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“Tone Deaf And Arrogant”: This Season’s Paul Ryan, Eric Cantor Takes On The Violence Against Women’s Act

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor is a powerful player on Capitol Hill who has pretty much flown under the radar with the general public. But I predict that won’t be true much longer. Now that Cantor is taking the lead on blocking reauthorization of an inclusive version of the Violence Against Women Act in the House, more and more women are asking just who is this representative from Virginia’s 7th district, with his regressive brand of politics?

Cantor has a 12-year history in Congress of voting to restrict women’s access to abortion, deny marriage rights to same-sex couples and block efforts to address workplace discrimination. He’s opposed to affirmative action, embryonic stem cell research and expanding hate crimes law to cover sexual orientation, gender, gender identity and disability. He even voted against the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act.

These anti-woman measures are bad enough. But the worst has been Cantor’s implacable hatred of the Violence Against Women Act, an antipathy so fierce that he not only took the lead in blocking it during the 112th Congress, but has now stepped forward to derail it once again. His reasoning? Near as I can tell, he just doesn’t want some victims to get help.

On Feb. 12, the Senate passed an inclusive version of VAWA reauthorization, S. 47, by an overwhelming bipartisan vote of 78-22. The Senate’s bill would offer new protections to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender victims, who report being unable to access services at astonishingly high rates. It would address college and university-based sexual violence, dating violence and stalking by requiring campuses to be transparent about their assault rates, prevention programs and assistance for victims. It would also recognize Native American tribal authorities’ jurisdiction over rapes committed by non-tribal members on reservations.

I was heartened by the huge margin of victory in the Senate. It indicates that Senate Republicans understand they need to regain credibility with women voters — specifically on the issue of rape — and supporting a reauthorization of VAWA that protects all sexual assault victims would be a step in the right direction. Some House Republicans understand this too; 19 of them sent a letter to the House Republican leadership urging them to pass a bipartisan bill that “reaches all victims.” In fact, we know we have the votes in the House to pass the Senate’s inclusive VAWA, if the leadership will just allow it to happen without playing political games.

Unfortunately, Eric Cantor is either too tone-deaf or too arrogant to do the right thing. Rather than moving swiftly to pass the Senate VAWA bill, Cantor has produced a “substitute amendment” that eliminates protections contained in the Senate bill, and even scales back current law, while also undermining the Office on Violence Against Women. Among its many flaws, this substitute drops LGBT protections; permits non-Native suspects to circumvent tribal authorities, leaving Native American women with inadequate protection from their abusers; and allows college and university administrations to shirk their duty to keep students safe from sexual assault.

To boot, in keeping with the Republicans’ 2013 stealth strategy as telegraphed by Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (i.e., stick with the extremist anti-woman agenda but don’t be so obvious about it), Cantor has put his own stealth moves on VAWA: His bill is deceptively numbered S. 47 (because it’s a substitute amendment of the Senate bill), and it was put forward by a woman, House Republican Conference Co-Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.). I’d say that’s too clever by half. Women voters are not so easily fooled, and will likely be offended by the clumsy attempt at subterfuge.

Eric Cantor is like this season’s Paul Ryan: an influential conservative with bad ideas who has thus far escaped public scrutiny. This time around we don’t have a Mitt Romney to help raise Cantor’s profile, but that’s okay. The majority leader’s attempt to derail a hugely popular bipartisan VAWA — and his willingness to write off the more than 1,400 local, state and national organizations that have expressed support for the Senate bill — will ensure that he will have to answer to the voters for his actions, probably sooner rather than later. Let me be the first to say it couldn’t happen to a nicer guy.


By: Terry O’Neill, The Blog, The Huffington Post, February 26, 2013

February 27, 2013 Posted by | War On Women, Women | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Pushing False Equivalencies”: The Consequences Of Misguided Assumptions

I’m beginning to think an infectious disease is spreading in the nation’s capital. Symptoms include memory loss (forgetting everything Republicans have done in recent years), blurred vision (an inability to see obvious GOP ploys), and an uncontrollable urge to blame “both sides” for everything, even when it doesn’t make any sense.

The disease has already affected pundits like Bob Woodward, Ron Fournier, David Brooks, nearly everyone on the network Sunday shows, and today reaches the editorial board of the Washington Post. Indeed, the Post‘s editors seem to have come down with an especially acute case today, as evidenced this bang-your-head-against-your-desk editorial on the sequester, which cavalierly ignores the paper’s own reporting, and demands that President Obama “lead” by somehow getting congressional Republicans to be more responsible.

