Category Archives: Politics

It’s the Planning Part That Makes Them Crazy: GOP attacks on Planned Parenthood

Sanger

It must be campaign season: the Republican Party is once again attacking Planned Parenthood.  This current manufactured outrage moment was coordinated with the debunked video from a shadowy outfit whose “investigators” come complete with phony identification documents. [HuffPo]  [DemoNW] Since the GOP seems to have nothing on offer regarding national infrastructure, comprehensive immigration policy reform, Middle East Peace negotiation, manufacturing policy, minimum wage levels, job training and education, or any substantive proposals on the expansion of health insurance coverage – it must be time to look for Distractions. And, what better distraction than Planned Parenthood?

These attacks appeal to the rabidly anti-contraception/abortion advocates in the Republican base.  We can assume that this element is a small minority of the U.S. population because (1) more than 99% of women aged 15-44 who have ever had sexual intercourse have used at least one contraceptive method. (2) Approximately 62% of all women of reproductive age are currently using a contraceptive method. (3) 83% of Black women, 91% of Hispanic women, and 90% of Asian women of child bearing age currently use a contraceptive method during intercourse. (4) 92% of all women with incomes of 300% or more of the federal poverty standard are currently using contraception, as are 89% of those with incomes at 0-149% of the poverty line.  [Guttmacher]

Contraception method chartAs the statistical reports, and the chart, demonstrate, those who oppose contraception are a definite minority, and the religious argument begins to unravel when another survey is highlighted: “Some 68% of Catholics, 73% of Mainline Protestants and 74% of Evangelicals who are at risk of unintended pregnancy use a highly effective method (i.e., sterilization, the pill or another hormonal method, or the IUD).” [Guttmacher]

As with the polling and survey reports on contraception, the polling on the abortion issue also illuminates the minority position of the radical anti-abortionists.   Note the trends reported by Gallup:

abortion polling It doesn’t even require a calculator to see that as of 2015 approximately 80% of the U.S. population believes that abortion is acceptable, at least under some circumstances.  Only 19% believe the medical procedure should be illegal in any situation.  [Gallup]

Thus we have circumstances in which 99% of those women who have had sexual intercourse using some form of contraception, and 80% of the nation believing that under some circumstances (usually involving the welfare of the mother) abortion procedures should be legal.  Why would a major political party attempt to use contraception/abortion as a political issue?

If it worked before – it will work again?  Republicans have utilized “wedge issues” with some effect before – gay marriage, gun safety, contraception/abortion.  And, Thomas Frank’s book concluded:

“…the Republicans use social issues in a bait-and-switch routine: people are enticed into voting Republican over social issues like abortion or gay marriage, and then Republican pols, once elected, ignore all that and govern like the pro-business, rich-people’s party that they are at heart.”  [Atlantic]

The problem for Republicans is that while they are the pro-corporate (not small business) party of the hedge fund managers and the large banks, the bait is becoming harder to find.  Therefore the need to find another way to access the anti-contraception/abortion vote – let’s try fetal tissue research!

The GOP has two problems with this wrinkle – first, they were for it before they were against it. [Think Progress] and secondly, who wants to argue that fetal tissue should be turned into medical waste instead of having the family opt for tissue donation for medical research?

Nor is fetal tissue medical research a new thing – it’s been done since the 1930s, and the 1954 Nobel Prize for medicine was awarded for work with fetal tissue that lead to the development of the polio vaccine. [USNWR] Current work with fetal tissue involves studies related to birth defects, spinal cord injuries, Parkinson’s Disease, eye diseases, and HIV/AIDS. [Reuters] Fetal tissue research also yielded vaccines for chicken pox, rubella, and shingles. [CNN]  If one is truly “pro-life” in the comprehensive meaning of the term, then the research into finding a vaccine for rubella is instructive:

“From 1964-1965, before the development of a vaccine against the disease, a rubella epidemic swept the United States. During that short period there were 12.5 million cases of rubella. Twenty thousand children were born with CRS: 11,000 were deaf, 3,500 blind, and 1,800 mentally retarded. There were 2,100 neonatal deaths and more than 11,000 abortions – some a spontaneous result of rubella infection in the mother, and others performed surgically after women were informed of the serious risks of rubella exposure during their pregnancy.”  (CRS = Congenital Rubella Syndrome) [HistVac]

