Planned Parenthood and the campaign to get Susan Collins to do the right thing

Planned Parenthood isn’t fucking around… This afternoon, the respected, 102 year old reproductive health care organization launched an aggressive, six-figure ad campaign in Maine directed at Senator Susan Collins, one of two pro-choice Republicans who presently stand between anti-abortion Judge Brett Kavanaugh and the Supreme Court. The first ad in the campaign, which features a focus group of independent female voters in the Senator’s state, doesn’t really overtly threaten Collins, like the grassroots “Be a Hero, Or We Will Replace You” initiative that we discussed yesterday, but makes it clear that the women of Maine are expecting her to do the right thing… Here, for those of you not watching TV in Maine at the moment, is the ad, which I found to be incredibly effective.

We have no way of knowing, of course, what really matters to Collins, who came out yesterday condemning the crowdfunding campaign noted above, which has already raised over $1 million for her competitor if she toes the Republican line and votes for Kavanaugh, as a “bribe”, but I have to think that an approach like this one that we’re seeing from Planned Parenthood may be less easy for her to just brush off as a partisan attack. [“I respect her so much,” says one woman in the ad. A woman across the table responds, “She’s got an opportunity to be a leader.”]

As someone who works in communications, I’m liking to watch the various ways that people, in hopes of keeping Kavanaugh from the bench, are utilizing their resources and playing their hands. And I think this campaign of Planned Parenthood’s is a great counterpoint to the grassroots “We Will Replace You” campaign. I like their appeal to Collins as a heroic maverick who has shown courage in the past, standing up to her party on behalf of the women that she represents. It’s not the way I would go about it, but I think it may work well in concert with the other, more aggressive attacks that we’re seeing. [Speaking of which, keep sending those coat hangers to her offices, people!]

This is going to be a career-defining vote for Collins. She’s said in the past that she “would not support a nominee who demonstrated hostility to Roe v. Wade,” and, yet, from everything we’ve seen, it looks like she’s prepared to do exactly that. And I very much appreciate Planned Parenthood stepping in to spend the money and lead the fight, reminding the women of Maine what this Supreme Court pick means for women’t reproductive rights, and making it clear to Collins that her legacy hangs in the balance… and, of course, subtly reminding her that we won’t accept “But he gave me his word that Roe v. Wade was ‘settled law’” as an excuse.

The following comes by way of the Huffington Post.

…Planned Parenthood launched a six-figure cable and digital ad campaign in Maine on Wednesday that features a focus group of independent female voters who strongly want Collins to oppose Kavanaugh. NARAL Pro-Choice America put an additional $500,000 into its $260,000 ad campaign in Maine this week, which will run on TV and online in Maine until the vote.

Planned Parenthood and NARAL have also spent over $1 million in Alaska, with the latter taking out ads in the Anchorage Daily News as well as on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Google. Polls commissioned by Planned Parenthood in both states show that a strong majority of voters would like to see Roe v. Wade upheld. Kavanaugh has indicated hostility toward the landmark 1973 abortion rights decision.

Collins and Murkowski both claim to support abortion rights, and have bucked their party before to protect federal funding grants to Planned Parenthood. Both senators claim to be undecided on Kavanaugh. Collins has said she’s impervious to outside political pressure.

“Attempts at bribery or extortion will not influence my vote at all,” she said Tuesday, referring to the crowdfunding campaign for her potential opponent.

“Sen. Collins will make up her mind based on the merits of the nomination,” spokeswoman Annie Clark said in a statement. “Threats or other attempts to bully her will not play a factor in her decision-making whatsoever.”

Murkowski has been more tight-lipped about her decision-making process, and she is now facing additional pressure from Alaska natives, who are flooding her offices to urge her to oppose Kavanaugh over his views on fishing rights and environmental protections. Tribal communities were crucial to Murkowski’s re-election as an independent in 2010, after she lost the GOP primary to a tea party challenger…

I know it sucks to be living through this, but, if you can ignore all the terrible stuff, and the dystopian future that may be ahead of us, it’s kind of beautiful watching everybody come together to stop it from happening.

Speaking of fighting back… and of Planned Parenthood… the organization also announced a new leader today — Dr. Leana Wen. Wen, as you can see in the following video, is a fighter. As Health Commissioner of Baltimore, she successfully sued the Trump administration for cutting teen pregnancy prevention funds, and I get the sense from everything I’ve read about her since, that she’s just getting started. [If I were Collins, I’d be concerned. Wen looks like a formidable adversary.]

