Nel's New Day

February 12, 2017

People Use Religion to Disrespect Women’s Rights

Yesterday’s marches against Planned Parenthood again ignored that federal money doesn’t go to abortions whereas the government spends hundreds of billions of dollars to kill people around the world—many of them innocent—and conservatives are determined to kill people through air and water pollution. These pro-life people are willing to kill anyone except what they consider the “unborn” and abuse children after they are born. Yet they use the bible as their justification for a woman’s choice regarding her own body because conservatives believe women aren’t smart enough to make the right choice for themselves.

A few facts from their bible:

God defined a potion for abortion potion: “May this water that brings a curse enter your body so that your abdomen swells or your womb miscarries.”—Numbers 5:22-27

God fines the killing of a fetus but puts to death the person killing a woman: “And if men strive together, and hurt a pregnant woman, so that her fruit [children] come out, and yet no harm follows; the one who hit her shall surely be fined, according as the woman’s husband shall impose upon him; and he shall pay a fine as the judges determine. But if any harm follows, then you shall pay life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth ….” —Exodus 21:22-23

God defines a person through the ability to breathe: “Then the LORD God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.” – Genesis 2:7

The bible’s opinion of women:

A wife is man’s property: “You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife … or anything that belongs to your neighbor.” —Exodus 20:17

Girl babies are twice as unclean as boys: ‘If a woman has conceived, and borne a male child, then she shall be unclean seven days …. But if she bears a female child, then she shall be unclean two weeks. —Leviticus 12:1-8

Women should keep silent:  “Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience, as also saith the law.” —1 Cor. 14:34

A raped daughter must be sold to her rapist: ““If a man meets a virgin who is not betrothed, and seizes her and lies with her, and they are found, 29 then the man who lay with her shall give to the father of the young woman fifty shekels of silver, and she shall be his wife, because he has violated her. He may not divorce her all his days.” —Deut. 22:28-29

Women must cover their hair—like the Muslim hijab: “For if the woman be not covered, let her also be shorn: but if it be a shame for a woman to be shorn or shaven, let her be covered.” —I Cor. 11:6

Women should be forced to have children: “Yet she will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith and love and holiness, with self-control.”—1 Tim. 2:15

Women make men dirty: “[Those redeemed from the earth] are those who did not defile themselves with women.” —Revelation 14:4

Opinions from revered church leaders:

“Woman is a temple built over a sewer.” –Tertullian, “the father of Latin Christianity” (c160-225)

Woman is a misbegotten man and has a faulty and defective nature in comparison to his. Therefore she is unsure in herself. What she cannot get, she seeks to obtain through lying and diabolical deceptions. And so, to put it briefly, one must be on one’s guard with every woman, as if she were a poisonous snake and the horned devil. …” –Saint Albertus Magnus, Dominican theologian, 13th century

“[Women’s] very consciousness of their own nature must evoke feelings of shame.”–Saint Clement of Alexandria, Christian theologian (c150-215)

“The word and works of God is quite clear, that women were made either to be wives or prostitutes.” –Martin Luther, Reformer (1483-1546)

In pain shall you bring forth children, woman, and you shall turn to your husband and he shall rule over you. And do you not know that you are Eve? God’s sentence hangs still over all your sex and His punishment weighs down upon you. You are the devil’s gateway; you are she who first violated the forbidden tree and broke the law of God. … Woman, you are the gate to hell. –Tertullian, “the father of Latin Christianity” (c160-225)

“Even as the church must fear Christ Jesus, so must the wives also fear their husbands. And this inward fear must be shewed by an outward meekness and lowliness in her speeches and carriage to her husband…. For if there be not fear and reverence in the inferior, there can be no sound nor constant honor yielded to the superior.” –John Dod: A Plaine and Familiar Exposition of the Ten Commandements, Puritan guidebook first published in 1603

“A wife is to submit graciously to the servant leadership of her husband, even as the church willingly submits to the headship of Christ.” – Official Faith and Message Statement of Southern Baptist Convention, Summer 1998, (15.7 million members)

“The Holiness of God is not evidenced in women when they are brash, brassy, boisterous, brazen, head-strong, strong-willed, loud-mouthed, overly-talkative, having to have the last word, challenging, controlling, manipulative, critical, conceited, arrogant, aggressive, assertive, strident, interruptive, undisciplined, insubordinate, disruptive, dominating, domineering, or clamoring for power. Rather, women accept God’s holy order and character by being humbly and unobtrusively respectful and receptive in functional subordination to God, church leadership, and husbands.” –James Fowler: Women in the Church, 1999.

People who use the bible—“God’s word”—to justify their treatment of people, including eliminating reproductive rights for women,  often also say that no one should take the words in the bible literally. According to Matthew 13:13:

“Therefore I speak to them in parables; because while seeing they do not see, and while hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand.”

People who try to limit others by quoting the bible should follow their own advice and not bully others with their personal religion.

Fortunately, many people in the United States agree with this position. Counter-protests yesterday were much larger than the anti-abortion activists outside Planned Parenthood to cut off funds for Planned Parenthood. Those attending the rallies talked about how much Planned Parenthood does for health—birth control, cancer screenings, testing and treatment of sexually transmitted diseases, counseling, etc. Medicaid funds pay for these health services for both men and women. Last month, Donald Trump banned U.S. funding to any international group that even provides information about abortions. Cutting funds for Planned Parenthood would cause 400,000 women to lose access to health care.

Oregon senators, in support of women, are working on a bill to require Oregon insurance companies to cover reproductive health care services. The Reproductive Health Equity Act, HB 2232, would cover all services under the current Affordable Care Act as well as abortion. The bill goes to the House first to address questions and clarify language. At this time, the measure has an exemption that protects religious beliefs.

Illinois advocates are supporting HB 40 to guarantee reproductive care services, including abortion, for all enrolled in Medicaid, something available only in 17 other states.

New Mexico lawmakers have introduced three bills to improve reproductive health access and rights: preserve birth control access, allow women to obtain one year of contraceptive medication at a time, penalize medical providers who refuse reproductive health services, and mandate “reasonable accommodations: for pregnant women in the workplace. Hospitals would not be permitted to “limit or otherwise interfere” with a doctor’s “independent professional judgment” in providing reproductive health information, referrals, and procedures “where a failure to provide” them “would violate the medical standard of care owed to the patient.”

New York state Gov. Andrew Cuomo has proposed an amendment to the state constitution that protects abortion rights as outlined in Roe v. Wade.

The St. Louis Board of Aldermen has approved a bill prohibiting discrimination based on reproductive decisions or pregnancy with a limited exemption for religious institutions but not for business owners who use religion to object.

Respect for women means respecting our rights–all of them.

January 7, 2017

115th Congress: First Four Days toward Erasing Democracy

Hard to believe that the new GOP Congress has been passing bills for only four days! At least they leave town at the end of next week.

GOP members of Congress are growing insecure about their plans to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA) despite a poll that indicates 75 percent of the people in the United States oppose getting rid of the ACA without a viable replacement. In an effort to prove that constituents want a repeal, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) is conducting a phone poll at 1-202-225-0600. The instructions explain that the caller should press 2 for a recording; if you support continuing the ACA, press 1. I tried it tonight—Saturday night—and received a busy signal for almost an hour with about 30 attempts. I’ll try tomorrow!

Ryan has already called security to remove people who tried to deliver 87,000 petitions to continue Planned Parenthood. When Planned Parenthood volunteers lined up at Ryan’s office to deliver these signatures, he sent out security to protect him. You can try to call him at 1-202-225-0600.

Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), the chair of the witch hunt against Planned Parenthood, asked her constituents if they wanted to repeal Obamacare. Sixteen percent said yes; the remaining 84 percent said no. She claimed ACA was a failure because it didn’t insure the poor—after her state blocked Medicaid.

GOP legislators have passed a “rule” that their staffers can question subjects of GOP inquiries under oath without any congressional member being present. These staffers can “compel any American to appear, sit in a room, and answer staff’s invasive questions on the record,” said Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-NY). Drew Hammill, spokesman for Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) pointed out, “This rules change represents a shocking continuation and expansion of House Republicans’ abusing of congressional processes to intimidate private citizens just as they did with the Select Committee to Attack Women’s Health.” It feels like a return of the Sen. Joe McCarthy days of the 1950s only on steroids.

GOP House members claim they want transparency—think about the 11 committee hearings investigating Hillary Clinton’s non-existent Benghazi involvement—but they’d prefer that the sunlight doesn’t strike their own problems. Concealing their ethics violations didn’t work, but they thought they succeeded in a Russian-style ban on lawmakers’ use of video and camera in the House. TV producer and self-described “newbie activist,” Blaine (no last name), has set up an online crowdfunding page to pay all the fines that Republican House members plan to charge Democrats if they film the GOP behavior. His goal is $25,000; any money not used for fines goes to the nonprofits Public Citizen and the Dow Jones News Fund. Although the building housing Congress technically belongs to the people of the U.S., the C-SPAN cameras supposed to be operating during all legislation are owned by the House and Senate, giving the GOP total control of information coming from Congress.