Interesting isn’t it: The use of fetal tissue in medical research to develop a vaccine against Rubella meant FEWER abortions (both natural and medical)  and 2,100 fewer neo-natal deaths.  OK, now stand at a podium and tell the voters that you are in favor of bringing all fetal tissue research to a grinding halt even if it means more miscarriages and abortions? In the name of “Life?”  There’s a purpose for fetal tissue research at the other end of the age spectrum:

“Stem cell therapy for retinal disease is under way, and several clinical trials are currently recruiting. These trials use human embryonic, foetal and umbilical cord tissue-derived stem cells and bone marrow-derived stem cells to treat visual disorders such as age-related macular degeneration, Stargardt’s disease and retinitis pigmentosa. Over a decade of analysing the developmental cues involved in retinal generation and stem cell biology, coupled with extensive surgical research, have yielded differing cellular approaches to tackle these retinopathies…” [NCBI]

The radical anti-abortionists haven’t mentioned the research into how to attack the 2.7 million cases of macular degeneration in the U.S. [NEI]  Do we dare tell them that most of those cases are among Caucasian Americans?

Mac Degeneration by race And, here we have it: attacks on an organization, often the target of radical anti-abortionists, which lawfully provides fetal tissue to medical research facilities  currently working on ways to prevent, cure, or alleviate diseases prevalent in America, many of which are  deadly (ALS, Parkinson’s) or debilitating (macular degeneration).  All for what?

For an issue most Americans don’t have at the top of their priorities?

abortion issue

To attract 21% of the respondents in the 2015 polling?  To appease those for whom family planning is anathema?  Nothing better illustrates the hold over the Republican Party like its pandering to a small minority in the national audience, a minority like Quiverfull (see Duggars), for whom women are merely the instruments of men’s procreation?  To appeal to those who follow the Army of God manual and bomb abortion clinics or kill providers? To address those ignorant enough to miss the connections between significant medical research and the use of fetal tissue?

Or, to appeal to those who firmly believe that the Little Woman should be barefoot and pregnant – in the kitchen – not the Senate or the House.  Families which plan for their children, which can assume two incomes, which can maintain intimacy without unintended pregnancies, and who can afford the $3500 it costs for the average uncomplicated birth of a child in a hospital [Parents] are generally better off, and so are their kids.  Here we hit the rough patch. 

Planning is Everything.   It’s impossible to attack those families which are practicing birth control for rational reasons —  in the face of irrationality.  Critics of social welfare programs offer, “If you can’t afford them then you shouldn’t have them.”  If we accept this criticism, then what rational premise might one have for defunding the organization which promotes responsible parenting by making contraception available? 

However, “If you give’em birth control they’ll just be promiscuous!”  Notice the emphasis is on the female, “boys will be boys.”  It’s hard to separate this attitude from good old fashioned garden variety misogyny.  If we actually want fewer unplanned pregnancies, especially among younger women, then what is the rational argument for cutting funding for clinics like those sponsored by Planned Parenthood which inform young women about contraceptive options?

Only 3% of Planned Parenthood’s medical procedures involve abortion at any stage and in any manner. For the radicals this is 3% too many.  For the deluded among us – every woman must carry every pregnancy to term, no matter the cost to her physical well being or to her mental health. Every pregnancy must end in a birth – even if the fetus is so badly deformed that it won’t survive outside the womb for more than 24 hours?  How many of the radicals are even aware of anencephaly,  exomphalos and gastroschisis? [Patient]  Pre-natal care is required in order to detect abnormalities like anencephaly, and where do women – especially low income women – get pre-natal care? From their local Planned Parenthood clinic.  Which, we should add, provides pre-natal care for the pregnancies, planned or unplanned, of many middle and lower income women.

If the Republicans who are chanting for Investigations! Funding Cuts! and other assaults on Planned Parenthood understood just how ridiculous they sound, and how close to the radicals associated with the Army of God and the  Quiverfull movement they’ve moved, then they’d have a much better grasp as to how counter-productive their shift to the radical right will be received in a general election.  In their attempt to manufacture another “crisis” in “poutrage” and to generate a wedge issue, they’ve only succeeded in forming alliances with the most misogynistic elements of the Right Wing: Those who neither want nor countenance Planning in family relationships. 

