Monday Reads: Bachmann’s Federal Subsidies, Nebraska Nuke Plants, and Cuomo vs. Obama on Marriage Equality

Good morning!! This is going to be a quickie morning post, because I kind of wore myself out yesterday obsessing on the Casey Anthony trial and another “tabloid” story I’ve been following about woman–Lauren Spierer, an IU student–who disappeared in Bloomington, Indiana three weeks ago. I grew up in Indiana and my sister lives in Bloomington, so I’ve been reading a lot about the case.

Here’s some background on the Spierer case: Vanished: Following the last-known steps of Lauren Spierer

I promise I’ll get back to obsessing on politics as soon as some real news starts happening again.

The LA Times had a couple of stories about Michele Bachmann and her husband getting federal money for his clinic and his parents’ farm.

Bachmann’s had her share of government aid

Rep. Michele Bachmann has been propelled into the 2012 presidential contest in part by her insistent calls to reduce federal spending, a pitch in tune with the big-government antipathy gripping many conservatives.

But the Minnesota Republican and her family have benefited personally from government aid, an examination of her record and finances shows. A counseling clinic run by her husband has received nearly $30,000 from the state of Minnesota in the last five years, money that in part came from the federal government. A family farm in Wisconsin, in which the congresswoman is a partner, received nearly $260,000 in federal farm subsidies.

And she has sought to keep federal money flowing to her constituents. After publicly criticizing the Obama administration’s stimulus program, Bachmann requested stimulus funds to support projects in her district. Although she has been a fierce critic of earmarks — calling them “part of the root problem with Washington’s spending addiction” — the congresswoman nonetheless argued recently that transportation projects should not be considered congressional pork.

Michele Bachmann denies benefiting from government aid

Rep. Michele Bachmann deflected allegations Sunday that she and her immediate family had benefited from government assistance despite her demands to cut the federal budget, saying hundreds of thousands of dollars for her family farm and a counseling clinic went to employees and her in-laws.

“My husband and I did not get the money,” the Minnesota Republican said on Sunday news shows one day before officially opening her presidential campaign in Waterloo, Iowa — her birthplace.

Except she did get the money, as shown by her disclosure forms. See the previous story. Bachmann claimed that the money for the clinic went for employee training. Wouldn’t training of employees also help the business?

The New York Times has a pretty good article about the two Nebraska nuclear plants that are endangered by flooding from the Missouri River–the Ft. Calhoun and Cooper reactors. If you haven’t read Dakinikat’s post on this scary situation, please do. From the NYT piece:

Like inhabitants of a city preparing for a siege, operators of the nuclear reactor here have spent days working to defend it against the swollen Missouri River at its doorstep. On Sunday, eight days after the river rose high enough to require the operators to declare a low-level emergency, a swarm of plant officials got to show off their preparations to the chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

The reactor, Cooper Station, is one of two nuclear plants on the Missouri River that are threatened by flooding. The second reactor, Fort Calhoun, 85 miles north, came under increased pressure for a brief period on Sunday. Before dawn, a piece of heavy equipment nicked an eight-foot-high, 2,000-foot-long temporary rubber berm, and it deflated. Water also began to approach electrical equipment, which prompted operators to cut themselves off from the grid and start up diesel generators. (It returned to grid power later Sunday.) Both nuclear plants appeared prepared to weather the flooding, their operators and federal government regulators said.

Fort Calhoun was shut down in April for refueling and stayed closed because of predictions of flooding. Plant officials say the facility is designed to remain secure at a river level of up to 1,014 feet above sea level. The water level stabilized at 1,006.5 feet on Sunday, according to the Omaha Public Power District, the operator of the Fort Calhoun plant.

Unfortunately the Times doesn’t mention that large amounts of nuclear tritium are leaking from these plants into the groundwater or say whether any testing of drinking water is being done. What happens if the Missouri becomes contaminated by nuclear material?

CNN reports that a huge water-filled berm that was being used to protect the Ft. Calhoun plant burst yesterday.

Some sort of machinery came in contact with the berm, puncturing it and causing the berm to deflate, said Mike Jones, a spokesman for the Omaha Public Power District (OPPD), which owns the Fort Calhoun plant.

Authorities say this was just a back-up measure and the plant is still safe.

Parts of the grounds are already under water as the swollen Missouri River overflows its banks, including areas around some auxiliary buildings, Jones said.

