Thursday Reads: Women’s Bodies, Women’s Lives

Peonies, by Claude Monet

Good Morning!!

Even as we worry about Trump and Bolton starting a war with Iran and about the Democrats refusing to follow the Impeachment road map provided by Robert Mueller, American women must face the fact that our very personhood is being attacked.

Personally, I have decided that I will not vote for any man for president. The right of women to make decisions about our own bodies is too important.

Here’s the latest on the War on Women:

NBC News: Missouri Senate passes bill to outlaw abortion at 8 weeks.

Missouri’s Senate has passed what its authors call one of the nation’s most stringent anti-abortion bills, which would outlaw nearly all abortions at eight weeks of pregnancy.

The Republican-led Senate passed the bill, dubbed Missouri Stands With The Unborn, by a margin of 24 to 10 early Thursday morning….

Missouri’s move comes hours after Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey signed a bill that would introduce a near-total abortion ban in that state. Kentucky, Mississippi, Ohio and Georgia have approved bans on abortion once a fetal heartbeat is detected, which can occur in about the sixth week of pregnancy.

Louisiana is following suit with its own “heartbeat” abortion ban, which was approved unopposed by the Louisiana House Health and Welfare Committee on Wednesday.

Abortion right activists are mobilizing in Alabama. The Washington Post: Governor signs Alabama abortion ban, which has galvanized support on both sides, setting up a lengthy fight.

MONTGOMERY, Ala. — As a crop duster with a banner saying “Abortion is okay” hummed above the capitol, circling back and forth around the governor’s mansion, a group of women below let out a cheer.

Amaryllis by Piet Mondrian (1910)

“Just another day in Alabama,” said Mia Raven, director of People Organizing for Women’s Empowerment and Rights (POWER) House. “We knew this would pass and we got ready.”

Amanda Reyes, who works with an abortion fund, was wearing an “I’m on the pill” T-shirt, complete with instructions printed on the back detailing how to get a medical abortion. She also looked skyward: “Here it comes again! That’s just the coolest thing.”

Hours after the Alabama Senate voted late Tuesday to ban abortions in almost all circumstances — including in cases of rape and incest — women’s rights activists and abortion rights advocates said the decision to approve the nation’s strictest abortion measure has energized them. Knowing that the bill was designed to challenge Roe v. Wade, they are gearing up for the fight.

The Washington Post: Louisiana ‘heartbeat’ abortion ban nearing final passage.

BATON ROUGE, La. — A proposal to ban abortions in Louisiana as early as the sixth week of pregnancy continued to speed through the state legislature Wednesday, the same day Alabama’s governor signed the nation’s most restrictive law against the procedure.

Without objection, the Louisiana House Health and Welfare Committee backed legislation to prohibit abortions when a fetal heartbeat is detected, similar to laws passed in several conservative states that are aimed at challenging the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1973 decision that legalized abortion. Louisiana’s ban, however, only would take effect if a federal appeals court upholds a similar law in Mississippi.

Louisiana’s so-called fetal “heartbeat bill” is sponsored by state Sen. John Milkovich, one of several measures that lawmakers are advancing to add new restrictions on abortion. Senators already have supported the bill, which will next receive full House consideration, one step from final passage. Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards has indicated he will sign the measure if it reaches his desk.

The New York Times sums up the current abortion landscape: ‘The Time Is Now’: States Are Rushing to Restrict Abortion, or to Protect It.

Alex Katz, Tulips 4, 2013

States across the country are passing some of the most restrictive abortion legislation in decades, deepening the growing divide between liberal and conservative states and setting up momentous court battles that could profoundly reshape abortion access in America….

The national race to pass new legislation began last fall, after President Trump chose Brett M. Kavanaugh to replace Justice Anthony M. Kennedy on the Supreme Court, adding what some predicted would be a fifth vote to uphold new limits on abortion. Red states rushed to pass more restrictions and blue states to pass protections.

Now, as state legislative sessions draw to a close in many places, experts count about 30 abortion laws that have passed so far.

That is not necessarily more than in past years, said Elizabeth Nash, a legal expert at the Guttmacher Institute, which supports abortion rights.

What’s different is the laws themselves, which have gone further than ever to frontally challenge Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court’s 1973 ruling that established federal protections for abortion.

Read the rest at the NYT.

Interestingly, these extreme laws could be interfering with right wing plans to overturn Roe v. Wade.

Flowers in a Glass Vase by John Constable (c. 1814)

Even Pat Robertson thinks the Alabama law is too “extreme.” The Washington Post: Televangelist Pat Robertson: Alabama’s abortion ban is ‘extreme’ and has ‘gone too far.’

Longtime televangelist Pat Robertson decried Alabama’s new abortion ban as “extreme,” saying on his show on Wednesday that the state legislature has “gone too far.”

Alabama’s law, which has been passed by the legislature and signed by the governor, includes a penalty of up to 99 years in prison for doctors who perform abortions and has no exceptions for rape or incest, Robertson noted on his show.

“They want to challenge Roe vs. Wade, but my humble view is I don’t think that’s the case I’d want to bring to the Supreme Court because I think this one will lose,” Robertson told viewers of CBN’s “The 700 Club” on Wednesday.

David G. Savage at The Los Angeles Times: Supreme Court is not eager to overturn Roe vs. Wade — at least not soon.

The Supreme Court justices will meet behind closed doors Thursday morning and are expected to debate and discuss — for the 14th time — Indiana’s appeal of court rulings that have blocked a law to prohibit certain abortions.

The high court’s action — or so far, nonaction — in Indiana’s case gives one clue as to how the court’s conservative majority will decide the fate of abortion bans recently passed by lawmakers in Alabama and Georgia. Republican Gov. Kay Ivey of Alabama signed her state’s ban into law on Wednesday.

Pot of Geraniums, Henri Matisse

Lawmakers in those states have said they approved the bans in an effort to force the high court to reconsider Roe vs. Wade, the 1973 decision that legalized abortion nationwide.

The justices have many ways to avoid such a sweeping ruling, however. And Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., in his 14 years on the high court, has typically resisted moving quickly to decide major controversies or to announce abrupt, far-reaching changes in the law.

Roberts’ history, along with the court’s handling of abortion cases in recent years, suggests he will not move to overturn the right to abortion soon, or all at once, and is particularly unlikely to do so in the next year or two with a presidential election pending.

At Slate, Dahlia Lithwick makes a similar argument: Alabama’s Extremist Abortion Bill Ruins John Roberts’ Roe Plan.

One could feel sorry for Chief Justice John Roberts. He is, after all, caught in an unsightly squeeze play between anti-abortion zealots in Alabama, and slightly less wild-eyed anti-abortion zealots in Georgia, Ohio, Tennessee, and Indiana (the court seems unable to make a decision on whether to grant the Indiana petition it has been sitting on for months now). There’s finally a five-justice majority within striking distance of a decades-long dream to overturn Roe v. Wade, and the anti-choice activists are getting ahead of themselves like slurring drunks at a frat party and making everything more transparently nasty than it need be.

Hibiscus by Hiroshige (c. 1845)

There are easy and near invisible ways for the high court to end Roe. That has always been, and remains, the logical trajectory. As Mark Joseph Stern has shown, when Brett Kavanaugh came onto the court, with his dog whistles and signaling around reproductive rights, it became clear that he would guide the court to simply allow states to erect more and more barriers to abortion access (dolphin-skin window coverings on every clinic!). The five justices in the majority would do it all while finding ways to say that such regulations were not an “undue burden” on a woman’s right to choose. The courts and state legislatures could continue their lilting love songs to the need for the states to protect maternal health and to help confused mommies make good choices, and nobody need dirty their hands by acknowledging that the real goal of three decades’ worth of cumbersome clinic regulations and admitting privileges laws were just pretexts for closing clinics and ending abortion altogether.

Read the rest at Slate.

(Mostly) male legislators are ignoring the realities of actual women’s lives.

When Senator Clyde Chambliss, a Republican, for example, was asked if the law would allow for incest victims to obtain abortions, he responded: “Yes, until she knows she’s pregnant.”

He did not elaborate on how someone would have an abortion before she knows she’s pregnant, outside of claiming, “It takes time for all the chromosomes to come together.”

Flower Garden by Gustav Klimt, 1905

Women’s bodies, lives, and futures are quite literally in the hands of men who seemingly couldn’t pass a high school health class. That’s part of what’s so hard about watching these debates: It’s not just that women’s rights and autonomy are being legislated away, but that it’s being done by complete morons.

This lack of remedial understanding of women’s bodies is not limited to Alabama. Representative John Becker of Ohio, a Republican, for example, sponsored a bill to limit insurance coverage for abortions, but claimed that it would have an exception for ectopic pregnancies, when the fertilized egg implants outside the uterus. “That treatment would be removing the embryo from the fallopian tube and reinserting it in the uterus,” he said, explaining a procedure that doesn’t exist and isn’t medically possible.

