"Do or Do not. There is no try."

“Ensnared By The Trap They Set”: For Planned Parenthood, Justice Seldom Gets More Poetic

“A lie can get halfway around the world while the truth is still putting on its shoes.”

That nugget of wisdom dates from the 1800s, i.e., decades before anyone ever heard of the Internet — much less Fox “News.”

If a lie traveled that fast in the 19th century, you can only imagine its speed in the 21st, when media and the World Wide Web have given it wings. Indeed, in 2016, the lie is so broadly and brazenly told as to cower truth itself and to render impotent and faintly ridiculous the little voice insisting, against all evidence, that facts matter.

It seems increasingly obvious that to many of us, they simply don’t. Not anymore. We find ourselves embarked upon a post-empirical era in which the very idea that facts are knowable and concrete has become quaint. These days, facts are whatever the politics of the moment needs them to be.

We’ve seen this over and over in recent years. We’ve seen it in the controversy over Barack Obama’s birthplace, in the accusations that Sept. 11 was an inside job, in the charge that weapons of mass destruction were in fact discovered in Iraq, and in the claims that there is no scientific consensus about global warming.

Lunatic assertions that fly in the face of the known are now the norm in American political discourse. So last week’s news out of Houston came as a welcome jolt.

It seems Planned Parenthood was exonerated by a grand jury after an investigation into spurious charges the reproductive healthcare provider was selling baby parts for profit. Simultaneously, two so-called “citizen journalists” who orchestrated the hoax — David Daleiden, 27, and Sandra Merritt, 62 — were indicted.

It was a moment of sweet vindication for Planned Parenthood, following months of vilification and investigation. This all sprang from a series of videos secretly recorded by Daleiden’s anti-abortion group, “The Center For Medical Progress” during conversations with officials of various Planned Parenthood affiliates.

Released last year, the videos purported to show the officials negotiating the sale of fetal tissue with people they believed to be medical researchers. As Planned Parenthood first protested, an investigation by later indicated, and a grand jury now affirms, the videos were deceptively edited. Tissue from aborted fetuses has been used in biomedical research since the 1930s to study everything from polio to Parkinson’s, and while the law prohibits its sale, the patient is allowed to donate it, and Planned Parenthood is allowed to recoup reasonable costs for preparation and transportation to supply it to scientists.

This is what the Planned Parenthood representatives were talking about. This is what the videos were edited to hide.

One is reminded of how, back in 2010, another activist used another deceptively-edited video to suggest that a speech by a black federal employee named Shirley Sherrod was proof of anti-white hatred. It turned out Sherrod’s speech actually made precisely the opposite point; she spoke of the need to overcome such hatred.

That video, like these, suggests that what we’re dealing with here is not “citizen journalists” — whatever that idiotic term even means — but activist zealots out to advance their agenda and embarrass their opponents by any means necessary, without regard to simple decency or plain old truth. Increasingly, that is the way of things.

So it’s welcome news that the two CPM hoaxers find themselves facing felony charges for allegedly using falsified driver’s licenses to identify themselves to Planned Parenthood. We are told that that constitutes fraud. In other words, Daleiden and Merritt were ensnared by the trap they set. Justice seldom gets more poetic.

Yes, lies have always moved faster than truth. But it feels good to see truth pull even every now and then.


By: Leonard Pitts, Jr., Columnist for The Miami Herald; The National Memo, January 31, 2016

February 2, 2016 Posted by | Fetal Tissue, Planned Parenthood, Women's Health | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Trouble With Bernie Sanders’s Revolution”: Little Chance Of Getting His Agenda Through Congress

We’ll know Monday night whether Bernie Sanders has taken the first step toward the revolution he has promised, but we can already say that his campaign has achieved stunning success, more than almost anyone thought was possible. Now that the voting is beginning and Democratic voters have to make their choice, we should take a good hard look at what Sanders wants to do and how he wants to do it. Whatever the results of the Iowa Caucuses, he’s a serious candidate, and his candidacy should be engaged on serious terms.

If there’s one word that Sanders uses more than any other when describing what he wants to do (other than “billionaires”), it would have to be “revolution.” He uses it in two different ways, both to describe the movement for change he wants to lead in the campaign, and the substantive change that movement will produce. So his revolution will both overthrow the old order and replace it with something new.

Even if Sanders began this race by trying to make a point, he’s now trying to win. So it’s worth taking the goals of his revolution, like single-payer health insurance, free college tuition, and a $15-an-hour minimum wage, and asking what the process will be between him being elected and those goals being achieved.

