The crazy was out in droves this weekend in Iowa, Louisiana, and the District. It’s hard to know where to start, but when Tiger Beat on the Ptomac starts calling the Republican Presidential hopeful slate the Clown Car, you have to know it’s just really bad. They are also criticizing Boehner’s disturbing trampling of the Constitution by trying to usurp foreign policy away from the executive branch. The Republicans have gone rogue and there’s no way you can trust them to participate in a democracy–or a republic–any more.
But the sequence of events does capture how much the normal courtesies between this White House and Congress have deteriorated — even in front of guests from another country.
“There appear to be no rules anymore. If you can do it, do it,” said Patrick Griffin, who recalls nothing quite like this even in the tempestuous times Griffin served as White House liaison between President Bill Clinton and Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.). Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), herself a former speaker who oversaw similar joint meetings for foreign guests, said the management of the invitation was “inappropriate” and Boehner risks squandering his power in a fit of “hubris.”
Boehner has overstepped protocol and his constitutional role as Speaker and member of the Legislative Branch.
Boehner’s office said the idea of inviting Netanyahu originated with the speaker — not the Israeli side. But the announcement capped “weeks” of talks, often through Netanyahu’s close advisor, Ron Dermer, who became Israel’s ambassador to Washington in 2013 and enjoys close ties with Republicans.
“The well-established protocol is that the leader of a foreign country would be in touch with the leader of this country about a possible visit. That didn’t occur,” White House press secretary Josh Earnest told reporters. “We did learn of this invitation shortly before it was announced. We were informed of the invitation by the Speaker’s office. So it was not the Israeli government that had contacted the administration.”
All this is happening at a time when Obama is at a crucial stage in what have been tense negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program. Boehner is said to be immensely frustrated with what he sees as the White House’s failure to keep him more apprised of its thinking. And by inviting Netanyahu, he has turned over the microphone to a prominent critic of the administration’s foreign policy in the Mideast.
To try to soften the edges, Netanyahu’s visit — first announced by Boehner for February 11 — has been pushed back to March 3. This moves it closer to the March 17 elections in Israel and at the beginning of a two-week period when free air time is allotted to the parties. It also allows the prime minister to say he is responding to what has been a long-standing invite from the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the heavily Jewish, pro-Israel lobby which will be holding its annual meeting in Washington then as well.
The Boehner criticism is nothing compared to this Tiger Beat on the Potomac Headline: GOP clown car runs into ditch. Most GOP presidential hopefuls were in Iowa this weekend for a so-called Freedom Forum. It was a wonderful bowl of granola just filled with nuts and flakes.
The Republican Party’s clown car has become a clown van.
With nearly two dozen possible presidential candidates, the GOP is having a seriousness deficit. There can’t possibly be that many people who are real candidates.
But they can ride in the clown car from event to event, and nobody can stop them.
At the Freedom Summit here Saturday, two dozen speakers ground through 10 hours of speeches in front of more than 1,000 far-right Republicans.
As it turned out, clown car candidates are not necessarily funny. Since they have nothing to lose, they can attack their fellow Republicans with abandon.
Usually they attack from the right, which can force the eventual nominee farther to the right than the nominee wants to go. This risks losing moderate voters in the general election.
This was not a concern at the Freedom Summit, however. The farther to the right, the better.
It was a classic cattle call, with speaker after speaker pandering to the crowd. Sometimes, however, pandering was not enough.
In the circus, the worse thing clowns lob is confetti. In the political circus, the clowns lob grenades. Verbal, to be sure, but they still can be deadly.
Sarah Palin delivers ‘bizarro’ speech to Iowa Freedom Summit and Twitter users react hilariously.
Entering to the strains of Taylor Swift’s ‘Shake It Off,’ Palin pushed back against the litany of attacks against her recently; including allowing her son to use the Palin dog, Jill Hadassah, as a footstool and the more recent controversy over her holding up a sign reading “Fuc_ You Michael Moore,” with gun sights drawn inside of the o’s in Moore.
Along the way, Palin made references to President Obama eating dog as a child in Indonesia and accused the administration of not saving Ambassador Christopher Stevens in Benghazi.
In one memorable passage, Palin exhorted conservatives to take on presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election, claiming the Republicans “have a deep bench.”
“It is good that we have a deep bench and its primary competition that will surface the candidate who’s up to the task and unify and this person has to because knowing what the media will do throughout all of 2016 to all of us it’s going to take more than a village to beat Hillary,” she said.
She’s obviously without handlers and speechwriters these days but has expressed interest in running for the nomination. She obviously must need the cash. Meanwhile, down here in Lousyana, Bobby Jindal is proving to the world he’s extreme and extremely stupid. He spent the weekend out doing ISIS for the most religiously obnoxiously zealot on the planet.
Louisiana Governor and potential 2016 candidateBobby Jindal spoke to George Stephanopoulosone day after holding a prayer rally instead of attending the Iowa Freedom Summit with his Republican comrades.
Jindal said we needed politicians to “tell the truth” to the American people, obliquely citing hisremarks last week about the discredited idea of Muslim “no-go zones” in Europe as an example.
Strangely Stephanopoulos did not follow up on that, instead focusing on Jindal’s line at the rally in which he stated that “our god wins.”
Jindal’s plan for Amerika is to ensure all women follow his religious views on contraception and abortion and that the GBLT should be stopped from marriage with a Constitutional Amendment. So much for religious liberty. He’s even offering up a Constitutional Amendment to ban marriage for GLBT. It’s hard to see this getting any traction but I doubt he cares about the issue. He only wants the zealots to adore him.
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) on Sunday said that he would support a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage.
The Supreme Court will weigh whether gay couples have the constitutional right to marriage this term, which has prompted conservatives to develop contingency plans.
ABC’s “This Week’ host George Stephanopoulos asked Jindal if he backed former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee’s (R) remark that states should just ignore a Supreme Court ruling legalizing gay marriage.
“I believe that marriage is between a man and a woman. My faith teaches me that, my Christian faith teaches me that,” Jindal responded. “If the Supreme Court were to throw out our law, our constitutional amendment — I hope they wouldn’t do that — if they were to do that, I certainly will support Ted Cruz and others that are talking about making an amendment in the congress and D.C., a constitutional amendment to allow states to continue to define marriage.”
The audience made it clear how they felt about Bush when New Hampshire state Rep. William O’Brien asked them why they would vote for a guy who backs Common Core and has an overly familiar last name. “Are we going to do that again?” O’Brien asked.
The audience responded with a loud: “Noooooo!”
And Trump, a Manhattan-based real estate developer and reality TV star, lobbed radioactive bombs at both Bush and Romney, the 2012 GOP nominee. “Mitt ran and failed. He failed. So you can’t have Romney,” he said, as the audience cheered robustly.
Bush, a former Florida governor, has stepped up his efforts lately to woo Iowa influencers, although from locations outside Iowa. Romney has been talking privately with Iowa confidantes about another presidential bid since an Iowa trip in late October. But both made the much-talked-about decision not to come Saturday.
“I like Romney a lot. I do,” Altoona Republican Floyd Allen told The Des Moines Register in an interview in the lobby of Hoyt Sherman Place. “But he had his opportunity, and he blew it.”
Republican David Heath, a sales manager from Ankeny, said he thought Bush should’ve been there Saturday. “This group needs to hear his positions, his rationales,” he said.
But Heath said he was most interested in Walker, Christie and Santorum anyway.
One of the speakers, Tennessee U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn, told the Register that Romney and Bush “will meet and work it out, but by and large I think the American people are looking for fresh faces and new perspective.” And that’s not Romney, she said.
Cruz, a U.S. senator from Texas, took swings at the establishment candidates without naming names, telling Iowans that every candidate would tell them “they’re the most conservative guy that ever lived.”
“You know what? Talk is cheap,” said Cruz, who made more religious references than any other speaker. “The Lord tells you, you shall know them by their fruits.”
Cruz said Iowans should demand the candidates show them examples of when they stood up and fought against abortion, same-sex marriage, Common Core — and against “career politicians” of both parties.
