Saturday Reads: History Future, History PastPosted: October 4, 2014
The election of Wendy Davis to the Texas governor’s office has taken on new urgency as thirteen Texas abortion clinics– in rural and poor areas–have shut down due to a court ruling that’s likely to lead straight to the grim group of radical catholics on the Robert’s Court. How can Roe or Casey stand given 80% of this huge state’s clinics just shut down in an obvious attempt to block the exercise of a woman’s constitutional right to privacy and abortion?
Thirteen abortion clinics in Texas were forced to close overnight as a result of a Thursday ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. Texas, the second largest and the second most populous state in the country, will now have only eight abortion clinics to serve its more than five million women of reproductive age.
The decision upheld Texas’ House Bill 2’s requirement that abortion clinics meet ambulatory surgical center standards. These centers are hospital-like centers abortion providers say are unnecessary for a relatively simple procedure that often takes five to ten minutes.
This ruling by a three-judge panel overturns U.S. District Court’s Judge Lee Yeakel’s August decision that found HB2’s surgical center rule unconstitutional. He said that the rule placed an undue burden on women trying to access abortion services and that the reduction of clinics in such a large state functioned “just as drastically as a complete ban on abortion.”
This is the second time the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, a notoriouslyconservative federal appellate court, has overturned Yeakel’s rulings. Several months ago, they overturned his decision that HB2’sadmitting-privileges rule was also unconstitutional.
HB2 has already closed half of Texas’ abortion clinics. The state went from 41 in June 2013 to 20 in June 2014. Today, the state has eight.
I’m not holding much hope for anything coming out of SCOTUS. Catch Fat Tony’s latest.
The separation of church and state doesn’t mean “the government cannot favor religion over non-religion,” Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia argued during a speech at Colorado Christian University on Wednesday, according to The Washington Times.
Defending his strict adherence to the plain text of the Constitution, Scalia knocked secular qualms over the role of religion in the public sphere as “utterly absurd,” arguing that the Constitution is only obligated to protect freedom of religion — not freedom from it.
“I think the main fight is to dissuade Americans from what the secularists are trying to persuade them to be true: that the separation of church and state means that the government cannot favor religion over non-religion,” the Reagan-appointed jurist told the crowd of about 400 people.
“We do Him [God] honor in our pledge of allegiance, in all our public ceremonies,” the conservative Catholic justice continued. “There’s nothing wrong with that. It is in the best of American traditions, and don’t let anybody tell you otherwise. I think we have to fight that tendency of the secularists to impose it on all of us through the Constitution.”
Earlier this year, Scalia joined the Supreme Court’s majority opinion in Town of Greece v. Galloway, which held that the New York town could continue opening legislative sessions with sectarian prayers.
Scalia has since used the case to press for the approval of public prayers in schools, legislatures and courtrooms.
In June, Scalia criticized the Supreme Court for declining to review Elmbrook School District v. John Doe, a case in which the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit ruled that a public school district’s decision to conduct graduation ceremonies in a church violated the Establishment Clause.
In a dissent joined by Justice Clarence Thomas, Scalia argued that “at a minimum,” the Supreme Court should remand the case for reconsideration, noting that “the First Amendment explicitly favors religion.”
Policy decisions like these are driving our country to third world status. Here’s an update on rewriting US History from the information I wrote extensively about on Thursday Today in revisionist history: Slavery in the US ended voluntarily. So, how do we explain the Civil War exactly then?
A member of Colorado’s state Board of Education argued that the fact that the United States voluntarily ended slavery proved “American execptionalism” and this perspective should be taught to students in a recent Facebook post about the AP U.S. History curriculum.
Businesswoman Pam Mazanec, who was elected to represent Colorado’s 4th Congressional district on the board, jumped into a discussion about the AP History course framework Saturday on a Facebook page that describes itself as “a place where teachers and parents are encouraged to speak freely about their issues, questions, and concerns in the Douglas County School District.” The Colorado Independent flagged her comment on Thursday.
Mazanec’s first posts in the thread raised the possibility that the AP History course framework may have been conceived by people with an “agenda,” prompting an AP English teacher to respond by explaining that experienced AP teachers compile the courses’ exams.
She then wrote that her concern for the course “is an overly negative view of our history and many of our historical figures (if mentioned)” and cited history professors with “impressive credentials” who told her that the AP History curriculum is designed to “downplay our noble history.”