The House plans to help DT deregulate everything so that he can make more money. The Koch-provided REINS Act (HR 26 – Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny Act of 2017) dictates that a “major rule shall not take effect unless the Congress enacts a joint resolution of approval” and won’t become law if Congress does not pass that resolution by “70 session days or legislative days, as applicable.” In other words, agencies can set any rule that they want, but Congress has to pass the rules for them to be enacted. Specific targets of the bill are net neutrality, the Clean Power Plan, and voting rights. The mission is to keep people from an awareness of what’s happening, pollute the planet, and then prevent people from voting. The bill has passed the House by 237 to 187 and now goes to the Senate.

Another bill, this one passing the House by 238-184, is “the Midnight Rules Relief Act of 2017” which allows Congress to repeal every rule passed in the last 60 legislative days of a final year of a president’s term. If it passes the Senate and is signed by DT, it deletes all rules passed since May 26, 2016.

One of DT’s popular promises was to “build the wall.” Mexico has always said that it won’t pay for it, but Republicans have a new plan. They will build the wall—costing $12 billion to $38 billion—and then charge Mexico for it. Unlike some of the other bills in Senate, however, Democrats can filibuster the funding for the wall. Ten red-state Democrats are up for reelection in 2018, and the GOP Senate needs only eight Democratic defectors to break a filibuster. Of these eight, four will probably not play nicely with the GOP to pay for a wall that hurts employers in their states.

The House isn’t the only chamber that’s busily tearing down the country. Sens. Dean Heller (R-NV), Ted Cruz (R-TX, and Marco Rubio (R-FL) have introduced legislation to remove security at U.S. diplomatic sites. Gone is the horror about deaths at Benghazi and the call for the U.S. to protect its ambassadors. The bill restricts funding for “Embassy Security, Construction, and Maintenance”—except for the embassy in Tel Aviv until its hoped-for GOP relocation to Jerusalem. In essence, half the funding for embassy security will be removed until the new secretary of state reports to Congress that the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem has “officially opened.”

The international community does not recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, and the city hosts no foreign embassies. Relocating the U.S. embassy to a city that doesn’t belong to Israel would totally destroy a two-state peace solution between Palestine and Israel as well as causing massive unrest among other Middle Eastern countries such as Jordan. And embassy security is sadly underfunded as shown by the problems at Benghazi.

In order to persuade the slave-owning states to join the United States in the 18th century, the U.S. Constitution gave each state two senators no matter their size. Those states are still controlling the majority of people in the United States. In the recent election, DT lost the popular vote by almost three million, but the electoral vote—giving each state two electoral college votes no matter what its size—came in on the side of DT. For example, California is 66 times larger in population than Wyoming but each state got two electoral votes for the number of senators.

This disparity is made obvious by the overwhelming majority of votes for the minority of Democrats in the Senate. Those 48 members of the chamber collectively earned 78.4 million votes; the 52 Republicans got 54.8 million votes. Therefore Democrats, in the Senate minority, received 23.5 million more votes than the majority determined to give the country to the top 0.1 percent and destroy the country for the rest of us. If the Senate operated on the popular vote, it would have 59 Democrats and 41 Republicans. But of course if the country operated on a popular vote, Hillary Clinton would be president instead of a crazy TV personality. At least DT goes bonkers every time that he hears about what a loser he is. So sad!

When the GOP took control of Congress two years ago, a Republican friend told me that a GOP Congress would remove gridlock. At that time Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) promised that a Republican Congress would get things done. The last two years have been such a disaster for Congress that its approval rating is at 17 percent—16 percent approval among Republicans. Now the GOP is in control of the country. Republican voters: be careful what you wish for!

September 10, 2016

Good News While Congress Stays in Gridlock

The Obama administration made two monumental decisions this week.

Contractors building a pipeline attacked protesters with mace and dogs as they blocked construction on federal land and asked the company to suspend nearby work, and a federal judge refused to block the $3.7 billion pipeline crossing four states. Two hundred Native American tribes were joined by activists and celebrities to oppose the pipeline. The U.S. Departments of Justice, Army, and Interior stopped the pipeline, however, and said that “this case has highlighted the need for a serious discussion on whether there should be nationwide reform with respect to considering tribes’ views on these types of infrastructure projects

With their tribal land a half-mile from the proposed pipeline, the Standing Rock Sioux declared that the pipeline would desecrate sacred burial and prayer sites as well as leak oil into their water source of the Missouri and Cannon Ball rivers. The government will not authorize construction at Lake Oahe and asked the contractors to stop work on other land. The proposed 1,100-mile pipeline was to take crude oil from North Dakota, Montana, and Canada to the U.S. Gulf.

The company driving the pipeline, Energy Transfer Partner, originally promised that all the oil would stay in the United States and lessen the nation’s independence on foreign fossil fuel, but they have withdrawn this guarantee after their successful lobbying to remove the 40-year ban on crude oil exports. The company’s filing with the SEC notes that “export projects” will “balance this market [with general oversupply] by 2018.” It also lists the pipeline as a “leader in the export of hydrocarbons.” In a presentation, Energy Transfer Partners stated that it is “exceptionally well positioned to capitalize on U.S. energy exports.”

The second welcome federal decision last week is a proposed rule from the Department of Health and Human Services that would eliminate Title X funding to states cutting Planned Parenthood funding. PP uses about $70 million to serve over 1.1 million patients with incomes under $23,500 with contraceptives and screenings for cancer and STDs. Although none of the Title X funding can be used for abortions, 11 states have blocked PP funds. Congressional Republicans are also so intent on defunding PP that they won’t provide funding to protect people in the U.S. from the Zika virus.

PP is also attacking the Zika virus through the distribution of Zika prevention kits and education where the virus is shown to be spreading. Yet some high-risk states for the virus—Florida, Louisiana, and Texas—have blocked PP funds. In Florida alone, 84 pregnant women are currently infected with Zika. The most recent research shows that most of these women will give birth to infants with birth defects. About 84 pregnant women in Florida are currently infected with Zika, officials have said.

The 30-day public comment on this rule ends on October 7, 2016. Women who need the services of Planned Parenthood will appreciate all the support they can get. This is the link to the give a comment.  http://www.regulations.gov/document?D=HHS_FRDOC_0001-0645

Good things may happen in threes. This week, the House finally passed the Sexual Assault Survivors’ Bill of Rights after the Senate passed its version last May. The bill mandates that victims be informed of rape kits’ results and legal status as well as preventing victims from being charged for the processing the kits. The law applies only to federal cases, but it’s a start.

Otherwise, Congress has spent its first four days after a long session doing almost nothing. They did pass a bill allowing the families of 9/11 victims to sue Saudi Arabia in U.S. courts, but it could lead to retaliation against U.S. citizens by other countries. At this time, victims can sue a country designated as a state sponsor of terrorism; this bill would allow citizens to sue countries without that designation. Although 15 of the 19 perpetrators of 9/11 tragedy came from Saudi Arabia, there is no proof that Saudi Arabia instigated the attack.

The problem about the bill comes from the concept of “sovereign immunity,” giving foreign governments immunity from prosecution in U.S. courts, according to the 1976 Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FISA).  As “state sponsors of terror,” Syria, Iran, and Sudan are the only exempt countries from FISA. Congress claims that the bill just passed would make only an exemption for this one lawsuit against Saudi Arabia, but legal experts have said that it would expand exemptions to any countries that commit the same terrorism defined in the legislation.

The bill may lead to other countries passing similar sovereign immunity exceptions, putting the U.S. at risk of being sued by their citizens. For example, Iraq could pass a law permitting its citizens the right to sue the U.S. government for damages during the Iraq War. If the U.S. lost its case in Iraqi courts, then the Iraqi government could seize U.S. assets in their country to pay the victims. Saudi Arabia has threatened that it would pull its assets out of the U.S. if the bill became law. The end result of this law might be to increase chaos in foreign policy process and undermines the ability of the president to craft a careful, cohesive foreign policy for all people in the nation.

The president has another nine days to make a decision on the bill.

As low as the bar has been put for Donald Trump, it’s even lower for Congress. Its only goal during September before they leave for another two months is “don’t close the government.” Even a stopgap funding bill has become difficult. The far-right Freedom Caucus wants one that goes into next year so that newly elected legislators can decide the budget. The others want one to end in December because they fear that next year will have fewer Republicans.

