Roundup: Common ground and hand grenades

Robin Marty

In today's roundup, while some senators are looking for common ground on health care reform, others are applying scorched earth tactics. Also, a common theme in letters to the editor.

It’s the beginning of a new week, and all eyes are on the senate as they struggle to work on health care reform.

President Barack Obama gave democratic leaders a "pep-talk" over the weekend, encouraging them to continue to support health care reform, but Nebraska Senator Ben Nelson seemed unmoved by the tactic.

Sen. Ben Nelson, D-Neb., who has opposed the proposed government-run insurance program to compete with private insurers, said Obama’s speech was persuasive mainly "for those who have made the decision to support" the bill.

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On the other hand, Sen. Chuck Schumer appears optimistic that progress is occurring within the chamber.

"We’re finding a good deal of the give-and-take that leads to common ground," said Sen. Charles Schumer (D., N.Y.), a negotiator on the issue. Sen. Schumer said no deals had been reached, and that talks on the issue would reconvene Monday afternoon.

Although a large gap still remains between those who are for and against a public option in the reform bill, a great deal of the attention is also being focused on the introduction of a Stupak-like anti-choice bill assumed to be introduced by Sen. Ben Nelson today.  

Antiabortion lawmakers in the Senate plan to introduce an amendment as soon as Monday to restrict insurance coverage of abortion in the health bill, setting up a showdown that has no clear path to resolution.

Both sides agree the amendment likely doesn’t have enough votes to pass, but antiabortion groups and Sen. Ben Nelson (D., Neb.) say they will continue insisting on tough language as a condition for supporting the overall bill.

The lack of a clear meeting point makes abortion somewhat different from the other top obstacle to the bill’s passage, the publicly run insurance plan that some Democrats oppose. There, both sides are weighing a handful of compromises.

On abortion, said Sen. Nelson, "it’s certainly not a lock that there’s language in the middle."

Could the introduction of a potentially unresolvable abortion rights amendment by a senator already on record for not caring for the current health care bill be an attempt to derail the bill altogether?  It wouldn’t be the first, or the last time that reproductive rights were used as a political weapon.

Abortion remains the omnipresent irritant of American politics. The country seems to have reached an uneasy equipoise on abortion rights: some, but not too much. Yet the adversaries in both sides remain engaged in trench warfare, with every battle over a few hard-fought yards. Abortion opponents have little hope of overturning Roe v. Wade, but they can try to make access more difficult. Supporters of abortion rights are, for the most part, trying to maintain the ground already won.

Meanwhile, abortion is a handy public-policy hand grenade to be tossed in the middle of any legislative battle by those whose goal is to blow things up. The current fight—over whether the health-care bill does enough to make certain that government money isn’t used for abortions—underscores abortion’s continuing potency as a political weapon.

Will health care become a scorched battlefield that nothing can survive? We’ll know more as the week advances.

Mini-roundup: If you are writing a letter to the editor, today’s magic word is disease, disease, disease… 

12/6

No-touch
technique for
birth control
Times of India

Reid
Says Yes to Abstinence
CQPolitics.com

Pro-life
pregnancy clinic hunts for new home

Jennings Daily News

Mikulski
Amendment would include Planned Parenthood in health care bill
Catholic News Agency

Your
Turn: Don’t overlook public cost of abortion ban
St. Cloud Times

Senate
Will Vote Monday on Amendment to Cut Health Care Bill Abortion Funding
LifeNews.com

Pro-Life
News: Manhattan Declaration, Stem Cell Research, Stupak, Netherlands
LifeNews.com

Star
Parker: Will Baltimore side with pro-abortionists?
OCRegister

Abortion
Emerges as Top Bill Threat
Wall Street Journal

On
Tape: Wisconsin Senator Kohl Promised to Vote Against Abortion in Health Care
Lifesite

