"Do or Do not. There is no try."

“Battleground 2014”: Better Not Gloat Too Much Over Hobby Lobby, Republicans

At TNR John Judis reminds us that the last time Republicans embraced a Supreme Court decision restricting reproductive rights, it bit ’em in the butt:

In July 1989, the court handed down Webster v. Reproductive Health Services upholding Missouri’s right to restrict the use of state funds and employees in performing, funding, or even counseling on abortions. It was the first court decision restricting the rights bestowed under Roe v. Wade.

The nation, of course, was divided on the issue of abortion. How the issue played politically depended on which side of the debate saw itself under attack, and in this case the Webster decision mobilized pro-choice supporters. The right to abortion became a hot issue in the 1990 elections, and in the final results, abortion-rights supporters came out ahead. There were several telltale races. In Florida, Democrat Lawton Chiles defeated incumbent Republican Governor Bob Martinez, who, in the wake of Webster, had championed restrictive laws for Florida.

In the Texas governor’s race, Democrat Ann Richards defeated Republican incumbent Clayton Williams. According to polls, Richards, who made opposition to Webster a centerpiece of her campaign, garnered over 60 percent of the women’s vote, including 25 percent of Republican women. In the final tally, abortion-rights supporters, running against or replacing anti-abortion candidates, secured a net gain of eight seats in the House of Representatives, two Senate seats, and four statehouses.

What was also striking was the overall size of the gender gap. According to the National Election Studies survey, there was no gender gap between male and female supporters of Democratic congressional candidates in 1988. In 1990, gender gap was ten percentage points—the highest ever. All in all, 69 percent of women voters backed Democratic congressional candidates that year. Of course, there were other issues than Webster that were moving votes, but there is no doubt that the court ruling played an important role that year.

Now it’s true Webster turned on state abortion retrictions and thus was directly relevant to state election battles. But on the other hand, Hobby Lobby involves the elevation of corporate rights over reproductive rights, which is not exactly alien to the political battleground of 2014.


By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Political Animal, The Washington Monthly, Jul7 2, 2014

July 3, 2014 Posted by | Contraception, GOP, Hobby Lobby | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“They’re Not Scientists…Or Mathematicians”: Face It, Republicans Are Really, Really Slow Learners

Last week, Florida Gov. Rick Scott and House Speaker John Boehner made clear that the Republican Party has a new line in response to questions about climate change: they don’t feel “qualified” to know whether or not to believe scientists and the available evidence. “I’m not a scientist,” Florida’s GOP governor told reporters.

Apparently, they’re not mathematicians, ether.

For example, Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), a member of the Senate Science Committee*, yesterday issued a statement condemning the Obama administration’s climate policy, vowing to “fight the president and his administration every step of the way to stop this unprecedented power grab.” (The White House is acting under congressionally approved legislation, endorsed by the Supreme Court. How this could possibly be a “power grab” is unclear.)

Blunt’s statement went on to get specific, pointing to evidence from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce that Americans will pay “almost $290 billion more for electricity between 2014-2030” as a result of Obama’s policy, adding, “Missouri consumers would pay on average $65.4 billion more between 2014-2030, on average $11 billion more per year.”

Roll Call’s Steven Dennis took a closer look and concluded that Blunt’s math is “spectacularly wrong – and even internally inconsistent.”

Missouri is covered in part by three different regions, Blunt’s spokeswoman, Amber Marchand, explained in an email. Blunt’s office totaled up the costs for all three regions – including parts of 25 states – and divided by three to come up with Missouri’s supposed costs of $65.4 billion.

That’s not how math works.

The Blunt release then kept the $11 billion total yearly costs for all three regions – remember, parts of 25 states – and assigned them all to “Missouri consumers.” … It’s simply wrong to take regional costs – and certainly not the costs for three regions covering 25 states – and ascribe them all to Missouri.

Of course, the Missouri Republican wasn’t the only one struggling with math yesterday.

Speaker Boehner, also relying on the hilariously wrong U.S. Chamber of Commerce report, argued, “The president’s plan would indeed cause a surge in electricity bills – costs stand to go up $17 billion every year. But it would also shut down plants and potentially put an average of 224,000 more people out of work every year.”

As Glenn Kessler discovered, none of this is true, either.

Note that the EPA rule said that the agency would seek a reduction of 30 percent. But on page 15 of the Chamber report, the Chamber says it assumed the rule would impose a 42 percent reduction…. Given the significant difference between the emission targets in the proposed rule and the assumptions in the Chamber report, Republicans should have avoided using the Chamber’s numbers in the first place. We understand that they believe the negative impact will outweigh any positive impact but even by the Chamber’s admission, these numbers do not apply at all to the EPA rule as written.

Some might argue this was only an innocent mistake, but the EPA last week in a blog post on the Chamber’s study noted that it would not require carbon capture technology for new natural gas plants…. That should have been a tip-off that some of the Chamber’s assumptions were shaky — and that it would have been a good idea to double check what the rule actually said before firing off a statement.

 * Update: Blunt’s office contacted me to note that the Senate committee that oversees science policy is formally known as the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee. The Missouri Republican is a member.


By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, June 3, 2014

June 4, 2014 Posted by | Climate Change, Republicans | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Only One Of Many”: Missouri Keeps Tumbling Rightward

The Missouri legislature had no trouble passing a big tax cut today over the veto of Gov. Jay Nixon. As a Missouri native, I’m probably more irritated by this than most Times readers are, but my state is only one of many that have been sharply pulled to the right in the last few years. What’s happening in Jefferson City is already familiar to residents of Wisconsin, Michigan, Kansas, North Carolina, and many others.

