You might have heard that the U.S. Senate last week finally voted to confirm the president’s nominee for surgeon general, Dr. Vivek Murthy.
You also might have wondered what all the fuss was about. The vote on America’s top doctor was held up for nearly a year, thanks to a campaign by the National Rifle Association. Dr. Murthy was endorsed by the medical community, but the NRA’s lobbying machine turned his nomination into a political battle. All because Murthy believes that gun violence, which kills an average of 86 Americans every day, is a public health issue.
For most of us, acknowledging that America has a gun violence problem is stating a fact. For the NRA’s leadership, it’s heresy.
The gun lobby’s goal is to expand its customer base—and boost gunmakers’ bottom lines, no matter the risk to public safety. So a new surgeon general committed to reducing gun violence isn’t what the gun lobby wanted for Christmas.
The NRA’s wish list looks more like this:
• Guns for felons. The NRA has fought for the rights of felons to buy and own firearms. That means successfully restoring gun rights to convicted murderers, robbers, rapists, and people guilty of transferring explosives to international terrorists.
• Guns for terror suspects. The NRA has opposed efforts to block terror suspects from buying guns. Today the FBI can stop terror suspects from boarding a plane, but not from purchasing firearms.
• Guns for domestic abusers. The NRA objects to restraining orders that require domestic abusers to give up their guns. This year, six states—including Scott Walker’s Wisconsin and Bobby Jindal’s Louisiana—defied the gun lobby and enacted laws that will help keep guns out of the hands of abusers.
• Guns for the mentally ill. The NRA opposed a new California law that will help prevent gun deaths, homicides and suicides both. Police and family members now can present evidence to a judge, who can order temporary custody of a mentally ill person’s guns for a brief, emergency period.
• Gun gag orders. The NRA objects to doctors asking patients basic questions about gun ownership. For example, before Congress repealed it in 2012, an NRA-authored gag order barred doctors and military officers from talking about guns with service members at risk of suicide.
• Guns on campus. The NRA has pushed for “campus carry” laws—despite near unanimous opposition from college presidents, law enforcement, and parents—and for arming educators in K-12 schools.
• Guns in bars. The NRA has pushed to allow guns in bars—despite the fact that 40 percent of people convicted of homicide had been drinking alcohol at the time of their offense.
• Guns in restaurants and grocery stores. The NRA supports the open carry of guns in cafes, burrito shops, and the produce aisle. They reiterated their position in June, after a staffer first made the mistake of calling open carry demonstrations “weird” and “scary.”
• Gun lawsuits. The NRA wants the ability to sue local officials for passing laws that protect public safety. They push for so-called “preemption” bills in statehouses—which allow them to file expensive lawsuits against towns, cities, and even mayors and city commissioners.
• Guns for everyone, no questions asked. The NRA opposed Washington State’s gun-sale background checks ballot measure this year. The measure passed with 59 percent of the vote. Like background check laws across the country, it will help keep guns out of dangerous hands, reduce gun crime, and save lives.
That’s the gun lobby’s wish list for America—more guns for everyone, everywhere, anytime.
The new surgeon general certainly has his work cut out for him. But in 2014, numerous states passed common-sense public safety laws, showing that the momentum for gun safety is building. And just like Dr. Murthy’s confirmation, that’s bad news for the NRA.
By: John Feinblatt, President of Everytown for Gun Safety; The Daily Beast, December 23, 2014
If you haven’t seen the new Americans For Shared [sic!] Prosperity ad targeting unmarried women, you might want to check it out and then take a long shower:
Yes, the President of the United States is depicted as one of those sleazy dudes some women meet on internet dating services who turn out to be abusers who routinely lie, cheat, steal and spy. The ad doesn’t suggest Barack the Bad Boyfriend is prone to physical violence, but otherwise the whole rap is highly suggestive of the excuses often made by women who stay in abusive relationships, notes The Wire‘s Arit John:
At one point the woman uses phrasing domestic abuse survivors use to describe why they stayed with their partners. “But I stuck with him, because he promised he’d be better,” the woman says. “He’s great at promises.” This is reminiscent of the recent #WhyIStayed hashtag on Twitter in the wake of the Ray Rice domestic violence video. Women explained that they stuck with their abusers in part because he or she promised they’d stop, promised they’d change, or promised they’d never do it again.
John clearly thinks the ad is deliberately exploiting the recent publicity over domestic abuse by NFL players.
It’s not, however, entirely new. As MSNBC’s Anna Brand shows, the theme of Barack Obama as a bad boyfriend was used in the series of ads Republicans and pro-Republican groups aimed at 2008 Obama voters in 2012.
Similar words were uttered in a 2012 ad called “Boyfriend” launched by conservative group Independent Women’s Voice.
“I wanted to believe him, I trusted him,” one woman says to her friend sitting beside her on a couch. “Listen, we all did,” the friends responds.
“Why do I always fall for guys like this?” the first woman laments.
