Hypocritical Attacks On Sanders From The Clinton Camp

I supported Bernie Sanders for the 2016 presidential nomination. As will probably always be the case, this was because he was the best choice available, not because I agree with him on all matters. One major area where we differed  was in Sanders’ stressing economic matters, while my support for Sanders was more heavily influenced by opposition to Clinton-style military interventionism and on social issues. Despite the manner in which Sanders prioritized economic issues, he did have strong liberal positions in other areas, including being more liberal than Hillary Clinton on abortion rights.

I have my doubts about Sanders campaigning for an anti-abortion candidate in Omaha, but this has no bearing on wanting to see the Democratic Party move in the direction of Sanders as opposed to moving to the right with Hillary Clinton and her supporters. In contrast, many Clinton supporters are using this as yet another reason to attack Sanders.

I understand the problems some Clinton supporters have with Bernie Sanders campaigning for a candidate with Heath Mello’s position on abortion. However, I would have more respect for their position if they didn’t support a candidate like Hillary Clinton who supported greater military intervention in Iraq, Libya, and Syria, pushed for a resumption of cold war tensions with Russia, has supported suppression of civil liberties to supposedly fight terrorism, introduced legislation to make flag burning by protesters a felony, opposed same-sex marriage until this was no longer a position which she could survive with politically, sided with Republicans in blocking legislation to ban cluster bombs in civilian areas, has supported mass incarceration and remains hawkish on the drug war, opposed needle exchange programs, opposed programs to distribute free condoms to reduce the spread of AIDS, worked with the Fellowship while in the Senate to increase the role of religion in public policy, has strongly opposed government transparency, supported the Workplace Religious Freedom Act, has engaged in influence peddling, has opposed single-payer health care, ran as a “pro-gun churchgoer” in 2008, has supported restrictions on abortion herself, and has repeatedly acted to protect the corrupting influence of money in politics.

It is rather hypocritical that they can ignore all of this with Clinton, but now demand ideological purity from Bernie Sanders. Fighting the Republican attempts to restrict reproductive rights is important, as are the other issues I mentioned above. Considering how conservative Hillary Clinton is on foreign policy, First Amendment issues, and social/cultural issues, and how she has spent much of her career undermining liberal goals, nobody who supports Hillary Clinton is in any position to criticize Sanders over campaigning for Mello.

Trump and Republicans Escalate War Against Planned Parenthood And Women’s Health

Republicans love to use rhetoric such as talking about small government and freedom, but their real goal is to use big government to impose their religious views upon others. Maybe deep down Donald Trump even realizes that these actions by the religious right are morally wrong, as the usually loud mouthed president signed a bill targeting Planned Parenthood in private. CNN reports:

“President Donald Trump privately signed a bill on Thursday that allows states to withhold federal money from organizations that provide abortion services, including Planned Parenthood, a group frequently targeted by Republicans.

“The bill, which the usually camera-friendly President signed without any media present, reverses an Obama-era regulation that prohibited states from withholding money from facilities that perform abortions, arguing that many of these facilities also provide other family planning and medical services.

“The bulk of federal money Planned Parenthood receives, though, goes toward preventive health care, birth control, pregnancy tests and other women’s health services. Federal law prohibits taxpayer dollars from funding abortions and Planned Parenthood says 3% of the services it provides are abortions.

Republican who support such measures cannot claim to be for either liberty or small government. This also contradicts all their rhetoric about keeping government from getting between patients and doctors.

Trump Executive Orders Include Expanding Global Gag Rule On Abortion & Reinstating Black Site Prisons Closed Under Obama

Donald Trump’s use of executive orders have confirmed the worst fears about what we would see from a Trump presidency. Everyone who is aware of the policy assumed Trump would reinstate the global gag rule which, since Reagan, has been in place under all Republicans and reversed when Clinton and Obama were in office. This prohibits American foreign aide to organizations involved in providing abortions. What we did not anticipate, and most did not even realize immediately, was that Trump expanded this policy considerably. Michelle Goldberg did notice this and wrote in Slate:

In the past, the global gag rule meant that foreign NGOs must disavow any involvement with abortion in order to receive U.S. family planning funding. Trump’s version of the global gag rule expands the policy to all global health funding. According to Ehlers, the new rule means that rather than impacting $600 million in U.S. foreign aid, the global gag rule will affect $9.5 billion. Organizations working on AIDS, malaria, or maternal and child health will have to make sure that none of their programs involves so much as an abortion referral. Geeta Rao Gupta, a senior fellow at the United Nations Foundation who previously served as deputy executive director of UNICEF, gives the example of HIV/AIDS clinics that get U.S. funding to provide antiretrovirals: “If they’re giving advice to women on what to do if they’re pregnant and HIV positive, giving them all the options that exist, they cannot now receive money from the U.S.”

