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“Just Changing The Optics”: The Republican Abortion Bill Shows They Still Believe Many Women Lie About Rape

In a move being credited to the wisdom of Republican women lawmakers, the House will not be voting on a sweeping 20 week abortion ban that only allowed for rape and incest exceptions if the victims reported their assaults to police. (Because Republicans know just how much women love to lie about rape and incest to get those sweet, sweet abortions!)

But before we pat all those kind, considered Republican women on the back for their reasoned withdrawal of support for a bill that would’ve made women file police reports 20 weeks after being assaulted in order to have the option of not being forced to have their rapist’s baby, let’s not forget that all of this is just political posturing. The bill – or even another, less extreme 20 week abortion ban – was unlikely to ever pass the Senate, and President Obama made clear that he would veto it if it did.

So backing off on yet another terrible anti-abortion bill – they tried this in 2011 with the “forcible rape” provisions in the Hyde Amendment renewal – is not a sign that Republicans will be more moderate with their future restrictions on reproductive rights, or that Republican women will be able to temper the radical anti-choice agenda of their party.

It’s great, sure, that Representatives Renee Ellmers and Jackie Walorski took their names off the Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, and that Ellmers also reportedly lobbied her female colleagues against the legislation. But I don’t believe this was some change of her anti-choice heart: more likely, she simply realized that the bill’s extreme requirements for rape and incest exceptions to the blanket ban wouldn’t exactly go over well with American women.

During a time when sexual assault and the difficulty of reporting it is a central part of the national conversation, forcing women and girls to go to the police before they can access abortion makes Republicans seem even more out of touch with the issues women face than usual. According to RAINN, 68% of sexual assaults aren’t reported to police, and numbers are even harder to come by for incest – where so often the victims are young girls.

Still, Republicans will now get to introduce and support anti-woman legislation, but they’ll have the advantage of appearing less radical than they are because they supposedly have a few “reasonable” women in the party keeping them in check on women’s issues. And any 20-week abortion ban is a bad thing for women, even without “forcible rape” or “reported rape” provisions.

Trotting out a few female Republicans and changing some words in a bill doesn’t change the reality of how the party feels about – or legislates – abortion; it just changes the optics. Republicans still want to deny people access to sex education, they still want to deny women access to contraception, they still want to prevent us from getting abortions and they still want to eliminate the Roe v Wade decision that protects our rights – and they want to do all of this despite the irreparable harm that it will cause American women.

The Republican women who forced House leadership to withdraw this one bill aren’t “reasonable” – they’re just smart enough to know that they need to shroud just how radically anti-woman their party really is. Good luck with that.

 

By: Jessica Valenti, The Guardian, January 22, 2015

January 27, 2015 Posted by | Republicans, War On Women, Women's Health | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“A Manufactured Crises”: Republicans Want You To Think Social Security Has A Funding Problem. Don’t Believe Them

The ongoing Republican plot to cut Social Security is shaping up to be a major story. As Dylan Scott has documented at Talking Points Memo, through a totally unnecessary change in accounting rules, Republicans are trying to ensure Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) runs short of money in less than two years, which would require a one-fifth cut in benefits.

Most recently, there are hints that Republicans may top up the SSDI fund by merely a little bit, similar to what they have done with the debt ceiling. The point is to create a series of manufactured crises, and each time the SSDI program runs short of money, they can use their leverage to ratchet down Social Security as a whole.

The way Republicans spin all this will be critical. Social Security is very popular, so conservatives will have to avoid the perception that they want to cut it, even though they clearly do. Dispelling their squid-ink nonsense will be crucial in protecting the program.

At National Review, Veronique de Rugy gives us a taste of how conservatives will frame their argument for cuts. “We’re broke,” says the headline. The SSDI fund “will be empty in a year” (no mention why), and “we can’t ignore the issue for much longer.” Regular Social Security “is also on an unsustainable path.”

She links to a report by Chuck Blahous, an argument against patching up the SSDI fund with money from general Social Security funds. Regular Social Security “now faces a bigger shortfall in both absolute and relative terms than [SSDI]” over the next 75 years, he says, concluding it would be irresponsible to transfer money to the less-solvent program.

