Thursday Reads: Some Good News for a Change

Good Morning!!

For once I can begin a post with some upbeat stories.

Chicago Tribune: llinois approves Equal Rights Amendment, 36 years after deadline.

The Illinois House voted Wednesday night to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment more than 45 years after it was approved by Congress, putting it one state away from possible enshrinement in the U.S. Constitution amid potential legal questions.

The 72-45 vote by the House, following an April vote by the Senate, was just one more vote than needed for ratification. It does not need the approval of Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner, who has said he supports equal rights but was faulted by Democrats for not taking a position on the ERA….

As has been the case for decades, the legislative debate over the Equal Rights Amendment was fraught with controversy. Opponents largely contended the measure was aimed at ensuring an expansion of abortion rights for women. Supporters said it was needed to give women equal standing in the nation’s founding document.

Opponents also contended the measure may be moot, since its original 1982 ratification deadline has long since expired. Supporters argued, however, that the 1992 ratification of the 1789 “Madison Amendment,” preventing midterm changes in congressional pay, makes the ERA a legally viable change to the constitution.

Read the whole thing at the link above. Some history:

On March 22, 1972, the Senate approved the Equal Rights Amendment, which banned discrimination on the basis of sex. The amendment fell three states shy of ratification.

In 1923, three years after the ratification of the 19th Amendment gave women the right to vote, suffragist Alice Paul drafted an amendment to guarantee equal rights for women. Known as the Equal Rights Amendment or the Lucretia Mott Amendment, it stated, “Men and women shall have equal rights throughout the United States and every place subject to its jurisdiction.”

The amendment was presented to Congress in 1923, and re-introduced to every session of Congress for nearly 50 years. It mostly stayed in committee until 1946, when a reworded proposal, dubbed the Alice Paul Amendment, lost a close vote in the Senate. Four years later, the Senate passed a weaker version of the amendment that was not supported by ERA proponents.

Opposition to ERA came from social conservatives and from labor leaders, who feared that it would threaten protective labor laws for women. Support for the amendment increased during the 1960s as the Civil Rights Movement inspired a second women’s rights movement. The National Organization for Women (NOW), founded in 1966, led to movement for the passage of ERA.

In 1970, Rep. Martha Griffiths of Michigan succeeded in getting the ERA out of committee and before Congress for debate. The House of Representatives passed the amendment without changes 352-15 in 1971. The Senate passed the amendment on March 22, 1972, a day after voting against any proposed changes.

The passed amendment read: “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.”

The second bit of good news, from The Washington Post: Virginia General Assembly approves Medicaid expansion to 400,000 low-income residents.

The Virginia legislature voted Wednesday to make government health insurance available to 400,000 low-income residents, overcoming five years of GOP resistance. The decision marks a leftward shift in the legislature and an enormous win for Gov. Ralph Northam (D), the pediatrician who ran on expanding access to health care.

Virginia will join 32 other states and the District in expanding Medicaid coverage. The measure is expected to take effectJan. 1.

“This is not just about helping this group of people,” said Sen. Frank Wagner (Virginia Beach), one of four Republicans in the Senate who split from their party to join Democrats and pass the measure by a vote of 23 to 17. “This is about getting out there and helping to bend the cost of health care for every Virginian. . . . It is the number one issue on our voters’ minds. By golly, it ought to be the number one issue on the General Assembly’s mind.”

Another Republican who broke ranks, Sen. Ben Chafin (Russell), is a lawyer and a cattle farmer from a rural district where health care is sorely lacking.

“I came to the conclusion that ‘no’ just wasn’t the answer anymore, that doing nothing about the medical conditions, the state of health care in my district, just wasn’t the answer any longer,” he said.

After the Senate vote, the House of Delegates approved the measure by 67 to 31 as the chamber erupted in cheers.

Also from the WaPo: Why Virginia’s Medicaid expansion is a big deal.

It’s another nail in the coffin for efforts to repeal Obamacare and a fresh reminder of how difficult it is to scale back any entitlement once it’s created. Many Republicans, in purple and red states alike, concluded that Congress is unlikely to get rid of the law, so they’ve become less willing to take political heat for leaving billions in federal money on the table.

Years of obstruction in the commonwealth gave way because key Republicans from rural areas couldn’t bear to deny coverage for their constituents any longer, moderates wanted to cut a deal and, most of all, Democrats made massive gains in November’s off-year elections.

Years of obstruction in the commonwealth gave way because key Republicans from rural areas couldn’t bear to deny coverage for their constituents any longer, moderates wanted to cut a deal and, most of all, Democrats made massive gains in November’s off-year elections.

As President Trump steps up efforts to undermine the law, from repealing the individual mandate to watering down requirements for what needs to be covered in “association health plans,” the administration’s willingness to let states impose work requirements on Medicaid recipients has paradoxically given a rationale for Republicans to flip-flop on an issue where they had dug in their heels.

And in New Jersey: Phil Murphy signs law protecting Obamacare from Trump with N.J. mandate to have health insurance.

Gov. Phil Murphy on Wednesday signed a law preserving a critical yet controversial part of the Affordable Care Act that President Donald Trump‘s administration repealed last year.

