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“Undermining Democratic Turnout”: The Totally Legal Campaign To Steal 2016

The most striking facet of the Supreme Court’s decision to strike down Texas’ abortion law was how directly it confronted the obvious lie at the heart of the case.

Conservative lawmakers have enacted a sweeping flurry of abortion restrictions at the state level, and justified their policies with a supposed concern for women’s health. It’s such an obvious cover that when the court asked Texas’ lawyers to justify their arguments with empirical data, they had precisely bupkis. The point of these laws is to prevent abortion, women’s health be hanged.

An analogous situation is developing with respect to voting rights, where conservative legislators have also enacted a sweeping set of state-level regulations making it harder to vote and justified them with obvious nonsense about voter fraud. And it’s ready to pay off this year, especially in local elections.

The problem with voter ID laws — the signature conservative vote suppression measure — is that it’s aimed at the most idiotic possible method of stealing an election. Even a small local election is usually decided by hundreds if not thousands of votes, so in order to steal one with fraudulent individual votes, you’d have to get hundreds or thousands of people to commit a very serious felony — with no guarantee that it will actually swing the election.

As any tinpot dictator could tell you, the way to steal an election is by manipulating the central election procedure. Instead of wrangling thousands of random schlubs, you fiddle with the registration lists or the assignation of ballots — or you prevent the enemy party from voting in the first place.

Given the GOP’s other vote suppression measures — like shortening early voting, eliminating night and weekend voting, making it harder to register to vote, and so on, all of which have nothing to do with fraud but disproportionately hit liberal constituencies — undermining Democratic turnout is the obvious motivation behind voter ID and similar policies.

It’s always been unclear whether conservatives were being consciously deceptive about their motives, or had merely convinced themselves of tactically convenient nonsense by constant repetition. But at least some of them were outright lying. Ari Berman at The Nation has the goods, in an extensive report about how GOP vote suppression is paying dividends in Wisconsin:

Schultz asked his colleagues to consider not whether the bill would help the GOP, but how it would impact the voting rights of Wisconsinites. Then-State Senator Glenn Grothman cut him off: “What I’m concerned about is winning. We better get this done while we have the opportunity.” (When asked during the state’s April 5 primary why Republicans would carry Wisconsin in 2016, Grothman, who had since been elected to the U.S. Congress, replied: “Now we have photo ID.”) In a federal voting-rights case, Allbaugh named two other GOP senators who were “giddy” and “politically frothing at the mouth” over the bill. [The Nation]

Make no mistake, this is tantamount to election theft. But since the Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act in 2013, it is all probably legal, and even fairly above board given the number of Republicans who have been caught letting slip the bleeding obvious.

But legal or illegal, there is little difference between falsifying the results of an election and preventing the enemy party’s supporters from voting. Either way American citizens are deprived of their due right to the franchise. And while there is no general constitutional right to vote, given that African-Americans are the most reliable Democratic Party supporters, many of the vote suppression measures are racist in effect and probably in intention, and therefore arguably violations of the 15th Amendment.

None of this is particularly original. Republicans are the direct heirs to the Dixiecrat political tradition, and this batch of vote suppression is a weak echo of the methods by which African-Americans were prevented from voting in the Jim Crow South.

But until Congress can re-protect the franchise, the key question for the future will be whether the Supreme Court will revisit its previous view that the Voting Rights Act is largely outdated and unnecessary. Chief Justice John Roberts came to that view through a tremendous effort of willful ignorance — but subsequent events could not possibly have proved him wrong more decisively. The next time voting rights comes before the court, the need to defend the franchise will be difficult to ignore.

 

By: Ryan Cooper, The Week, July 5, 2016

July 12, 2016 Posted by | Abortion, Conservatives, Voting Rights, Women's Health | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Kasich Is Sometimes His Own Worst Enemy”: An Amateur, Especially When Talking To And About Women

In a year in which Republican voters have gravitated towards amateurs, John Kasich offers extensive political experience. The Ohio Republican has run two winning gubernatorial campaigns, which followed nine successful congressional campaigns and some state legislative races in one of the nation’s largest states. A rookie he isn’t.

And yet, Kasich has an unfortunate habit of sounding like an amateur, especially when talking to and about women. Slate’s Christina Cauterucci reported today:

At a Watertown, New York, town hall on Friday, John Kasich advised a female college student to steer clear of “parties where there’s a lot of alcohol” to keep from getting raped, assaulted, or sexually harassed.