There is also Texas state Representative Dan Flynn, a Republican, who believes abortion requires cutting into a woman’s uterus, or Vito Barbieri, the Idaho state Representative, a Republican, who thought you could give a woman a remote gynecological exam by having her swallow a tiny camera.

Shannon Dingle at USA Today: I was 12 years old and pregnant. Alabama’s abortion ban bill would punish girls like me.

Roses and Lillies by Henri Fantin-Latour (1888)

I was that 11-year-old pregnant by rape in Ohio, except I had just turned 12 and lived in Florida….She is 11. She has experienced and is experiencing violating trauma. Maybe someday she will tell her story, but today is not that day.

I can tell my story, though. I was newly 12. I lived in a suburb of Tampa. I had gotten my period a couple years before, and it came regularly once it started. I knew to expect it every 32 days.

It was July, the summer between sixth and seventh grade, when days 33, 34, 35 and more passed with no period. I had read in one of my sister’s Seventeen magazines that periods aren’t always regular, so I figured this was my first one of those.

It wasn’t….I never chose to have sex at such a young age, but abusers in my family chose to rape me. I had lost count of the number of times by then. With a dad high ranking in the county sheriff’s office, I didn’t trust going to the police. I had tried to tell teachers and church volunteers, but that never went anywhere, either.

Please go read the rest if you haven’t already.

Women and girls in the U.S. are in real danger. For me this is the number one issue for women in the upcoming presidential election.

As always, this is an open thread.


Tuesday Reads: VP Debate and Other News

kaine-pence-759

Good Morning!!

Tonight at 9, Vice Presidential nominees Tim Kaine and Mike Pence will debate on national TV for the first and only time. We will have a live blog for discussion of the event.

NPR is billing these two as “softening the image” of the Democratic and Republican tickets.

Unlike running mates of the past, Pence and Kaine have not been unleashed as “attack dogs” to chew viciously on their adversaries. This year, the headlines about outrageous charges have come from the top of the ticket — with help from various TV surrogates and the rest of the media chorus.

Kaine and Pence, by contrast, serve to soften the image of the national tickets. They are Tim and Mike, known by the friendlier, shorter versions of their first names. Both have made their way in politics as loyal party men, to be sure, but as warmer and more personable versions of their respective partisan stereotypes. And both have been known for their ability to maneuver and adapt to changing political circumstances.

So far, at least, both have performed admirably in their subordinate roles. It might even be said that both have exceeded expectations in their assistance to the nominees who chose them.

Kaine has been a prolific fundraiser as well as an affable and effective salesman on the stump. Pence has been enormously influential in bringing religious and social conservatives around to accepting and endorsing Trump. Even some who had pleaded for primary voters to pick anyone but Trump have come on board this fall, however reluctantly; and several have done so after meeting with Pence. Former rival and bitter critic Ted Cruz is one example.

How anyone could consider Mike Pence “softer” on anything is beyond me. I can only assume that NPR is ignorant of or choosing to ignore Pence’s record in the House and as Governor of Indiana.

17darcy-pencejpg-192fa2ee8069282c

Here’s one mainstream article that calls attention to Pence’s “baggage.” Roll Call (September 19, 2016):

Pence made national headlines in early 2015 when he signed into law the “Religious Freedom Restoration Act,” which limited the legal actions that could be taken against an individual or business for asserting their religious beliefs.

The law sparked widespread outrage. Opponents contended that it would give license to religious conservatives to refuse service to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals. In response, several major events and corporations — including Salesforce.com, the NCAA, and the gaming convention Gen-Con — threatened to limit business ventures in the state or boycott it altogether.

Pence adamantly defended the RFRA legislation and refused to say whether it allowed for discrimination, which led to extensive questioning of his underlying motives.

What followed was a hemorrhaging of support from moderate Republicans in the state, and intense backlash on social media and in the press. So much so that he quietly signed a subsequent piece of legislation — dubbed the “RFRA Fix” — that clarified that the law did not allow businesses to discriminate based on a customer’s sexual orientation or gender identity.

Read about more of Pence’s ugly record at the link. He tried to set up a state “news bureau,” a propaganda organ paid for by taxpayers.

mike-pence-cartoon

Pence is virulently anti-abortion and did everything he could to get rid of Planned Parenthood in the state. He attempted to prevent Syrian refugees from settling in Indiana. He has helped keep Indiana a “right-to-work” state. More background on Pence’s views:

Planned Parenthood: This Is Mike Pence’s Indiana, and It’s Terrifying.

Mother Jones: Mike Pence Has Led a Crusade Against Abortion Access and LGBT Rights.

Mother Jones: Pence Tells Evangelicals He’ll Help Trump Restrict Abortion Rights.

Bustle: Mike Pence’s Stance On Gay Marriage Is As Harsh As His “Religious Freedom” Views.

In These Times: Mike Pence May Be a Friend to Trump, But He’s No Friend to Workers.

Here’s the Clinton campaign’s take on Pence and his defenses of Trump:

Other News

Republican Trump supporters have been waiting breathlessly for an “October Surprise” from Julian Assange and Wikileaks. A couple of days ago, long-time Trump adviser and conspiracy theorist Roger Stone tweeted this cryptic warning:

Then yesterday he tweeted this:

But so far, Stone and the Trumpettes have been disappointed.

The Washington Post: Trump backers realize they’ve been played as WikiLeaks fails to deliver October surprise.

For weeks, backers of Republican nominee Donald Trump have hyped the tantalizing possibility that the anti-secrecy organization WikiLeaks was on the verge of publishing a set of documents that would doom Hillary Clinton’s chances in November….

The group’s founder, Julian Assange, did nothing to dampen the enthusiasm, suggesting to Fox News hosts that his scoops could upend the race with documents “associated with the election campaign, some quite unexpected angles, some quite interesting.”

The announcement by WikiLeaks that it would host a major news conference Tuesday only seemed to confirm that the bombshell was ready to burst. The pro-Trump, anti-Clinton media world rippled with fevered speculation.

But the dreamed-of takedown of Clinton was not to be.

The much-vaunted news conference, as it turned out, was little more than an extended infomercial for WikiLeaks on the occasion of the 10th anniversary of its founding.

Assange, whose group released a trove of hacked Democratic National Committee documents on the eve of the party’s convention this summer, breezily dismissed the idea that anyone should have expected any news at his news conference.

“If we are going to make a major publication about the U.S., we wouldn’t do it at 3 a.m.,” Assange said at one point, referring to the Eastern daylight start time for the event.That didn’t go over well with Trump backers who had stayed up through the night, thinking they’d be watching live the unveiling of the death blow to the Clinton campaign.

That didn’t go over well with Trump backers who had stayed up through the night, thinking they’d be watching live the unveiling of the death blow to the Clinton campaign.

LOL! Read more hilarious stuff at the link. The Trump campaign is nothing but a “fever swamp” of conspiracy theorists, white supremacists and neo-Nazis. Just look at the campaign’s leadership and advisers like Alex Jones.

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Mother Jones: How Trump Became Our Conspiracy Theorist in Chief.

Consider Trump’s inner circle: Campaign CEO Stephen Bannon is on leave from Breitbart News, the conservative site he helped turn into a one-stop destination for breathlessly reported stories like “Muslim Prayer Rug Found on Arizona Border” (on closer inspection, the “rug” was probably a track jacket). Trump’s deputy campaign manager, David Bossie, a peddler of many of the wildest Clinton conspiracy theories of the 1990s, once made a documentary alleging that Hillary Clinton had murdered a critic’s cat. Trump adviser Roger Stone, a former Nixon campaign aide and political dirty trickster, wrote a book claiming that Chelsea Clinton got four plastic surgeries to mask the identity of her real father.

Populist movements have long flirted with what political theorist Richard Hofstadter, writing about Barry Goldwater in 1964, called the “paranoid style in American politics”—the penchant for framing opponents as the tools of a powerful but shadowy fifth column. But Trump has embraced and normalized the political fringe in unprecedented ways—and that could have far-reaching effects.

That Trump would devote much of the substance of his campaign to wild claims and ominous innuendo is not surprising: This is what first made him a conservative star. Five years ago, Trump embarked on a national press tour to question the legitimacy of President Barack Obama’s birth certificate. Obama, Trump suggested, was actually a Kenyan-born impostor named “Barry Soweto.” Establishment Republicans may have snickered, but Trump’s strategy was an unmitigated success. A CNN poll showed that his support among likely GOP voters nearly doubled once he started talking about the birth certificate. He became a regular guest on Fox & Friends, a sought-after speaker at conservative dinners, and a campaign prop for Mitt Romney, who flew to Las Vegas to accept Trump’s endorsement. In just a few months, Trump showed how intoxicatingly viral the netherworld of conspiracies could be. (Even when he finally conceded that Obama was born in the United States, he claimed the birther rumors originated with Clinton.)