If you’d like to give a few dollars to Planned Parenthood as a way of saying “welcome aboard” to Leana Wen, you can do so here.

Posted in Civil Liberties, Health, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 29 Comments

Tremendously Big, Tremendously Wet

With Hurricane Florence bearing down on the east coast, Donald Trump took a little time today to reflect on the “incredible unsung success” of his administration’s response to Hurricane Maria, the tropical storm that, at about this same time last year, decimated the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico. “I think Puerto Rico was incredibly successful,” Trump told members of the White House press corps, seemingly unaware that as many as 2,975 people had lost their lives, and some survivors are still without power… Here, if you can stomach it, is Trump on his administration’s heroic response to Hurricane Maria.

As for Hurricane Florence, which Donald Trump described as being “tremendously big and tremendously wet,” it’s projected to make landfall in the Carolinas on Thursday. And one hopes that the Trump administration does better in this instance than they did in Puerto Rico. I’m not optimistic, though… especially if what I’m reading this evening is true about the administration having just taken $10 million from the FEMA budget to construct additional ICE detention centers… Here, if you’ve yet to hear about this most recent turn of events, is a clip from the Rachel Maddow show this evening, where she talks about documents obtained by Senator Jeff Merkley, showing how the Trump administration has reallocated hurricane relief funds to more racist endeavors.

Two more quick comments, while we’re at it.

First, it would appear that Puerto Rico’s Governor, unlike Donald Trump, does not see the U.S. response to Hurricane Maria as an incredible “success”.

And, second, is it really a surprise to anyone that we’re living in a hell world, where, every year, we’re watching more and more of our fellow citizens wash out to sea in what used to be called “hundred year storms”? I mean, when you elect a leader who, in spite of all the scientific evidence to the contrary, says that global climate change is a “Chinese hoax,” and chooses to prioritize coal mining over sustainable energy, this is what you get, right?

Posted in Environment, Politics, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 37 Comments

Kavanaugh, having established his history of perjury, and a desire to kill Roe v. Wade, moves toward confirmation

I think a lot of people expected the Brett Kavanuagh nomination to be shit show, but I don’t think anyone expected it to go this poorly. As I understand it, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell warned Donald Trump at the outset that, if he were to nominate Kavanaugh, it would be difficult, given his considerable baggage. Trump, however, wanted Kavanaugh… likely because, of the 25 candidates he’d been given to chose from, Kavanaugh was the only one who had stated explicitly that sitting presidents should not be subject to criminal investigation or prosecution… so here were are, watching the GOP attempt to jam through a nominee who appears, among other things, to be liar.

This past week, there were at least four different news stories about lies that had been told, sometimes under oath, by Kavanaugh.

First, there was the story of Kavanaugh’s lying under oath back in 2004 about his involvement in the nomination of William H. Pryor, a controversial anti-abortion rights judge, to the Federal Appeals Court. Kavanaugh testified at the time that he had nothing to do with the Pryor nomination. And we now know that was a lie. As for why Kavanaugh might have lied about helping to shepherd the Pryor nomination through the process when he worked in the George W. Bush administration, it could have something to do with the fact that Pryor had called Roe v. Wade the “worst abomination in the history of constitutional law”… Here, courtesy of Senator Patrick Leahy, is a little archival footage.

Second… as long as we’re on the subject of Roe v. Wade… it looks as though Kavanaugh has been lying not only about his role in helping to place anti-abortion activists on the bench, but about his own believes on whether or not the Supreme Court could revisit the ruling that made abortion legal across the United States. As you may recall, early in the process, Kavanaugh told Senator Susan Collins, a pro-choice Republican, that, in his opinion, Roe v. Wade is “settled law,” with the implication, of course, being that he wouldn’t attempt to revisit the decision as a Justice on the Supreme Court. As we learned a few days ago, though, Kavanaugh has expressed a much different opinion privately. In an email that the Republicans had been attempting to keep hidden, Kavanagh wrote in 2003, “I am not sure that all legal scholars refer to Roe as the settled law of the land at the Supreme Court level since Court [sic] can always overrule its precedent, and three current Justices on the Court would do so.” So, clearly he doesn’t believe there’s anything keeping the Supreme Court from striking down the Roe decision, no matter what he may say to people like Collins, who are looking for anything at all that they might be able to use to justify a vote in favor of his confirmation.

Third, it looks as though Kavanaugh has been lying about what he knew of the Bush administration’s controversial, and some would argue illegal, warrantless wiretapping and detainee interrogation (torture) programs… Here’s a clip from the New York Times.

