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“Old Testament Heretics”: Priebus And Republicans Will Continue To Base Social Policies On The Wishes Of The Religious Right

Republican National Chairman Reince Priebus sat down with USA Today around the same time marriage equality was being discussed at the U.S. Supreme Court, and the paper reported that the GOP’s “absolute opposition to same-sex marriage” is unchanged, though Priebus intends to “welcome” those who disagree.

“We do have a platform, and we adhere to that platform,” Priebus said in an interview Monday on USA TODAY’s Capital Download video series. “But it doesn’t mean that we divide and subtract people from our party” who support the right of gay men and lesbians to marry.

“I don’t believe we need to act like Old Testament heretics,” he said, saying Republicans “have to strike a balance between principle and grace and respect.”

I’m not sure Priebus is using “heretic” correctly. Was he trying to say Republicans don’t have to act like Old Testament absolutists? Purists? Literalists?

In any case, I find the RNC chairman’s larger point fascinating. On the one hand, Priebus is saying that Republicans will continue to demand that millions of Americans be denied equal marriage rights and be treated like second-class citizens. On the other, Priebus is also saying Americans who disagree should vote Republican anyway. Why? Because his party will treat LGBT Americans with “respect” while treating them like second-class citizens.

Republicans, in other words, will continue to base their social policies on the wishes of the religious right movement, but Priebus would prefer that voters not think of them that way — as if parties have a choice in dictating how they’re perceived by the public.

As for the bigger picture, the political winds are clearly shifting in a progressive direction when it comes to marriage rights, but at the Republican National Committee, the only apparent change is in tone.


By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, March 27, 2013

March 28, 2013 Posted by | GOP, Republican National Committee | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Next Year’s SCOTUS Sensation?”: Irresponsible And Blatantly Unconstitutional Abortion Restrictions

As commentators begin to run out of words to speculate about the murky maneuverings of the Supreme Court on same-sex marriage issues as reflected in oral arguments, it’s occurring to some to compare and contrast the trajectories of law and public opinion on gay marriage and that other hardy perennial of the Culture Wars, abortion.

At Wonkblog, Sarah Kliff sums up the anomaly:

Tuesday marked for a watershed day for gay rights activists as the Supreme Court heard oral arguments on a case with the potential to legalize same-sex marriage across the country.

Across the country and 1,500 miles west of Washington, an equally notable event took place: North Dakota enacted the country’s most restrictive abortion law, barring all procedures after six weeks.

For decades, support (or opposition) for gay marriage and abortion went hand in hand. They were the line-in-the-sand “values” issues that sharply divided the political parties.

Not anymore. ”As recently as 2004, we talked about abortion and same sex marriage in the same breath,” says Daniel Cox, research director at the Public Religion Research Institute. “They were the values issues. Now, it doesn’t make sense to lump them together anymore. We’ve seen a decoupling.”

Actually, I beg to differ in part: abortion policy is, more than ever, a reliable and quasi-universal item that divides the two major political parties.

What’s different is that there’s no clear generational trend on abortion that makes the conservative and Republican position doomed, as Kliff notes:

Younger Americans have become increasingly supportive of gay marriage in a way that hasn’t necessarily happened for abortion rights. Young Americans’ views on same-sex unions look nothing like previous generations. But when it comes to abortion rights, Millennials look a lot more lilke their parents.

Millennials, PRRI has found, have similar views to the general population on the morality and legality of abortion. Fifty-two percent of the general public thinks abortion is “morally wrong.” Among Millennials, that number stands at 50 percent. Fifty-six percent of all Americans think abortion ought to be legal, compared to 60 percent of the younger crowd.