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Busy Day

Posting on DB will resume Monday, by which time the chaos that erupts periodically around here should have subsided! Meanwhile, we happily continue alternately resolving problems and creating more in the wake. ;-)

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Cut the Pro-Life Blather and Come Back to Me When You’re Ready to Talk About Real Life

Bronte Quote

Now the phony outfit which produced one bit of propaganda video smearing the work of Planned Parenthood has released others – albeit without so much fanfare after the first one was thoroughly debunked as beyond heavily edited and well  into the realm of sick fiction.  Sad to say, there’s a market for this stuff.

If we combine religious convictions with partisan politics the result is a rationalized*, but not necessarily reasonable, audience for all manner of propaganda which supports the world view of the anti-choice activist. Further, if we combine a media intent on publishing superficial coverage of policy with an emphasis on the politics of the subject matter and not the substance, then we get the breathless “debates” which pass for discourse in national media.

And the anti-choice activists are playing the media like a cheap tin whistle.  This is relatively easy in a media environment in which facts don’t matter all that much.  The anti-choice activism attracting national attention is as artificial and sensational as it is formulaic.

Step One: Attract Media Attention.  Marches on Washington, D.C. have become rather common place, the one planned by March For Life back in January 2014 was attended by “thousands.”  That would be “hundreds of thousands” if we count attendance at all the marches from 2003 onward.  The event will continue to be on the calendar as long as speakers are ready to sign on, such as Jesse Helms,  Rep. Chris Smith, Randall Terry,  Rep. Patrick J. Toomey,  Rep. Eric Cantor, and Rep. Kevin McCarthy.   However, as this event becomes more illustrative of the close relationship between religion and politics, it doesn’t command attention onto single targets.

Step Two: Make Your Own News.  This is the point at which the phony videos come into play. Planned Parenthood has come under fire before, and as a target for anti-choice activists who seem to be disturbed by the 3% of its medical care in the form of abortions, but also enraged by the “planned” part wherein the clinics provide contraceptive care.  In my opinion, it’s necessary at this part of the discussion to separate segments of the anti-choice audience.

If we look at the Gallup Polling for trends, since presumably they’ve asked the questions the same way over the course of their reporting, the number expressing support for abortion under any circumstances has ranged from about 21% in the 1970s to about 29% today.  Those who expressed the view that abortions should be illegal in all circumstances has never achieved more than a 23% level.  Gallup has been tracking opinions of “single issue” voters, asking if the candidate must share the prospective voter’s views, and in this instance among registered voters only 19% self identified as ‘abortion single issue voters.’

Americans are generally in favor of having a physician inform women of alternatives, but are opposed (57%) to having a law allowing a pharmacists or physicians  to opt out of procedures which could induce an abortion.  61% were reported as opposed (61%) to the idea that a Constitutional amendment should be enacted to prohibit abortions with the exception of an immediate threat to the mother’s physical health.

What these numbers show us is that the anti-choice influence as currently voiced by Governor Scott Walker, is a function of the fringe of the “pro-birth” advocates, a group identified as opposed to abortion in almost every circumstance, and agreeable only if the woman’s health is in immediate danger.

So, how did this this rabid minority grab the headlines?  (1) Television needs pictures, (2) and Television needs to fill air time.  Therefore, the strategy, as practiced by the erstwhile Center for Medical Progress is to create the pictures and edit the narrative to get media attention. It did: on Fox, on ABC, on NBC, and in the Washington Post, among others.

Step Three: Provide a Distraction.  Now we have the confluence of political strategy and conservative social activism.  A Republican Party, currently engaging in intriguing internecine warfare between its establishment and Tea Party ranks, has struggled to get a message out to voters on crucial issues, and has to deal with the Trump’ed Campaign which is long on bluster and short on policy.  CNN polling from this month indicates the top issue for Americans is the economy at 44%. Issues at 20% and below are: health care, terrorism, immigration, and foreign policy.  If the GOP opts for health care then it has to present a full blown policy alternative to the Affordable Care Act; if the GOP opts for terrorism then it has to present a unified vision of exactly who in the Middle East is going to be supported by whom.  If the GOP opts for trailing along with Donald Trump on the immigration issue, then it needs to offer a viable alternative to the Senate comprehensive immigration policy reform bill languishing in House committees.