The 8-foot-tall, water-filled berm, 16 feet wide at its base, surrounded the reactor containment structure and auxiliary buildings, according to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

“We built the plant up high enough based on history, based on the flooding in the past. If the flood would rise for some reason above that level we have taken precautions, again, per our procedures to sandbag the important equipment for the reactors,” said Dave Van Der Kamp, with the Nebraska Public Power District.

He said the chances of floodwater getting into the building where the core is kept are almost zero.

I sure hope that’s true.

The NYT has an interesting article on how Andrew Cuomo helped shepherd the gay marriage bill through the New York legislature.

In the 35th-floor conference room of a Manhattan high-rise, two of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s most trusted advisers held a secret meeting a few weeks ago with a group of super-rich Republican donors.

Over tuna and turkey sandwiches, the advisers explained that New York’s Democratic governor was determined to legalize same-sex marriage and would deliver every possible Senate vote from his own party.

[….]

…the donors in the room — the billionaire Paul Singer, whose son is gay, joined by the hedge fund managers Cliff Asness and Daniel Loeb — had the influence and the money to insulate nervous senators from conservative backlash if they supported the marriage measure. And they were inclined to see the issue as one of personal freedom, consistent with their more libertarian views.

Basically, Cuomo acted more presidential than Obama did. I wonder if Cuomo would like to primary Obama? Just kidding….

Here’s an interesting piece at the WaPo: Votes that pushed us into the red. There is a chart that shows how various politicians rationalized supporting big spending projects–although some of them might have actually provided some economic stimulus.

Finally, there’s going to be some kind of cost-cutting change to the electric power grid that will make our electric clocks run fast.

A yearlong experiment with the nation’s electric grid could mess up traffic lights, security systems and some computers — and make plug-in clocks and appliances like programmable coffeemakers run up to 20 minutes fast.

“A lot of people are going to have things break and they’re not going to know why,” said Demetrios Matsakis, head of the time service department at the U.S. Naval Observatory, one of two official timekeeping agencies in the federal government.

Since 1930, electric clocks have kept time based on the rate of the electrical current that powers them. If the current slips off its usual rate, clocks run a little fast or slow. Power companies now take steps to correct it and keep the frequency of the current — and the time — as precise as possible.

The effect will be greater in some areas than others.

The North American Electric Reliability Corp. runs the nation’s interlocking web of transmission lines and power plants. A June 14 company presentation spelled out the potential effects of the change: East Coast clocks may run as much as 20 minutes fast over a year, but West Coast clocks are only likely to be off by 8 minutes. In Texas, it’s only an expected speedup of 2 minutes.

Some parts of the grid, like in the East, tend to run faster than others. Errors add up. If the grid averages just over 60 cycles a second, clocks that rely on the grid will gain 14 seconds per day, according to the company’s presentation.

That’s it for me. I’ve gotta go see what Judge Belvin Perry has to say this morning. What are you reading and blogging about today?


What Fresh Hell is This?

Republicans have unleashed a war against public servants and women.  They appear to believe their election gains are a mandate to radically change the way government deals with its citizen.  The latest state to initiate yet another crazy attack on women’s health is the state of Nebraska. Nebraska has followed South Dakota’s lead by introducing a “justifiable homicide” abortion bill.  This bill goes farther than the South Dakota law. (See the  sentence in bold below from the quote from a Mother Jones blog post.)

The legislation, LB 232, was introduced by state Sen. Mark Christensen, a devout Christian and die-hard abortion foe who is opposed to the procedure even in the case of rape. Unlike its South Dakota counterpart, which would have allowed only a pregnant woman, her husband, her parents, or her children to commit “justifiable homicide” in defense of her fetus, the Nebraska bill would apply to any third party.

“In short, this bill authorizes and protects vigilantes, and that’s something that’s unprecedented in our society,” Melissa Grant of Planned Parenthood of the Heartland told the Nebraska legislature’s judiciary committee on Wednesday. Specifically, she warned, it could be used to target Planned Parenthood’s patients and personnel. Also testifying in opposition to the bill was David Baker, the deputy chief executive officer of the Omaha police department, who said, “We share the same fears…that this could be used to incite violence against abortion providers.”

