The Watering Hole, 1/11/17: Making America Great Again, Part 1

In reviewing the latest draft bill to repeal Obamacare, defund Planned Parenthood, cut taxes for the top 1%, shift Medicaid expenses to the States and privatize Medicare, this author came across a provision that has, as yet, to receive any attention from the mainstream media.

The bill calls for mandatory sterilization of all children born in the United States. However, parents can avoid having their children sterilized by paying a fee that reflects the costs to society for raising that child. The fee is based on the parents’ socio-economic status, and ranges from $0.00 to over $400,000.

Low income and minority parents pay the fees at the upper end, because research conclusively establishes it costs society more to raise their children. They tend to rely on Medicaid for medical expenses; food stamps to feed their children; their children attend public schools and more frequently are incarcerated. On the other hand, affluent parents’ children attend private schools, have health insurance, and have lower incarceration rates.

Since this is pushed through in a budget reconciliation bill, it cannot be filibustered. Sources close to Trump indicate he will sign the bill the minute it hits his desk.

OPEN THREAD

The Watering Hole, Monday, November, 21st, 2016: Pseudo-Religious Jackassery

A few odds and ends from the Christian Post to start the week.

Here we go again: Since Republicans cannot accept all of the other investigations that proved Planned Parenthood innocent of whatever wrongdoing du jour they’ve been charged with, now they’re trying again.

As noted Wednesday by USA Today**, the U.S. House Committee on House Administration voted to approve $800,000 in additional funds for the Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives[sic*] for their investigation of Planned Parenthood. The 14-member panel, headed by Tennessee Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn, was formed last summer after the Center for Medical Progress released a series of gut-wrenching videos*** showing senior Planned Parenthood officials negotiating over the prices of fetal body parts from aborted babies.

*”Infant Lives” is, obviously, a complete and deliberately misleading misnomer.

**Excerpt from the USA Today article:

“Over the objection of Democrats, the House Committee on Administration voted Wednesday to approve an additional $800,000 for the Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives. The money is in addition to the panel’s previously approved $790,000 budget and puts it on track to spend more than $1.5 million by the end of the year.”

***Investigations which arose out of the videos, which purportedly showed PP to be illegally selling fetal tissue, consistently ruled in favor of Planned Parenthood. The investigation in Texas not only cleared PP, but charged the filmmakers with criminal activity, including a felony, although one misdemeanor charge was later dropped. Annoyingly, the felony charge was also later dismissed, more-or-less due to a court technicality. Despite that:

“Officials in Arizona, Florida, Ohio, Georgia and nine other states investigated the claims made in the videos that Planned Parenthood had profited illegally from sales of fetal tissue, and cleared the group of any wrongdoing. Officials in eight other states, including California and Colorado, declined to investigate, according to Planned Parenthood.”

So, just another example of Republicans wasting money and time on yet another investigation of something that has been investigated, in this instance by at least thirteen States, including several conservative southern ones.

In a lighter, nay, more ridiculous vein, enjoy – or be nauseated by – “What Was the Role of Prophecy in 2016 Election?”:

“…Franklin Graham said the media in particular missed the “God-factor” regarding the outcome of the election.

“Hundreds of thousands of Christians from across the United States have been praying. This year they came out to every state capitol to pray for this election and for the future of America. Prayer groups were started. Families prayed. Churches prayed. Then Christians went to the polls, and God showed up,” Graham said.”

Pastor Paula White also reveled that she fasted and prayed, and had concluded that Trump would win, CP reported last week.

Last year, a man named Jeremiah Johnson of Behold the Man Ministries in Lakeland, Florida, said that God had shown him during prayer that Trump was raised up like a Cyrus and would be “[God’s] trumpet to the American people.”

Last, in the “laughable if it weren’t real” category, we’ve got…wait for it…alt-right racist Steve Bannon’s first interview with that bastion of political reporting, the Hollywood Reporter. How’s that for a serious, dignified start for one who is (gulp) going to be whispering evil nothings like Wormtongue into Trump’s ear? Just one brief excerpt:

“Bannon praised Trump. “You have probably the greatest orator since William Jennings Bryan, coupled with an economic populist message…”

BWAHAHAHAHA!

This is our Open Thread – feel free to discuss what you wish.

The Watering Hole, Saturday, December 5, 2015: How Much Is Too Much?

