Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Making It Up About Foreign Policy, Marijuana, Herself. Worse Is This.

This could be about foreign policy.   Carly Fiorina vows to build a missile defense system in Poland and to rebuild the Sixth Fleet, which Stars and Stripes reports already is building a land-based missile interceptor site in, as luck would have it, Poland.  She wants to "conduct regular, aggressive military exercises in the Baltic states," which the US military already is doing, and to "send a few thousand more troops into Germany" because there is nothing that says efficient use of tax money better than sending more soldiers into Germany, in imminent danger of conquest by Russia.

Of course, as Gary Legum points out, that wasn't the real message of the candidate who never really means any of it, except for the style, which is supposed to strike fear into the hearts of the bad guys. Salon's Gary Legum (emphasis his) points out

if you are a conservative voter in America, you’re thinking, Carly won’t be a chump like that wimp Obama, who has let Putin walk all over him. That swelling in your chest is a jingoistic pride that you haven’t felt during the long, dark years that the Kenyan Usurper has been destroying America from within.

Or this could be about drugs, given that as Fiorina was diplomatically advised she was not up to date with her facts about marijuana, she decided to lecture the interviewer with "So I will also tell you something else. We lost a daughter to addiction."   What this has to do with marijuana (especially given her daughter died from a combination of alcohol, prescription drugs, and bulimia)  the publicly-truthless (thank you, Charlie Pierce) candidate didn't mention. But when the point is"I'm right, you're wrong, shut up," it doesn't really matter.

There is, however, at least one more insidious, and potentially more damaging, distortion coming from Fiorina, as illustrated by her exchange with the host on Sunday's Meet The Press:


Do you believe any of the money Planned Parenthood uses is for good, from the federal government?


I'm sure it is. I'm sure it is. But you know what I find amazing? The hypocrisy of Democrats who stand up and oppose every time taxpayer funding for, say, pregnancy centers, that are also very much focused on women's health, but no, Democrats don't want taxpayer funding for pregnancy centers.

I just visited one in South Carolina. They are all privately funded. This is hypocrisy on Democrats' part. This is about a political slush fund. It is about the character of our nation. And yes, we should stand up and fight on this issue.

Thus is the impression left that Planned Parenthood can be eviscerated and centers also "very much focused on women's health"  left intact. But it's unlikely Fiorina is talking about outfits whose main focus is on women's health but rather about crisis pregnancy centers, unregulated and unlicensed, which help pregnant women, though primarily try to talk them out of abortions.

Law school student and NARAL Pro-Choice (chart below from NARAL Pro-Choice America) legal intern Caitlin Bancroft went undercover in Virginia and found

After checking in, I was introduced to my "counselor," a conservatively dressed middle-aged woman who led me to one of the back rooms. She sat across from me with some forms on a clipboard I was not permitted to see. Much like the d├ęcor, the set-up reinforced the sense of professionalism and expertise. The consultation began with the standard questions: name, address, age, date of last period?

Right as I began to relax, the Q&A took a turn for the personal and invasive. "What is your relationship with your parents like?" "How is your financial situation?" "Have you told the father?" "What is his religion?" "Are his parents religious?" "How many people have you slept with?" "Would your parents be excited about a grandchild?"

As I sat there having my life probed, the purpose of the questions dawned on me. In case the test was positive, my "counselor" wanted to know which tactic to use to persuade me to continue the pregnancy -- exactly where my resolve was the weakest. Was there a loving Christian boyfriend who would make a great dad? Did I have kind supportive parents who would be excited by the idea of a grandchild? I knew I wasn't pregnant -- knew exactly what she was doing -- knew she wasn't a doctor. But my body reacted instinctively to her questions with guilt and shame. It felt like a kick in the gut when she asked if I had told my brother about the baby, and I felt a creeping sense of selfishness as I imagined the door slamming on my shared apartment, my twenties, my life. Would my parents want me to have this child? Would it matter?

The woman stopped between questions to comment on my answers and lie. "Oh, you've taken birth control. Let me tell you how that causes cancer and is the same a medication abortion." I was told abortion would scar me for the rest of my life -- would damage all of my future relationships and leave me "haunted." I was told the pill could cause breast cancer, that condoms are "naturally porous" and don't protect against STIs, and that IUDs could kill me. She lectured and lied to me for over an hourbefore I even received the results of my pregnancy test.

Also interspersed in the deception were subtle judgments of my life decisions. "So you do have some scruples about you," she said at one point, referring to my low number of sexual partners. One of the most disturbing comments came when I was pressed about the sexual experience leading to my visit, the reason I supposedly needed a pregnancy test in the first place. I told her an all too common story of acquaintance rape. I had been at a party, I said, severely intoxicated and unable to consent, "I didn't remember anything... I just wished it hadn't happened." Her response made it clear that the situation was my fault, "Oh so he took advantage of you. Well just don't do it again sweetie; just don't do it again." It made me sick.

It only got worse after a positive pregnancy test. At another CPC (the deceptively named "A Woman's Choice" in Falls Church, Virginia) I could hear two employees whispering before entering my room, plotting strategies to reveal the test results and best manipulate my reaction. When they did finally clue me in, my concerns were casually brushed aside and used as ammunition for their agenda: I could care for a baby with no job, my parents would certainly help, and I could absolutely handle the stress. They even argued that I could be a law student while pregnant: "It will probably be good for the baby," the woman said, "because you will be sitting down all of the time."

At this center and elsewhere, the conversations were always the same. It didn't matter how many times I said that l didn't want to be pregnant or be a mother the CPC staffer would continue to bully me. Their tactics were so blatantly manipulative that I should have been able to fight back. I wanted to have a response, some kind of self-defense. But I couldn't find anything to say. I am pro-choice feminist activist and I often discuss these kinds of difficult and emotionally sensitive topics at work and in school. Yet these women's so-called concern left me defenseless, struggling to find a response that didn't play right into their hands.

 "There are," Bancroft writes, "over 58 CPCs, more than double the number of comprehensive reproductive healthcare centers in the state."  Across the nation- in which they outnumber abortion clinics approximately 3-to-1-  they are not all "privately funded," as the publicly-truthless candidate implies.   NPR explains the Guttmacher Institute

an abortion rights think-tank, cites seven states with line items in their budget for alternatives to abortion. Texas gives the most — more than $5 million over two fiscal years. Ohio budgeted $250,000 in 2013, and this year abortion opponents plan to boost their request to $1 million. Ohio and nearly two dozen other states also send smaller amounts to pregnancy centers through the sale of "Choose Life" license plates.

Fiorina is not alone in this deception.  In the last GOP debate, John Ellis Bush contended

There are 13,000 community-based organizations that provide health services to women, 13,000 in this country. I don’t believe that Planned Parenthood should get a penny from the federal government. Those organizations should get funding, just as I increased funding when I was governor of the state.

To be sure, Fiorina (as outlined by Legum) is the master demagogue. It must be difficult for Republicans and wayward independents to recognize as excrement anything stated so resolutely and confidently, sometimes with warped statistics. In light of the effort of congressional right-wing extremists to shut down the government over contraception and women's health care, its most dangerous expression probably is the growing myth that there is an extensive array of viable alternatives to Planned Parenthood.

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Monday, September 28, 2015

Breaking! Carly Fiorina Tells The Truth!