Capps
steps into
abortion
spotlight
San
Luis Obispo Tribune

Neb.
abortion
doctor plans to expand his operation

Columbus Telegram

Abortion
vote could come Monday, Durbin says

Politico

Obama
gives Senate Democrats "pep talk" on health care
USA Today

Obama
Presses Senate Democrats on Health Bill
Wall Street Journal

Women
challenge Irish
abortion ban in court
guardian.co.uk

The
heart of the health care debate on
abortion
Huffington Post

Abortion
Rights and Health Reform
New York Times

Emergency
Contraception:
What Good Is "Available" If It’s Not
Change.org Women’s Rights Blog

Abortion’s
New Battleground; Will
pro-choice Democrats kill health-care reform
The Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life

New
group aims to help
pro-choice women candidates in Florida races
Tampa Tribune

Cunis:
Abortion views questioned
Daily News Tribune

Protest:
‘drop the abortion charges’
Green Left Weekly

Stupak
Is as Stupak Does
The
Citizen

Abortion
contradicts value of human life
Port Huron Times Herald

Adoption key
to family’s happiness
Myrtle Beach Sun News

Couple
say adopted son beyond their help
Tulsa World

Two
Reality Shows Stir Publicity and Anger

New York Times

 

12/5

Social
barriers remain for
adoption
Visalia Times-Delta

Planned
Parenthood ad is incomplete
The Coloradoan

Condoms
To Fight Climate Change
Daily Beast

Too
many single mothers
Kansas
City Star

Abortion:
more than 5000 UK women under 20 had repeat termination
guardian.co.uk

Patrick
Kennedy is a victim of Catholic hierarchy’s hypocrisy
Allentown Morning Call

Senate
Amendment Renews Abortion Debate in Health Bill
Christian Post

Pro-life
leader skeptical that Obama’s new bioethics commission will be ethical
Catholic News Agency

Bishops
urged to be tough on pols who would pay for
abortion

Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

Planned
Parenthood struggling financially, Harvard study finds
Catholic News Agency

Reproductive
Rights Prof Blog: Carol Sanger on Teenage
Abortion
Reproductive Rights

Tulare
County lacking in
abortion services
Visalia Times-Delta

Liberal
feminist Dems see no room for compromise
Chicago Sun-Times

Sarah
Palin’s son is being used to demonize pro-choicers
Salon

STUPAK
REFUTES FALSE CLAIMS IN NARAL AD
The Michigan News

Letter:
Note disproves
abortion
allegation
Dubuque
Telegraph Herald

Senate
healthcare debate stretches through weekend
Los Angeles Times

Abortion is
a social disease, not a religious debate
Boston Globe

Abortion
coverage equality
Press
& Sun-Bulletin

Male
contraception gains acceptability
Times of India

Don’t
take my taxes to pay for abortion
DesMoinesRegister.com

Edward
Fitzpatrick:
Pro-choice
Caprio reflects on his own family
Providence Journal

Creators
of abortion film say they want honest debate
Los Angeles Times

 

12/4

Rwanda:
Population Control Now Part of Schools’ Curricula
AllAfrica.com

New
report urges more investment to slash maternal and newborn deaths
People’s Daily Online

Pro-life
group faces Senate in uphill healthcare battle
OneNewsNow

Time
for Senator Reid to Decide Who He is

Christian News Wire

Senate
delays action on
abortion measure
CNN Political Ticker

Sarah
and Trig Emerge as Anti-
Abortion Stars
Newser

Catholic
Church wrong for anti-
abortion stance
Delaware County Daily Times

Moderates
seek greater health care cost controls

The Associated Press

Ad
targets Stupak amendment on
abortion restriction
Detroit Free Press

Abortion not
a gray area for Catholic pols
Pottstown Mercury

Neb.
Abortion
Doctor Plans To Expand His Operation

CBS News

Senate
votes to keep long-term care program

The Associated Press

GOP
out of touch on social issues
GSU Signal

New contraception
help for teens
Nursing
in Practice

Nebraska
high court overturns boy’s
adoption
Action 3 News

Senate
Approves Legislation Requiring Free Mammograms
Ms. Magazine

Some
good news about women and health care

Feministing

Yasmin
and Yaz Litigation Update
Lawyers and Settlements

Senator
Harry Reid Challenged to Stand Up for Supposed
Pro-Life Abortion View
LifeNews.com