From the day he kicked off his 2016 presidential campaign, an air of paranoia has infused almost everything Trump has said or done. He demanded a border wall on the grounds that Mexico was sending killers and rapists into the country, boosting his claims with an Infowars video he’d seen on the Drudge Report. He promised to “bomb the shit out of” ISIS, while insinuating that the current commander in chief harbored sympathies for the terrorist group (“There’s something going on”). After Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia died in his sleep, Trump fanned theories of an assassination. He trumpeted a National Enquirer story suggesting that Ted Cruz’s dad was involved in the Kennedy assassination (even though Stone had written a best-selling book fingering Lyndon B. Johnson).

Read the rest at Mother Jones.

Links Only

Time Magazine: Why Tonight’s Vice Presidential Debate is Unusual.

The New Yorker: Why the Vice-Presidential Debate Does and Doesn’t Matter.

Media Matters: .What Media Need To Know About Mike Pence’s Economic Record.

WSOC TV: Michelle Obama to campaign for Hillary Clinton in Charlotte.

Melissa McEwan at Share Blue: I published this photo of Hillary Clinton and the response was overwhelming. (Must Read!)

Deadspin: Trump Supporters Spent The Debate Tweeting At Jon Lester Because They Thought He Was Moderator Lester Holt.

What stories are you following today? Let us know in the comment thread and be sure to check back tonight for the VP Debate live blog!


Thursday Reads: Sweet Schadenfreude

 SchadenfreudeGood Morning!!

It’s a good day for people who believe in minding their own business and letting other people live their lives without be harassed by nosy theocrats. It’s just so much fun seeing a nasty bully like Mike Pence get his just desserts.

This morning the Indianapolis Star broke the news that GOP state legislators have come up with a “fix” for the awful “Religious Freedom Restoration Act” they passed just a short time ago. The proposed changes to the law include the following language:

[T]he new “religious freedom” law does not authorize a provider — including businesses or individuals — to refuse to offer or provide its services, facilities, goods, or public accommodation to any member of the public based on sexual orientation or gender identity, in addition to race, color, religion, ancestry, age, national origin, disability, sex, or military service.

The law will also include protections for people seeking employment and housing.

Ha ha!!

Churches and other religious non-profit organizations will still be allowed to discriminate, however.

Early signs are that neither side will be satisfied with the proposed changes.

The clarifying language is likely to rile socially conservative advocacy groups, which hold significant sway among Republicans at the Statehouse and pushed hard for the religious freedom law after a failed legislative effort last year to enshrine a same-sex marriage ban in the state constitution.

Leaders of three of those groups — the American Family Association of Indiana, the Indiana Family Institute, and Advance America — declined comment or did not return messages from The Star Wednesday.

But in an email update to supporters from the AFA’s Micah Clark, he urged them to contact their state senators and to pray for legislators.

“At this very moment, the Indiana Senate is considering “water-down” language to the recently passed and pro-religious-liberty bill, Religious Freedom Restoration Act,” the email says. “Homosexual activists are demanding Christian business owners in Indiana be forced to compromise their faith.”

images

Groups who oppose the law itself won’t be happy either.

“We understand that lawmakers are working to ‘fix’ the Indiana RFRA that has done so much harm to Indiana over the past week, but we want to make it clear that we need full protection from discrimination against all LGBT Hoosiers across the state and a guarantee that this RFRA cannot be used to undermine any nondiscrimination protections,” Katie Blair, campaign manager for Freedom Indiana, said in a statement. “According to current media reports, the proposal being considered falls far short of these principles, leaving the door wide open for discrimination.”

The prospect of the clarifying language also failed to prevent the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) from following through Wednesday on its threat of relocating its 6,000-person 2017 convention from Indianapolis because of the new law.

Spokeswoman Cherilyn Williams told The Indianapolis Star that church officials were unsure a legislative fix currently being considered would be adequate to address all of their concerns. The state’s lack of anti-discrimination protections for sexual orientation and sexual identity, in particular soured them on Indiana.

“We’re not sure the fix will be adequate to address all of our concerns, and we felt like we needed to move ahead to allow the hotels to make arrangements,” Williams said.

One of the businesses that strongly opposes the bill is prescription drug giant Eli Lilly. Lilly and two other corporations have been threatened with stock disinvestment by huge medical foundation The California Endowment.

Honestly, I wish I could paste the entire article from the Indy Star here. But I’ve already quoted too much. Please go to the link if you want more.

bart-simpson

Remember the “christian” pizza place that JJ wrote about yesterday? Well, they’re close for the time being, according to TMZ:

Memories Pizza — the first Indiana business to declare it would refuse LGBT business — got blasted on the Internet and by phone, but the owner says there’s been a huge misunderstanding … sorta.

Kevin O’Connor tells TMZ he’s had to temporarily close his business after he told a reporter he would refuse to cater a gay wedding under Indiana’s new Religious Freedom Restoration Act. O’Connor says he was immediately flooded by threatening phone calls, and social media postings.

O’Connor wants to clear up one thing: He says he would never deny service to gay people in his restaurant. However, due to his religious beliefs, he does not believe in gay marriage … and that’s why he wouldn’t service one.

I wonder how many heterosexual weddings this guy has catered? I’d love to see the photos.

As for Mike Pence, Politico has an article with this blaring headline: The Week Mike Pence’s 2016 Dreams Crumbled.

Pence is in trouble, because there is already collateral damage.

At least 10 national conventions are threatening to pull out of commitments to meeting in Indianapolis, according to city tourism officials, who have spent late nights talking down convention organizers in an attempt to keep a grip on the industry that brings in $4.4 billion annually and supports 75,000 jobs. Comedian Nick Offerman and indie band Wilco scuttled upcoming engagements here. Even NASCAR, not known for leftie or social-justice bona fides, expressed disappointment in the legislation.

And just days before the NCAA Final Four Championship is set to tip off, a different kind of March Madness has settled over the city. NCAA President Mark Emmert expressed doubts about maintaining its Indianapolis headquarters—a short walk from the Statehouse.

In a hastily called news conference on Tuesday, Pence—usually keen on playing the happy warrior in public—looked wan and defeated, though his hair was still shaped into its perfect and immoveable silver part. At some turns, in a dulcet tone, Pence employed a humble tack, suggesting the law needed “a fix” and admitting that his defensive performance in a Sunday appearance with George Stephanopoulos on ABC’s “This Week” likely made things worse (“I could have handled that better,” Pence told reporters). At others, he defended the religious freedom bill, criticizing press coverage of it as “reckless” and “sloppy,” and said he harbored no regrets in signing it.

giphy simpsons gif

“It’s been a tough week here in the Hoosier State, but we’re going to move forward,” Pence assured state and national media who had gathered at the Indiana State Library, an unconventional choice for a news conference but a sop to the national interest in the roiling imbroglio. Pence’s regular briefing area wasn’t large enough to accommodate reporters who had descended on the city. (Even Olympic diver Greg Louganis, in town to promote a new book with the mother of Ryan White, the Kokomo teen who died of AIDS 25 years ago this month, surfaced at the presser, ambling around with his black and white Jack Russell terrier, Dobby.)

Ha Ha Ha!!!!

Meanwhile, GOP legislators in Arkansas passed a law that was described in the media as identical to Indiana’s; but according to Nelson Tebbe at Balkinization, it will actually have much worse effects. Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson, no doubt wanting to avoid the public shaming that Pence has experienced, sent the law back to lawmakers for changes.

Yesterday, the Arkansas legislature passed a state RFRA and sent it to Governor Hutchinson. Today, the governor sent the bill back to the legislature, asking for language that is closer to the federal RFRA. Arkansas is being compared to Indiana, whose RFRA has drawn a firestorm of criticism. But in fact Arkansas law poses a greater danger to civil rights—and that is true regardless of whether the Arkansas RFRA is passed and what it ends up saying. That is because of another law, enacted recently, that prohibits localities from passing LGBT anti-discrimination measures. Considering the overall legal landscape in the state, it is unlikely that any changes in the RFRA bill will improve the grim situation for LGBT citizens of Arkansas.

Start with the current text of the Arkansas RFRA bill, which shares troubling features with Indiana’s law and is even broader in some respects. Most significantly, the Arkansas law is applicable in suits between private parties, just like the Indiana RFRA. As two of us have recently explained, those provisions are designed to change the legal analysis of cases where wedding vendors have refused service to same-sex couples in violation of local civil rights protections.

giphy simpsons laughing and taunting

Other aspects of the Arkansas RFRA bill are even broader than Indiana’s. For example, the Arkansas law protects all corporations and other legal entities, while Indiana’s law only applies to those where the religious beliefs are held by individuals “who have control and substantial legal ownership of the entity.” Moreover, a substantial burden on religion can only be justified under the Arkansas approach if it can be shown that applying the burden “in this particular instance” is “essential” to furthering a compelling governmental interest. Both of the quoted phrases are new to Arkansas. Whether either would matter in litigation is uncertain.