If you’re reading these words, then you have access to the internets. And if you have access to that wonderful “series of tubes” then you know it happened again. Several times, in fact. Another mass shooting (the worst in America since Sandy Hook, which actually happened, so don’t try to convince me otherwise) that left more than a dozen people dead, following a mass shooting at a Planned Parenthood facility in CO. Why did these shootings happen? Quite frankly, who cares? Two of these latest shootings, one in Colorado Springs, CO, and the other in San Bernardino, CA, were motivated by religious extremism, though you couldn’t be blamed for not knowing that based on the coverage in the MSM. But they were. One killer was motivated by his extreme Christian beliefs, and the other killers were motivated by their extreme Islamic beliefs. Of course, now that we learned one of the killers in CA had pledged allegiance to ISIS on her Facebook page, the talk has been about Muslim extremists but not Christian ones. (It should be noted that while ISIS thanked her for her support, they did not claim any responsibility for the murders.) And while Colorado Springs police have not officially released a motive for the killings there, there is ample reason to believe that he was motivated by his own extreme Christian beliefs. And not just those, but on lies promoted by right wing media and politicians regarding the doctored videos about Planned Parenthood and the lies told about fetal tissue and “baby parts.” (Please, if you’re conservative, don’t waste my time trying to convince me the videos were 100% legitimate and truthful. They were nothing of the sort.) But regardless of the motives of the killers, the real cause of the problem is being ignored by most of the MSM: the proliferation of guns and the ease with which they can be acquired, even by people the law says shouldn’t have one.

No matter when it happened, no matter where it happened, and no matter why it happened, every single instance of gun violence in this country has had one and only one thing in common: A gun. Sometimes more than one. We keep wondering why somebody would pick up a gun and kill people, but we never admit that had it not been so easy to acquire guns, many of these killings (I would even say most) would never have occurred. Guns are dangerous things. Let me repeat that: Guns are dangerous things. Anyone who tries to say that isn’t true is deluding himself, and denying some simple facts. One of the main reasons guns are dangerous is that they allow you to harm or kill someone else without having to put yourself in close proximity to that person. If you had to actually get close to someone to stab them, you would be less likely to do that than you would to use means that didn’t require you to get close to your intended victim. That is not to say nobody ever gets stabbed, and only an idiot would think I’m implying that. But how brave are you? If someone wants to harm you, would you prefer getting up close to that person to try to thwart off the attack, or would you prefer some means of stopping (or harming in anyway) that person while not having to get up close? My guess is, given a choice, most people would prefer to not have to get up close to their attacker. A gun removes that danger to yourself. You can shoot your attacker from across the room with less chance of being harmed yourself in the process. And if you’re crazed with anger (or some other emotion, perhaps a deep abiding love for the particular god you worship), you are more likely to act without thinking. All the more reason it’s dangerous for you to have access to a gun anytime you want. You can look at it another way. Would the world be a safer place or a more dangerous place if every country had the means to launch nuclear weapons at another nation, even one halfway around the world? If you think it would be safer, you can stop reading this blog now, Archie Bunker.

If you still want to think guns are not dangerous, ask yourself this: Since we train our fantastic Marine Corps to be lean, mean, fighting machines capable of killing with their bare hands, why do we issue them guns when we send them off to war? If guns aren’t dangerous, why are they a vital component of war? And don’t say they’re just tools, like the knives, grenades and other weapons we hand them. They are deadly tools that can kill. If guns aren’t dangerous, why is it considered criminal negligence to leave a loaded gun where a small child could pick it up? If guns aren’t dangerous, why aren’t you allowed to carry one on board a plane with you (as Archie thinks you should)? If guns aren’t dangerous, why are people getting killed and seriously injured by children and dogs who manage to get their hands and paws on one? Please, if you like having a gun, admit the truth. You like it because it’s power. You can kill someone with it. I’m not suggesting you would, although I am suggesting that there are definitely people out there who would kill if they thought they could get away with it. And there are people out there who have killed because they thought they could get away with it. And in many of those cases, I’m positive the only reason someone ended up dead is because a gun was easily available to do the job. How many more people have to die just because we can’t get over this insane obsession with these murderous devices? How many are too many? How much gun violence in this country is too much?

