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“The Conservative Petri Dish”: How Republicans Roll In Georgia

If, as I have often suggested, Kansas and North Carolina are currently operating as sort of right-wing policy “laboratories” thanks to the highly-focused ideological nature of their Republican state legislative majorities, then my own home state of Georgia might be viewed as sort of a petri dish, where wingnuts don’t necessarily wield great power but do exert an immoderating influence on the GOP.

This is most obvious in terms of the politics of abortion. Real political junkies among you may recall that in 2010, a tight gubernatorial primary runoff between Nathan Deal and Karen Handel was by most accounts significantly affected by the exceptional hostility directed towards Handel by Georgia Right To Life, which did not take kindly to her opposition to legislation restricting embryo production at IV fertility clinics. That may seem ironic to those familiar with Handel’s later fame as the RTL martyr of a failed effort to eliminate ties between the Komen Foundation and Planned Parenthood. But antichoicers have different standards of purity in Georgia.

That became evident again this week when Georgia RTL broke with the National Right To Life Committee to oppose the “fetal pain” abortion bill on the House floor, as reported by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution‘s Daniel Malloy:

[T]he message of the last-minute flurry from GRTL was clear, as it urged its supporters to call their member of Congress to request a no vote on the “hijacked” bill.

“What they’ve done is target a particular class of children, those conceived in rape and incest,” [GRTL spox Suzanne] Ward said. “While Georgia Right to Life has the utmost sympathy for those victims, we can’t justify murder in those circumstances.”

And surprise, surprise, one of the co-sponsors of the original House bill, Rep. Paul Broun, denounced the bill and voted against it, carrying with him another Georgia colleague, Rep. Rob Woodall.

Broun, has you might recall, is running for the U.S. Senate in 2014, as is Karen Handel, and as are two other House Republicans from Georgia (Jack Kingston and Phil Gingrey) who went along with national RTL groups and voted for the “fetal pain” bill. Malloy figures Broun’s maneuver will earn him the GRTL endorsement later in the cycle.

As I’ve suggested for a while, whether or not Broun wins the GOP Senate nomination, he’s driving the whole field in a decidedly starboard direction. Perhaps it’s a coincidence, but on the same day that he risked the opprobrium of GRTL by voting for an unconstitutional abortion ban that didn’t go far enough, Phil Gingrey made a speech on the House floor suggesting that schools hold classes instructing kids on “traditional gender roles.”

That’s how Republicans roll down in Georgia.


By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Washington Monthly Political Animal, June 19, 2013

June 22, 2013 Posted by | Abortion, Republicans | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Please Proceed SCOTUS”: Affirmative Action Has Helped White Women More Than Anyone Else

In the coming days, the U.S. Supreme Court is expected to rule in a potentially landmark case on the constitutionality of affirmative action. The original lawsuit was filed on behalf of Abigail Fisher, a woman who claims that she was denied admission to the University of Texas because she is white. But study after study shows that affirmative action helps white women as much or even more than it helps men and women of color. Ironically, Fisher is exactly the kind of person affirmative action helps the most in America today.

Originally, women weren’t even included in legislation attempting to level the playing field in education and employment. The first affirmative-action measure in America was an executive order signed by President Kennedy in 1961 requiring that federal contractors “take affirmative action to ensure that applicants are employed, and employees are treated during employment, without regard to their race, creed, color, or national origin.” In 1967, President Johnson amended this, and a subsequent measure included sex, recognizing that women also faced many discriminatory barriers and hurdles to equal opportunity. Meanwhile, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 only included sex in the list of prohibited forms of discrimination because conservative opponents of the legislation hoped that including it would sway moderate members of Congress to withdraw their support for the bill. Still, in a nation where white women and black people were once considered property — not allowed to own property themselves and not allowed to vote — it was clear to all those who were seeking fairness and opportunity that both groups faced monumental obstacles.

While people of color, individually and as groups, have been helped by affirmative action in the subsequent years, data and studies suggest women — white women in particular — have benefited disproportionately. According to one study, in 1995, 6 million women, the majority of whom were white, had jobs they wouldn’t have otherwise held but for affirmative action.