One of the laws creates a statewide individual mandate, which will require all New Jerseyans who don’t have health coverage through a government program like Medicare or their jobs to buy a policy, or pay a fee at tax time.

The landmark federal health care law, better known as Obamacare, imposed the mandate to ensure younger and healthier people who might otherwise forgo insurance will buy-in and share costs.

But the tax package approved by the Republican-led Congress and signed into law by Trump will end the mandate in 2019. The requirement was one of the more distasteful parts of the law for lawmakers and the public who believe it allowed government to intrude into people’s lives.

State Sen. Joseph Vitale, D-Middlesex, one of the prime sponsors of the law, said keeping the mandate “was needed to maintain a foundation for the insurance market and to allow the success of the ACA to continue.”

The resistance is making progress!

In other news, The Daily Beast reports that Trump wanted Howard Stern to speak at the 2016 Republican convention, according to his interview last night with David Letterman (emphasis added).

Letterman doesn’t spend much time on the subject of Trump, a person whom Stern has spent more time interviewing than anyone else on the planet, the host does ask the “King of All Media” how he feels about Trump’s tenure as president.

“Well you know, it was a very awkward kind of thing, because Donald asked me to speak at the Republican National Convention,” Stern reveals. “And he would call me from the campaign trail very often, and say, ‘Are you watching?’ I was tickled by this, because I really kind of felt, deep in my heart, that this campaign was really more about selling a book, or selling a brand. I didn’t really understand that he would really want to be president.” [….]

Stern continued: “I was put in a very awkward position of having to say publicly—and to him—that I was a Hillary Clinton supporter. I always have been, and I was honest with Donald. I said, ‘Donald, you also supported Hillary.’ And I do consider Donald a friend but my politics are different.”

The AP has an interesting story on Republican efforts to protect Jeff Sessions’ job.

In private meetings, public appearances on television and late-night phone calls, Trump’s advisers and allies have done all they can to persuade the president not to fire a Cabinet official he dismisses as disloyal. The effort is one of the few effective Republican attempts to install guardrails around a president who delights in defying advice and breaking the rules.

It’s an ongoing effort, though not everyone is convinced the relationship is sustainable for the long term….

The case that Sessions’ protectors have outlined to Trump time and again largely consists of three components: Firing Sessions, a witness in Mueller’s investigation of obstruction of justice, would add legal peril to his standing in the Russia probe; doing so would anger the president’s political base, which Trump cares deeply about, especially with midterm election looming this fall; and a number of Republican senators would rebel against the treatment of a longtime colleague who was following Justice Department guidelines in his recusal.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, has said that he will not schedule a confirmation hearing for another attorney general nominee if Sessions is fired.

Click on the link to read the rest.

Melania Trump has missing from the public eye for 20 days now. Yesterday her husband apparently decided to send a message from her Twitter account, but he forgot to make the language sound like her.

A few more stories to check out:

The New Yorker: How the Trump Administration Got Comfortable Separating Immigrant Kids from Their Parents.

Nicholas Kristof at The New York Times: Trump Immigration Policy Veers From Abhorrent to Evil.

The Washington Post: Trump plans to impose metal tariffs on closest U.S. allies.

The New York Times: For ‘Columbiners,’ School Shootings Have a Deadly Allure.

The Daily Beast: What Happened to Jill Stein’s Recount Millions?

The New York Times: How Trump’s Election Shook Obama: ‘What if We Were Wrong?’

NPR: Russia’s Lavrov Meets With Kim Jong Un, As Pompeo Tries To Salvage Summit.

CNBC: Trump will pardon conservative pundit Dinesh D’Souza, who was convicted of campaign finance violation.

Romney Campaign Solves Flip-Flop Problem — For Now

It has been a difficult couple of weeks for Mitt Romney.

First, the Supreme Court struck down the Arizona immigration law that Romney had termed a model for the nation. Romney’s response:

“Today’s decision underscores the need for a President who will lead on this critical issue and work in a bipartisan fashion to pursue a national immigration strategy. President Obama has failed to provide any leadership on immigration. This represents yet another broken promise by this President. I believe that each state has the duty–and the right–to secure our borders and preserve the rule of law, particularly when the federal government has failed to meet its responsibilities. As Candidate Obama, he promised to present an immigration plan during his first year in office. But 4 years later, we are still waiting.”

Romney refused to say whether he agreed with the decision or provide specifics about how he would deal with undocumented immigrants if he were elected.

Next, his former favorite Supreme Court Justice, John Roberts, voted with the liberals on the court, agreeing that the Democrats’ Affordable Care Act, including the individual mandate is constitutional. Romney’s response to that one was strikingly terse and even more vague than his statement on immigration:

“What the court did not do on its last day in session, I will do on my first day,” he said. “I will act to repeal Obamacare.”