Fort
Hood Shooter Faces More Charges, None for Killing Pregnant Soldier’s Baby
LifeNews.com

Social
Justice Begins In The Womb, New Book Shows
Pro-Life is Pro-Human Rights
LifeNews.com

New
Uruguayan President-Elect Means
Pro-Life Battle is Compromised, Leader Warns
Lifesite

Late-Term
Abortion
Practice Continues
Now

Abortion Doc
Takes Risks for Strong View
CBS News

Wife
arrested after husband’s girlfriend takes
abortion drug
Newsday

This
week’s healthcare questions, answers

Baltimore Sun

Michigan
Abortion Facility Advertizes Abortion as "Sacred Work"
Lifesite

Wisconsin
group argues Catholics can use contraception in good conscience
Catholic News Agency

Roundups Politics

Campaign Week in Review: Republican National Convention Edition

Ally Boguhn

The Trump family's RNC claims about crime and the presidential candidate's record on gender equality have kept fact-checkers busy.

Republicans came together in Cleveland this week to nominate Donald Trump at the Republican National Convention (RNC), generating days of cringe-inducing falsehoods and misleading statements on crime, the nominee’s positions on gender equality, and LGBTQ people.

Trump’s Acceptance Speech Blasted for Making False Claims on Crime

Trump accepted the Republican nomination in a Thursday night speech at the RNC that drew harsh criticism for many of its misleading and outright false talking points.

Numerous fact-checkers took Trump to task, calling out many of his claims for being “wrong,” and “inflated or misleading.”

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 Among the most hotly contested of Trump’s claims was the assertion that crime has exploded across the country.

“Decades of progress made in bringing down crime are now being reversed by this administration’s rollback of criminal enforcement,” Trump claimed, according to his prepared remarks, which were leaked ahead of his address. “Homicides last year increased by 17 percent in America’s 50 largest cities. That’s the largest increase in 25 years. In our nation’s capital, killings have risen by 50 percent. They are up nearly 60 percent in nearby Baltimore.”

Crime rates overall have been steadily declining for years.

“In 2015, there was an uptick in homicides in 36 of the 50 largest cities compared to the previous years. The rate did, indeed, increase nearly 17 percent, and it was the worst annual change since 1990. The homicide rate was up 54.3 percent in Washington, and 58.5 percent in Baltimore,” explained Washington Post fact checkers Glenn Kessler and Michelle Ye Hee Lee. “But in the first months of 2016, homicide trends were about evenly split in the major cities. Out of 63 agencies reporting to the Major Cities Chiefs Association, 32 cities saw a decrease in homicides in first quarter 2016 and 31 saw an increase.”

Ames Grawert, a counsel in the Brennan Center’s Justice Program, said in a statement posted to the organization’s website that 2016 statistics aren’t sufficient in declaring crime rate trends. 

“Overall, crime rates remain at historic lows. Fear-inducing soundbites are counterproductive, and distract from nuanced, data-driven, and solution-oriented conversations on how to build a smarter criminal justice system in America,” Grawert said. “It’s true that some cities saw an increase in murder rates last year, and that can’t be ignored, but it’s too early to say if that’s part of a national trend.” 

When Paul Manafort, Trump’s campaign chairman, was confronted with the common Republican falsehoods on crime during a Thursday interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper, he claimed that the FBI’s statistics were not to be trusted given that the organization recently advised against charges in connection with Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server during her tenure as secretary of state.

“According to FBI statistics, crime rates have been going down for decades,” Tapper told Manafort. “How can Republicans make the argument that it’s somehow more dangerous today when the facts don’t back that up?”

“People don’t feel safe in their neighborhoods,” said Manafort, going on to claim that “the FBI is certainly suspect these days after what they did with Hillary Clinton.”

There was at least one notable figure who wholeheartedly embraced Trump’s fearmongering: former KKK Grand Wizard David Duke. “Great Trump Speech,” tweeted Duke on Thursday evening. “Couldn’t have said it better!”

Ben Carson Claims Transgender People Are Proof of “How Absurd We Have Become”

Former Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson criticized the existence of transgender people while speaking at the Florida delegation breakfast on Tuesday in Cleveland.  