By now, Sanders has been asked the logical question—This is pretty ambitious stuff, how are you going to pass it through Congress?—many times. The answer he gives is always some version of Because this is going to be a revolution. In other words, his candidacy will so mobilize the American people that Congress will be forced to acquiesce to the public’s desire to see his agenda enacted.

But let’s get more specific than Sanders does. If his revolution is to succeed, it must do so through one of two paths:

  1. It elects so many Democrats that the party regains control of both the House and the Senate, and those Democrats support Sanders’s policy agenda with enough unanimity to overcome any opposition; or
  2. It so demonstrates the public demand for Sanders’s agenda that even congressional Republicans go along with it.

Start with Number 1. Let’s imagine Sanders is the Democratic nominee. What would it take for his coattails to deliver both houses back to Democratic control? Taking the Senate first. At the moment, a Democratic takeover looks difficult, but possible. The Republicans have a 54-46 advantage, and they are defending 24 seats this year, while Democrats are defending only ten (the imbalance is because the senators elected in the Republican sweep of 2010 are up for re-election). That looks great for Democrats, were it not for the fact that most of those seats are not competitive at all. No matter how revolutionary the Democratic candidate is, Republicans are still going to hold on in places like Idaho and Oklahoma. Most of the experts who follow these races obsessively (see here or here) rate only nine or ten of these races as even remotely competitive.

But it’s certainly possible that Democrats could sweep most of them and take back the Senate. What is not possible is for Democrats to win so many that they’d have the 60-seat margin necessary to overcome Republican filibusters. And there would be filibusters on  all of the items on President Sanders’s agenda. So on the Senate side, the revolution would seem to require both a Democratic sweep and a willingness of the Democrats to destroy the filibuster. Might they do that? Sure. Will they? Probably not.

But that’s not the biggest problem. The biggest problem is the House, where redistricting and a more efficient geographic allocation of voters (there’s an explanation of that here) have left Republicans with a structural advantage that will make it particularly hard in the near future for Democrats to take back control. The overwhelming majority of seats in the House are not at all competitive, with one party or the other all but guaranteed to win the seat no matter whom the party nominates for president. As election analysts Charlie Cook and David Wasserman recently noted, “Today, the Cook Polit­ic­al Re­port counts just 33 seats out of 435 as com­pet­it­ive, in­clud­ing 27 held by Re­pub­lic­ans and six held by Demo­crats. That means that even if Demo­crats swept every single com­pet­it­ive seat, they would still fall three seats short of a ma­jor­ity.”

That doesn’t mean it’s completely impossible for Bernie Sanders to win such a dramatic victory that he pulls in a Democratic House behind him, just that it’s very, very unlikely. And if it did happen, many of those newly elected Democrats would be from conservative districts. He’d have to not only hold their votes, but hold them on intensely controversial reforms. It might be worth remembering how hard it was for Barack Obama to keep Democrats together on things like the Affordable Care Act, which Sanders argues was a change that didn’t go nearly far enough.

That brings us to the second possibility for Sanders’s revolution, which he hints at without going into detail: that public support for his agenda will be so overwhelming that congressional Republicans, fearing for their political careers and helpless in the face of political reality, will have no choice but to get behind it.

There’s a reason Sanders doesn’t get too specific about the idea that Republicans will vote for things like single-payer health care: It’s absurd. No one who is even vaguely familiar with today’s Republican Party—a party that has grown more conservative with each passing year, and which has come to view any compromise with Democrats as a betrayal, no matter the substance of the issue in question—could think there are any circumstances short of an alien invasion that would make them support a Democratic president (and maybe not even then).

I’m sure some of Sanders’s more enthusiastic fans will say that in looking at his idea of a revolution this way, I’m either shilling for Hillary Clinton or I’m some kind of apologist for the the prevailing corporate-dominated order. I doubt I could convince them otherwise, though I will say that I’ve been extremely critical of Clinton on any number of issues for years, and I’ve been a strong supporter of single-payer health care for just as long. But whatever you think about Clinton or about the substance of Sanders’s ideas, the challenge of passing Sanders’s agenda remains the same.

One can also say, “Well, Hillary Clinton doesn’t have much of a plan for how she’ll get anything passed through Congress either.” And that would be true—she faces the same congressional problem, and Republicans will fight her more modest program with just as much energy and venom as they would Sanders’s. I have little doubt that if Clinton becomes president, much of what she’s now advocating will fall by the wayside, not because she isn’t sincere about it but because she won’t find a way to pass it. That’s a problem that she needs to address for Democratic voters, but it doesn’t change Sanders’s responsibility to address the practical difficulty his program presents.