The first problem attacked on the first day of this session was the standoff in funds for combating the Zika virus. Republicans refuse to support the funding without eradicating all funds for Planned Parenthood. The Senate added more blackmail with demanding that environmental regulations on pesticides be loosened before granting Zika-related funds. The government has been taking anti-Zika funds from other areas, but all the funding is gone by the end of September.

A 52-46 procedural vote kept the Senate from moving forward to end debate on a conference report with the House about Zika funding, the third time that the proposal has failed because of targets against Planned Parenthood. The bill was attached to spending on military construction and veterans affairs, giving McConnell a chance to announce that Democrats opposed veterans. Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) said:

“Republicans were more interested in attacking Planned Parenthood and flying the confederate flag. Can’t make that stuff up — that’s really the truth — than protecting women and babies from this awful virus.”

The White House asked for $1.9 billion, but the Senate offered only $350 million in new money and moved the rest of the proposed $1.1 billion from other health accounts, including the fund for fighting the Ebola virus.

While Congress dithered, “the number of Zika cases in the U.S. more than doubled to 2,700, and people infected with the virus turned up in every state,” an LA Times editorial. “A total of 17 babies have been born with Zika-related birth defects, and about 1,600 pregnant women are known to have been exposed. And those are just the cases we know about; some 80 percent of those infected with the disease have mild or no symptoms.”

Another “big” issue in the House is an argument about impeaching IRS Commissioner John Koskinen for something done before he got the job. House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) has caved into the Freedom Caucus’ demand to put the issue up for a vote despite claims from GOP leaders and House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) that Koskin is guilty of incompetence, not a crime. Only once—in 1876—has the House voted to impeach a Cabinet member and never to an executive branch official below the Cabinet rank. Any action from the House would require a two-thirds majority from the Senate for conviction, an unlikely possibility.  Opposed to the impeachment is a group of 123 tax-law professionals, the American College of Tax Counsel, and a group of former IRS commissioners.

As Democrats pointed out, the House is pursuing what they see as “baseless attacks” while ignoring “urgent issues”—“Zika virus, the Flint water crisis, the opioid crisis, and gun violence.” Ryan has his own priorities: his next one is probably to “punish” the Democrats who held a 25-hour sit-in because he wouldn’t bring any gun legislation to the floor. The man in control of whether any bill ever reaches a vote in Congress said about the sit-in, “That’s not the way that a democracy works.”

A year ago, the Freedom Caucus got rid of House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH); now they have their sights set on Paul Ryan when he comes up for speaker again in January. The 40-member group is even considering a departure from the 180-member House Republican Study Committee if the conservative group won’t let the far-right members of the House take over. A three-way split in the House could greatly benefit Democrats even if they don’t achieve a majority.

At least Congress will be gone in another three weeks. The question is whether the government will stay open after September 30.

March 7, 2016

More Than Candidate Conflict–Such As Women’s Rights

The results from wacko caucuses that let 18,000 people in an entire state determine its presidential candidate continue to roll in and dominate the media while almost all other news is left in the dust. Tomorrow brings more about the presidential election and nothing else. But there is more news—like information about the GOP’s attempt to dominate women’s lives by denying us our reproductive rights.

For example, the House committee to close down Planned Parenthood after 11 other investigations showed no fault for the organization that operates thousands of women’s clinics nation-wide. The only indictments related to the discredited doctored videos produced by extremists were for the anti-choice activists.

We could subtitle the committee “Baby Parts,” which is how Rep. Diane Black (R-TN) referred to the issue, but the issue  is called the “Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives” despite the fact that the subject is fetal tissue—not infants. The hearing’s focus was on a legal act since 1970, the ethics of donating fetal tissue from aborted fetuses for scientific research that has resulted in vital medical breakthroughs. This donation has nothing to do with whether women have abortions, but the choice by chair, Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), to feature people hostile to abortion shows her political bent.

Two people were allowed to testify about the facts of the case. R. Alta Charo, a professor at University of Wisconsin’s Law School and the School of Medicine & Public Health, said, “Federal review has repeatedly found that the option to donate tissue has no effect on whether a woman will choose to have an abortion.” She added that the Center for Disease Control has requested fetal tissue donations to speed up its study of Zika, the virus linked to severe brain defects in thousands of newborns. “The absence of this kind of research could lead to more abortions” by women who find out their fetus has been affected by the disease. “If we cut off this research, we’re facing a global emergency,” Charo said.

A serious difference of opinion on the committee, with the Republicans winning, was whether to issue subpoenas to medical researchers instead of disbanding. Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) asked why the committee is demanding names of researchers and medical students dealing with fetal tissue and pointed out that publicizing their names could “endanger their lives” from attacks from anti-abortion extremists. Blackburn said that the committee has the right to do this but refused to give any reasons for why the committee needed these names. Pointing out the shooting at the Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood clinic and explaining the committee members would be “complicit” in murders of researchers had no influence on the eight GOP members who outnumbered the six Democrats. The gunman who shot 12 people, killing three of them, explained his actions by saying “No more baby parts.”

The Democrats at the hearing called the committee’s actions a witch hunt. Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) compared Blackburn’s investigation into researchers and doctors to former Sen. Joe McCarthy’s (R-WI) abusive tactics 60 years ago. Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA) said that those burned at the stakes “are our scientists, who hold future medical breakthroughs in their hands [and] brave women’s healthcare workers who are simply trying to care for their patients.” Rep. Suzan DelBene (D-WA) said, “This is not an objective hearing. This is a debate against a woman’s right to chose.” Rep. DelBene summarized the day’s events with this question: “Do you think ideology should shape the rules about scientific research?”

On the same day as this House travesty, the remaining eight U.S. Supreme Court justices heard oral arguments in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, concerning the most restrictive anti-choice laws in the nation. If the court decides to rule on the case this year, it will need five votes to overturn the Texas law but just four to make the laws uncertain in other states. Justice Antonin Scalia would certainly have voted to uphold the Texas law, but he is no longer on the court.

Four of the justices hearing the case, three of them women, seemed suspicious of the claim that the law was to protect women’s health because of unreasonable mandates for women’s clinics to turn them into “ambulatory surgical centers.” Stephen Breyer pointed out that colonoscopies, which don’t need to be performed in an ambulatory surgical center, are 28 times more likely to have complications than abortions. Elena Kagan asked the Texas attorney about this, but he had no response. Then she pointed out that liposuction actually has greater complications. Justice Sonia Sotomayor asked why a dilation and curettage associated with a miscarriage can be performed in a doctor’s office whereas a basically identical D&C for an abortion must be performed in an ambulatory surgical center.

The swing vote for a majority comes from Anthony Kennedy, who shifts back and forth from finding abortion “icky” (Gonzales v. Carhart) and wishing to keep some vestige of abortion (Planned Parenthood v. Casey). After statements that Texas imposed heavy burdens on clinics performing abortions but not on facilities performing riskier procedures, Kennedy suggested that the law creates an “undue burden,” a criterion, determined in Casey, that could result in striking down the law. A Kennedy concern was that the law would result in more women having surgical abortions rather than mediation abortions, a situation that he said “may not be medically wise.”

The uncertainty of the court’s decision comes from the claim that admitting privileges requirements cannot be determined at this stage of litigation. In discussing this procedural issue, Kennedy suggested returning the case to the lower court for additional fact-finding. To block the pro-choice faction, Justice Samuel Alito suggested the requirement of very specific information or challenges to each line of the many pages of regulations individually. Alito noted, “It will be work,” and the burden falls on abortion providers and their advocates.

If the Texas laws go into effect, the state will have fewer than ten women’s clinics for 5.4 million women of childbearing age, many of whom live 200 miles away.  The attorney general defending Texas law said that women who live more than 100 miles from a clinic can just go across the border into New Mexico. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg found that “odd” because “New Mexico doesn’t have any surgical ASC requirement, and it doesn’t have any admitting requirement.” Kagan asked if Texas could demand that all clinics conform to Massachusetts General to increase health benefits “because MGH, it’s a great hospital.”

Texas laws are proposed in many red states throughout the country and drafted by Americans United for Life, an anti-abortion group that, according to its website, “works to advance life issues through the law and does so through measures that can withstand judicial obstacles so that pro-life laws will be enforced.”

Missouri initiated both laws under discussion in the Supreme Court, mandating clinics performing abortions be outpatient surgical centers in 1986 and requiring doctors have privileges at a nearby hospital in 2005. By now, the state has only one clinic, making it one of five states in the nation in this situation. If the court strikes down these laws in Texas, other states may lose them. States have passed over 200 TRAP (Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers) laws within the past five years, including Missouri’s 72-hour waiting period. The claim is always that the laws protect women, and the claim is always false.

