DB had grand plans for posting until the ISP developed major problems today! They assure me they’ll be up and running this evening. Thanks for your patience!!
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]
As 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:
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?
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?
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.
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. ;-)
All the usual suspects are challenging the Iran Deal, not to mention the over the top sensationalist (and extremely insensitive) comments by Buy-My-Book former Governor Huckabee. It’s advised that before one buys into the hyperbolic renditions – and rending of garments – by the opposition which got us into a Fine Mess in Iraq, take a look at the fact sheet from which the graphics were taken. For those who would like the coloring book version, here are the illustrations from that fact sheet:
Feel better now? If not, go back to the original fact sheet. Still not completely satisfied? The, see National Interest’s publication on five reasons to negotiate with Iran from back in November 2014. For an economic perspective see IBT’s analysis on how the sanctions and Iran’s economy relate. Or, try this opinion piece from Haaretz on three benefits from ending the cold war between the U.S. and Iran.
The ultimate argument from those who oppose any deal at all, and any deal will intrinsically never satisfy some of the critics, is that “Iran can’t be trusted.” Not to put too fine a point on it, but for some critics every Iranian would have to have an IAEA inspector surgically attached 24/7/365 in order for the deal to be acceptable, and even then there would be questions. Look at the four light blue segments in the last graphic “Access and Verification.” What did Reagan say? “Trust but verify.” And he was dealing with the old Soviet Union which already had nuclear weapons.
This might be the time to remember December 8, 1987, the date President Reagan signed the Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces Treaty with the Soviet Union? How the feathers did ruffle! George Will pronounced it “The Day the Cold War Was Lost,” asserting that we were the losers. [RCP] [Shields] Conservative columnist William Safire declared Reagan a fool and that “the Russians “now understand the way to handle Mr. Reagan: Never murder a man who is committing suicide.” [Shields] And then there was this commentary:
“Howard Phillips, the chairman of the Conservative Caucus, who, like former Governor Reagan, had been in 1978 a leading opponent of the Panama Canal treaty, accused Mr. Reagan of “fronting as a useful idiot for Soviet propaganda.” [Shields]
The take-away from this trip down memory lane is that (1) you don’t have to negotiate peace treaties with your friends, and (2) there will always be War Hawks among us who will denigrate any attempt at peaceful negotiations no matter who is conducting them. For hard-liners no negotiations will ever be acceptable and no treaty will ever be successful.
There are some other considerations appropriate to this treaty.
#1. This is not a unilateral effort. We do tend to see international negotiations from a unilateral perspective, and this is magnified in the news coverage. However, the treaty is the result of negotiations between and among China, Russia, Germany, France, the UK, and the US. Defeat of this treaty discredits the efforts of the US to take into consideration the needs and policies of its allies, and that’s a dangerous element in an unstable world.
#2. Unilateral economic sanctions don’t work. The “crank up the sanctions” argument is bombast. The most conspicuous failure being the US sanctions on Cuba, imposed October 19, 1960 and extended on February 7, 1962. 55 years later the Castro regime is still nestled nicely in power. One professor looked at the 550 pages of current sanctions on the Treasury Department’s list and observed:
“Daniel Drezner, a professor at Tufts University’s Fletcher School, says sanctions “tend to work when the demand is incredibly well-defined,” like resolving a trade dispute, “and there is some sort of decent relationship with the target state.” Those governments can compromise without worrying that the country imposing sanctions will keep demanding more. Drezner says that broad sanctions targeted at adversaries have far lower odds of success.” [Bloomberg]
This echoes the conclusion drawn years earlier (1998) by a presenter at a
“The first conclusion is that sanctions have an extremely poor record of achieving their own foreign policy goals. Since 1973, the last quarter-century, only 17 percent of U.S. sanctions have worked. That’s whether they’re unilateral or multilateral. But less than one in five of the cases we have applied have, according to our scoring system, had positive effect. They almost never work when they are applied on a partial rather than comprehensive basis, which is the norm. They almost never work when they are applied unilaterally rather than multilaterally, which in these days is almost always the norm. There is no case—repeat, no case—where unilateral sanctions have ever worked to induce a sizable country to make a major change in policy, no case in history that we have been able to discover.” [Bergsten]
The reason unilateral sanctions don’t work? If the US is unwilling to trade with the target, others are perfectly willing to do so – like the Chinese, the Russians, the French, the British, and the Germans. In other words, without the cooperation of our allies the power of the sanctions evaporates.
#3. The sound bite “No deal is better than a bad deal” is pure hogwash. First, this is NOT a bad deal. It keeps the sanctions option open, it provides for the Reagan Formula “trust but verify,” it prevents Iran from pursuing its nuclear weapons program. Secondly, without the deal the sanctions would be unilateral (see above), while access and verification would be nearly impossible thus allowing Iran to continue its nuclear weapons program without international interference. Finally, there are two general options in diplomatic relations: Diplomacy and War. War being, as the saying goes, the failure of diplomacy.