Eight years ago, Barack Obama was elected on a campaign notable for its lofty rhetoric about hope and change. But his actual policy agenda was, if not modest, then certainly firmly in the mainstream. Among other things, he wanted to end the war in Iraq, use government spending to alleviate the misery of the Great Recession, and pass market-based health-care reform. None of these were radical ideas. But he had to fight like hell to pass them, in the face of a Republican Party that sincerely believed he was trying to destroy America with his socialist schemes.

Unlike Obama, Bernie Sanders is advocating radical change. Which means his revolution would face obstacles even greater than Obama did. It’s a long way from here to there.


By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect, February 1, 2016

February 2, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Democratic Presidential Primaries, Hillary Clinton | , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

“Change Takes Continuity”: Hillary Clinton Is The Change America Needs

Over the coming weeks and months, Democrats in caucuses and primaries around the country will choose between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders to be the party’s nominee. Some are now casting the decision as one between “continuity” and “change,” with Clinton representing a continuation of President Obama’s agenda and Sanders representing a shift toward the transformational change that escaped Obama.

This binary is completely false.

Ours is a historical era in which continuity and change are one and the same. Obama ended the wars of the George W. Bush administration, normalized relations with Cuba, and prevented the ascent of an Iran armed with nuclear weapons. In the last week alone, his administration declined to renew licenses to coal mining operations on federal lands, declared a ban on solitary confinement of minors in federal penitentiaries, and ordered police departments around the country to give back military surplus equipment being misused by law enforcement. And on Tuesday, news came of the White House preparing to issue an executive order that would require any firm doing business with the federal government — virtually all giant corporations — to disclose its campaign contributions.

We need more of the same. We need the unbroken continuation of Obama’s domestic and foreign policies to bring about the laws, rules, and regulations that advance progress. It may not be “transformational,” but real change is rarely that sexy. It may not feel all kumbaya, but politics almost never does.

Let’s remember the Democrats saved the economy, passed the Affordable Care Act, and reformed Wall Street — with nearly unanimous opposition from Congressional Republicans. Since 2010, we have seen more job growth since no one remembers. More Americans have health insurance. And, while it took a while, the Dodd-Frank financial reforms are now being felt.

That’s real change.

Yes, wages are not what they used to be, health care is still run by private insurance companies, and Wall Street still rakes in more money than God. But those are not reasons to break the chain of real progress. Change takes continuity.

Consider Bernie Sanders’ call for “Medicare for all.”

In the hours before the final Democratic debate, Sanders released a plan for creating a single-payer health care system of the kind found in rich European countries that have managed to keep costs down while ensuring the right of all citizens to access to quality health care. Ever since Obama proposed health care reform that kept intact the role of private health insurance companies, the Democratic Party’s left wing has demanded nothing short of “Medicare for all.”

That’s fine. Most left-liberals would prefer that. But it doesn’t represent change so much as wishful thinking.

Hillary Clinton was not, during the debate, just wrapping herself in Obama. She was speaking the truth: Democrats can’t go back and restart the fight over universal health care because they have no hope of winning. Now is the time, however, for policy reforms addressing rising costs, insurance exchanges, and private profit. Yes, this is change by a thousand tweaks, but it is still change.

Is there a risk in voting for Clinton? Yes, of course. You don’t really know what kind of president you’re getting until she’s elected. But Hillary Clinton may be the exception. She’s long been in the public eye. We know her strengths as well as her weaknesses. Most important, we know she can be forced to listen to progressive demands. That cannot be said of Republicans.

I like Bernie Sanders and would support him in another context, and I don’t personally like Hillary Clinton. But my dislike isn’t as important as my country transcending the long conservative malaise that began before I was born.


By: John Stoehr, The Week, January 29, 2016

February 2, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Democratic Primary Debates, Hillary Clinton | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Veterans Being Used As Props”: Trump Claims To Aid Veterans, But Is He The World’s Least Charitable Billionaire?

Donald Trump wants voters to believe that he cares deeply about veterans and proved it by skipping Thursday’s Republican debate to raise money for organizations serving them.

But the billionaire developer’s latest stunt was all about him and his feud with Fox News, not about helping those who served. While he did raise $6 million (including $1 million of his own money), those funds all went to the Donald J. Trump Foundation — a tax-exempt non-profit entity that generally gives barely $1 million a year to charity, let alone to veterans’ groups (the last time it disbursed more than a million dollars was in 2012). Indeed, Trump is reputed to be “the least charitable billionaire in the world.”