In a 30-second ad by the Republican National Committee in 2012 entitled “The Breakup,” a woman “breaks up” with a cardboard cutout of President Obama sitting across from her at a white tablecloth restaurant. “You’re just not the person I thought you were. It’s not me, it’s you,” she says over cocktail music followed by a prompt to “tell us why you’re breaking up with Obama.”
This pitch obviously didn’t work in 2012. Why are Republicans (at least some of them) going back to it now? One might be tempted to think it reflects a strain of persistently contemptuous attitudes towards women, those incorrigibly “emotional” critters for whom snaring Mr. Right while avoiding Mr. Wrong is the center of their existence and the most powerful metaphor imaginable.
I’d say this “argument” also may reflect some frustration on the part of conservative men who just don’t “get” the Democratic voting predilections of women, and thus have to mark it up to seduction. Back in the 90s, some wag (don’t remember exactly who it was) attributed some of the conservative male fury at Bill Clinton to astonishment that a dog like the Big Dog could get so many women to “sleep with or vote for him.” It’s almost as though Republican men aren’t quite adequate themselves, you know? The “‘Dating Profile” ad does look like it was conceived in a man cave with the assistance of a twelve-pack of beer.
By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Washington Monthly Political Animal, September 24, 2014
For the past few weeks, the indispensable investigative journalist Brad Friedman has covered the case of George W. Bush-appointed US District Court Judge Mark Fuller of Alabama, who’s notorious for his role in the railroading of former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman. Last month, Fuller was arrested for allegedly attacking his wife in a Georgia hotel in a manner reminiscent of the National Football League’s paragons of family values. However, as Friedman has noted, there’s a creepy possibility that Fuller could avoid any real legal accountability for his alleged behavior.
This horrifying story has, unfortunately, stayed under the radar of the mainstream media, with the recent exception of MSNBC’s All In with Chris Hayes. Now, in an explosive follow-up, Friedman has revealed new details about a man who clearly has no business being on the federal bench:
…Fuller is not necessarily off the hook for prosecution in a court of law yet. The terms of his plea deal, reportedly, require that, in addition to attending once-a-week domestic abuse counseling for 24 weeks, Judge Fuller must also receive an evaluation concerning drug and alcohol abuse by a court-approved entity.
If he successfully completes those requirements, only then will his arrest record be permanently expunged.
Fuller’s attorney, after the plea deal was approved in state court with the consent of Fuller’s wife Kelli, the victim in this case, stated that the federal judge “doesn’t have a drug or alcohol problem and never has.”
That, like the claim that he is a first time offender in regard to domestic abuse, does not appear to be true, at least according to Fuller’s first wife Lisa who filed a damning Request for Admissions during their 2012 divorce, after Fuller was allegedly discovered to have been having an affair with his court bailiff, Kelli, who he eventually married (and subsequently beat the hell out of last month, after she similarly accused him of having an affair with his law clerk.)
According to the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press in 2012, the first wife, Lisa Boyd Fuller, “submitted an objection to her husband’s motion to seal their divorce file…She agreed to redact certain sensitive information but ‘strenuously object[ed] to sealing the entire file,’ according to her response. Her initial complaint and request for admissions accuse Fuller of extramarital affairs, domestic violence and prescription drug abuse.”
Friedman’s coverage of the Fuller horror has been extraordinary. After reading the gruesome details of this story, how can one not join the growing chorus of those demanding that Fuller resign or be impeached?
By: D. R. Tucker, Washington Monthly Political Animal, September 20, 2014
“Fetal Personhood Ploy”: Anti-Choice Lawmakers In South Carolina Want Pregnant Women To Arm Themselves To “Protect The Unborn”
A state Senate panel in South Carolina advanced legislation Thursday that states a pregnant person has a right to use deadly force to protect the “unborn … from conception until birth.” The measure is called the “Pregnant Women’s Protection Act,” and it is model legislation written and disseminated by Americans United for Life.
As usual, the words “pregnancy” and “protection” are red herrings.
First, South Carolina’s “stand your ground” law already allows for the use of deadly force anywhere a person claims to fear for their lives or the life of someone around them. (It is a terrible and dangerous law.) So opponents of the “Pregnant Women’s Protection Act” have rightly pointed out that this measure is entirely redundant.
But the bill does serve a serious purpose for anti-choice policymakers and activists working to endow fertilized eggs with personhood status and legal rights, a move that would suppress the rights of pregnant people and likely ban abortion and most forms of contraception. The measure tries to accomplish this — or at least open the door to these possibilities — by defining life as beginning at conception.
Here’s the language from the bill:
(1) ‘Pregnant’ means the female reproductive condition of having an unborn child in the female’s body.
(2) ‘Unborn child’ means the offspring of human beings from conception until birth.
The measure also pays considerable lip service to the very real threat of violence faced by women and pregnant people, but does nothing to strengthen existing anti-violence laws, create additional funding for domestic violence service providers or increase actual resources to aid people in violent situations.