It seems incongruous for those who’ve been telling us for years now that Iran is One Year Away from a nuclear weapon that a treaty which prevents nuclear weapons programs in Iran from continuing for the next 10 years is somehow a “failure,” or a bad treaty.
There will be no convincing those who want a war with Iran that the current treaty is a diplomatic success. It will be up to those who aren’t predisposed to dismiss diplomacy and who seek negotiated settlements of profound problems to support the acceptance of this treaty.
The Chamber of Commerce has been “on my TV” telling me how much I should like Representative Joe Heck (R-NV3), possibly because Rep. Heck doesn’t have much name recognition in the hinterlands. He’s just full to the brim with Integrity! and Experience, or something. At any rate he’s not all that full of the milk of human kindness which is required when discussing other peoples’ need for health insurance. Especially the kind of health insurance that covers preventive medical treatment, or covers women for the same premium costs as men, or provides insurance for approximately 17 million Americans who might otherwise go without.
The record is clear. Rep. Heck is one of those consistent soldiers answering the call of the Insurance Corporations. For more on Rep. Heck’s record click on this link. Sorry, but this kind of “integrity” I can do without, thank you very much.
Answer: They have nothing! Question: What does a political party do when it has failed to research, compile, and publicize a platform of policy proposals addressing American issues? What’s happened to the Republican Party? There area clues.
They fall back on old issues, pounding away at uninspired and unoriginal grandstanding rhetoric as if the grandstanding were an alternative in itself. Witness the latest “vote” to repeal the Affordable Care Act. The only alternative proposal in the hopper is Coupon Care or “Voucher Hospital,” which didn’t withstand scrutiny for the last several rounds. The Republicans talk as if the extension of family benefits for children up to age 26 can be maintained, or the provisions disallowing elimination of insurance for pre-existing conditions can be continued, without sending the whole system into a downward spiral – unfortunately for the GOP, the system IS working. However, that didn’t stop one more amendment to:
“To repeal the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010 entirely,” from hitting the floor of the U.S. Senate for another vote. [rc 253]
You read that correctly – the Senate Republicans wanted to repeal the ACA entirely – repeal the prohibitions on refusing insurance for pre-existing conditions, repeal the insurance for young people who stay on their parents’ policies until 26, repeal the prohibition of arbitrary rescission of coverage, repeal your guarantee of a right to ask that your insurance plan reconsider a denial of payment. Repeal prohibition of that bogus insurance that put limits on lifetime coverage; repeal the review of premium increases; repeal the provision that at least 80% of what’s paid in for premiums must be used to pay for medical treatment. Repeal preventive health care; repeals insurance company barriers to emergency services…. [DHHS]
It’s been five years since the Affordable Care Act and Patients’ Bill of Rights became law. Meanwhile, the Senate tried once again to repeal the ACA and Patients’ Bill of Rights “entirely.” Who were the 49 Senators who voted for repeal?
And, so Senator Heller, exactly what do you propose to replace the measure which has added 16.9 million more Americans to the number of those with health insurance? [Forbes] Spare us the vague rhetoric about “free market solutions,” or “protecting individual choices,” or “big government intrusion into American lives.” Those 16.9 million people aren’t rhetorical place-holders, they are real Americans who want real health insurance – so, what’s your plan? Crickets.
We can expect more rhetoric about abortion! about immigrants! about Tyranny! about anything EXCEPT those issues which should be attracting our attention, and precipitating practical remedies.
They avoid rational responses to current policy issues. (1) What do we hear from our Republican representatives and officials about gun violence in America? Reaction to the Charleston, Chattanooga, and Lafayette shootings have drawn the same old responses we heard after the IHOP shooting in Carson City, NV, the VA Tech shooting, the Aurora Theater shooting…. The Republican response has been little more than a recitation of NRA talking points which conveniently boil down to we can’t do anything about the proliferation of guns because: 2nd Amendment.