The Dropkick Murphys–a Celtic Band–was more than irritated that Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker used one of their songs to enter the shindig of hate. They basically told him to knock it off because they “literally hate him.”
Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker may have scored a standing ovation at the Iowa Freedom Summit on Saturday, but not everyone was happy with his appearance.
As Walker entered the auditorium in Des Moines and waved to the crowd, the Dropkick Murphys’ hit “I’m Shipping Up to Boston,” which was featured in the film The Departed, played in the background. (You can hear it clearly during the first 15 seconds of this video from C-SPAN.)
The musical choice didn’t slip by the band unnoticed, and on Saturday night, Ken Casey, the lead singer for the Massachusetts-based band tweeted about the song’s placement.
It’s hard to say what exactly the future of our country is going to be like when we rely on a two party system for governance and one of the two parties is so far off the rails of reality to be in a different reality. The party’s coalition of religious nuts, gun nuts, neoconfederate nuts, and economic and science illiterates seem intent on insurrection rather than governance. I’m hoping people are paying attention to these kinds of shindigs because the entire party needs to a complete rework. All you have to do is look at the states where they’ve taken over to see the results. They’ve all got bad economies, extreme spending deficits, and problems with schools and their environments. That doesn’t even begin to cover their treatment of women’s health and safety.
I saw some one post a poll the other day on twitter asking which Republican that folks wanted to run for President. I saw several people answer Theodore Roosevelt.
That just about sums it up.
What’s on your reading and blogging list today?
I could easily stay under the covers today and just ignore the outside world. Yesterday I thought I was getting over my cold, but today the sinus congestion has kicked back in and I’m coughing and I can tell there is stuff in my lungs. To top it all off, there’s a snowstorm outside that is expected to leave a big sloppy mess in its wake; and more snow is predicted for Tuesday. To be honest, I’m having difficulty working up much enthusiasm for the news today, so once again I’m going to focus on a story that has aroused my curiosity recently.
One thing I’ve been thinking about for the past couple of days is the success of the movie American Sniper. I suppose I should see it before dismissing it, but I really don’t want to sit through a movie about a guy who shot hundreds of people at a distance in a pointless war.
The first time I heard anything about Chris Kyle was when he was shot and killed along with a friend, Chad Littlefield on a Texas shooting range. The New York Times reported that Kyle worked with veterans suffering from PTSD by taking them to the gun range and letting them work out their issues there. That just seemed bizarre to me, but I’ve never been in a war or even held a gun in my hand, so there’s no way I could relate to this. Maybe there was something to it.
The alleged killer was a young veteran named Eddie Ray Routh, whom Kyle was supposedly trying to help. According to the Washington Post, the specific details surrounding Kyle’s death aren’t dealt with in the movie about him.
Kyle had returned from Iraq in 2009 and was
well acquainted with the difficulties soldiers face returning to civilian life, and had devoted much of his time since retiring in 2009 to helping fellow soldiers overcome the traumas of war….
In 2011, Mr. Kyle created the Fitco Cares Foundation to provide veterans with exercise equipment and counseling. He believed that exercise and the camaraderie of fellow veterans could help former soldiers ease into civilian life.
Mr. Kyle, who lived outside of Dallas with his wife and their two children, had his own difficulties adjusting after retiring from the Navy SEALs. He was deployed in Iraq during the worst years of the insurgency, perched in or on top of bombed-out apartment buildings with his .300 Winchester Magnum. His job was to provide “overwatch,” preventing enemy fighters from ambushing Marine units.
Kyle also wrote a book, “American Sniper: The Autobiography of the Most Lethal Sniper in U.S. Military History,” in which he wrote that
[h]e did not think the job would be difficult….But two weeks into his time in Iraq, he found himself staring through his scope into the face of an unconventional enemy. A woman with a child standing close by had pulled a grenade from beneath her clothes as several Marines approached. He hesitated, he wrote, then shot.
“It was my duty to shoot, and I don’t regret it,” he wrote. “My shots saved several Americans, whose lives were clearly worth more than that woman’s twisted soul.”
Over time, his hesitation diminished and he became proficient at his job, credited with more than 150 kills.
I just can’t relate to any of that, and I really don’t want to see a movie that glorifies that kind of killing. Why do so many people want to see it, and why do they see this man as a hero? I don’t get it. I spent some time yesterday reading about Kyle’s life and the movie from different points of view, and I’m even more mystified now than I was when I began reading.
One thing I learned is that Kyle was a serial liar or fabulist of some sort. He once claimed he had beaten up former Navy Seal, professional wrestler, and Governor of Minnesota Jesse Ventura in a bar fight. Ventura sued Kyle for defamation of character and won a $1.8 million settlement from Kyle’s estate.
A St. Paul, Minn., jury awarded former Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura $1.8 million Tuesday in his lawsuit against the estate of “American Sniper” author Chris Kyle.
On the sixth day of deliberations, the federal jury decided that the 2012 best-selling book defamed Ventura in its description of a bar fight in California in 2006. Kyle wrote that he decked a man whom he later identified as Ventura after the man allegedly said the Navy SEALs “deserve to lose a few.”
Ventura testified that Kyle fabricated the passage about punching him. Kyle said in testimony videotaped before his death last year that his story was accurate.
Legal experts had said Ventura had to clear a high legal bar to win, since as a public figure he had to prove “actual malice.” According to the jury instructions, Ventura had to prove with “clear and convincing evidence” that Kyle either knew or believed what he wrote was untrue, or that he harbored serious doubts about its truth.
The jury’s verdict was later upheld on appeal.
According to a long and fascinating piece by Michael McCaffrey, another wild story that Kyle liked to tell was how he was carjacked by some bad guys and ended up killing them and being thanked for it by the police.
Chris told many people, and some reporters, that just after his return from Iraq in 2009, he was carjacked by two men at a gas station on a remote Texas highway. Chris asked the men if he could reach into his truck to get his keys, and as he did he pulled a pistol from his waistband and shot both men in the chest from under his armpit. The two men were killed instantly. Chris called the police and waited for them while leaning against his truck. The police came, Chris handed them a phone number to call at the Pentagon. The cops called the number, and the people at the Pentagon told the cops that Chris Kyle was a war hero and a Navy SEAL. The police also went inside and watched the gas station surveillance video of the incident. The cops then let Chris go on his way. Chris claimed he got emails from cops all across the country after the incident thanking him for “keeping the streets clean”. Great story. Except none of it is true. Not a word. There were no carjackers, no dead bodies, no cops, none of it. He made the whole thing up. His big mistake was then telling the story to his SEAL friend, Marcus Lutrell, author of Lone Survivor, and Marcus put the story in his second book, Service: A Navy SEAL at Work. Now it wasn’t just a tall-tale, it was in the public record, and it is demonstrably a lie. The New Yorker magazine and other journalists have investigated the story. They all come to the same conclusion. There were no carjackers. There were no dead bodies. There were no cops. None of it happened. No police departments know anything about it, no coroner ever saw the bodies, no gas station had any surveillance video or ever heard of such a thing and no cops ever responded to the scene and called the Pentagon.
And then there was the tale about how Kyle and another guy had gone to New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and picked off looters from the roof of the Superdome. McCaffrey writes:
The second story that was told by Chris Kyle was that he and another SEAL were sent by the government to New Orleans in the aftermath of hurricane Katrina. Once they got to New Orleans, Chris and another sniper went to the roof of the Superdome, and started shooting looters in the city. Chris Kyle said this to many people, he also said this on tape. Chris claims to have killed thirty looters all on his own. Helluva story. Only problem is…there’s not a speck of truth in it. Once again this is a total fabrication, or to put it less delicately, a complete, bold faced lie. Chris Kyle never went to New Orleans after Katrina. He never shot ‘looters’. Just like with the carjackers, there are no bodies and no documentary or corroborating evidence it occurred. None. Chris Kyle lied. Again.