He donated $5.5 million between 2009 and 2013, a tiny drop in the bucket for a man who is apparently worth $4.5 billion. According to the latest filings available, his foundation donated only $540,000 in 2014 — with $100,000, a fifth of all donations, going to a group listed as “Citizens United.” If that is the same group whose Supreme Court litigation led to the legalization of limitless political campaign expenditures, it received 10 times the amount of money that the Green Beret Foundation, a charity that helps Green Berets when they return home, received from the Trump Foundation in 2014.

His foundation’s record validates claims by veterans groups that they were being used as props in Trump’s campaign to make him seem the victim of Fox News.

Paul Rieckhoff, the founder of the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, tweeted before the Trump fundraising event: “If offered, @IAVA will decline donations from Trump’s event. We need strong policies from candidates, not to be used for political stunts.” Founded in 2005, IAVA has more than 180,000 members and provides support for over 2.8 million veterans of the Afghanistan and Iraq conflicts, according to its website.

Trump’s foundation, for its part, released a list of the charities that will be receiving the money raised at his counter-programing event. It includes 22 veterans organizations from over a dozen states. But the campaign has not commented on how the groups were selected or how the money will be distributed. If the money is distributed evenly, each organization would stand to receive around $272,000.

By avoiding the last Republican debate before the Iowa primary, Trump sent a clear message to the Republican establishment. He doesn’t need their approval to win over voters.

But it isn’t clear Trump won that battle, even if the debate had the second lowest ratings in this election cycle. The presidential campaign has been going on for nearly a year, the debate was the seventh one for the Republican candidates and it was held on a weeknight. Those factors may explain the lower ratings — and more Americans tuned in for the debate than for Trump’s rival event.


By: Saif Alnuweiri, The National Memo, January 29, 2016

February 2, 2016 Posted by | Charitable Donations, Donald Trump, Veterans | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“When A Candidate Becomes A Media Darling”: Media Hype Creates Strange Expectations For Rubio

For much of Saturday, the political world was treated to the latest in a series of rounds of Marco Rubio Media Hype, featuring breathless stories about the senator’s “surge,” “momentum,” and inevitable “rise.” Credible new polling suggested the fawning coverage was misplaced, which curtailed the hype – for about an hour or two before it began anew.

This Politico piece, published yesterday, captured the oddity of the expectations surrounding the Florida senator’s prospects in Iowa, where the article claims Rubio “can lose to [Ted] Cruz on Monday and walk away looking like the winner.”

Somehow, against all the evidence, Rubio has successfully spun that he’s gunning only for third place here. In sharp contrast, Cruz’s campaign, touting its superior ground game, has openly pined for and predicted victory.

The result: In the closing hours before Monday’s caucuses, Iowa is suddenly fraught with risk for Cruz while Rubio, who sits comfortably in third in most public and private polling, is almost guaranteed to meet or beat diminished expectations.

My point is not to pick on Politico. On the contrary, this approach has quickly become the conventional wisdom across many news organizations and much of the political world.

What’s odd is why anyone would choose to see the race this way. When Politico says Team Rubio has “successfully spun … against all evidence,” it helps capture a curious dynamic: the media is effectively admitting that the media has come to believe something the media knows isn’t true, but will pretend is true anyway, for reasons no one wants to talk about.

As recently as mid-November – hardly ancient history – Rubio’s own campaign manager talked on the record about his belief that the senator might actually win the Iowa caucuses.

Barely two months later, however, we’re now supposed to believe that a third-place finish – which is to say, a loss – would be a great, momentum-creating triumph. It’s a claim that we’re all supposed to simply play along with, because the Hype Machine says so.

Coverage of campaigns can get downright weird when a candidate becomes a media darling.

For the record, I’m not saying Rubio will finish third; he might do significantly better. My point is we’re watching a silly “narrative” take root before voting even begins: a GOP candidate who expected to finish first in Iowa will have actually “won” if he comes in third, based on “spin” literally everyone involved recognizes as insincere nonsense.

There’s no reason to treat such assumptions as serious analysis.

Postscript: Just as an aside, if Rubio ends up doing very well in Iowa – or very well by the standards of pundits inclined to present the results in the most favorable light possible – future candidates may decide they don’t have to spend that much time in the Hawkeye State.

Remember, Rubio deliberately took a gamble on a risky path: fewer events, fewer on-the-ground staffers, a smaller field operation, more reliance on TV and packing in a bunch of appearances in the closing weeks. If that works for him, others will follow the example, and the Iowa caucuses may see some dramatic changes going forward.


By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, February 1, 2016

February 2, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Iowa Caucuses, Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz | , , , | Leave a comment

%d bloggers like this: