to the university chancellor dated Oct. 30 that the university is breaking the law by allowing the student to carry out her research. The grad student is studying a recently imposed law requiring women in Missouri to wait 72 hours between the time they seek information about an abortion and the point at which they have the procedure.

It’s the latest in an ongoing battle between state lawmakers and the university over its relationship to Planned Parenthood. A decision by the university in September to cancel 10 contracts with Planned Parenthood helped fuel recent protests on campus that led to the ouster of the university system’s president and the flagship campus’ chancellor.

Schaefer is chairman of the Missouri senate’s interim Committee on the Sanctity of Life and a GOP candidate for state attorney general. The state senate began investigating Mizzou’s ties to Planned Parenthood this year after an anti-abortion group released heavily edited videos purporting to show that the women’s health clinics were selling aborted fetal tissue. No evidence has emerged to prove this assertion; rather, some Planned Parenthood clinics request the reimbursement for the cost of delivering tissue to be used for medical research.

It sounds like Mr. Schaefer is afraid that research will discover that the law is based on pseudoscience and mythology, not to mention a lot of misogyny and patriarchy.  Oh, and it never hurts to generate a little free publicity for someone running for office to get his name in the papers, even if it’s for a totally bullshit reason.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Short Takes

Secretary of State Kerry to hold talks with Russia over Syria.

The White House says 81 major companies have committed to reducing greenhouse gases.

Bystander mistaken for terrorist is shot and beaten by Israeli mob.

Texas cuts Planned Parenthood from Medicaid.  Lawsuit to follow.

Ohio halts all executions until 2017.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Monday, October 5, 2015

I Got Your Patriarchy Right Here

A right-wing radio host says he gets a say in what women do with their bodies because he’s a man and that’s what men do.

Conservative radio host Mark Davis argued on Sunday that he deserved to have “a say” on whether women were forced to carry their pregnancies to term because he said that “half of the babies aborted are women” and needed his protection.

On Sunday’s edition of Inside Texas Politics on WFAA, former Democratic state Rep. Domingo Garcia and Davis reflected on last week’s congressional Planned Parenthood hearings.

“This isn’t about abortion rights or women health,” Davis scoffed. “It’s about whether this group might have broken the law in selling baby parts for money.”

Garcia, however, argued that the attack on Planned Parenthood was part of the “war on women” being waged by Republicans.

“The Republicans, especially grumpy old guys, care about what women to with their bodies,” Garcia noted. “Why can’t you leave them alone? Let them make their own decisions.”

“This grumpy old guy believes that those distinct lives in the womb deserve protection,” Davis shot back. “I’m a grumpy old guy, that’s a human life, I get a say.”

Yeah, why bother asking the person who’s got the womb what she thinks because all she is is just a vessel for it.  No say in the matter whatsoever because that’s a man’s job, right?

Thursday, October 1, 2015

She Saw The Video

Carly Fiorina has jumped in the GOP polls in large part because she’s sticking to her story that she has seen the videos that show that Planned Parenthood takes apart live babies and waves their brains around before serving them with wine and salad.  Or something.  She’s insistent that she has seen them and defies her doubters to prove she hasn’t.

Let’s take her at her word and accept her assertion that she’s seen a graphic video of a medical procedure.  But was it a video of an abortion at a Planned Parenthood clinic?  That is highly doubtful.

But don’t take my word for it.  Listen to the people who have seen the same video and who know something about medicine.

So far, the video Fiorina described has not been made public. This latest video most definitely is not it.

The video, titled “Carly Fiorina was right” (warning: extremely graphic), was provided by the Center for Bio-Ethical Reform. They are the group that provided an image of a fetus, moving slightly, that is used by the Center for Medical Progress in one of their videos. This new video shows the context: The fetus is pulled from a woman and placed in a bowl. At no point does anyone say, “We have to keep it alive to harvest its brain.” There is no sound. There is no indication that we are inside a Planned Parenthood–affiliated clinic.

The only new information this video adds is the revelation that the fetus came out of a woman’s body. If that surprises you, then you have no right to weigh in on debates over women’s health care.

Scott Lemieux at LGM cites a real doctor who picks apart the video and shows that not only is it not an abortion, but raises doubts as to the provenance of the video, including its age and its country of origin.

The fact that Ms. Fiorina is still sticking by her story tells me that either she’s not very good at checking her sources or that she doesn’t care if she’s spreading demonstrably false ones.  That explains why she’s doing so well in the Republican primary, and it also explains why she is no longer working for HP.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Chaffetz Interruptus

No matter where you stand in regards to what Planned Parenthood does or does not do for healthcare, it was just plain rude the way the Republicans treated Cecile Richards, the president of Planned Parenthood, at the House hearing yesterday.

It went something like this:

REP JASON CHAFFETZ (R-UT) : Ms. Richards, tell me how you murder babies.

MS. RICHARDS: Well, I…

MR. CHAFFETZ : I don’t want to hear it!

And on and on.  Every time Ms. Richards opened her mouth, someone from the Republican side was there to interrupt or talk over her, and rudely so.  Don’t believe me?  Here’s a video compilation.

Just one more example of how your Republican party is out to win over the women — and the men who support them.  Not.  Even the anti-choicers were embarrassed by their behavior.

Didn’t anybody teach them any manners?