Still no specifics on how he would convince Congress to repeal the law or what he would replace it with. And then real disaster struck. Top Romney aide Eric Fehrnstrom told MSNBC that, despite Chief Justice Roberts’ calling the individual mandate a “tax,” Romney disagrees–he thinks it’s a “penalty.” Of course this contradicted the latest Republican meme–that the mandate is the biggest tax increase in human history. Ooops! And the next day (ironically it was Independence Day), Mitt changed his mind and said the mandate is a tax after all. Here’s a summary from Chuck Todd and colleagues:

Romney’s verbal gymnastics: When you think about it, Romney never had to truly deal with his fatal flaw on health care. Yes, he gave that health-care PowerPoint speech in Michigan in May 2011. And, yes, he was asked questions about the issue during the 20-odd GOP debates in which he participated. But he never REALLY had to reconcile his health-care law with President Obama’s — with a campaign team capable of going toe to toe with him — until last week’s Supreme Court decision. As for his explanation in calling the mandate a tax, his verbal gymnastics would have impressed even the Russian judges. First, he technically didn’t disagree with Fehrnstrom’s original take; he simply conceded that the Supreme Court called it a tax. “Well, the Supreme Court has the final word, and their final word is that Obamacare is a tax. So it’s a tax,” he said. And then he painfully tried to explain why the federal mandate is a tax, but Romney’s state mandate is a penalty. “Actually the chief justice in his opinion made it very clear that at the state level, states have the power to put in place mandates. They don’t need to require them to be called taxes in order for them to be constitutional.”

Recent polls show that the Obama campaign’s attacks on Romney’s record at Bain Capital are working–especially in the swing states. But Romney has let those attacks go largely unanswered as he struggled to develop a coherent response to the Obamacare decision.

Over the past few days, there have been stinging critiques of the Romney campaign from conservative media sources. Rupert Murdock tweeted that Romney’s campaign is too insular and they need to shake up the staff and add more experienced people. The Wall Street Journal’s editorial board dressed down the candidate and his staff on the editorial page. On the tax/penalty flip flop, they wrote:

For conservative optimists who think Mr. Fehrnstrom misspoke or is merely dense, his tax absolution gift to Mr. Obama was confirmed by campaign spokeswoman Andrea Saul, who tried the same lame jujitsu spin. In any event, Mr. Fehrnstrom is part of the Boston coterie who are closest to Mr. Romney, and he wouldn’t say such a thing without the candidate’s approval.

In a stroke, the Romney campaign contradicted Republicans throughout the country who had used the Chief Justice’s opinion to declare accurately that Mr. Obama had raised taxes on the middle class. Three-quarters of those who will pay the mandate tax will make less than $120,000 a year, according to the Congressional Budget Office. The Romney high command has muddied the tax issue in a way that will help Mr. Obama’s claims that he is merely taxing rich folks like Mr. Romney. And it has made it that much harder for Republicans to again turn ObamaCare into the winning issue it was in 2010.

Why make such an unforced error? Because it fits with Mr. Romney’s fear of being labeled a flip-flopper, as if that is worse than confusing voters about the tax and health-care issues. Mr. Romney favored the individual mandate as part of his reform in Massachusetts, and as we’ve said from the beginning of his candidacy his failure to admit that mistake makes him less able to carry the anti-ObamaCare case to voters.

Bill Kristol assailed Romney as the successor to fellow Massachusetts pols Michael Dukakis and John Kerry:

Remember Michael Dukakis (1988) and John Kerry (2004)? It’s possible to lose a winnable presidential election to a vulnerable incumbent in the White House (or in the case of 1988, a sitting vice president). So, speaking of losing candidates from Massachusetts: Is it too much to ask Mitt Romney to get off autopilot and actually think about the race he’s running?

Adopting a prevent defense when it’s only the second quarter and you’re not even ahead is dubious enough as a strategy. But his campaign’s monomaniacal belief that it’s about the economy and only the economy, and that they need to keep telling us stupid voters that it’s only about the economy, has gone from being an annoying tick to a dangerous self-delusion.

As Frank Cannon and Jeff Bell, among others, have pointed out, the economy is not an automatic path to victory. It does provide a favorable backdrop for this year’s campaign. But what are voters to think when they hear the GOP nominee say, as he did yesterday to CBS’s Jan Crawford, “As long as I continue to speak about the economy, I’m going to win”? That they’re dopes who don’t know the economy’s bad, but as long as the Romney campaign keeps instructing them that it is bad, they’ll react correctly and vote the incumbent out of office?

Of course Romney punctuated this criticism by riding around Lake Winnipesaukee on a jet ski, which naturally reminded everyone of the iconic shot of Kerry windsurfing off Nantucket in 2004.

Now, in response the the Vanity Fair article on Romney stashing his money in multiple foreign tax shelters, his campaign has adopted a new strategy: simply repeat the same meaningless response word for word whenever there is a question about Romney’s finances. Twice in one day, two different Romney spokespersons released the exact same unresponsive response to questions from different news organizations. From ABC News The Note:

Here’s Romney spokeswoman Amanda Henneberg’s statement to the press earlier today about reports by the AP and Vanity Fair about Romney’s offshore accounts in Bermuda:

“President Obama’s attacks on Mitt Romney have been proven false time and again. As job growth slows, manufacturing activity stalls, and our economy continues to sputter, President Obama knows he can’t make a legitimate argument for another term in office, so instead he is trying to tear down his opponent. This is just the latest example of President Obama and his political machine saying or doing anything to distract from his abysmal record over the last four years.”