Carly Fiorina told the truth!  On Sunday's Meet The Press (transcript here), the GOP presidential candidate was asked (video below) whether congressional Republicans should force a shutdown of the federal government over Planned Parenthood funding and replied

Well, you know, here's the thing. We are finding common ground. People's views evolve on all kinds of things. And the American people's views have evolved on this. So let's just take one example. The majority of women, the majority of young people, the majority of Americans now believe that abortion for any reason at all after five months is wrong.

Sadly, most people do oppose abortion after 20 weeks, as the poll question usually is stated.  (Actually, five months is more likely to be 21-22 weeks, about which no one is asked. But let's not quibble.)

Unfortunately, Fiorina then stated "Just as they believe that the butchery of live fetuses for body parts is wrong."  One woman's body parts, however, is another woman's fetal tissue used by Dr. Ben Carson (in years past) and other medical personnel for research into AIDS, spinal cord injuries, diabetes, cancer, and eyesight loss.  And given that Planned Parenthood makes no profit on the fetal tissue, it's not done for the purpose of procuring body parts. And it's not butchery. Otherwise, Fiorina is spot-on.

Nonetheless, Fiorina claimed also

I believe there are a variety of ways to deal with this. But I believe this is something we must stand up and fight for. Because it is about the character of our nation. Taxpayers are funding this activity. And not only that, not only are taxpayers having to fund this butchery, but Planned Parenthood doles out millions of dollars every single election cycle to Democrat candidates. This is a political slush fund on top of being butchery that Americans, again, whether they're pro-life or pro-choice, cannot support.

She is right- there is a variety of ways to deal with this!  However, given that she is talking about abortion and not the preventive care and contraception Planned Parenthood specializes in, it is not being funded by federal income tax, pursuant to the Hyde Amendment. It is not butchery. (There she goes again!)  Slush funds are illegal- otherwise, they are not slush funds, and we haven't heard of indictments. Further, though Planned Parenthood does contribute to Democratic candidates, the total amounts fall far short of "millions of dollars."

"That scene," Fiorina added, of a "voice saying what I said they were saying, 'We're going to keep it alive to harvest its brain' exists as well." Then she vowed that she viewed the scene, which does not exist.

But if Fiorina says most individuals oppose abortions after 20 weeks and there are ways to attack the procedure, she is correct.  Unfortunately, almost everything else out of her mouth is wildly distorted or an outright lie. That makes her a viable Republican candidate for President.

Up next: another danger

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Saturday, September 26, 2015

If Donald Trump Lied Better, He Would Be Carly Fiorina

Politico's Glenn Thrush writes that Politifact "has rated 50 of Trump’s recent statements flagged by staff or readers and found that around three-quarters are either partly false, false or 'pants on fire' lies. None of them were rated completely 'true.'"  He considers especially damning three falsehoods about Trump's own biography, as well as one about policy.

The Art of the Deal is among the best-selling business books of all time, but not the best-selling as Trump claims.  Further, he's not worth $10 billion but perhaps as little as $4 billion and is not of Swedish descent as he says he is, but rather of German background.  And as almost everyone realizes, immigrants are coming to the USA of their own accord rather than because the Mexican government has been sending them.

Donald Trump will never pass a lie-detector test, and his boasts about himself themselves may eventually become stuff of legend.  However, there is one major Republican candidate whose dishonesty rivals that of the front-runner. Dave Roberts of Vox recently reported on an interview by Katie Couric of Carly Fiorina (video below) which addressed the issue of climate change.

Fiorina made several statements inconsistent with objective reality. She claimed California "destroys lives and livelihoods with environmental regulations," though as Roberts notes

between 1993 and 2013, thanks to energy efficiency, the average residential electricity bill in California declined, on an inflation-adjusted basis, by 4 percent, even as bills rose elsewhere in the country. Between 1990 and 2012, the state cut per-capita carbon emissions by 25 percent even as its GDP increased by 37 percent. Its total carbon emissions are declining, even as its economy continues to grow.

Oh, and California created more jobs than any other state in the nation last year, with the fifth-highest GDP growth rate. And its budget is balanced.

Fiorina argued also "China could care less" if the USA tries to reduce carbon. It turns out that China could care less. It could care far less because

China clearly cares what the US does; it would not have made the promises it did in its climate pact with the US if Obama had not made policy gestures of good faith. It's true that China, like any country, acts primarily in its own interests, not based on what America does. But that's precisely why it's investing more in clean energy than any other country in the world ($89.5 billion to the US's $51.8 billion in 2014), even as it puts increasingly tight restrictions on coal, leading its coal consumption to decline for the first time in years. It cares very much about reducing its crippling air pollution and dominating 21st-century growth industries.

Roberts observed Fiorina contending both "coal provides half the energy in this nation still" and "to say we're basically going to outlaw coal, which is what this administration has done." However, Roberts has found, coal provides only 20% of the total primary energy consumed in the nation. Under the Clean Power Plan, it's expected to provide 27% of the country's electricity n 2030, which is a far cry from being "outlawed."

Fiorina maintains also "Solar is great, but solar takes huge amounts of water" but Roberts recognizes

No, it doesn't.

All of the distributed rooftop solar in the US and 84 percent of utility-scale solar projects use solar photovoltaic (PV) panels, which require no water at all save what's needed to keep their surfaces clean.

Roberts details five other statements about climate change, each of them grossly misleading or flat-out lies, made by the candidate.

You get the idea. But you already suspected Fiorina was a serial liar when her claim of a "fully formed fetus on the table, it’s heart beating, it’s legs kicking while someone says we have to keep it alive to harvest its brain" was revealed as a hoax.  Chris Ostendorf points out

Fiorina may have been referring to was an anti-abortion documentary called Human Capital, which does include footage of a moving fetus. However, that scene was not filmed at Planned Parenthood. The documentary also includes an interview with a former procurement technician—a biomedical research company employee who obtains fetal tissue—who claims that she was once commanded to extract brain tissue from an aborted fetus.

It’s impossible to prove whether the technician was telling the truth about her experiences, but the real problem is that Human Capital does not actually contain any footage like the moment Fiorina described.

No problem there, however. The Washington Post explains

Other campaigns have climbed down from similar claims about the videos. Fiorina and her allies have done no such thing. Three days after the debate, CARLY for America – the PAC that legally has to keep its distance from Fiorina’s actual campaign – put together a video that spliced the candidate’s answer with different clips. The viewer, hearing about the controversy but unaware of the original videos, might think that Fiorina nailed it.

Somewhat chastened, most candidates would apologize, attempt a clarification, or ignore the myth their candidate tried to create.  Instead, here there is, in the words of Dahlia Lithwick, "no walk-back, no clarification, just a persistent insistence that a video that doesn’t exist and can’t even be manufactured in the underground labs of political deception is really out there...."

Then there is the series of claims about foreign policy Fiorina made in the last debate when she bragged

What I would do, immediately, is begin rebuilding the Sixth Fleet, I would begin rebuilding the missile defense program in Poland, I would conduct regular, aggressive military exercises in the Baltic states. I’d probably send a few thousand more troops into Germany...

We could rebuild the Sixth Fleet. I will. We haven’t. We could rebuild the missile defense program. We haven’t. I will.

Chis Hayes, however, pointed out

Start with her first statement there, what I would do immediately is begin rebuilding the sixth fleet. As Stars and Stripes notes, Fiorina`s meaning wasn`t immediately clear. The sixth fleet is less a collection of ships than a command structure for operating American warships, moreover the fleet is one of the few growing military commands in Europe.