But what makes the Arkansas situation more troubling than the one in Indiana has little to do with the details of the RFRA bill. It is the way the new RFRA interacts with another new Arkansas law. Act 137, which became law in late February of 2015, provides that “A county, municipality, or other political subdivision of the state shall not adopt or enforce an ordinance, resolution, rule, or policy that creates a protected classification or prohibits discrimination on a basis not contained in state law.” In other words, localities within Arkansas may not pass anti-discrimination measures that protect LGBT citizens in employment, housing, or public accommodations—because state law does not provide such protections. Arkansas’s stated interest in passing the law was legal uniformity among jurisdictions within the state.

Scary. I don’t think Hutchinson has much chance of being POTUS, but he probably doesn’t want his state to replace Indiana in the national media spotlight either.

So it’s a good day so far. Let’s enjoy the schaedenfreude while we can.

What else is happening? Please share your thoughts and links in the comment thread.

 


Tuesday Reads: Back Home Again In Indiana

Mounds State Park, near Muncie, IN with the Great Mound in the distance.

Mounds State Park, near Muncie, IN with the Great Mound in the background.

Good Morning!!

My family moved to Indiana when I was ten years old. My Dad had been offered a job as a professor at Ball State Teachers College (soon to be Ball State Univerity) in Muncie. He bought his first house there in one of those brand new 1950s developments that were springing up all over to respond to the needs of returning WWII vets and other upwardly mobile couples with growing families–like my parents.

I went to school in Muncie from 6th grade on. I graduated from Muncie Central High School in 1965, and then attended Ball State for two years. Muncie is a very different city now then when I was growing up there. At that time, Muncie was home to many auto parts factories that supported the car makers in Detroit. Thousands of people traveled from rural areas in Kentucky and Tennesee to find good paying jobs there.

I never felt like I fit in in Muncie. My parents were liberals and our family was Catholic. Only one other person I can recall–my best friend–had a father who was a professor. Muncie was mostly Republican and only about 10 percent Catholic. There was actually quite a bit of prejudice against Catholics there, and that was troubling to me. Other kids seemed to look at me oddly when they found out what my Dad did. I wanted to get out of there, and after two years of college, I moved to Boston.

Even though I wanted out of Muncie as a young woman, I’ve never lost my attachment to the natural beauty of Indiana. It’s still a largely rural state in which the geography varies widely depending on the region. Northern Indiana is lake country, Southern Indiana is filled with rolling hills and gorgeous scenery. The central part of the state where I grew up is flat and is still filled with the corn and soy fields that many people believe are all there is to Indiana. It’s not true. That’s just where the Interstate highways are. But I think the farm country is beautiful too.

As the car industry fell on hard times, so did Muncie. Unemployment skyrocketed, and stayed high for decades, as the car parts factories disappeared. Today Muncie is a majority Democratic “college town,” and Ball State is the city’s biggest employer. I think I could be happy in Muncie now, and I’ve often thought of moving back there in my old age. For one thing it’s a much less expensive place to live than Boston. For another thing, I miss those open spaces where you can see the horizon in the distance on all sides.

I’m telling you all this so you can understand that I still love Indiana, and why I am so deeply saddened by the way the Tea Party movement has captured the state’s government. Dakinikat has been posting quite a bit about the latest outrage–an extreme, post-Hobby-Lobby-decision version of the so-called “Religious Freedom Restoration Act.” But that is just the tip of the iceberg.

Indiana has also been a leader in the right wing attacks on voting rights (strict voter ID law) and women’s reproductive rights (attacks on Planned Parenthood and attempts to pass extreme anti-abortion measures). Historically Indiana has tended to elect Republican Governors and Democratic Senators. I don’t know why that is, but it’s also true here in deep blue Massachusetts where for nearly 50 years I’ve lived under GOP rule. Indiana’s current governor is a very far right extremist, as the entire country now knows.

I thought I’d post some of the reactions to this horrible new law from inside Indiana.

This morning, the conservative Indianapolis Star–which endorsed Mike Pence in 2012–published a rare front page editorial:

 

Indy star fix it

 

Gov. Pence, fix ‘religious freedom’ law now.

We are at a critical moment in Indiana’s history.

And much is at stake.

Our image. Our reputation as a state that embraces people of diverse backgrounds and makes them feel welcome. And our efforts over many years to retool our economy, to attract talented workers and thriving businesses, and to improve the quality of life for millions of Hoosiers.

All of this is at risk because of a new law, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, that no matter its original intent already has done enormous harm to our state and potentially our economic future.

The consequences will only get worse if our state leaders delay in fixing the deep mess created.

Half steps will not be enough. Half steps will not undo the damage.

Only bold action — action that sends an unmistakable message to the world that our state will not tolerate discrimination against any of its citizens — will be enough to reverse the damage.

Gov. Mike Pence and the General Assembly need to enact a state law to prohibit discrimination in employment, housing, education and public accommodations on the basis of a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity.

Those protections and RFRA can co-exist. They do elsewhere.

Laws protecting sexual orientation and gender identity are not foreign to Indiana.

Indianapolis, for example, has had those legal protections in place for nearly a decade. Indy’s law applies to businesses with more than six employees, and exempts religious organizations and non-profit groups.

The city’s human rights ordinance provides strong legal protection — and peace of mind —for LGBT citizens; yet, it has not placed an undue burden on businesses.

Importantly, passage of a state human rights law would send a clear message that Indiana will not tolerate discrimination. It’s crucial for that message to be communicated widely.

That would bring Indiana in line Illinois where the “religious freedom” laws is overridden by a strict non-discrimination statute; but for the moment, Pence seems determined to stick with his bigoted stance because of his ridiculous fantasy of running for president. Before this, he had no chance in hell. Now he’s becoming a laughing stock like Bobby Jindal. But even Jindal probably has a better shot at the GOP nomination than Pence does.

 

Bridgeton covered bridge, Indiana

Bridgeton covered bridge, Indiana

 

Fox 59 Indianapolis: Indiana’s reputation taking a hit over religious freedom bill.

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (March 30, 2015)– Those who work in tourism in Indianapolis fear the economic impact and damage the religious freedom legislation could bring to the city and state’s economy. Sunday, Visit Indy said conventions had expressed questions about the controversial legislation, but none had expressed interest in leaving.

Monday, labor union AFSCME announced it would pull its women’s conference out of downtown Indianapolis. It was scheduled for October 9th through October 11th. Visit Indy said the conference was to be held at the JW Marriott downtown, with 800 expected attendees and an estimated $500,000 in economic impact.

Meanwhile, the state remained in the crosshairs online Monday, with the hashtag #boycottIndiana going strong on Twitter.

Cher criticized Governor Mike Pence over the weekend, and Apple CEO Tim Cookpenned an editorial in the Washington Post calling religious freedom laws like Indiana’s dangerous.

Visit Indy said they’re in crisis mode reassuring conventions Hoosiers are welcoming. The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis is taking a stand, too. Open for service stickers are affixed to the museum’s windows.

“We wanted to reaffirm to the community that we welcome everyone,” said Brian Statz, Vice-President of Operations and General Counsel.

Then Statz had better get busy and put serious pressure on Pence and the legislature, because this backlash has reached critical mass and it’s not going away anytime soon.

Bean Blossom covered bridge

Bean Blossom covered bridge

CBS 4 Indianapolis: City-County Council passes resolution opposing RFRA, sends loud message to state leaders.

INDIANAPOLIS (March 30, 2015)–The Indianapolis City-County Council passed a resolution Monday night opposing the new Religious Freedom Restoration law. The measure was sponsored and introduced by 16 council members on both sides of aisle. It passed in a 24-4 vote.

The resolution will now be sent to Statehouse for Gov. Mike Pence’s viewing.

Supporters of the measure say the current version of the law hurts Indiana commerce, repels young talented professionals and further tarnishes the Hoosier image.

“As the representatives of the city and the county, we feel it is our job to make sure we are doing everything to fight back and let the world know that Indianapolis is a welcoming place,” said John Barth, City-County Council vice president.

“If they need to repeal it then repeal it. If they can fix it, then fix it! But make it count and that’s really what we are saying tonight,” said Councilor Jeff Miller.

Before the meeting, those opposed to the new law rallied in-front of the City-Market. Chants and signs sent a clear message to the rest of the world: “No hate in our State.”

“Under no terms or wording is discrimination acceptable,” said Patrick Dutchess.

“The support that our community has had here in Indiana to say we don’t agree with the governor is amazing,” said Angie Alexander.

 

Indiana's Brown County State Park in Fall.

Indiana’s Brown County State Park in Fall.

 

CBS 4: Butler, Purdue and other Indiana university presidents issue statements on religious freedom bill.

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (March 29, 2015) — Presidents of universities in Indiana are speaking out after Indiana Gov. Mike Pence signed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act last week.  Questions remain about what to expect in Indiana’s new religious freedom bill means and the power it holds….

The president of Butler University, James Danko, released a statement on Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act on Sunday. The statement reads:

As president of Butler University I am particularly sensitive to the importance of supporting and facilitating an environment of open dialogue and critical inquiry, where free speech and a wide range of opinion is valued and respected. Thus, it is with a certain degree of apprehension that I step into the controversy surrounding Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA).

