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“An Empty Ritual”: Republicans Ignore Science And The Supreme Court In New Anti-Abortion Bill

Republicans have once again rolled their old war horse out of the barn for another run at the Constitution. This time the anti-abortion crowd has decided the viability of a fetus outside the womb should be twenty weeks, defying scientific evidence and the Supreme Court‘s settled judgment in repeated cases. Never mind, once again House Republicans oblige by passing the measure, this time accompanied by sly little sex jokes about masturbating male fetuses.

And then what? And then nothing. Talk about masturbation—this is an empty ritual the old bulls of the GOP have been performing for forty years, ever since Roe v. Wade. Sometimes they have even gotten a law enacted. But the story ends the same way—rejection by the Supreme Court, conservative though it is. This time there won’t be any new law, since Senate Democrats won’t allow it. Yet the juggernaut cranks up for another run.

Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of an anti-abortion political action group, called the House vote “historic.” Activists boast that they are winning big at the state level. Fourteen states so far this year have enacted a storm of newly restrictive laws at the state level, suggesting that the anti-abortion cause is cresting anew.

Actually, no. If you look at those fourteen states—from Alabama to Utah—they are pretty much the same states that have been doing this for decades, mostly under-populated and rural. I did a little “back of the envelope” calculation and determined that the fourteen states represent 15 percent of the US population, 47 million out of 308 million.

Many of the states are also from the Deep South. That region has lots of experience defying Supreme Court decisions—the experience of losing in the long run.


By: William Greider, The Nation, June 19, 2013

June 21, 2013 Posted by | Constitution, GOP | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Looking At A Time Capsule”: The Tea Party’s Sad, Nostalgic Reunion Tour

Remember way back to 2010? When the Black Eyed Peas’ “Boom Boom Pow” was tearing up the charts and a hot new upstart political movement called the Tea Party was striking fear into socialists everywhere? What began on Tax Day in 2009 hit a high-water mark just 18 months later with a massive rally on the National Mall organized by Glenn Beck (which later proved to be the beginning of the end of the Tea Party’s purpose for existing: massive anti-government rallies of colorful, flag-waving patriots). There’s no question the conservative revival in the GOP has remade the party inside Washington, but the Gadsden flags were rolled up and the tricorn hats put away as the outsider movement honed its insider game.

Until today. For one day only, the Capitol has been consumed by what feels a bit like a single-night stand reunion tour for a band that had one good album that mostly gets played for nostalgic reasons today. The event was billed as “the largest demonstration of Tea Party support since 2010,” and while it may have succeeded on that count, it also underscores how much the movement has slipped since that year of its glory.

Taking in the scene on the West Lawn of the Capitol Wednesday feels like looking at a time capsule of early 2010. There are hundreds or possibly thousands of (mostly white, mostly older) people decked in “Don’t Tread on Me” T-shirts, sitting in folding camping chairs and waving yellow flags. Classic Tea Party signs like “hands off my healthcare” are joined by newcomers like “Waterboard the IRS” and “We Want Truth Benghazi.”

In two separate rallies on either side of the Capitol, one focusing on immigration reform and the other on the IRS, the whole gang got back together. There was Michele Bachmann and Steve King and Louie Gohmert and all the lesser Tea Party lawmakers, radio hosts, activists and hangers-on who became fixtures of the big rallies in the Tea Party’s glory days.

“The two rallies are bigger than the sum of their parts, however. They mark the return of Tea Party activists to the national political stage,” Breitbart’s Mike Flynn promised. “When the Tea Party started in 2009, the idea of government growing out of control was a theory. Today, it is a fact.”

But the main event was Glenn Beck, who helped organize the anti-IRS rally. As skilled an orator as ever, the former Fox News host delivered a sprawling and classically Beckian 35-minute barn-burner that incorporated, among other things, Frederick Douglass, geotagging, the Arab Spring, an allegory about slavery and elephants, Woodstock, Hollywood, “the hippie culture,” MLK, Gandhi, the Bible, Las Vegas, the liberal media, Foxconn, “homosexuals who are being stoned to death in Egypt,” Jews, Jesus, sex trafficking, border security, government spying, and the proclamation: “We are not racist.”

