Tuesday, July 14, 2015

To Disincentivize Dishonesty, Planned Parenthood Should Sue

Right-wing activists released a video today dishonestly claiming that Planned Parenthood is "selling body parts" of aborted fetuses in violation of federal law. You can watch the dishonest video here and the full footage here. In the deliberately deceptive video, the video editors repeatedly refer to laws banning the sale of organs from aborted fetuses and refer to one of the undercover people as the "buyer," suggesting that they were planning a transaction with Planned Parenthood and started a twitter hashtag #ppsellsbabyparts.

However, in the full video, the faux "buyer" actually says, regarding the purpose of the meeting,  (2:27) "I wanna pick your brain..." which suggests an informal conversation rather than any plans for a transaction.  And at (4:22) the "buyer" says "I'd really like to connect with people who...they don't know that we're out there" which again clearly suggests that they are not asking Planned Parenthood to sell body parts. At no point in the video does the Planned Parenthood employee suggest that they are open to selling body parts.

Moreover, in the video, Dr. Nucatola of Planned Parenthood makes it very clear that Planned Parenthood providers are not going to be making money off of these procedures. Here's what she says at the 5:00 mark:
 Every provider has had patients who want to donate their tissue, and they absolutely want to accommodate them...they just want to do it in a way that is not perceived as 'this clinic is selling tissue. this clinic is making money off of this.' I know in the Planned Parenthood World, for example, they're very very sensitive to that and for an affiliate that's going to do that, they need to...some might do it for free...[but] they want to come to a number where it doesn't look like they're making money.  They want to come to a number that looks like it is a reasonable effort for the effort that is allotted on their part.
And during a longer conversation at the end (2:22:26-2:27:00 ), you can see that the phonies are trying to push payments, and Dr. Nucatola is giving them the message that aside from not losing money, the clinics will not do the procedures in exchange for money.  She says, at various times:

  • 2:22:26: "At the end of the day, if you're going to take money out of the equation, which is what most affiliates are trying to do, how can we do this for you in the most beneficial way"
  • 2:24:52 "Anything you can do to explain who's benefitting, the benevolence of what they're doing, I think that holds as much value as any cash prize." 
  • 2:26:00 "Perhaps the difference is affiliates are looking to benefit in very different ways than just dollars and cents. Again, they're not going to do it in a way that costs them money. They want to break even. They want to be compensated for time and space and whatever impact that it has."

In fact, just to underlie how willfully dishonest the "Center for Medical Progress" is being, both of the "buyers" acknowledge in the video that Planned Parenthood is not selling tissue.

  • Buyer #1 (1:29:05): "I never see that. I don't look at it that way.  We're not selling tissue."
  • Buyer #2 (1:29:29): "The researchers are paying for procurement...they're not buying a brain."

Gawker explains the covering of expenses in more detail:
Except that, as Planned Parenthood told The Hill, its affiliates “can legally receive reimbursement from a tissue donation procedure for the ‘additional expenses related tissue donation, which can vary based on individual circumstance,’ but it does not go to staff members or providers.” These “additional expenses” might be the $10-30 it costs to transport the tissue being donated, which Planned Parenthood notes is “standard across the medical field.” And no, the patient donating the tissue doesn’t receive any financial reimbursement either.
The "Center for Medical Progress," the group behind this video, was clearly being intentionally dishonest in implying that Planned Parenthood was "selling body parts" in violation of federal law.  Planned Parenthood should sue them for everything they're worth, and should find out through the process of discovery who else was involved in this dishonest campaign.  If our legal system is even remotely adequate, this type of nonsense should be punishable to an extent that makes it clear that these dishonest tactics are not worth it.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Right-Wing Bloggers Gloriously Prove They Have No Idea How Elections Work

We all know the tea party used to go to great lengths to exaggerate the size of crowds at their events.  But even so, they were at least capable of drawing something that could legitimately be called a crowd.  That no longer seems to be the case.  Mike Flynn, a co-founder of Breitbart, ran a "campaign" for disgraced Republican Congressman Aaron Schock's vacated seat, and one of his big events was a "Flags and Fun" rally featuring Jim Hoft in the same Quincy Illinois park that had hosted several large tea party events in the past.  This time around, they couldn't even draw 50 people:

What's more, the right-wing blogosphere went all in for Flynn.  Breitbart.com, of course, wrote numerous articles attacking his primary opponent LaHood (often, unsurprisingly, without noting the conflict of interest), but that was just the tip of the iceberg.  Many (most?) rightwing bloggers billed this as an epic battle between the "grassroots" and the establishment.  And guess what?  The establishment, aka LaHood, won the primary by over 40% of the vote.  It was an absolute landslide.  It was almost as if conservative bloggers were trying to prove that they are completely beholden to the whims of the establishment GOP.  When they're not being actively propped up by Americans for Prosperity, or Fox News, or the health insurance or coal industries, they really have no ability to make much of a difference in elections, even in deep red districts like Illinois 18.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

What are they up to now? Gateway Pundit Edition

Remember Jim Hoft, aka Gateway Pundit, who has repeatedly promoted white supremacist websites including the Council of Conservative Citizens, especially for their "black on white" crime stories (even long after being called out by mainstream media outlets), who deletes comments from liberals at his website but leaves up comments calling black people the n-wordanimals, and crackheads, and who claims that the NAACP are "the real racists."  What has he been up to?