This makes Trump significantly worse than George W. Bush regarding the gag rule. Bush at least did specifically exempt support for an AIDS program, the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) from the global gag rule:

Scott Evertz, who served as director of the White House Office of National AIDS Policy under George W. Bush, tells me, “It would have been impossible to treat HIV/AIDS in the developing world as the emergency that PEPFAR said it was if the global gag rule were to be applied to the thousands of organizations with which those of us involved in PEPFAR would be working.” Evertz offers the example of a standalone health clinic in the slums of Nairobi, Kenya. Would the U.S. have to certify that it never referred any of its patients to an abortion provider before enlisting it in the fight against AIDS?  “The notion of applying the global gag rule to them would have made it impossible to implement the program,” he says.

Other executive orders involve building the border wall and curtailing immigration, limiting Obamacare, backing the Keystone XL and Dakota Access oil pipelines, and Trump is now reportedly preparing an executive order which would reopen “black site” prisons closed under Obama. The New York Times reports on the later:

The Trump administration is preparing a sweeping executive order that would clear the way for the C.I.A. to reopen overseas “black site” prisons, like those where it detained and tortured terrorism suspects before former President Barack Obama shut them down.

President Trump’s three-page draft order, titled “Detention and Interrogation of Enemy Combatants” and obtained by The New York Times, would also undo many of the other restrictions on handling detainees that Mr. Obama put in place in response to policies of the George W. Bush administration.

If Mr. Trump signs the draft order, he would also revoke Mr. Obama’s directive to give the International Committee of the Red Cross access to all detainees in American custody. That would be another step toward reopening secret prisons outside of the normal wartime rules established by the Geneva Conventions, although statutory obstacles would remain.

Mr. Obama tried to close the prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, and refused to send new detainees there, but the draft order directs the Pentagon to continue using the site “for the detention and trial of newly captured” detainees — including not just more people suspected of being members of Al Qaeda or the Taliban, like the 41 remaining detainees, but also Islamic State detainees. It does not address legal problems that might raise…

Elisa Massimino, the director of Human Rights First, denounced the draft order as “flirting with a return to the ‘enhanced interrogation program’ and the environment that gave rise to it.” She noted that numerous retired military leaders have rejected torture as “illegal, immoral and damaging to national security,” and she said that many of Mr. Trump’s cabinet nominees had seemed to share that view in their confirmation testimony.

“It would be surprising and extremely troubling if the national security cabinet officials were to acquiesce in an order like that after the assurances that they gave in their confirmation hearings,” she said.

Final Presidential Debate Shows Neither Candidate Is Acceptable

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The final presidential debate (transcript here, with fact checking) provided further confirmation that neither major party candidate is fit to be president, but Hillary Clinton is a far better debater than Donald Trump. Even when Trump had a valid point against Clinton, he lacked the ability to stay on target, drifting into irrelevances and lacking a sufficient command of the pertinent facts. On the other hand, I wish the debate included a split screen–one showing Clinton delivering her public policy, and the other revealing her private policy.

It was fitting that the final debate took place in Sin City. Donald Trump reportedly invited the woman who accused Bill Clinton of groping her to the debate. He dwells too much on things that don’t matter. Who is going to vote against Hillary (that otherwise would vote for her) based upon Bill’s sexual indiscretions? It just is not relevant.

Chris Wallace, who might have done the best job of the debate moderators, did start out with real issues. Clinton was far better than Trump on abortion and guns. Trump apparently has no idea how rare late term abortions are, or the reasons they usually occur. Like many Republicans, he does not appear to realize that the Bill of Rights includes anything beyond the Second Amendment, although Clinton also has a rather poor record on civil liberties. Trump was also his usual atrocious self when the debate turned to immigration. When Trump complained about Justice Ginsberg  making  “statements that should have never, ever been made,” I only thought that Donald Trump is the last person to be able to complain about “statements that should have never, ever been made.”