In short, the anti-abortion issue is extremely attractive as a distraction. The media is enraptured with its latest shiny object “Celebrities talking about something scandalous which can be simply stated and opens the possibility of endless speculation.”   The Perfect News Story.  Let the lambent divagation begin!

Step Four: Enter the Opportunists.  Once the assault was given credibility by a credulous media, the politicians immediately pounced.  For example, Missouri politicians could be addressing the fact that the median household income for that state ranks 44th in the nation. [Census]  However, it’s ever so much easier to launch a state Senate investigation into Planned Parenthood.  Tennessee politicians could be evaluating information about the potential $1.4 billion “Insure Tennessee” could bring to the state, [UTecon] but no, they’d prefer to wail on about Planned Parenthood.  Florida politicians could be addressing how to deal with an influx of people from Puerto Rico’s lamentable economic situation [Orlando] but the publicity seekers prefer to call for an investigation of Planned Parenthood. [NBC2] And, one more example:  Washington state Republican leaders want an investigation into Planned Parenthood’s activities, [King5] instead of discussing further why it was necessary to cut $10 billion in basic services from the state budget? [WABPC]

Step Five: Lather Rinse Repeat.  Once conservative politicians discover that media attention can be drawn by magisterially announcing an Investigation into the Scandal, I Say Scandal!, and reporters chime in by asking those pro-choice politicians What Do YOU think? the great game can continue.  Meanwhile, the Missouri economy can lurch along, the Tennessee insurance options can be put aside in the wonky category, Floridians can contemplate what can go wrong when there’s an influx from the economically devastated  Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, and Washingtonians can muddle through a sparse budget while trying to renovate and redevelop waterfront properties.

The unholy alliance of shrill advocates, all too many of whom don’t much care what happens to the child after its birth (No food stamps for you, you little grifter, you’ll just learn to be dependent), combined with a sensationalist and shallow press – not well known for its fact checking, and added to a partisan farrago of opportunistic and camera seeking politicians, yields a recipe for political cynicism at its finest.

Come Back To Me When You’re Ready To Get Serious

Bluntly stated, I don’t much care for this brand of politics, or the attendant perfunctory press which nourishes it. Come back to me when there’s a real scandal – like the 16 million children in the United States who are now living in poverty.  [NCCP] – like the 18,000 children and teenagers who are killed or injured in gun violence each year in this country [Brady] – like, for how many years now have we been discussing the number of children who attend school in substandard buildings? “National spending on school construction has diminished to approximately $10 billion in 2012, about half the level spent prior to the recession, while the condition of school facilities continues to be a significant concern for communities. Experts now estimate the investment needed to modernize and maintain our nation’s school facilities is at least $270 billion or more…” [ASCE] – like, when you want to talk about the 49 million Americans, 15.8 million of whom are children, who are living in food insecure households. [FAO]

Until then, I will continue to hold the opinion that the radical anti-abortion advocates who are adept at playing the Grab the Microphone Game, and the politicians and members of the press who are delighted to play along, are little more than shallow opportunistic attention seekers.  Attention seekers who can’t differentiate between being Pro-Life and being in favor of Forced Birth.

Recommended Reading and References:

*Dissertation: University of Iowa, “The Violent Transformation of a Social Movement: Women and Anti-Abortion Activism,” Karissa A. Haugeberg, 2011.  Iowa Research Online. JSTOR: “Movements, Counter Movements, and the structure of political opportunity,” American Journal of Sociology, Meyer & Staggenborg.

Media Matters for America: “Factcheck.Org debunks deceptively edited video smearing Planned Parenthood,”  July 22, 2015.  “Unspinning the Planned Parenthood Video,” FactCheck.Org, July 21, 2015. “Second Heavily edited Planned Parenthood Attack Video is Also A Big Bust, Slate, July 21, 2015. “Debunking the Planned Parenthood Video Hoax,” RH Reality Check, July 20, 2015.  “What the Planned Parenthood hoax really proves: Right Wing Extremists have no qualms about destroying people’s lives, “ Salon, July 16, 2015.  “Here’s how the anti-abortion movement plans to modernize its approach,” Huffington Post, January 22, 2015.