However, over the past week I have heard from many Butler community members—as well as prospective students, parents, and employees—who have expressed concerns about the impact this law may have on our state and our University. As such, I feel compelled to share my perspective and to reinforce the values of Butler University.

While I have read a variety of opinions and rationale for RFRA, it strikes me as ill-conceived legislation at best, and I fear that some of those who advanced it have allowed their personal or political agendas to supersede the best interests of the State of Indiana and its people. No matter your opinion of the law, it is hard to argue with the fact it has done significant damage to our state.

Like countless other Hoosier institutions, organizations, and businesses, Butler University reaffirms our longstanding commitment to reject discrimination and create an environment that is open to everyone.

Today, more than ever, it is important that we continue to build, cultivate, and defend a culture in which all members of our community—students, alumni, faculty, staff, and the public—can learn, work, engage, and thrive. It is our sincere hope that those around the country with their ears turned toward our Hoosier state hear just one thing loud and clear—the united voice of millions who support inclusion and abhor discrimination.

Butler is an institution where all people are welcome and valued, regardless of sexual orientation, religion, gender, race, or ethnicity; a culture of acceptance and inclusivity that is as old as the University itself. Butler was the first school in Indiana and third in the United States to enroll women as students on an equal basis with men, was among the first colleges in the nation to enroll African Americans, and was the second U.S. school to name a female professor to its faculty.

I strongly encourage our state leaders to take immediate action to address the damage done by this legislation and to reaffirm the fact that Indiana is a place that welcomes, supports, respects, and values all people.

Click on the link to read statements from the presidents of Ball State University, Hanover College, and Perdue (former governor Mitch Daniels is president).

Versailles State Park, Indiana

Versailles State Park, Indiana

 

Where are these so-called “religious freedom” laws coming from? The Christian Science Monitor tried to find out. The obvious candidate is ALEC, but they claimed to CSM that they aren’t drafted the legislation.

Who’s pushing the religious freedom laws in states?

But when asked whether ALEC was involved in supporting the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, ALEC spokesperson Bill Meierling responds: “We do not work on firearms, marriage equality, immigration, any of those things people frequently say are ours.”

Still, North Carolina state Rep. Graig R. Meyer of (D) Durham says that ALEC is having a profound effect on how state legislators in his state are picking their targets.

“While ALEC may not be directly distributing the template legislation we’re seeing pop up all over the country, they are primarily the network for legislative exchange that is operating as a provider of educational seminars and conferences,” Mr. Meyer says in a phone interview.

One such ALEC conference was held in North Carolina. “While nobody can say for sure where the next religious freedom law bill will pop up, it’s probably a safe bet to look at where their most recent national conferences were held and where the next one will be,” says Meyer.

The last ALEC national conference was held in December in Washington, D.C. The next one coming up will be in San Diego, Calif., according to ALEC’s Meierling. He describes the organization as “an exchange of legislators and entrepreneurs who come together to discuss policy.”

Nevertheless,

A Source Watch report on the legislative authors of Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) shows many are also on the ALEC Indiana membership list.  Three of the bill’s co-authors are also ALEC Task Force committee chairs, including Indiana state Sen. Carlin J. Yoder (R) of District 12, Sen. Jean Leising (R) of District 42, and Sen. Jim Buck (R) of District 21, according to Source Watch.

Other Democratic legislators say ALEC is shaping conservative legislation in their state. For example, Arizona state Sen. Steve Farley sees the non-profit group as a driver of debate on gun legislation and the recently aired idea of mandating church attendance in his state.

Mandating church attendance???!!! I certainly hope that doesn’t catch on. I don’t trust this Supreme Court to protect us.

What else is happening today? Please post your thoughts and links in the comment thread.


Friday Reads: The Theocratic Tango

Good Morning!

bigotsRight wing religious extremists in the US continue their incredible movement to ignore our Constitution’s separation of church and state to push hate agendas throughout various states in the country.  The hate was front and center in Indiana as Governor Mike Pence signed a bill that basically labels bigotry as “religious freedom.”  We continue to see Jim Crow type laws established so bigot business owners can openly refuse service to GLBT Americans.

The Indiana bill is part of a wave of recent legislation seeking to guarantee “religious freedom” on the part of organizations or businesses who want to retain the right to discriminate against gay people. While the advocates usually posit a baker who doesn’t want to have to take business from a gay couple seeking a wedding cake as the person the law would protect, the laws are often written so vaguely that they would allow almost any kind of discrimination, so long as the discriminator justifies it on the basis of their religious beliefs.

The bill in Indiana doesn’t mention words like “gay” at all. It merely says that the government can’t “substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion.” And a key element of the conservative Christian argument about religious freedom is that “exercise” of religion isn’t just about rituals and prayer and worship; it extends to everything, including commerce.

The implications are therefore enormous. Forget about the baker — what if you own a restaurant and think homosexuality is an abomination, and therefore you want to hang a “No gays allowed” sign in your window? Under this law, you’d be able to. Or what if you’re a Muslim who owns an auto repair shop, and you want to refuse to serve women, because you say your religion tells you that women shouldn’t drive?

Those kinds of concerns are what led former governor Jan Brewer to veto a similar bill in Arizona, after she got all kinds of pressure from the state’s business community, which feared boycotts of the state. That same pressure has been building in Indiana, though it doesn’t seem to have moved Governor Pence.

The more news this Indiana law gets, the more likely it is that it will become an issue in the presidential primaries. And it fits neatly within the key divide among Republicans: on one side you could have business groups that are nervous about negative economic impacts and strategists who don’t want the GOP to be known as the party of discrimination, while on the other side you have candidates eager for the votes of religious right primary voters.

Pence signed the bill in private and against the outcry of many in the business community who are now pulling business from the state.  This is from the lunch counterIndianapolis Star. This includes a video of his statement and a presser with Q&A.

The nation’s latest legislative battle over religious freedom and gay rights came to a close Thursday when Indiana Gov. Mike Pence signed a controversial “religious freedom” bill into law.

His action followed two days of intense pressure from opponents — including technology company executives and convention organizers — who fear the measure could allow discrimination, particularly against gays and lesbians.

Pence and leaders of the Republican-controlled General Assembly called those concerns a “misunderstanding.”

“This bill is not about discrimination,” Pence said, “and if I thought it legalized discrimination I would have vetoed it.”

Senate Bill 101 prohibits state or local governments from substantially burdening a person’s ability to exercise their religion — unless the government can show that it has a compelling interest and that the action is the least-restrictive means of achieving it. It takes effect July 1.

Although the bill does not mention sexual orientation, opponents fear it could allow business owners to deny services to gays and lesbians for religious reasons.

Pence signed the bill during a private ceremony in his Statehouse office just before 10 a.m. Thursday. He was joined by supportive lawmakers, Franciscan monks and nuns, orthodox Jews, and some of the state’s most powerful lobbyists on conservative social issues.

The event was closed to the public and the press.

bigots2As I said, the response from businesses was swift and drastic.

The CEO of major U.S. corporation is following through on his warning to the State of Indiana to not pass a discriminatory “religious freedom” bill. 

Salesforce, founded in 1999, has grown into a $4 billion software corporation. It is a component of the prestigious S&P 500, and boasts 12,000 employees.

50-year old CEO, founder, and chairman Marc Benioff (photo), who started the company in San Francisco, and his wife Lynne Krilich, have given millions to children’s hospitals.

Recently, Salesforce came out strongly against Indiana’s discriminatory Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

“We have been an active member of the Indiana business community and a key job creator for more than a decade,” Scott McCorkle, CEO of the Salesforce Marketing Cloud division, wrote in a letter to Indiana lawmakers. “Our success is fundamentally based on our ability to attract and retain the best and most diverse pool of highly skilled employees, regardless of gender, religious affiliation, ethnicity or sexual orientation.”

“Without an open business environment that welcomes all residents and visitors,” he warned, “Salesforce will be unable to continue building on its tradition of marketing innovation in Indianapolis.”

Benioff has cancelled all business travel to Indiana. tumblr_m264nhl6rD1qguulqo1_500

Already, the gamer convention Gen Con and the Disciples of Christ church group had threatened to pull their conventions out of Indianapolis. Tech giant Salesforce said it would halt its plans to expand in the state, too.

The NCAA had hinted for days that the bill — which has the effect of allowing businesses to challenge local laws that forbid discriminating against customers based on sexual orientation in court — could damage the city’s reputation as a host of major sporting events.

Jason Collins, who last year became the first openly gay active NBA player, asked Pence in a tweet whether it is “going to be legal for someone to discriminate against me & others when we come” to the Final Four.

Still, Pence signed the bill in his office Thursday. In a statement explaining his decision, he pointed to President Barack Obama’s health care law — which triggered a lawsuit by Hobby Lobby to ensure the company wasn’t required to cover birth control through its employees’ health insurance plans.

Of course, the War on Women continues too with the Republican’s whackadoodle religious right taking the lead.  Arizona proves its once again the place where medical science can be damned when it gets in the way of fetus fever.