In terms of state activity, the irony is that a development adverse to the anti-choicers–President Obama’s re-election–is partially responsible for the wild competition Republican legislators around the country have been undertaking to enact the most irresponsible and–under existing precedents–blatantly unconstitutional abortion restrictions. Now that they’ve been denied a Romney presidency where Supreme Court appointments would be carried out under a strict anti-choice litmus test, abortion-rights foes have clearly decided to initiate a challenge that will test the commitment to Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey of the existing Court–and particularly its erratic “swing vote,” Justice Kennedy, who opened the door to new abortion restrictions in his bizarre opinion in a 2007 decision upholding a federal ban on so-called “partial-birth-abortion.”

When North Dakota’s Gov. Jack Dalrymple signed that batch of radical bills on abortion yesterday, he might as well have been holding up a big sign reading: “Hey, Anthony Kennedy! These bills are for you!” So I wouldn’t be surprised if abortion is the big issue in oral arguments before the Supremes next year or the year after that.


By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Washington Monthly Political Animal, March 27, 2013

March 28, 2013 Posted by | Abortion | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Ineffable Arrogance”: The Christian Right Climbs Up On The Cross

What with all the adverse trends (even to a small extent among its own bought-and-paid-for Republican Party) on public opinion about same-sex marriage, it’s not surprising that the recent habit of Christian Right stalwarts to proclaim themselves persecuted has intensified. As is often the case, CBN’s David Brody speaks for his tribe:

In the media’s narrative, you would think that homosexuals are the poor souls who have been banished by society like ugly stepchildren and are now rising to overcome incredible odds.

But what about today? Let’s be honest: If you are a conservative evangelical who believes in the biblical definition of traditional marriage then guess what? You are one of the following: An outcast, a bigot, narrow-minded, a “hater” or all of the above. It’s a different type of ridicule but it’s still ridicule.

Before I say “cry me a river,” I’ll acknowledge that Brody does make the rather important point that such alleged victims of persecution as Tim Tebow and Dan Cathy don’t exactly stand out in the history of Christian martyrdom, a tradition that calls for a bit less whining and a bit more fortitude than we usually hear from such quarters. And he does condemn Christian Conservative gay-baiting and hatred, though it has often emanated from leaders, secular and political, he seems to consider part of The Team. If he’d go on to note that “ridicule” is the least of the disabilities GLBT folk have had to put up with, I’d be inclined to cut Brody some slack in begging for “tolerance.”

What I’d really prefer to a stiff upper lip, however, is even a vague glimmer of humility from conservative evangelicals like Brody on this subject. He thinks it’s obvious any “Bible-believing evangelical” has to take a stand against marriage equality. I think there’s significant evidence that a lot of conservative evangelical folk consistently confuse the Bible with the patriarchal culture they grew up with, and/or use the Bible to justify utterly secular political positions that have little or nothing to do with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Maybe I’m wrong and maybe Brody’s right, but then I’m not the one pretending to have a monopoly on truth. Christians who do should not only expect some pushback from those they would cast into the outer darkness, but yes, some ridicule and scorn for their ineffable arrogance and the use of the Lord’s name in vain. I would recommend reflection on this possibility two days before the commemoration of the true Cross, just as I intend to reflect on my responsibility to feel a stronger sense of Christian fellowship with David Brody.


By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Editor, Washington Monthly Political Animal, March 27, 2013

March 28, 2013 Posted by | Civil Rights | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Stoking The Fears”: With Gun Nuts Hoarding Bullets, Will Cops Be Disarmed?

Dayne Pryor is the chief of police in Rollingwood, Texas, a small suburb of Austin. “I’ve been in law enforcement for 31 years and I’ve been a chief for eight years,” he sighs. “And it’s just one of those things that I never thought I’d have a problem with, especially being in Texas.”

Pryor’s problem, he explains to Salon, is that he’s having trouble finding ammunition and firearms for his officers, thanks to a national shortage. The cause? A run on supply from gun lovers afraid that Congress or state legislatures will impose new gun control laws in the wake of the Sandy Hook shooting.