Two laws that Missouri  lost are spousal consent for an abortion and second trimester abortions to be performed in a hospital. The state did block abortions in public facilities, for example the University of Missouri’s medical school in Kansas City. In accordance with religious beliefs, laws signed by then Gov. John Ashcroft in 1986 stated, “The life of each human being begins at conception.”

Also last week, seven of eight justices blocked a Louisiana law requiring doctors who perform abortions to have hospital rights within 30 miles of the clinics. In this case, June Medical Services v. Gee, Clarence Thomas was the only dissent. The order blocking the Louisiana law began with 14 important words: “Consistent with the Court’s action granting a stay in Whole Woman’s Health v. Cole.” In short, they criticized the 5th Circuit Court for ignoring the high court’s previous stay orders if the lower court “cannot discern the underlying reasoning” behind those orders and rebutted the lower court’s logic on its own terms.

This order may show that the Supreme Court opposes the 5th Circuit Court’s efforts to eradicate Roe v. Wade. And Scalia is not there to protect laws that violate women’s reproductive rights.

 

December 18, 2015

Bipartisanship: Both Parties Hate the Omnibus Bill

Congress has decided to keep the government open for the next few months by passing the $1.8 trillion spending and tax bills, spreading holiday cheer and dismay throughout the country. After the House passed the tax bill yesterday by 318 to 109, it passed the spending bill today by 316 to 113 with four Democrats and one Republican not voting. Only 150 of the 247 Republicans voted in favor of it, destroying the Hastert Rule that demands any bills must have GOP support.

The Senate sent the bill to President Barack Obama with a 65-33 vote with six Democrats and independent Bernie Sanders voting no. Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Barbara Boxer (D-CA) were the only senators not voting. Rubio said during an interview in Muscatine (IA) that he would slow down the bill if not just stopping it while the Senate agreed to a time limit and moved forward.

The president signed the bill into law today.

Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-KS), a member of the conservative House Freedom Caucus who voted no, said that the GOP vote was a favor to the new speaker. This bill will send Tea Party constituents into full revolution for the next election. Democrats voted for the bill in spite of the removal of the ban on exporting oil and the absence of a bankruptcy provision for fiscally stressed Puerto Rico. Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) got commitments to address the Puerto Rico issues early next year. Meanwhile, Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) has blamed any problems in the ominibus on the former speaker, who resigned because he couldn’t handle the House.

It was a true bipartisan effort because no one is happy with the result. Democrats did get a permanent renewal for a health plan for 9/11 First Responders that expired October 1 because Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) refused to put a vote on the floor. Comedian Jon Stewart, lately of The Daily Show, shamed Republicans and the nation by taking 9/11 First Responders to senate offices. Republicans also got several tax cuts although the bill had no new restrictions on Syrian refugees coming to the U.S.—a recent obsession for the GOP.

Also missing in the omnibus bill was “defunding” Planned Parenthood, a misnomer because PP simply gets paid for its services to Medicaid patients. Early next year Congress plans to use an alternative budget procedure called reconciliation to advance Senate  legislation on a simple majority vote in its continued effort to exchange $390 million to PP for $235 million for community health centers. Many of these give women false information about pregnancy and abortion except in California where the law bans this. President Obama pledged to veto any bill defunding Planned Parenthood. The omnibus bill also failed to defund the Title X family planning or teen pregancy prevention programs or allow employers to block their employees from receiving insurance coverage for abortion.

The deficit hawks went AWOL: the proposed spending bill adds $78 billion a year for the next ten years. Republicans pretend that permanently extended business tax credits don’t add anything to the deficit because they reflect current government spending. Fear of terrorism may also have made the hawks more cooperative, but they will most likely return in full force this next year. It would be nice to think that deficit hawks had figured out that the deficit has fallen sharply in recent years and is now down below 3 percent of GDP, but it doesn’t seem likely.

Across-the-board “sequester” cuts are mostly gone with this bill, and the package has about $700 billion in tax cuts—none of them paid for as the GOP has insisted in the past. Most of the cuts are those set to expire, such as R&D credit for businesses and anti-poverty cuts such as the expanded child tax credit and earned income tax credit. Others are taxes from the Affordable Care Act on insurance companies and medical device manufacturers that are delayed for a year. The two-year delay of the “Cadillac tax” on high-cost health insurance plans levying a 40 percent tax on the most expensive health insurance plans  allows unions to negotiate larger benefits packages instead of higher wages. The tax would not have taken effect until 2018; now it is delayed until 2020. Renewable energy producers received extensions of tax credits for wind and solar that are phased out over five years.

Here’s a chart of the tax cuts:

Taxes Omnibus Bill

Policy riders can be the most controversial items on a spending bill, these these are some of the bad ones that stuck to the final version:

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission cannot require publicly traded corporations to disclose their political spending, making the “dark money” allowed by Citizens United even darker. When the Supreme Court allowed almost unlimited campaigning expenditures because corporations are “people,” it endorsed disclosure of public spending. Congress followed a different path.

Country-of-origin labels for pork and beef have been eliminated; people in the U.S. no longer know the source of their meat.

The four-decade limit on exporting crude oil produced in America has been eliminated. Big Oil can now create fuel shortages in the U.S. by shipping their product to countries that will pay more for oil.

Restrictions on overseas coal financing are limited.

The IRS is prevented from modernizing its vague, outdated rules for political activity by nonprofits, allowing more dark money into elections from groups such as Karl Rove’s Crossroads GPS and the billionaire Koch brothers’ Americans for Prosperity.

The president cannot issue an executive order requiring government contractors to disclose their political spending, including donations to nonprofit groups engaged in elections, as a condition of submitting a bid. Contractors can still be required to disclose their donations after they have secured their contract.

Personal privacy took a hit in the “cybersecurity” rider that allows businesses to share information with far less restrictions.

On the positive side, producers of genetically engineered salmon are required to develop guidelines and implement a program for the mandatory labeling of its product. The bill also does nothing to block states from creating their own mandatory labeling laws.

The best news is what was stripped from the final version of the omnibus bill:

Makers of cigars and electronic cigarettes will have to apply retroactively for approval of any products sold after February 2007.

The 2010 Dodd-Frank financial reform law can still force retirement investment advisers to act solely to the benefit of their clients.

The Clean Power Plan rules to limit carbon emissions from U.S. power plants are still in effect as is President Obama’s promise to end federal funds to the global Green Climate Fund, created by the recent Paris agreement.

The Justice Department can still track buyers of multiple long guns although the GOP blocked funding of other research into gun violence.

A pointless rider in the bill: “None of the funds made available in this Act may be used to maintain or establish a computer network unless such network blocks the viewing, downloading, and exchanging of pornography.” The GOP must be trying to protect members of its own party.

The dumbest part of the new spending bill? The Republicans defunded Acorn—again!

“SEC.522 [p. 1,016 of the 2,009-page bill]: None of the funds made available under this or any other Act, or any prior Appropriations Act, may be provided to the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN), or any of its affiliates, subsidiaries, allied organizations, or successors.”

The anti-poverty group officially closed over five years ago, it has no “affiliates” or “subsidiaries,” but the GOP continues to defund it.

November 29, 2015

Conservative ‘Christians’ Wage War on the United States

 

Black Friday, traditionally known for store sales putting them into the “black,” can now be known for the most recent mass shooting in the far-right “Christian” war on the people of the United States. A 57-year-old white man killed three people, including a policeman, and injured nine more at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs. He was heard to yell “no more baby parts.” The right-wing first called the attack a bank robbery and then said it was done by a “mentally disturbed individual.” The Washington Post called him “adrift and alienated,” and the so-called liberal New York Times called the killer an “itinerant loner.”

The first two GOP candidates who made any comments about the attacks—Ted Cruz and John Kasich—waited for a day and then just prayed for the victims. Cruz had spread anti-PP propaganda and led the charge to close down the government to stop its funding. Marco Rubio and Rand Paul remained quiet and advertised clothing for sale on their websites. Ben Carson was busy visiting a Syrian refugee camp in Jordan where he said that Middle East countries should absorb the refugees who he had called “rabid dogs.” Other predictable comments from GOP candidates trickled in two days later on the Sunday news talk shows. Mike Huckabee who agreed that the killings were domestic terrorism, but he claimed that it was against Planned Parenthood for making pro-life people look bad. He said:

“I don’t know of any pro-life leader—any—if you can tell me one, please correct me — but I don’t know of anybody who has suggested violence toward Planned Parenthood personnel or some act of violence towards their clinics. I’ve not heard that, not from one single pro-life person.”

Out of many, one example is when a pro-lifer shot Dr. George Tiller in the head while Tiller was in his own church. In another, Huckabee proposed using physical force from federal troops to keep women from entering Planned Parenthood.

