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.


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?

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Short Takes

VW admits to diesel emissions fraud.

E.U. ministers approve migrant plan.

Democrats defeat GOP abortion bill in the Senate.

The sage grouse doesn’t get protected status.

U.S. stops screening passengers from Liberia.

Tropical Update: TS Ida is still stuck in neutral.

R.I.P. Yogi Berra, 90, ballplayer and force of wit.

The Tigers beat the White Sox 2-1 in extra innings.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Sunday Reading

Going Ugly — Amy Davidson in The New Yorker: The birther question reveals the id of the GOP.

…But even more outrageous, this week, was Trump’s tolerance of the questioner’s premise: that Muslims in America are “a problem.” Calling Obama a Muslim is not wrong because being a Muslim is bad; it’s wrong because he is a Christian, and so “Muslim” becomes a shorthand for impostor and liar, for deceptive secret agent. Trump, though, went well beyond not defending the President: he affirmed an attack on the millions of Muslim Americans who are as much a part of the national community as anyone else. The man in the T-shirt’s actual point, after all, was about the supposed training camps “where they want to kill us.” He wanted Trump to answer his question: “When can we get rid of them?”

The campaign did say, according to the Washington Post, that it understood “them” to refer to the “training camps,” not to a potential ethnic cleansing of the Muslim population as a whole. A campaign official also said that Trump was focussed on the part of the question about this larger phantom threat, and not on the part about Obama’s religion—as if entertaining an insult to an entire community, rather than just to the President, were a defense. Trump’s own statement seemed to underscore the man in the Trump T-shirt’s fears: “The media wants to make this issue about Obama. The bigger issue is that Obama is waging a war against Christians in this country. Christians need support in this country. Their religious liberty is at stake.” Donald Trump, Christian warrior.

Last week, in an effort to slow Trump’s momentum, the Club for Growth released ads portraying him as a liberal. Jeb Bush, too, has made the case that the problem with Trump is that he is inadequately conservative—as if, with Trump’s talk of building walls, the G.O.P. were being pestered by a moderate in its midst. Perhaps his comments in New Hampshire will persuade his competitors to confront his extremism instead. So far, they have been too fearful or too eager for the votes of people like the man in the T-shirt. Or maybe they agree; Ben Carson, for one, has talked about the possibility of staged civil disorder leading to the cancellation of elections. (Hillary Clinton, who was also in New Hampshire, said that Trump “should have, from the beginning, repudiated that kind of rhetoric.”)

It can’t be said that Trump didn’t have control of the exchange; he had, after all, broken in twice. And he had another opportunity to do so when, later in the event, another questioner rose to say, “I applaud the gentleman who brought up the Muslim training camps here in the U.S.A.—the F.B.I. knows all about that.” To which Trump replied, again, “right.”

“But America has also guns pointed at ordinary citizens here,” the second man said, and then hesitated.

“Don’t get nervous!” Trump said. “You’re on about seven television networks here—don’t get nervous!”

The man launched into a disjointed attack on the Bureau of Land Management. “How can we get in and stop them?” he said.

“So many things are going to change,” Trump said, and then offered some news-you-can-use for conspiracy theorists.

“Being in real estate, we have Army bases, Navy bases—so many are for sale,” Trump said. “And so many of them have been sold over the last short period of time.”

And just who is buying those military bases? The audience seemed to know. Evan Osnos wrote recently about the support for Trump among white supremacists and other extremists in this country. It can seem, though, as if they are not only listening to him but as if he is listening to them. Trump is learning the practice of politics in halls echoing with American paranoia. There has always been a strain of that, and he is not alone in playing to it: a number of Republican senators solemnly presented themselves as concerned investigators of Jade Helm, a U.S. military training exercise that, in some circles, was presented as a dress rehearsal for martial law. The man in the T-shirt has a theory; the man in the suit smiles. What is less and less clear, in the interaction between the potential Presidents and the crowd, is who is humoring whom.

No-Show and Tell — Zoe Carpenter in The Nation on the kangaroo court in Congress over Planned Parenthood.