Why would this man, who already had plenty of dramatic true stories to tell, make up these tall tales out of whole cloth? If you’re interested in the psychology of people like this, you’ll probably find McCaffrey’s suggested explanations as interesting as I did.
Here are a few more articles to check out if you find the hero-worship of Kyle and his own behavior as interesting and confounding as I do.
The New Yorker: In the Crosshairs — Chris Kyle, a decorated sniper, tried to help a troubled veteran. The result was tragic.
The Guardian: Chris Kyle and the Iraq war are more complex than American Sniper – or criticism of it, by Colby Buzzell.
Slate: How Accurate Is American Sniper? by Courtney Duckworth.
Alternet, via Raw Story: 7 big lies ‘American Sniper’ is telling America about Iraq and Chris Kyle, by Zaid Jelani.
Telesur: American Sniper? by Ross Caputi.
The Boston Globe: Many miss the point of Eastwood’s ‘American Sniper,’ by Ty Burr.
Rolling Stone: ‘American Sniper’ Is Almost Too Dumb to Criticize, by Matt Taibbi.
The Washington Post: Trial of Eddie Routh, killer of Chris Kyle, will be darkest chapter of ‘American Sniper,’ by Abby Philip.
What stories are you following these days? This is an open thread.
The combination of low voting patterns and big money in politics is finally coming to an ugly fruition. The plan was all laid out in the Powell memo of 1971. Its leaking to Jack Anderson will probably be remembered as one of the last acts of a press free of uber-corporate ownership and manipulation. It was also the beginning of the framework that ultimately led to the Citizen’s United case 5 years ago establishing a freedom of speech right for corporations best encapsulated by Mitt Romney’s famous gaffe in Iowa of “Corporations are people, my friend”.
Though Powell’s memo was not the sole influence, the Chamber and corporate activists took his advice to heart and began building a powerful array of institutions designed to shift public attitudes and beliefs over the course of years and decades. The memo influenced or inspired the creation of the Heritage Foundation, the Manhattan Institute, the Cato Institute, Citizens for a Sound Economy, Accuracy in Academe, and other powerful organizations. Their long-term focus began paying off handsomely in the 1980s, in coordination with the Reagan Administration’s “hands-off business” philosophy.
Most notable about these institutions was their focus on education, shifting values, and movement-building — a focus we share, though often with sharply contrasting goals.* (See our endnote for more on this.)
So did Powell’s political views influence his judicial decisions? The evidence is mixed. Powell did embrace expansion of corporate privilege and wrote the majority opinion in First National Bank of Boston v. Bellotti, a 1978 decision that effectively invented a First Amendment “right” for corporations to influence ballot questions. On social issues, he was a moderate, whose votes often surprised his backers.
The combination of the Southern Strategy, the business interests behind the Powell Memo, and the insipid and wrongly labelled “Moral Majority” has created an unholy trinity of neoconfederates, billionaire plutocrats, and christianist extremists that now drive the Republican Party. We now have a SCOTUS and majority in Congress set to undo many of the advances of the late 20th century. A lot of this came from the mind of Nixon and his cronies.
… Democrats were expanding rights while the Republicans wanted to narrow them or keep them restrictive.
This realignment did not exactly start with Nixon or end with him. Barry Goldwater had voted against the 1964 Civil Rights Act (although he had supported other civil rights bills), but the GOP in general then was unencumbered by a Southern constituency and its leadership often favored civil rights.
After Nixon, though, there was no turning back. In 1980, Ronald Reagan — ever the innocent — went to Mississippi and the Neshoba County Fair to tastelessly proclaim his belief in “states’ rights.” Nearby, three civil rights worked had been killed just 16 years earlier, protesting one of those bogus rights — the right to segregate the races. Reagan never acknowledged any appeal to racism. Racists took it as a wink anyway.
At one time, a good many African-Americans voted Republican — the party of Lincoln, after all. Jackie Robinson initially supported Nixon , as did Joe Louis. The former heavyweight champion had even supported a Republican in the 1946 congressional campaign against Rep. Helen Gahagan Douglas, a liberal civil rights advocate, whose California district was substantially black. As late as the 1970s, there were African-American enclaves in Maryland that voted Republican.
The damage Nixon did to his own party, not to mention the rights of African-Americans and the cause of racial comity, has lasted long after the stench of Watergate has dispersed. It not only persuaded blacks that the Republican Party was inhospitable to them, but it in effect welcomed racists to the GOP fold. Dixiecrats moved smartly to the right.
Excuse me for extrapolating, but segregationists are not merit scholarship winners. Racism is dumb, and so are racists. The Democratic Party showed racists the door.
The GOP welcomed them and, of course, their fellow travelers — creationists, gun nuts, anti-abortion zealots, immigrant haters of all sorts and homophobes. Increasingly, the Republican Party has come to be defined by what it opposes and not what it proposes. Its abiding enemy is modernity.
The first death knell of democracy was probably the undoing of the Fairness Doctrine followed closely by the demonization of labor via the busting of the Air Traffic Controller’s Union. There are a lot of reasons why the FCC should try to bring it back. The primary one I can think of is the disservice the Fox Propaganda network does to the country in terms of Science and truth. There was some paranoia in the right wing last year that the FCC was thinking about a Fairness Doctrine 2.0.
Under the controversial doctrine, which the FCC abandoned in 1987 and formally took off the books in 2011, the agency required radio and TV stations to air opposing views on controversial issues.
Pai expressed alarm that the FCC could soon start questioning why Fox spends so much time covering the attacks in Benghazi, or why NBC has focused on the controversy over lane closures in New Jersey.
House Republicans made a similar accusation in December, claiming the FCC was working on a “Fairness Doctrine 2.0.”
“Given the widespread calls for the commission to respect the First Amendment and stay out of the editorial decisions of reporters and broadcasters, we were shocked to see that the FCC is putting itself back in the business of attempting to control the political speech of journalists,” Republican members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee wrote in a letter to the FCC.
“It is wrong, it is unconstitutional, and we urge you to put a stop to this most recent attempt to engage the FCC as the ‘news police.’
The controversy stems from a study the agency plans to conduct on “critical information needs.” The FCC is required by law to study ways to eliminate barriers to entry for small media businesses.
Among other things, the agency plans to ask TV journalists about their “news philosophy” and “the process by which stories are selected.” The study will gather data on “perceived station bias” and “perceived responsiveness to underserved populations.” The FCC also wants to examine how local TV stations cover “critical information” such as “economic opportunities” and the “environment”.
There have been many more instances of cases sent to the Supreme Court and end runs by states around civil rights and liberties like the christianists’ obsession with ending a woman’s right to an abortion without exception in the first two trimesters. We’re beginning to see some of the final steps in the plan this year. We’ve watched the court gut the Voting Rights Act. Are they now set to gut the major provisions of the Fair Housing Act?
A sharply divided US Supreme Court on Wednesday took up a challenge to the Fair Housing Act (FHA) in an action that liberal critics say could gut the major civil rights provision.
At issue in a case from Dallas, Texas, is whether the housing law authorizes lawsuits over racially neutral measures that nonetheless disproportionately impact minority residents.
Liberals support the so-called disparate impact theory of civil rights enforcement, while conservatives warn that such an approach could lead to racial quotas in housing and other areas.
The case has attracted significant attention, with friend-of-the-court briefs filed by various civil rights groups, 17 states, and 20 cities and counties. On the other side, briefs have been filed by a number of conservative groups and business associations, including insurance companies, banks, finance companies, and home builders.
The FHA prohibits anyone from refusing to sell, rent, or otherwise make unavailable a house or apartment to a person because of their race, religion, or national origin. There is no dispute about this aspect of the law.
After the FHA was enacted in 1968, federal courts and agencies began embracing a broader interpretation of the law’s scope, concluding that, in addition to barring intentional discrimination, the statute also authorizes lawsuits when housing decisions disproportionately harm minority groups.
The case before the high court involves a lawsuit challenging decisions by the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs in awarding tax credits for low-income housing in Dallas. The Housing Department sought to provide new affordable housing in areas where existing housing was blighted or nonexistent. It sought to do so under race-neutral criteria.