All terrorists are Muslims, according to conservatives led by Huckabee and Cruz. Jeb Bush said the Middle East had no Christian terrorists. Politicians use the Paris attacks as an excuse to close down the refugee program that saves Syrian people from the jihadists. Donald Trump said that PP is like an abortion factory, and Carly Fiorina joins him in spreading lies about the contents of falsified videos about PP. Rubio tells the world that women get pregnant “just to sell their fetuses to Planned Parenthood,” and Cruz blames the Obama Justice Department for not investigating “Planned Parenthood because they’re a political ally of the president.”

At first, right-wing media declared that the attack’s target was a bank. Deciding the killer started with PP, conservative pundits and their respondents praised the killer as a “hero.” While the tragedy was ongoing, Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) said that anti-abortion fanatics have “legitimate concerns” about Planned Parenthood.

Declining to admit that the killings were domestic terrorism, Rep. Michael McCaul (R-TX), chair of the House committee for Homeland Security, labeled the PP killings as “a tragedy… It’s, I think, a mental health crisis.” Six years ago, the House GOP members forced Daryl Johnson, the leading expert on right-wing terrorism in the U.S., to resign from Homeland Security because his research was not in accord with conservative beliefs.

Meanwhile, police are calling on Congress for help with domestic terrorism. In his appearance on Meet the Press a week ago, New York Police Commissioner Bill Bratton expressed his opinion about accepting Syrian refugees that is supported by police officers across the nation:

 “[If] Congress really wants to do something instead of just talking about something, help us out with that terrorist watch list, those thousands of people that can purchase firearms in this country. I’m more worried about them than I am about Syrian refugees to be quite frank with you.”

The man who was legally able to have an assault rifle to kill and wound people at the Planned Parenthood has a record of traffic violations, voyeuristic stalking, and domestic violence. After he hit his wife and pushed her out a window, she filed a police record but didn’t press charges. A neighbor woman later filed a restraining order against the man in 2002 because he hid in the bushes beside her house to watch her. He also abused an animal and threatened another neighbor. Thanks to the lax laws in Colorado (and other parts of the nation), he can openly carry an assault rifle because he hasn’t been convicted of these crimes. Earlier this month Colorado laws allowed a man to murder four people before being apprehended.

The right-wing is frantically trying to erase any idea that the killings were religiously and politically motivated, using quotes from his neighbors that the killer wasn’t at all political. Yet he claimed that “Obama is ruining America,” wanted him impeached, and tried to hand out anti-Obama leaflets to people. His cabin sported a cross, and a posting on his Facebook urged people to “Accept the LORD JESUS while you can.”

“Right-wing terrorism is terrorism motivated by a variety of far right ideologies and beliefs, including anti-communism, neo-fascism, neo-Nazism, racism, xenophobia and opposition to immigration.” A large majority of domestic terrorists in the U.S. connect these beliefs to the “Christian Identity” ideology. Like Adolf Hitler, the leaders of the movement persuade followers to commit evil acts in the defense of their God and religion. Rubio’s comments on the Christian Broadcasting Network a week ago represent the prevailing guidelines of the “Christian” conservatives:

“We are clearly called, in the Bible, to adhere to our civil authorities, but that conflicts with also a requirement to adhere to God’s rules. When those two come in conflict, God’s rules always win. In essence, if we are ever ordered by a government authority to personally violate and sin, violate God’s law and sin, if we’re ordered to stop preaching the gospel … we are called to ignore that. We cannot abide by that because government is compelling us to sin.”

The real heroes of the shooting are the people who go to work every day—including the day after the most recent attack—despite the possibility that they may be killed. They are the ones who continue to care for people’s health needs in clinics that can be attacked at any time. Since 1993, eight doctors have been killed; since 1976, over 200 crimes of bombing or arson have occurred at clinics. Since the release of the fraudulent videos, four Planned Parenthood clinics were burned to the ground, and others were damaged or vandalized. This is not a “lone wolf” situation; this is terrorism—Christian radical terrorism in the United States.

A 2012 study by Arie Perliger, professor at the United States Military Academy’s Combating Terrorism Center, shows that “right-wing extremists averaged 337 attacks per year in the decade after 9/11, causing a total of 254 fatalities.”  The toll increased since the study’s release: 305 mass shootings—four or more people shot—have occurred this year as of mid-October. Refusal to recognize Christian terrorism in the United States is killing people.

The GOP Congress legitimizes pro-lifers such as Troy Newman who campaign for violence against women’s clinics and medical people who perform abortions. Donald Trump’s racist remarks have led to attacks and beatings on people of color, and the mainstream media criticize him. Yet the GOP incitement of religious violence continues putting the blame on the perpetrator without recognition of how they provoke these violent acts. Political and religious leaders in the United States routinely call for executing LGBT citizens, Muslims, immigrants, abortion providers, liberals, etc. while allowing unfettered gun ownership. As a result, people in the U.S. live in a terrorist-occupied war zone. Armed and dangerous U.S. citizens represent far more menace in this country than ISIS does.

Of the dozen people shot at Colorado Springs’ Planned Parenthood, several had nothing to do with the clinic. Any one can be impacted by the violence even if they are not a member of a targeted group. Two weeks ago, the GOP candidates were cheering about the attacks in Paris because they thought that the opposition to ISIS would put them in control of the country. Now they have the fallout of domestic terrorism after months of virulent rhetoric. Meanwhile other killings go on as if usual. In the early morning hours before the killings in Colorado Springs, a man shot a waitress in the head after she asked him to put out a cigarette. The woman is dead, and the former firefighter is in a Biloxi (MI) jail.

Those who criticize the “politicization” of the PP travesty fail to understand that they are the ones who surrounded PP with poiltics. After the most recent mass killings, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Democratic presidential candidate, tweeted, “I hope people realize that bitter rhetoric can have unintended consequences,” Republicans, words matter!

[Meet the Press update:  Today Donald Trump stood by his statement that Muslims in New Jersey cheered as the Twin Towers came down on 9/11. On this morning’s news talk show, Trump and Todd devolved into an argument of “I’m right” and “You’re wrong.” Yet neither one alluded to the record of five Middle Eastern men who celebrated the tragedy. All five were Israeli Jews, speaking Hebrew. Another religious group that traditionally celebrates 9/11 is the membership of Topeka (KS)-based Westboro Baptist Church. These Christian terrorists describe 9/11 as “a gift from God” and honor its “anniversary.” Todd wants Trump to tell the “truth,” but he doesn’t bother to find itself for himself.]

November 1, 2015

Good, Bad According to Fundamentalist Christians

The Hobby Lobby company, also called a person by the Supreme Court, fought contraception for their employees and succeeded in convincing the highest court in the land that they should violate their fundamentalist Christian religion. Although contraception is bad, theft and fraud seem to be good, according to Hobby Lobby. Before they went to court to declare themselves highly moral in their rejection of contraception, they shipped themselves 200-300 small clay tablets from Israel that had come from Iraq’s cultural heritage. The U.S. Customs agents seized up the FedEx shipment of Middle-Eastern cuneiform tablets thousands of years old that were described as “hand-crafted clay tiles” with a monetary value of about $300.

The destination for these “tiles” is the Museum of the Bible that Hobby Lobby is building in Washington, D.C. It allegedly “demonstrates the Bible’s impact on every facet of life throughout the ages—including science, the arts, government, literature and languages.” The museum’s website states that “scholars have scoured the world to assemble the more than 40,000 biblical antiquities that today comprise what is known as one of the world’s largest private collections of rare biblical texts and artifacts.” The description doesn’t mention anything about ordinary “hand-crafted clay tiles.”

Hobby Lobby’s CEO, Steve Green, said that some of the museum collection might be illegally-acquired antiquities, but Museum of the Bible president, Cary Summers, said that the only problem with these “tile samples” is the paperwork. The work Green did with Patty Gerstenblith, a DePaul University law professor, regarding legal complications in antiquities sales in 2010, however, indicates that he was not ignorant of the law when the tablets were shipped a year later. The hundreds of hours of investigative interviews indicate more than a bureaucratic delay for the past four years—and much more than a logistical oversight.

The Hobby Lobby people doing the shipping most likely understood that informal customs declarations are for shipments with a collective monetary value of under $2,500. Anything over that is considered formal entry. Those wishing to bring something into the country illegally undervalue the item to avoid scrutiny. A recent example of this evasion was the shipment of a Picasso worth $15 million that was listed on the custom declarations as a “handicraft” worth $37.

With its $4.5 billion, the Green family can afford fines, but it doesn’t look good for someone who pretends to be devoutly religious.