“You know, we look at this whole transgender thing, I’ve got to tell you: For thousands of years, mankind has known what a man is and what a woman is. And now, all of a sudden we don’t know anymore,” said Carson, a retired neurosurgeon. “Now, is that the height of absurdity? Because today you feel like a woman, even though everything about you genetically says that you’re a man or vice versa?”

“Wouldn’t that be the same as if you woke up tomorrow morning after seeing a movie about Afghanistan or reading some books and said, ‘You know what? I’m Afghanistan. Look, I know I don’t look that way. My ancestors came from Sweden, or something, I don’t know. But I really am. And if you say I’m not, you’re a racist,’” Carson said. “This is how absurd we have become.”

When confronted with his comments during an interview with Yahoo News’ Katie Couric, Carson doubled down on his claims.“There are biological markers that tell us whether we are a male or a female,” said Carson. “And just because you wake up one day and you say, ‘I think I’m the other one,’ that doesn’t change it. Just, a leopard can’t change its spots.”

“It’s not as if they woke up one day and decided, ‘I’m going to be a male or I’m going to be a female,’” Couric countered, pointing out that transgender people do not suddenly choose to change their gender identities on a whim.

Carson made several similar comments last year while on the campaign trail.

In December, Carson criticized the suggested that allowing transgender people into the military amounted to using the armed services “as a laboratory for social experimentation.”

Carson once suggested that allowing transgender people to use the restroom that aligned with their gender identity amounted to granting them “extra rights.”

Ivanka Trump Claims Her Father Supports Equal Pay, Access to Child Care

Ivanka Trump, the nominee’s daughter, made a pitch during her speech Thursday night at the RNC for why women voters should support her father.

“There have always been men of all background and ethnicities on my father’s job sites. And long before it was commonplace, you also saw women,” Ivanka Trump said. “At my father’s company, there are more female than male executives. Women are paid equally for the work that we do and when a woman becomes a mother, she is supported, not shut out.” 

“As president, my father will change the labor laws that were put into place at a time when women were not a significant portion of the workforce. And he will focus on making quality child care affordable and accessible for all,” she continued before pivoting to address the gender wage gap. 

“Policies that allow women with children to thrive should not be novelties; they should be the norm. Politicians talk about wage equality, but my father has made it a practice at his company throughout his entire career.”

However, Trump’s stated positions on the gender wage gap, pregnancy and mothers in the workplace, and child care don’t quite add up to the picture the Trumps tried to paint at the RNC.

In 2004, Trump called pregnancy an “inconvenience” for employers. When a lawyer asked for a break during a deposition in 2011 to pump breast milk, Trump reportedly called her “disgusting.”

According to a June analysis conducted by the Boston Globe, the Trump campaign found that men who worked on Trump’s campaign “made nearly $6,100, or about 35 percent more [than women during the April payroll]. The disparity is slightly greater than the gender pay gap nationally.”

A former organizer for Trump also filed a discrimination complaint in January, alleging that she was paid less than her male counterparts.

When Trump was questioned about equal pay during a campaign stop last October, he did not outline his support for policies to address the issue. Instead, Trump suggested that, “You’re gonna make the same if you do as good a job.” Though he had previously stated that men and women who do the same job should be paid the same during an August 2015 interview on MSNBC, he also cautioned that determining whether people were doing the same jobs was “tricky.”

Trump has been all but completely silent on child care so far on the campaign trail. In contrast, Clinton released an agenda in May to address the soaring costs of child care in the United States.

Ivanka’s claims were not the only attempt that night by Trump’s inner circle to explain why women voters should turn to the Republican ticket. During an interview with MSNBC’s Chris Matthews, Manafort said that women would vote for the Republican nominee because they “can’t afford their lives anymore.”

“Many women in this country feel they can’t afford their lives, their husbands can’t afford to be paying for the family bills,” claimed Manafort. “Hillary Clinton is guilty of being part of the establishment that created that problem. They’re going to hear the message. And as they hear the message, that’s how we are going to appeal to them.”

What Else We’re Reading

Vox’s Dara Lind explained how “Trump’s RNC speech turned his white supporters’ fear into a weapon.”