Doctors in Arizona might soon be required to tell women that abortions can be “reversed.” As the Washington Post reports, the Arizona legislature just passed a bill that is the latest in state-based attempts to ban women from using their own health insurance to pay for abortion. What makes this bill especially Orwellian is this attempt to force doctors to put the stamp of medical authority on the fantastical belief that women en masse are regretting their abortions hours after getting them and are miraculously getting them reversed through heroic interventions by Christian doctors.

I reported on this fantasy back in December, but to recap: Anti-choicers, backed by one particularly vocal doctor named George Delgado, are claiming that you can “reverse” medication abortions. A woman having a medication abortion takes two pill doses, one of mifepristone and then another of misoprostol. Proponents of “abortion reversal” would like you to believe it’s common for women to take the first dose and become wracked with guilt, desperate to save her pregnancy. To help these women, Delgado gives the woman progesterone shots, supposedly in an effort to reverse the effects of the mifepristone.

The problem is it’s almost certainly quackery. Mifepristone is not enough on its own to terminate a pregnancy some of the time, so you’re not “reversing” the abortion so much as interrupting the process before it’s complete. The progesterone shots reverse nothing—they are medically unnecessary theater, designed to portray anti-choicers as conquering heroes rescuing pregnant maidens from the clutches of abortionists. There’s no evidence of much demand from women to interrupt their abortions, and in the rare circumstances that someone is seized by regret, all she needs to do is contact her regular doctor about stopping the pills.

Forcing doctors to “inform” patients about an intervention that isn’t medically useful and isn’t really in demand serves no other purpose but to inject anti-choice histrionics into what is already a stressful situation for many patients. You should be able to get through an abortion without having to indulge a right-wing delusion.

I’ve had several friends travelling to Mississippi to defend the last standing abortion clinic there.  The Fetus Fanatics have physically attacked the building and are doing all kinds of crazy things there in the name of Operation “Rescue”.   So, here’s a little of that homegrown terrorism for you.

A couple nights ago, the Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the last standing abortion clinic in all of Mississippi, was attacked and vandalized by a masked intruder who destroyed security cameras and attempted to cut the power lines.

So I’ll just ice the cake with a little gratuitous Pat Robertson.  You remember him, he ran for the Republican presidential nomination and did pretty well back in the 1980s?  Ongoing investigations show that the co-pilot most likely downed that German Airliner in a murder/suicide action related to ongoing issues with depression. So, with that in mind … Here’s Patty!!!

Christian televangelist Pat Robertson suggested on Thursday that the co-pilot’s decision to crash Germanwings Flight 9525 could be explained if he was a Muslim.

French prosecutors concluded on Thursday that co-pilot Andreas Lubitz had locked the pilot out of the cockpit, and then deliberately crashed the plane into the French Alps, killing 150 people.

“What happened to that plane that crashed into the French Alps?” Robertson asked on Thursday’s edition of The 700 Club. “Well, they’ve begun to find out. The pilot went to the lavatory and was soon locked out of the cockpit. He pounded on the door, begging to come in. But the door was not opened.”

“The co-pilot then takes the plane, pushes it into a dive and crashes it. The passengers are screaming as the plane went down. The pilot is yelling.”

“What a terrible tragedy,” the TV preacher continued. “Was that co-pilot a Muslim? Was he suicidal? What was it about him?”

Robertson later allowed for the possibility that Lubitz could have been “just psychotic.”

“What was it?” he wondered. “Why would he want to kill all those people?”

French prosecutor Brice Robin on Thursday described Lubitz as a 28-year-old German who was “not listed as a terrorist.”

Robin told reporters that he did not know Lubitz’s religion or ethnicity, but said, “I don’t think that’s where the answer to this lies.”

144769_600I’m still stunned by the murder fantasies of hyper-Christian and Duck seducer/murderer Daddy FuckBucks Robertson who seems to have replaced a smack addiction for talking religious smack.

Phil Robertson, the paterfamilias on A&E’sDuck Dynasty who also frequents the Christian speaking circuit, has stirred up controversy yet again by inventing a bizarre parable in which an atheist family is raped and murdered.

The conservative reality television star has a reputation for sounding off about controversial issues. In 2013, he came under fire for making homophobic remarks in an interview with GQ.This time, his focal point was atheists, whom—he asserted—have no moral compass because they do not believe in God. Here is the graphic story he told, per the audio from Right Wing Watch:

I’ll make a bet with you. Two guys break into an atheist’s home. He has a little atheist wife and two little atheist daughters. Two guys break into his home and tie him up in a chair and gag him. And then they take his two daughters in front of him and rape both of them and then shoot them and they take his wife and then decapitate her head off in front of him. And then they can look at him and say, ‘Isn’t it great that I don’t have to worry about being judged? Isn’t it great that there’s nothing wrong with this? There’s no right or wrong, now is it dude?’

Then you take a sharp knife and take his manhood and hold it in front of him and say, ‘Wouldn’t it be something if this [sic] was something wrong with this? But you’re the one who says there is no God, there’s no right, there’s no wrong, so we’re just having fun. We’re sick in the head, have a nice day.’

The moral of the tale? “If it happens to them, they probably would say, ‘Something about this just ain’t right,’” Robertson said.

Some fundamental Christians, like Robertson, believe that morality is dependent on the existence of God and by rejecting God, atheists also reject morals.

WTF is wrong with these people?!?!?!   Dude, nonsociopaths do not have to have imaginary beings threaten them with hell to do the right thing.  Doing the right thing is its own reward.  We can ask BB, but I’d say the guy has a serious case of projectionitis.

But, here’s a better question … why are we enacting their hateful, bigoted crap into our laws? And, why do these people get a public platform?

There’s way too many of them and way too few lions for my taste.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Thursday Reads

Childe Hassam - Two Women Reading

Childe Hassam – Two Women Reading

Good Morning!!

 

Wolf Blitzer must be celebrating this morning, because the mystery plane is back in the headlines.

Associated Press reports (via CTV):

SYDNEY, Australia — Investigators looking into the disappearance of the Malaysia Airlines plane are confident it was on autopilot when it crashed in a remote stretch of the Indian Ocean, Australian officials said Thursday as they announced the latest shift in the search for the jet.

After analyzing data exchanged between the plane and a satellite, officials believe Flight 370 was on autopilot the entire time it was flying across a vast expanse of the southern Indian Ocean, based on the straight path it took, Australian Transport Safety Bureau chief commissioner Martin Dolan said.

“Certainly for its path across the Indian Ocean, we are confident that the aircraft was operating on autopilot until it ran out of fuel,” Dolan told reporters in Canberra, the nation’s capital.

Asked whether the autopilot would have to be manually switched on, or whether it could have been activated automatically under a default setting, Dolan replied, “The basic assumption would be that if the autopilot is operational it’s because it’s been switched on.”

But exactly why the autopilot would have been set on a flight path so far off course from the jet’s destination of Beijing, and exactly when it was switched on remains unknown.

The New York Times explains what likely happened:

Wolf plane

A report issued by the Australian Transport Safety Bureau, outlining how the new search zone had been chosen, said that the most likely scenario as the aircraft headed south across the Indian Ocean on March 8 was that the crew was suffering from hypoxia or was otherwise unresponsive.

Hypoxia occurs when a plane loses air pressure and the pilots, lacking adequate oxygen, become confused and incapable of performing even basic manual tasks.

Pilots are trained to put on oxygen masks immediately if an aircraft suffers depressurization; their masks have an hour’s air supply, compared with only a few minutes for the passengers. The plane, which left Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, bound for Beijing, with 239 people aboard, made its turn south toward the Indian Ocean about an hour after it stopped responding to air-traffic controllers….

Evidence for an unresponsive crew as the plane flew south includes the loss of radio communications, a long period with no maneuvering of the aircraft, a steadily maintained cruise altitude and eventual fuel exhaustion and descent, the report said.

“Given these observations, the final stages of the unresponsive crew/hypoxia event type appeared to best fit the available evidence for the final period of MH370’s flight when it was heading in a generally southerly direction,” the document said.

Based on the report, a new search zone has been designated, according to the LA Times:

Experts from Boeing and the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board were among the specialists who helped define the zone, based on satellite data and analysis of previous similar incidents.

The new zone, about 1,100 miles west of Perth, Australia, is farther south than where previous intensive search efforts were carried out this spring after the plane vanished March 8 with 239 people aboard. The flight was en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing when it went missing….

Australia Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss said the search was continuing with a mapping of the ocean floor in the newly defined area, to be followed by a comprehensive seafloor search.

The seafloor search, he said, should start around August and be completed within one year. The area is 58 miles wide and 400 miles long, covering an area as big as Lake Huron, the second-largest of the U.S. Great Lakes. By comparison, the area searched with a robotic, sonar-equipped submarine in May was about 330 square miles.

First gay marriage license issued in Indiana

First gay marriage license issued in Indiana

There was exciting news yesterday in the struggle to legalize same-sex marriage state by state.

From NPR: Federal Judges Reverse Gay-Marriage Bans In Utah, Indiana.