The trust of Beck’s speech was that the people standing before him were engaged in an epic holy war against the people inside the Capitol building behind him, who are trying to “enslave mankind.” “We have chosen sides, and we chose God’s,” Beck said to rapturous applause. “Those who wish to use unrighteous dominion over mankind are not enemies of ours, they are enemies of His. And I have a sneaking suspicion he’s not going to be silent much longer either.”

“The mainstream media will mock me,” Beck said, but we can trace this fight “all the way back to Moses,” via Abraham Lincoln, Gandhi and Martin Luther King. “I am a man and I demand to be treated as such,” he added.

Beck updated his fare for the current times, weaving in references to fears about the surveillance state — “information and data gathering … is evil, it is un-American, it is wrong” — but the message still felt of a 2010 vintage, aspiring for a new conservative dawn that seemed so much within reach a few years ago, only to slip back over the horizon by the end of 2012.

And like a reunion concert, the rally showed all the fraying edges of passing time and spoiled potential, underscoring how the Tea Party has become a shadow of what it was in its more hopeful youth. Some people couldn’t be with us today. Allen West, Joe Walsh, Jim DeMint are all gone from Congress. Bachmann, the Tea Party Caucus chairwoman herself, is retiring. Beck is off of Fox News and is today more of a sideshow than the guy who once struck so much fear into the heart of the Obama White House that they wouldn’t even let a falsely accused USDA employee finish driving home before firing her, for fear of ending up on his blackboard.

Still, there are green shoots for the movement. Sarah Palin is back on Fox. The Obama “scandals” have incited the conservative base. But 2013 feels very different from 2010.


By: Alex Seitz-Wald, Salon, June 20, 2013

June 21, 2013 Posted by | Right Wing, Tea Party | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Making Us Less Safe”: Stand Your Ground Laws A Shaky Basis For Justice

The Trayvon Martin murder case will boil down to one claim known by mothers everywhere.

“He started it!”

Every parent with more than one child has heard that cry. When their little one points his or her finger accusingly at a sibling, claiming to have been provoked into the tussle or name-calling, a wise parent responds with, “Well, why did you react?”

George Zimmerman will be asked if he instigated the altercation that led to him shooting to death the unarmed Trayvon, for which Zimmerman now faces the charge of second-degree murder.

The basis of Zimmerman’s defense is that, fearing for his life, he believed he was justified to shoot and kill.

The jury, being chosen now, will decide.

Zimmerman waived his right for a hearing to exculpate himself under Florida’s Stand Your Ground law, although his lawyer has suggested that he may attempt to invoke the law if he is found guilty in his impending trial.

These laws need to be better understood for their implications for a civil society. Since Florida became the first state to pass the so-called Stand Your Ground law in 2005, about 30 other states have followed suit with some form of these laws.

Most states have the Castle Doctrine, which allows people to use deadly force, without the expectation to retreat, when threatened in their own home.

What the Stand Your Ground laws do is broaden the right to kill without retreating, even when it is possible, to other places, such as a workplace or a car.

Prior to the spread of these new laws, people were expected to back down, to retreat, if possible. Shoot First, Stand Your Ground, Make My Day laws can make it legal to refuse to walk away.

More research is needed into the effects of these laws. However, the evidence available now should trouble anyone who thinks laws should make society safer, rather than promoting violence.

One point is made repeatedly by David Hemenway, director of the Harvard Injury Control Research Center: “Firearms are used far more often to frighten and intimidate than they are used in self-defense.”

People are confused about what constitutes self-defense. What many people term self-defense is really just the last act in an argument gone out of control, a situation that escalates until one or both parties reach for a gun.

In one study, verbatim accounts of people who claimed self-defense were sent to criminal court judges for review. The majority of time, the judges felt the shootings, as described by the shooter, were not legal uses of self defense. Most often, the cases were simply arguments that ended violently when one person used a gun. Many were avoidable.

The Harvard Center has ripped apart other studies that overestimate the number of instances in which people have justifiably used a gun in self-defense. Given a chance to paint themselves a victim/hero, shooters often do, no matter what the facts of their cases were. So when researches try to estimate what proportion of shootings are cases of self-defense, it’s problematic to say the least to base their figures on the shooters’ self-reported motives.