And here’s Romney spokeswoman Andrea Saul responding to an interview that Obama strategist David Axelrod gave to ABC News, in which he said Romney is “the most secretive candidate” since Richard Nixon:

“President Obama’s attacks on Mitt Romney have been proven false time and again. As job growth slows, manufacturing activity stalls, and our economy continues to sputter, President Obama knows he can’t make a legitimate argument for another term in office, so instead he is trying to tear down his opponent. This is just the latest example of President Obama and his political machine saying or doing anything to distract from his abysmal record over the last four years.”

We asked the Romney campaign why they’re using the same statements and will update if they respond with another statement about their statements.

In what has to be one of the best pieces I’ve read today, Joshua Green of The Boston Globe addressed Romney’s obsession with avoiding risk.

This has become a familiar pattern: a ringing affirmation of some major policy difference with President Obama, followed by a lot of vagueness about what he would do instead.

Take deficit reduction. Romney has promised to extend the entire Bush tax cut, reduce marginal rates by an additional 20 percent, cut corporate rates, and still bring down the deficit. He’s said he’ll pay for this by closing loopholes and deductions but won’t identify which ones. His campaign initially indicated that it would clarify this once Romney had sewn up the nomination. Months later, the details are still not forthcoming. Yet he routinely gives speeches denouncing Obama over the deficit and promising — somehow — to bring it under control.

Green discusses Romney’s bizarre response to the SCOTUS ruling on Arizona’s immigration law.

His campaign’s greatest obfuscation was its response to the Supreme Court’s voiding much of Arizona’s Draconian immigration law. Romney’s statement was magnificently vague, leaving unclear whether he still supported the law, as he once had. Even more remarkable was the long, circular, and ultimately fruitless exchange between his spokesman Richard Gorka and reporters trying to nail down Romney’s position. Afterward, some fellow press secretaries took to Twitter to marvel at Gorka’s capacity to dissemble.

Romney has plainly calculated that he can win without explaining what he’d do as president, and seems intent on becoming the “generic Republican candidate” that pollsters include in surveys (and that often outperform real Republicans). He seems to be making two assumptions: The country is in such dire shape that simply being against Obama is enough, and his background at Bain Capital is a sufficient qualification to get him elected. His campaign is a sustained exercise in avoiding risk.

Green calls it “the Romney Fog Machine: a great outpouring of words intended to obscure, rather than clarify, the issue at hand.”

As Green points out, the problem with this tactic is that if you don’t give specific answers to questions others will fill in the blanks for you. That is what seems to be happening with Obama’s attacks on Romney’s Bain career. How long can the Romney campaign keep this up? Only time will tell.

Monday Reads (with SCOTUS updates)

Good Morning!

The last abortion clinic in Mississippi may be the latest victim of the christofascist republican war on women.  It may become the first state in the union where women have no access to this constitutional right.  Take a look at the pictures at the link and tell me its not a christofascist movement akin to the religious fundamental crazies that plague underdeveloped nations.  Why can’t we just export these creeps to Afghanistan instead of soldiers and money?

Beginning July 1, all abortion-clinic physicians must have admitting privileges at a local hospital under a law passed by the Republican-led Legislature and signed by Republican Governor Phil Bryant in April. At the Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the state’s sole remaining clinic providing elective abortions, none of the three physicians who perform the procedure has been granted those privileges.

Mississippi may become the first U.S. state without a dedicated abortion clinic if the Jackson facility fails to come into compliance. That would mark the most visible victory for the anti-abortion movement, which has fought to abolish the procedure in the face of the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade decision guaranteeing a woman’s right to have one.

“Roe v. Wade said that women have a right to an abortion in the sense that a state can’t deny or criminalize it, but there was no guarantee of access,” said Wendy Parmet, associate dean at Northeastern University School of Law in Boston. “States can’t create legal barriers or penalties, but they can make it practically really, really difficult.”

Betty Thompson, a spokeswoman for the clinic in the state capital, said the doctors have applied to seven area hospitals for admitting privileges. All three are already board certified in obstetrics and gynecology, as the new law also requires, she said.

I’ve long argued that Rupert Murdoch should be deprived of access to the public airwaves.  He’s a threat to the Public Interest.Here’s some more opinion on that via the UK Guardian. Can the Brits get rid of this menace? Can any democracy afford a corporate monopoly on information that functions as a propaganda tool for the personal interests of its owner?

In the UK, there is currently more choice, but the economics of news are undergoing a fundamental revolution, so nothing should be taken for granted. There are other powerful media organisations in the UK, including the BBC. In order to gauge the potential threat, try asking seven critical questions:

a) Does it have strong internal governance?

b) Is it effectively externally regulated?

c) Is it subject to, and does it comply with, the law?

d) Is it subjected to normal scrutiny by press and parliament?

e) Does it overtly try to exert public political influence?

f) Does it privately lobby over regulation or competition issues?

g) Does it actively work to expose the private lives of politicians or other public figures?

On such a scorecard, the BBC would score one out of seven – in the sense that only one of the issues, f), is engaged. News Corp would score seven.

Richard Pomfret–a Professor of Economics at Adelaide University–has written a new book on a widely accepted compromise between aggregate prosperity and distributional equality. He discusses his thesis at VOXEU.