Clinton was not as bad in terms of evading the questions as she was during the second debate, but that is largely due to the types of questions asked. When she was asked about the emails released by Wikileaks, she pivoted to attack Russia. The leaks may or may not have been due to Russia, but her attacks on Russia remind me all too much of the attacks on Saddam for imaginary WMD by Bush, and false claims by Hillary Clinton of connections between Saddam and al Qaeda. What is important is the content of the leaks, and the dishonesty they revealed about Clinton. Besides, the United States is certainly not above comparable spying and interference in other countries, and I fear Clinton is misusing this matter as part of the overall neocon view on Russia.

Clinton’s belligerence towards Russia, and the increased threat of war, should be one of the major issues of the campaign. Trump would be preferable in his desire for cooperation with Russia if he wasn’t completely incoherent on foreign policy. Instead of rationally debating Clinton on this issue, his argument consisted of  “No puppet. You’re the puppet.”

Trump was right on pointing out how Clinton avoided the question of the content of the Wikileaks email, but rather than push the issue, he resorted to his usual nonsense of how Clinton refers to “radical Islamic terrorism,” as if saying the right magic words are needed to defeat them.

As the debate went on, Clinton called for equal pay for equal work, with no explanation for the huge pay gap at the Clinton Foundation which was exposed by Wikileaks. Trump was right in calling out Clinton for her flip-flops on TPP which were exposed by the fact checkers. When Trump was confronted by all the women who have accused him of assaulting them, he was the one to evade and pivot, returning to Clinton’s email.

Both candidates attacked the integrity of the other, and both were right here.  Clinton violated the ethics agreements she entered into when she was confirmed as Secretary of State, while Trump appears to have used his far shadier for bribes. Clinton again ignored the significance of the FBI report showing considerable dishonesty on her part when this was raised, and either Wallace or Trump should have brought up the State Department Inspector General report which showed she violated the rules, failed to cooperate with the investigation, and tried to cover-up her actions.

Clinton said she was going to “continue to push for a no-fly zone” in Syria, but there was no discussion of the large number of deaths this would result in, or the risk of a direct confrontation with Russia.  Initiating a no-fly zone would be a tremendous military undertaking. Just last month, Marine Corps Gen. Joseph Dunford testified before Congress that imposing a no-fly zone “would require us to go to war, against Syria and Russia.” Clinton admitted that “you’re going to kill a lot of Syrians” in one of her leaked Goldman-Sachs speeches.

The sad thing about the debate, and the entire campaign, is that such major issues of war and peace are being ignored, while the media dwells on the latest stupid thing said by Donald Trump–such as whether Donald Trump will accept the election result. This statement, while imprudent and potentially ominous, is hardly unprecedented. The real story of the election is not sexual misconduct, as reprehensible as Trump’s actions were, but the fact that our democracy has devolved to a point where we are given a choice of an ignorant buffoon like Trump or a corrupt war-monger like Clinton–with alternative viewpoints not welcome.

Americans Support Legal Abortion & Marijuana

Abortion Sign

Recent polls have shown that voters want the government out of their personal business, including support for keeping abortion legal and for legalized marijuana. The Hill reports on a poll on abortion rights:

Political candidates, consultants and the media generally misunderstand the politics of abortion rights. They tend to believe either that most voters oppose abortion or that the anti-abortion base is larger than the abortion rights base. But neither is true.

A recent nationwide poll by Ann Selzer (declared “The Best Pollster in Politics” by FiveThirtyEight), commissioned by the Public Leadership Institute, proves that voters overwhelmingly support abortion rights both in general and when asked about specific reproductive rights policies. In addition, the poll shows that those who “strongly support” abortion rights substantially outnumber those who “strongly oppose” it.

Our poll found that by a margin of 69-to-27 percent, American voters approve of the constitutional right to abortion established by the Supreme Court in Roe v. Wade. This result is similar to many polls over the years that have found Americans approving Roe by margins of 2-to-1 or greater.