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Vacation Again

DB is working on taking enough vacation days to rival the total of our 15% approval rate Congress. However, my limited capacity to endure boredom and GOP ridiculousness will cause more posting soon!  While DB gets the house, pets, and projects sorted please visit places like Let’s Talk Nevada, and other grand sites in the sidebar.  See you soon! :-)

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The South Shall Lose Again: The SCV in Nevada

SVC logo In contrast to other states of the Union, Nevada provided few soldiers to the American Civil War; most of the residents of the silver and gold producing areas were busy with Paiute “depredations” and were clamoring for Federal assistance with troops to contain the violence, and screeching the mining towns needed Henry Rifles to defend themselves.  That hasn’t prevented the establishment of two chapters of the Sons of Confederate Veterans in this state.

The “Silver State Grays” are located in Las Vegas, NV and the “Lt. Dixon-CSS Hunley” group is located in Sparks, NV. [SCV]  As the Hunley chapter prepares to ‘celebrate’ the sesquicentennial of the South’s fight for independence (and the pleasure of owning other human beings) they’ll be meeting in a Sparks truck stop on September 20th.  Their web page lists officers: Lee Cross, Mike Tocci, Gerry Dunlap, and ‘historian’ Ernie Zebal.

A scan of their newsletter contents shows some interesting bits of ‘history’ indeed.  For example, there’s a notation that the SCV (Sparks) made a $450 donation on or about June 30, 2014 to the Southern Legal Resource Center, “which is the only law firm in the United States dedicated to preserving Southern Rights and Southern Heritage.”

And at this point we come to the South Carolina connection.  The SLRC was founded by four lawyers in 1995 (Carl A. Barrington (deceased), Kirk David Lyons, Larry Norman, and Lourie A. Salley, III). The organization is a South Carolina corporation, based in Black Mountain, North Carolina.  One of their first claims to fame concerned a Confederate flag dispute:

“The SLRC scored early victories in the late 1990’s when in 1996 it successfully defended the “Blacksburg (SC) 7” and in 1999 sued a Greenville, South Carolina, private academy on behalf of Dr. Winston McCuen, a teacher at the school who had been fired for refusing to remove a Confederate flag that was part of a classroom historical display, and for refusing to salute the US in protest.” [SourceWatch]

One of their novel approaches in litigation is the claim that Confederate Southern Americans are due 1st Amendment protections under the interpretation of ‘national origin’ as set forth in the Civil Rights Act of 1964.  They aren’t having much luck with this.

“The problem with successful advocacy of this group, as noted by Chief Trial Counsel Lyons is that “Republican judges are adamantly opposed to any extension of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Democratic Judges are hostile to almost all things Confederate.” Lyons believes that Confederate Southern Americans are a viable National Origin group that can break through the legal barrier once they break through the political barrier that belittles and divides them.”  [SourceWatch]

There’s no avoiding the irony that the legal group is seeking “special status” which is usually decried in conservative circles.  However, this does provide evidence of the sense of victimhood among members who see federal, state, and local authorities infringing on their ‘rights,’ such as the right to wear a prom dress created from CSA flag patterned fabric, or wearing CSA symbols in schools, public and private.  That preservation of “Southern Rights and Southern Heritage” seems to devolve into protecting the flag of rebellion and those who like displaying it in public.  The Supreme Court decision in Walker v. Texas Division, Sons of Confederate Veterans, and the controversy surrounding the battle flag in South Carolina, combined with their failure to induce NASCAR into agreeing to ‘fly the flag,’  appears to show  the SCV is not standing on much firm ground.

The SCV cut some of the ground from beneath its own feet during an internal power dispute in the last decade.  The result so far is an organization more racially extremist in its perspective than in previous iterations. [SPLC] Much of the SCV rhetoric is alarming:

From Alistar Anderson (SCV) we find out that the Pledge of Allegiance is to be denounced as enabling  a socialist mentality, and being supportive of a centralized Federal government, including a revision of the “atheist words of the radical French Revolution.”  [Sebesta]

According to Frank Conner, a contributor to SVC publications, the modern civil rights movement is “steadily shredding the traditional white society, first in the South and then the rest of the nation. But the liberals are in a big hurry to replace Christianity with secular humanism and limited government with socialism.” [Sebesta]

There’s a bit of the old Cold Warrior in the adherents to SVC ideology:

“Using the wedge of anti-racism, cultural Marxists orchestrated judicial and legislative changes to society over the course of decades – e.g. Brown v. Board of Education in 1955, the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the Immigration Reform Act of 1965. … The cultural Marxists relentlessly hammered away at Western cultural norms using the sledge of anti-racism as a battering ram to bring down the walls of traditional Western culture” …