On Wednesday, the House Judiciary Committee held the first of several congressional hearings sparked by undercover videos purporting to show that Planned Parenthood profits from illegal sales of fetal tissue. Less than 40 minutes had elapsed by the time someone quoted Adolf Hitler. The hysteria lasted for nearly four hours, marked by claims that abortion providers start their day with a “shopping list” of body parts to procure, about a fetus’s face being cut open with scissors, about fetuses who “cried and screamed as they died” but weren’t heard “because it was amniotic fluid going over their vocal cords instead of air.”

The hearing was engineered to repulse and horrify; it was not designed to reveal any credible information about Planned Parenthood or the Center for Medical Progress, the antiabortion group that made and edited the undercover videos. Neither Planned Parenthood nor CMP were asked to make representatives available to testify. Instead, Republicans called on two “abortion survivors” who lived after their mothers attempted to terminate their pregnancies, and issued emotional appeals against abortion, broadly. They also invited James Bopp, the Indiana lawyer who argued on behalf of the nonprofit Citizens United in the Supreme Court case that extended 1st Amendment rights to corporations. Among other things, Bopp argued in his testimony that fetal tissue donation encourages women “to choose abortions as an acceptable form of birth control.” Priscilla Smith, who directs the Program for the Study of Reproductive Justice at Yale Law School, was the only witness who supported abortion rights.

Representative Trent Franks, the Republican chairman of the Constitution and Civil Justice Subcommittee, was particularly unhinged in his attacks, appearing to work himself nearly to tears as he described the videos that “irrefutably reveal” Planned Parenthood officials “haggling” over fetal tissue. Later, Franks was pressed on whether he’d actually seen full, unedited footage from CMP. After erroneously claiming that CMP had made it available online, Franks admitted that neither he nor anyone else from the GOP majority had seen the footage in its complete form. He also confirmed that committee Republicans haven’t asked for it.

Democrats were quick to point out the absurdity of holding a hearing about accusations based on film footage that no one on the committee has seen in its original form. Representative John Conyers, the ranking Democrat on the committee, called the hearing “one-sided” and said that the videos revealed “no credible evidence that Planned Parenthood violated the law.” Representative Steve Cohen called it “the Benghazi of health care hearings.” Representative Hank Johnson likened the proceedings to a “third world show trial.” “Senator Joseph McCarthy would be proud of this committee today,” remarked Representative Jerrold Nadler.

The hearing is part of a broader push to cut off federal funding for Planned Parenthood, which receives about $500 million a year. (Under the Hyde Amendment, none of that money can be used for abortions, except in rare cases.) Conservatives are hoping to ride the momentum from the undercover videos to force the issue during budget negotiations, potentially leading to a government shutdown at the end of the month. “The horrifying thing about this hearing,” Smith said in her testimony, “is the mismatch between the allegations and concerns here about abortion [and] about fetal tissue research, and what is being considered, which is defunding Planned Parenthood’s non-abortion-related services.”

Perhaps the most ridiculous line of questioning came from Republican Jim Sensenbrenner, who wanted to know “why Planned Parenthood needs to get over half a billion dollars of federal funding every year when there are other pressing needs, such as feeding hungry children, that maybe we should be putting that money into?” Here’s how much Sensenbrenner cares about hungry children: In 2013, he and 216 of his fellow Republicans voted for a $39 billion cut to the food-stamp program.

In a memo released in advance of the hearing, Planned Parenthood pointed out that this is the 10th time since 2000 that secretly recorded videos and other accusations against the organization have led to congressional investigations. The evidence has never held up. But as Michelle Goldberg explained here, the latest videos—and witnesses like the two “abortion survivors” who testified on Wednesday—have a powerful visceral impact, despite their lack of grounding in fact. Republican Representative Steve King explained during Wednesday’s proceedings, “I don’t need an investigation to know what’s going on here.”

The Threat to the First Amendment — The New York Times editorial board on GOP anti-gay bigotry.