Hemenway has also noted that in interviews, about half of convicted felons who used a gun in their crimes claim they did so in self-defense.

Many of these instances probably aren’t all that different from the type of the knuckleheaded justifications for murder that we regularly hear on the evening news: the endless stories of one teenager claiming someone “disrespected” them with a sneer, an ugly comment. So they just had to shoot the person dead.

People readily recognize the ludicrous nature of the claim that violence was necessary, that someone “had it coming to them.” Yet Stand Your Ground laws by definition turn this lack of self-control and inability to manage disagreement into a legal right to use lethal force. It’s sanctioned murder.

Depending on how one of these laws is crafted, it can even take away the ability of police to file charges, and prosecutors can face higher burdens of proof.

The question that needs to be answered is if the proliferation of Stand Your Ground laws are influencing public behavior to the point of making us less safe.

If he were alive to answer, it would be good to get Trayvon Martin’s opinion.


By: Mary Sanchez, The National Memo, June 17, 2013

June 21, 2013 Posted by | Gun Violence | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“He’s Still An Idiot”: Will Rick “Oops” Perry Do It Again?

As soon as Rick Perry uttered his infamous “oops” during the Republican presidential primary, most Americans likely figured the Texas governor’s political career would soon fade to black. Even before he forgot which federal departments he wanted to axe, Perry’s performance had been less than inspiring, and the aftermath only made things worse, culminating with an overtly homophobic ad complaining that “there’s something wrong in this country when gays can serve openly in the military, but our kids can’t openly celebrate Christmas or pray in school.” I’m guessing once Perry finally suspended his campaign, those outside Texas imagined he’d return to Austin and quietly wait out the rest of his gubernatorial term.

But his latest decisions—including a string of more than two dozen vetoes—seems to only further confirm what most Texas insiders have been saying for months: Perry is paving the way for a second act and a second bid for the White House. And he’s not moving toward the center.

The series of votoes has placed him clearly on the right and in a position to play to a national audience. Republicans dominate the Texas Legislature, and any bill that passes through it by definition has significant Republican support. Among other things, Perry chose to kill a measure meant to stop wage discrimination against women and a bill to require transparency for dark-money groups—both issues Tea Party Republicans at the national level have opposed. (Significantly for state governance, he also vetoed measures to allow the legislature some oversight of the University of Texas Board of Regents, which has been at war with the school’s president, Bill Powers.) Perry also took out his veto pen for smaller line items, like nixing $1.5 million—pocket change in the budget—that would have funded the University of Texas’s Mexican-American Studies Center. In doing so, he could both take a small swipe at the university and also offer a nod to those in his party not so pleased by studies of Mexican history or culture.

Meanwhile, Perry is also burnishing his conservative credentials in other ways. During the regular legislative session, his presence loomed darkly over Medicaid expansion, preventing more moderate Republicans from considering measures that would increase healthcare coverage for low-income residents—one-in-four Texans are uninsured. He brought the legislature back for a special session to task them with passing redistricting maps—hoping to keep a couple Congressional seats in Republicans hands, which could win him some favors in Washington. He added to the agenda a charge to pass an abortion ban for all pregnancies over 20 weeks, which would make Texas among the most restrictive states in the country. Just to keep things interesting he also added a measure to prevent groping from Transportation Security Administration officials at airports—a major focus for Tea Party folks and followers of conspiracy-theorist Alex Jones. All of it puts Perry on the far right, socially and politically.

Economically, Perry’s making his case by going to enemy territory—liberal states on both coasts—and urging companies, in particular gun manufacturers, to relocate to Texas. He ran television ads in California and Illinois noting why businesses would be better off in Texas, and just yesterday prompted a confrontation with Connecticut’s Governor Dannel Malloy when he started urging gun makers in Connecticut to relocate, after lawmakers passed gun control measures in the aftermath of the Newtown shooting. Perry’s interest in business has always been a big part of his political platform, as he often reels off the companies that move to Texas for its super-business-friendly climate. (If only consumers in the state got such a good deal.)