…Then there are the persistent doubts about his truthfulness in telling senators in 2006 that he had no knowledge of Mr. Bush’s warrantless wiretapping program or his detainee treatment policy — claims that have been called into question by yet more emails, which showed he knew about both of those things years before they became public.

As Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois told Judge Kavanaugh on Thursday, “You say that words matter. You claim to be a textualist when you interpret other people’s words, but you don’t want to be held accountable for the plain meaning of your own words”…

And, fourth, it would appear as though Kavanaugh has again lied under oath when discussing whether or not, while working to confirm Bush’s nominees for the federal court, he had received confidential letters and memos stolen from Democratic staffers by GOP Senate aide Manuel Miranda…. In 2004, Senator Orrin Hatch asked Kavanaugh directly if he had received “any documents that appeared to you to have been drafted or prepared by Democratic staff members of the Senate Judiciary Committee.” Kavanaugh unequivocally that he had not. Again, however, we now know that to have been a lie… As Senator Patrick Leahy has said, it was “untruthful testimony, under oath, and on the record.” And, sadly, it would appear as though it doesn’t matter to Senate Republicans.

Again, I don’t know how much we can realistically do to stop it, given that the Republicans currently hold 51 seats in the Senate to the Democrats’ 49, but that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t fight like hell, in hopes that, maybe, just maybe, we’re able to get pro-choice Republicans like Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska to defect on this issue, like they did on the Republican health care bill last year. I know it’s incredibly unlikely, but we have to at least try. [Assuming we can get every Senate Democrat to vote against Kavanaugh, we’d still need two Republicans to cross over, as, if we just got one, Vice President Pence would be called on to break the tie and cast the deciding vote.]

Who knows what Susan Collins really cares about, but she did go on the record in early July of this year, stating that she, “would not support a nominee who demonstrated hostility to Roe v. Wade,” and we should hold her to it. She also said that she viewed abortion as a “constitutional right,” and would vote accordingly… Maybe it was bullshit. Maybe it’s just something that she said to get the support women voters. And maybe a few of them will take her at her word when she says that Kavanaugh told her that Roe v. Wade was “settled law.” I suspect, though, that a great many more won’t. And we’re already seeing evidence of that.

As of today, we’re told that 3,000 coat hangers have been mailed to the offices of Senator Collins by pro-choice voters. More importantly, tough, over 30,00 people have come together online to pledge $860,891 toward the campaign of her Democratic opponent in 2020, should she decide to vote in favor of Kavanaugh… Here some of the donors are, talking about the campaign.

Will it be enough? I suspect not. But I love the fact that people in Maine and Alaska are once again going after Collins and Murkowski, urging them to stand up on behalf of women (and those who value truth) in their state. It’s good to see, especially now, as we’re headed into the midterms.

If you know anyone… and I mean anyone… in Maine or Alaska, please have them find a local office for either Susan Collins or Lisa Murkowski, and call today. Or, better yet, have them drop by one of their offices in person to drop off a few hangers.

Posted in Civil Liberties, Politics, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 11 Comments

Hitchcock includes a subtle shout-out to Ypsilanti in North By Northwest

It’s rare that Ypsilanti shows up in popular culture. For a while, we were seeing images of Ypsi pop up in films, like Drew Barrymore’s Whip It, and Robert DeNiro’s Stone, but it’s not too often that you buy a record, or see a movie, and actually hear the word “Ypsilanti” being spoken. So, I was incredibly happy last night to hear the name of our hometown mentioned in the background while watching Alfred Hitchcock’s North By Northwest with my six year old son. It happens toward the middle of the film, at the one-hour-and-four-minute mark, just as Eva Marie Saint exits the phone booth in Chicago’s LaSalle Station, where she and Cary Grant had just arrived on the 20th Century Limited.

If you’re interested in hearing how other people in American popular culture have pronounced “Ypsilanti” over the years, be sure to check out Elvis Costello’s song Sugarcane, which contains the line, “Here in Ypsilanti, they don’t wear any panties.”

And, yes, I know that Hitchcock likely didn’t go out of his way to include the shout-out to Ypsilanti. I do like the idea, however, that he might have included it purposefully… I mean, what if Ypisilanti shows up in every one of his films, and we just haven’t noticed it? What if it was a thing for him, like his famous cameos?