Despite that goal, not everyone was satisfied with the agency’s performance. A Dallas-based group seeking to foster racial integration, the Inclusive Communities Project, sued the Housing Department because it said the agency had failed to provide adequate opportunities for low-income housing in Dallas’ more affluent suburbs.
Also percolating its way through Congress is a ban on all abortions after 20 weeks based on the nonscientific nonsense that the nervous system of a fetus is developed enough at that point to experience pain. It is not. It’s the usual, sneaky, lying way that religionists use to confuse the easily confused. A controversial provision caused the bill to be tabled. Republican Congresswomen were upset by a redefinition of rape tucked away in the bill that sought to ensure that only narrowly approved definitions of “rape” would be treated differently.
It’s one thing to campaign on stopping abortion—it has been a largely successful GOP plank since Roe v. Wade, and one that helped create a juggernaut connection between evangelical Christians and the Republican Party. (Yes, there have been occasional hiccups.) But it’s a different and more complicated matter to actually institute sweeping restrictions successfully.
Republicans have sought for years to ban abortions after 20 weeks. (Molly Redden has a definitive history.) The House GOP has been trying directly for the last few years, but each attempt has come to nought. Besides, even a successful House bill would have run into the Democratic Senate. But with a newly enormous majority in the House and a newly minted majority in the Senate, Republicans finally had a chance to get a bill to the president. While Obama would surely reject it, it would be a powerful political gesture and please the party’s pro-life allies. Even better, they had the opportunity to schedule the vote to coincide with the March for Life in Washington on Thursday.
They almost made it, but then the GOP coalition fell apart—not on wavering opposition to abortion overall, but on the technicalities. Like many such proposals, the bill would have allowed for exceptions in a few limited cases, such as rape. This bill made rape an exception, but only if a woman reported it to law enforcement. As Ed O’Keefe reports, that set off alarms for a bloc of female Republican lawmakers. They worried that the rape-reporting restriction was too strict, and that the bill would alienate young voters and women from the party. And so Wednesday evening, GOP leaders abruptly yanked the bill. Instead, the House passed a less restrictive bill Thursday, permanently banning federal money from going to pay for abortions. A ban already exists, but it has to be renewed every year.
The vise in which the party finds itself is easy to understand but hard to loosen. On the one hand, the party’s religious base has worked hard for Republicans and expects to see results, and most elected officeholders are personally pro-life. (Pulling the bill when thousands of the most fervent pro-lifers are in Washington must be an especially bitter pill for leaders.) But everyone knows the GOP faces a demographic time bomb, since its voters are older and whiter and more pro-life than the general population, so it’s risky to do anything that might make it harder to win them over.
North Carolina’s Renee Ellmers, one of the prominent dissenters in this case and now a target for grassroots conservative fury, is no swing-district moderate. She won reelection in November by defeating American Idol also-ran Clay Aiken by a whopping 18 points. Ellmers removed her name as a sponsor, then said she would vote for the bill—but still requested that no vote be held until concerns could be addressed.
It’s a surprising and little-known fact that opinions about abortion have barely budged in the American public in the 42 years since Roe. As Karlyn Bowman and Jennifer Marsico wrote for The Atlantic, despite years of heated debate, a slight majority of Americans still consistently back legal abortion, even as they personally oppose it. The GOP has found great success at enacting restrictions in states it dominates.
Indeed, it seems that Republican men want certain exemptions to the act of “rape”. It’s amazing to see that Republican women rebelled at the idea of “legitimate rape”.
In sum, some Republican women basically shamed the House into dropping the vote for the bill, mostly because they’re worried it’s going to kick off another “legitimate rape” debacle as male Republicans go on cable TV to brag about the bill and are asked to explain why they only allow for rape exceptions if the victims have reported to the police.
What’s really amazing about this story is that Rep. Renee Ellmers and other female Republicans were pretty much guaranteed to support the bill if the male Republicans allowed for what is really a minor tweak in the language, allowing the rape exception to cover all rape victims, not just the minority that file police reports. After all, this bill is just a symbolic gesture, a wet kiss to the Bible-thumpers amassing on the Hill today for the annual rite of lady-hating sex phobia known as the March for Life. Obama was going to veto it anyway. They had nothing to lose by expanding the definition of “rape” to mean any time a man forces sex on a woman. In fact, they should have welcomed the change, because the original language would have meant reporters asking male Republicans why they require women to file police reports to be believed, which in turn means someone was bound to start talking about “legitimate rape”. Ellmers is hardly some kind of political genius. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see where this was headed.
So I’m forced to conclude the reason that so many male Republicans were unwilling to concede this teeny weeny issue is that it was really important to them to pass a bill that formally suggests that women frequently lie about being raped and should be assumed to be lying until a man, in this case a police officer, blesses her account of what happened.
It would be easy to see all of this as the last vestiges of old, white male privilege. Afterall, the news is full of things like this: “A Shocking Number of Americans Under 30 Have No Religion — This Country Is Going to Change.” Again, I keep hoping that we’ll be able to dance on the graves of the Koch Brothers, Pat Robertson, Antonin Scalia, Phyliss Schafly and the like and that it will all go away. Still, it took like 40 years for them to undo so many things. It seems like it will take longer than that to put it all back together again and actually make progress.
And as the Keystone Pipeline Boondoggle snakes its way through this very corrupt Congress, we get news of two pipeline disasters. The first one is in Montana.
A second large oil spill into Montana’s Yellowstone River in less than four years is reviving questions about oversight of the nation’s aging pipeline network.
Investigators and company officials on Wednesday were trying to determine the cause of the 40,000-gallon spill that contaminated downstream water supplies in the city of Glendive.
Sen. Jon Tester said Saturday’s spill from the decades-old Poplar Pipeline was avoidable, but “we just didn’t have the folks on the ground” to prevent it.
The Montana Democrat told The Associated Press more frequent inspections by regulators are needed, and older pipelines should face stricter safety standards.
“We need to take a look at some of these pipelines that have been in the ground for half a century and say, ‘Are they still doing a good job?'” Tester said.
The latest spill comes as Republicans and some Democrats, including Tester, want the Obama administration to approve TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline from Canada to the Gulf.
Keystone would cross the Yellowstone roughly 20 miles upstream of the Poplar Pipeline spill.
Almost 3 million gallons of saltwater drilling waste spilled from a North Dakota pipeline earlier this month, a spill that’s now being called the state’s largest since the North Dakota oil boom began.
The brine, which leaked from a ruptured pipeline about 15 miles from the city of Williston, has affected two creeks, but it doesn’t currently pose a threat to drinking water or public health. The pipeline’s operator — Summit Midstream Partners — discovered the spill on Jan. 6, but officials didn’t find out about the true size of the spill until this week.
The pipeline company has been trying to clean up the spill by vacuuming water from the creek, but in doing so, they’re also capturing a lot of fresh water.
“The problem is that … the creekbed is kinda being replenished with water so we extract, it fills; we extract, it fills,” John Morgan, a spokesman for Summit Midstream told the Grand Forks-Herald.
North Dakota Department of Health Environmental Health Section Chief Dave Glatt said he hasn’t seen any impacts to wildlife yet, but officials won’t likely know the full impact until all the ice melts. Officials have discovered chloride concentrations in Blacktail Creek as high as 92,000 milligrams per liter — far higher than normal concentrations of about 10 to 20 milligrams per liter.
“That has the ability to kill aquatic life and so we’ll want to see if the aquatic life was able to get out of the way, and if they weren’t, how badly they were impacted,” Glatt said.
Greed, religious extremism, and bigotry! Say hello to SCOTUS and the new Congress!
I find all of this very, very depressing. What’s on your reading and blogging list today?
I’m going to focus on just one story today. I wanted to try to understand something I’m curious about–what’s causing the rapid spread of measles in California?
The outbreak of measles that started at Disneyland in December is spreading rapidly across California, into other states, and even into Mexico. Five Disneyland employees have now been diagnosed with the disease (three have recovered and others are being tested), and the number of reported cases traced to Disneyland has passed 60.