Another study shows that women made greater gains in employment at companies that do business with the federal government, which are therefore subject to federal affirmative-action requirements, than in other companies — with female employment rising 15.2% at federal contractors but only 2.2% elsewhere. And the women working for federal-contractor companies also held higher positions and were paid better.

Even in the private sector, the advancements of white women eclipse those of people of color. After IBM established its own affirmative-action program, the numbers of women in management positions more than tripled in less than 10 years. Data from subsequent years show that the number of executives of color at IBM also grew, but not nearly at the same rate.

The successes of white women make a case not for abandoning affirmative action but for continuing it. As the numbers in the Senate and the Fortune 500 show, women still face barriers to equal participation in leadership roles. Of course, the case for continuing affirmative action for people of color is even greater. The median wealth of white households is 20 times that of black households. Researchers found that the same résumé for the same job application will get twice as many callbacks for interviews if the name on the résumé is Greg instead of Jamal. School districts spend more on predominantly white schools than predominantly black schools. The fact that black workers earn, on average, 35% less than white workers in the same job isn’t erased by the election of an African-American President — one who, by the way, openly praises the role of affirmative action in his life and accomplishments.

As for Fisher, there is ample evidence that she just wasn’t qualified to get into the University of Texas. After all, her grades weren’t that great, and the year she applied for the university, admissions there were actually more competitive than Harvard’s. In its court filings, the university has pointed out that even if Fisher received a point for race, she still wouldn’t have met the threshold for admissions. Yes, it is true that in the same year, the University of Texas made exceptions and admitted some students with lower grades and test scores than Fisher. Five of those students were black or Latino. Forty-two were white.

By: Sally Kohn, Time, June 17, 2013

June 22, 2013 Posted by | Supreme Court, Women | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“A Minimum Threshold For Competence”: The Republican House Of Representatives Is Still Terrible At Everything

Somehow or other, the U.S. government, for the first time in years, is close-ish to being functional. Don’t read too heavily into that word “functional.” The government is not and will not probably be moving on your pet issue any time soon, sorry. But the Senate is actually moving, on bipartisan pieces of legislation that are in the public spotlight: a farm bill, a comprehensive immigration bill. GOP senators who typically pretend to negotiate compromises and then run for the hills once they near a motion to proceed, like Lindsey Graham and Bob Corker, are suddenly seeing out those compromises. One of the two houses of Congress, in our lifetime, may well be nearing the minimum threshold for competence.

Now then, what’s the problem? Oh right, it’s the House of Representatives, which is terrible at everything, and offers no indication of being any other way until at least 2023. Let’s give some credit: They’re adept at passing go-nowhere bills to repeal Obamacare or ban abortion or tattoo the words “Under God” to every baby’s forehead. Great work there from the House Republican Party. On issues that might appeal to an even slightly broader cross-section of the country, though, they’ve got nothing. You know this. You’ve seen the same routine in nearly every important vote since 2009. Remember that time the government considered arbitrarily defaulting on the public debt and destroying the global economy forever? That was a head-scratcher for the House; took some real “working out” before they concluded it would best be averted, for now.

It always works out the same way, at the 11th hour. A Senate-originated compromise, after much pouting, is taken up by the House after several defeats of their own insane legislation. Maybe a tweak or two is offered. The House passes it. Conservatives serve up uncreative epithets for John Boehner for exercising the only decent option available to him. The next big piece of legislation comes up. And, at least as of yesterday’s farm bill flop, they begin this same fatal cycle of time wasting again.

The House leadership seemed to think, this time around, at least, that a combination of cheap tricks and a backup plan called “blaming Democrats” would change this deeply entrenched dynamic of incompetence that surrounds everything it tries to do.

The House didn’t even get to a vote on the farm bill last year, knowing it didn’t have enough votes. What could the leadership do differently this time to make sure that a bill hated by most Democrats and still too many Republicans, facing a certain Senate death and then if necessary a White House veto, could pass for no productive reason?

It could … put Iowa Rep. Steve King in charge of whipping? Yes. Yes! This would change the dynamic altogether. If a nutbird like Steve King was the one pushing for this bill then surely all conservatives would fall in line.

