Pence Postures

Watching Indiana Governor Pence frantically trying to save his political skin may be the best show in town.

We’ve had the announcements spinning Indiana’s lackluster economic performance. We’ve had the new state slogan, proclaiming that Indiana is “a state that works.” (A former student asked the pertinent question: who, exactly, does it work for? Certainly not for ALICE, or for Hoosier working families.)

However, these fairly typical campaign efforts are unlikely to overcome the “Pence Must Go” sentiment that has continued to grow in the wake of the RFRA controversy.

So over the last few days, we’ve also seen determined efforts to pander to his (declining) base.

Pence has been positively salivating over the heavily doctored video attacking Planned Parenthood. (See yesterday’s post.) He immediately ordered Indiana’s Attorney General and its Department of Health to investigate, to “make sure” Planned Parenthood wasn’t “trading” in fetal tissue.

Indiana citizens will recall that the Governor spent most of his time in Congress fighting  the culture wars, and especially trying to defund Planned Parenthood. (Perhaps that’s why he was responsible for passing exactly zero pieces of legislation in his eleven years in Congress.) Planned Parenthood has vehemently denied the allegations, and the Indiana Department of Health recently inspected and recertified Planned Parenthood’s facilities. Attorney General Greg Zoeller, of course, has his own culture war history….In any event, Pence clearly sees the emergence of this phony issue as a gift.

I assume the Governor also sees it as a golden opportunity to mend the rift with his Religious Right supporters, who have been angry about what they view as his “capitulation” on RFRA. (Honest, guys, I’m still the radically theocratic guy you used to love….)

Then there was his ostentatious arming of National Guard troops at recruiting centers in the wake of the tragic shooting in Tennessee. I’m sure he thinks the NRA, not to mention the anti-Muslim and/or anti-immigration members of his base, will respond positively to this display of unnecessary machismo. (He’s probably right about that.) And just in case we missed the symbolism, there was Tuesday’s order to fly flags at half-staff in Indiana, and the declaration of a period of mourning for those killed in Tennessee (a gesture of respect not accorded to the many Hoosier soldiers who died in Iraq).

Will any of this work? Will Pence be able to eke out an electoral victory now that more Hoosiers have seen the real Mike Pence? Or will Indiana’s often-feckless Democrats fail to take advantage of the political opening they’ve been handed?

Pass the popcorn. The show’s starting.

 

 

Lying for “Life”

Another week, another attack on Planned Parenthood. It’s getting old.

Planned Parenthood provides basic medical services–reproductive health services–to women who cannot otherwise afford those services. We’re talking breast cancer screenings, pap smears and yes, contraception. Abortion amounts to 3% of the organization’s services.

Periodically, groups opposed to abortion, contraception and  (most of all) women’s moral autonomy, try to “set up” the organization. The AP reported about the most recent effort, which has drawn predictable outrage from the predictable suspects:

In last week’s video, Nucatola discusses how the group sometimes provides tissue from aborted fetuses for medical research…A nine-minute excerpt the center posted online shows Nucatola saying her organization charges $30 to $100 for such procedures. But in the full version lasting more than two hours, she repeatedly says those prices only cover the procedures’ costs, are not for profit and are only performed with the patient’s consent.

One of the most complete accounts of what seems to be a sustained, expensive and relatively sophisticated effort to invent misdeeds by Planned Parenthood was offered by the Daily Beast, and is worth quoting at length:

The videos appear to be part of a lengthy and expensive project that Daleiden, who is 26 and a relatively fresh face in the pro-life movement, could not have funded on his own.

Indeed, since the release of the first video, new details have emerged about the other individuals associated with the CMP’s undercover investigation—associations that go beyond Daleiden’s history with the anti-abortion group Live Action, which has also produced heavily edited sting videos in Planned Parenthood facilities.

A 2013 registration form obtained by The Nation last week revealed the names of Daleiden’s fellow board members at the CMP: Albin Rhomberg and Troy Newman.

Rhomberg has a long and strident history of anti-abortion activism—one California Planned Parenthood worker says that he once followed her “for an entire city block, barely 3 feet away, filming and shouting at me about my evil work with Planned Parenthood”—but it is Newman’s association with the CMP that has raised the most eyebrows.

Newman is the president of Operation Rescue, a pro-life organization that became the center of national media attention when George Tiller, a Kansas physician who provided late-term abortions, was assassinated by anti-abortion activist Scott Roeder in 2009 during worship services at Tiller’s church….

Further connections between Operation Rescue and the CMP investigation have emerged in conjunction with this latest video. In Operation Rescue’s announcement of the second video, the logo for the CMP’s Human Capital Project includes the phrase “In consultation with Operation Rescue.”

Let’s stipulate that people who kill abortion doctors are not “pro life.”

Let’s also stipulate that people who edit footage to make it appear that their targets have said things they never said and done things they haven’t done–fanatics whose sole mission is to destroy an organization that saves women’s lives– is not “pro life.”

And while we’re at it, let’s also concede that fetal tissue, when freely donated to medical research by fully informed patients, has long provided the promise of developing treatments for some of the cruelest diseases that afflict human beings–and that providing such donations in a manner consistent with law and medical ethics is “pro life.”

Facts, of course, are irrelevant to politicians willing to seize on any ammunition–no matter how dishonest or contrived. As the New York Times editorialized,

A hidden-camera video released last week purported to show that Planned Parenthood illegally sells tissue from aborted fetuses. It shows nothing of the sort. But it is the latest in a series of unrelenting attacks on Planned Parenthood, which offers health care services to millions of people every year. The politicians howling to defund Planned Parenthood care nothing about the truth here, being perfectly willing to undermine women’s reproductive rights any way they can.