It is in this spirit that my new book, The Age of Equality, argues that we are still experiencing the long-term consequences of the industrial revolution of the 1700s, and that the current state of that process involves a widely accepted compromise between aggregate prosperity and distributional equality.

Unlike political revolutions that can be dated to 1789 or 1917, the industrial revolution does not have a precise date. However, by the early 1800s it had clearly taken hold in parts of northwest Europe. The new industrial production involved factories with division of labour (exemplified by Adam Smith’s pin factory on the UK’s £20 banknotes) which employed increasingly capital-intensive techniques and applied the results of scientific, or at least casual empirical, observation. It was associated with risk-taking entrepreneurs and mobile workers, who responded to price incentives and were rewarded if they made the right decisions. The process was opposed by those enjoying privileges in the pre-industrial economy, e.g. inherited monarchs with absolute power, landowners with serfs or guild members.

Countries adopting the new system enjoyed unprecedented long-term economic growth. They sought and won global markets for their products so that they could expand the division of labour and capital-intensity of their factories, and they established global empires. Success was no secret. The new system spread across Europe, regions settled by Europeans, and a few other places (notably Japan).

Change was resisted by the ancien régime or by imperial rulers. The 1800s were an Age of Liberty because successful economies were those in which people enjoyed sufficient freedom to respond to economic incentives. The pressure to allow such freedom culminated in the 1910s, with the collapse of the great dynastic empires centred in Saint Petersburg, Vienna, Berlin, Constantinople and Peking.

Yet, even as living standards increased, opposition to unbridled capitalism strengthened. In all of the high-income countries there is evidence of income inequality peaking around the first decade of the twentieth century.

  • In the US, progressives pushed to reduce the power of the rich by antitrust legislation and to protect the poor by social policies.
  • In Europe, socialists’ challenge to capitalism was more fundamental.

The great experiment of the twentieth century was a competition between economic systems over which could best balance prosperity and equality.

That was the case until 1989.  Then, unbridled capitalism began to take root in Europe and North America.  This is not the case, however, in other parts of the world. Here’s a reminder of more folks that are adopting a different approach. 

The era of free-market triumphalism has come to a juddering halt, and the crisis that destroyed Lehman Brothers in 2008 is now engulfing much of the rich world. The weakest countries, such as Greece, have already been plunged into chaos. Even the mighty United States has seen the income of the average worker contract every year for the past three years. The Fraser Institute, a Canadian think-tank, which has been measuring the progress of economic freedom for the past four decades, saw its worldwide “freedom index” rise relentlessly from 5.5 (out of 10) in 1980 to 6.7 in 2007. But then it started to move backwards.

The crisis of liberal capitalism has been rendered more serious by the rise of a potent alternative: state capitalism, which tries to meld the powers of the state with the powers of capitalism. It depends on government to pick winners and promote economic growth. But it also uses capitalist tools such as listing state-owned companies on the stockmarket and embracing globalisation. Elements of state capitalism have been seen in the past, for example in the rise of Japan in the 1950s and even of Germany in the 1870s, but never before has it operated on such a scale and with such sophisticated tools.

State capitalism can claim the world’s most successful big economy for its camp. Over the past 30 years China’s GDP has grown at an average rate of 9.5% a year and its international trade by 18% in volume terms. Over the past ten years its GDP has more than trebled to $11 trillion. China has taken over from Japan as the world’s second-biggest economy, and from America as the world’s biggest market for many consumer goods. The Chinese state is the biggest shareholder in the country’s 150 biggest companies and guides and goads thousands more. It shapes the overall market by managing its currency, directing money to favoured industries and working closely with Chinese companies abroad.

State capitalism can also claim some of the world’s most powerful companies. The 13 biggest oil firms, which between them have a grip on more than three-quarters of the world’s oil reserves, are all state-backed. So is the world’s biggest natural-gas company, Russia’s Gazprom. But successful state firms can be found in almost any industry. China Mobile is a mobile-phone goliath with 600m customers. Saudi Basic Industries Corporation is one of the world’s most profitable chemical companies. Russia’s Sberbank is Europe’s third-largest bank by market capitalisation. Dubai Ports is the world’s third-largest ports operator. The airline Emirates is growing at 20% a year.

So, you can see my read suggestions are a little esoteric today.  There’s not much going on.  Folks are waiting to see if SCOTUS announces its decision on the Affordable Health Care Act and Arizona’s immigration law.  Folks are also waiting for congress to act on the doubling of student loan rates and the highway bill. Drama is coming this week.

I just have to add one more.  Jimmy Carter wrote an op-ed today in the NYT about America’s Shameful Human Rights Record. Wasn’t he part of the hoopla over the lightbringer about 8 years ago?  Is this Nobel Peace Laureate lecturing another?  Wow.  How times change.  He names no names but the implications seem pretty clear to me.

THE United States is abandoning its role as the global champion of human rights.

Revelations that top officials are targeting people to be assassinated abroad, including American citizens, are only the most recent, disturbing proof of how far our nation’s violation of human rights has extended. This development began after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and has been sanctioned and escalated by bipartisan executive and legislative actions, without dissent from the general public. As a result, our country can no longer speak with moral authority on these critical issues.