You can almost feel James Fallows’ frustration.

In short the facts before us are: an Administration that has gone some distance toward “the center”; a Republican opposition many of whose members still hold the absolutist position that taxes cannot go up at all; a hidden-from-no-one opposition strategy that embraces crises, shutdowns, and sequesters rather than wanting to avert them. […]

That’s the landscape. And what is the Post’s editorial conclusion? You guessed it! The President is to blame, for not “leading” the way to a compromise.

The infectious disease — I’ll assume Fallows was inoculated and therefore immune to its effects — is leading to some kind of bizarre madness in Washington, which is getting worse. It doesn’t matter that President Obama is ready to compromise; it doesn’t matter that Republicans refuse to compromise; and it doesn’t matter that the deficit is already shrinking and that both sides have already approved $2.5 trillion in debt reduction.

What matters, victims of this disease keep telling the rest of us, is that President Obama is obligated to “lead.” Lead where? They don’t know. Lead to what? They don’t know that, either. What would leadership look like, exactly? Apparently, Obama is supposed to use Jedi mind tricks that will make people in the other party — the party that has nothing but contempt and disgust for his presidency — do what he wants them to do.

And if the president doesn’t do this, Obama is, by definition, responsible for Republicans’ opposition to a bipartisan agreement.

This is more than crazy. The media establishment’s incompetence is having a direct role in contributing to a broken and unconstructive process.

Greg Sargent gets this exactly right:

The argument now is basically that the president is the father who must make his problem children behave. Only this is worse than just a dodge. Lots and lots of people are going to get hurt by the sequester. Anyone who helps deflect blame from Republicans — in the full knowledge that they are the primary obstacle to the compromise we need to prevent serious damage from being done to the country — is unwittingly helping to enable their intransigence.

This will no doubt give headaches to those who’ve already contracted the infectious disease, but Greg is right — by blaming Obama for Republicans’ intransigence, the D.C. establishment is encouraging the gridlock they claim to find offensive.

As Jamison Foser recently asked, “When Party A is intransigent but Party B gets blamed for it, what is the likely effect on Party A’s intransigence?” Or as Michael Grunwald added today, “If you were a GOP leader, and every time you were intransigent the Beltway blamed Obama’s failure to lead, would you be less intransigent?”

Pundits obsessed with pushing false equivalencies and needlessly blaming “both sides” are convinced they’re part of the solution. They’re actually part of the problem.

Let’s not forget this thesis from Thomas Mann and Norm Ornstein — who’ve helped offer a cure to this infectious disease — published nearly a year ago, long before the current mess.

We understand the values of mainstream journalists, including the effort to report both sides of a story. But a balanced treatment of an unbalanced phenomenon distorts reality. If the political dynamics of Washington are unlikely to change anytime soon, at least we should change the way that reality is portrayed to the public.

Our advice to the press: Don’t seek professional safety through the even-handed, unfiltered presentation of opposing views. Which politician is telling the truth? Who is taking hostages, at what risks and to what ends?

The first step towards recovery from the disease has nothing to do with party or ideology; it has to do with reality and Civics 101. The media establishment is, as a consequence of this disease, forced to shout “Lead!” uncontrollably, they can at least direct it to those in a position of authority in the party that refuses to compromise, refuses to consider concessions, and refuses to consider governing outside a series of extortion strategies.


By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, February 26, 2013

February 27, 2013 Posted by | Journalists, Media | , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

“Muting Women”: Like A Sailboat On A Lake With No Wind, The Status Of Women Is Stuck In A Lull

What a surprise. Men are drowning out women in the public conversation, a new report from the Women’s Media Center tells us.

Actually, it is a surprise to learn just how bad it is, as if there never was a women’s movement launched by Betty Friedan’s classic, The Feminine Mystique, 50 years ago, which decried the quiet desperation of domestic suburbia.

Fifty years ago is long enough for a cultural forgetfulness to fall over us and long enough for a hostile camp of enemies to make their living mocking women’s empowerment—and yes, I mean you, Rush Limbaugh, most of all. You are the self-appointed keeper of the patriarchy’s keys. The medieval archbishops of the Catholic Church are vigilant in the war on women. The mean-spirited men of the Supreme Court can be counted on, too, ready to usurp our human rights if the “right” opportunity presents itself. Meanwhile, Michelle Obama has new bangs.