Fixation on Size

Maybe it’s a man thing, this fixation on the size of the tool that is government.

I raise the issue because Jeb Bush recently made a speech in which he promised that he would reduce the size of the federal work force by 10 percent in four years. Much of that, he said, would be accomplished through attrition and a strict system of replacing every three departing federal workers with one new employee.

This is traditional political pandering, and it isn’t exclusive to the GOP. (Yes, I’m looking at you, Evan Bayh.) It’s a classic case of identifying the wrong problem. As any businessperson will confirm, a substantial part of good management involves “right sizing”–matching the size and skills of one’s workforce to the needs of the enterprise.

Announcing a rule that only one of every three departing federal workers will be replaced is simply stupid. The question citizens should be asking–not just at the federal level, but of those managing state and local units of government as well–is: is this task one that government should be doing? If not, we should stop doing it. (Granted, that’s easier said than done, but that should be our goal.) If the task is one of the many things We the People have determined is an important and/or proper function of government, then our focus should be on ensuring that it is done well. That means making an evidence-based determination of the resources–human and otherwise–that the job requires.

The American commitment to limited government has little or nothing to do with the size of government, and everything to do with intrusions by the state into matters that our system leaves to the private sector.

We can–and should–argue about the proper role of government. But once we agree that government needs to do something–protect the country, issue Social Security checks, monitor compliance with tax laws, print money, whatever–then our focus should shift to monitoring performance and making sure that government has what it needs in order to operate efficiently and competently.

As any woman can tell you, size is definitely not what matters.

 

The Ugly American

A friend just asked me an interesting question: why do you suppose no one has interviewed Dick Lugar about the merits/demerits of the agreement with Iran?

A good question, to which I have no good response. But it does raise another question: when and how did the party of Dick Lugar, Bob Dole, Barry Goldwater and Nelson Rockefeller–among many, many others–become the party of Ben Carson, Bobby Jindal and Donald Trump?

I have resisted writing about Trump, because really…why waste the digital ink? But it occurs to me that the reason I find him so repulsive is because he embodies everything that is wrong with my country; he’s like the “ugly American” tourists who used to roam Europe routinely embarrassing the rest of us.

  • Start with the narcissism: the belief that he is “exceptional.” The insistence that he is always right, and any critic is wrong, jealous, unable to appreciate his superiority.
  • The glorification of money and the delusion that he is self-made: I’m rich so I’m better, and it’s all due to my brilliance; I don’t owe my (exaggerated) fortune to my inherited wealth, or my ability to avoid the consequences of bad business decisions through multiple bankruptcies, or the “old boys” network available to the sons of well-to-do white Christian males.
  • The substitution of witless name-calling for discourse: if I disagree with you, you’re a dummy or a clown. I don’t have to explain why you’re wrong, or what I would do instead, or why my idea is better. Just playground-level epithets.
  • The full-throated bigotry and racism: Obama is black, so he couldn’t possibly have been born in the U.S.; brown people are all illegal immigrants who are murderers and rapists.
  • The chutzpah. Denigrating John McCain’s service while Trump was taking advantage of deferments available to the pampered and privileged.
  • The confusion of tasteless and tacky with quality.

There is more, but what I don’t understand is how a significant part of the Republican base can take this delusional buffoon seriously. He is an embarrassment to the party and the country. Granted, the rest of the field ranges from undistinguished (to put it mildly) to terrifying, but Trump’s antics are so outsized as to make even Rick Perry (“oops!”) look sentient by comparison.

We live in a world that is complicated and increasingly interdependent. We need leadership that understands those complexities and can analyze and debate the available options for dealing with them–not purveyors of bumper-sticker slogans, faux machismo and belligerent bullshit.

The party of Dick Lugar and Bill Hudnut is long gone.

 

 

 

 

Poverty and Contraception

The New York Times began a recent article as follows:

Over the past six years, Colorado has conducted one of the largest experiments with long-acting birth control. If teenagers and poor women were offered free intrauterine devices and implants that prevent pregnancy for years, state officials asked, would those women choose them?

They did in a big way, and the results were startling. The birthrate among teenagers across the state plunged by 40 percent from 2009 to 2013, while their rate of abortions fell by 42 percent, according to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. There was a similar decline in births for another group particularly vulnerable to unplanned pregnancies: unmarried women under 25 who have not finished high school.

Isabel Sawhill, an economist at the Brookings Institution has argued in her 2014 book, “Generation Unbound: Drifting Into Sex and Parenthood Without Marriage,” that single parenthood is a principal driver of inequality, and that long-acting birth control is a powerful tool to prevent it.

The program in Colorado was originally funded by a grant from the Susan Buffett Foundation, but as I have previously noted, that grant has now run out.

The state’s health department has estimated that every dollar spent on the long-acting birth control initiative saved $5.85 for the state’s Medicaid program, which covers more than three-quarters of teenage pregnancies and births. Enrollment in the federal nutrition program for women with young children also declined by nearly a quarter between 2010 and 2013.

It works. It saves tax dollars, and it saves young women’s futures.

So of course, the Colorado legislature has declined to fund the program. The only hope for continuation of the program is the Affordable Care Act–aka Obamacare.

As I said in my previous post, if these lawmakers were really “pro-life,” they would support programs that substantially and demonstrably reduce the incidence of abortion.

If.