Last week I wrote about an unvaccinated woman who contracted the measles virus in Disneyland and then took two airline flights to the Seattle area during the holidays before she was diagnosed. How many other people did she infect? Measles is highly infectious, airborne virus that can be spread by coughing and sneezing, like the common cold. From the CDC website:
Measles is a highly contagious virus that lives in the nose and throat mucus of an infected person. It can spread to others through coughing and sneezing. Also, measles virus can live for up to two hours on a surface or in an airspace where the infected person coughed or sneezed. If other people breathe the contaminated air or touch the infected surface, then touch their eyes, noses, or mouths, they can become infected. Measles is so contagious that if one person has it, 90% of the people close to that person who are not immune will also become infected.
Infected people can spread measles to others from four days before to four days after the rash appears.
Another case was recently identified in Eugene, Oregon. The man is so sick that he hasn’t been able to talk to anyone, but his wife says he was in Disneyland and also went to the Rose Bowl game and then flew back home before he started showing symptoms. How many other people did he infect? UPDATE: It turns out the man did not go to the game–see story in comment thread.
Measles cases are also turning up in Northern California, according to SFGate: Disneyland measles outbreak spreads to Bay Area.
A large outbreak of measles that started at two adjacent Disney theme parks in December has now sickened people all over California, including a handful of Bay Area residents, and is prompting public health authorities to urge everyone to get vaccinated if they aren’t already.
California has reported 59 cases of measles since mid-December, the bulk of them in people who either visited or had close contact with someone who had been to Disneyland or California Adventure Park in Anaheim, public health officials said in a media conference call Wednesday. Seven measles cases have been reported in the Bay Area: in Alameda, San Mateo and Santa Clara counties.
Most of the people who have become infected were unvaccinated. Because of the threat of infection, public health officials said people who aren’t vaccinated — either because they can’t get the vaccine or they choose not to — should avoid public places where large groups of people, especially international travelers who may carry measles, congregate.
“We can expect to see many more cases of this vaccine-preventable disease unless people take precautionary measures,” said Dr. Gil Chavez, deputy director of the Center for Infectious Diseases with the California Department of Public Health. “I am asking unvaccinated Californians to consider getting immunized to protect themselves and family and community at large.”
I had measles as a child, and fortunately I didn’t develop any of the complications, such as blindness, severe ear infections, pneumonia, and encephalitis (rare). But now that we have a vaccine for measles, children don’t need to risk these possible dangerous consequences of getting the virus. Sadly, we have a lot of people in this country who believe conspiracy theories about vaccines.
How do the anti-vaxxers avoid the vaccines? Most states require vaccinations for children attending school, but most states also allow religious exemptions. Here’s a list of vaccine requirements in each state. Every state but Mississippi and West Virginia allows religious exemptions; a few states also allow “philosophical” exemptions. Only California allows “objections based on simply the parent(s) beliefs.” I’m guessing some parents avoid vaccinating their children by home-schooling them.
Bloomberg reports that Orange County has banned unvaccinated kids from attending school because of the measles outbreak.
Health officials in Orange County, Calif. have banned two dozen students who have no immunization records from attending high school in the wake of a measles outbreak that has been traced back to Disneyland.
Sixty-seven confirmed measles cases have been reported in California in the current outbreak. One student from Huntington Beach High School who was infected with the disease attended class following winter break, exposing fellow students to the highly contagious illness, especially those who did not receive a childhood vaccination against it.
“If there is a case in the school and their child is not immunized, they will be removed from the school for 21 days,” Dr. Eric Handler, the Orange County public health officer, told the Los Angeles Times. “From an epidemiological standpoint, in order to prevent spread of the disease, this is a necessary measure.”
Now check this out:
In Southern California…many schools now report that upwards of 10 percent of students have not received childhood vaccinations. In Northern California, the figures are even worse, with clusters of under-vaccinated children in the San Francisco Bay Area resulting in one out of every four children going without the recommended immunizations.
Most of the parents who opt out of having their kids vaccinated are relatively affluent and well-educated, according to science writer Tara Haelle at Forbes. She notes two reasons why measles is spreading so rapidly in California.
Those two things are the extreme infectiousness of the disease and the low levels of herd immunity, or community immunity, in pockets of southern California. Measles infects 9 out of every 10 non-immune individuals it finds. It’s airborne and hangs around up to two hours after an infected person leaves the area. It doesn’t take much for this disease to spread through a population that isn’t immune from previous exposure or through vaccination. Or, to put it another way, in an unvaccinated population, each person infected with the measles will transmit the disease to 12 to 18 other people. If no one were vaccinated against measles, we would be up to hundreds, perhaps thousands, of cases by now. We aren’t because there are some levels of herd immunity, but it’s because herd immunity has been weakened that we’re seeing additional cases at all.
She also debunks the notion that undocumented immigrants are spreading the virus.
Meanwhile, one of the biggest myths popping up in comment threads and on social media is that undocumented immigrants have something to do with this outbreak, or any other outbreak of a vaccine-preventable disease. We don’t yet know who Patient 0 – the first person with the disease – was at Disneyland, but we don’t really need to know. It’s not undocumented immigrants we should be pointing the finger at. It’s home-grown, upper-middle class, well-educated, mostly white southern California parents who have chosen not to vaccinate their children we should be giving the side-eye to. When vaccination rates in the region are below some developing countries’ rates, you don’t need undocumented immigrants to bring in the disease. Unvaccinated Americans do a fine job of that all on their own. A look at past cases makes this clear.
When the CDC tracked measles cases for the first half of 2013, they found that 159 cases resulted from 42 importations of the disease – but more than half those importations were U.S. residents returning to the States from abroad. Similarly, the outbreak of close to 400 cases in Ohio last year began with unvaccinated U.S. travelers returning from a visit to the Philippines. And the largest outbreak in San Diego since 1991 occurred in 2008 after an intentionally unvaccinated 7-year-old boy returned from a vacation in Switzerland with his family and brought back the measles. That last case is particularly of interest because the boy was a patient of Dr. Bob Sears, who has been spreading misleading information about measles in the midst of this outbreak.
Interestingly, she says that some people who have been vaccinated will still get the disease. But someone who hasn’t been vaccinated is 35 times more likely to get measles than someone who has had the vaccine.
Here’s some more information about Dr. Bob Sears, and Orange County pediatrician and author of “The Vaccine Book: Making the Right Decision for Your Child.” From the LA Times: Vaccination controversy swirls around O.C.’s ‘Dr. Bob.’
While the vast majority of physicians are troubled by the anti-vaccination movement, Sears, 45, lends a sympathetic ear. About half his patients forgo vaccines altogether. To others, he offers “Dr. Bob’s” alternative and selective vaccination schedules, which delay or eliminate certain immunizations.
At a conference this year in Rancho Mirage, Sears told a roomful of pregnant women, new mothers and healthcare professionals that vaccines work well and are responsible for the nation’s low disease rate, something parents who don’t want to immunize can take advantage of.
“I do think the disease danger is low enough where I think you can safely raise an unvaccinated child in today’s society,” he said. “It may not be good for the public health. But … for your individual child, I think it is a safe enough choice.”
That approach frustrates infectious-disease experts, who in recent years have found themselves combating some celebrities’ anti-vaccination beliefs.
“We eliminated endemic measles in the U.S. in 2000. It’s now 2014 and we’re at 400 cases. Why?” Dr. Paul Offit, chief of infectious diseases at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, said in an interview in June. The number of cases has since risen to nearly 600. “Because people listen to Bob Sears. And, frankly, I blame him far more than I do the Jenny McCarthys of this world. Because he’s a doctor. And he should know more.”