In other words, ladies, things are not getting better for us in the 21st century. The recession has been rough on everyone, but especially for our place in the workplace world. As a journalist, let me share some numbers that show you how the conversational monopoly works. In the 2012 presidential campaign, male bylines outnumbered female bylines by nearly three to one, according to he Women’s Media Center. Newspaper decision-makers are usually male in these tight times, as are the subjects of most front-page stories, even obituaries. Then the echo chamber takes effect, because men are far more likely to be quoted than their female colleagues in public discussions—especially on politics.

The Sunday talk shows, the power listening posts of the Washington establishment, predominantly invite men as their guests. But here’s the thing: only 14 percent of the interviewed guests and 29 percent of the roundtable guests are women, according to the report. The hosts conducting the dialogue are predominantly male. Avuncular, authoritative Bob Schieffer of Face the Nation is by far the best of ’em.

Women protested this state of affairs at the ballot box last fall. Twenty women senators are now serving, more than ever before. Is this a critical mass that will change the conversation, or the conversationalists? Let’s see.

I remember being in a panel cable interview after the State of the Union with two good guys—Howard Fineman and Steve Roberts. I had something sparkling to say but even I was drowned out by these older silver-tongued pros, who later apologized for being “the two biggest airhogs in Washington.” It’s a salty slice of memory. Men are just used to talking over women, just as boys talk over girls, like breathing. It happens all the time in Washington. What made Hillary Clinton’s verbal victory over her attacking jousters in her valedictory Senate hearing so extraordinary was because it was, well, extraordinary in this talkative town. She lifted morale all over for Washington women.

To our rescue comes Sheryl Sandberg of Facebook, who is lighting a match to start a “Lean In” movement. More on that another day as it gets underway. Consider the Oscars: Daniel Day-Lewis was honored for playing the greatest president and humanitarian in our history while Jennifer Lawrence won for playing a wifely female stereotype. As I listened to two male critics from the New York Times website comment on every single Academy scene in the show, it felt relentlessly normal. We are such good listeners.

The status of women is stuck in a lull, like a sailboat on a lake with no wind. And we are the ones who have to start speaking our views and telling our stories—to borrow from radical abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison—so that we will be heard.


By: Jamie Stiehm, U. S. News and World Report, February 25, 2013

February 27, 2013 Posted by | Women, Womens Rights | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“A Shrinking Minority”: Gun Lobby Defends Not The Constitution, But A Cynical Business Model

There’s a little known fact about guns in America, and it’s one that the firearms industry and its political allies don’t like to dwell on: The rate of gun ownership in America is declining.

This has been the case for decades. Rates peaked way back in the 1970s, the era of disco balls and bell bottoms. In 1977, 54 percent of American households reported owning guns. In 2010, the last time the General Social Survey data was compiled, the percentage had shrunk to 32.

The Violence Policy Center follows such data, as analyzed by the National Opinion Research Center. The center’s last report was “A Shrinking Minority: The Continuing Decline of Gun Ownership in America.”

The trend is expected to continue. It seems counter-intuitive, given all the recent headlines about people lining up at gun stores and given the stranglehold the gun lobby has on American politics. It raises all sorts of questions. Who owns guns, who doesn’t, and why? For the nation to handle its problems with gun violence effectively, we need to grasp the nitty-gritty realities of gun ownership.

First of all, whatever upticks have been observed in the purchases of guns and ammunition seems to reflect stockpiling by those who were already gun owners. Gun manufacturing increased dramatically between 2007 and 2011, from 3.7 million weapons to 6.1 million being produced. You have to wonder if owning guns, for those who still do, is a bit like buying cell phones. Once you’re hooked, only the newest killer version will do, prompting more frequent purchases.

Meanwhile, the declining overall trend in ownership rates is largely explained by the changing demographic composition of America.

Older white men, many of whom grew up with hunting as a part of their lifestyle, are in decline relative to other demographic groups. Younger people are more likely to play soccer than sit in a duck blind or deer stand.

More and more households are headed by single women, and they are far less likely to have guns than families with a father in the household. So the swelling ranks of single mothers, a topic of much hand-wringing in other regards, may actually help to reduce suicides and accidental gunshot injuries.

But what about all of those news stories of women flocking to shooting ranges, eagerly buying up pink-handled pistols and bedazzled accessories to hold extra clips? The rate of gun ownership among women peaked back in 1982 at about 14 percent. It fluctuates more for women than for other categories of people, but it was just under 10 percent in 2010.

What those news stories about female gun fascination reveal is not so much reality as a gun industry fairytale. It’s marketing. Gun manufacturers, the National Rifle Association, hunting organizations and shooting ranges want to drum up interest in guns that has been slipping away for decades.