This past June, in the heat of their outrage over gay rights, congressional Republicans revived a nasty bit of business they call the First Amendment Defense Act. It would do many things, but one thing it would not do is defend the First Amendment. To the contrary, it would deliberately warp the bedrock principle of religious freedom under the Constitution.

The bill, versions of which have been circulating since 2013, gained a sudden wave of support after the Supreme Courtlegalized same-sex marriage nationwide. It is being hawked with the specter of clergy members being forced to officiate such marriages. This is a ploy, as the bill’s backers surely know: There has never been any doubt that the First Amendment protects members of the clergy from performing weddings against their will.

In reality, the act would bar the federal government from taking “any discriminatory action” — including the denial of tax benefits, grants, contracts or licenses — against those who oppose same-sex marriage for religious or moral reasons. In other words, it would use taxpayers’ money to negate federal anti-discrimination measures protecting gays and lesbians, using the idea of religious freedom as cover.

For example, a religiously affiliated college that receives federal grants could fire a professor simply for being gay and still receive those grants. Or federal workers could refuse to process the tax returns of same-sex couples simply because of bigotry against their marriages.

It doesn’t stop there. As critics of the bill quickly pointed out, the measure’s broad language — which also protects those who believe that “sexual relations are properly reserved to” heterosexual marriages alone — would permit discrimination against anyone who has sexual relations outside such a marriage. That would appear to include women who have children outside of marriage, a class generally protected by federal law.

This bizarre fixation on what grown-ups do in their bedrooms — which has long since been rejected by the Supreme Court and the vast majority of Americans — is bad enough. The bill makes matters worse by covering for-profit companies, which greatly multiplies the potential scope of discrimination against gays and lesbians.

These are radical proposals, but they are accepted without question by many in today’s Republican Party. In its current form, the bill has 148 co-sponsors in the House and 36 in the Senate — all Republicans but one, Representative Daniel Lipinski of Illinois. It has been endorsed by the Republican National Committee and at least four Republican presidential contenders. It is, in other words, a fair representation of right-wing reaction to the long overdue expansion of basic civil and constitutional rights to gays and lesbians.

Thankfully, the bill’s chances of passage are low. Even if it were to get through Congress, President Obama would surely veto it. Still, its symbolic power will embolden those looking for a legal justification to discriminate — whether they are individuals like Kim Davis, the county clerk in Kentucky who went to jail rather than obey the law and issue same-sex marriage licenses, or states, where similar legislation has a much better chance of becoming law. In Indiana and Arkansas, laws protecting such discrimination have already passed.

Both laws, of course, provoked a swift and emphatic backlash from the public and the corporate world, leading both states to scale them back. (Indiana’s governor, Mike Pence, embarked on a bumbling effort to claim that his state’s law would not provide cover for discrimination against gays and lesbians.)

Fear of a similar debacle at the national level may help explain why a committee vote in Congress on the First Amendment Defense Act, which conservative Republicans pushed for in late July, was not scheduled.

The best outcome at this point would be for the bill to die where it is. The First Amendment needs no assistance in protecting religious freedom in America.

 Doonesbury — The news.  In spurts.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

What Is It With Jeb! and Women?

Via Politico:

Jeb Bush attacked Planned Parenthood on Tuesday, doubling down on his assertion that the organization should not receive any federal funding because it’s not actually tackling women’s health issues.

“I, for one, don’t think Planned Parenthood ought to get a penny though, and that’s the difference because they’re not actually doing women’s health issues,” the Republican presidential candidate said.

Yeah, because breast and cervical cancer screening and contraception have nothing whatsoever to do with women’s health issues.

Can you imagine what deep shit he’d be in if women voted?

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Sunday Reading

Not Funny Anymore — Matt Taibbi in Rolling Stone on the dangers of Donald Trump.

So two yahoos from Southie in my hometown of Boston severely beat up a Hispanic homeless guy earlier this week. While being arrested, one of the brothers reportedly told police that “Donald Trump was right, all of these illegals need to be deported.”