Posted in Art and Culture, Pop Culture, Uncategorized, Ypsilanti | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Obama Speaks

I know it’s old news by this point, but, if you haven’t yet, I’d suggest that you make some time and watch President Obama’s speech to students at the University of Illinois which is so infuriating the right today. [The hypocrites at Fox News called it “disgraceful” and “divisive”, and ridiculed President Obama for coming across as “pompous” for having the audacity to… wait for it… note his own accomplishments in office.] It was good so see an uncharastically fiery Obama coming off the sidelines, and giving voice to what many of us have been thinking about these past few years, talking about racism and corruption, and asking, among other things, “How hard can that be, saying that Nazis are bad?”

While I appreciate Obama’s decision, after leaving the White House, to pull back from public life, and allow others to take center stage in the fight against Trumpism, I’m glad to see him come back. Our democracy hangs in the balance as we approach these upcoming midterm elections, and he knows it. He knows, in order to save this nation of ours, and bring Donald Trump to justice, we’re going to need everyone doing his or her part, and that includes him. And, for me, it felt really good to hear him put the niceties aside for a moment, and acknowledge the terrible reality of our current situation… which is that we’ve allowed an extremely dangerous conman to take over our government, and we’re all going to have to fight like hell to restore the rule of law, undo the damage, and regain our place in the world.

Here, if you’d like to call the family together, is the video.

The entire transcript can be found here, but here’s an little excerpt.

…Each time we painstakingly pull ourselves closer to our founding ideals: that all of us are created equal, endowed by our creator with certain inalienable rights, the ideals that say every child should have opportunity, and every man and woman in this country who’s willing to work hard should be able to find a job and support their family and pursue their small piece of the American dream. Ideals that say we have a collective responsibility to care for the sick and the infirm. And we have a responsibility to conserve the amazing bounty, the resources of this country and of this planet for future generations.

Each time we’ve gotten closer to those ideals, somebody somewhere has pushed back. The status quo pushes back. Sometimes the backlash comes from people who are genuinely, if wrongly, fearful of change.

More often it’s manufactured by the powerful and the privileged, who want to keep us divided, and keep us angry and keep us cynical, because it helps them maintain the status quo and keep their power and keep their privilege. And you happen to be coming of age during one of those moments.

It did not start with Donald Trump. He is a symptom, not the cause. He’s just capitalizing on resentments that politicians have been fanning for years. Rooted in our past, but also born out of the enormous upheavals that have taken place in your brief lifetimes…

So you have come of age during a time of growing inequality, of fracturing of economic opportunity. That growing economic divide compounded other divisions in our country. Regional, racial, religious, cultural, it made it harder to build consensus on issues. It made politicians less willing to compromise, which increased gridlock, which made people even more cynical about politics.

And then the reckless behavior of financial elites triggered a massive financial crisis, 10 years ago this week, that resulted in the worst recession in our lifetimes and caused years of hardships for the American people. For many of your parents, for many of your families.

Most of you weren’t old enough to fully focus on what was going on at the time, but when I came into office in 2009, we were losing 800,000 jobs a month. 800,000. Millions of people were losing their homes. Many were worried we were entering into a second Great Depression…

And even though your generation is the most diverse in history, with a greater acceptance and celebration of our differences than ever before, those are the kinds of conditions that are ripe for exploitation by politicians who have no compunction and no shame about tapping into America’s dark history of racial and ethnic and religious division. Appealing to tribe, appealing to fear, pitting one group against another, telling people that order and security will be restored if it weren’t for those who don’t look like us, or don’t sound like us, or don’t pray like we do. That’s an old playbook. It’s as old as time.

And in a healthy democracy, it doesn’t work. Our antibodies kick in, and people of goodwill from across the political spectrum call out the bigots and the fearmongers, and work to compromise and get things done and promote the better angels of our nature.

But when there’s a vacuum in our democracy, when we don’t vote, we take our basic rights and freedom for granted, when we turn away and stop paying attention, and stop engaging, and stop believing, and look for the newest diversion, the electronic versions of bread and circuses, then other voices fill the void.

A politics of fear and resentment and retrenchment takes hold. And demagogues promise simple fixes to complex promises. No promise to fight for the little guy as they cater to the wealthiest and most powerful. They’ll promise to clean up corruption, and then plunder away. They start undermining norms that ensure accountability. And try to change the rules to entrench their power further. And they appeal to racial nationalism that’s barely veiled, if veiled at all. Sound familiar?

I understand this is not just a matter of Democrats versus Republican or liberals versus conservatives. At various times in our history, this kind of politics has infected both parties. Southern Democrats were the bigger defenders of slavery. It took a Republican president, Abraham Lincoln, to end it. Dixiecrats filibustered antilynching legislation, opposed the idea of expanding civil rights. And although it was a Democratic president and a majority Democratic Congress, spurred on by young marchers and protesters that got the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act over the finish line, those historic laws also got passed because of the leadership of Republicans like Illinois’ own Everett Dirksen…

So neither party has had a monopoly on wisdom. Neither party has been exclusively responsible for us going backwards instead of forwards, but I have to say this, because sometimes we hear ‘Oh, a plague on both your houses.’