Another poll from the Pew Research Center shows strong support for legalization of marijuana:

The share of Americans who favor legalizing the use of marijuana continues to increase. Today, 57% of U.S. adults say the use of marijuana should be made legal, while 37% say it should be illegal. A decade ago, opinion on legalizing marijuana was nearly the reverse – just 32% favored legalization, while 60% were opposed.

The shift in public opinion on the legalization of marijuana has occurred during a time when many U.S. states are relaxing their restrictions on the drug or legalizing it altogether. In June, Ohio became the 25th state (plus Washington, D.C., Guam and Puerto Rico) to legalize marijuana in some form after Gov. John Kasich signed a medical marijuana program into law. This November, Americans in nine states will vote on measures to establish or expand legal marijuana use…

By more than two-to-one, Democrats favor legalizing marijuana over having it be illegal (66% vs. 30%). Most Republicans (55%) oppose marijuana legalization, while 41% favor it.

These polls show that, of the major and minor political candidates, Hillary Clinton, Jill Stein, and Gary Johnson side with the majority on supporting abortion rights, while Donald Trump is on the wrong side.

Jill Stein and Gary Johnson are the only candidates who consistently side with the majority on ending marijuana prohibition. Donald Trump has spoken of legalization in the past, but is hardly consistent on this. Hillary Clinton is the most conservative candidate on drug policy, having been a hard-line supporter of the drug war. This puts her views to the right of both the nation and the majority of her own party. While Clinton has tried to soften her position at times during the campaign, one of the leaked Wikileaks emails showed that her private position remains one of hard-line opposition to ending prohibition.

Leaked DNC Email & Choice Of Time Kaine Show It Is Time For DemExit

DNC Sanders Religious Views

The two big stories of the past day provide the same message–the Democratic Party is no longer a suitable home for liberals and progressives. The latest batch of leaked DNC emails via Wikileak shows what we already knew: rather than staying neutral as they should have, the DNC was rigging the system to support Hillary Clinton. Particularly disturbing was the manner in which they contemplated using Bernie Sanders’ religion against him, insulting both Jews and atheists. The DNC email also shows, as did some of Hillary Clinton’s email, how the Clinton campaign and its allies have manipulated the press.

This was hardly the first sign that the nomination process was unfairly tilted to support Clinton. As I discussed in April, Sanders has had to deal with party rules which have made it difficult for insurgent candidates to win since George McGovern won the nomination. Party leaders subsequently thought the party was best off with moderate candidates who do well in the south despite significant changes in the country since 1972. The use of super delegates, restrictions on independents voting in may states, and front loading of southern primaries make it harder for insurgent candidates to win. Plus the Democratic Party showed even more favoritism this year, including with the debate schedule, failing to release the popular vote in Iowa, as was done eight years ago, which Sanders very likely won, Harry Reid’s actions in Nevada, and changing rules on contributions from lobbyists to help Clinton.

While Hillary Clinton has tried to pretend to be a progressive at times, her choice of Tim Kaine as running mate shows again that she remains a DLC Democrat who opposes liberal values. As The Hill reports:

The moderate Democrat has backed abortion restrictions; supported fast-track authority for a controversial Pacific Rim trade deal; and just this week joined a push to deregulate some of the nation’s largest banks — all positions that are anathema to the liberals being wooed by the Clinton team heading into November.

Bloomberg adds:

In selecting Senator Tim Kaine of Virginia over progressive favorites like as Senators Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts or Sherrod Brown of Ohio, Clinton is partnering with a lawmaker whose stances on finance and trade policies have sparked backlash from some of her most persistent critics…

Kaine was also one of 70 senators supporting a bipartisan effort to urge the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to ease some rules on smaller banks and credit unions. His vote in favor of giving the Obama administration more leeway in sealing a trade deal with 12 Pacific Rim nations also has rankled progressives.

His “support for fast-track authority for the job-killing Trans-Pacific Partnership and recent backing of bank deregulation will make our work more difficult,” said Charles Chamberlain, executive director of Democracy for America, a progressive political action committee. He said he was referring to efforts to unite the “political revolution with the Democratic establishment to defeat Trump.”