Fiorina then said she would begin rebuilding the missile defense program in Poland. But while one missile defense program there was scuttled, Poland is actually leading Eastern European missile defense efforts and plans to install a new system in 2018. Fiorina then vowed to conduct regular aggressive military exercises in the Baltic states, which would be fine, although you might not think that`s a good idea, but that is already happening as you can see from these images from U.S.-led military exercises in where else, the Baltics, that took place in June. Finally, Fiorina said she`d probably send a few more thousand troops into Germany. There are currently more than 44,000 troops in Germany. So it`s hard to see how a few thousand would make that much of a difference.

Glenn Thrush shouldn't be bewildered or aghast that Donald Trump has misled voters about his personal background, given that the candidate whose popularity has risen most of late

plays fast and loose with highly misleading metrics, changing the goal posts by manipulating peer comparisons. Fiorina brags that she doubled revenues—but she cut value in half. She talks about doubling employment at HP when all she did was combine the employment of two huge firms—and then lay off 30,000 employees. She presents her story as rags to riches saga, from secretary to CEO, when in fact she is the daughter of a Duke University Law School dean and a federal Appeals Court judge. She just worked for a few months as a receptionist after dropping out of UCLA law school.

Carly Fiorina sets out to mislead listeners more than her rivals, although falsehoods are standard practice for this crew. She does, moreover, make false statements with an unrivaled sense of certainty. Because she probably knows better, her style style resembles less what the late nutritionist Carlton Fredericks referred to as "opinionated ignorance" than the approach of Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas.  His veneer of righteous outrage won him a pass from the Senate Judiciary Committee, its chairperson Joe Biden, and from the US Senate. He got a seat on the US Supreme Court and so far, her scam has gotten Carly Fiorina a pass from most of the mainstream media.

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Friday, September 25, 2015

Meet The New Boss

Pope Francis is a good guy.  We know so for at least two reasons.

His Holiness has criticized laissez-faire capitalism and in July equated the eager pursuit of money with "the dung of the devil."  In the view of author Patricia Miller, his call yesterday "for politicians to work for the common good was an implicit rebuke to the do-nothing, obstructionist GOP agenda that’s in service to their corporatist, Chamber of Commerce overlords."  Moreover, he noted "the most serious effects of the environmental deterioration caused by human activity.”

We know, too, that Francis is a down-to-earth guy because Stephen Colbert says so (below, another of Colbert's humor-free routines, including Catholic dogma, and loved by his audiences which don't realize the joke is on them).  "Welcome, Frank!" exclaimed the sign displayed by Colbert, as the talk-show host attempts to humanize the leader of his church with a facade of irreverence to an audience which adores him for being irreverent.

Additionally,congressional Democrats loved it when the Pope reiterated his call for "the global abolition of the death penalty," a punishment Democrats may not have noticed is nearly obsolete in the USA, anyway.  No doubt mainland China and North Korea, as we speak, were so roused by Francis' words that they have already abolished the practice.

Pope Francis preceded his remarks about capital punishment by asserting "our responsibility to protect and defend human life at every stage of its development,” obviously a reference to reproductive freedom.  In due deference to claims of the Pope as one of our own, progressives are somewhat glossing over that.  Fortunately, there is Salon's Tara Culp-Ressler to observe

During his first visit to the United States, Pope Francis extended his solidarity to a group of Catholic nuns who are currently involved in a legal battle over the health care reform law, birth control coverage, and the bounds of religious liberty.

On Wednesday, the pope made an unscheduled visit to the convent of Little Sisters of the Poor, the Colorado-based nuns who filed a complaint against Obamacare’s contraceptive mandate in 2013. According to the Vatican’s spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, the pope’s visit was meant to show “a sign of support for them.”

The Little Sisters of the Poor object to the provision in the health law that requires employers to offer birth control to their workers at no additional cost. The Obama administration has since issued a religious accommodation to that particular provision — allowing employers to submit a form informing the government of their religious objection to birth control, which triggers a workaround so the insurance company directly foots the bill. But the nuns say that filling out that form still violates their religious beliefs.

In July, a federal appeals court ruled against the Little Sisters, concluding that the current accommodation “does not substantially burden their religious exercise.” The Colorado nuns are now hoping to take their case to the Supreme Court.

In his first U.S. address on Wednesday morning, which was mainly focused on climate change, the pope gave a public nod to these ongoing fights over religious accommodations in the wake of health care reform. In the first several paragraphs of his prepared remarks, Francis implored the U.S. government to consider the beliefs of American Catholics and “respect their deepest concerns and their right to religious liberty.”

That evening, Bill O'Reilly gloated in what he considered a rebuke to President Obama. Further, it does appear that with this remark about religious liberty, an untrammeled right of Catholics (and Protestants) for generations in the USA, the Pope's visit to an outfit which refuses to lift a finger to comply with a requirement of the federal government was no coincidence.

Before the Little Sisters lost in the federal appeals court, it had been granted an injunction by the U.S. Supreme Court following its loss in a U.S. District Court.  There, the majority opinion explained "although plaintiffs allege the administrative tasks required to opt out of the mandate make them complicit in the overall delivery scheme, opting out instead relieved them from complicity." The Judge noted "most religious claimants allege that a generally applicable law or policy without a religious exception burdens religious exercise."

You might think most organizations would have welcomed an opportunity to uphold their principles by merely filling out a form. That was not good enough for the Little Sisters of  the Poor, which demanded its own private exemption, an interpretation for a group which claims a particular (questionable) religious perspective.  It is not only an absurd reading of the First Amendment but a brazen rebuke to the Establishment Clause.   Admittedly, "carve out an exemption for us" is not an unusual demand of an elitist organization.

In this case, it's an elitist organization with so little sense of patriotism that, with a President bending over backwards to accompany it, it says: go suck an egg.

It is now, however, an organization privileged to have have been granted an audience with the head of the worldwide Roman Catholic Church. It is a reminder that when the Pope has his lovely photo-ops, including having a meal with homeless people, we can rest assured that when it comes to a basic right of half the population, it's  really the same old Vatican.

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Thursday, September 24, 2015

The Right Says LIfe Never Should Be Destroyed, Except When It Should.

We soon will find out whether Marco Rubio is a hypocrite. In the days to come, we'll observe whether the Florida senator and presidential candidate really is outraged that embryos or fetuses are not carried to term but "harvested" for profit or otherwise.

In an interview with a CBS affiliate in Iowa last weekend, Rubio claims Planned Parenthood clinics are "saying 'We're going to take the fetal tissue of aborted fetuses.'  Because now what you've done is you've created an industry. You've created an incentive for people to be pushed into abortions so that those tissues can be harvested and sold for a profit." Asked whether it is a "stretch" that they are "pushing people into abortions," the Senator responded

If you go to one of these centers, young women are provided with very few options. In many places, they’re not told anything about, for example, adoption services that might be available to them. In essence, you come in and it’s already predetermined. This is what this place does. It provides abortions, and we are going to channel you in that direction.

I just think you’ve created an industry now — a situation where very much, you’ve created an incentive for people not just to look forward to having more abortions, but being able to sell that fetal tissue — these centers — for purposes of making a profit off it, as you’ve seen in some of these Planned Parenthood affiliates. 