Now that Mike Pence is the Republican nominee for vice president, Indiana Republicans have faced “an intense, chaotic, awkward week of brazen lobbying at the breakfast buffet, in the hallways and on the elevators” at the convention as they grapple with who will run to replace the state’s governor, according to the New York Times.

“This is a party and a power structure that feels threatened with extinction, willing to do anything for survival,” wrote Rebecca Traister on Trump and the RNC for New York Magazine. “They may not love Trump, but he is leading them precisely because he embodies their grotesque dreams of the restoration of white, patriarchal power.”

Though Trump spent much of the primary season denouncing big money in politics, while at the RNC, he courted billionaires in hopes of having them donate to supporting super PACs.

Michael Kranish reported for the Washington Post that of the 2,472 delegates at the RNC, it is estimated that only 18 were Black.

Cosmopolitan highlighted nine of the most sexist things that could be found at the convention.

Rep. Steve King (R-IA) asked, “Where are these contributions that have been made” by people of color to civilization?

News Politics

Rep. Steve King: What Have People Of Color Contributed to Civilization?

Ally Boguhn

King came under fire this month after local news station KCAU aired footage showing that the Iowa representative keeps a Confederate flag displayed on his desk.

Rep. Steve King (R-IA) on Monday questioned what “contributions” people of color have made to civilization while appearing on an MSNBC panel during the Republican National Convention in Cleveland.

King’s comments came during a discussion on racial diversity within the Republican Party in which fellow panelist Charles P. Pierce said, “If you’re really optimistic, you can say this was the last time that old white people would command the Republican Party’s attention, its platform, its public face.”

“That [convention] hall is wired by loud, unhappy, dissatisfied white people,” Pierce added.

“This ‘old white people’ business though does get a little tired, Charlie,” King responded. “I’d ask you to go back through history and figure out, where are these contributions that have been made by these other categories of people that you’re talking about. Where did any other subgroup of people contribute more to civilization?”

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“Than white people,” Hayes attempted to clarify.

“Than Western civilization itself,” King said. “It’s rooted in Western Europe, Eastern Europe and the United States of America and every place where the footprint of Christianity settled the world. That’s all of Western civilization.”

Another panelist, reporter April Ryan, countered “What about Asia? What about Africa?” before the panel broke out into disarray. Hayes moved to cut off the group, telling them, “We’re not going to argue the history of civilization.”

“Let me note for the record that if you’re looking at the ledger of Western civilization, for every flourishing democracy you’ve got Hitler and Stalin as well,” Hayes said. “So there’s a lot on both sides.”

Hayes justified abruptly ending the conversation about King’s comments in a series of tweets, saying that he had been “pretty taken aback by” the comments.

“The entire notion of debating which race/civilization/ ‘sub group’ contributed most or is best is as odious as it is preposterous,” Hayes tweeted. “Which is why I said ‘we’re not debating this here.’ But I hear people who think I made the wrong call in the moment. Maybe I did.”

King came under fire this month after local news station KCAU aired footage showing that the Iowa representative keeps a Confederate flag displayed on his desk. King, speaking with Iowa talk radio host Jeff Angelo, defended keeping the flag in his office.

“This is a free country and there’s freedom of speech,” King said, according to Right Wing Watch. “And, by the way, I’d encourage people to go back and read the real history of the Civil War and find out what it was about. A small part of it was about slavery, but there was a big part of it that was about states’ rights, it was about people that defended their homeland and fought next to their neighbors and their family.”

As the Washington Post’s Philip Bump explained in a report on King’s comments, “there have been a great number of non-white contributions to human civilization.”

“Civilization first arose in cities in Mesopotamia, in what is now Iraq and Syria. Arabic and Middle Eastern inventors and scientists brought astronomy to the world, which in turn aided innovations in navigation,” Bump wrote. “Critical innovations in mathematics and architecture originated in the same area. The Chinese contributed philosophical precepts and early monetary systems, among other things. The specific inventions that were created outside of the Western world are too many to list: the seismograph, the umbrella, gunpowder, stirrups, the compass.”