There’s little we enjoy more than watching a useless no-voting screecher in Congress suddenly realize he needs his goddamn corn money and then desperately try to persuade his comrades for their votes. And then when it fails, he is just so disappointed in their ability to see the bigger picture. Come on, guys, it’s about the long game here:

GOP leaders blamed Democrats and insisted their whip counts were accurate, even as Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), who helped whip support for the bill, said he was surprised at the 62 GOP defections.

“I was surprised by about half of them,” he said. “I thought they would have taken more of a 10,000-foot view.”

Yes, show a little maturity for once, Steve King said, to other people.

Then the Republican leadership blames Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi for only bringing 24 Democratic “aye” votes to the table. Jesus. We’re not sure that Nancy Pelosi got 24 votes from the Republican Party on all major bills combined in the years 2009 and 2010. Also, there’s a reason that most Democrats didn’t vote for this farm bill, and that’s because they hate it, because it assaults the social safety net. But yeah, anyway, sure, this is Nancy Pelosi’s fault, boo, she’s evil and wears a lot of makeup, boo.

There’s only one way to a bill becoming a law in this government setup, which we’re stuck with for a while: The House has to work within the framework of a Senate-drafted compromise, and lean on Democratic votes. This is the only way things work right now, and no special guest whip or hollering at the mean San Francisco lady will change that.

And of course yesterday’s farm bill failure has implications on comprehensive immigration reform, which will most likely soon pass through the Senate. It’s hard to come to any other conclusion than Brian Beutler’s:

But more broadly, it’s tough to look at the farm bill fiasco and imagine the House passing an immigration reform bill that Dems don’t carry.

If that’s the case, then the key to the whole immigration reform effort really is John Boehner accepting the internal consequences of just putting something similar to the gang of eight bill on the floor and getting out of the way.

You can watch the farm bill fail and reason that Boehner might think immigration reform isn’t worth it. Or you can watch the farm bill fail and reason that he might decide to dispense with all the member management theatrics and throw in with Democrats and GOP donors. But you can’t watch the farm bill fail and see the House GOP passing a Hastert-rule compliant immigration reform bill and going into conference with the Senate.

We’d say Boehner will go with option 2, bringing immigration to the floor and leaning on Democrats. There’s no mysterious character quirk specific to Boehner that always leads him to this conclusion, as conservatives seem to believe. His decisions follow a fairly simple weighing of the pros and cons, and anyone in his position would make the same ones. That’s why he still has his job: because there’s no other way to do it, and those who would hope to become speaker can see that.


By: Jim Newell, Salon, June 21, 2013

June 22, 2013 Posted by | Congress | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Whole Truth And Nothing But The Truth”: Darrell Issa Should Be Answering Questions Instead Of Asking Questions

Yesterday, much to the chagrin of House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), ranking member Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) decided it was time for some sunlight in the IRS investigation. Committee investigators conducted lengthy interviews with IRS officials in Ohio, and while Issa was content to release cherry-picked excerpts from those interviews, Cummings released all 205 pages, letting everyone — voters, reporters, and policymakers — get the full picture.

And while I’ll confess reading the transcripts last night was remarkably dull, I continue to believe they should effectively end the controversy.

Republican and Democratic committee staffers interviewed IRS official John Shafer on June 6 about the agency’s decision to scrutinize a tea party group’s application for tax-exempt 501(c)(4) status. Shafer, who identified himself as “a conservative Republican” and said he’d worked for the IRS since 1992, said that he and a fellow screener initially flagged a tea party group and continued to do so with subsequent applications in order to maintain consistency in the process.

Throughout much of the interview, Shafer describes the mundane bureaucratic challenges of dealing with incoming applications for nonprofit status. He said his team flagged the first tea party application because it appeared to be a high-profile case, and he wanted to make sure all high-profile cases received similar attention.

Was the White House involved? “I have no reason to believe that,” Shafer said. Did he communicate to the then-IRS Commissioner Doug Shulman about the screening of Tea Party cases? “I have not,” Shafer added.

I imagine there will be additional hearings and debate, but I’m not altogether sure what more there is to talk about. Every claim Republicans have made, and every effort to create a conspiracy theory involving the White House, appears to have been completely discredited.