Baker’s concern is well-grounded: Abortion providers are frequent targets of violent attacks. Eight doctors have been murdered by anti-abortion extremists since 1993, and another 17 have been victims of murder attempts. Some of the perpetrators of those crimes, including Scott Roeder, the murderer of Wichita, Kansas, abortion provider Dr. George Tiller, have attempted to use the justifiable homicide defense at their trials. Several of the witnesses at Wednesday’s hearing cited Tiller’s murder as a case where a law like the one Christensen introduced could have come into play.

This one hits home for me.  Nebraska–where I grew up–always turns out to be one of the states to test abortion restrictions. Their taxpayers pay millions of dollars to take outrageous bills to the Supreme Court just to see how much they can get away with.  I can’t tell you how many of these initiatives I had to deal with while living there.  It’s a horrible use of scare public revenues. I believe this was introduced to just test the waters since the South Dakota bill was withdrawn.  These zealots are willing to waste taxpayer dollars just to see how far they can go.

The other thing that really bothers me  is that my daughter is an ob/gyn in residency at the state’s med school.  Considering many of these people think that birth control pills are abortifacients, does this mean you can justifiably shoot a prescribing doctor?   This bill is just to let women protect their pregnancies if you listen anti-abortion fanatics.  However,  isn’t just being able to defend yourself as a pregnant woman enough?

For his part, Christensen insisted that his measure is not intended to target abortion providers. Like Jensen, Christensen claimed that his bill is merely meant to allow pregnant women to defend their unborn children without fear of prosecution. “LB 232,” he said, “is really nothing more than an attempt to make sure a pregnant woman is not unnecessarily charged with a crime for using force to protect her unborn child from someone who means to bring harm to her unborn children.”

But, as other lawmakers pointed out during the hearing, Christensen’s bill, as currently written, would not only apply to pregnant women but to anyone who attempted to prevent harm to a fetus. “I think it opens the door to something unintended,” said state Sen. Steve Lathrop. “I don’t think you came in here intending to make those who provide abortions a target of the use of force,” he told Christensen, “but I think it may unintentionally do that or at least provide somebody with an argument that they were justified in that.”

Nebraska isn’t the only state trying this tactic.  The state of Iowa is also trying to get bills passed that allow deadly force to protect a fetus.

If passed into law, the two bills — House File 7 and House File 153 — would offer an unprecedented defense opportunity to individuals who stand accused of killing such providers, according to a former prosecutor and law professor at the University of Kansas, and are something that might have very well led to a different outcome in the Kansas trial of the man who shot Dr. George Tiller in a church foyer.

Melanie D. Wilson, associate professor of law at the University of Kansas, closely followed the trial of Scott Roeder, the man convicted of murdering Tiller. Roeder, at the urging of Iowa anti-abortion activist and former GOP legislative candidate Dave Leach, attempted to use the necessity defense, which says it is permissible to commit a crime if it stops a greater harm. The judge in the case refused to allow Roeder to use that defense.

“When [Roeder] presented the necessity defense, he failed because the legislature had basically already decided the abortion issue,” Wilson said. “So, as long as Tiller was performing legal abortion, [Roeder], as a defendant, didn’t get to re-decide the case [of abortion’s legal status]. Just as a matter of law, the judge wouldn’t allow that argument.”

Currently, abortion is also settled law in Iowa. But House File 153, sponsored by 28 Republicans, challenges it. Under that bill, the state would be mandated to recognize and protect “life” from the moment of conception until “natural death” with the full force of the law and state and federal constitutions. Essentially, the bill declares that from the moment a male sperm and a female ovum join to create a fertilized egg that a person exists.

I really don’t see any difference between these people and the Taliban. Being forced to live in country where extremist fundamentalist views dictate laws is not what this country is about.  These people obviously don’t think that women are capable of making mature, moral decisions and must be shepherded through a humiliating, obtuse process just to exercise a right to be secure as a unique person.  Again, this is nothing less than an out and out war on every woman.  We should not have to beg for our constitutional rights and our standing as adults.


Religionists on Supreme Court Damage Rights of Women

It’s  obvious the real legacy of Dubya Bush will be his assault on the fundamental secular nature of the United States through court appointments.  Republicans–and their appointees–appease people with such extreme religious views that we will need to remain vigilant for some time.  These people  murder doctors in their churches and harass women at health clinics day-in-and-day-out. They’ve done these things obsessively and zealously for over 45 years.