Texas parents of nine homeschooled children consider death good, education bad. The McIntyre family of El Paso is suing the state that requires them to teach their children math and spelling. Even with the serious lack of oversight in homeschooling that doesn’t require a curriculum or standardized tests, the problem surfaced when a 17-year-old daughter tried to run away from the home. Her uncle reported that the parents were neglecting their children’s education. One of them said that learning was unnecessary because “they were going to be raptured.”

Parents argue that teaching only church hymns and theology is perfectly appropriate because the second coming of Jesus Christ is almost at hand. By now the case has gotten to the state Supreme Court where the McIntyres call the all-Republican court “anti-Christian” and use the time-worn complaint of “sweeping governmental power.” The governor may support the parents; he just appointed a Christian homeschooler to lead the Texas Board of Education.

The McIntyres are not unique. In early 2015, a young woman from Texas had great difficulty in proving that she exists. She didn’t have a birth certificate or Social Security number, and her parents had never taken her to a doctor or enrolled her in school. When she fled her home, she had no identity.

Death is good but medical treatment is bad. That comes from Michelle Moon who wrote in her blog that she will allow 4-year-old daughter Julianna, suffering from a severe neuromuscular disease, to go live with the angels. That’s where she can run and meet God, according to her father. After this indoctrination, the parents will permit a four-year-old to make medical decisions for herself. When Julianna tells her mother she is frightened, the parents explains that she won’t be afraid on her way to heaven because of the angels. Moon has recorded her brainwashing techniques in her blog, The Mighty.

Being denied sex with a wife might be bad, but forcing her to have intercourse is good, according to Biblical Gender Roles that provides help for men whose wives refuse to have sex with them. It explains that men should not feel guilty about raping their wives because it will teach women how to enjoy sex. Women also should understand that they always enjoy sex with their husbands because God says they must. If all else fails, men should just not look at their wives’ faces during the forced sex. The directions are as follows:

“Focus your eyes on her body, not her face. Focus on the visual pleasure you receive from looking at her body and physical pleasure you receive from being inside your wife.

“I know you love your wife, most of us as men love our wives. You want to connect with her physically AND emotionally during sex. But your wife is the one refusing to connect with you emotionally, so you have to concentrate 100% on the physical side.”

The religious blogger compares the wife to the mythical Greek mythological monster Medusa who could kill people who looked at her. In this case, the expression on the wife’s face could kill the man’s “sexual pleasure,” and that is unacceptable. It is sad, wrote the blogger, but “sometimes we have to work around the sinful behavior of our wives and this will be one of those times.” These are people who refuse to understand that no means no.

Belief in climate change is a religion—and bad—according to GOP presidential candidate Ted Cruz, but on the good side at least 70 percent of the people, up from 63 percent last spring, now believe in the reality of climate change supported by solid evidence in the past 40 years. Accompanied by that figure is last year’s drop in the number of Republicans who doubt the existence of climate change, down to 26 percent from 41 percent. Many of these people have cited the drought as the reason for their shift in belief. Thus they continue to use weather experience for their beliefs about climate change, but this time they’re right.

yeast infection

My favorite good/bad story of the week comes from Portland (OR). Children protesting abortion is good while learning about yeast infections is bad. Working at a café near a Planned Parenthood location, Mary Numair saw a protester with a sign saying “Abortion Kills Children” in front of the café. Numair told her the protest was down the street, but the woman said that she had to stand in front of the café. That’s when Numair took a piece of cardboard out of a Dumpster and made a sign that said: “Dear P.P. Thanks for helping with my yeast infections.” When she was in her early 20s, Numair could not afford insurance for her pre-existing condition of yeast infections so she went to Planned Parenthood where the condition was treated “quickly and effectively,” she said.

Numair stood in front of Planned Parenthood next to a boy of about ten holding a sign that said “Abortion is Murder.” She knelt down and asked, “Do you know about yeast infections?” Adults turned red and pulled their children away while others formed a prayer circle. That’s when Numair started chanting, “YEAST IN-FECTIONS, YEAST IN-FECTIONS.” She tried to take a selfie with the protesters, but they walked away.

This strategy could be used by other counter-protesters across the country. Numair said, “I did look at the preacher-pastor guy and said, ‘See you next time!’ and I intend on sticking to that.” She plans to make a bigger sign and maybe a few props. “If someone wants to help me make a giant wooden labia, that would be great.” The best part of Numair’s courageous action is that it’s gone viral with articles about it across the country’s media.

October 16, 2015

House Gets Worse–Who Knew It Was Possible?!

 

Congress is still on “recess” (aka vacation), the debt crisis has moved up to November 3 (two weeks after they return), and the rudderless House will concentrate on two “select” committees that have nothing to do with the economy or joblessness. The first, started 17 months ago; the new one continues the House’s attack on women’s reproductive rights.

Three years ago, four men were killed at a diplomatic outpost in Benghazi (Libya). Since that time, the GOP House members created eight committees, the most recent a “select” committee, to skewer Hillary Clinton, Secretary of State. Clinton was exonerated by the first seven, but House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) proposed the most recent one on May 2, 2014 that has cost taxpayers over $4.5 million already.

Many people already assumed that the purpose of the committee had nothing to do with justice before House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) admitted it on a Fox network show. (Maybe he thought only conservatives would notice.) The committee continues to unravel as another GOP representative, Richard Hanna (R-NY), said on the Keeler in the Morning radio show:

“I think that there was a big part of this investigation that was designed to go after people and an individual, Hillary Clinton.”

Senior Republican officials had already said that Boehner was using Clinton’s emails on a private server as a way to keep Benghazi alive and create political problems for the presidential candidate.

Committee members face more problems since Bradley F. Podliska, major in the Air Force Reserve, was fired as a former investigator.  Podliska claims that he was fired because he was trying to do his job and plans to sue. The self-described lifelong conservative Republican supported GOP claims that the committee wanted to concentrate on Clinton herself, instead of Benghazi. Podliska also said that Benghazi Committee staffers used their time to surf the web and drink alcohol. They had formed a “gun-buying club” and spent work hours designing monogrammed weapons. This from a committee that is supposedly investigating killing.

Committee chair, Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC), said he had never met with Podliska, but the Wall Street Journal wrote that Gowdy “handpicked” the committee’s staff. Just last week, however, the committee re-posted a Wall Street Journal piece noting that Gowdy “handpicked” the committee’s staff.

Thus far, the committee has had only one of a dozen scheduled interviews and absolutely no hearings of the intended nine. All the hearings except for those with Clinton, including ones with former Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Secretary Leon Panetta, were cancelled after the New York Times broke its story on March 2 about her emails. Interviews with CIA Director David Petraeus, General Martin Dempsey, General Carter Ham, and former Director of the National Counterterrorism Center Matt Olsen were also cancelled. The committee has had no public hearings with anyone from the Department of Defense, but by the end of October, the GOP will have interviewed or deposed eight current or former Clinton campaign staffers.

One person subpoenaed is Clinton associate Sidney Blumenthal although Gowdy admitted that he “never expected Witness Blumenthal to be able to answer questions about the attacks in Benghazi, Libya.” Over 160 questions directed to Blumenthal were about his relationship with Clinton with fewer than 20 questions about the Benghazi attacks. Over 50 questions concerned the Clinton Foundation, but only four addressed security in Benghazi.

During the past nine months, Gowdy’s 27 press releases have concentrated on Clinton with only five on any other topic, perhaps because the few interviews he attended were only about Clinton. Three were about the State Department’s compliance with document production, one was about the anniversary of 9/11, and the last was Gowdy’s interim progress report. Since the committee’s inception, Gowdy has publicly released only emails and did so without debate or vote by the Select Committee. Yet he blocked the release of Blumenthal’s deposition transcript.

Part of the GOP smear campaign comes from committee leaks of inaccurate information without full transcripts. Gowdy also hid information from Hillary Clinton’s Chief of Staff Cheryl Mills testimony that during the Benghazi attack, Secretary Clinton urged several agencies, including the Pentagon, to do everything they possibly could to save and protect the Americans at the Consulate.

Clinton’s hearing is currently scheduled for October 22, conveniently in the midst of the presidential campaign. Gowdy has said that he won’t release his findings until “just months before the 2016 presidential election.” Meanwhile, the GOP is using the committee and Gowdy’s name to raise donations for Stop Hillary PAC with its sole purpose of attacking Clinton. The conservative PAC America Rising described the attacks as a taxpayer-funded political activity.

Benghazi is so prevalent in the minds of the GOP, that Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) focused on it during the House Judiciary Committee Planned Parenthood hearing. According to the New England Journal of Medicine, “the contraception services that Planned Parenthood delivers may be the single greatest effort to prevent unwanted pregnancies that result in abortions….”  Yet Gohmert connected the Benghazi deaths and PP while questioning former clinic manager Susan Thayer in this tirade:

“You had people meeting here in America, in Washington, while people were dying! While Ty Woods was gathering David Ubben and Glen Doherty and going to the rooftop to man guns to try to protect the people in those facilities…. Yes, Benghazi was about politics! And we need to get to the bottom of why those four people were killed, while nobody in Washington that knew what was going on lifted a finger!”