While the country has made mistakes in the past, the widespread abuse of human rights over the last decade has been a dramatic change from the past. With leadership from the United States, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted in 1948 as “the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world.” This was a bold and clear commitment that power would no longer serve as a cover to oppress or injure people, and it established equal rights of all people to life, liberty, security of person, equal protection of the law and freedom from torture, arbitrary detention or forced exile.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


The Supreme Court Announces Arizona Immigration Decision Today.


US Supreme Court (#SCOTUS) ruling upholds ‘show me your papers’ provision of Arizona immigration law. Details soon

From the SCOTUS AZ decision: “As a general rule, it is not a crime for a removable alien to remain in the United States.”

Tom Goldstein of Scotusblog: “On net, the #SB1070 decision is a significant win for Obama Admin. It got almost everything it wanted.

note: the link to Scotusblog above goes to a live discussion on the decisions being released today …

OTHER Decisions:

The MT campaign finance case, 11-1179, is summarily reversed. The vote is 5-4, the majority opinion (one page long) is per curiam, Justice Breyer writes for the dissenters.

National Journal@nationaljournal

SCOTUS: “There can be no serious doubt” that Citizens United ruling applies to Montana state law.

Miller and Jackson, juvenile life without parole cases, have been decided. Life w/o parole sentences for juveniles who commit murder are unconstitutional. Justice Kagan wrote the opinion. Vote is 5-4.

No #HCRdecision from #SCOTUS today. Stay tuned for Thursday.  It appears to be going down to the wire.

Deval Patrick Gets It Just Right on Romney’s Record

Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick appeared on Meet the Press this morning. I haven’t seen the whole program; but from what I’ve read about it along with what Patrick has said about Mitt Romney in other interviews, I think he’s getting it just right. Here’s what he said on MTP, according to The Boston Globe:

Patrick, a co-chairman of Obama’s reelection campaign, said the presumptive Republican presidential nominee had a poor record of job growth as governor, repeating the familiar statistic that Massachusetts ranked 47th in the nation in that category when Romney was in office.

But, Patrick said, that “doesn’t mean he was a failure as governor.”

Really? What specifically did Romney do well as governor? Why he signed the nation’s first universal health care law and pushed for the individual mandate that citizens must purchase health insurance. Patrick knows full well that Romney doesn’t want to be praised for that accomplishment. Every Obama surrogate should hammering health care achievement home, again and again. Back to the Globe article:

Host David Gregory asked the governor to respond to former President Bill Clinton’s statement Thursday that “there’s no question that in terms of getting up and going to the office and basically performing the essential functions of the office, the man who has been governor and had a sterling business career crosses the qualification threshold.”

Gregory suggested Clinton’s remarks undercut one of Obama’s major arguments.

“It undercuts the spin on the argument that the president has made,” Patrick replied. “The president has never attacked Bain. It’s not about Bain. It’s never been. Bain’s a fine company.”

Really? What’s it about then?

“He had a terrific career creating wealth,” Patrick said. “There is very little evidence that, either in the public or the private sector, he’s had a terrific career creating jobs.”

The corporate media is comparing Patrick’s approach to what Cory Booker said previously on MTP. But I think they’re wrong. More Obama surrogates should follow Patrick’s lead. Sure, Bain is a terrific company and Romney deserves credit for his role in building the business. But at Bain and as governor, Romney didn’t create jobs. But, hey…he led the way to socialized medicine in Massicusetts! Isn’t that great?

Here’s an opinion piece that Patrick wrote for CNN a couple of days ago. In it he spells out a very clear argument against Romney as POTUS. Of course he leads with Romney’s failure to create jobs in the state. Everyone knows by now that Massachusetts ranked 47th among the states in job creation.

and that was in relatively good economic times. Real wages declined (while rising across the nation). Instead of helping workers and small businesses adjust to changes in the global economy, Romney cut critical work force training programs and millions in economic development funds. Instead of promoting Massachusetts to attract jobs, he used the state as a punchline on the national Republican political circuit.

When Patrick took office he had to clean up Romney’s messes.

He left behind a bureaucracy whose work force grew during his term, an unsustainable public pension system and a culture of poor accountability throughout state government.

Young people and jobs were leaving our state. Our roads and bridges were crumbling, and his Republican predecessors’ poor oversight of the infamous Big Dig project in downtown Boston resulted in billions of dollars of cost overruns, substandard workmanship and debilitating debt that he made no effort to remedy.

In the face of budget challenges, what did Romney do? He raised nearly every fee and surcharge that didn’t bear the title “tax” and cut funding for the schools. In a state where education is our calling card, Romney was responsible for the second largest per pupil cut in education funding in America during his second year in office.

Sure Romney’s a nice guy, Patrick says, and he was very successful in business. But in his only time in office Romney failed to create jobs or stimulate the economy. Why did this happen?

Romney sincerely believes that people are better off on their own: on their own to deal with their unemployment; with under-resourced public schools and no way to pay for college; with neglected infrastructure; with a job market that needs skills they didn’t have. He does not fundamentally believe that government should help people help themselves. And he has a record as governor of Massachusetts to demonstrate how much damage his leadership does to people, their families and our future.

Finally, here’s a recent interview that Patrick did with John King in which he makes similar arguments.