“Everyone is thinking, they’re going to stop manufacturing, or they’re going to be taxing and all this, so it’s just this mentality of, let’s all buy up everything now just in case. And it hurts us,” Pryor said. “This is ridiculous. This shouldn’t be happening to law enforcement.”

But he’s hardly alone. Rommel Dionisio, a New York-based firearms industry analyst at Wedbush Inc., confirms the trend is a national phenomenon. “Most certainly, ammunition is in very tight supply in addition to firearms,” thanks to “consumer fears of possible bans,” he told Salon in an email.

It’s a problem that’s backed up by local news reports across the country, in which police chiefs issue similar warnings, mostly in smaller communities where departments don’t have the multiyear buying contracts and heavy financial resources of big city law enforcement agencies.

In Marinette, Wis., police chief John Mabry told the Eagle Herald, “Ammo is expensive and a lot tougher to get. People don’t have it in stock and it’s backordered.” In Jenks, Okla., chief Cameron Arthur told KRJH that “most police departments are having a very difficult time even getting the necessary ammunition.” In Sandy Springs, Ga., police chief Terry Sult told WSB-TV his armory selves are mostly empty: “When you can’t get ammunition, it is very concerning.”

In Bozeman, Mont., Sgt. Jason LaCross told KTVM, “Nobody can get us ammunition at this point.” In Tennessee, the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Department told WDEF that the shortage is affecting their training.

Nima Samadi, a senior analyst at IBISWorld Market Research who tracks the guns and ammunition markets, says some ammunition manufacturers are running their supply lines almost 24 hours a day and having employees work overtime, but still can’t keep up with demand. “So they’re doing really great business,” he told Salon in an interview.

Indeed, business is booming for the firearms industry in the wake of Sandy Hook, propelled by trumped-up fears of gun control. And it’s not the first time. There was a huge surge in gun and ammo purchases in late 2008 after the election of Barack Obama. The market did not stabilize until late 2010 or 2011. And observers say the current shortage may be even more severe than the previous one.

The round of “panic buying” in 2008 was mostly constrained to assault rifles and didn’t last very long, Chief Pryor said. “But what happened this year, when it kicked in, it was just across the board, across the country, ammunition shortage, firearms shortage, with no end in sight.”

In 2008, the fears proved entirely unfounded, as Obama did nothing on gun control during his first four years in office. Now, Congress may act, but the stockpiling of guns and ammo is almost equally irrational. No one has seriously proposed bans on any kind of guns aside from assault rifles, and even that proposal was dead upon arrival (and now it’s really dead). And no one in power — Chris Rock doesn’t count — has proposed major restrictions on bullets, making the run on ammunition particularly unfounded.

“This shortage is all perception based,” Samadi says. “It’s all ultimately a reflection of fears over potential gun laws and people ramping up their purchases to stockpile.”

In fact, the “gun control” package emerging in Congress will not even touch a single gun, but deals entirely with the process around guns — background checks, trafficking laws, mental health, etc.

“It only takes one congressman somewhere to suggest that they’re going to, perhaps, restrict online gun sales or something like that, for a whole story line to be created around it to stoke the fires about a potential change in the laws that will probably never happen,” Samadi adds.

And there are plenty of members of Congress making hyperbolic claims about gun control, and a right-wing media eager to heighten and repeat the warnings. Not to mention the NRA, the most powerful voice on guns in the country and the market leader on paranoid gun rhetoric for decades.

But what those rushing to stockpile guns and ammo seem to miss is that their actions have consequences on the people whose job it is to keep us safe. Pro-gun rhetoric often pits armed citizens against the slow response time of police officers. Here, the conflict is brought to life.

Jim Bueermann, the president of the Police Foundation, a Washington-based research nonprofit, tells Salon that departments are being hit with a double whammy by this shortage. During the recession, most reduced their stockpiles and thinned their supply chain to keep costs down, so when the shortage hit, they were left with low inventory and no way to replenish it.

He experienced shortages firsthand when he served as chief of police in Redlands, Calif, and said, “It caused serious problems for us.”