It’s of a piece with the events known as “zombie shoots,” staged target practice encounters designed to lure in younger people who aren’t being taken hunting by their parents.

A declining proportion of the American public is getting involved in gun culture — that is, the gun industry’s customer base is not growing — and yet business is booming. This should lead us to an alarming conclusion. The marketing of more lethal forms of weaponry and ammunition is how the gun industry has decided to shore up profits. The fierce resistance to bans on assault weapons and large ammo clips, as well as to background checks and any other hurdle put in the way of those who want to arm themselves, is not about defending the Second Amendment. It is about defending a business model — a sick, cynical business model.

If this weren’t the case, the gun industry would be engaging with the general public in a more benign and constructive manner, committing itself to protecting us from the harm its products inflict. Instead, Americans have become fed up with its paranoia and its rank influence peddling. It has lost its credibility.

This much is clear. Gun ownership’s place in American culture is withering on its own. Industry and political efforts to resuscitate it need to be understood and, when appropriate, challenged in that context.


By: Mary Sanchez, The National Memo, February 26, 2013

February 27, 2013 Posted by | Gun Violence, Guns | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“GOP Reversion To Form”: When Did “Tax Reform” Become A Tax Hike?

One of the issues baffling non-conservatives in assessing the latest stage of the fiscal conflict in Washington is that Republicans are treating Democratic demands for loophole-closing on the wealthy exactly like it’s a tax rate increase. That’s odd, since it’s Republicans who have continuously injected loophole-closing–or as they usually call it, “tax reform”–into the debate. For years they’ve discussed it as a possible way to finance a revenue-neutral tax rate cut. Paul Ryan made it (or at least a very vague version of it) central to the math and marketing of his various budget proposals. During most of the 2012 campaign, Mitt Romney touted “tax reform” in the more traditional way, as a magic asterisk that would both limit revenue losses from the tax rate cuts he was proposing, and would also (even less plausibly) prevent his overall plan from changing the distribution of the tax burden. After the election, “tax reform” became part of the package Republicans supported as a “fiscal cliff” measure to maintain all the Bush tax rate cuts.

But Republicans have always been reluctant to talk about tax reform if it’s used for any purpose other than reducing tax rates or avoiding higher tax rates, even though conservative economists tend to support loophole-closing as an efficiency measure worth taking in isolation from rate changes.

So once the battle over tax rates ended (temporarily) with the so-called “fiscal cliff” agreement, Republicans quickly declared not just tax rates but any additional revenues as off-limits in future agreements. So even though you’d think they’d be at least as open to a tax-reform-for-entitlement-reform deal as they were for a tax-rates-for-entitlement-reform deal last year, that has not been the case. It’s tax rates that continue to drive GOP tax policies, even in the absence of any real chance that they will soon be raised or lowered.

Here’s how Jonathan Chait explains what he calls this “reversion to form:”

The answer to this piece of the mystery is clear enough: Republicans in Congress never actually wanted to raise revenue by tax reform. The temporary support for tax reform was just a hand-wavy way of deflecting Obama’s popular campaign plan to expire the Bush tax cuts for the rich. Conservative economists in academia may care about the distinction between marginal tax rates and effective tax rates. But Republicans in Congress just want rich people to pay less, period. I can state this rule confidently because there is literally not a single example since 1990 of any meaningful bloc of Republicans defying it.

What has aided the easy reversion to form, with low taxes for the rich dominating all other considerations, is the pent-up rage and betrayal John Boehner has engendered among his most conservative members. Almost nothing Boehner has done since taking over as speaker has endeared him to his ultras. Every subsequent compromise creates more embitterment, and the last few moves have provoked simmering rage.

Conservatives had to swallow a tax hike, and then swallow an increase in the debt ceiling. Boehner has, incredibly, had to promise his members that he will not enter private negotiations with Obama.

The pressure for confrontation as a method has built up to the point where seemingly no deal Boehner could reach would leave him safe.

So Republicans aren’t open to the tax reforms they’ve supported in the past, or to entitlement reforms they’ve been demanding for years (though this particular issue is complicated by the fact that they only want “entitlement reforms” if they significantly reduce actual benefits; anything else can’t possibly be a “reform”). They have truly painted themselves into a corner this time, and that’s why we are going to have a sequester followed quite possibly by a government shutdown if Democrats resist making the domestic spending part of the sequester permanent.


By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Washington Monthly Political Animal. February 26, 2013

February 27, 2013 Posted by | Sequester, Tax Reform | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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