Sadly, even in the wake of the horrific Charleston shootings perpetuated by a deranged racist, Hoft continues to allow his website to be a hub for internet racists.  Here is a sample of blatantly racist comments on The Gateway Pundit Facebook page *after* the shooting (there are plenty more from the week before as well):

WARNING: Offensive content below


You'd like to think that there are life events that are so tragic, so momentous that they can get even people like Jim Hoft to stop for a moment and reconsider whether they really should be using their websites to flame white racal resentment.  Unfortunately, there's not much evidence to support that hope. 

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

What are they up to now? John Burns Edition

Remember John Burns, the guy who teamed up with James O'Keefe to falsely accuse Washington University of oppressing free speech, then tried to sabotage a marriage equality rally, then heroically lost a public transportation ballot initiative in humiliating fashion by claiming the Republican Mayor of Chesterfield personally ordered police to shut down a tea party protest, oh, and who helped O'Keefe come up with a plan to sexually humiliate a CNN reporter?

What's he been up to?

He's been lawyerin for Chuck C. Johnson, that's what!

Thursday, May 14, 2015

The John Diehl Fiasco Was Not An Isolated Incident

Missouri House Speaker John Diehl resigned today after getting caught sexting with a 19-year old intern.  However, I think it's important to note that, at least according to quite a few people who have worked in Jefferson City, this is not an outlier in the Missouri Legislature.  Since I haven't seen this anywhere else, I thought it might be helpful to collect some examples of public comments made about this.

First, just to show this isn't a recent development, here's what Senator McCaskill wrote about her time as an intern back in 1974:
“It was the first time I experienced moments of being very uncomfortable as a young woman surrounded by lots of men,” McCaskill writes. “There were inappropriate things said to me and inappropriate behaviors that made me very uneasy.”
Part of her gopher activities included running errands to the upper floors of the Capitol:
“One day I ended up in the elevator with two older male legislators and one of their assistants. They began asking if I liked ‘to party’ and then tried to get me to come to one of their offices for some drinks. I felt trapped. For the rest of the internship, I took the stairs.”
In 2009, State Senator Joan Bray gave an impassioned speech during a fillibuster that pissed off many of her Republican colleagues.  Here's an excerpt:
I am sick of the disrespect for women who come to the Capitol defending a woman's legal right to choose an abortion.
I am sick that they're being treated dismissively and rudely.
I'm sick of the ethic around here that men are pro-life for their wives and pro-choice for their girlfriends.
In response to the Diehl story, one woman I know who was previously an intern in Jefferson City wrote on Facebook that "today's news does not surprise me at all."  Another woman with first hand experience wrote that Missouri Republicans have, "zero respect shown for young women," and added that she heard a male Missouri legislator call Bray a "c#nt" during her filibuster, causing two other male legislators to laugh.

Another commenter on Facebook mentioned that Rich Chrismer, when he was a Missouri Representative, commented to her that he had a "very good sex life" (without specifying with whom).  Chrismer recently settled a sexual harrasment lawsuit filed by three former workers in his capacity as the elections director of St. Charles County.

Of course there's the sordid tale of Rod Jetton who plead guilty of assault after "he struck a woman in the face and choked her before and during sex at her Sikeston, Mo., home in November 2009." 

Read more here: http://www.kansascity.com/news/government-politics/article20842023.html#storylink=cpy
Tony Messenger, in an excellent editorial about the Diehl episode and the broader disaster of the Missouri Legislature, mentioned an incident in which Diehl's predecessor Scott Muschany was busted having an affair with a Mid-Missouri woman and accused of forcing her 14 year old daughter to inappropriately touch him (he was found not guilty of the crime). 

And, so you don't think this is only Democrats claiming that there's a problem, former Republican State Senator John Lamping had the following comments about the Diehl story in the Kansas City Star:
Former Missouri state Sen. John Lamping, a Republican from suburban St. Louis, said the texts suggest an unacceptable political environment in the state Capitol.
“This epitomizes the culture in Jeff City,” he said. “This is what happens. … This is a high-profile, apparently well-documented circumstance, but it is not an isolated incident. It is standard procedure. It’s remarkable.”
And Lamping later said the following on Mark Reardon's radio show:
This epitomizes the behavior down there [in the capitol] and it's a bipartison set of behavior...A lot of people get into office and are very comfortable with what their status will be, and then...there's too many people who don't just go back to their homes at the end of the session and they're out and about and circumstances like this happen and they happen far too frequently, certainly, more than they ever should.
A coalition of Missouri legislators also circulated a petition today stating the following:
Dozens of talented and hard-working young people serve as interns in the Missouri Capitol each year, and they play an important role in legislative operations.  We must ensure them a safe environment to work and learn free from the inappropriate attentions of elected officials.
With all of that smoke, I think we can be pretty sure there's a fire.  Hopefully, the Diehl incident provides the necessary spark to reform the frat culture of the Missouri Legislature.  People, even hypocritical Bible-thumpers, should be allowed to do whatever they want in their free time as long as they're not hurting anyone else.  But when they create an atmosphere that systematically demeans and devalues women, the situation needs to change.