What he doesn’t mention is that the regular Social Security fund won’t come up short until 2034. Plugging the holes in SSDI would advance that date by only about one year, since SSDI is only a small fraction of the overall program. In this country, having some 18 years of breathing space for a government program counts as nearly miraculous.

This complicated talk of actuarial shortfalls and inescapable accounting burdens is meant to obscure the fact that this is a question of ideology, nothing more. Social Security, in contrast to the dread Big Government bureaucracies, is a very simple program that takes in money and kicks it back out again. If the revenue source is insufficient, we could find money someplace else.

The actual worry here, just like any spending program, is whether the cost of the program is getting out of line with the productive capacity of the rest of the economy. All retirement programs take from the currently working and give to the non-working, so we might worry that the elderly and disabled are getting more claims on stuff than the economy can churn out.

Fortunately, as Dean Baker always points out, continuing economic growth keeps expanding our capacity to provide benefits. We can easily “afford” to maintain or expand Social Security, if we want to.

It would be easy to find such money. Indeed, we don’t even have to leave the world of retirement policy! We could simply scrap the 401(k) tax credit, which does not work as advertised to increase savings and sends the vast majority of its benefits to the rich. We could then plow the savings into Social Security. The 401(k) credit and similar programs cost something like $100 billion yearly, as compared to the total cost of Social Security of about $820 billion. Hey presto, we’re done.

The underlying reality is that opinions on any spending program inescapably rest on a judgment about whether that spending is worthwhile. I believe Social Security is excellent policy and its benefits should be increased. Conservatives like de Rugy and Blahous believe benefits are too high and should be reduced. It’s as simple as that.

 

By: Ryan Cooper, The Week, January 26, 2015

January 27, 2015 Posted by | Republicans, Social Security, Social Security Disability Fund | , , , , | Leave a comment

“One Step Too Far”: Bibi Netanyahu — aka ‘The Republican Senator From Israel’ — May Have Made A Fatal Political Mistake

Set aside, for the moment, the diplomatic row being sparked by Speaker of the House John Boehner as he seeks to create two conflicting foreign policies for the United States—one pursued by the President and the other pursued by the Congress.

Boehner’s hubris, in conjunction with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s desire to interfere with American policy while seeking to bolster his re-election campaign, may turn out to be the very political screw-up that will allow the joint ticket forged by the Labor-Hatnuah political parties to bring an end to Netanyahu’s long reign atop the Israeli government.

According to a Channel 10 poll out this past Thursday in Israel, the joint ticket offered by the Labor-Hatnuah coalition currently stands to grab 24 seats in the Israeli Knesset in the coming election—up one seat from the previous poll—while Netanyahu’s Likud Party is holding steady with just 20 seats.

The poll also projects that the party leaders atop the Labor-Hatnuah ticket, Issac Herzog and Tzipi Livni, have an increasingly good chance of forming the next Israeli government by assembling a coalition of between 61 and 68 seats in support of their government.

It turns out that there are no shortage of Israeli voters who don’t care for the idea of their Prime Minister jumping into the middle of America’s internal disagreements over foreign policy and further understand that, at the end of the day, Israel remains deeply dependent upon the United States for critical assistance in the never-ending battle to preserve and protect their nation.

According to Hatnuah leader, Tzipi Livni, Netanyahu is sabotaging israel’s critical relationship with Washington.

“A responsible prime minister who first thinks of the good of his country’s citizens does not do such a thing,” Livni said, adding, “A responsible prime minister would know to work with the president of the United States — with any president — and protect our most important interests.”

If the polls are to be believed, there are quite a few Israelis who share Livni’s take on the subject.

So, how did all this happen?

It turns out, the plan to have the Israeli Prime Minister speak to Congress, without first discussing with the White House, was the brainchild of Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Ron Dermer who has, for weeks now, been endorsing the re-election of Bibi Netanyahu on American television programs despite explicit Israeli Civil Service regulations prohibiting him from doing so.