Don’t put words in my mouth. Passionate gun owners (who lack compassion) have tried to twist my suggestions into saying we should take away all the guns in this country. I’m not opposed to that, but I’m not suggesting it, either. The first thing to recognize is that there are WAY too many guns in the United States. By some estimates, there are more guns in the US than there are people (legal citizens or not), and despite this, there are still about 6 million guns manufactured in the US per year (and about half that number imported on top of that.) Why is this? What good does it do? About 82 people die by firearms every day in America. Even if you subtract the third that took their own lives with a gun, that’s still more than one firearm death every 30 minutes. (And, no, the police aren’t doing all of them, but they are doing way too many of them. That can be the subject of another post.) I often hear gun supporters counter that many gun homicides are committed in cities or states with tough gun control laws. What these folks often ignore (deliberately) is that the guns weren’t being obtained in the places with strict gun control laws, but often from states with very lax laws (like Virginia.) If you’re going to argue that strict gun control laws do nothing to solve the problem, are you also going to say that lax gun laws have nothing to do with the problem, either? But regardless of whether or not the state has lax gun laws, it remains a fact that if the guns were not there to be gotten in the first place, fewer people would die by gun violence each year. How can that be addressed? Simple: tax the manufacture (or import) of guns. Not the sale, but the manufacture. The tax burden would fall totally on the gun manufacturer. Obviously they would pass this cost onto the purchaser, but that’s to be expected. If your gun now costs $5,000 more because the maker had to pay a tax to make it, you’ll think twice about buying a gun for which you very likely have no need. If the gun manufacturer later declares that some of the guns they made were destroyed, then they can get a tax rebate for them. But the key is to tax the gun as it is made. Otherwise they’ll just fund a way to dump them on the streets and the problem continues. Nobody (and especially no corporation) has a right to make guns, just to own them. So we can pass all kinds of laws related to the manufacture of guns, why not include that extra tax while we’re at it? That way the gun makers will have much less incentive to over-manufacture guns, and fewer guns would be available for people to buy. Maybe there are flaws to this plan, but since I don’t look at the issue form the perspective that you have a right to have any kind of gun you want, made by anybody you want, I’m probably seeing fewer flaws in this plan than you. And notice I said nothing about the guns that are already out there. But if you’re opposed to any kind of gun regulation in this country, then answer this: How many more people have to die by gunfire before you decide it’s too many? How much more gun violence do we have to endure? How much is too much?

This is our daily open thread. Talk about whatever you wish.

The Watering Hole, Monday, November 30, 2015: And The Right Just Keeps On Lying

This past Friday, a lunatic with a gun he no doubt purchased legally opened fire outside a Planned Parenthood facility in Colorado Springs, CO, killing three people, including a police officer responding to reports of shots fired at the clinic. From the beginning, the Right began lying about what happened and why it happened. They tried to say it had nothing to do with Planned Parenthood or abortion, and that the shooter just happened to pick that nearby building to take cover. That was not true. The entire incident took place at the Planned Parenthood facility. They tried to say it started out as a bank robbery, but that was also untrue. The shooter started shooting at Planned Parenthood and when police cars started arriving on the scene, he started shooting at them. As some took cover behind a nearby Chase bank, the shooter took shots at them. That’s how the bank robbery lie started. After he was arrested and identified, the Right tried to claim the shooter was transgendered, and a Leftist (they love using that word, “Leftist.” It’s so close to calling us “Communists” and, as we all know, Communism is Pure Evil. And since “Leftist” sounds like “Communist,” that leans Leftists must be evil, too. See how easy it is to be a Conservative? No thinking required.) The same voter registration form from which they determined he used to be female (it was an obvious typo) also listed his party affiliation as Unaffiliated. As for why he did it, the police have not released any official determination, but it has been widely repeated in the media that one cop said the shooter had muttered something about “no more baby parts” as he was being led into custody. This would appear to be a reference to the debunked videos which were purported by their publishers to show Planned Parenthood personnel negotiating the sale of human fetal tissue, but which actually, showed no such thing at all due to their being deceptively edited.

And yet the Right refuses to acknowledge that fact. Just yesterday morning, Chris Wallace of Fox News Sunday allowed Carly Fiorina to further the false claim that the videos were legitimate and showed that Planned parenthood was selling baby parts. She also lied and said that they announced they would stop selling fetal tissues which would imply that they were doing so before. Again, a lie. What Planned Parenthood actually said was that they would no longer accept reimbursement for the costs of providing the tissue for medical research, which is all they were accepting money for in the first place. But Wallace just let Fiorina lie as if it was of no consequence. Even the Fox News article to which I just linked is in denial about the videos:

The attack thrust the clinic to the center of the ongoing debate over Planned Parenthood, which was reignited in July when anti-abortion activists released undercover video they said showed the organization’s personnel negotiating the sale of fetal organs.