While the bullets cops carry in their weapons as they walk the beat are probably safe, “The primary impact of the shortage is on training — due both to delays in obtaining ammunition and the increase in cost,” explained Darrel Stephens, the executive director of the Major Cities Chiefs Association, in an email to Salon.

Police officers return to the shooting range several times a year to keep up with qualifications, so departments consume a lot of ammunition. This is to keep officers’ skills sharp, but also for liability reasons, the experts said. Now, many are reporting having to cut back on the frequency of these exercises for their officers, and some are even forced to use service ammunition for training.

“Smaller agencies are much more sensitive to these kinds of budgetary constraints,” Bueermann says, “and they’re not going to have the resources to stockpile supplies.”


By: Alex Seitz-Wald, Salon, March 27, 2013

March 28, 2013 Posted by | Gun Control | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Quaking In Their Boots”: Watch Out Wall Street, Sherrod Brown Is Coming

With Sen. Tim Johnson, D-S.D., officially headed for retirement, speculation regarding who will replace him as chairman of the Senate Banking Committee is well underway. And one option reportedly has Wall Street quaking in its boots: Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio.

As the Huffington Post’s Ryan Grim reported, Brown is fourth in line to head the Banking Committee – which oversees most financial regulatory matters for the upper chamber – but the three senators ahead of him all have reasons to take a pass. And if Brown were to become chairman, he would have a powerful new platform from which to continue his efforts to bust up the nation’s biggest banks. “I think everything from too-big-to-fail banks all the way down to issues impacting the unbanked and underbanked would suddenly see a new energy behind them,” one analyst told Politico.

Since the financial crisis of 2008, Brown has been one of the foremost critics of Wall Street’s mega-financial institutions. During the debate over the Dodd-Frank financial reform law, Brown tried unsuccessfully to secure passage of the SAFE Banking Act, which would have capped bank size as a percentage of the economy and reduced the amount of non-deposit liabilities that a firm could hold.

Brown’s plan would have gone much further than anything that ultimately wound up in Dodd-Frank, and would have been far preferable to the Volcker Rule, the unwieldy regulation meant to deter banks from threatening the financial system via risky trading.

Recently, Brown has joined with Sen. David Vitter, R-La., to once again call for breaking up big banks.

“How many more scandals will it take before we acknowledge that we can’t rely on regulators to prevent subprime lending, dangerous derivatives, risky proprietary trading, and even fraud and manipulation?” he asked. “We simply cannot wait any longer for regulators to act. These institutions are too big to manage, they are too big to regulate, and they are surely still too big to fail.”

It is certainly true that the last few years have seen the banking sector commit a slew of misdeeds: rampant foreclosure fraud; fixing of global interest rates; and the so-called “Whale Trade” that cost JP Morgan Chase billions of dollars (and yet still won the firm an award). And the root of the problem is that the largest banks aren’t only too-big-to-fail, they’re too-big-to-jail.

The Justice Department, in fact, explicitly said earlier this month that it is not prosecuting some of the biggest banks for fear of causing them to fail, which would endanger the rest of the financial system. Instead, banks have gotten off with slaps on the wrist and penalties that barely dent their bottom lines.

“Declining to prosecute either the banks themselves or individuals at the banks for financial fraud sends the message that crime pays,” said Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, another Brown ally. Indeed, if a bank is so big that prosecuting it is deemed too risky to the economy, that bank is too big, period!

As Brown joining with Vitter and Grassley shows, a coalition of left and right can be cobbled together when it comes to reining in banks for the good of the financial system. (The Senate even voted 99-0 recently to end federal advantages for too-big-to-fail banks, though the measure is non-binding.) Having Brown at the helm of the Senate Banking Committee certainly wouldn’t hurt that cause, and the economy would be better off for it.


By: Pat Garofalo, U. S. News and World Report, March 27, 2013

March 28, 2013 Posted by | Banks, Wall Street | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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