I think I’ve told you that I was stalked, slandered, and made generally miserable by the omnipresent fascist elements of the anti-choice movement just under 20 years ago as a young mother and economist running for state legislature.  The only group to not only oppose me–but go out of their way to ensure nothing truthful about me or my positions was put out there–were religionists.

It doesn’t surprise me that the continuing hotbed of theocratic insanity in the entire area continues to be Nebraska. This is a state whose hallmark of fame right now is its continual brain drain and DINO Senator Ben Nelson who blackmailed the entire country for his vote on health care. Another big mistake made by the state was to put term limits on all its unicameral members ensuring they have a perpetual revolving door of hit and run policies.  No wonder people leave that state in droves. Your entire life is in the hands of religious fanatics and the amateurs they bring to office.

The right’s continual obsession with letting women die or suffer to bring nonviable pregnancies to term is nothing but torture-based public policy laced with the sanctimonious mythology of “Eve made us all deserve to die in childbirth” .  Here’s the latest craziness from Nebraska that will undoubtedly be given attention by even crazier people like Justices Thomas, Alito, and Scalia;  the Republican  version of  the Spanish Inquisition. No science or medical facts here folks, just religious dogma from the dark ages please! 

Gonzales v. Carhart was the 2007 court decision that values religious dogma over science, medicine, reason, and facts.  It’s set the perpetual Nebraska industry of manufacturing laws to test Roe v. Wade in action.  Millions of tax dollars will now go into defending a distinctly warped view of medicine.  This one is based in the absolute lie of  ‘fetal pain’ in early term pregnancies set up by Justice Kennedy.  Kennedy also basically wrote that women were too stupid to realize they might come out of an abortion traumatized.  He’s just one more adherent of that 3rd century mythology that needs to go away.

A long line of Supreme Court precedents seemed to stand in his way. But Flood believes that a 2007 decision offers hope for him and other state legislators looking for ways to restrict abortion.

Using that decision as a road map, this spring Flood wrote and won passage of legislation that bans abortions after 20 weeks. Introducing into law the concept of “fetal pain,” it marked the first time that a state has outlawed the procedure so early in a pregnancy without an exception for the health of the woman.

The law shut down LeRoy Carhart, the provider who had planned to expand his practice outside Omaha and provide late-term abortions to women across the Midwest.

The importance of Flood’s bill is likely to be felt far beyond Nebraska. Abortion opponents call it model legislation for other states and say it could provide a direct challenge to Supreme Court precedents that restrict government’s ability to prohibit abortion before a fetus can survive outside the womb. (It also prompted Carhart to shift his practice east, and he has since opened a late-term practice in Germantown, outside Washington.)

Critics of abortion hail the law as the most prominent and promising outcome of the Supreme Court’s 2007 decision, in which, coincidentally, Carhart was the lead plaintiff.

The 5 to 4 decision in Gonzales v. Carhart turned away Carhart’s challenge to the federal ban on “partial birth” abortion and appeared to mark a significant change in the high court’s balancing of a woman’s right with the government’s interest.

The ruling was a key moment in the emerging identity of the court headed by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., who marked his fifth anniversary on the court this fall.

‘Fetal Pain” has no more basis in reality than virgin births and immaculate conception, yet here it is, threatening the ability of a woman to self determination, privacy, and life.  There is also no such thing as ‘partial birth’ abortion.  The entire thing is a public relations sham with no basis in anything but the desire of  a bunch of crazed religionists to inflict their personal religious dictum on every one else.  Since they can’t convert us all, they’ll force the law to recognize their extreme views through reckless Republican court appointments.

Kennedy’s ruling in the case–and his very words–are a warning to people who don’t like the government involved in their most personal and private decisions.  It  inspired Ruth Bader Ginsberg–a life long champion of women’s rights–to write a response and dismantle Kennedy’s attempt to logically explain a ruling based not on law, precedent, or logic.  Kennedy’s rambling diatribe was both intellectually and legally weak.  Its main tenets were clearly based in his own rooted need to defend his own narrow patriarchal misogynistic religious view instead of examine evidence and prior rulings.

He noted that the Casey decision affirmed the right to abortion before viability. But he said it also established that “government has a legitimate and substantial interest in preserving and promoting fetal life.”