The House’s “select committee” to follow up on the doctored videos about Planned Parenthood follows four earlier House investigations. House GOP members surely understand that the unedited footage from these videos would destroy their smear campaign because they held them for at least two weeks, refusing to permit Democratic committee members to view them.

Committee chair Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) is already under fire for his five-hour grilling of PP president, Cecile Richards, when she was interrupted in her answers at least 51 times. He even presented a false—and damning—graph from an anti-abortion organization, making the assumption that he was from PP until he was corrected. He also attacked Richards for making over $500,000 as CEO of a $1.3 billion organization, something that Congress has never done to male CEOs making up to 1,000 times as much.

Every investigation into PP, whether federal or state, found no illegal actions on the part of PP. Chaffetz admitted, “Was there any wrongdoing? I didn’t find any.” Unhappy with the failure to find something that doesn’t exist, the new “select” committee will widen its search into women and abortion, still legal in the United States.

The 14-member panel will investigate not only PP but also privately funded abortions and fetal tissue donations to medical researchers. This time, the GOP picked a woman, Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) to head the committee. Rep. Lois Frankel (D-FL) said, “Planned Parenthood is the new Benghazi,” echoing another position that McCarthy had already provided to the media.

In the past, “select committees” have been used only for highly unusual national events such as the assassination of a president and a major terrorist attack on U.S. soil. The PP select committee is under the auspices of the Energy and Commerce Committee, which will have members not related to Energy and Commerce and vet these people through outside anti-abortion organizations. At the same time, House Republicans explained that the new committee “won’t be political.”

GOP presidential candidate Carly Fiorina has used the PP falsehoods as support for her campaign. At a conference the Oklahoma Independent Petroleum Association, she talked about the difference between politics and business: “Politics is a fact-free zone. People just say things.” That’s why the GOP has these “select” committees.

One select committee regarding extraordinary events in the U.S. is necessary, one to examine increasing gun violence throughout the United States. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) has called for this committee after ten people died in a college shooting at Roseburg (OR) earlier this month. It’s almost a guarantee that the current House will never okay this committee.

Why isn’t there a select committee to determine why the United States started wars in the Middle East that killed hundreds of thousands of people, including almost 5,000 military members from the U.S.? Rep. Stephen Lynch (D-MA) said:

“I haven’t heard a word about Colin Powell. I haven’t heard a word about Condoleezza Rice. In our investigations we went to both of those former secretaries of state and, Colin Powell, we tried to do an investigation of his testimony before the U.N. on weapons of mass destruction.

“You know what, Colin Powell didn’t have a goddamn email available for us. There was zero. Zero. Hillary Clinton, what was it, 30,000 she turned in? It was the same thing with Condoleezza Rice; not a goddamn email that was useful to the committee. And no one wants to talk about that because it’s being run by a Republican chairman.”

The GOP promised to make changes when they were elected a year ago. They did. Congress changed from a highly dysfunctional legislature to being the laughing stock of the world.

August 12, 2015

Only Trump Supports Women in Planned Parenthood Debacle

All the problems in the United States come from a lack of Christian belief, according to GOP presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) who promises that he will create Christian dominion over the entire country. In an interview with American Family Association leader Tim Wildmon, Cruz said,

“Nothing is more important in the next 18 months than that the body of Christ rise up and that Christians stand up, that pastors stand up and lead.”

As U.S. president, Cruz would fight the nonexistent religious persecution and seek criminal charges against Planned Parenthood. Cruz’s ad to prosecute Planned Parenthood begins with this pitch:

“For a century, Americans have helped heal and care for millions in need. Our values propelled extraordinary innovation. America made the world better.”

Visuals in the beginning of the ad use images of polio victims, people who suffered from the dread disease before a poliovirus vaccine, using fetal kidney cell research, saves 550,000 lives every year. People are actually angry about the use of fetal tissue in research, but they use Planned Parenthood as a symbol of this. The public doesn’t want to think about the use of fetal tissue as an answer to exploring treatment and cures for health issues from vision loss to cancer. Not one person in Congress, including Cruz, has introduced legislation to ban this kind of research. All of the attackers are removing health care from lower-income people, both women and men, not dealing with the issue that has caused a series of inflammatory statement.

Of the 17 GOP candidates, 16 of them, including the one woman, are firmly united in opposing Planned Parenthood. Carly Fiorina said that Planned Parenthood should be “defunded immediate.” Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), oddly declared the winner of the first candidate debate although he fell to seventh place in the field, is trying to lead the attack with a new initiative on both social media and his campaign website. A large picture of a fluffy-white kitty cat is accompanied by the statement, “Watch this video and sign this petition if you know that a human life won’t become a donkey or a cat.”

rubio's catRubio’s brilliant (at least to himself) idea came from an interview with Chris Cuomo on CNN after the debate when he began to insist that “science” has declared that human life begins at conception. In reality, biologists maintain that life is continuous and that a fertilized egg has the same level of life as a sperm or an unfertilized egg. Conservative men such as Mike Huckabee so fond of “personhood” might want to consider this science the next time that they masturbate. Cuomo tried to explain the facts of life to Rubio, who kept his own irrational viewpoint:

“[The fertilized egg] cannot turn into an animal. It can’t turn into a donkey. The only thing that that can become is a human being…. If scientists] can’t say it will be human life, what does it become, then? Could it become a cat?”

Pro-choice advocates don’t believe that a human egg can become a cat. The accurate description of the belief is that a difference exists between people and fertilized human eggs just as there is a difference between acorns and trees—and between eggs and chickens.

The one candidate who separated himself from the crowd in defunding Planned Parenthood is—surprise—Donald Trump. Although the businessman still opposes abortions, he explained to Sean Hannity that Planned Parenthood does “good things that aren’t having to do with abortion.” He also talked about “many Republican conservative women [who] come up and say Planned Parenthood serves a good function other than the one aspect. We have to help women.” Hannity wasn’t happy with Trump, but Fox president, Roger Ailes, wants the network to go easy on Trump.

The rest of the candidates know that they have to oppose abortion—and therefore Planned Parenthood—to have any chance of being elected. Seventy years ago, Jeb Bush’s grandfather, Prescott Bush, was a strong supporter of Planned Parenthood. In 1950, however, he narrowly lost a run for U.S. senator after a newspaper publicized his connection to the “Birth Control Society.” Twenty years later, Prescott Bush’s son, George H.W. Bush, championed family planning as an important backer of Title X, the program which helps Planned Parenthood get millions of federal dollars every year. GOP President Richard Nixon signed the legislation that passed with a bipartisan vote. H.W. Bush went on to support population control and family planning services around the world. Conservatives forced him, however, to follow the GOP’s anti-abortion position, and by 1989, he eliminated funding for the U.N. program that he supported ten years earlier. Jeb Bush knows that he can’t get elected with support for the evangelicals, and that means he has to be strongly against women’s reproductive rights.

The worst STD rates are in the United States are in Georgia. State legislators have decided to make the rates worse by stopping STD testing kits to Planned Parenthood. State school law mandates abstinence training in sex education with no information about safe sex. Georgia pharmacists can legally deny filling prescriptions for birth control for “religious” reasons. Georgia’s Gov. Nathan Deal has kept 600,000 people in his state from getting health insurance. At the same time, he is spending thousands of taxpayer dollars investigating Planned Parenthood despite all the other investigations that have proved that Planned Parenthood has not broken the law. In Texas, the state with the highest rate of uninsured people of any state, Planned Parenthood cannot afford to offer cancer screenings because of state defunding.

The United States has organizations dedicated to shutting down Planned Parenthood. The sole purpose of some legislators is to make abortion and birth control illegal. For example, a new bill in Wisconsin would lower birth control reimbursement rates for safety net providers serving low-income women to a level that could shut most or all of these health centers down. When GOP presidential candidate Gov. Scott Walker defunded Planned Parenthood, he shut down five of the mostly rural health centers that didn’t perform abortions but did screen for cervical and breast cancer. In 2013, 25 percent fewer women have access to a woman’s health center in Wisconsin than in 2010 when Walker became governor. State laws prevent the use of public funds for abortion services, but states want to deny federal family planning funds to providers, including Planned Parenthood.

A leader in stopping Planned Parenthood, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), is supported by the wealthy Koch brothers. This is a group that provides state legislators with ready-made conservative legislation. ALEC pretends not to address social issues such as abortion, but national anti-choice groups exhibited model policies and rubber fetuses at the recent ALEC convention. They share the same funding sources and goals—electing Republicans to carry out the extremist conservative agenda.