I suppose you could say that, technically, there isn’t anything untrue about what they wrote, other than that it’s incomplete and makes no mention of them being deceptively edited. But because of that deception, there are people believing exactly what the video producers wanted them to believe – that Planned Parenthood was aborting fetuses for the purpose of selling off the body parts for profit. What other purpose would there be to making the videos?

What’s worse is that it’s impossible to deny that someone violently opposed to abortion might use that misinformation as justification to start shooting people at a clinic where abortions might be performed (though in much, much smaller numbers than the person believing the first lie might think true.) Liberals tend not to use violence against people to protest their views, but Conservatives have been known to do it many, many times in this country’s history. If heard and reported accurately, the reference the shooter made to “baby parts” is a direct reference to the doctored videos, which means the people who made those videos, as well as the media organizations that promoted them as undisputed fact, and even including the presidential candidates who intentionally lied about the videos’ content, share responsibility for the murders those videos incited. They can’t have it both ways. They can’t deliberately manipulate peoples’ emotions in a way certain to drive them to anger, and them claim no responsibility when they act on that anger and good people die. This can’t be allowed.

Nor can it be allowed that we not discuss how easy it is for such gun violence to happen in the first place. The gun supporters say there isn’t anything you can do about that, but there is. And it’s perfectly constitutional. You can tax the manufacture of guns. Put a $5,000 or even a $25,000 non-refundable tax on the manufacture of every handgun. The gun manufacturers would pay this tax as soon as they make the gun, and not when they sell it. This is perfectly legal and perfectly constitutional. Part of the problem has been that gun makers made excessive amounts of guns and then have to find ways to dump them off somewhere. And they know they can, so there’s no real downside to over-manufacturing. Unless you have to pay to do it and may never recover the taxes you pay to make the guns. No, it doesn’t solve the problem entirely, but it makes a lot of it go away. And that’s reason enough to try. Conservatives won’t see it that way. They’ll find some ridiculous reason based on the concept that this won’t stop all gun violence, and wouldn’t have stopped the Colorado shooting, so why bother? That’s why conservatives are part of the problem.

This is our daily open thread. Have fun with it.

The Watering Hole, Saturday, November 28th, 2015: Planned Parenthood Under Attack

Planned Parenthood is always under some kind of attack, whether by the religious-right forced-birthers protesting outside PP offices, or by the Republican-led legislature’s ginned-up witch hunts about fetal tissue, or by the many states’ impositions of prohibitively strict restrictions on both clinics and patients. This time, however, the attack was physical, violent, and deadly.

"Sneak Preview" of cover of Denver Post for Saturday, 11/28/15 (from Twitter)

“Sneak Preview” of cover of Denver Post for Saturday, 11/28/15 (from Twitter)

It’s nearly 3:30am Eastern Time as I’m typing this, and right now the most up-to-date information seems to be from the Denver Post. They’ve assembled a timeline of the more than five-hour shooting/standoff here. A third Denver Post article paints a more vivid picture of the unfolding situation, including this tidbit that I haven’t seen anywhere else:

“At roughly 12:15, the gunman went inside Planned Parenthood and began firing out the windows at propane tanks placed around the clinic’s parking lot, an officer told dispatch over his radio.”

Now, other articles mentioned that the police were sorting through several items that the suspect had brought with him, including mention of ‘a propane tank.’ Nothing about more than one tank, or that any were “placed around the clinic’s parking lot” – but that could explain why most articles say the shooting started outside the Planned Parenthood offices, in the parking lot. Supposedly [it was reported somewhere, I forget where] the suspect had been shooting at cars passing by, possibly if any of the drivers noticed what he was doing. But I’m just speculating here, which I shouldn’t be doing. That, apparently, is the job of the TV ‘news’ media. We turned on the TV after we initially read about the shooting as it was happening, but turned it off again after hearing some of the inane questions and ‘we-don’t-want-to-speculate-but-we-have-to’ bumbling.