Rubio supports the GOP effort in Congress to defund Planned Parenthood, even going so far as to call it "a human rights issue," which sort of cuts women out of the class of human beings (on another occasion, Fox News host putting words in his mouth, below).  He is aghast that some of the organization's affiliates  are "able to sell that fetal tissue- those centers- for purposes of making a profit off it."

They're not making a profit from it, as the absence of indictments indicates. Still, the myth that an appalling "industry" has been created to transfer fetal tissue is intriguing. Associate law professor Margo Kaplan writes

My husband and I used in vitro fertilization to conceive both our children. The process involved extracting my eggs, fertilizing them in a lab and implanting a healthy embryo inside me. Many patients — like my husband and me — produce more embryos (also called “pre-embryos” before they are implanted) than they can use. So clinics cryogenically freeze them until patients choose to use them in another IVF cycle, dispose of them, donate them to scientific research (which results in their destruction) or offer them to an infertile couple. After two years and careful thought, we chose to donate ours to research. We hope our choice will help doctors find cures for debilitating and fatal illnesses such as Huntington’s disease and ALS.

Like our fertility clinic, Planned Parenthood allows women to donate to medical research tissue from an embryo or fetus they will not carry to term. Like our clinic, Planned Parenthood receives no profit for this, only reimbursement for its costs (indeed, the full, unedited version of the video that sparked recent Republican outrage provides evidence that Planned Parenthood does not profit from giving women this choice).

Yet there are striking differences between my experience and that of a woman seeking an abortion. In Pennsylvania (where my fertility clinic is located), a woman seeking an abortion must receive state-directed counseling designed to discourage her from the procedure. She must then wait at least 24 hours until she can continue. In other states, women are forced to undergo unnecessary and invasive ultrasounds, watch or listen to a description of the ultrasound, and hear a lecture on how the embryo or fetus is a human life. Clinics in some states must provide them with medically inaccurate information on the risks of abortion. After all that, women often cannot have an abortion without waiting an additional one to three days, depending on the state.

In contrast, all my husband and I had to do was sign a form. Our competence to choose the outcome of our embryo was never questioned. There were no mandatory lectures on gestation, no requirement that I be explicitly told that personhood begins at conception or that I view a picture of a day-five embryo. There was no compulsory waiting period for me to reconsider my decision. In fact, no state imposes these restrictions — so common for abortion patients — on patients with frozen embryos. With rare exceptions, the government doesn’t interfere with an IVF patient’s choices except to resolve disagreements between couples.

Kaplan notes "both IVF and abortion involve the destruction of fertilized eggs that could potentially develop into people."  "The disparity between how the law treats abortion patients and IVF patients," she recognizes, reveals "an ugly truth about abortion restrictions: that they are often less about protecting life than about controlling women's bodies." (It could additionally be the conservative notion that the more babies, the better.)

That applies to most Republican members of Congress. If Senator Marco Rubio and his colleagues go after fertility clinics with half the antagonism they have directed at Planned Parenthood, they will be seen as models of consistency and integrity. Don't hold your breath.

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Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Hamstrung By Accuracy

Some things are sure bets. There will be a World Series this year, and the Milwaukee Brewers won't be in it.  A few months later, there will be a Super Bowl, and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers won't be in it.  Several months later, the Minnesota Timberwolves won't be in the NBA finals.  Between now and then, it will snow in Maine, Vermont, and Wisconsin. And when someone accuses you of "nitpicking," he has lost the argument.

The National Review's Jonah Goldberg is unaware (or is at least pretending to be unaware) that

Seeking to avert a government shutdown, Republican leaders drove a bill blocking Planned Parenthood's federal funds through the House on Friday, hoping to contain conservatives' demands for a politically risky showdown with President Barack Obama by striking a quick blow against abortion.

The nearly party-line 241-187 vote followed a no-holds-barred debate that included a graphic, poster-sized photo of a scarred, aborted fetus and underscored how abortion has resurfaced as a white-hot political issue. The battle has been rejoined just in time for the 2016 election campaign and next week's historic address to Congress by Pope Francis.

The issue's re-emergence followed the release of secretly recorded videos of Planned Parenthood officials offhandedly discussing how they sometimes procure tissue from aborted fetuses for medical research.

Two days earlier, Carly Fiorina at the GOP presidential debate pontificated

As regards Planned Parenthood, anyone who has watched this videotape, I dare Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama to watch these tapes. Watch a fully formed fetus on the table, it’s heart beating, it’s legs kicking while someone says we have to keep it alive to harvest its brain.

This is about the character of our nation, and if we will not stand up in and force President Obama to veto this bill, shame on us.

Now that Fiorina has been exposed as a fabricator (which she already had proven herself to be), Goldberg concedes "The exact scene, exactly as Fiorina describes it, is not on the videos."

That seems rather clear. However, it doesn't really matter because Goldberg says: never mind. He protests "But anybody who has watched the videos would find Fiorina's off-the-cuff account pretty accurate."

As Sarah Kliff has outlined, there is no footage of the moment described by the former Planned Parenthood technician, nor hard evidence that it even occurred. The footage of the fetus isn't from the Planned Parenthood videos; one image is of a still born baby and "other footage evidently is derived from a collection of stock footage of fetuses."

Goldberg doesn't deny Fiorina's account is inaccurate, instead claiming her "critics want to claim that because she didn't take into account these distinctions, she's just making stuff up." Facts become "distinctions" and irrelevant to him.  The critics, obsessed with facts, have "become Jesuitical nitpickers, muddying the water to conceal the fact that late-term abortions offend the conscience when discussed or displayed with anything like journalistic accuracy."

Accuracy doesn't matter, as long as it's "anything like journalistic accuracy,"  and especially if it reinforces the notion of abortion as offensive to the conscience.  Because late-term abortions are objectionable, anything goes.  It's "muddying the waters" to note that Fiorina preceded her rant with "as regards to Planned Parenthood," notwithstanding the absence of evidence of any connection to Planned Parenthood.

Hoaxes happen. More significantly, the reasoning displayed by Goldberg is characteristic of much of modern conservative thought.  Details are unnecessary, facts expendable. Late-term abortion shocks the conscience, reasons Goldberg, so any visual depiction, or description, of the procedure is righteous.

Carly Fiorina- "as regards to Planned Parenthood"- lustily joined the wholesale, destructive attack on Planned Parenthood, even suggesting it is linked to the regime in Tehran. She went on to describe vividly a scene (even frighteningly referring to "harvesting organs") which she had little reason to believe took place at Planned Parenthood.  With its potential to damage reproductive rights, it has far greater implications than anything Ann Coulter has said about Pope Francis, Donald Trump about Barack Obama, or Ben Carson about Muslims.

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Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Much Ado About Not Much

He was almost honest.  After Ben Carson on Sunday's Meet The Press stated that he wouldn't want a Muslim as President because the religion is inconsistent with the principles of the US Constitution, the presidential contender appeared on The Sean Hannity Show on Monday and

continued, however, by saying that so long as a Muslim rejected his Islamic faith, he or she would be qualified to run for office. “If someone has a Muslim background, and they’re willing to reject those tenets and to accept the way of life that we have, and clearly will swear to place our Constitution above their religion, then of course they will be considered infidels and heretics, but at least I would then be quite willing to support them,” he said.

Hannity built on that point, asking Carson if all he really meant to say was that so long as Muslims denounce elements of their faith, he could support them. “Of course,” Carson replied.

