Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Did Inflammatory Rhetoric on the Right Inspire the Colorado Planned Parenthood Attack (and Others)?

Carly lied, people died.

I've taken flak from a few people for suggesting inflammatory statements by the GOP candidates, notably Carly Fioriana, and GOP voices in Congress played a key role in creating the climate in which attacks have been unleashed on Planned Parenthood clinics around the country, most notably the recent one in Colorado Springs, with took the lives of three people while wounding nine others.

I'm not alone. There's a growing consensus.

Atrios of Eschaton made the connection.

Dana Milbank of the WaPo made the connection.

The Center for American Progress made the connection.

The Colorado Springs Police Department and NBC report that the suspect, Robert Lewis Dear, said "no more baby parts."

CNN echoed the report.

Washingtion Times carries news that Former Texas senator and gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis has made the connection.

Mild-mannered Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders has made the connection.

Even GOP candidate Ted Cruz has made the connection. Otherwise, why would he make such a preposterous suggestion as this?
When a reporter asked him at an Iowa campaign stop Sunday evening about suspect Robert Lewis Dear saying he was motivated by “no more baby parts,” Cruz countered that he’s also been reported to be a “transgendered [sic] leftist activist.”
Cruz explained, “We know that he was a man registered to vote as a woman.” This discrepancy on Dear’s voter registration was first reported by The Gateway Pundit, a self-described “right-of-center news website,” under the claim that he “identifies as [a] woman.” Conservatives have since run with the claim that Dear is transgender.
There is actually no evidence to suggest that he is transgender, nor a “leftist,” nor any kind of activist. In fact, all of the available information suggests he was none of those things.
The Huffington Post has pointed out the inflammatory things Republicans have said about Planned Parenthood, abortion, and rape.

I could search for a while longer and find dozens of journalists and commentators that have made the connection. In fact, it's difficult not to read more examples. But if you want a final reminder, again, watch Carly Fiorina at the September 16th CNN debate:

Dahlia Lithwick of Slate puts in best:
The enormity of the fabrication surprised me; the fact that nobody had ever seen this extraordinary smoking gun before stunned me; the fact that not one of the journalists moderating the debate followed up on her claim surprised me. The fact that contemporaneous mainstream media reports of the debate—more theater criticism than journalism—failed to fact-check it surprised me. The people who did fact-check it all immediately agreed that it wasn’t true, and yet Fiorina’s word-picture was touted for days as the emotional zenith of the debate. This all surprised me: the notion that journalism and fact-finding are demonstrably unrelated enterprises.
I’m a chump that way.
We're all chumps if we let a major political party -- and a dysfunctional press -- off the hook for this one.

A New Military Voice Condemns U.S. Role in Creating ISIS

When the generals who were there call out the strategy as disastrous, we should listen.

Here's Retired Lt. General Michael Flynn:
Retired Lt. General Michael Flynn, former U.S. special forces commander in Iraq and Afghanistan who was the country's highest ranking military intelligence official, says that the George W. Bush administration's Iraq war was a tremendous blunder that helped to create the self-proclaimed Islamic State, or ISIS.
"It was a huge error," Flynn said about the Iraq war in a detailed interview with German newspaper Der Spiegel published Sunday. 
"As brutal as Saddam Hussein was, it was a mistake to just eliminate him," Flynn went on to say. "The same is true for Moammar Gadhafi and for Libya, which is now a failed state. The historic lesson is that it was a strategic failure to go into Iraq. History will not be and should not be kind with that decision."
When told by Der Spiegel reporters Matthias Gebauer and Holger Stark that the Islamic State would not "be where it is now without the fall of Baghdad," Flynn, without reservations, said: "Yes, absolutely."
This is the powerful consensus building up in the military and think-tank culture at the Capital. And yet bellicose presidential candidates still push to preserve the "military option" that must include "boots on the ground."

Make it stop. But we won't. Hillary might, might slow it down, but she's closer to the clown-car boys on this one. My only hope is that it's a feint toward warmongering for the red meat fans before tacking pack to less adventurism in her first term. Even her fans have a right to wonder.

She knows a woman can't be a peacenik and win for president, but how far will she go?

 For many, that's the question.

When Republican Science Denialism Goes Too Far: Making the Paris Talks Irrelevant

This is what our future dystopia looks like, Beijing-style.