Of course there will be much more information available by the time I wake up later this morning–hell, probably even by the time I finish writing this. So I’m definitely not going to speculate about the shooting suspect’s motive(s), or his religion, or his political persuasion; when the information comes out, I’m sure there will be much ranting to follow. I just need to get this one little rant off my chest before I finally go to bed:

Back in September, Illinois Republican Rep. Adam Kinzinger had spoken about the now-debunked videos purportedly showing PP “harvesting” fetal tissue for fun and profit:

“I mean it’s Nazi Germany,” he told Rockford radio station WROK recently. “You think of the doctors in the concentration camps experimenting on their victims. It’s kind of reminiscent of that.”

The fact that the ‘smoking-gun’ videos were proven to be fraudulent didn’t deter Kinzinger from throwing them up again, with amazingly tone-deaf, brain-dead timing. From one of the ThinkProgress articles covering the shooting:

“While the shooter was active inside the Planned Parenthood clinic, Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) went on live TV and blasted the organization. “We saw these barbaric videos, and that was something that many of us have a legitimate concern about,” Kinzinger said.”

Yes. He said that while the shooting spree was in progress; while police officers were being shot at; while at least 100 people were huddling in fear, not just in the Planned Parenthood offices, but in nearby shops and buildings; while a shooter terrorized the area. And he said it as if having “a legitimate concern about” Planned Parenthood could somehow be a “legitimate” cause or reason or excuse for shooting and killing innocent people.

This is our daily Open Thread–have at it.

The Watering Hole, Monday, August 17th, 2015: Grab Bag

Just a few odds and ends to get your Monday started.

(R) Presidential hopeful Dr. Ben Carson has already proven that he “don’t know much about biology” when it comes to homosexuality, women’s reproductive and overall health, and where the fetal brain tissue came from on which he used to experiment. He’s also shown that he “don’t know much about” #BlackLivesMatter, or about prisons. Now Carson shows that he “don’t know much about history” when it comes to foreign policy, the Middle East, or the meaning of “anti-semitism.” In particular, he shows in an op-ed piece in The Jerusalem Post that he “don’t know much about” the Iran Nuclear Deal either.

A few items from Daily Kos: one oldie that makes a nice palate-cleanser; and a recent one that ends with an eloquent message [some of the comments afterwards are excellent as well.]

And for the funny, ICYMI (as I did), John Oliver and friends teach Sex Education.

This is our daily Open Thread–pick a topic, any topic.

The Watering Hole, Monday, July 14th, 2014: It’s SCHNEIDER-MAN!

Nope, not Wayne…it’s New York State’s Attorney General, Eric Schneiderman.

A.G. Schneiderman is the root’n-est, toot’n-est, doggone shoot’n-est Attorney General around these parts. And while he has been focusing mainly on Wall Street transgressions, Schneiderman was forced to issue a press release last week after the McCullen decision, in which the Supremes struck down the 35-foot buffer zone around Massachusetts’ women’s health clinics.

Apparently protesters at a Planned Parenthood in Rochester, New York, were a mite confused about that ruling, believing that the Supreme Court decision struck down ALL buffer zones. According to an article by Michael Virtanen of The Republic:

“The letter followed a protest last week outside the Planned Parenthood clinic in Rochester, where one demonstrator crossed a faded line on the sidewalk believing the Supreme Court decision applied everywhere, said Mary Jost. She is director of the Focus Pregnancy Help Center nearby and a longtime anti-abortion protester. Police were called, an officer talked with the woman and said she had to move back. That also prompted Rochester police to query the attorney general’s office and Jost to consult her own lawyer, who advised staying beyond the line that was subsequently painted bright orange, she said.

“We might take it to court in time,” Jost said.”

Yeah, sure, let us know how that works out for you.

A.G. Schneiderman’s press release (seen here in its entirety) said in part:

“I am committed to protecting the right of every patient in New York to full and safe access to reproductive health care services. We will not allow activists to use a narrowly targeted Supreme Court decision as an opportunity to create confusion about the critical protections here in New York. Not only do New York State’s clinic protection laws remain completely in place, I am committed to working with our partners in law enforcement to ensure they are fully enforced.”

Schneiderman, who was endorsed by Planned Parenthood for the post of Attorney General, insisted that the 15-foot buffer zone is still in effect in all 22 counties where it had been established in 2005. The Republic article also states that “He [A.G. Schneiderman] has also sent out investigators to ensure clinic access…”

Way to go, Schneiderman!

Just for fun, here’s President Obama turning down an offer that, I confess, I would not have refused.

This is our daily open thread–what’s on your mind today?