“…And just as the Bolsheviks inflamed the masses to violence against the Russian aristocracy, today’s cultural Marxists harness the massed numbers of a new proletariat – composed of people of color, feminists, homosexuals and other disaffected groups – to secure social acceptance and the numbers sufficient to convey political power.” [Sebesta]

And, then there’s the notion of representative democracy which SCV promoted authors W.D. and J.R. Kennedy find definitely unappealing:

“The liberal concept of one man-one vote, or universal franchise, is so deeply entrenched in the liberal dogma of the Yankee government that very few are willing to challenge its legitimacy. This is especially true in the South. Here we are faced with the danger of being labeled as a society attempting to deny the franchise permanently on the basis of race. Where will anyone find a popular politician who is willing to confront charges of racism and bigotry just to promote an improvement of the quality of the electorate.” [Sebesta]

The current buzz word for this idea is “election integrity?”

The connection between organizations like the Sons of Confederate Veterans and the gun-lobby were made clear in the interview given by state Representative Bill Chumley recently [NYDN] the notion being inferred that perhaps the 87 year old lady who was shot should have been packing heat during Bible Study?  As if the victims were to blame for their own murders? [Grio]  Representative Chumley is a member of the SCV.

“We are focusing on the wrong thing,” Chumley told the reporter. “These people sat in there and waited their turn to be shot. That’s sad, when somebody in there with the means of self-defense could have stopped this, and would have less funerals than we’re having.” [digitalt]

Or perhaps we could say, if a rabid racist hadn’t had easy access to firearms we’d be having fewer funerals?

And so the good old boys of the Dixon/Hunley chapter will meet on a Saturday in a Sparks, NV truck stop – likely in a rather small room – and lament the good old days when being a white man meant you could have perfect ‘freedom,’ to: 

  • Refuse the pledge of allegiance to the liberal Yankee government?
  • Practice the discrimination which made white men the arbiters of social mores before Truman issued that blasted order integrating the Armed Forces?
  • Slather your motor vehicle with CSA decals and decorations without the neighbors looking at you as if you were a freak?
  • Pronounce that anyone supporting equal rights for everyone is a Commie Socialist Marxist Atheist minion of the Yankee government?
  • Lament the decision in Brown v. Topeka Board of Education as an “orchestrated judicial and legislative change” to society?
  • Loudly protest that slavery really really wasn’t the cause of the American Civil War in spite of all evidence to the contrary, and all the twisted logic which makes it seem the whole thing was a grand fight over tariffs and railroad construction?
  • Argue they really should be a “protected minority” in this country?

Have a few drinks fellows, the insanity and inanity will seem far more logical and rational after you reach the appropriate level of intoxication?

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Council of Conservative Citizens and the Problem of Money in Nevada Politics

Earl Holt NV On August 21, 2010 the Friends of Sharron Angle received a $500.00 donation from one Earl Holt, Longview, Texas.  There was another donation from the same source on October 12, 2010, also for $500.00.  However, pouring money into Mrs. Angle’s failed campaign wasn’t Earl Holt’s only interest in Nevada.  On September 30, 2012 the Heller for Senate received $500.00 from the generous Mr. Holt. [LVSun]

Mr. Holt and his organization have come under scrutiny since the Charleston church massacre as the probable source of inspiration for the killer.  From the Associated Press, the Guardian, and Politico. And, now Senator Heller has announced he will give his prize money from Holt to the Mother Emanuel Hope Fund. [LVRJ]

The donation is good news indeed, the bad news is that the $500 from Holt’s Hate Band has been in Senator Heller’s account from September 30, 2012 until June 22, 2015 without notice on the part of Heller’s own staff.

This says something about money in politics and Republican money more specifically.

Given the massive costs of running a statewide campaign, especially in the top echelon races, it’s comprehensible that individual donations of relatively small amounts wouldn’t be cross checked for provenance.  However, it’s not like the Council of Conservative Citizens is an unknown group. 