Utah and Indiana are the latest states to see their bans on same-sex marriage struck down by a federal court, following rulings in both states Wednesday that found the prohibition unconstitutional.

In Utah, the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals panel upheld a lower court ruling striking down the state’s gay-marriage ban. And in Indiana,U.S. District Judge Richard Young made a similar ruling.

“It is wholly illogical to believe that state recognition of love and commitment of same-sex couples will alter the most intimate and personal decisions of opposite-sex couples,” the three-judge panel in the Utah case said. The panel immediately put the ruling on hold pending its appeal, either to the entire 10th Circuit or directly to the U.S. Supreme Court, according to The Associated Press.

In Indiana, Young wrote: “Same-sex couples, who would otherwise qualify to marry in Indiana, have the right to marry in Indiana. … These couples, when gender and sexual orientation are taken away, are in all respects like the family down the street. The Constitution demands that we treat them as such.”

Both decisions are significant in that they may influence decisions in other states.

Carl Tobias, a law professor at the University of Richmond, writes NPR in an email that the Utah decision “is very significant, as [it is] the first appellate court to address the marriage equality issue.

“The 4th Circuit [in Virginia] may well apply the reasoning of the 10th Circuit opinion, as will numerous district courts that have yet to rule,” he says.

“The Indiana ruling invalidating its ban today also used similar reasoning,” Tobias says. “All courts are finding that the bans violate the due process and equal protection clauses of the 14th amendment.”

In another breakthrough, Republican Senator Susan Collins of Maine has announced that she supports same-sex marriage. From The Washington Post: 

“A number of states, including my home state of Maine, have now legalized same-sex marriage, and I agree with that decision,” Collins said in a statement, adding later: “I have long opposed efforts to impose a federal ban on same-sex marriage. In both 2004 and 2006, I voted against amendments to the United States Constitution that would have banned same-sex marriages by preempting state laws.”

Collins joins three other Republican senators who publicly support gay marriage: Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), Rob Portman (Ohio) and Mark Kirk (Ill.).

Today at noon Eastern, the U.S. plays Germany in the World Cup.

world cup

CBS News reports, Team USA: “Everything’s on the line” for Germany match.

 

It’s been a roller coaster ride for the American team so far in the World Cup. The team that, on paper, many pundits didn’t expect to advance, now has a real shot at moving on to the second round. And as CBS News’ Elaine Quijano reports, that fate is hinged on beating or at least coming up even against one of the cup favorites, Germany.

Team USA was greeted with cheers from American fans Wednesday as they arrived in the Brazilian city of Recife.

Players spent the three days between matches recovering and regrouping after a physical first game against Ghana and an emotional tie against Portugal.

“This is the biggest game of a lot of our lives, so any fatigue in our legs will be erased,” said American midfielder Kyle Beckerman. “We’ve got to give everything we’ve got and more.”

Team USA began their World Cup run in the so-called “group of death,” but their aggression, attacks and overall stamina on the pitch have defied pundits who originally dismissed their chances of advancing.

“I think some people might be a little bit surprised at our results so far,” coach Jurgen Klinsmann said Wednesday. “We are by no means any underdog here in this tournament, but we know it’s the biggest hurdle we have to take now with Germany.”

Klinsman suggested that U.S. fans should take a day off work to watch the game, and wrote a letter to bosses asking them to excuse their employee’s absences, reports Reuters.

In the style of a ‘doctor’s note’, Klinsmann addresses employers and asks them to forgive their staff for their absence.

The letter was distributed on social networks by the U.S. Soccer.

“I understand that this absence may reduce the productivity of your workplace, but I can assure you that it is for an important cause,” wrote Klinsmann.

“The #USMNT (U.S. Men’s National Team) has a critical World Cup game vs Germany and we will need the full support of the nation if we are to advance to the next round.

“By the way, you should act like a good leader and take the day off as well. Go USA! Signed Jurgen Klinsmann, Head Coach, U.S. National team”.

And from Jake Simpson at the Atlantic: The Surprisingly High Stakes of the U.S.-Germany World Cup Game.

In the wake of the U.S. team’s heartbreaking come-from-ahead draw against Portugal in the World Cup on Sunday, soccer analysts and Twitter users scrambled to figure out the many ways the U.S. can still get to the next round. With a three-point lead over Portugal and Ghana in Group G, the Americans can advance even if they lose their match against Germany at noon Eastern today, depending on the outcome of the Portugal-Ghana game played at the same time. Deadspin has one of the better graphical breakdowns of every potential scenario for the U.S., including the dreaded drawing of lots.

All the focus on permutations and goal-differential scenarios has undercut the importance of today’s game for American soccer. There’s not as much at stake, goes the implication, because we can move ahead even if we lose to Germany. But this is about more than getting to the next round. This is an opportunity for the U.S. to face one of soccer’s elite teams on the biggest stage and prove it can hang with—even beat—any country in this World Cup.

Before the tournament, most people thought it would be an unlikely success for the U.S. just to get out of the so-called Group of Death and to the Round of 16. Now, after beating Ghana and dominating much of the game against Portugal, the U.S. can dream bigger. Beat Germany, and America wins its group for the second straight World Cup, a result nearly unthinkable when the draw was announced in December. Beat Germany, and the U.S. secures a favorable Round of 16 match most likely against Algeria or Russia, rather than a trickier faceoff with sneaky-good Belgium.

Just as important, a win would mean that the Americans have defeated one of soccer’s oligarchs at a World Cup, with both sides trying their best for a victory. That by itself would be a precedent-setting result.

People in Oklahoma are beginning to ask questions

about why their state has been having so many earthquakes all of a sudden, according to the Globe-Gazzette.com.

Barbara Brown poses for a photo on the front step of her home that now sits about one foot off the surface of her lawn, Saturday, June 21, 2014, in Reno, Texas.

Barbara Brown poses for a photo on the front step of her home that now sits about one foot off the surface of her lawn, Saturday, June 21, 2014, in Reno, Texas.

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Oklahoma residents whose homes and nerves have been shaken by an upsurge in earthquakes want to know what’s causing the temblors — and what can be done to stop them.

Hundreds of people are expected to turn out in Edmond, Oklahoma, on Thursday night for a town hall meeting on the issue.

Earthquakes used to be almost unheard of on the vast stretches of prairie that unfold across Texas, Kansas and Oklahoma, but they’ve become common in recent years.

Oklahoma recorded nearly 150 between January and the start of May. Though most have been too weak to cause serious damage or endanger lives, they’ve raised suspicions that the shaking might be connected to the oil and gas drilling method known as hydraulic fracturing, especially the wells in which the industry disposes of its wastewater.

Now after years of being harangued by anxious residents, governments in all three states are confronting the issue, reviewing scientific data, holding public discussions and considering new regulations. Thursday’s meeting in Oklahoma will include the state agency that regulates oil and gas drilling and the Oklahoma Geological Survey.

Gee, do you suppose it could have anything to do with fracking? And what about all that wastewater that has to be disposed of in the fracking process? From Techsonia: Fracking Fluid Spills release Colloids that Pollute Groundwater.

According to a new research, wastewater contains substances that bind to pollutants and their release in soil leads to the ground water contamination as they get along with the water when it is soaked by earth.

In this study, flowback fluid from hydraulic fracturing was analyzed. Colloids are the charged particles and larger than molecules and have the potency to bind to sand grains. With the wastewater, colloids get released in to the ground water.

This study was published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society and was conducted by the researchers at the Cornell University’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

This study was done to determine the remaining colloids amounts in groundwater when the above soil got exposed to flowback fliud in a hydrofracking spills.

Ugh.

One last story . . .

Scientists have unearthed interesting facts about Oldest human faeces show Neanderthals ate vegetables.

Found at a dig in Spain, the ancient excrement showed chemical traces of both meat and plant digestion.

An earlier view of these early humans as purely meat-eating has already been partially discredited by plant remains found in their caves and teeth.

The new paper, in the journal PLOS One, claims to offer the best support to date for an omnivorous diet.

Poo is “the perfect evidence,” said Ms Ainara Sistiaga, a PhD student at the University of La Laguna on the Canary Islands, and the study’s first author, “because you’re sure it was consumed”.

Ms Sistiaga and her colleagues collected a number of samples from the remnants of a 50,000-year-old campfire in the El Salt dig site, a known Neanderthal habitation near Alicante on Spain’s Mediterranean coast.

So if you bought into the “cave man diet” AKA “Paleolithic diet” recommendations, you were scammed. These early Neanderthals even cooked vegetables and may have used plants for medicinal purposes. Read the whole article at the link. It’s fascinating.

Now . . . what stories are you following today? Are you going to watch the U.S.-Germany game? Please post your thoughts and links in the comment thread.

 


Friday Morning Reads

Tina

Good Morning!

Syria is again dominating the headlines.  Here’s a few things that might be slipping under the rug.

If Congressional Republicans have their way, SNAP recipients will only get $3.37 a day for meals.