His comment came after a first-year student from New York’s St. Lawrence University asked the GOP presidential candidate and Ohio governor, “What are you going to do in office as president to help me feel safer and more secure regarding sexual violence, harassment, and rape?”

The governor initially responded by talking about confidential reporting mechanisms and access to rape kits, before telling the young woman, “I’d also give you one bit of advice: Don’t go to parties where there’s a lot of alcohol.”

The problem with such a response should be obvious. If a woman goes to a gathering and gets assaulted, it’s insane to think it’s her fault for having gone to a party where people were drinking. The solution is for men to stop committing sex crimes; encouraging women to make different choices in their social habits badly misses the point.

As news of his comments spread, Kasich turned to Twitter to make clear his belief that “only one person is at fault in a sexual assault, and that’s the assailant.”

In the broader context, there are a couple of angles to keep in mind.

The first is that incidents like these keep coming up on the campaign trail. Remember the time Kasich asked a woman, unprompted, “Have you ever been on a diet?”

In October, a college student tried to ask Kasich a question about undocumented immigrants, but when the young woman raised her hand at a forum, the governor told her, “I don’t have any tickets for, you know, for Taylor Swift or anything.”

According to the report from the college newspaper, the Republican presidential candidate told another young woman at the event, “I’m sure you get invited to all of the parties.”

A few months later, Kasich told a Virginia audience that, during one of his early statehouse races, women “left their kitchens” to support him.

Remember, this guy has literally spent decades on the campaign trail, honing his communications skills with the public.

The other angle is that Kasich hasn’t just made insulting comments about women, the governor has taken a series of policy steps that undermine women’s health options as part of a conservative culture war.

I realize that in the GOP’s 2016 field, Kasich is seen as the “moderate” Republican with broad appeal, but given the circumstances, I’m afraid that probably says more about the govenror’s rivals than his own qualities.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, April 15, 2016

April 19, 2016 Posted by | John Kasich, Women, Women's Health | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Donald Trump Is Dangerous To Women”: In His Vision Of America, Women Have No Rights

There is perhaps no one in recent American political history who has outdone expectations as drastically as Donald Trump.

I do not mean this as a compliment. What I mean is that even as we have come to expect Donald Trump to say and be the absolute worst—to burrow beneath what previously seemed to be the garbage-strewn bottom—he continues to unashamedly dive to once unthinkable depths, outdistancing even the scavengers and bottom-feeders who preceded him.

An example of this occurred on Wednesday, when Trump stated that as president he would seek not only to ban abortion, but also to ensure that women who illegally obtained them should face “some kind of punishment.” Perhaps because the notion of criminalizing abortion and then exacting some kind of twisted revenge on women goes beyond even the rhetoric of the far-right anti-choice crowd, interviewer Chris Matthews gave Trump a chance to clarify his remarks.

“For the woman?” Matthews asked.

“Yeah. There has to be some form [of punishment],” Trump replied.

This is a man who has built his political—and if we go back even further, his public—brand on sexualizing, degrading, insulting and vocally and enthusiastically hating women. He makes jokes about newswomen being on their periods, about a fellow candidate’s wife being ugly. He has said countless terrible things about many, many prominent women. And in kind, his supporters dedicate time at rallies to violently shoving teenage girls, to allegedly groping and macing them in the face. Even his campaign manager allegedly physically attacked a reporter for doing her job.

And yet, Trump still finds a way to be worse, to keep digging beyond this.

A few days ago, one of Trump’s key advisers—a woman named Stephanie Cegielski—resigned. On her way out, she wrote an open letter that essentially accused Trump of being a know-nothing, power-hungry blowhard (I’m paraphrasing) whose entire persona may be contrived. Maybe that means Trump is not the misogynist (racist, xenophobic, Islamophobic, nativist, transphobe) he plays on TV, or on the campaign trail. Maybe it’s all just talk to win hardened, bitter hearts and minds, which he only wants because his lust for power can never be quenched.

Yeah, maybe. I honestly don’t know if Trump hates women, and frankly, at this point, I don’t care. None of us, at this point, should give a shit about Trump’s personal psychology. That’s a problem for his shrink, who can never be paid enough.