“The Council of Conservative Citizens (CCC) is the modern reincarnation of the old White Citizens Councils, which were formed in the 1950s and 1960s to battle school desegregation in the South. Among other things, its Statement of Principles says that it “oppose[s] all efforts to mix the races of mankind.” Created in 1985 from the mailing lists of its predecessor organization, the CCC, which initially tried to project a “mainstream” image, has evolved into a crudely white supremacist group…” [SPLC]

Flags As the Republican Party has been co-opted or at least significantly  influenced by the ultra-conservative Tea Party membership, the origins of money are ever more likely to come from organizations which have dubious racial and ethnic agendas – i.e. white supremacists.

Our second “given” is that it is always easier to beg forgiveness than to ask  permission.  Several prominent members of the Republican Party have donated CCC money to charity in the last week, all presumably because the tainted nature of the origins came to light.  Granted this is speculation, but what IF by some miracle the killer in Charleston had not acted on his evil ideation? What if the basis for the hate wasn’t the propaganda of the white supremacist’s associations?  Would those donations still be available to the politicians to buy air time and advertising?

In an era of Dark Money, Big Money, PAC money, and questionable non-profit money – here’s some unsolicited advice:

Well coordinated campaigns have good lines of internal communication.  Policy advocates and specialists should know where the money’s coming from, and the finance specialists should be aware of the image the candidate wants to project.   If a candidate doesn’t wish to be guilty by association with white supremacist groups then that needs to be conveyed to the finance directors with an admonishment to screen donations which appear questionable.

Bluntly speaking, Citizens United, while beneficial to Republican candidates in terms of corporate donations, may have made it harder for individual campaigns to discern the ultimate origins of campaign donations, which when discovered could prove embarrassing – or career ending.  We have a current example – Rep. Scalise, his speech to a David Duke related organization, and Duke’s threat to reveal his connections to other politicians. [HuffPo]

When in doubt – there’s always Google?

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Do We Have To Make Racists Comfortable?

No sooner did an African American take the oath of office as the President of the United States than racists (and those who tolerate them) began slathering on the euphemisms and buzz words for making opposition to him credible.  Remember the e-mails that made the rounds? The ones with “bones in noses” and “watermelons on the White House lawn?” And the response, “We were only joking.”

Obama racist cartoon

Those who found this cartoon amusing are racists. Purely and simply racist. Those who took these people seriously are enablers .. consider CNN’s “debate” about whether this obnoxious drivel was “Racist or Satirical.”  There’s no debate here. The cartoon is clearly, obviously, evidently racism.  How do we know this? A black man as a “savage.” A black man as a “witch doctor.”   Enough people were indignant about this offensive cartoon that its advocates slunk off to find more fodder for their e-mail lists.

However, the obvious racists are relatively easy to deal with – and even easier to shun.  Those “dens of lone wolves,” the Internet’s dark corners of hate and intolerance can be monitored, the “patriots” can be watched, and the hate-mongers prosecuted.  It’s the enablers of institutionalized and personal racism who seem more problematic.  Perhaps we’ll be able to move forward if we shatter some persistent myths.

The Myth of Two Sides

In the current cable news template, there must be “two sides” to an issue.  Let’s revert to the day someone at CNN decided to produce a segment on that 2009 cartoon.  Yes, they decided, the cartoon was, indeed, racist, but why was the question posed at all?  Well, gee, it could, it might, it may look in some circles, … like racism, but it could also be political criticism… Really?  No, to anyone with any sensitivity, or an IQ above cauliflower, it was racism.   Moving along the continuum from “we’re just joking” we get to “can’t you take a joke?”  Other presidents have had horrible cartoons drawn and published about them, why are we so sensitive about a black president?   For the near-veggies who might read this: It’s because he is a black man, and black men have been vilified for centuries in this part of the world for being “savage,” and “wild,” and “emotional,” and “lustful,” and … we could keep going here, but that would only serve to raise blood pressure.  So, let’s get to the point: Racist and ethnic jokes aren’t funny. Except to racists.  But, but, but… African Americans (and blondes and Poles) do it? That still doesn’t make it right.  The ‘everybody does it’ response is usually the province of immature adolescents trying to explain their misbehavior to the parents.  We should be a bit more mature.

The Myth of the Mirrors

Another myth which should hit the skids is the banal “speaking out about racism is divisive.”   Well, obviously, yes.  As well it should be. Who wants to be lumped into the same category with racists?

Remember the Twitter Fit from the Right when the President commented on the murder of Trayvon Martin?   The  Right echoed George Zimmerman’s whining about the President “rushing to judgment,” and said the President’s comment “pitted American against American.” [Hill]  It’s “race-baiting” to talk about race?