Here’s an interesting article from The New Republic, The Best Way to Combat Anti-Vaxxers Is to Understand Them A new study underlines the similarity between “neo-liberal” thinking and the anti-vaccination movement. Well The New Republic should certainly understand neo-liberal thinking–they practically invented it. An excerpt:
“Anti-vaxxers,” as they are often referred, are an easy group to stereotype and a difficult group to humor. In most thinking circles, they are cast as “the other”; people either too stupid to understand the science behind vaccination, or too selfish to care about the impact of their choices on those around them.
But vaccine skeptics aren’t as different from their critics as we might like to think. And their rise in number over the past decade has less to do with stupidity, or even selfishness, than it does with beliefs about knowledge, trust, and freedom of choice that are pervasive throughout our culture, whether you choose to vaccinate your kids or not.
Dr. Jennifer Reich, a sociologist at the University of Colorado Denver, has been researching the anti-vaccination movement since 2007, seeking to understand the processes by which people come to reject vaccines. Over the past seven years, she has conducted in-depth interviews with parents who refuse mainstream vaccine recommendations, along with doctors, alternative healers, and public policymakers.
Not all of the parents Reich spoke with were “anti-vaxxers” in the sense that we typically think of the term; only a small minority identified as activists in the Jenny McCarthy mold, campaigning other parents not to vaccinate or advocating for policy change. Nor did they necessarily abstain from vaccination completely.
Rather, what united them was a sense that vaccines were up for negotiation: to be administered or rejected depending on the convictions of the parent and the needs of the child. Reich’s interviewees saw themselves as critical consumers of information. They engaged with doctors not as authorities to be obeyed, but as another data point to be evaluated, embraced, or discarded. They continually assessed risk: How likely was it that their child would be exposed to Disease A? What would be the consequences if they contracted Disease B?
It seems to me that what these anti-vaxxers have in common with neo-liberals is that they have lost the sense that as Americans we are all in this together. They focus only on their own needs and ignore the ways in which their choices about whether to vaccinate their children could impact others and society as a whole.
Just one more article before I wrap this up.
Fifteen years after measles was declared eliminated in the United States, the recent outbreak traced to two Disney parks in California illustrates how quickly a resurgence can occur….
Experts explain the California outbreak simply.
“This outbreak is occurring because a critical number of people are choosing not to vaccinate their children,” said Dr. Paul Offit, director of the Vaccine Education Center and an attending physician at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia’s Division of Infectious Diseases.
“Parents are not scared of the disease” because they’ve never seen it, Offit said. “And, to a lesser extent, they have these unfounded concerns about vaccines. But the big reason is they don’t fear the disease.” ….
Researchers have found that past outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases are more likely in places where there are clusters of parents who refuse to have their children vaccinated, said Saad Omer, an associate professor of global health, epidemiology and pediatrics at Emory University School of Public Health and Emory Vaccine Center, in Atlanta.
“California is one of the states with some of the highest rates in the country in terms of exemptions, and also there’s a substantial clustering of refusals there,” Omer said….Other reasons include the belief that their children will not catch the disease, the disease is not very severe and the vaccine is not effective, Omer noted.
In California, vaccine exemptions have increased from 1.5 percent in 2007 to 3.1 percent in 2013, according to an analysis by the Los Angeles Times.
So, in a sense California is endangering people in other states. Omer says there’s recent legislation to make it more difficult to get exemptions, but “it is too soon to know the effects of the new law.”
So . . . comment on this issue if you wish; but feel free to treat this as an open thread. Have a great day Sky Dancers.
Tonight President Obama will give his sixth State of the Union Address. Yesterday, Dakinikat wrote about Obama’s proposal to increase taxes on the wealthy to benefit the middle class. Obviously that isn’t going to pass muster with our Republican Congress, but maybe it will at least embarrass some members just a little bit. We’ll have a live blog tonight during the speech, and I hope you’ll join us.
Here are a few stories to check out before tonight.
From The Washington Post: Obama will give State of Union address against backdrop of deep partisan divide. Author David Nakamura seems concerned that the president isn’t interested in being “conciliatory” toward Republicans.
The president will enter the House chamber Tuesday night for his sixth State of the Union address riding a wave of confidence driven by an improving economy and brightening public approval ratings. And he seems as defiant as ever.
Although Obama has vetoed just two bills in his six years, the White House has threatened to veto five measures from Congress this month alone — including legislation that would authorize the Keystone XL oil sands pipeline, tie funding of the Department of Homeland Security to a rollback of Obama’s executive actions on immigration, and impose new economic sanctions on Iran.
Obama vowed in a private meeting with Democrats last week that he will play “offense” during the final two years of his presidency, building on the aggressive executive actions he laid out over the past two months. The legislative proposals he has previewed — including a plan for free community college and a revamping of the tax code — have been based firmly on his terms, drawing objections from Republicans.
The nerve of this guy! He tried to reach across the aisle for years, and now he’s given up the ghost. Shocking.
Joni Ernst is not the next Sarah Palin.
And Tuesday night, she’ll get the chance to prove it.
The SOTU will be followed by a Republican response by newly elected Iowa Senator Joni Ernst. Will she castrate a hog during her presentation? Ben Jacobs at The Daily Beast writes:
Ernst, the gun totin’, hog castrating freshman Republican senator from Iowa will give her party’s response to the State of the Union—a tricky, high-profile task that have landed many before her at the bad end of a punchline.
But the prime time address not only gives Ernst a chance to show off her Iowa charm, it gives her the opportunity to shed the comparison to Sarah Palin that she attracted as she campaigned through the Hawkeye State’s 99 counties last year as a populist conservative.
Once called an “onion of crazy” by Democratic National Committee chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schutz (D-Fla.), the Iowa senator first gained national attention in a crowded, if undistinguished, primary field with an television ad about castrating hogs. She followed that up with another advertisement that featured her in safety glasses firing away at a target while the voiceover boasted that she kept “more than lipstick in her purse.”
CNN notes that recent responses to the SOTU have not gone well and asks “Is the State of the Union response cursed?”
“It’s almost like the kiss of death to get picked to do the Republican response,” said Elaine Kamarck, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. “It represents an amazing opportunity to catapult yourself into the national conversation, but the risk is huge and the success rate has been minimal at best in recent years.”Republicans couldn’t have been more excited to spotlight their Indian-American wunderkind Bobby Jindal, Louisiana’s governor, in response to the first black President’s address to a joint session of Congress. But all party bigwigs and critics alike were talking about the next day was Jindal’s awkward delivery, not his prospects for higher office — and certainly not GOP diversity.
It was a moment reminiscent of then-Gov. Tim Kaine’s (D-Virginia) 2006 response, when he was outdone by his own eyebrows.
And then a parched Marco Rubio took a not-so-subtle sip of water, eyes still piercing into the camera. Forget that he had delivered the first-ever bilingual rebuttal, drowned out by Rubio and his infamous water bottle.
Rubio quickly bounced back from that moment, raising more than $100,000 through his PAC by selling “RUBIO” branded water bottles. And his political fortunes are still fairly intact.
And superstitious politicos beware.
Virigina Gov. Bob McDonnell gave a rousing response straight from the Virginia state legislature in 2010. Five years later, and he’s about to start a two-year stint in federal prison over corruption charges.
Even last year’s speaker, Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers was accused by a former staffer of ethics violations, though that investigation died out pretty quickly.
Maybe it’s just that today’s Republicans are a sorry bunch of losers channeling the Koch brothers?
Speaking of losers, Louisiana Rep. Steve Scalise had the nerve to discuss Martin Luther King’s legacy yesterday. From The Hill: Scalise praises MLK amid controversies.
House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) on Monday praised the legacy of slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. amid controversy over his speech to a white supremacist group while he served as a Louisiana state legislator…
“As we reflect upon the life of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., today, we also recognize how our nation has been strengthened by his legacy,” Scalise said in a statement.
“Dr. King challenged our country to fulfill the promises of liberty, equality, and justice prescribed in the founding of our great nation. Leading by example, he stressed the teachings of tolerance, service, and love, regardless of race, color, or creed. Today, his writings and speeches continue to empower and inspire those who seek liberty, equality, and justice,” Scalise continued.
