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“Mike Huckabee Just Keeps Digging”: Pushing A Bogus Culture War In The Wake Of A National Tragedy

On Friday afternoon, while details of the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School were still coming to light, Mike Huckabee appeared on Fox News to complain about school prayer. “We ask why there is violence in our schools but we have systematically removed God from our schools,” he said.

Upon further inspection, Huckabee’s unfortunate comments didn’t make any sense. But instead of backing off, the former Arkansas governor and failed presidential candidate managed to make matters slightly worse over the weekend.

Reflecting on Friday’s murders, the Fox News personality argued:

“Christian-owned businesses are told to surrender their values under the edict of government orders to provide tax-funded abortion pills. We carefully and intentionally stop saying things are sinful and we call them disorders. Sometimes, we even say they’re normal.

“And to get to where that we have to abandon bedrock moral truths, then we ask, ‘Well, where was God?’ And I respond that, as I see it, we’ve escorted Him right out of our culture and we’ve marched Him off the public square and then we express our surprise that a culture without Him actually reflects what it’s become.”

So long as Huckabee is going to keep spewing rhetoric like this, we might as well take the time to explain how foolish it is.

First, the government is not forcing businesses to provide “tax-funded abortion pills.” As Zack Beauchamp explained, “The Obamacare contraception mandate, which is what Huckabee is likely referring to, does not provide coverage for any abortifacients — and will actually help reduce abortion rates.”

Second, the notion that the United States has a godless culture and a public square devoid of religiosity makes me wonder what country Mike Huckabee lives in. As best as I can tell, in America’s public square, we have religious television stations, religious radio stations, religious athletes who pray on the field, religious entertainers who thank God at award ceremonies, religious public officials who emphasize their faith when seeking public office, religious book stores, religious holidays, religious movements, religious references on our currency, and pastors who get their own television shows on cable news networks.

And third, to reiterate a point from the weekend, the fact that Huckabee continues to want to push a bogus culture war in the wake of a national tragedy suggests he just isn’t an especially nice guy.

For a guy with a jovial reputation, there’s something rather disturbing about Mike Huckabee’s worldview. Remember, it was earlier this year when he said he wanted to see President Obama’s college transcripts “to show whether he got any loans as a foreign student.”

Last year, Huckabee falsely claimed President Obama “grew up in Kenya with a Kenyan father and grandfather.” Soon after, he endorsed “death panel” garbage. By the early summer, Huckabee was equating the national debt with the Nazi Holocaust.

In August 2009, Huckabee argued on his own radio show that Obama’s health care reform plan would have forced Ted Kennedy to commit suicide. Ed Kilgore argued at the time, “This despicable rant should disqualify Mike Huckabee from any further liberal sympathy, no matter how much he tries to joke or rock-n-roll his way back into mainstream acceptability.”

That’s as true now as it was then.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, December 17, 2012

December 18, 2012 Posted by | Guns, Politics | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“The Horror Of No Future”: It Makes No Rational Sense To Bring A Child Into A World Like This One

In Newtown, families are grieving dead first-graders. On the day of the killings, while I counted the minutes until I picked up my own daughter from day care, I was haunted, for every one of those minutes, by a figure of contemporary cultural mythology, Katniss Everdeen.

Katniss, the bow-wielding Athena of The Hunger Games series, recognizes that it is actually senseless to bear children into a violent world. In the series’ dystopian world of Panem, the power of the state in destroying young people is explicit and active: children 12 and older are placed in a lottery each year—a reaping—and selected to compete to the death in a moment of national spectacle; tribunes in a futuristic, reality-show arena.

In the very first chapter of the very first book, Katniss and her friend Gale contemplate the dawning of another year’s reaping. “I never want to have kids,” Katniss says. “I might. If I didn’t live here,” says Gale. Katniss, irritated, replies, “But you do.”

Yes, we do. We do live here. We live in an America with a high rate of gun violence. We live in a world where children die every day, from guns, from domestic violence, from car accidents, from wars (including bombs we have dropped), from starvation, from disease.