Plenty in Austin are speculating as to whether Perry plans to make another bid for governor or simply wait to run for president. At the very least, a presidential bid would give Perry a chance remake his national image and be remembered for something other than “oops.” While it’s hard to think of another politician screwing up quite that badly and then seeing national success, plenty of folks have come back from disappointing runs and recreated themselves. A run for president, and showing the country he’s not an idiot, would help Perry regardless of whether he’s actually got a shot at winning or simply angling for a presidential appointment.  But Perry’s term is up in 2014, and he’s already held the office longer than anyone else. Another bid for governor is risky at best; Attorney General Greg Abbott, who’s made a name for himself suing the Obama Administration, already has $18 million in the bank and a significant staff ready for the 2014 race. Perry, however, currently commands a huge lead over Abbott in polls. Polls aren’t nearly so nice when it comes to his presidential aspirations. Perry garnered a paltry 10 percent measure of support in the latest University of Texas/Texas Tribune poll, while Ted Cruz, the state’s newly elected senator and a Tea Party favorite, got a whopping 25 percent. Perry faces choppy waters either way, but there’s no question he’s gearing up for a run for something.

No matter what he chooses, it’s hard to imagine anything will be worse than his last campaign.


By: Abby Rapoport, The American Prospect, June 18, 2013

June 21, 2013 Posted by | Politics | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Clearly Moving Backwards”: For The GOP And Tea Partiers, It’s Like Deja Vu All Over Again

There was a certain irony to the timing. Yesterday, the House Republican leadership began a new outreach effort to leaders of the Latino community, trying to repair years of damage. And during their discussions, and assurances about the GOP’s sincerity, a far-right rally was underway on the national mall featuring anti-immigrant speeches from one Republican after another.

As Kate Nocera reported, Rep. Steve King’s (R-Iowa) “was prepared to talk about immigration for six hours all by himself if he had to,” but it didn’t come to that.

But King didn’t have to talk by himself. Crowds showed up in droves. One member of Congress after another showed up to give speeches. The Heritage Foundation’s Robert Rector dropped by to talk about his widely criticized study that the Senate’s immigration bill would cost $6 trillion (though there was no criticism from this crowd).

For King the outpouring of support from Tea Party groups and likeminded members of Congress was proof that his efforts to stall, and hopefully kill, the Senate’s immigration bill in the House were working. If party leaders had hoped King would sit this fight out, by day’s end on Wednesday he had made it abundantly clear he wasn’t going anywhere. […]

“This bill is at its core amnesty,” King said to cheers. “We’re here to today … to take this debate outside the halls of Congress. If it’s not going to be good enough inside, we’ll take it outside!”

To help underscore the larger problem, consider the fact that Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.) appeared at the event, spoke briefly in Spanish, and was heckled.

It’s true that immigration wasn’t the only subject discussed yesterday — the legion of far-right lawmakers were also eager to talk about the IRS. Imagine that.

But the point of the gathering was to condemn the bipartisan immigration legislation pending in the Senate: “Protesters wore T-shirts emblazoned with American flags and tea party slogans, and they waved homemade signs that read, ‘John Boehner: no amnesty, get a backbone,’ ‘Boehner: go home,’ ‘exporting illegals = importing jobs for Americans, stop socialism,’ and ‘if we lose rule of law we become Mexico.'”

And for a moment, if you lost track of the calendar, you might even think it was 2010, which isn’t exactly the Republican Party’s goal right now.

Indeed, consider yesterday’s event in the larger context: what have Republicans shown the nation lately? There was a Tea Party rally this week, which followed a big fight over an anti-abortion bill that can’t pass. In the states, we see a focus on culture-war issues, including state-mandated, medically-unnecessary ultrasounds. On Capitol Hill, most Republican lawmakers are running around talking about “amnesty” and “illegals,” which is every bit as insulting as their rhetoric about women.

Yesterday, we even heard talk about “takers,” as if the “47 percent” video never happened.

And on the horizon, many in the GOP are already planning another debt-ceiling crisis.

I argued a week ago that the Republican Party’s “rebranding” effort had gone off the rails, but in retrospect, I probably understated matters. Party leaders hoped to apply some lessons from 2012 and move the party forward, but half-way through 2013, it’s clear Republicans are moving backwards.


By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, June 20, 2013

June 21, 2013 Posted by | GOP, Tea Party | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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