When reporters confronted Trump, he hadn’t yet heard about the incident. At first, he said, “That would be a shame.” But right after, he went on:

“I will say, the people that are following me are very passionate. They love this country. They want this country to be great again. But they are very passionate. I will say that.”

This is the moment when Donald Trump officially stopped being funny.


Trump is probably too dumb to realize it, or maybe he isn’t, but he doesn’t need to win anything to become the most dangerous person in America. He can do plenty of damage just by encouraging people to be as uninhibited in their stupidity as he is.

Trump is striking a chord with people who are feeling the squeeze in a less secure world and want to blame someone – the government, immigrants, political correctness, “incompetents,” “dummies,” Megyn Kelly, whoever – for their problems.

Karl Rove and his acolytes mined a lot of the same resentments to get Republicans elected over the years, but the difference is that Trump’s political style encourages people to do more to express their anger than just vote. The key to his success is a titillating message that those musty old rules about being polite and “saying the right thing” are for losers who lack the heart, courage and Trumpitude to just be who they are.

His signature moment in a campaign full of them was his exchange in the first debate with Fox’s Kelly. She asked him how anyone with a history of calling women “fat pigs, dogs, slobs, and disgusting animals” could win a general election against a female candidate like Hillary Clinton.

“I’ve been challenged by so many people,” Trump answered. “I frankly don’t have time for political correctness. And to be honest with you, the country doesn’t have time either…. We don’t win anymore. We lose to China. We lose to Mexico…. We lose to everybody.”

On the surface, Kelly was just doing her job as a journalist, throwing Trump’s most outrageous comments back at him and demanding an explanation.

But on another level, she was trying to bring Trump to heel. The extraction of the humiliating public apology is one of the media’s most powerful weapons. Someone becomes famous, we dig up dirt on the person, we rub it in his or her nose, and then we demand that the person get down on bended knee and beg forgiveness.

Tale of the Tapes — Nina Liss-Schultz in Mother Jones on falsity of the Planned Parenthood tapes.

Since undercover videos that captured Planned Parenthood staff discussing fetal tissue donations were released last month, GOP officials in more than 10 states have clamored to launch investigations into the organization. On Tuesday, South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley joined that group, ordering her state’s health department to review the policies and practices of all abortion clinics in the state, including the three operated by Planned Parenthood.

“These practices are not consistent with the laws or character of our state,” Haley wrote in her letter to the state agency tasked with regulating abortion clinics, adding that it “cannot allow an organization with broken internal oversight and a flawed corporate culture to behave the way Planned Parenthood has in other states.”

In the videos, recorded surreptitiously and released by the anti-abortion group Center for Medical Progress, Planned Parenthood officials talk frankly about the organization’s tissue donation program and the costs associated with donating fetal tissue from an abortion. Though fetal tissue donation is a long-standing and legal practice in the United States, and has contributed to medical advancements like the polio vaccine, conservatives have used the videos to attack the health care organization, saying they provide evidence that Planned Parenthood illegally profits from the sale of aborted fetuses. And they’ve pushed for investigations to unmask this purported criminal wrongdoing.

But so far, those investigations are falling flat. Completed probes in GeorgiaIndianaMassachusetts, and South Dakota have spent thousands in taxpayer money but turned up no evidence that Planned Parenthood is trafficking in the sale of fetal tissue. And in most of the other states that have launched investigations—including OhioArizonaTexas, and Kansas—Planned Parenthood affiliates don’t even have fetal tissue donation programs, making it hard to believe the states will find any illegal activity related to the practice. In Louisiana, where Gov. Bobby Jindal ordered an investigation in mid-July, Planned Parenthood does not even operate a single abortion clinic.

“In every state where these investigations have concluded, officials have cleared Planned Parenthood of any wrongdoing,” Dawn Laguens, executive vice president of Planned Parenthood Federation, told the Huffington Post. “We’ve said all along that Planned Parenthood follows all laws and has very high medical standards, and that’s what every one of these investigations has found.”

Breakfast of Champion — Richard Sandomir in The New York Times reports on the petition to get Greg Louganis on a Wheaties box.