The U.S. has been overtaken by China as the world's largest producer of greenhouse gases and wants to do something about it. The picture above -- brought on by the coming of winter and the need to burn coal for heat -- is the very image of a dystopia even a country hellbent on out-producing America wants to escape. That's why China, in advance of the Paris talks on climate change announced major concessions in the battle to save the planet. They will cut carbon emissions and so will the U.S., but only if we step up and lead.

So it goes with India and the rest of the developing world. President Obama has gone to the talks armed with pledges he made to lower carbon by 28%, using only regulatory tools at his disposal. A recalcitrant Republican Congress has vowed to scuttle any success Obama might achieve.
However, Republicans in Congress said Obama would be unable to deliver on his commitment to the UN. “The Obama Administration’s pledge to the United Nations today will not see the light of day,” Jim Inhofe, the Oklahoma Republican who heads the Senate’s environment and public works committee, and denies the existence of man-made climate change.
 What great partners the GOP have become in this life-and-death struggle. I've always felt environmentalism should be a central tenet of American conservatism, but I guess I'd be wrong.

GOP Threatens To Disrupt Obama's Climate Agenda At Paris Summit

Republicans are using the year-end budget battle to block funding for a program crucial to the upcoming talks.

WASHINGTON -- Republicans in Congress are threatening to disrupt a key piece of President Barack Obama's pledge to combat global warming, just days before world leaders begin climate negotiations in Paris. 
Obama, with teams of advisers and cabinet members, arrives in Paris next week, hoping to wrap up years-long negotiations with nearly 200 countries with a sweeping agreement that sets specific goals to stave off a catastrophic increase in global temperature.
But back in Washington, Republicans are working to prevent a deal, warning Obama they will use any tool necessary to block funding he has promised to help poor nations fight climate change.
Sens. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) and Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) pressed the president in a letter to be “forthcoming” with developing nations, telling them that Congress hasn't approved the $3 billion the U.S. has promised to the fund.
“The president, but certainly officials overseas, need to know that they shouldn’t count on the money,” Barrasso told The Huffington Post in a brief interview. “Bring it to Congress and come clean with the folks in Paris that he has to bring that back here to the Senate to get approval before they’re going to see any money.”
With little to leverage, Republicans see the Green Climate Fund as a critical chord they can sever to undermine a world climate agreement. The United Nations-controlled account, which helps developing countries combat rising sea levels, drought, and other extreme weather related to climate change, is a critical element of the Paris talks.
Choking off the fund may sow doubts among countries like India, which need help transitioning from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources. Bringing India to the negotiating table depends heavily on industrialized nations contributing to the fund.
That's right, we can't bring India, Brazil, and other developing nations to the table for real cuts that can keep us from raising temperatures beyond the 2.6 degrees F. scientists says is the maximum global warming we can sustain without catastrophe.

Thought experiment: Name a prominent Republican leader or 2016 presidential candidate who stands by those attending Paris and the goals they wish to achieve. You can't do it.

Are we screwed, as a country, as a planet? With climate-change denialists at every turn in halls of Congress, we very well may be.

And just wait until all the methane escapes the permafrost we never thought would melt.

Massive crater in Siberia brought on by collapsing permafrost and methane escaping.

Rarely is the world presented with a disaster that all should join together to fight. It's the real World War III, a war we cannot afford to lose. The time for Republican recalcitrance is long past. Denialism must be rejected. And yet... It's too horrid to contemplate.

Monday, November 30, 2015

GOP Dodging the Colorado PP Clinic Shooting Is an Understatement

"Transgendered leftist activist." Ted, is that all you got?

When you're the party of crazy, it may be that crazy is all you've got. Ted Cruz just broke the mold for the dodgiest answer in the history of "You thought you got me but look over there!"