An example of Dermer’s breaking his nation’s rules to play politics?

As reported by Israli newspaper Haaretz, Dermer broke those rules while being interviewed by Jorge Ramos on American cable network, Fusion.

During the discussion, Dermer said, “I have no doubt that when they [the Israeli public] look at all the people that stand for the leadership of the country, that they will have confidence in the leadership of prime minister Netanyahu.”

Dermer’s words came despite an admonition issued by Israel Civil Service Commissioner Moshe Dyan noting that, “A state employee must be careful that his actions or behavior cannot be interpreted as being aimed at promoting the interest of any particular party or candidate.” Anyone violating these instructions, Dyan said, “will face criminal or disciplinary proceedings in accordance with the law.”

In addition to Dermer’s apparent violation of Israeli law, he also revealed his penchant for duplicitous behavior by meeting with US Secretary of State John Kerry just one day before Speaker Boehner announced his invitation to Prime Minister Netanyahu, yet never once mentioned to Kerry what was about to happen.

Making it all the more offensive, the White House has explicitly gone out of its way, since the announcement of the Israeli elections, to avoid saying or doing anything that could be interpreted as support for the Herzog/Livni ticket.

At least the American President had the good sense not to further endanger his relationship with Netanyahu and the Israeli people.

In reviewing Netanyahu’s political ploy, and his ambassador’s duplicitous behavior, it seems fair to ask whether this is really how friends treat friends?

While you may entirely agree with Boehner’s decision to invite Netanyahu to address the Congress, can you possibly not be disturbed that the Israeli ambassador to our country went out of his way to not tell our Secretary of State of his plan to interfere with our foreign policy and seek to embarrass our president in the process?

Israeli voters know these details and, by many accounts, are not all that happy with the way Netanyahu is inserting himself into the politics of the United States. What’s more, Israelis understand that, should Netanyahu win re-election, they are now looking at two years—if not more should a Democrat take the White House in 2016—of a very cold relationship with the White House at a time when this is likely not in the best interest of Israel.

Of course, just as Netanyahu has already pushed the date of his speech—originally scheduled for February 11—to a date in March just two weeks before the election, my prediction is that Netanyahu will realize his mistake (or take note of the polls) and seek to push the speech well past election day.

By then, it may be too late as this latest insult to the American President may prove to be one step too far for the man many Israelis have dubbed “the Republican Senator from the great State of Israel.”

As for Boehner’s behavior, I’ll have more on this later.

For the moment, suffice it to say that using the Israeli Prime Minister in an attempt to embarrass the President of the United States is beyond shameful.

I get that the Speaker doesn’t like the President or his policies. I get that many readers of this piece will have snarky responses about how this President already embarrasses himself and our nation, etc., etc., etc.

But what neither the Speaker, nor those who cannot manage to think beyond their distaste for this president, understand is the truly unprecedented step Boehner has taken by joining with the leader of a foreign nation against his own president.

Presidents come and go. However, respect for the office of the presidency, particularly on the part of the man who is second in the line of succession to the presidency, should not.

Through his actions, Boehner may have scored some points for his party and for his preferred policy option vis-à-vis the Iranian nuclear negotiations. But in the process, the Speaker of the American House of Representatives has succeeded in embarrassing the Office of the President.

Considering that Speaker Boehner has failed to accomplish anything of note during his Speakership, I can only wonder how it must feel to have his legacy be his effort to disgrace the American President in the effort to bolster the political chances of a foreign leader.

I can’t imagine it would feel very good, unless Boehner has now become so consumed by party politics that he no longer can be bothered to consider what is best for his country in the long run.

While I have often disagreed with Speaker Boehner, I have always kind of liked him in the belief that, while our solutions might be at odds, he wanted to do what he believes is best for America.

It would be a struggle for me to harbor such positive feelings going forward.

Seeking to damage any American President by helping a foreign leader embarrass our own leader can never be considered something that is best for the nation. And that is simply the truth no matter what your political persuasion or your feelings about the current occupant of the Oval Office.