When Julie Sondgerath learned from the premiere of the HBO documentary “Greg Louganis: Back on Board” this month that Louganis, the transcendent Olympic diver, had never been on the cover of a Wheaties cereal box, she started a petition drive on Change.org to demand that General Mills correct an omission that has lasted more than 30 years.

She had watched a scene almost midway through the film in which Louganis is looking at a display of Wheaties boxes with Olympic athletes on them: Amy Van Dyken, Laura Wilkinson and Brooke Bennett. All deserving. But where was Louganis?

“Never got a Wheaties box,” Louganis, with a shrug and a reluctant smile, says in the documentary.

“It kind of broke my heart,” Sondgerath said by telephone from Chicago. “This is a guy who did everything right. He trained from his teens. He went to the Olympics. He won silver in 1976. He won gold in 1984 and again in ’88. He did everything right.”

Casual sports and Olympic fans might not be able to name another diver — a reflection of his superiority and the sport’s relatively modest profile. Still, Louganis is quite possibly the greatest ever at his sport. He won gold medals on the three-meter springboard and the 10-meter platform in each of those Summer Games.

But Wheaties’s recognition escaped him in 1984, though not Mary Lou Retton and Carl Lewis. Four years later, he won the same events but was again ignored by Wheaties.

Homophobia would seem to be the only reason that Louganis was denied the simple cereal-box accolade. He says so in the documentary, even if the filmmakers could not present anyone from General Mills who would agree. A spokesman for the cereal-maker said that nobody from that period was left to discuss the decision-making.

There were rumors that Louganis was gay in the 1980s, when only his friends, family and the swimming community knew. He came out publicly at the Gay Games in 1994 but did not acknowledge until the release of his autobiography the next year that he had tested HIV-positive before the 1988 Olympics.

Out of fear, Louganis did not inform the doctor of his condition when he treated the bloody wound caused when Louganis hit his head on the springboard during a preliminary dive.

Louganis’s on-camera shrug suggests an acknowledgment that being ignored by Wheaties should be placed in a 1980s context — during the early years of the AIDS epidemic and decades before court rulings led to same-sex marriages like his own.

Doonesbury — School choices.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

No Exceptions (Bad)

Marco Rubio goes into the zone.

I personally and deeply believe that all human life is worthy of the protection of our laws, I do. And I believe that irrespective of the conditions by which that life was conceived or anything else, and for me to be consistent on that belief, that’s why I feel so strongly about it.

Which means that to him a microscopic clump of cells is more important than the life of the woman carrying it.

The good news is that Marco Rubio will never be president of anything more than possibly his HOA, and as of January 2017 he will be out of the United States Senate.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

More GOP Outreach To The Womenfolk

Another fine example of how the Republican Party is striving to connect with women voters.

During an interview on Tuesday with religious conservatives, Mr. Bush suggested that the federal government has overfunded women’s health.

“I’m not sure we need half a billion dollars for women’s health issues,” Mr. Bush said at a Southern Baptist Convention event in Nashville.

Amid a storm of Democratic mockery, Mr. Bush backtracked within a few hours, saying he had misspoken.

Oh, really?  Do tell.

Failing to provide or fund services such as cancer screening, contraception, or yes, even abortions touch the lives of women, obviously, but they also impact their families, their co-workers, and anyone who cares for a person’s health

But here’s a far better elucidation of the issue from someone far more eloquent than me.  Take it away, Sen. Warren.

I’d like to think that this kind of mindset from Mr. Bush, no matter how much back-tracking he does, will crater his campaign, but knowing the GOP and their base of misogynists, especially when it comes to reproductive rights, he’ll probably see a bump up in the polls.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Short Takes

The Persian Gulf states are on board with the Iran nuclear pact.

President Obama announced major goals to reduce carbon emissions from power plants.  Expect major power outrage.

Major wildfires continue to devastate California.

Senate Democrats blocked an attempt by the GOP to defund Planned Parenthood.  It’s not over.

Tropical Update:  Invest 95L moves inland.

The Tigers had the night off.