“Did you really mean to say ‘radical Islamists’?” Hannity asked.

“That was implied in the comment,” Carson said. “I prefaced that by saying I don’t care what faith someone belongs to, if they’re willing to subjugate that to the American way and the Constitution, I have no problem with that.”

If Carson had left it at "If someone has a Muslim background and they're willing to reject those tenets... at least I would then be quite willing to support them." he would be okay, more or less. He would have subtly- but significantly- clarified his statement.  However, he added. "I prefaced that by saying I don't care what faith someone belongs to, if they're willing to subjugate that to the American way and the Constitution."

Uh, no, he didn't, instead stating definitively "I would not advocate that we put a Muslim in charge of this nation. I absolutely would not agree with that." Here is the relevant exchange, which is followed by a question about voting for a Muslim for Congress:


Let me wrap this up by finally dealing with what's been going on, Donald Trump, and a deal with a questioner that claimed that the president was Muslim. Let me ask you the question this way: Should a President's faith matter? Should your faith matter to voters?


Well, I guess it depends on what that faith is. If it's inconsistent with the values and principles of America, then of course it should matter. But if it fits within the realm of America and consistent with the constitution, no problem.


So do you believe that Islam is consistent with the constitution?


No, I don't, I do not.


So you--


I would not advocate that we put a Muslim in charge of this nation. I absolutely would not agree with that.

As even Ted Cruz acknowledges, Carson's belief runs counter to Article VI of the Constitution, which includes "no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States."  His assertion to Hannity that "radical Islamists" was "implied in the comment" was a bold-faced lie because it was not implied, as he was well aware. So much, also, for that Ninth Commandment, the one about bearing false witness.

Of course, the argument of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (whose YouTube video of Todd/Carson is above) that "We ask Mr. Ben Carson to withdraw from the presidential race because he is unfit to lead because his views are in contradiction with the U.S. Constitution" is silly. As the ongoing effort of the GOP to prohibit all abortions after twenty weeks (in violation of Roe v. Wade) indicates, the Constitution is relevant to the Republican Party only when convenient.  If candidates for President were limited to individuals devoted to the Constitution, that Party would be hard pressed to field anyone for the office.

Carson's remark was also irrelevant, given that he does not have the authority to "put a Muslim in charge of this nation" nor to put anyone in charge of this nation.   Further, any disingenuousness or dishonesty from Carson on this issue leaves him more honest than Carly Fiorina, to whom he currently is close in national polling.  While Fiorina is a relentless self-promoter, Ben Carson appears to be a humble individual.   And among Republican candidates devoid of virtually anything socially redeeming, that should count for a little.

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Monday, September 21, 2015

Maybe She'll Promise To Do To The USA What She Did To HP

The afternoon following the last Republican debate, a group from Five Thirty Eight discussed in a chat room the status of the presidential race.  Five-thirty-eight editor-in-chief Nate Silver,  Editor-in-chief Nate Silver, a political writer, and two editors assessed Carly Fiorina's prospects and speculated whether they would buy, sell, or hold the stock of the candidates given what their odds are of gaining the nomination (graph, below) as of 9-17-2015.

They don't agree across-the-board but there is some sentiment in favor of a "sell" on Bush, Carson, Trump, and Cruz and for a "buy" on Rubio and Christie.

Perhaps more interesting, however, were various insights offered on the candidates.  One of the editors wisely stated of Marco Rubio "I get the strong feeling he is biding his time."  Noting Trump's unwarranted skepticism of vaccination for communicable diseases, Silver maintained Beb Carson "just passed on a couple of opportunities to stick the knife in last night in a way that leads me to wonder whether he's in it to win it." He observed "the thing about Fiorina is it seems a little off to classify her as an insurgent.  If you're the CEO of a major company HP, you're a part of the establishment unless you're a real weirdo " (which Fiorina is not).

One commenter paying attention remarked Fiorina "would be a disaster. Ruined HP along with every other company she worked for. Wait until the mud starts getting slung her way now that she's stepped out of the shadows. It won't be pretty."

Hint of this comes from an article in Politico Magazine by Jeffrey Sonnenfeld, whom Trump referred to in the debate as having condemned Fiorina's tenure at HP and whom Fiorina misleadingly characterized as "a well-known Clintonite."   Sonnefeld explained

In the five years that Fiorina was at Hewlett-Packard, the company lost over half its value. It’s true that many tech companies had trouble during this period of the Internet bubble collapse, some falling in value as much as 27 percent; but HP under Fiorina fell 55 percent. During those years, stocks in companies like Apple and Dell rose. Google went public, and Facebook was launched. The S&P 500 yardstick on major U.S. firms showed only a 7 percent drop. Plenty good was happening in U.S. industry and in technology.

It was Fiorina’s failed leadership that brought her company down. After an unsuccessful attempt to catch up to IBM’s growth in IT services by buying PricewaterhouseCooper’s consulting business (PwC, ironically, ended up going to IBM instead), she abruptly abandoned the strategic goal of expanding IT services and consulting and moved into heavy metal. At a time that devices had become a low margin commodity business, Fiorina bought for $25 billion the dying Compaq computer company, which was composed of other failed businesses. Unsurprisingly, the Compaq deal never generated the profits Fiorina hoped for, and HP’s stock price fell by half. The only stock pop under Fiorina’s reign was the 7 percent jump the moment she was fired following a unanimous board vote. After the firing, HP shuttered or sold virtually all Fiorina had bought.

Sonnefeld paints a picture of a greedy, dishonest executive who revels in personal attacks and remains convinced she always is right despite evidence to the contrary.  As classic inside the Beltway journalist Chris Cillizza writes, "Fiorina got off relatively easily Wednesday night, but if she continues to move up in the polls, you can expect to hear a lot more -- from her opponents and in super PAC ads -- about her record at HP." Nonetheless, no one can be certain whether her ugly business record will alone derail her.

Nonetheless, she would prove a disastrous candidate in a manner well understood by Secretary of State John Kerry and junior California senator Barbara Boxer.

You may remember the falsely named Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, with its disreputable, dishonest, and devastating campaign against 2004 Democratic presidential nominee Kerry.  That was nothing compared to what would hit Carly Fiorina, with the added advantage that criticism of Fiorina would be accurate and would tie her record at Hewlett-Packard with a standard priority of the presidency. Cillizza recalls

In 2010, Fiorina was running surprisingly close to California Sen. Barbara Boxer (D), who was struggling in a strong election cycle for Republicans nationally. Then, Boxer ran this ad focused on Fiorina's time at the helm of HP.

The commercial notes that Fiorina laid off 30,000 workers at HP while feathering her own nest (the ad's narrator says she tripled her salary) and buying a "million-dollar yacht" and "five corporate jets." It went up on TV in the middle of September and effectively ended Fiorina's chances....

 PolitiFact has truth-squadded the commercial and found the claims in it to be "mostly true." And with the growing inequity between the haves and the have-nots in the U.S. already established as a front-burner issue in both parties, the attack is likely to be particularly cutting for Fiorina.

Fiorina could possibly be nominated (though it is highly unlikely) because while, according to The New York Times, the manager of her Senate campaign acknowledged the attacks (ad above) harmed her in the general election but they "didn't have any legs at all among G.O.P. primary voters."    (Mrs. Fiorina shouldn't get upset. The reference to "legs" has nothing to do with her appearance.)  But the delicious part, as the Times points out, is

Jim Margolis, the ad maker for the Boxer campaign, is now a senior media adviser to Hillary Rodham Clinton.