Debate moderators need to ask GOP presidential candidates why they are so determined to cause more pregnancies by stopping access to birth control. Candidates should also be asked why their position on “smaller government” doesn’t apply to women’s medical decisions, which legislators are determined to make for them. As studies show, the greater the access to contraception, the fewer unwanted pregnancies. Mike Huckabee talks about abortion demonstrating the moral depravity in the United States. This “depravity” would dissolve if Huckabee—and all his conservative colleagues—would help women from getting pregnant.

The good news is that the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services is warnng states that defunding Planned Parenthood may be illegal by restricting beneficiary access to services. State Medicaid programs are required to cover family-planning services and supplies for anyone of child-bearing age. Defunding agreements with Planned Parenthood would limit beneficiaries’ access to care and services from qualified providers of their choice.

A sixth video asserting wrong-doing on the part of Planned Parenthood has surfaced. Here is an explanation of how it was doctored to make watchers believe that Planned Parenthood is breaking the law.

August 8, 2015

Conservatives Define U.S. Morality, Work to Increase Abortions

Planned Parenthood stayed a punching bag for GOP presidential candidates during last Thursday’s debate, and  financially well-off conservatives continue to propagate the myth that the organization is “selling” fetal tissue. Anti-choice was so rampant during the debate that Scott Walker refused to say that he would save a woman’s life at the expense of a fetus, and Marco Rubio was forced into claiming that he would oppose abortions for victims of rape and incest. Politicians, however, may have misjudged what they consider the extent of revulsion of the group providing health care for millions of poorer people in the United States.

A majority of people has favorable opinions about Planned Parenthood—even after the release of the highly doctored videos—and a plurality of respondents opposes banning Planned Parenthood from receiving Medicaid funds. Three quarters of people in the U.S. believe abortion should be legal in cases of rape. One in five people in the United States have gone to a Planned Parenthood clinic for health services, 29 percent of the women and ten percent of the men. Even worse for the Republicans, a 60 percent to 25 percent margin of women have positive responses about Planned Parenthood, and women are the voters that the GOP has progressively lost. Planned Parenthood is more popular than the NRA, which is calling most of the shots in the country in gun issues.

Thursday’s debate lost women’s approval not only by its bashing of Planned Parenthood but also from its refusal to decry Donald Trump’s sexist remarks. Not one candidate refuted his demeaning statements about women’s bodies until today, when they deemed it safe to criticize him. Even Carly Fiorina refused to denounce Trump’s comments and only said, “It’s not helpful to call people names…. Some Republicans do that. Some Democrats do that.”

Moderator Megyn Kelly called out Trump for his statements about women but said nothing to Walker after he waffled on her question, “Would you really let a mother die rather than have an abortion?” And nobody asked the real question, “Did the candidates support a move to shut down the government over their party’s failed attempt to defund Planned Parenthood?” Fox couldn’t because an answer would show who was willing to hurt their party, something that moderator Bret Baier excoriated Trump for, after the candidate said he wouldn’t refuse to run as a third-party candidate.

Jeb Bush bragged that he defunded Planned Parenthood while he was Florida governor. In 2001, he cut over $300,000 from women’s health services, the annual amount that Planned Parenthood had received for over a decade. Here’s what happened by 2014:

  • Florida ties with Arkansas and Oklahoma for the worst state for a woman’s well-being.
  • The uninsured rate for women grew to 25 percent, second only to Texas.
  • About 20 percent of women in Florida are in fair, poor or ill health, ranking 13th in that category in all states and territories.
  • About 20 percent of women lack access to a personal doctor, physician, or general healthcare provider in Florida, three percentage points higher than the national average.
  • Florida ranks 46th in the number of women who have had a pap smear in the last 3 years.
  • Of Florida’s 67 counties, 23—over one-third—lack an OB-GYN.
  • Women must travel more than an hour just to see a doctor in most parts of Florida.

Every state in the U.S. could look like this if Jeb Bush—or other Planned Parenthood naysayers—became president. Bush said, “I’m not sure we need half a billion dollars for women’s health issues.” When Fiorina questioned him about this statement, he said, “My record as governor of the state of Florida was we expanded women’s health spending through community-based care.” The above statistics show Bush’s “misrepresentations” and what happened when he moved the money to “community-based care.”

Despite the current braggadocio, defunding Planned Parenthood could face serious legal challenges. Medicaid law allows beneficiaries the right to pick their own health care providers as long as these providers accept Medicaid. Arizona, Indiana, North Carolina, and Tennessee have been blocked in their efforts to cut off Medicaid funding from Planned Parenthood. Susan Fogel, director of reproductive health for the National Health Law Program, said that stripping the organization’s Medicaid funding likely would be ruled discriminatory.

The failed Senate bill to defund Planned Parenthood would also not cover the gap in women’s health services if Planned Parenthood were defunded. The organization provides preventive health services—cancer screenings, family planning, testing and treatment for sexually transmitted infections, well-woman exams, etc.—for about 2.7 million people annually. Planned Parenthood clinics account for 10 percent of all U.S. federally funded health centers and serve 36 percent of total clients who seek care at facilities that receive public funding. More than half these centers are in rural or medically underserved places.

Community health centers may not be able to provide this full range of sexual and reproductive services. Only 29 percent of these centers report that their largest clinics prescribe and dispense all types of contraceptive methods on-site but instead give referrals for some contraceptive methods. Defunding Planned Parenthood means less dissemination of contraception; less contraception means a higher rate of unwanted pregnancy, especially in teenagers; more unwanted pregnancies means a higher rate of abortion whether safely legal or dangerously illegal. Conservatives’ desire to defund Planned Parenthood results is the opposite of what they claim they want—fewer abortions.

Pleased with the bad press for Planned Parenthood, over a dozen states have each announced investigations into Planned Parenthood. Thus far, not one of them has discovered any wrong-doing on the part of the affiliates in their state.

An editorial in the conservative Washington Post has called for a stop on “the vendetta against Planned Parenthood.” It explains how the videos showcase “distorted” information “to paint an inaccurate and unfair picture of a health organization that provides valuable services to women—as well as to demonize research that leads to important medical advances—[which] doesn’t matter to antiabortion activists. Or, sadly, to the politicians who pander to them.” The Post continues:

“None of the videos released shows anything illegal and, in fact, the full footage of Planned Parenthood executives meeting with people presumed to be buyers for a human biologics company include repeated assertions that clinics are not selling tissue but only seeking permitted reimbursement costs for expenses….”

Meanwhile male lawmakers are preening themselves on the important part that they play in giving birth. For example, this from Sen. James Lankford (R-OK) who calls abortion a “men’s issue”:

“I’m a dad of two daughters. I had something to do with the birth as well, and was also there. I was there during the sonograms. My wife and I are extremely close. And to be a dad of two daughters, I’m very passionate, not only about my own wife, but about my mom, who’s a cancer survivor—multiple-time cancer survivor—I’m passionate about my daughters having every single opportunity.”

He also thinks that he should make decisions for every other woman in the United States.

Other conservatives are even crazier in discussing the issue. Fox’s Eric Bolling said that the doctored videos about Planned Parenthood are “far worse” than “the beheading videos of ISIS.” He concluded, “They literally made me nauseous, don’t watch them.” (These are videos that Fox frequently plays.)

Mike Huckabee would stop abortions with “the FBI or federal forces,” if he is to be believed.

The vast majority of people shocked by the Planned Parenthood videos mostly likely have not seen them; they just listen to how conservatives try to build horror in their aim to get money and votes. In fact, the videos discuss a processing fee—no profit—for fetal tissue donated by women who terminated their pregnancies. The National Institutes of Health funds medical research from the donations that makes lives better for people around the world. This research includes treatment for cytomegalovirus causing enlarged spleens and seizures in newborns, neuro-developmental disorders, polio (fetal kidney cells created the first vaccine), chicken pox, rubella, and shingles. The tissue for the last three disorders came from two elective abortions performed in the 1960s.

For almost a century, fetal tissue research has been vital to vaccine development. In the past twenty years, fetal tissue research has been extensively used to develop treatments for disorders such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. Conservatives don’t object to the research; they’re trying to stop safe, legal abortions.

At the same time that they express disgust at talking about fetal tissue over lunch, conservatives talk over lunch about how to destroy people’s lives, take money from the poor who are already homeless and hungry, eliminate education and jobs, permit the wealthy to hide more of their money from taxes, and kill people in a large number of countries. To them, this behavior is moral whereas women’s control of their own bodies is immoral. The defensive attitude by more progressive politicians permits conservatives to frame morality for the United States, and everyone except the wealthy is losing the battle.

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