Scalise made no mention of any events he planned to attend to commemorate the holiday.
Scalise’s comments stood out, however, given that the holiday coincides with multiple race-related controversies over his career prior to entering Congress.
For one, Scalise opposed making King’s birthday a state holiday in 2004 while he served in the Louisiana Legislature, as well as making it a school holiday in 1999.
The Hill also reported last week that Scalise voted against a resolution in the Louisiana Legislature apologizing for slavery. He later supported a version that only expressed “regret” for slavery.
“Why are you asking me to apologize for something I didn’t do and had no part of?” Scalise said, according to minutes of a 1996 Louisiana House committee meeting obtained by The Hill. “I am not going to apologize for what somebody else did.”
And, as reported in late December, Scalise in 2002 spoke before the European-American Unity and Rights Organization founded by former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke.
Why is this man still serving as House Majority Whip?
Yesterday Think Progress noted that Scalise isn’t the only opponent the Martin Luther King holiday who still remains in power.
After King’s assassination in 1968, Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) introduced the first Congressional legislation to create a federal Martin Luther King Day holiday. In the years that followed, Congress held congressional hearings during which hostile witnesses said “violence was exactly what [King] wanted,” and that King formed a “common front” with the “virulently racist Nation of Islam.”
More than 15 years later, Congress finally enacted such a law. The bill, signed by President Ronald Reagan, passed in the Senate on a 78-22 vote and in the House of Representatives by a 338 to 90 margin. The most vocal opponents included the late Sen. Jesse Helms (R-NC), who mounted a 16-day filibuster of the proposal and smeared King as a Communist.
Voting with Helms against the King holiday were four men who remain in the Senate today: Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Finance Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-UT), Banking Chairman Richard Shelby (R-AL) and Armed Services Chairman John McCain (R-AZ). Shelby and McCain were in the House at the time. House Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers (R-KY) and House Judiciary Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security, and Investigations Subcommittee Chairman Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI) also voted against the proposal. McCain apologized in 2008 for being too slow “to give greatness its due,” and Hatch wrote in 2007 that the vote was “one of the worst decisions” he has made as a senator.
Read more of the sorry history of the MLK holiday at the link.
Jezebel had a fascinating, though heartbreaking, story by Anna Merlen about the archaeological excavation of the graves of young boys at the Dozier School in Florida. We’ve written about this story here in the past. Merlen interviewed Dr. Erin Kimmerle, an associate professor at the University of South Florida, one of the leaders of the project.
The Dozier School was located in the tiny town of Marianna, West of Tallahassee and thirty minutes or so from the Georgia line. It opened in 1900 as the Florida State Reform School, and despite years of reports of serious abuse and mistreatment, it remained open for over 100 years.At least 98 people died there over the years, two staff members and 96 boys aged six to 18. Men who were once Dozier residents recounted brutal beatings they received in the White House, a small outbuilding on the school grounds whose walls remain spattered with what looks like blood. More than one survivor has called the building “a torture chamber.”
A group of men who were sent to the school in the 1950s and ’60s have banded together to tell their stories: they call themselves the White House Boys. The Tampa Bay Times has done the best coverage of the Dozier School, including an investigation in 2009 that uncovered squalid conditions, staff neglect and mistreatment from 1900 to the present day, depicting the school, as they put it, as “a place of abuse and neglect, of falsified records, bloody noses and broken bones.” [….]
Dr. Erin Kimmerle is a forensic anthropologist, an associate professor at the University of South Florida and a leader of the team excavating Dozier. (Before coming to USF, she worked as the Chief Anthropologist at the Hague, analyzing mass graves in Bosnia and Croatia.) Along with two colleagues (Antoinette Jackson and Christian Wells) and a crew of graduate students, Kimmerle has been excavating Boot Hill, the burial ground at Dozier, as well as the surrounding area and trying, through DNA testing, to return the boys’ remains to their families for a proper burial.
In January of 2014, the team exhumed 55 bodies—five more than they expected to find, 24 more than official records said were buried there. There are still many questions: how many boys lie buried under the Dozier grounds, their bodies slowly entwining with the roots of the mulberry trees around them? How did they die? And who do we hold accountable for the 100 years of suffering the Dozier school inflicted?
The interview is extremely interesting and informative. I highly recommend it.
Here’s another sad Florida story that I’ve been following. Two young sisters were arrested and charged with murder after the older girl shot and killed her 16-year-old brother on January 5.
According to the initial incident report, the girls’ father is a truck driver and their parents left them alone with their brother and a 3-year-old sister while the mother accompanied the father on a trip. The 15-year-old told police that on the day of the shooting, her brother locked her in a room with just a blanket and a bucket to use as a toilet.
According to police, she said that while her brother slept, her younger sister helped her escape the room and the 15-year-old went outside and used a knife to cut the foam around the window air conditioning unit in the window of her parents’ locked bedroom. In the bedroom, she told police, she found a handgun, loaded it, and then went into the living room where her brother was sleeping and shot him.
The arrest report says the girls then packed some things, put their 3-year-old sister in a bedroom, and walked to a nearby Dollar Store, where they called a friend, who later called police. The girls told them that the 15-year-old was routinely locked in the room her brother had kept her in.
The sisters’ parents were arrested and charged with child neglect and according to the Columbia County Sheriff’s Office are still behind bars. According to their arrest report, the mother told police the 15-year-old was locked in the room about four times a week, and the father said the longest she was locked up was 20 days. In a search of the house, police found notes written by the parents asking the girl to explain why she should be let out of the room.
It turned out that there was a long history of physical, emotional, and sexual abuse in this family. The older girl had reported that her uncle was abusing her, and he is now serving a life sentence for the crimes. In addition, the mother had caught the brother raping the 1-year old, and had told authorities, but nothing was done about it.
Police say the girls will be tried as juveniles for second degree murder. Shouldn’t this killing be viewed as self-defense though? This case has also exposed a problem with laws about incest. Acccording to CBS News, Experts: Fla. sibling shooting exposes “incest loophole.”
In 2010, the children’s aunt went to police when she found a memory stick belonging to her husband with video of him sexually molesting the oldest sister. The uncle was eventually convicted and is serving life in prison.
And the abuse did not stop there. The family began locking the girl in a room – once for 20 days – and reportedly pulled her from school due to “behavioral issues.” And among the reports released by the Columbia County Sheriff’s Office is a heavily redacted document that suggests that in 2011, when the older sister would have been 11 or 12, her mother found the girl and her brother having sex in the house. But, according to the incident report, “the case was closed as unfounded and no criminal acts were disclosed.”
“We treat sexual abuse of children in the family as a social and psychological problem and not as a crime – and it is a crime,” says Grier Weeks, the executive director of the National Association to Protect Children.
Incest is still treated more lightly by law enforcement in most states in the U.S.
According to Daphne Young of Child Help, a non-profit organization devoted to the prevention and treatment of child abuse, 68 percent of child sex abuse victims are abused by a family member. Jennifer Marsh of the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN) says that 40 percent of the people who call the National Sex Abuse hotline say incest is their primary or secondary reason for seeking help.
And yet, perpetrators who sexually abuse family members can be subject to lower penalties than they would be had they assaulted a neighbor or stranger. In Washington State, for example, the Special Sex Offender Sentencing Alternative Law allows an offender to receive a lighter sentence if he or she had “an established relationship with, or connection to, the victim.”
Weeks calls this “the incest loophole,” and finds it mind-boggling: “The toll on a child [abused by a family member] is devastating. She was not protected by the very people who should have loved and protected her.”
Read more at the link.
This post has gotten way too long, so I’ll just leave you with a recommendation to read a long piece at The NY Review of Books on the Citizens United decision: The Supreme Court’s Billion-Dollar Mistake, by David Cole.
What else is happening? Please post your thoughts and links in the comment thread and have a terrific Tuesday!
It’s our holiday to celebrate the contributions of Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King! No holiday celebration is complete without drawings by grade school children!!
President Obama will give his SOTU address tomorrow and will call for raising taxes on the wealthy to provide tax cuts for the middle class. This is an interesting strategy and I’m sure the Republicans are planning on screaming “class war” for the next few days.