But Newtown, like Columbine and so many other school shootings before it, moves and horrifies us nationally because of so many images, most of them religious. Students fleeing from their school building. The meeting of the quotidian classroom and weapons that belong on a battlefield. Two children before wintery woods in a New York Times photo, clutching each other like Hansel and Gretel in the forest. Grieving parents, who I pray, this time, will be spared the spotlight. Beautifully lit candlelight vigils. Stories of bravery among teachers and staff. Our tearful parent-in-chief.

Like the Roman arenas that inspired The Hunger Games, the coverage of these tragedies is all about spectacle, our voracious need, even in mourning, to witness the horror vicariously from the comfort of our own bread-filled homes.

We have always been morbidly captivated by dead and threatened children. Abraham is “father of faith” because of his willingness to bind and nearly sacrifice Isaac, to take part in what Kierkegaard calls “the teleological suspension of the ethical.” Suspension barely covers it. Jephthah, a military chieftan in the book of Judges, keeps a vow with God and sacrifices his daughter. No angel stays his hand.

We remember child martyrs in the crusades, young Holocaust victims like Anne Frank, the deaths of Emmett Till and four little girls in Birmingham, Alabama. The children of the day care center in Oklahoma City. Our enduring image from that dark day is a fireman, soaked in blood, carrying a baby on the cover of the magazines. Youth move us because they bring to the light the existential horror of no future.

Katniss is right. It makes no rational sense to bring a child into a world like this one. Her words will be prophetic, as her state destroys children under more than one regime. Ours does not kill them quite so explicitly. But our passive failure to act against violence is an unholy unsacrifice all the same. There is no divine gift exchange here, no ritual logic, and no meaning.

“Who would do this to our poor little babies?” asked a teacher at Sandy Hook. What would Katniss do? In the end, she does have children, saturated with terror the whole way. Before that, though, she ends the game. She fires her arrows at the perpetrators of the endless cycle of violence. Many, many years later, she has children.

They play upon the meadow that covers a mass grave.

December 18, 2012 Posted by | Guns | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“That’s Some Soul-Searching”: Republicans Are Just Too Beholden To The Interests Of Corporations And The Christian Right

On Nov. 6, Americans turned out in massive numbers to reelect President Obama, take away seats from Republicans in the House and the Senate and pass progressive ballot measures throughout the country. But it seems that Republicans in Washington and in states across the country just didn’t get the hint. Despite all the talk of post-election “soul-searching,” there doesn’t appear to be any self-examination going on among those currently clinging to their seats in Congress and state legislatures.

Look at Michigan. Just weeks after the state legislature’s Republicans took a drubbing from voters, who cut their majority in the state House from 18 to 8 despite recent Republican gerrymandering, the state’s GOP leadership went on a right-wing rampage.

First, they passed a package of so-called “right to work” laws that are meant to politically weaken unions and have the side effect of financially weakening the middle class. Republican Gov. Rick Snyder was against “right to work” before he was for it, thanks to some powerful arm-twisting from corporate front groups.

Then, they got to work on some extreme anti-choice measures. One tries to force abortion clinics out of business by regulating them into the ground. It also places unnecessary burdens on women, including requiring them to prove they weren’t “coerced” into seeking an abortion; prohibiting them from consulting with their doctor via videoconference; and requiring them to sign a death certificate and hold a funeral for the aborted fetus (this requirement, at least, has just been removed from the bill). Yet another bill would let doctors refuse to provide or employers refuse to cover any procedures they find immoral. This one isn’t just about abortion — it could allow employers to refuse their employees insurance coverage for contraception, or even blood transfusions. Sounds familiar? The Blunt Amendment in the U.S. Senate — wildly unpopular except among the Senate GOP — would have done the same thing.

Anybody who was paying the least bit of attention to this year’s elections would have noticed that two of the things voters find most repugnant about today’s GOP is its blind allegiance to big corporations and its enthusiasm for regulating women’s health.