So, they talk about “mental health,” but between 2009 and 2011 the legislatures of 34 states cut funding for mental health care services by a total of $1.6 billion. Some House Republicans tried to bring a funding bill to the floor last January, but as with most legislation in the GOP controlled House it got chopped into bits in the hope that some portion of it could survive. [TheHill]
It’s instructive to note that Representative Murphy introduced his bill (HR 3717) in December 2013, and it bounced around committees until a last subcommittee hearing in April 2014. [Cong] Then came the portion of the program known as Dueling Bills, the GOP version (HR3717) vs. a Democratic party member sponsored HR 4574 – and the fight was on concerning funding for substance abuse treatment, and treatment under Medicaid, and for veterans. [NAMI pdf]
Less rationally, Republicans tell us that our personal safety is an individual responsibility and we’d all be safer if we went to the restaurant or theater with weapons. Former Texas governor Rick Perry:
“I will suggest to you that these concepts of gun-free zones are a bad idea,” Perry said. “I think that you allow the citizens of this country, who have appropriately trained, appropriately backgrounded, know how to handle and use firearms, to carry them. I believe that, with all my heart, that if you have the citizens who are well trained, and particularly in these places that are considered to be gun-free zones, that we can stop that type of activity, or stop it before there’s as many people that are impacted as what we saw in Lafayette.”[CNN]
And who might these “backgrounded” appropriately trained, knowledgeable, people be? In a dark theater… and how many of these “backgrounded,” trained, knowledgeable people will it take to create complete chaos? And, more casualties? Are we willing to create the possibility that our schools, churches, and theaters could become shooting galleries?
(2) What do we hear from the Republicans about terrorism? Plenty, as long as we’re speaking of ISIS or Muslims. Not so much if we’re speaking of the home grown variety. The propaganda wing of the GOP can’t seem to remember any reports of domestic terrorism which can’t be attributed to Muslims. Interesting, because in September 2011 the FBI released its warning about the Sovereign Citizens and their form of domestic terrorism. The timing is important because by June 2011 the Department of Homeland Security had eviscerated the analytical unit that produced their report on domestic terrorism including white supremacist and Christian Identity activities. [WaPo]
“Last night, a shooter who held white supremacist and extreme anti-government, anti-feminist views “allegedly killed two people and wounded nine others who were watching the new comedy ‘Trainwreck,’ a film written by and starring the feminist comedian Amy Schumer.” As the Southern Poverty Law Center pointed out in wake of the Lafayette, Louisiana, shooting, “in the last five years, an attack from the radical right was carried out or thwarted on average every 34 days and that the overwhelming majority of those attacks, 74 percent, were carried out by a single person, or a group of no more than two people.” [RRW]
We might add that two individuals associated with right wing extremism assassinated two police officers in Las Vegas in June 2014, and draped the Tea Party flag over one of their bodies. [ABC]
The Republican formula “Say No Evil” about radicalized anti-abortionists, anti-immigrant, anti-integrationists, may work well in fund raising e-mails about Tyranny In America! or, Big Brother, or whatever the fear du jour may be, but it’s obviously NOT helping track the lone wolves who shoot police officers, or threaten to shoot BLM employees, or shoot patrons in movie theaters.
(3) What happened to that Comprehensive Immigration Bill? A comprehensive immigration policy reform bill passed the U.S. Senate in June 2013. [NYT] More specifically that would be 760 days ago, or 108 weeks plus 4 days, and it’s politely referred to as Stalled. The stall began in December 2013, as the House decided to go “piecemeal.” [MPI] As of February 2014 the Speaker was whining the House couldn’t pass the bill because it didn’t trust the President. [WaPo] However, in April 2014 the Speaker was mocking conservatives for blocking the bill. [WSJ] By June 2014 Senators were blaming ultra-conservative members of the House for the Great Stall. [9News] The calendar moved on to January 30, 2015 and the internal struggles of the House Republicans still kept the bill in abeyance. [MPR]
760 days, 108 weeks + 4 days, or 18,240 hours later, there is still no passage of an immigration reform bill in the House of Representatives – whole or piecemeal.
In this morass it may be counted as a minor miracle if Congress can manage to pass a relatively uncontroversial highway funding bill. [TheHill]
Once upon a time, not so long ago, Congress was expected to be filled with Republicans and Democrats who having different perspectives would file differing bills on the same general topics. Compromises would be worked out among the ladies and gentlemen of the august legislative bodies, and conference committees would work out the differences between measures. This requires that both sides bring something to the table. How do we know the GOP isn’t packing anything in its collective briefcase?
When the highway bill comes up they want to “repeal Obamacare” just one more time, or when legislation stalls it is everyone’s fault and no one’s fault that we can’t seem to enact comprehensive immigration policy reform. How many votes on various and sundry “anti-abortion” proposals has the House taken, instead of taking any votes on whether or not to have universal background checks for gun sales?
How many hours has the House spent on the Benghazi attack compared to the number of hours it has taken testimony on the condition of our roads, airports, dams, and bridges? How much time was expended dreaming up a bill to exempt veterans from the ACA and Patient’s Bill of Rights if those individuals already had “government” insurance? (A specious proposal if there ever was one.)
How much more time before the Republicans come to realize that most of the American public – that portion not infatuated with the celebrity bashing all immigrants – would very much like to see something accomplished.
It’s hard to accomplish anything when what’s being brought to the table is essentially nothing.