She used slavery to illustrate the point:
As an example, I note our slavery history. Yes, we practiced slavery. But we also ended it voluntarily, at great sacrifice, while the practice continues in many countries still today! Shouldn’t our students be provided that viewpoint? This is part of the argument that America is exceptional. Does our APUSH Framework support or denigrate that position?
Students and teachers outraged over proposed changes to the AP History curriculum have staged protests and walk-outs over the past two weeks in Jefferson County, which lies in the state’s 7th Congressional district. The original proposal called for promoting “patriotism” and downplaying “civil disorder,” although the Jefferson County school board voted Thursday night to adopt a compromise plan.
Elaine Gantz Berman, one of Mazanec’s Democratic colleagues on the state Board of Education, told TPM on Friday that she was “appalled” and “embarrassed” by Mazanec’s remarks.
Meanwhile, Climate Scientists have linked the California Drought to Global Warming. How long can reasonable people ignore finding after finding?
Stanford University professors recently released a study showing how the prolonged drought in many areas of California is linked to climate change. Stanford reported on the findings in a September 30 article on its website:
“Our research finds that extreme atmospheric high pressure in this region – which is strongly linked to unusually low precipitation in California – is much more likely to occur today than prior to the human emission of greenhouse gases that began during the Industrial Revolution in the 1800s,” said [Noah] Diffenbaugh, an associate professor of environmental Earth system science at Stanford and a senior fellow at the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment.
The exceptional drought currently crippling California is by some metrics the worst in state history. Combined with unusually warm temperatures and stagnant air conditions, the lack of precipitation has triggered a dangerous increase in wildfires and incidents of air pollution across the state. A recent report estimated that the water shortage would result in direct and indirect agricultural losses of at least $2.2 billion and lead to the loss of more than 17,000 seasonal and part-time jobs in 2014 alone. Such impacts prompted California Gov. Jerry Brown to declare a drought emergency and the federal government to designate all 58 California counties as “natural disaster areas.”
In a commentary yesterday, BuzzFlash drew attention to how global warming is currently causing 35,000 walruses to be stranded on an Alaskan beach due to the ongoing melting of the Arctic ice shelf. The California water crisis provides more evidence that the abuse of our atmosphere is beginning to directly impact humans, not just animals. Indeed, The Los Angeles Times recently ran an article headlined, “Drought Has 14 Communities on the Brink of Waterlessness“:
[A total of] 28 small California communities that have since January cycled onto and off of a list of “critical water systems” that state officials say could run dry within 60 days. Amid the drought that is scorching the state and particularly the Central Valley, the State Water Resources Control Board decided this year, for the first time ever, to track areas on the brink of waterlessness.
Currently, that list is composed of 14 generally smaller towns and cities in the US’s largest state. However, the larger cities in California, particularly Los Angeles, receive their water via aqueducts and pipelines from sources far from the urban areas. If the drought worsens, there is a strong likelihood that millions and millions of people will feel the impact of insufficient water.
As we close in on the midterm elections, each party is bringing out its big guns. Hillary Clinton has a full schedule planned. I’ll be out in the 7th Ward this afternoon in the Treme neighborhood! I’m not a big gun but I really really want to make sure this midterm election comes out to the benefit of we the people.
Hillary Clinton has mapped out much of her political schedule through Election Day, an itinerary that focuses on helping Senate candidates and includes trips to a half-dozen states, including Kentucky and presidential early states Iowa and New Hampshire, according to details obtained by POLITICO.
The plan, which could see adjustments and additions as races hit critical points in the coming weeks, was the product of close work between Clinton chief of staff Huma Abedin and the Democratic campaign committees.
The final stretch of the midterms will mark Clinton’s most extensive political activity since she left the State Department early last year and requests for her to appear began pouring in from all corners of the country.
A major goal has been to navigate the former secretary of state’s concerns about spending time with her daughter and newborn granddaughter, Charlotte, other commitments she’s made like book signings and some political commitments put in place weeks ago, along with her desire to help candidates facing tough races this fall, people close to her said.
“She is working to help Democrats win in order to help protect core Democratic values. That is the goal,” Clinton spokesman Nick Merrill said.
Her primary concern is the Senate, where she served for eight years and where she wants to help her colleagues retain the majority. To that end, she’s added another fundraiser to her list to help the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, hosted by movie mogul Jeffrey Katzenberg, in California on Oct. 20.