 

By: Rick Ungar, Contributor, Forbes, January 25, 2015

January 27, 2015 Posted by | Benjamin Netanyahu, Foreign Policy, John Boehner | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“What Is The GOP Thinking?”: The Nation Will Have To Stand By Until Realists And Ideologues Reach Some Sort Of Understanding

There they go again. Given control of Congress and the chance to frame an economic agenda for the middle class, the first thing Republicans do is tie themselves in knots over . . . abortion and rape.

I’m not kidding. In a week when President Obama used his State of the Union address to issue a progressive manifesto of bread-and-butter policy proposals, GOP leaders responded by taking up the “Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act” — a bill that would ban abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy. But a vote on the legislation had to be canceled after female GOP House members reportedly balked over the way an exception for pregnancies resulting from rape was limited.

The whole thing was, in sum, your basic 360-degree fiasco.

At least there are some in the party who recognize how much trouble Republicans make for themselves by breaking the armistice in the culture wars and launching battles that cannot be won. It looks as if the nation will have to stand by until GOP realists and ideologues reach some sort of understanding, which may take some time.

It’s important to understand that the “Pain-Capable” bill was never anything more than an act of political fantasy. The only purpose of the planned vote was to create an “event” that the annual antiabortion March for Life, held Thursday in Washington, could celebrate.

You might think the demonstrators already had reason to cheer. The abortion rate is at “historic lows,” having dropped by 13 percent in the decade between 2002 and 2011, according to a recent report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The main reason is that there are fewer unwanted pregnancies, which suggests logically that if Republicans really want to reduce abortion, what they should do is work to increase access to birth control.

More to the point, according to the CDC, only 1.4 percent of abortions take place after 20 weeks. This means the bill, if it somehow became law, would have minimal impact.

But it won’t become law, as everyone in Congress well knows. The White House has announced that Obama would veto the measure, if it ever reached his desk. To get that far, the bill would have to pass the Senate, where Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) would have to win over enough Democrats to cross the 60-vote threshold, which is highly unlikely.

Theoretically, though, any ­reasonable-sounding antiabortion measure should at least be able to make it through the House, with its expanded GOP majority. But even in the context of today’s far-right Republican Party, the “Pain-Capable” bill struck many House members, particularly women, as unreasonable.

At issue, apparently, is that, in making exceptions for abortions of pregnancies resulting from rape, the bill specifies that the rape must have been reported to law enforcement. This restriction cannot help but bring to mind the grief Republicans suffered in 2012 over Senate candidate Todd Akin’s appalling attempt to distinguish between “legitimate rape” and some other kind of rape.

Although the House leadership maintained that all was sweetness and light, reporters heard rumblings Wednesday that the bill was in trouble with moderate Republicans, especially women. Then an unusual number of female GOP House members was seen leaving the offices of the majority whip. Then the bill was pulled and a different antiabortion measure — prohibiting federal funding for abortions — was substituted.

I should note that there is no generally accepted scientific basis for the premise of the “Pain-Capable” bill. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has said there is no legitimate research supporting the idea that fetuses feel pain at 20 weeks.

I understand that, for those who believe in their hearts that abortion is murder, there is an imperative to do something, anything, to stop it. Some people have similar moral passion about capital punishment or the thousands of lives lost each year to gun violence.

Given that the Supreme Court has decided abortion is a legally protected right, the antiabortion movement has done what it could — made abortions very difficult to obtain in some states where the pro-life position has sufficient support. Hooting and hollering on Capitol Hill do nothing for abortion opponents except fleece them of campaign contributions.

People, we are in an economic recovery whose fruits are not reaching the middle class. We have a crucial need to address U.S. infrastructure and competitiveness. We face myriad challenges abroad, including Islamic terrorism and global warming.

If a renewal of the culture wars is your answer, Republicans, you totally misheard the question.

 

By: Eugene Robinson, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, January 22, 2015

 

January 27, 2015 Posted by | Abortion, Culture Wars, GOP | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Hint: Sarah Palin Has Lost Her Mind”: GOP Summit—The Good, The Bad And The Absolutely Crazy

You’re going to read a lot of analysis of this weekend’s Freedom Summit as the unofficial beginning of the Iowa caucus.