"People don't know her yet," Ms. Boxer said in an interview before last week's debate. "What they'll understand pretty quickly is that she is the face of income inequality and Wall Street greed."

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Sunday, September 20, 2015

One-Sided Debate

Children! Stop whining and eat your vegetables!

Clinton ally and circa 2004 Democratic National Committee chairperson Terry McAuliffe has a point- albeit not a very good one- when he maintains “We found that six debates gave candidates the platform they needed to showcase differences with their opponents while giving campaigns the flexibility they need to do other events, including joint-forums and appearances.”

Mayor Michael Nutter of Philadelphia, who already had endorsed Hillary Clinton for president, did not have a good point when, Politico reports, he wrote

It’s time for a reality check fellow Democrats. Let’s end this pointless complaining and channel our energies into every facet of what it takes to win: registering people to vote, pushing out our message, raising money, and organizing and coordinating our efforts within this great big tent we call the Democratic Party.

Not feeling the "great big tent," Democratic National Committee chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, an ally of Hillary Clinton, set up a mere six debates, one of which is to take place on that great viewing night of the last Saturday before Christmas.  It seems that some Democrats are not heeding the sentiments of Mrs. Schultz or Mr. Nutter. The Boston Globe explains

Deb Kozikowski, vice chairwoman of the Massachusetts Democratic Party, said the chief of the Democratic National Committee, US Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida, had done a disservice to grass-roots volunteers by allowing Republicans to dominate the airwaves for the last month.

“How do I tell these really dedicated Democrats who work really hard from top to bottom that debates for our presidential candidates are restricted, and they’re there watching all these Republicans get all this air time?” she said. “I think about the folks at the grass roots who work day in day out, no money no glory, because they believe in democracy with a small ‘d’ and the Democratic Party with a large ‘D,’ getting bombarded with all these Republican candidates.”

And they are getting bombarded. When she announced the debate schedule, Wasserman argued the Democratic Party is focused on "strengthening the middle class versus Republicans who want to pursue out of touch and out of date policies.”

But voters are not hearing that.   They're hearing that: Republicans stand for fiscal irresponsibility and Democrats for higher taxes; Iran will drop a nuclear bomb on Iraq unless the USA withdraws its agreement with the nation; nations throughout the world have lost respect for the USA because of Barack Obama; the Second Amendment was practically written by God, who bears a striking resemblance to Ronald Reagan; Planned Parenthood must be defunded; and vaccination is a greater threat to global survival than is climate change. These are the messages because, notwithstanding minor differences, the GOP candidates are in lockstep on most issues.

As the Republican debates proceed, the GOP's perspective on issues, and hence the Party's credibility with the American people, is enhanced.  The right wing is dominating the airwaves with a message than is only barely, and faintly, rebutted.

The major fault lies with Wasserman-Schultz. But politicians like Michael Nutter who want Democrats, those of "the great big tent," to "end this pointless complaining" are enabling the chairperson.  To Michael Nutter, dissident Democrats are whining, immature children. To the Republican Party and conservative ideas, he is a dream come true.

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Saturday, September 19, 2015

Yearning For Fiorina

"America's Worst CEOS: Where Are They Now?"  is the title of a CBS News MoneyWatch article from April, 2012.  

Author Steve Kobak very likely would not have imagined that one of his seven would now be running for President. Less likely still did he expect that she would be boosted for the position by the first-ever cable news network.

She didn't make the cut for the only debate that really mattered, the one televised at 8:00 p.m. eastern by CNN. So they changed the rules.

Early in the debate, Donald Trump and Carly Fiorina engaged in an argument- clearly won by Trump- over their business records, after which Chris Christie complained "The fact is that we don’t want to hear about your careers, back and forth and volleying back and forth about who did well and who did poorly" (report from The News Hour with Jim Lehrer, below). Jake Tapper proceeded to give Fiorina- and not Trump- a chance to respond. "The highest calling of leadership," responded one of the worst CEO's in modern American history, "is to unlock the leadership potential in others." Tapper dared not ask her how firing 30,000 people and sending the net worth of the company hurtling downward unlocked leadership potential.

The candidates were asked by Dana Bash about Planned Parenthood, to which candidates Kasich, Cruz, and Christie gave their opinions about, of course, Planned Parenthood. But Fiorina, without either logic or subtlety,  widened the scope of the question by stating "Dana, I would like to link these two issues, both of which are incredibly important, Iran and Planned Parenthood."

Having absorbed the corporate message of promoting one of the two candidates rising in the polls (the other, Ben Carson, they were not about to promote), Bash  neglected to step in and remind the candidate the question was about Planned Parenthood, not Iran.  (In Iran, abortion is strictly prohibited after the 18th week of pregnancy. In Republican plans, it would be the 20th week.)

Most of all, there was the "most predictable question," as Democratic Strategist editor Ed Kilgore recognizes, of the debate, when Fiorina was essentially asked to repeat the audio of her very effective ad of the previous week.  Sharp enough to recognize a set-up, Fiorina responded "You know, it’s interesting to me, Mr. Trump said that he heard Mr. Bush very clearly and what Mr. Bush said. I think women all over this country heard very clearly what Mr. Trump said." It was a response as predictable as the question, and as effective as a question designed to elicit a stirring soundbite.

And if as to confirm that promotion of Carly Fiorina was a prime objective of the network, there was CNN's fact check of the candidate's rant about Planned Parenthood, immediately following her rant about Iran, in which she claimed

As regards Planned Parenthood, anyone who has watched this videotape, I dare Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama to watch these tapes. Watch a fully formed fetus on the table, it’s heart beating, it’s legs kicking while someone says we have to keep it alive to harvest its brain.

CNN acknowledges on its fact-checking website

The clip does show what appears to be a fully formed fetus on an operating table with its legs twitching. But the clip Fiorina references is not part of the CMP sting video but was instead taken by another anti-abortion group and was added to the sting video. The Center for Medical Progress, however, doesn't explain where the fetus video was shot, so it's not clear whether it was taken at a Planned Parenthood clinic. For its part, the women's health organization has flatly denied the accusations.

Not only is it unclear the footage was shot at a Planned Parenthood clinic, it almost surely was not. Vox's Sarah Kliff, who has watched every minute of each video, observes

The third Human Capital video has stock footage of a fetus kicking on a table — though that footage isn't from inside a Planned Parenthood. The video cites the Center for Bioethical Reform and the Grantham Collection as the sources for that footage, and never claims to have taped those images themselves.

The Center for Bioethical Reform and the Grantham Collection are both virulent anti-abortion outfits.

CNN notes that former StemExpress procurement technician is seen in the video stating "This is the most gestated fetus and closest thing to a baby I've ever seen. I'm sitting here looking at this fetus and its heart is beating and I don't know what to do." However, Kliff explains

There is no video of the images that O'Donnell describes seeing, nor is there any mention of instructions to "keep it alive so we can harvest its brain," so it's still not the footage Fiorina describes having watched. I've reached out to the Fiorina camp to see if they have a better answer.

But they still are not the scene that Fiorina describes. There's no footage of the moment O'Donnell describes, nor is there proof offered that it occurred — there's no moment to "watch," as Fiorina urged debate viewers.