I think the Obama campaign should have their other surrogates emulate Deval Patrick’s approach–call it hitting Romney with a velvet glove that has a steel lining. You don’t have to yell and scream to get your message across. Patrick is calm, cool, and collected. He’s not “nauseated” by attacks on Bain or private equity, like Corey Booker. He doesn’t call Romney’s career at Bain “sterling,” like Bill Clinton did. He explains why Romney’s career at Bain is irrelevant to job creation, while his time as Governor is. And he strongly praises the one achievement Romney doesn’t want to talk about: health care reform.

I don’t know if this can all be boiled down to a 30-second sound byte, but Deval Patrick is coming pretty close with this:

“He had a terrific career creating wealth,” Patrick said. “There is very little evidence that, either in the public or the private sector, he’s had a terrific career creating jobs.”

The Obama campaign should keep Patrick front and center, hammering home the message that Romney knows nothing about job creation–and in fact really doesn’t care about it–but he sure deserves all the credit in the world for leading his state to universal health care.

Monday Reads

Good Morning!

We’ve covered a lot of stories on states that are passing restrictive and abusive antiabortion measures.  The Texas law has already gone into effect.  We can now start sharing the stories of women being victimized by religious fanatics who rush to pass these laws with no thought to their impact.  The karma on this one has to be severe.  Not only was the woman forced to go through three sonograms but a humiliating and painful speech about her fetus.  The fetus was severely deformed.  Her doctor had informed her earlier that her planned pregnancy was going to produce a severely deformed baby who would suffer.  Later, a reporter who interviewed her and wrote her story got fired.

Braddock, who many activists have called a remarkably fair reporter when it comes to controversial issues like abortion, was filling in last Friday for reporter Geoff Berg, who hosts the “Partisan Gridlock” show on Houston’s KPFT.

Over the course of his hour on the air on the non-commercial station, Braddock played audio of an interview he’d conducted for KROI, featuring the galling account of Carolyn Jones, a Texas woman who was forced to undergo multiple transvaginal sonograms in her pursuit of an abortion. Her story was initially carried by The Texas Observer earlier this month.

And it’s not that Braddock was skewing the issue, either: “I’m a journalist, I cover all sides,” he said. “My thoughts on the sonogram law are simply that it’s something of great interest to Texans, and they want to hear different perspectives. I do my best to make sure people have all the facts and perspectives that they may not have considered.”

Turns out, people on the political left and right in Texas also agree that he should not have been fired.

Here’s some of the interview for which Braddock was fired.

Carolyn Jones was halfway through her pregnancy, and excited to be a mother again, when she learned that her baby would be “profoundly” ill, and suffer from the day he was born. Jones describes cringing at the doctor’s use of the word “abortion,” which felt “like a physical blow…in the context of our much-wanted child.” She made the hard decision to do what she considered most compassionate, and terminate her pregnancy. It was the last call she was legally able to make.

“I am so sorry,” the young woman said with compassion, and nudged the tissues closer. Then, after a moment’s pause, she told me reluctantly about the new Texas sonogram law that had just come into effect. I’d already heard about it. The law passed last spring but had been suppressed by legal injunction until two weeks earlier.
My counselor said that the law required me to have another ultrasound that day, and that I was legally obligated to hear a doctor describe my baby. I’d then have to wait 24 hours before coming back for the procedure. She said that I could either see the sonogram or listen to the baby’s heartbeat, adding weakly that this choice was mine.
“I don’t want to have to do this at all,” I told her. “I’m doing this to prevent my baby’s suffering. I don’t want another sonogram when I’ve already had two today. I don’t want to hear a description of the life I’m about to end. Please,” I said, “I can’t take any more pain.” I confess that I don’t know why I said that. I knew it was fait accompli. The counselor could no more change the government requirement than I could. Yet here was a superfluous layer of torment piled upon an already horrific day, and I wanted this woman to know it.

“We have no choice but to comply with the law,” she said, adding that these requirements were not what Planned Parenthood would choose. Then, with a warmth that belied the materials in her hand, she took me through the rules. First, she told me about my rights regarding child support and adoption. Then she gave me information about the state inspection of the clinic. She offered me a pamphlet called A Woman’s Right to Know, saying that it described my baby’s development as well as how the abortion procedure works. She gave me a list of agencies that offer free sonograms, and which, by law, have no affiliation with abortion providers. Finally, after having me sign reams of paper, she led me to the doctor who’d perform the sonography, and later the termination.

The doctor and nurse were professional and kind, and it was clear that they understood our sorrow. They too apologized for what they had to do next. For the third time that day, I exposed my stomach to an ultrasound machine, and we saw images of our sick child forming in blurred outlines on the screen.

“I’m so sorry that I have to do this,” the doctor told us, “but if I don’t, I can lose my license.” Before he could even start to describe our baby, I began to sob until I could barely breathe. Somewhere, a nurse cranked up the volume on a radio, allowing the inane pronouncements of a DJ to dull the doctor’s voice. Still, despite the noise, I heard him. His unwelcome words echoed off sterile walls while I, trapped on a bed, my feet in stirrups, twisted away from his voice.

“Here I see a well-developed diaphragm and here I see four healthy chambers of the heart…”

I closed my eyes and waited for it to end, as one waits for the car to stop rolling at the end of a terrible accident.