Here's TPM:
During a press conference in Iowa, Cruz slammed "vicious rhetoric on the left blaming those who are pro-life" for the shooting, the Texas Tribune reported.
"The media promptly wants to blame him on the pro-life movement when at this point there’s very little evidence to indicate that," Cruz said, according to the Texas Tribune.
A reporter told Cruz that reports indicate that the suspected shooter, Robert Lewis Dear, mentioned "baby parts" to law enforcement after he was arrested.
"It’s also been reported that he was registered as an independent and a woman and a transgendered leftist activist," Cruz hit back, referencing a voter registration form that allegedly lists Dear as a woman. "If that’s what he is, I don’t think it’s fair to blame on the rhetoric on the left. This is a murderer."
When asked by the New York Times which reports Cruz was referring to when he said Dear was registered as a woman, spokeswoman Catherine Frazier pointed to a post on The Right Scoop.
The link to The Right Scoop leads to speculation apparently based on Robert Lewis Dear's being listed as "female" on a voter registration. The Scoop author, soopermexican, suggests Dear might be transgendered based on this report before admitting he doesn't look transgendered. Could he be right?

Hey, Ted, I don't think hormone therapy can turn a woman into this, but nice try.

To call Ted Cruz's dodge disgraceful is an understatement and an insult to the world disgraceful.

Ted Cruz for leader of the Free World? That's horrifying.

Afterthought: Though Carly Fiorina tried the "turn it around on the other side" technique with her remarks on the shooting, she couldn't reach the dodgy heights of Ted Cruz.
“This is so typical of the left to immediately demonize the messenger, because they don’t agree with the message,” she said. “What I would say to anyone who tries to link this terrible tragedy to anyone who opposes abortion or opposes the sale of body parts is, this is typical left-wing tactics.”
Of Course, the message, that Planned Parenthood sold fetal tissue for profit, was fabricated and driven loudly in the public sphere by none other than Carly Fiorina. What a despicable tool.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Colorado Planned Parenthood Tragedy: Carly Fiorina Shares the Blame

Fiorina lied about the Planned Parenthood "video." She lied as loud as she could.

I was going to say she has blood on her hands, but based on my friends' reaction when I said that, I softened the title of my post. It is true she shares the blame. She does, however, own a lion's share of the blame because of her strident, callous lies about "body parts" in several national venues, including two GOP debates.

Today's Washington Post has a story of the role Carly Fiorina and others played in this tragedy.

Abortions are legal. Some fetal tissue has been, legally, donated by women who had abortions, generally at their own request. Planned Parenthood assisted in these donations and collected modest fees to help pay for the various costs, such as transportation, etc. This donated tissue helps in research, which may lead to cures for disease and longer, healthier lives for countless people.

That would be the end of the story if not for some highly distorted, mightily edited videos shot by people with a clear anti-abortion agenda. As deceptive as these videos were -- pictures of stillborn babies not associated with Planned Parenthood, for example -- they were used, prominently by Fiorina, as tools to fight abortion. Even Republican members of Congress have declared they would shut down the federal government if Planned Parenthood isn't "defunded" as a result of these faked videos. (Planned Parenthood isn't federally "funded." It's simply eligible to receive payments by those using Medicaid for its non-abortion health services. A very minor amount of funding also comes via the Title X program to serve low-income families with family planning and birth control.)

Unfortunately, Planned Parenthood has stopped these fetal tissue donations because of the uproar created by these deceptions foisted on an ignorant world by some crafty anti-abortionists. It's an embarrassment that so many Americans can become tools of such craftiness.

And now the chickens come home to roost in the form of dead people in Colorado at the hands of a loner declaring "no more baby parts."

And I'd be wrong to say Carly Fiorina, among others, has blood on her hands? I'm sorry, but she and the rest of the candidates do. Shame on them, and shame on America for the extent to which we have held up a portrait of an ignorant, savage, violent Neanderthal country for all the world to see. These GOP candidates and congresspeople have acted disgracefully, and we are right to condemn them. I hope many people do.

Check the comments on the above linked WaPo story. Many people agree with me. We can only hope this slows down the momentum the anti-abortion crowd had gained at the expense of American women and the truth.

Here's how Carly Fiorina regards the "truth:"

Reaction keeps coming in. Yahoo Politics points to the uncomfortable spot the GOP candidates find themselves in post-Colorado Springs.

An early Daily Caller article decrying the early condemnation of Republicans for the attack only succeeds in offering links to commentators who were too fast to assess blame, but who nonetheless appear prescient as word comes in that, indeed, the killer's motives were likely inspired by false body-part rhetoric by Fiorina and others.

Here's an article shedding light on the shooter's motives that revolve around his statement of "no more baby parts."