None of this was lost on the opponents of the measure. “No one disputes that violence against pregnant women is a concern in our state and few would deny the need for swift action to stop any instances of further violence,” Emma Davidson, spokeswoman for South Carolina Coalition for Healthy Families, told the Aiken Standard. “But it is hypocritical to introduce legislation claiming to protect victims of domestic abuse, rape and violence while simultaneously outlawing emergency contraception, a key treatment option for those victims.”
And for those looking for further proof that the “Pregnant Women’s Protection Act” is just a fetal personhood ploy, the committee also debated a fetal personhood measure during the same session.
The “Personhood Act” would outlaw abortion outright by granting legal rights to fertilized eggs and fetuses.
By defining life as starting at conception, Davidson explained, the measure could also outlaw birth control and emergency contraception. And as University of South Carolina family law professor Marcia Zug told the Aiken Standard, the bill could ban abortions without exception. “A fetal personhood bill which would outlaw abortions in even the most life-threatening of circumstances has never been an option with the Supreme Court. It is clearly unconstitutional,” Zug said.
And if lawmakers are really interested in reducing rates of domestic violence in the state, they may instead want to focus their efforts on funding domestic violence service providers who have had to reduce services in the face of budget cuts. According to a nationwide survey on domestic violence service providers, in a single day in South Carolina, 16 requests from domestic violence victims were turned down because programs did not have the resources to provide them emergency shelter, housing, transportation, childcare or legal representation
More women are killed by men in South Carolina than any other state in the nation; the rate of women killed by men in South Carolina is more than double the national average.
By: Katie McDonough, Salon, April 11, 2014
Religious conviction makes people do and say crazy things, many of them not remotely rooted in the teachings of Jesus Christ or other icons of people of faith. Sometimes, those people see the light and realize hate and discrimination are not the goals of any true and sincere religion. And sometimes, those people are so threatened at the thought they might lose control over other groups of people, they double-down on the crazy.
On the hopeful front, we have Alan Chambers, who recently apologized to the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community for his years trying to “fix” gays and lesbians by offering “reparative therapy” to make them straight. Exodus International, a Christian ministry, decided to close its doors after 37 years and stop trying to turn gays into heterosexuals. Said Exodus president Chambers in a statement on the group’s website:
For quite some time we’ve been imprisoned in a worldview that’s neither honoring toward our fellow human beings, nor biblical. From a Judeo-Christian perspective, gay, straight or otherwise, we’re all prodigal sons and daughters. Exodus International is the prodigal’s older brother, trying to impose its will on God’s promises, and make judgments on who’s worthy of His Kingdom. God is calling us to be the Father – to welcome everyone, to love unhindered.
This is a new season of ministry, to a new generation. Our goals are to reduce fear (reducefear.org), and come alongside churches to become safe, welcoming, and mutually transforming communities.
The idea that homosexuals can simply be trained to be sexually attracted to people of the other sex is absurd, and defies logic for two contradictory reasons. An initial thought is that if homosexuality were a choice, we might have a lot more lesbians. Why not double your shoe wardrobe, never mind avoid conversations with your female friends, after a breakup, about how you’ll never understand male behavior? The second thought is that if one could choose one’s sexual orientation, why make a choice that will make you the target of discrimination, violence, hatred and even murder?
Perhaps the idea behind it is that Christians are supposed to hate the sin, but love the sinner. It’s a tremendously impressive step that Chambers has realized that the so-called “sin” was merely being “the sinner” – and that it is wrong to demonize people simply for being who and what God or nature made them.
Score one for tolerance among those claiming to be motivated by religion. It’s been undermined a bit, however, by a group (a small one, thankfully) that thinks men should spank their wives in the name of Christian discipline.
Both The Daily Beast and Jezebel have written about the practice of spanking for Jesus. Called “Christian Domestic Discipline,” the practice is meant to keep wives in line by domestic violence – or, as its adherents call it, just a way to keep a woman in her rightful, submissive place. As The Daily Beast’s Brandy Zadrozny reports:
Referred to as CDD by its followers, the practice often includes spanking and other types corporal punishments administered by husbands—and ostensibly ordained by God. While the private nature of the discipline makes it difficult to estimate the number of adherents, activity in several online forums suggests a figure in the low thousands. Devotees call CDD an alternative lifestyle and enthusiastically sing its praises; for critics, it’s nothing but domestic abuse by another name.
Jezebel’s Callie Beusman writes about the women being under constant supervision and monitoring by their husbands, who punish the adult women with such child-rearing tactics as time outs and having phone privileges taken away.
This isn’t a lifestyle choice. It’s abuse, and it’s no less illegal because it’s being done in the name of religion. It’s the same mindset that led to what Ohio authorities say was the enslavement of three women by a local man who beat them, raped them and kept them from leaving the house. A marriage license and daily prayers don’t make it fundamentally any different.
The leaders of Exodus have joined the modern world, realizing they can’t “save” gays and lesbians from being who they are. The ministry is planning to open under a new name and mission. Perhaps they could rescue the women being abused by CDD followers.
By: Susan Milligan, U. S. News and World Report, June 21, 2013