Apparently the Republican Party wasn’t paying attention. Or is just too beholden to the interests of the Corporate and Christian right to care.

What’s happening in Michigan is just a microcosm of the whole. In Ohio, immediately after an election shaped in part by the GOP’s toxic attacks on women’s health, Republican legislators got to work trying to defund Planned Parenthood. And in Washington, D.C., Republican leaders are approaching fiscal cliff negotiations with the sole goal of protecting George W. Bush’s tax cuts for the wealthy.

 

By: Michael B. Keegan, The Huffington Post Blog, December 14, 2012

December 18, 2012 Posted by | Politics | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“For Those Of Us Who Remain”: Here Is Where We Start On A National Gun Policy

In the wake of Friday’s gruesome tragedy, in which a presumably mentally ill shooter killed 26 Americans in an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut—including 20 children between the ages of six and seven—it has never been more evident that our nation’s gun laws are in desperate need of reform.Thanks to years of relentless propaganda by the National Rifle Association (NRA) the American people no longer care much for the phrase “gun control,” but they do support specific policy proposals in overwhelming numbers. For example, swing-state exit-polling data from the 2012 election indicates that 90 percent of gun owners support requiring background checks on all gun sales, including private sales. Republican pollster Frank Luntz has conducted additional surveys showing broad support for common-sense gun laws even among NRA members.

This does not mean that the road to better gun policy is going to be easy, but it does suggest that progress can be made, particularly after President Obama’s inspiring remarks last night, in which he promised to use the full power of his office to ensure that mass shootings like Newtown do not occur again.

There is no doubt we need broad changes to our nation’s gun laws. Here are three ways to start reforming our policy.

First, every purchaser of a firearm should be subject to a background check through the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). Currently, an estimated 40 percent of guns sales are made by private individuals (at gun shows, over the Internet, through classified advertisements, etc.) who have no legal duty to subject purchasers to background checks or maintain records of sale. What is the purpose of having a NICS database with millions of disqualifying records if prohibited purchasers can simply circumvent the system? It would be the equivalent of having optional security screening at our airports, with a second line for folks who simply wish to bypass the scanners. In this Information Age, NICS checks are typically completed in a matter of minutes, and they can be administered by any one of the nation’s more than 50,000 federally licensed firearm dealers.

Second, while it is important to understand that the vast majority of those who suffer from mental illness will never be dangerous, a more effective approach to preventing persons that are a danger to themselves or others from acquiring firearms is needed. Under current law, only individuals who have been involuntarily committed to a psychiatric institution or formally adjudicated as “mental defectives” (the law was written in 1968) are prohibited from buying firearms. This standard tells us little about who might be dangerous and allows people to acquire firearms who should never get close to a gun. Keep in mind, too, that firearms are used in half of all completed suicides in the U.S. It is time to bring mental-health providers, law-enforcement officials, and other experts to the table to see if there are new or additional criteria that will more fairly balance privacy and public safety concerns.

For instance, Indiana allows law enforcement to remove firearms from someone that they suspect may be a danger to themselves or others and a court will evaluate the situation in 14 days. California requires that a person subject to a 72-hour psychological hold because there is probable cause to believe the person is a danger to self or others be prevented from purchasing or possessing a firearm for five years unless the person can prove his or her competency.

Third, we need to renew the federal ban on assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines. The ban expired at the end of 2004 and, according to an extensive analysis of mass shootings by Mother Jones, such events have increased in frequency since that time. Regarding the Bushmaster rifle used in the Sandy Hook shooting, while Connecticut does ban certain assault weapons, the breadth of the law falls far short of a state like California, where that rifle would have been strictly prohibited. California should be the model for a new federal law. There is no need for a weapon designed for battlefield use and easily outfitted with magazines holding up to 100 rounds of ammunition to be legally available in our neighborhoods.