Brian Beutler compares the Republican Strategy to the Seinfeld show. It’s a campaign about nothing. Well, it is about connecting every democrat to the President. Republicans are running away from debates, issues, and any group that’s not safely in their corner. How successful can they be running against a lame duck president with a do nothing congress of their own making?
As if to signal his awareness that there’s a gaping void in the GOP’s midterm election strategy, Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus did something a little unusual for a party chairman, and gave a speech about policy.
Republicans have made little secret of the fact that they hope to recapture the Senate in November by exploiting President Obama’s unpopularity rather than pitting their substantive agendas against their opponents. When Priebus says, “People know what we’re against. I want to talk about the things we’re for,” what he means is that his candidates’ conspicuous silence on substantive matters has become a little too conspicuous.
To combat that, he has laid out a list of eleven “Principles for American Renewal.” Most of these will be familiar to students of Republican politics. Some contradict each other, or previous iterations of the Republican agenda. The first principle holds that “Our Constitution should be preserved, valued and honored,” while the third proposes a Constitutional amendment that would force Congress to shred government spending. The eleventh calls for a secure border, whereas the GOP’s 2012 post-mortem called for comprehensive immigration reform.
But the main problem is that Priebus isn’t on the ballot anywhere. The implication is that he’s speaking on behalf of his candidates, but in recent weeks the GOP has worked assiduously to orient those campaigns around trivia. Some of these efforts have been more effective than others, but the playbook has been remarkably consistent. As a counterpose to Priebus’s 11 principles, below are five of the most trivial stories Republicans have seized on in order to define campaigns around issues other than, well, issues.
Here are the kinds of things that will shape our future if we fight for them. More than 3000 New Voters have been registered in Ferguson Missouri.
Voter registration jumped 30 percent in Ferguson, Missouri between August 9 — the day unarmed teenager Michael Brown was fatally shot by Officer Darren Warren — and September 30. As protests and clashes with police continue, the town’s residents want to see more race representation in their local government in the near future.
Approximately 3,300 citizens in the town of 21,000 registered to vote after Brown’s death, totaling two-thirds of new voters in St. Louis County. Currently, 5 of 6 Ferguson council members are white, but roughly 70 percent of the city’s population is black. And Ferguson’s mayor is white Republican James Knowles.
Recent voter registration is due, in large part, to community efforts to boost civic engagement. Organizations like the NAACP and League of Women Voters, in addition to sororities and fraternities, are actively involved in registering the city’s residents. Other community members are handing out registration cards for voters to mail them in.
But some are not pleased with the surge of registered voters. In August, Matt Wills, the executive director of Missouri’s Republican Party, denounced protesters’ voter registration efforts, saying, “If that’s not fanning the political flames, I don’t know what is. I think it’s not only disgusting but completely inappropriate…Injecting race into this conversation and into this tragedy, not only is not helpful, but it doesn’t help a continued conversation of justice and peace.”
Nevertheless, residents are bracing for elections on November 4. The most important racefor voters is between Republican State Representative Rick Stream and Democrat County Councilman Steve Stenger, who are both vying for the St. Louis County’s executive position. Elections next April are also on new voters’ minds, with 3 open seats on Ferguson’s city council.
Missouri must recognize the marriages of same-sex couples that were granted elsewhere, state Judge Dale Youngs ruled on Friday.
“[T]o the extent these laws prohibit plaintiffs’ legally contracted marriages from other states from being recognized here, they are wholly irrational, do not rest upon any reasonable basis, and are purely arbitrary,” Youngs wrote.
The ruling followed a hearing in September on the case, which was brought by 10 same-sex couples represented by the American Civil Liberties Union.
“Missouri has finally recognized our couples’ marriages as being no different from any other marriage,” Tony Rothert, legal director of the ACLU of Missouri, said in a statement.
“As of right now, the injunction and order requiring the state to recognize marriages entered into in other jurisdiction is in effect,” Rothert told BuzzFeed News.
As for whether state officials will appeal, he said that he would not be surprised if they do appeal, but added, “We hope that they will accept this disposition.”
Asked for comment, a spokesperson from the Missouri Attorney General’s Office said only that the office is reviewing the ruling.
The struggle happened. The struggle continues. The history of this country has not always been pretty or exceptional. A lot of our progress was built on the suffering of others. Much of our best history came from those inspired to end the suffering of others. We should always seek truth and find a better way. This happens not by protecting the privileges and delusions of a few but by championing the progress of many.