In July, House Republicans decoupled SNAP from the rest of the farm bill. Now, led by Majority Leader Eric Cantor, they are working on a food-stamp provision that could cut as much as $40 billion over 10 years, according to reports. Legislative language for the Cantor proposal is not yet available.

The conservative case goes like this: The food-stamp program is abused by recipients who are not meeting eligibility requirements. In particular, conservatives want to tighten loopholes that they contend allow able-bodied adults without dependents to receive assistance; they want to limit coverage for the able-bodied adults to three months within a 36-month period.

“Currently, working middle-class families struggling to make ends meet themselves are footing a bill for a program that has gone well beyond the safety net for children, seniors, the disabled, and families who desperately need the assistance,” said Cantor spokesman Rory Cooper.

Antihunger advocates say House Republicans’ proposed cuts would hit some of the neediest Americans hard, and they argue that the law already contains adequate restrictions against abuse.

At the Capital Area Food Bank, a 100,000-square-foot warehouse facility — a kind of Sam’s Club for food pantries in the metro Washington area — officials say food-stamp funds typically last recipients two and a half weeks. After the benefits run out, many go to food pantries to help make ends meet, according to the Food Bank’s Brian Banks.

Conservatives, meanwhile, argue that food-stamp funding has been rising too quickly. The program cost about $78.4 billion to help feed roughly 47 million participants in 2012, according to the Agriculture Department. That’s up from about $17 billion from 2000, when 17 million Americans participated.

“The national debt has now topped $16 trillion and will continue to grow rapidly for the foreseeable future. To preserve the economy, government spending, including welfare spending, must be put on a more prudent course,” wrote the Heritage Foundation’s Robert Rector and Katherine Bradley in a white paper.

Anti-hunger advocates, though, point to a spike in the number of Americans who are “food insecure,” a term used by the government, that correlates to the recession. According to USDA, the number has recently stayed at roughly 15 percent, with 17.6 million households classified as such in 2012, according to a newly released report. With 59 percent of food-insecure households using food stamps, advocates argue that it’s important not to slash SNAP.

Now that Congress has returned, the farm bill and the food-stamp program will compete for scarce legislative time with the situation in Syria, appropriations bills, and a debate over the debt-ceiling limit, which the government is expected to reach sometime this fall. Among antihunger Debbie Harryorganizations, optimism is in short supply.

Indiania seems to hate its pregnant women.  They’re at it again.  This time they want to drug test all pregnant women even if there is no probable cause to believe they might be ingesting something harmful.

Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller is calling on the legislature to help reduce the number of babies being exposed to narcotics while still in the womb.

It is called Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome, or NAS, newborns exposed to addictive illegal or prescription drugs before they are born.

Attorney General Greg Zoeller says treating NAS at Indiana hospitals cost an estimated $30 million in 2011, the most recent year for which data is available, and he says that’s with limited tracking because hospitals are not required to report the condition.

Zoeller says one solution is requiring pregnant women take drug tests to identify the problem and start treatment before birth.

“You can reduce the length of stay for the newly born baby from six weeks to two weeks, the better health of the baby as well as the costs,” he say.s

State Senator Pat Miller, R-Indianapolis, says the legislature is exploring different options because of concerns about mandatory drug tests.

“Verbal screening as opposed to the kind of blood or urine analysis that might drive women away from getting prenatal care,” she says, adding that a definitive answer has not been reached and a legislative panel will continue to investigate the issue leading up to next session.

Republicans are gearing up for the fight over the sequester in October.

On Tuesday, House Republicans unveiled their proposal to keep the government running past September 30, when the law that currently funds federal operations expires. It would last through December, at which point the parties would have to come up with yet another extension. As expected, the proposal more or less “locks in” funding levels from budget sequestration—in effect, it keeps the cuts that have been reducing Head Start slotsweakening the economy recovery, and generally wreaking havoc. As you may recall, sequestration cuts were never supposed to happen: They were supposed to be so crude and unpleasant, to conservatives and liberals alike, that the two parties would agree on an alternative way of reducing the deficit. But that hasn’t happened, so the cuts have taken effect this year. And if this new House Republican proposal passes, they will stay in place for at least a little while longer.

The House proposal also includes a provision to withhold funds for implementing Obamacare. Again, this is not a surprise. And, like some previous efforts, this one is mostly an effort of political theater. By design, the Senate could strip out the Obamacare defunding and approve everything else in the House leadership proposal. That would leave a “clean” government-funding bill, as House Republican leaders call it, for President Obama to sign. But House Republican leaders have assured anxious conservatives that a real effort to undermine Obamacare will come soon—proabably sometime in early October, when the federal treasury nears its official borrowing limit. At that point, the leaders say, they will refuse to authorize more borrowing unless Obama and the Democrats agree to certain concessions. The demands will include some kind of effort at defunding or delaying Obamacare—quite possibly, by insisting that the Obama administration postpones the individual mandate (the requirement that everybody get health insurance) by one year.

bruce

Ho Hah David Vitter!!

Senate Democrats have had all they can take from David Vitter and his fixation on Obamacare — and they’re dredging up his past prostitution scandal to hit back.

Vitter, a Louisiana Republican, has infuriated Democrats this week by commandeering the Senate floor, demanding a vote on his amendment repealing federal contributions to help pay for lawmakers’ health care coverage.

But Democratic senators are preparing a legislative response targeting a sordid Vitter episode. If Vitter continues to insist on a vote on his proposal, Democrats could counter with one of their own: Lawmakers will be denied those government contributions if there is “probable cause” they solicited prostitutes.

According to draft legislation obtained by POLITICO, Democrats are weighing whether to force a Senate vote on a plan that would effectively resurrect Vitter’s past if the conservative Republican continues to press forward with his Obamacare-bashing proposal.

And Ho Ha !! Bobby Jindal!!

It is now much easier to make the case that Gov. Bobby Jindal knows his chances of winning the presidency in the 2016 election are securely in his past. In fact, given the record he is now so feverishly and self-destructively building, it is difficult imagining the governor winning another — any — statewide election in Louisiana. In making that case, Exhibits No. 1 through No. 50, at least, are on display in Jindal’s bafflingly deliberate and long-running defiance of orders issued by Baton Rouge state district court Judge Janice Clark in a key public records case.

Over five months ago, on April 25, Judge Clark emphatically ruled in favor of plaintiff newspapers, the Advocate and NOLA.com | Times-Picayune, and ordered the LSU Board of Supervisors to “immediately produce” the documents identifying all those who sought the combined job of LSU president and chancellor. F. King Alexander was selected for the job, and Jindal does not want citizens to know who the other candidates were. Thus he directed his go-to lawyer, Jimmy Faircloth, to burn a trainload of taxpayer money by stiffing the citizenry and the judge … repeatedly … and proudly.

The rarity of observing such a months-long political train wreck was underscored by Lori Mince, the attorney representing the two Louisiana newspapers, in a Sept. 10article by Mike Hasten of Gannett News. Ms. Mince noted, “This is the first public records case I’ve had when the public body refused to comply.” No one else with whom I have spoken or emailed can remember another such instance, either. Such makes sense because once a public records case goes all the way to court, and a judge orders the documents produced, public officials have every reason and need to, well, produce the documents. That is precisely what happened when a group of us in Shreveport sued the highway department for documents, went up against Jindal / Faircloth’s initial opposition, and headed to Clark’s court. When our hearing came up, the requested documents appeared as Faircloth did the opposite.

To grasp how bizarrely foolish the Jindal / Faircloth / Board of Supervisors argument is, it began with Faircloth arguing that the only word in the related law which mattered was “applicant,” and that there was only one of those — the winner, F. King Alexander. Note that Faircloth made this argument to Clark even though Blake Chatelain, the LSU board member who led the search committee, said in his subject court deposition that he and his committee began their work with about 100 prospects, cut that to 35 keepers, then down to “six or seven,” before picking Alexander. All of this was managed via a web portal belonging to a Dallas consultant hired for such purpose, a reported key in the Jindal plan to maintain secrecy throughout the process. (Thanks to Gordon Russell, then writing for the NOLA.com | Times-Picayune, for his April report.)

It is anyone’s guess as to what Jindal is hiding: Was/is Alexander qualified? Was he the best candidate? Who did Jindal really want, and why didn’t that person get the job? Those of us who have been down this road with the man and his team, especially Faircloth, know that the explanation may be much simpler: Jindal has never believed the rules and law and constitution apply to him.

It seems a molasses spill in Hawaii is killing fish.

Officials responding to a spill of 1,400 tons of molasses in Hawaii waters plan to let nature clean things up, with boat crews collecting thousands of dead fish to determine the extent of environmental damage.

The crews already have collected about 2,000 dead fish from waters near Honolulu Harbor, and they expect to see more in the coming days and possibly weeks, said Gary Gill, deputy director of the Hawaii Department of Health.

“Our best advice as of this morning is to let nature take its course,” Gill told reporters at a news conference at the harbor, where commercial ships passed through discolored, empty-looking waters.

So, that’s a little this and that!  What’s on your reading and blogging list today?