Despite the conventional wisdom, I would argue that the National Rifle Association is not a significant obstacle to these reforms. The political equation had changed on guns. As this publication’s own Paul Waldman has shown, the NRA’s ability to affect elections cycles is minimal and it should be completely evident to any student of politics that the NRA got its butt kicked in the 2012 cycle, in which it went “all in.” They were unable to defeat President Obama; lost seven of eight Senate races where they spent more than $100,000; and endorsed 17 of the 30 House incumbents who were defeated. In addition, NRA lackeys in Congress now have a well-funded opponent in New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, whose new Independence USA PAC managed to knock off a handful of NRA-supported candidates.

The policies I have recommended will take time to work and they won’t stop every gun death (nor could any policy), but they certainly would put us on a path to a safer society. With our president now leading the way, it is time to stop making our children pay the ultimate price for our nation’s immoral gun laws.

 

By: Josh Horwitz, The American Prospect, December 17, 2012

December 18, 2012 Posted by | Guns | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Shuffling To The Right”: While You Weren’t Looking, Michigan Turned Into Texas

The Michigan legislature’s lame duck session is only three weeks long, but the state house didn’t need more than 18 hours to move the state sharply to the right. During a marathon session Thursday and Friday, the state house passed a variety of very conservative bills on issues from abortion to gun control to taxes. You can’t say they’re not efficient. The state, which favored Obama by 9 points and has long been home to a moderate-progressive movement, may now have a set of laws that puts it on America’s more conservative end.

Perhaps most shocking for pro-choice advocates was the effort to restrict abortion rights—or, as Mother Jones put it, “the abortion mega-bill.” Assuming the governor signs the bill into law, women in Michigan will now have to buy separate insurance policies to cover abortion. Otherwise, even in cases of rape or miscarriage, the abortion will not be covered. Clinics that provide more than 120 abortions a year will now face significantly more stringent licensing and regulation standards, much stricter than most other medical facilities. Pro-choice advocates have argued the new building codes and other requirements could shut down many clinics. Which, of course, is likely the idea of the bill in the first place.

Another bill does away with a bunch of gun-free zones, allowing people with concealed weapons permits to carry said concealed weapons in schools, day cares, hospitals—just about everywhere. The law does, however, allow schools and private businesses to remain gun-free zones voluntarily. The bill was passed before the horrific shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, but there’s little indication that changes the calculus for gun-rights advocates. Steve Dulan, who heads the Michigan Coalition of Responsible Gun Owners, told the Petoskey News the measure would offer more protection from such shootings. “If you have pistol free zones they are actually mass murderer empowerment zones,” he said. Similar measures have been passed around the country, advocated by the conservative American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), with the idea being that an armed citizen might be able to take down a shooter. Some public safety officials, however, have pointed out that more guns can complicate the situation for law enforcement. When both are armed, it’s hard to tell the murderers from the do-gooders.

There’s more of course. One measure would require voters to declare their citizenship before they can cast a ballot. Another makes recalling elected officials more difficult by shortening the number of days during which signatures could be collected from 90 to 60.

The bills now go to Republican Governor Rick Snyder. Earlier this year, Snyder made headlines when he vetoed a voter-ID bill, bucking his party because, in his own words, “the right to vote is precious.” But there’s little indication he’ll be pushing back against fellow Republicans this time around. He already signed right-to-work legislation into law last Tuesday, which he previously didn’t support. The new law strikes a blow to unions in a state where they once commanded tremendous power, and now puts Michigan in the same category with states in the South and plains, where workers have had considerably less power.

It used to be that parties in each state had unique identities and different policy priorities. Republican parties in Midwestern manufacturing states looked different than those in the rural (and often more conservative) parts of the country. Now, as deep red states like Texas and Oklahoma start their legislative sessions in January, it seems, they can get some bill ideas from Michigan.

 

By: Abby Rapoport, The American Prospect, December 17, 2012

 

 

December 18, 2012 Posted by | Politics | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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