After Kliff received a (largely irrelevant) reply from the Fiorinistes, she asked for a clarification. She received another video, in which the images "still are not the scene that Fiorina describes. There's no footage of the moment O'Donnell describes, nor is there proof offered that it occurred — there's no moment to 'watch,' as Fiorina urged debate viewers." Additionally,

the footage of the fetus in that video isn't from the Planned Parenthood videos. One image is of a stillborn baby, initially included in the video without the mother's permission. Other footage appears to come from a collection of stock footage of fetuses. "The stock footage was added to the video to dramatize its content," fact-checking website Politifact concluded. "We don’t know the circumstances behind this video: where it came from, under what conditions it was obtained, or even if this fetus was actually aborted (as opposed to a premature birth or miscarriage)."

Politifact rated Fiorina's claim as "mostly false" and the Annenberg Public Policy Center's FactCheck concludes "the scene Fiorina 'dares' others to watch is not present in any of the Planned Parenthood videos."

To CNN, however, Fiorina's tale was "true, but misleading."   I myself have seen images of a man bending steel in his bare hands and leaping a 100+ foot building on a single bound.  And on Thursday morning, Fiorina stated "Rest assured, I have seen the images I talked about last night," though she still has not disclosed them..

On Friday, Rush Limbaugh argued "the media" has been looking for months for a candidate to tout as the one to bring Donald Trump down.  There is a grain of truth to that but CNN has done so most visibly. Recognizing in the couple of weeks prior to the debate that the leading contender to Trump was (albeit low-keyed) culture warrior Ben Carson, the network (without a paper trail) keyed in on Carly Fiorina.

Like Trump and Carson, Fiorina had benefited from the first round, but is a more faithful corporate warrior, and had been inserted into the debate when CNN violated its own, initial, guidelines.  She's the kind of conservative Republican whom CNN and its parent company, Time-Warner, Inc., can warm up to.

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Thursday, September 17, 2015

Addicts Start With Caffeine. Don't Tell Chris Christie.

Simply put: Chris Christie makes things up. (So does Carly Fiorina but this is about Chris Christie.)

Oh, as a good politician- an excellent one- and Christie generally avoids lying. However, he will leave his listeners with the wrong impression. Consistently.

After Senator Paul in Thursday's debate emphasized the Tenth Amendment and suggested that the federal government should permit states to set their own drug policy, Governor Christie cited New Jersey's use of drug courts instead of incarceration and added

You see, Jake, I’m pro-life. And I think you need to be pro-life for more than just the time in the womb. It gets tougher when they get out of the womb. And when they’re the 16-year-old drug addict in the Florida county lockup, that life is just as precious as the life in the womb.

And so, that’s why I’m for rehabilitation, why I think the war on drugs has been a failure.

As with most critics of the "war on drugs," Christie offered no evidence but of the claim but it was nonetheless a hopeful beginning. Nonetheless, the discussion immediately turned darker when- immediately after proclaiming the drug law a "failure"- Christie added

But I’ll end with this. That doesn’t mean we should be legalizing gate way drugs. And if Senator Paul thinks that the only victim is the person, look at the decrease in productivity, look at the way people get used and move on to other drugs when they use marijuana as a gateway drug, it is not them that are the only victims. Their families are the victims too, their children are the victims too, and their employers are the victims also.

The war on drugs, Christie argued, has been a failure.  With no more evidence, the governor labeled marijuana "a gateway drug," a charge which has been nearly disproved, though nicotine and alcohol do appear to be gateway drugs (Sanjay Gupta, in 2013, below).  Christie didn't call for banning cigarettes.

Of course, possession of marijuana is a victimless crime. By Christie's standards, highway construction- encouraging more drivers and hydrocarbon emissions- creates tens of millions of victims among pedestrians.

Still, the governor says marijuana use creates victims.- family members, employers, even unrelated, innocent, victims. Then he says "you can still put an emphasis on rehabilitation."  We are left with: marijuana destroys millions of people, but we won't lock people up for it.

The logic is weak; in fact, non-existent.  However, it gets worse when Christie remarks

In New Jersey, we have medical marijuana laws, which I supported and implemented. This is not medical marijuana. There’s goes as much — a further step beyond. This is recreational use of marijuana.

This is much different. And so, while he would like to use a sympathetic story to back up his point, it doesn’t work. I’m not against medical marijuana. We do it in New Jersey. But I’m against the recreational use, against marijuana.

That at least is makes a little sense and is even coherent. But it's not true, given that

The New Jersey Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act was first introduced by Sen. Nicholas P. Scutari (D-Middlesex, Somerset, and Union) in January 2005 and was debated for five years before being enacted and signed into law by Gov. Jon S. Corzine in the closing days of his term in January 2010.

The final law was different than the original bill, which would have allowed a patient or the patient’s caregiver to possess up to six marijuana plants.

Gov. Chris Christie, who opposed the bill as he was running for governor in 2009, was put in the position of implementing it as he entered office. He’s contrasted New Jersey’s deliberate approach with the less restrictive approaches of Colorado, which has legalized the drug, and California, where doctors prescribe it for a wider range of conditions.

New Jersey's medical marijuana law is feeble, as Governor Christie has made it.  Non-violent drug users get a shot at drug courts, Christie says, and in most cases, that does bear more fruit than incarceration. As for completely innocent ill people under the care of a doctor but who could benefit from medical marijuana, Chris Christie would like them to go elsewhere, and it's not heaven or purgatory.

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A Helping Hand

After this post in which I suggested that CNN and/or Jake Tapper slanted Thursday evening's GOP presidential debate,  I came upon Slate's Justin Peters, who criticized CNN and Jake Tapper on other grounds for their performance,  He argued

Take this exchange, for example, in which Tapper, after first indicating that he was going to go to John Kasich, instead passes him over to give Carly Fiorina a chance to respond to something that had just been said about her, explaining that “Miss Fiorina’s name was mentioned and I have to give her the opportunity to respond if she wants it,” as if that particular policy was constitutionally ordained instead of some dumb rule that CNN made up just for the purposes of this debate. 

The debate transcript reveals the following exchange:

CHRISTIE: Stop — and stop playing — and Carly — Carly, listen. You can interrupt everybody else on this stage, you’re not going to interrupt me, OK?

The fact is that we don’t want to hear about your careers, back and forth and volleying back and forth about who did well and who did poorly. You’re both successful people. Congratulations. You know who’s not successful? The middle class in this country who’s getting plowed over by Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. Let’s start talking about those issues tonight and stop this childish back-and-forth between the two of you.

TAPPER: Governor Kasich, I’m coming to you next, but Ms. Fiorina’s name was mentioned, and I have to give her the opportunity to respond if she wants it.

FIORINA: Well, I thought we had been hearing quite a bit about Governor Christie’s record as governor, actually. I think track records are very important. I completely agree that what’s at stake here is the future of this nation, and the future of every American.

But I do think that a track record of leadership is vital because in the end this election is about leadership. And let’s talk about what leadership is. It’s not about braggadocio, it is about challenging the status quo, solving problems, producing results.

And the highest calling of leadership is to unlock potential in others.

It's reasonable to ask:  to respond to what?  (also: who is Carly Fiorina to suggest she knows how to "unlock potential in others?"). There was nothing to respond to, only an opportunity for Fiorina to give a variation on her stump speech. She pulled off a stunt which, as Digby observed,  was met with "great acclaim from right wingers and the media alike" and demonstrated "a skill usually limited to only the best hate talk radio hosts."   The candidate claimed

On day one in the Oval office I will make two phone calls the first to my good friend Bibi Netanyahu to assure him we will stand with the state of Israel. 