President Obama will use his State of the Union address to call on Congress to raise taxes and fees on the wealthiest taxpayers and the largest financial firms to finance an array of tax cuts for the middle class, pressing to reshape the tax code to help working families, administration officials said on Saturday.
The proposal faces long odds in the Republican-controlled Congress, led by lawmakers who have long opposed raising taxes and who argue that doing so would hamper economic growth at a time the country cannot afford it. And it was quickly dismissed by leading Republicans as a nonstarter.
But the decision to present the plan during Tuesday’s speech marks the start of a debate over taxes and the economy that will shape both Mr. Obama’s legacy and the 2016 presidential campaign.
It is also the latest indication that the president, untethered from political constraints after Democratic losses in the midterm elections, is moving aggressively to set the terms of that discussion, even as he pushes audacious moves in other areas, like immigration and relations with Cuba.
The president’s plan would raise $320 billion over the next decade, while adding new provisions cutting taxes by $175 billion over the same period. The revenue generated would also cover an initiative Mr. Obama announced this month, offering some students two years of tuition-free community college, which the White House has said would cost $60 billion over 10 years.
The centerpiece of the plan, described by administration officials on the condition of anonymity ahead of the president’s speech, would eliminate what Mr. Obama’s advisers call the “trust-fund loophole,” a provision governing inherited assets that shields hundreds of billions of dollars from taxation each year. The plan would also increase the top capital-gains tax rate, to 28 percent from 23.8 percent, for couples with incomes above $500,000 annually.
Those changes and a new fee on banks with assets over $50 billion would be used to finance a set of tax breaks for middle-income earners, including a $500 credit for families in which both spouses work; increased child care and education credits; and incentives to save for retirement.
The initiative signals a turnabout for Mr. Obama, who has spoken repeatedly about the potential for a deal with Republicans on business tax reform but little about individual taxation, an area fraught with disagreements.
“Slapping American small businesses, savers and investors with more tax hikes only negates the benefits of the tax policies that have been successful in helping to expand the economy, promote savings and create jobs,” said Senator Orrin G. Hatch, Republican of Utah and chairman of the Finance Committee. “The president needs to stop listening to his liberal allies who want to raise taxes at all costs and start working with Congress to fix our broken tax code.”
Republicans have already referred to it as “trolling” given that they run both houses of the US Congress and will pass neither one. This does, however, have very bad optics for them. It puts them squarely in league with the uberwealthy.
“It’s not surprising to see the president call for tax hikes, but now he’s asking Congress to reverse bipartisan tax relief that he signed into law,” said Don Stewart, deputy chief of staff to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).
Stewart said that “Republicans believe we should simplify America’s outdated tax code; that tax filing should be easier for you, not just those with fancy accountants; and that tax reform should create jobs for families, not the [Internal Revenue Service].”
Meanwhile, a spokeswoman for Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), who chairs the House Ways and Means Committee, also criticized the proposal.
“This is not a serious proposal,” said Ryan spokesman Brendan Buck in a public statement. “We lift families up and grow the economy with a simpler, flatter tax code, not big tax increases to pay for more Washington spending.”
Plan details include hitting big banks and inheritance taxes. These suggestions really go at the types of tax cuts that incent gambling and increase financial wealth rather than industrial and business wealth that create jobs and economic growth.
During his State of the Union address on Tuesday, President Barack Obama will lay out a plan to extend tax credits to the middle class by hiking taxes on wealthier Americans and big banks, according to senior administration officials.
Under the plan, the capital gains tax for couples with income over $500,000 per year would be raised from its current level of 23.8 percent up to 28. The plan would also strip a tax break, known as a “step-up,” that allows heirs to avoid capital gains taxes on large inheritances.
In addition, the plan would institute a new tax on the biggest financial institutions, basing the fee on liabilities in order to discourage risky borrowing. The administration says the fee would hit the roughly 100 banks that have assets of $50 billion or more.
The president’s plan would use revenues from those tax code changes to finance credits aimed at the middle class, officials said. That includes extending the earned income tax credits to families without children, which would benefit an estimated 13 million low-income workers, while also tripling the maximum tax credits for child care in low- and middle-income homes.
“This proposal is probably the most impactful way we can address the manifest unfairness in our tax system,” an administration official said.
The tax hikes on capital gains would run into heavy opposition from Republicans in the GOP-controlled Congress. Other elements of the president’s plan, however, have enjoyed some degree of bipartisan support. House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.) has proposed a similar tax on big banks, and many Republicans favor the idea of broadening the earned income tax credit.
According to officials, the capital gains tax reforms would impact “almost exclusively” the top 1 percent of earners, carving out the majority of middle-income families from the hikes.
Here’s an essential outline for the items up for revision in the President’s plan. Is it his Piketty moment? This one is my personal favorite but they’re all good.
Raise the top capital gains tax rate from 23.8 to 28 percent. This is straightforward enough. Money you get from investments is taxed less than money you get from, you know, actually working, and while that might be good for the economy, it’s not good for a basic sense of fairness. Not when the top 400 households are getting 16 percent of all capital gains, and the top 0.1 percent are getting half of them. That’s why, as theCongressional Budget Office (CBO) dryly puts it, “preferential tax rates on dividends and capital gains provide almost no benefit to households in the bottom four quintiles, but provide notable benefits to households in the top quintile”.
So Obama wants to push the top capital gains tax rate, which only applies to couples making more than $500,000, up from its current level of 23.8 percent to 28 percent, where it was when Ronald Reagan left office. In all, the White House calculates that increasing the capital gains tax and getting rid of step-up basis would raise 99 percent of its money from the top 1 percent, with 80 percent of that coming from the top 0.1 percent.
This is one of the items that has really drawn money out of doing business and into stock market gambling. Why work when you can day trade your life into a lower tax bracket as a wealthy person?
Here’s a few political things sure to give you some fits and giggles. Lady Lindsey is said to be considering a run at the Presidency.
Sen. Lindsey Graham acknowledged on Sunday he’s seriously exploring a bid for the Republican presidential nomination.
Asked on NBC’s “Meet the Press” if he had started polling voters about his chances in 2016, Graham said he is not polling, “but we set up a testing-the-waters committee under the IRS code that will allow me to look beyond South Carolina as to whether or not a guy like Lindsey Graham has a viable path.”
“I don’t know where this will go, but I’m definitely going to look at it,” said Graham, the senior senator from South Carolina.
A new CBS poll shows 29 percent of Republicans would like to see Christie run for the Republican nomination for president. But 44 percent say no. CBS points out “Only former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin’s numbers are more underwater: 30 percent of Republicans say they’d like to see her run, but 59 percent disagree.”
Fifty-nine percent of Republicans would like to see Mitt Romney jump into the 2016 race, while 26 percent believe he should stay out.
“Fifty percent of Republicans would like to see former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush on the campaign trail as well, while 27 percent disagree,” pollsters said. “If both Romney and Bush run, analysts expect them to wage a competitive battle for the allegiance of the Republican establishment.”
Numbers for some of the others often mentioned:
– Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee: 40 percent of Republicans urge him to get in, and 29 percent say stay out.
– “Twenty-seven percent of Republicans would like Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul to mount a bid, but 34 percent disagree. Twenty-six percent would like Florida Sen. Marco Rubio to run, while 19 percent would not. Twenty-one percent want Texas Sen. Ted Cruz to run, while 25 percent want him to not run.”
– Gov. Rick Perry of Texas: 21 percent yes, 29 percent no.
– Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana: 14 percent yes, 20 percent no.
– Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin: 22 percent yes, 12 percent no.
Maybe winning isn’t everything after all. “Republicans, by a 61 to 35 percent margin, believe it’s more important to have a nominee who agrees with them on the issues than a nominee who can win the general election,” according to the poll.
Well, that’s it for today! We’ll see you with a live blog for the SOTU tomorrow!! Have a great holiday!
What’s on your reading and blogging list today?