For clarification, here's an article about how Planned Parenthood doesn't use federal funds to provide abortions, and here's an article that explains that Planned Parenthood never sold fetal tissue for profit. I was taken by this quote from the article:
The donation of aborted human fetal tissue may come as a shock to a public unfamiliar with the practice but it is, in fact, a longstanding one. According to the American Society for Cell Biology, scientists have been researching human fetal tissue since the 1930s, with aborted tissue playing a part in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s development of the rubella and varicella vaccines in the 1960s. Ronald Reagan put a hold on using fetal tissue for transplants in 1988 while other forms of fetal tissue research continued and Bill Clinton subsequently lifted Reagan’s moratorium in 1993.
Good to know.

"No more baby parts." Pretty clear what motivated him and who stirred this up.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

State-by-State Education Rankings: It's (Almost) All About the Spending

Reading this article in the NYTimes on Massachusetts' dropping out of the Common Core testing regime made me wonder how different states compared in student performance. The NYTimes' article placed Massachusetts at the top, even outpacing all other countries except Singapore in science. Them's some pretty hot numbers.

The best comparison I found was published in Education Week using 2013 numbers. the statistics were essentially unsurprising and established pretty clear differences. Massachusetts indeed placed first. The graphic above provides quite a picture.

What does Massachusetts do right? Just about everything, including high levels of spending. The list of higher-learning institutions, such as Harvard, M.I.T., Amherst, Holy Cross, Tufts, Williams, Brandeis, and Boston College is quite impressive. The state is highly educated and ranks high in all categories.

The best performing states are clustered in the Northeast. It appears likely that the presence of fine private schools and colleges -- including the Ivy League schools and more -- leads to better school performance. In fact, all of the original thirteen colonies are in the top fifteen performing states -- with the glaring exception of three Southern states, Georgia, North Carolina, and South Carolina.

The cluster from Virginia north all the way to Maine speaks to the long history of education reaching back 300 years. The poor performance of the three Southern states can be partly explained by spending. Georgia, North Carolina, and South Carolina all received Fs for overall spending.

The high-performing exceptions, Wyoming and Minnesota, seem to break the mold. Wyoming spends a lot of money for good results, surprising for an essentially rural state with only one four-year college. Two important indicators for Wyoming are high rankings in the categories of Early Foundations and Adult Outcomes, which indicates that the state may have fewer English Language Learners dragging down test scores, plus a stable and well-educated workforce. Who knew?

Minnesota, on the other hand, has much lower spending for good results. Minnesota is near the top in Early Foundations and even higher than Wyoming in Adult Outcomes.

By and large, though, spending equals outcomes among the vast majority of states, especially when comparing top performing and low performing states. You get what you pay for. My state, California, used to be an educational juggernaut. Now it's in the bottom grouping. What's telling about California is its very low spending (gets an F) and its low scores for Early Foundations and Adult Outcomes. Since I spent part of my career as an English Language Learner teacher, I'm aware of the challenges California faces because of its large immigrant population. In fact, toward the end of my career, my school district in Napa had a majority Hispanic population (it takes a lot of Mexicans to tend all those vineyards).

A state, like California, can look bad in the ratings because of its challenges but actually be doing a pretty good job in light of those challenges. So beware of the "failing schools" narrative. California is barely doing okay with barely enough money in teaching a very challenging population leading to barely okay Adult Outcomes. No surprise there. What would the outcomes be in a less diverse population, like Minnesota?

By the way, under Governor Jerry Brown, spending on education has begun to rise dramatically in recent years, with a $3,000 per pupil jump since 2012. Still, school spending lags in my state.

But again, my rule in judging school performance remains: Follow the money. This Jill Tucker article in the SF Chronicle tells a very enduring tale of affluent communities wildly out-performing impoverished ones, something I noted in my column in the Napa Valley Register back in 1998 when the first student test scores came online.

No matter what money is spent, poverty is the leading cause of low test scores.

If you were wondering whether educational accomplishment was good for you, check the above graph.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Colbert Retains His Comic Genius and Goes Off on Easy Marks, the Fraidy Cat GOP!

Sure, the Republicans in full riot gear over the Paris attacks can be pretty easy marks, but let's get a pro on it to see if he can milk it properly:

Oh yes, he's still got it, although the true joke would be if one of the GOPers pissing their pants actually got elected. Oh myyy! Those saying na ga happen, see Bush, George W.

(Thanks, Salon.com.)