“…the allegation is that simply talking about race in America makes you a racist. It is, as Boehlert called it, “a very odd brand of projection” that’s “very weird and complicated,” but that’s where the roles of endless repetition and cognitive closure come in. They naturalize and normalize what would otherwise clearly be both arbitrary and bizarre.” [Salon]

If we boiled the “endless repetition and cognitive closure” down to its essentials what comes out is – If you talk about racial issues in ways that make racists uncomfortable, i.e. it makes people confront their own racism, it must be ‘race-baiting.’   When this message moves inextricably closer to its inevitable extension we can no longer speak of a whole host of topics which cause conservatives to squirm.

We can’t have a national discussion about institutional racism in employment, housing, or health care outcomes because … we’d be “divisive.”

We can’t have a national discussion about voting rights and the African American community, and other communities of color, because … we’d be ‘divisive.’

We can’t have a national civil debate about the social costs of mass incarceration of African Americans and other people of color, because … we’d be ‘divisive.’

And, Heaven Help Us, we can’t have a discussion about policing in America because … we’d be ‘divisive.” Worse still, we’d be “race-baiting,” as asserted by the Louisville, Kentucky Fraternal Order of Police.  [Full letter here]

The Myth of A Non-Partisan World

I think I’m going to gag at the very next assertion that what we need in this country is “healing,” and “bipartisanship.”  There never was, and never will be, a harmonic idyllic session of any democratically elected ruling body gracefully gliding over issues and points of disagreement with elegance and aplomb.  And yet, this is the standard by which some of the Chattering Classes measure the effectiveness of legislators and legislation. “The bill had bi-partisan support,” as if that automatically made the bill any better law.  Yes, politics is the art of the possible. And, yes, pragmatism usually makes more progress than strident partisanship.  However, there are some points at which we should agree, and one of the prime ones in American life is that racism is wrong.

The racists are aware of this. Why else would they be quick to tell us that they were only joking, or that they are merely being satirical? Why else would they begin obnoxious expressions with “I’m not racist, but…?” Why else would they whine so loudly if it’s suggested their own brand of projection is nothing more than an attempt to ‘normalize’ what is patently arbitrary and downright bizarre?

Sometimes wrong is just wrong.   We can debate the finer points of trade agreements, international arms agreements, educational policy, health care insurance needs, and so many other topics, but this is 2015 and we should no longer have to make racists comfortable and racism tolerable. Nor do we need to tolerate its symbols.

CSA battle flag

The Stars and Bars, isn’t a Redneck Flag —  unless the aforementioned Redneck is a racist. It isn’t a symbol of southern heritage – unless that heritage is hate.

NASCAR, yes NASCAR, got the message back in 2005:

“NASCAR has a policy that prevents use of the Stars and Bars or other controversial subjects on any car, uniform, licensed product or track facility under its control, but that doesn’t stop hard-line rebel fans from displaying it.

“We recognize that the Confederate flag is an important issue for a lot of people and as our fan base grows, we are doing what we can to break down its use and be more in the mainstream,” said Ramsey Poston, NASCAR director of corporate communications.” [LA Times]

Mainstream America doesn’t sport the traitorous Stars and Bars, the battle flag of a revolt, the cornerstone of which was the preservation of the Peculiar Institution, as expressed by the CSA vice-president when speaking about their new CSA constitution:

“Our new Government is founded upon exactly the opposite ideas; its foundations are laid, its cornerstone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery, subordination to the superior race, is his natural and moral condition. [Applause.] This, our new Government, is the first, in the history of the world, based upon this great physical, philosophical, and moral truth.” [Alexander Stephens,  March 21, 1861]

Lee surrenders Is there any good reason why we have to tolerate the display of a flag which was truly and historically divisive – physically, philosophically, and morally divisive?  It did divide us – dividing us between those who thought chattel slavery and all its horrible implications was a physical, philosophical, and moral good, from those who believed chattel slavery was a cancer in the body politic and a moral catastrophe.  It took four bloody years, but the Good Guys won.  Someone made a picture of it.

So, if reading this post made you “uncomfortable” I’m not the least bit sorry.  I think there’s a better use for my capacity for sympathy and sorrow – for the victims of that heinous act of domestic terrorism by a horrid racist in South Carolina.

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