Kennedy’s ruling was shot through with references to government’s interest in protecting the unborn and in making sure women knew the consequences of their actions.

He drew the ire of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and others when he discussed the regret a woman might feel about the decision to end her pregnancy.

“It is self-evident that a mother who comes to regret her choice to abort must struggle with grief more anguished and sorrow more profound” when she learns the details of the intact-dilation-and-extraction process, Kennedy wrote.

In a dissent, Ginsburg struck back at the insinuation that a woman has not fully thought through her decision, or should be protected from making such a choice. “This way of thinking reflects ancient notions of women’s place in the family and under the Constitution,” said Ginsburg, which “have long since been discredited.”

Ginsburg noted that, besides being the first court decision not to require a health exception, it as the first to uphold the ban on a specific procedure.

Leave it to Nebraska–a state with lots of land, buffalo and tumbleweed, and very few people that exists on federal funding and taxing people for gas as they drive through the state–to once again bring up an expensive test of our audacity to stand up to theocracy.  This has been a tactic of theirs for decades.  Nebraska no more represents the country than a penguin in ANWAR could.   Nebraska is whiter than than the rest of the country and older than the rest of the country.   It has only 22 people per square mile when the entire rest of the country averages 79.  It represents a gone bye era in many ways but  it still creates trouble despite its basic irrelevance to the country as anything more than a series of interstate stops.  The state  endlessly manufactures laws that impose a religious view on medical procedures  that always require tax payer funding to fight it  through courts.  What I’m saying is Nebraska’s main export is test laws for Roe v. Wade.  What a shameful legacy!

From little, irrelevant states like Nebraska,we get laws like those that force ‘biased consent’.  That would be laws that force physicians to give state lectures rather than advice on medical procedures.  But, this isn’t because of the state’s overwhelming concern for the health of pregnant women or fetuses or babies.  Witness this little law that now plagues my ob/gyn doctor daughter doing residency in that hell realm right now. Many of her patients typically come in obese.  She was telling me over the weekend  that a BMI of 40 was not atypical.  This puts a lot of her young patients into the automatic high risk/C-Sec category.  Does any of this bother Nebraska?  Hell, no!

Charities, hospitals and other nonprofit groups are scrambling to fill the void left by the state’s decision to end state Medicaid funding for prenatal services for low-income women, including many illegal immigrants.

In nearly two dozen interviews, Nebraska providers said that while they may be able to absorb the costs for women now pregnant, the long-term outlook for providing an estimated $10 million a year in health care services without reimbursement is bleak.

Hospitals are bracing to provide more “charity care” and expecting an increase in emergency-room visits from women who experience pregnancy complications due to the lack of prenatal care.

A couple of emergency fundraising events have been scheduled, and private donors and the United Way are being asked to dig deeper.

Clinics that focus on the poor and uninsured are shifting resources away from other areas, such as mental health and diabetes care, to cover the loss of funds for services that can head off expensive birth defects and premature births.

“We only have so many resources. If we start pouring more money into uninsured pregnant women, that will take away from what health care we can offer in other areas,” said Dr. Kristine McVea, medical director at the OneWorld Community Health Center in south Omaha.

The issue of whether hospitals, health clinics that focus on the uninsured and private physicians can shoulder the load for such low-income women without government help is now front-and-center in the controversy.

The debate intensified last week after a Schuyler, Neb., doctor said one of his patients opted to have an abortion because she couldn’t afford the cost of prenatal care on her own. At least seven other women in Omaha and Schuyler have told clinicians they plan to seek abortions.

Gov. Dave Heineman, who opposes government aid for illegal immigrants, has said he expects charities, church groups and others to pick up what the government cut off.

See that.   They already caused at least ONE needless abortion.  Of course, that law primarily impacts babies that infertile white couples don’t want to buy from the baby market, so the religionists are less concerned about that.

It’s about state control of women and children.  It’s about the state making decisions that belong to individuals and doing so based on religious views alone.  It’s about the improper role of religious belief in our country as written in The Constitution.  Young women in this country better get a grip on what’s happening and pretty quickly.  That’s because these same folks are after all forms of birth control and if they continue on with the same tenacity of lunacy, the pill will also be banned or hard to get.  This is especially important because President Barrack Obama has left open many vacancies on courts and if he is a one term president, or a two term president with a senate that goes Republican, we can only look forward to more.