The choice of a supporter of Wall Street deregulation and trade deals such as TPP plays right into Donald Tump’s hands, shortly after he made an appeal for Sanders supporters to vote for him. It also provides more reason for liberals to consider Jill Stein as opposed to voting for Clinton. Both Kaine and Clinton are preferable to the Republicans on abortion, but that is not enough. Neither recognizes it as a woman’s right as true liberals do and therefore, while they would keep abortion generally legal, they are also willing to compromise and accept restrictions. Clinton’s idea of keeping abortion rare not only stigmatizes women who have chosen to have an abortion, but also plays into Republican hands in making it harder to obtain abortions. Again, they are better than Republicans on this issue, but not good enough. If this was the only issue I could live with them, but there are other issues where they are far worse.

The Democratic Party is looking far more like a DLC, or Republican-lite, Party, unwilling to promote liberal goals. Instead we risk a return of the triangulation and moves to the right seen under Bill Clinton. We had enough problems with DLC policies under Bill Clinton. The dangers under Hillary Clinton are now far worse as she supports an expansion of the warfare/surveillance state which has grown out of control since the Bush years.

Good News From Supreme Court On Abortion & The Typical News On Trump and Clinton

Abortion Sign

It was a good day with regards to reproductive rights as the Supreme Court struck down a law in Texas designed to restrict abortions by imposing absurd requirements on abortion clinics designed to make it too difficult to operate.  The New York Times reports:

The Supreme Court on Monday struck down parts of a restrictive Texas law that could have reduced the number of abortion clinics in the state to about 10 from what was once a high of roughly 40.

The 5-to-3 decision was the court’s most sweeping statement on abortion rights since Planned Parenthood v. Casey in 1992. It applied a skeptical and exacting version of that decision’s “undue burden” standard to find that the restrictions in Texas went too far.

The decision on Monday means that similar restrictions in other states are most likely also unconstitutional, and it imperils many other kinds of restrictions on abortion…

he Supreme Court on Monday struck down parts of a restrictive Texas law that could have reduced the number of abortion clinics in the state to about 10 from what was once a high of roughly 40.

The 5-to-3 decision was the court’s most sweeping statement on abortion rights since Planned Parenthood v. Casey in 1992. It applied a skeptical and exacting version of that decision’s “undue burden” standard to find that the restrictions in Texas went too far.

The decision on Monday means that similar restrictions in other states are most likely also unconstitutional, and it imperils many other kinds of restrictions on abortion..

One part of the law requires all clinics in the state to meet the standards for ambulatory surgical centers, including regulations concerning buildings, equipment and staffing. The other requires doctors performing abortions to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital.

This law came from Republicans who claim to both oppose over-regulation of business and government take-overs of health care.

The New York Times also points out that the Court has leaned left with eight members when it avoids a tie.

Otherwise it was a typical day. Donald Trump said more stupid things, this time calling Elizabeth Warren a racist. Plus we have further evidence that Clinton was lying about her email as more examples were found of work-related email which appear to have been destroyed with the email Clinton claimed was personal. These stories come after too many examples of Donald Trump saying stupid things to list, and a similar report on Clinton’s email three days ago.

Head Of Organization Spreading False Claims About Planned Parenthood Indicted By Texas Grand Jury

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There was an unexpected turn of events in a grand jury investigation in Texas regarding the bogus charges against Planned Parenthood. The grand jury not only declared there was no wrong doing on the part of Planned Parenthood, but indicted the director of the group which spread the debunked claims that Planned Parenthood was selling fetal tissue.  The Washington Post reports:

Harris County District Attorney Devon Anderson said David Daleiden, the director of the Center for Medical Progress, faces a felony charge of tampering with a governmental record and a misdemeanor count related to buying human tissue.

Sandra Merritt, one of Daleiden’s employees, was also indicted on a charge of tampering with a governmental record.

The grand jury cleared Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast of any wrongdoing.

“We were called upon to investigate allegations of criminal conduct by Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast,” Anderson said in a statement. “As I stated at the outset of this investigation, we must go where the evidence leads us. All the evidence uncovered in the course of this investigation was presented to the grand jury. I respect their decision on this difficult case.”

Republican candidates were not happy. Think Progress quotes some of them.