Indeed, at this point, I’d like to see Darrell Issa stop asking questions and start answering them.

For example, did Issa try to deliberately mislead news organizations and the public with selectively edited portions of information he knew to be incomplete?

Did Issa violate congressional ethics rules by using his chairmanship to cherry-pick misleading quotes from official transcripts?

Did Issa act alone or did he coordinate his activities with others?

How much public money has Issa spent as part of these endeavors? How much more does he intend to spend going forward?

Remember, we’ve seen controversies like this before. In 1998, the Republican-led House Oversight Committee shared misleading excerpts from official transcripts with reporters in the hopes of creating a political controversy. Indeed, this came directly from the office of the committee’s then-chairman, Dan Burton. When the deception came to light, Burton was forced to accept the resignation of one of his top investigators of suspected wrongdoing in the Clinton White House.

(The investigator’s name was David Bossie — who went on to form a little group known as Citizens United. You might have heard of it.)

At first blush, it looks like Issa pulled a very similar stunt. Will there be similar consequences?


By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, June 19, 2013

June 22, 2013 Posted by | Politics | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“America’s Scariest Doctors”: Meet The GOP Doctors Caucus Where Fetal Masturbation Is Just The Tip Of The Iceberg

The phrase “fetal masturbation” made an unlikely appearance in the political discourse Wednesday, thanks to a Republican congressman who said the country needs a 20-week abortion ban because he’s seen sonograms that show male fetuses “feel pleasure” when they “have their hand between their legs.”

The science on whether fetuses can feel pain (let alone masturbate) is pretty dubious, which is something one might expect the congressman, Texas Rep. Michael Burgess, to know, considering the fact that he’s an OB-GYN and a proud member of the GOP Doctors Caucus. But a look at the caucus’s roster reveals he has plenty of company from other lawmakers with controversial thoughts on science and women’s health.

Caucus chairman Rep. Phil Gingrey, also an OB-GYN, defended Rep. Todd Akin’s infamous comments about rape and abortion last year. Saying that Akin was “partly right” that a women’s body can shut down an unwanted pregnancy due to rape, Gingrey added that a 15-year-old girl who gets pregnant might accuse her boyfriend of rape because she’s embarrassed, so “that’s what he meant when he said legitimate rape versus nonlegitimate rape.”

Then there’s Rep. Tom Price, who, when asked what women who can’t afford birth control should do in the absence of insurance coverage, replied “there’s not one woman” who lacks access. “Bring me one woman who has been left behind,” he said, “There’s not one.” A Hart Research survey found that about one in three female voters have struggled to afford the medicine at some point, including 55 percent of young women.

Virtually all of the caucus’s members support defunding Planned Parenthood, even though doing so would be devastating for women’s health issues that have nothing to do with abortion. Co-chair Rep. Diane Black pledged, “I will not rest until we put a stop to Planned Parenthood’s blatant abuse of taxpayer dollars.”

Others have profound respect for science. Co-chairman Rep. Phil Roe thinks there are “many questions surrounding the science” of climate change. While Rep. Paul Broun, who still makes house calls, thinks evolution and the Big Bang are “lies straight from the pit of Hell.”

Then there’s Rep. Scott DesJarlais, a pro-life conservative who “had an affair with a patient and later pressured her to get an abortion.” Later, the Tennessee Board of Medical Examiners found DesJarlais had slept with two female patients in violation of a state law that prohibits “unprofessional conduct.” He was forced to pay a small fine. (He also slept with three co-workers.)

Or Rep. Charles Boustany, who was “has been the defendant in at least three malpractice suits over his two decade career,” according to Politico. (He maintains a medical license in Louisiana under no restrictions and his staff said the suits are common.)

Rep. Ron Paul was a member of the caucus as well before leaving the Congress. And while his son, Sen. Rand Paul, is not a member of the caucus because he’s in the upper chamber, some have raise questions about his war on board certification for his ophthalmology practice.

The GOP Doctors Caucus helped lead the fight against Obamacare, so voters should rest assured that if they had their way to repeal the law, they’d be in good hands.


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

June 22, 2013 Posted by | GOP | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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