What’s more important is the fact that Trump either believes or plays to the most misogynist elements of this country, the consequences of which are very real. When asked about issues of importance, from women’s reproductive rights to whether he’s down with the KKK, he says yes and later sort of says no, a way of cynically playing both sides of the fence to be sure he doesn’t alienate those who see themselves in the mirror of his terribleness. (Case in point: His backpedaling on Wednesday’s remarks.) He stokes anger and hatred toward women and then stands back and watches as his crowd, who were pretty hateful to being with, has their worst ideas of women confirmed and even applauded. He revels in their bile and ignorance, offering a safe space to be a woman-hating asshole whose every problem would be solved if only feminism and Black Lives Matter would go away.

With his latest remarks, Trump is advocating for an America where women have no agency over their bodies; where dangerous back-alley abortions are once again the norm; and where the health of women—especially those who have the gall to have sex—is inconsequential. A United States where women are mostly seen (if they are pretty), but heard only when they’re saying what men want to hear. Poor women, women of color and LGBT women would be even more disenfranchised and invisible. Trump is helping guide us toward being a country where violence against women is okay, in both word and deed. It’s disgusting and frightening. And it’s not that far from being a reality.

Donald Trump stopped being funny a long time ago, but the Woman Hater’s Club he’s built will, I’m certain, find all new ways to be horrible. Be outraged, be angry, make fun of Trump’s supporters, but know that won’t stop him. We’re long past that point. Don’t just stand on the sidelines and ridicule him. Trump’s medieval America is too dangerous and backward just to watch happen.

 

By: Kali Holloway, Senior Writer and Associate Editor of Media and Culture, AlterNet, March 30, 2016

April 1, 2016 Posted by | Abortion, Donald Trump, Violence Against Women, Women's Health | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Ohio’s Kasich Slashes Planned Parenthood Funding”: Eager To Curry Favor With His Party’s Far-Right Base

As the field of Republican presidential candidate shrinks to just five people, John Kasich has adopted a rather specific posture: he’s the grown-up in the room. The rest of the field includes two first-term senators and two political amateurs, leaving the Ohio governor as the only candidate stressing qualities such as executive experience, governing skills, and pragmatism.

And that makes perfect sense given the circumstances. Kasich can’t be as right-wing as his rivals; he can’t be as unhinged as his rivals; and he certainly can’t avoid the “career politician” label. Looking for an opening, the Republican governor has decided to present himself as a more mainstream, and more electable, conservative.

In the five-person GOP field, that leaves Kasich as the last option for the party’s remaining “moderate” voters. But let’s not mistake perceptions for reality. As we were reminded over the weekend, the Ohio Republican may be playing the role of 2016 pragmatist, but that doesn’t make him an actual moderate.

Republican presidential hopeful and Ohio Gov. John Kasich on Sunday signed a bill that aims to strip funding from Planned Parenthood in the state. […] After Kasich came in a strong second place in the New Hampshire primary, the Republican assembly in Ohio passed legislation that targets about $1.3 million in funding for Planned Parenthood in the state.

That money helps support screenings for breast cancer, STD testing, programs working to prevent violence against women, and more.

Remember, we’re not talking about public funding of abortions, which is already largely prohibited. Rather, state lawmakers passed a measure to block “any entity that performs or promotes nontherapeutic abortions” from receiving funds for women’s health treatments that have nothing to do with terminating pregnancies.

And Kasich, eager to curry favor with his party’s far-right base, eagerly signed the bill into law.

The NBC affiliate in Columbus reported that Planned Parenthood’s work in Ohio will continue, “but its community health programs would be cut. The group says programs targeted in the bill helped Planned Parenthood in the last year to provide more than 47,000 STD tests and 3,600 HIV tests to Ohioans, serve nearly 2,800 new or expectant mothers, and inform young people and women about healthy relationships.”

In other words, in practical terms, John Kasich decided to slash services for thousands of Ohio women, for no substantive reason, with a simple stroke of his pen. The public will pay a steep price because the governor wants to advance his ambitions.

This is what passes for “moderation” among GOP presidential candidates in 2016.

Disclosure: My wife works for Planned Parenthood, but she played no role in this piece, and her work is unrelated to the organization’s affiliates in Ohio.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, February 23, 2016

February 24, 2016 Posted by | GOP Primaries, John Kasich, Planned Parenthood, Women's Health | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“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 FactCheck.org 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

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