Over the past few decades — it wasn’t true when Jim Edgar was a governor here in Illinois, or Jim Thompson was governor. Got a lot of good Republican friends here in Illinois, but over the past few decades, the politics of division, resentment and paranoia has unfortunately found a home in the Republican Party.

This Congress has championed the unwinding of campaign finance laws to give billionaires outside influence over our politics, systematically attacked voting rights to make it harder for young people, and minorities and the poor to vote. Handed out tax cuts without regard to deficits. Slashed the safety net wherever it could, cast dozens of votes to take away health insurance from ordinary Americans, embraced wild conspiracy theories like those surrounding Benghazi. Or my birth certificate. Rejected science. Rejected facts on things like climate change. Embraced a rising absolutism from a willingness to default on America’s debt by not paying our bills, to a refusal to even meet, much less consider, a qualified nominee for the Supreme Court because he happened to be nominated by a Democratic president.

None of this is conservative. I don’t mean to pretend I’m channeling Abraham Lincoln now, but that’s not what he had in mind, I think, when he helped form the Republican Party. It’s not conservative. It sure isn’t normal. It’s radical.

It’s a vision that says the protection of our power and those who back us is all that matters even when it hurts the country. It’s a vision who says the few who can afford high-priced lobbyists and campaign finance, set the agenda. And over the past two years this vision is nearing its logical conclusion, so that with Republicans in control of Congress and the White House, without any checks or balances whatsoever, they have provided another $1.5 trillion in tax cuts to people like me who I promise don’t need it. And don’t even pretend to pay for them. It’s supposed to be the party — supposedly — of fiscal conservatism. Suddenly deficits do not matter.

Even though just two years ago, when the deficit was lower, they said I couldn’t afford to help working families or seniors on Medicare, because the deficit was an existential crisis.

What changed? What changed?

They’re subsidizing corporate polluters with taxpayer dollars, allowing dishonest lenders to take advantage of veterans and students and consumers again. They have made it so that the only nation on Earth to pull out of the global climate agreement. It’s not North Korea, it’s not Syria, it’s not Russia or Saudi Arabia. It’s us, the only country. There are a lot of countries in the world. We’re the only ones.

They’re undermining our alliances, cozying up to Russia. What happened to the Republican Party? Its central organizing principle in foreign policy was the fight against communism, and now they’re cozying up to the former head of the KGB. Actively blocking legislation that would defend our elections from Russian attack. What happened? They’re sabotaging the Affordable Care Act, it’s already cost more than 3 million Americans their health insurance. And if they’re still in power next fall, you better believe they’re coming at it again. They have said so.

In a healthy democracy there’s some checks and balances on this kind of behavior, this kind of inconsistency, but right now there’s nothing. Republicans who know better in Congress — and they’re there — they’re quoted saying, ‘Yeah, we know this is kind of crazy,’ are still bending over backwards to shield this behavior from scrutiny, or accountability or consequence. They seem utterly unwilling to find the backbone to safeguard the institutions that make our democracy work…

And by the way, the claim that everything will turn out OK, because there are people inside who secretly aren’t following the president’s orders, that is not a check. I’m being serious here. That’s now how our democracy is supposed to work. These people aren’t elected. They’re not accountable. They’re not doing us a service by actively promoting 90 percent of the crazy stuff that’s coming out of this White House and saying don’t worry, we’re preventing the other 10 percent. That’s not how things are supposed to work. This is not normal. These are extraordinary times.

And they’re dangerous times.

But here’s the good news. In two months, we have the chance — not the certainty, but the chance — to restore some semblance of some sanity to our politics. Because there is actually only one real check on bad policy and abuses of power. And that’s you. You and your vote…

I know we’ve got to win this first, and I hate to put even more pressure on Obama, but, listening to this speech, I can’t help but imagine what he might say to mark the occasion once the Trump crime family is driven from power. Maybe it’s because I was just in Gettysburg not too long ago, thinking about the historic weight of the words Lincoln spoke there, but I suspect there’s a really good chance that, when the time comes, Obama may be the one to put all of this in context and point the way forward. Let’s just hope he doesn’t make that speech from the site of an actual battleground.

Posted in Politics, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 21 Comments

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