The second to the Supreme leader to tell him that unless and until he opens every nuclear facility to real anytime inspections by our people not his,we the United States of America will make it as difficult as possible to move money around the global financial system. 

We can do that we don’t need anyone’s cooperation to do it. And every ally and every adversary in this world will know that the United States of America is back in the leadership business which is how we must stand with out allies. 

As regards Planned Parenthood, anyone who has watched this videotape, I dare Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama to watch these tapes, watch a fully formed fetus on the table, it’s heart beating, its legs kicking while someone says we have to keep it alive to harvest its brain. 

This is about the character of our nation and if we will not stand up and force President Obama to veto this bill shame on us.

The latter description is untrue, as Sarah Kliff at Vox explains, and vile.  Almost as importantly, however, Fiorina was able to take a swipe at President Obama and feed the Republican id by combining two issues without even linking them. There was little transition, as she didn't even try to connect them, preceding her mythmaking about Planned Parenthood by "as regards Planned Parenthood."

There was no linkage, and only an abrupt transition.  Yet, Tapper allowed her to continue, to thunderous applause.

CNN not only wanted Carly Fiorina, whom they had made a questionable addition to the debate, to succeed. The network also wants Donald Trump at least cut down to size, which would make for a more interesting race and possibly derail his major issue- illegal immigration- on which most members of the mainstream media disagree with the frontrunner.  Ben Carson, the second-ranking candidate prior to the second debate, is an unabashed supporter of "traditional marriage" and of Kim Davis (video below) and believes homosexuality is a choice. He is not the media's idea of a reasonable Republican,

Fiorina, a businesswoman who recently was attacked by Trump for her appearance, was the obvious choice. She did her job and now likely GOP primary voters have the opportunity to play Charlie McCarthy to the network's Edgar Bergen.

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A Sorry Sight

On his last post of the week, usually on a Friday, Esquire's Charlie Pierce often sneaks in "Yeah, I pretty much still love New Orleans."

In the same vein, as demonstrated at last night's GOP presidential debate (transcript here): yeah, John Ellis Bush is pretty much still a weasel- at least as described in the Urban Dictionary. On Wednesday night, he stated

As it relates to Iran, it’s not a strategy to tear up an agreement. A strategy would be how do we confront Iran? And, the first thing that we need to do is to establish our commitment to Israel which has been altered by this administration. And, make sure that they have the most sophisticated weapons to send a signal to Iran that we have Israel’s back.

A presidential candidate is allowed to profess love for Israel, even if one of his foreign policy advisers once declared "Fuck the Jews, they don't vote for us anyway," which kind of summed up James Baker's approach to the Palestinian Arab/Palestinian Jewish issue.

Later turning his attention to Kentucky, Jake Tapper asked (video below).

Well, I’m not telling you that, Governor. But Governor Bush is, because he — because he disagrees. He thinks that Kim Davis swore to uphold the law.

You disagree? You’re not — you don’t…

Bush replied "I don’t think — you’re not stating my views right."

By "right," he must have meant "favorably" because after Ms. Davis refused to issue a marriage license to a gay couple, the former governor commented

She is sworn to uphold the law, and it seems to me that there ought to be common ground, there ought to be big enough space for her to act on her conscience and — now that the law is the law of the land — for a gay couple to be married in whatever jurisdiction that is,

But Tapper, representing a network afraid to offend the GOP, asked Bush to continue, whereupon the candidate said

I think there needs to be accommodation for someone acting on faith. Religious conscience is — is — is a first freedom. It’s — it’s a powerful part of our — of our Bill of Rights.

And, in a big, tolerant country, we should respect the rule of law, allow people in — in — in this country — I’m a — I was opposed to the decision, but we — you can’t just say, “well, they — gays can’t get married now.”

But this woman, there should be some accommodation for her conscience, just as there should be for people that are florists that don’t want to participate in weddings, or bakers. A great country like us should find a way to have accommodations for people so that we can solve the problem in the right way. This should be solved at the local level…

Of course, Davis' actions had nothing to do with religious conscience, but with her job duties.    Bush believes "there should be some accommodation for her  conscience," which is in stark contrast to his July opinion "I don’t think you should be discriminated [against] because of your sexual orientation. Period. Over and out. I think this should be done state-by-state. I totally agree with that."

However, that was at a technology company in San Francisco, a whole lot different crowd than he faced at the Ronald(6) Wilson(6) Reagan(6) library. Way to pander, John Ellis.

And then there was the one about his wife. If the last refuge of a scoundrel is to fly the flag, the second-to-last is to invoke family, as demonstrated below:

BASH: Governor Bush, Mr. Trump has suggested that your views on immigration are influenced by your Mexican born wife. He said that, quote, “If my wife were from Mexico, I think I would have a soft spot for people from Mexico.” Did Mr. Trump go to far in invoking your wife?

BUSH: He did, he did. You’re proud of your family, just as I am.

TRUMP: Correct.

BUSH: To subject my wife into the middle of a raucous political conversation was completely inappropriate, and I hope you apologize for that, Donald.

This is precious. On August 25, Bush responded to his use of the term "anchor babies" by contending "My record is pretty clear. I'm married to a Mexican-American United States citizen. I'm immersed in the culture, I'm bilingual. I feel like I'm bicultural. I'm proud of the diversity of my own family." He added "It's going to be really hard for me to be lectured to about the politics of immigration."

So now it's Trump who has injected his wife into a political controversy and Trump who has to apologize.  Bush noted his wife was in the audience and stated "And why don't you apologize to her right now."  Trump, thankfully refused, because- as he accurately noted- "I've said nothing wrong."

Bush says he doesn't want to be lectured about immigration because he's immersed in the Mexican culture because his wife is Mexican-American.  Then, he is shocked- shocked, I tell you- when somebody says that's why he condones illegal immigration. Jews call that "chutzpah" (sorry, Mr. Baker).

Most extraordinary, though, was when Bush, responding to Senator Paul's criticism of President George W. Bush, claimed "You know what? As it relates to my brother, there’s one thing I know for sure. He kept us safe. I don’t know if you remember…"

Emboldened by an outpouring of applause, Bush added "you remember the- rumble? You remember the fire fighter with is arms around it? He sent a clear signal that the United States would be strong and fight Islamic terrorism, and he did keep us safe."

Yes, Al-Qaeda terrorists are truly intimidated by a picture of a fellow with his arm around another guy.  In drawing a parallel between the ex-President's brother and Ted Cruz, who boasted about leading "the fight in the United States to protect our right to keep and bear arms," Pierce notes

I was struck by how proud Ted Cruz was to have thwarted even limited gun-control laws in the wake of the Sandy Hook massacre. Which seemed of a piece with Bush's invocation of The Great Mulligan, which is about where the whole debate left the earthly plane and ascended to the rarefied air of the top of the conservative information bubble. You have to forget a considerable amount of history to maintain belief in The Great Mulligan. In both cases, in lower Manhattan and in Newtown, it helps to be completely deaf to the cries of the dead. That's takes a special kind of person. It truly does.

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The Lie Laughed At Around the World

I suppose if a guy would in the Oval Office advocate the execution of "a staffer who leaked a story ," it's not surprising th...