Support For Abortion Rights Increases As Republicans Enact More Restrictions

Pro-Choice rally

The Republican Party remains out of sync with the views of the American people on abortion rights. An Associated Press-GfK poll reported:

Support for legal abortion in the U.S. has edged up to its highest level in the past two years, with an Associated Press-GfK poll showing an apparent increase in support among Democrats and Republicans alike over the last year.

Nearly six in 10 Americans — 58 percent — now think abortion should be legal in most or all cases, up from 51 percent who said so at the beginning of the year, according to the AP-GfK survey. It was conducted after three people were killed last month in a shooting at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado.

While support for legal abortion edged up to 40 percent among Republicans in this month’s poll, from 35 percent in January, the survey found that the GOP remains deeply divided on the issue: Seven in 10 conservative Republicans said they want abortion to be illegal in most or all cases; six in 10 moderate and liberal Republicans said the opposite.

Besides trying to defund Planned Parenthood based on bogus attacks, the Republicans have been restricting access to abortion in many states. Vox has a series of maps showing where the new restrictions are. The article began:

States have enacted an unprecedented number of anti-abortion laws in the past five years, and 2015 continued that trend. According to a new report from the Center for Reproductive Rights, state lawmakers proposed nearly 400 bills restricting abortion in 2015, and 47 of those bills were enacted. Some of those 47 bills contained more than one restriction, and the Guttmacher Institute estimates that a total of 57 new abortion restrictions became law. Arkansas passed six new anti-abortion laws, the most of any state in 2015.

Vox broke down the new restrictions to include waiting periods and mandatory biased counseling, bans and restrictions on certain abortion procedures, and other types of restrictions. The maps show the new restrictions to be primarily, but not exclusively, in red states. Some of the new restrictions have been overruled in the courts, and if not for this would probably be even more widespread in the more conservative parts of the country.

Supreme Court To Decide On Texas Anti-Abortion Law

Planned Parenthood

Republican efforts in recent years to restrict access to abortion have generally been at the state level (along with debunked attacks on Planned Parenthood), but now the Texas law will have national significance with the Supreme Court deciding to hear the case. The New York Times reports:

The Supreme Court on Friday agreed to hear its first major abortion case since 2007, one that has the potential to affect millions of women and to revise the constitutional principles governing abortion rights…

The case is a challenge to a Texas law that would leave the state with about 10 abortion clinics, down from more than 40. Such a change, the abortion providers who are plaintiffs in the case told the justices, would have a vast practical impact.

“Texas is the second-most-populous state in the nation — home to 5.4 million women of reproductive age,” they wrote in their brief urging the court to hear the case. “More than 60,000 of those women choose to have an abortion each year.”

The case concerns two parts of a state law that imposes strict requirements on abortion providers. It was passed by the Republican-dominated Texas Legislature and signed into law in July 2013 by Rick Perry, the governor at the time.

One part of the law requires all clinics in the state to meet the standards for “ambulatory surgical centers,” including regulations concerning buildings, equipment and staffing. The other requires doctors performing abortions to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital.

Officials in Texas said that the contested provisions were needed to protect women’s health. Abortion providers responded that the regulations were expensive, unnecessary and intended to put many of them out of business.

Think Progress has debunked claims of supporters of this law that the strict requirements are reasonable:

Yet, while these may seem like health regulations at first glance, they do little, if anything, to actually advance women’s health. As the Texas Hospital Association explains, for example, “thousands of physicians operate clinics and provide services in those clinics but do not have hospital admitting privileges.” Hospitals provide care to women who experience complications during an abortion — complications, it should be noted, that are extraordinarily rare — regardless of whether the physician who performed the abortion has admitting privileges or not. Similarly, the ambulatory surgical center requirement applies even in abortion clinics that do not perform surgeries — many abortions are induced by medication alone. The laws, in other words, impose burdensome and expensive restrictions on abortion clinics even when those restrictions bear no relationship whatsoever to advancing women’s health.

There is little doubt that these restrictions were written by opponents of the right of a woman to control her own body, with the goal of making it harder for women to obtain an abortion by causing multiple clinics which provide abortions to shut down. Opponents of the law expect that those clinics which do remain will be limited to the metropolitan areas of Austin, Dallas-Fort Worth, Houston and San Antonio. This will leave many women in Texas without a nearby site to obtain abortions.