Whether that’s true depends entirely on how many of those who attended are still standing one long year from now—and how many of those who didn’t attend (Jeb Bush, Rand Paul) have campaigns that are still alive and well.

The event does serve as a gauge for a candidate’s willingness to pander, and it is the beginning of serious media scrutiny for all the candidates as 2016 candidates, not as quaint spectacles (Donald Trump, Ted Cruz) or interesting anomalies (Ben Carson, Carly Fiorina)…. or familiar former presidential candidates, who made up a non-shocking majority of the featured speakers (Rick Perry, Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich, Sarah Palin).

What did we learn?

Palin is past her sell-by date.

It’s the unofficial policy of many serious political reporters (myself included) to not cover Palin speeches.  So it’s entirely possible I missed a key stretch of her decline that would help make sense of, or have prepared me for, the word-salad-with-a-cup-of-moose-stew that she presented.

Sample passage: “Things must change for our government! It isn’t too big to fail, it’s too big to succeed! It’s too big to succeed, so we can afford no retreads or nothing will change, with the same people and same policies that got us into the status quo! Another Latin word, status quo, and it stands for, ‘Man, the middle class and everyday Americans are really gettin’ taken for a ride.’”

The speech (perhaps a generous description) went on 15 minutes past the 20 minutes allotted other speakers. And even as she ended it, one sensed less a crescendo than the specter of a gong, a hook to pull her off, or—a sincere thought I had—an ambulance to take her… somewhere.

No one else embarrassed themselves out of the race.

The event was organized by immigration hawk Rep. Steve “Cantaloupes” King (with the help of Citizens United) and many pundits fretted (or eagerly anticipated) 47-percent-style gaffes in the service of speakers trying to out-xenophobe each other. I may have missed something, but the anti-immigration rhetoric stayed on the “self-deport” side of offensive. Santorum did some under-the-breath dog whistling in reference to legal immigration, positing that the U.S. is home to more non-native citizens than ever before. He contrasted those non-native-born workers to, ahem, “American workers.” As far as I know, if you work in America, you are an “American worker.” Unless Santorum is thinking of something else.

The soft bigotry of low expectation works!

Scott Walker continues to clear the “not Tim Pawlenty” bar, but no one seems to realize how weak of a standard that is. National journalists cooed over Walker’s relatively energetic speech, apparently forgetting they were comparing it to other Walker speeches. In a similar vein, Chris Christie did not intentionally piss anyone off or bully the audience. Christie gave what seemed a lot like a national-audience speech—probably the only speaker that played it so safe.

Sen. Mike Lee gave some sensible, serious suggestions.

I may be engaging in more expectation management, but I was pleasantly surprised by Lee’s earnest and non-applause-line-ridden speech. He beseeched the audience to look for a candidate that was “positive, principled, and proven”—all while explicitly taking himself out of the running. In what could have been a direct jab at his fellow guests, he quipped, “The principled candidate is not necessarily the guy who yells ‘Freedom!’ the loudest.” He could have been quoting Elizabeth Warren when he softened typical GOP bootstrap rhetoric: “Freedom doesn’t mean ‘You’re all on your own,’” he said, “It means, ‘We’re all in it together.’” Elizabeth Warren would approve.

The GOP is going to need to figure out how to run against someone who is not Obama.

Even Lee, who gave what might be the most forward-looking speech, hung many of his arguments on the framework of undoing what Obama has done. Every other speaker followed suit, and some of the night’s biggest applause lines had to do with the same “fake scandals” that already proved insufficiently interesting to the American people: Benghazi, with a dash of IRS. They speak of repealing Obamacare with the zest of people who think of the House’s own fifty-plus attempts as mere warm-ups. Even their foreign policy script has Obama and the specter of American decline as its primary villains—foes that have defeated them twice before.

 

By: Ana Marie Cox, The Daily Beast, January 25, 2015

January 27, 2015 Posted by | Freedom Summit, GOP Presidential Candidates, Steve King | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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