If you spent any time watching Spanish Language TV over the weekend, you’d have seen a lot of time spent on the papal visit to Mexico.  There was a lot of live broadcasting and very little discussion of two books that also came out this week on systemic sexual assault and cover-ups by the church by one of the country’s most well known priests. The books indicate that the current pope was part of the conspiracy to conceal the crimes.

In the past week, two books released in Mexico drew new attention to longstanding questions about whether Benedict, when he was the head of the Vatican’s doctrinal office, acted decisively enough about the Rev. Marcial Maciel Degollado, a Mexican priest who founded the Legionaries of Christ, once victims began coming forward claiming that he had abused them.

The news media attention shows that the Maciel case is far from closed. The Vatican has said that Benedict does not plan to meet with abuse victims while in Mexico, as he has done in other countries.

After complaints of sexual abuse were filed against Father Maciel in 1998, Benedict, who was then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, quashed a Vatican investigation. He reopened the case in 2004, ultimately finding that Father Maciel had led a double life and had raped seminarians, fathered several children and abused drugs while leading a charismatic organization known for producing priests.

In 2006, the future pope sentenced Father Maciel to a life of prayer and penance. Father Maciel died in 2008.

A presser was given by the Rev. Alberto Athié Gallo.  He is one of the co-authors of  “The Will Not To Know”.  He is also one of many Mexican priests who tried to tell Cardinal Ratzinger about Father Maciel’s atrocities in 1998.

Speaking of abuse, a Wisconsin Lawmaker wants to penalize single mothers and says that women should stay in abusive marriages.  Getting beat up by your husband?  Stay married and just think about all the good things he does for you.  Don’t divorce him because being a single mother is child abuse ladies!!!

In Wisconsin — yes, the same state where lawmakers have introduced a bill penalizing single mothers for being unmarried — a Republican state representative has come out against divorce for any reason — even domestic abuse.

Instead of leaving an abusive situation, women should try to remember the things they love about their husbands, Representative Don Pridemore said. “If they can re-find those reasons and get back to why they got married in the first place it might help,” he told a local news station.

Pridemore — who, coincidentally, is a co-sponsor of Republican state Senator Glenn Grothman’s “being single causes child abuse” bill as well as a controversial voter ID bill that was ruled unconstitutional earlier this week — also said that while he thinks women are capable of caring for a family “in certain situations,” fathers are the only ones who provide structure and discipline. If they don’t grow up with married biological parents, Pridemore says, “kids tend to go astray.”

Grothman, for his part, continues to defend his controversial bill. Now, though, not only is single parenthood a factor in child abuse, women in particular are to blame for it.

“There’s been a huge change over the last 30 years, and a lot of that change has been the choice of the women,” Grothman said.

 The Supreme Court will start hearing arguments on the constitutionality of the individual mandate in the HCRA today.

The law itself is a sprawling revision of the health care system meant to provide coverage to tens of millions of previously uninsured Americans by imposing new requirements on states, employers and insurance companies and, through what has been called the individual mandate, by requiring most Americans to obtain insurance or pay a penalty.

The decision in the case will have enormous practical consequences for how health care is delivered in the United States. It is likely to land in June, with large repercussions for both Mr. Obama and his Republican challenger just before the two parties hold their nominating conventions.

The justices have broken the case into four discrete issues, scheduling a separate session for each, for a total of six hours, the most in one case in more than 40 years.

Emptywheel has some excellent analysis up on what to watch for during arguments. Bmaz has been following the issues carefully.

There are two areas of particular interest me and which really are the meat on the bone of the overall consideration. The first is Monday’s technical argument on the AIJA, which I actually think may be much more in play than most commentators believe, because the Supremes may want to punt the politically sticky part of the case down the road until after the 2012 elections, and the AIJA argument is a ready made vehicle to do just that. Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s dissent in Seven Sky v. Holder explains how that would go should the Supreme beings decide to punt. This is by no means likely, but do not be shocked if it occurs; can kicking down the road is certainly not unknown at SCOTUS on politically sensitive cases.

By far, however, the biggest, and most contentious, kahuna of the healthcare debate is the individual mandate, and that is where I want to focus. The two sides, pro (predominantly liberal left) and con (predominantly conservative right), have been selling their respective wares since before the law was passed and signed by the President. As we truly head into the arguments, however, the pro left have crystallized around a matched pair of articles by Dahlia Lithwick and Linda Greenhouse, and the con right around response pieces by James Taranto and Ed Whelan.

Now this hardly seems like a fair fight, as Taranto has no degree, nor legal training, whatsoever; that said he and Whelan actually lay out the contra to Dahlia and Linda pretty well. Each side effectively accuses the other of being vapid and hollow in argument construct. I will leave aside any vapidity discussion because I think both sides genuinely believe in their positions; as to the hollowness, though, I think both sides are pretty much guilty. Which is understandable, there is simply not a lot of law directly on point with such a sweeping political question as presented by the mandate. “Unprecedented” may be overused in this discussion, but it is not necessarily wrong (no, sorry, Raich v. Gonzales is not that close; it just isn’t).

So, that’s my offerings this morning.  What’s on your reading and blogging list today?