The main difference is that Mr. Nixon is a Democrat, a relic of the days when his party dominated the state. But Republican leaders are working on that. Last month, they had a serious debate in the House on whether the governor should be impeached for allowing same-sex married couples to file joint tax returns. Gay and lesbian people can’t get married to each other in Missouri, which has a constitutional amendment prohibiting it, but Mr. Nixon had the temerity to allow the joint returns for couples married elsewhere.

“This is such a blatant and serious violation of Missouri’s constitution and Missouri law that the governor should be removed from office,” said Nick Marshall, a state representative from Parkville.

In case that didn’t work, there was another impeachment resolution filed that would have ousted Mr. Nixon for failing to properly discipline state workers who released a list of concealed gun permits to the federal government. The resolution began, “Whereas, the people of the State of Missouri cherish their right to bear arms…” and went downhill from there.

A few weeks ago, the legislature approved a measure that would nullify all federal gun laws and allow residents to sue federal agents for enforcing them. It carries no legal weight, and Mr. Nixon vetoed something similar last year, but the true believers apparently feel the need to re-establish their credentials repeatedly.

Although the impeachment efforts were dropped today, Republicans have managed to push through their agenda. As a Kansas City Star editorial noted, today’s tax cut doesn’t even benefit the people who could use the money the most. A family making $44,000 a year will get a $32 break, while one making $1 million will get $7,800. Most of the benefits, in fact, go to one special-interest group.

“It is a gift to businesses whose owners declare their business incomes on their personal tax forms,” the Star wrote. “Up to one-fourth of their income could eventually be tax-free if the bill becomes law, whether or not they create jobs.”

Naturally, Missouri isn’t coming close to fully funding its public school and university system, and is one of 20 states that refuses to expand Medicaid, turning down $2.2 billion from the federal government because that would mean accepting the reality of the Affordable Care Act. But when businesses raise their voices for a tax cut, they are answered.

It’s not the state I grew up in, which is exactly the way a new generation of leaders like it.


By: David Firestone, Editors Blog, The New York Times, May 6, 2014

May 9, 2014 Posted by | GOP, Missouri Legislature, Right Wing | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“New Study Makes The Case For Gun Control”: The Strongest Evidence We Have That Background Checks Really Matter

During last year’s battle over gun control, the pro-gun side did more than passionately invoke the Second Amendment: They claimed that gun control doesn’t work. Sometimes even the reformers, surveying the limited impact of legislation from the 1990s, feared the same. But a new study on universal background checks makes the strongest case yet that the policy saves lives. “This is probably the strongest evidence we have that background checks really matter,” said Philip Cook, a gun expert at Duke’s Sanford School of Public Policy.

The study, from the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research, found the murder rate in Missouri jumped 16 percent—an additional 55 to 63 murders a year—after the repeal in 2007 of a state law that required anyone purchasing a handgun to obtain a permit showing they had passed a background check. (Though federal law mandates background checks by licensed dealers, private dealers don’t have to perform them in all but 14 states.) “This study provides compelling confirmation that weaknesses in firearm laws lead to deaths from gun violence,” said Daniel Webster, the study’s lead author, in a statement.

Since this is only a single study, “it’s just suggestive,” warned David Hemenway of Harvard’s School of Public Health. It is “another piece of evidence that is consistent with the bulk of the literature, which shows where there are fewer guns, there are fewer problems… But you want eight more studies that say background checks really matter.”

And the study isn’t perfect: Missouri also enacted a “stand your ground” law in 2007, creating some challenges in disentangling the effects. But Cook said he is confident that background checks played a major role because the authors tracked an increase in guns that went directly from dealers to criminals—exactly the scenario background checks are designed to prevent. The study also notes an uptick in guns “purchased in Missouri that were subsequently recovered by police in border states that retained their [permit-to-purchase] laws.”

The findings at least begin to fill a gap in the research that last year’s debate exposed. Mayors Against Illegal Guns, Michael Bloomberg’s gun control group, found that the shortage of data stems from a shortage of funding—especially federal funding. In 1996, the National Rifle Association and the gun lobby pushed Congress to eliminate the $2.6 million appropriation that underwrote the Center for Disease Control’s research on firearm injuries. President Barack Obama ended the funding freeze last year, and Garen Wintemute, director of the Violence Research Program at the University of California, Davis, told NBC that private funding for gun research has also spiked with the shooting of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and other high-profile acts of violence.

So why hasn’t the new finding gotten much attention? “I don’t mean to diminish the value of the study, but I don’t think it could have made a difference last year, and I don’t think it will now,” said Tom Diaz, a former policy analyst at the Violence Policy Center. He called the finding “very clear,” but added: “The debate is just unhinged from the facts.”

As the study notes, 89 percent of Americans, and 84 percent of gun owners, supported universal background checks in 2013, before this study bolstered the argument for them. But that’s just one more reason for Congress to pick up the issue again—that, and a new analysis last week which found there have been 44 school shootings since the one at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.


By: Nora Caplan-Bricker, The New Republic, February 19, 2014

February 22, 2014 Posted by | Background Checks, Gun Control | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“After Background Checks Were Scrapped In Missouri”: Confirmation That Weaknesses In Firearm Laws Lead To Deaths From Gun Violence

In recent years, advocates of gun reforms have pushed for expanded background checks, arguing that such measures, including closing the gun-show loophole, would improve public safety and reduce gun violence.

On the other end of the policy spectrum is Missouri, which had a background-check system before it was repealed in 2007. The Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health took a closer look at the impact on public safety in the state after the policy change, and the Washington Post’s Niraj Chokshi helped summarize the results.

The law’s repeal was correlated with a 23 percent spike in firearm homicide rates, or an additional 55 to 63 murders annually from 2008 to 2012, according to the study conducted by researchers with the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research and to be published in the Journal of Urban Health.

“This study provides compelling confirmation that weaknesses in firearm laws lead to deaths from gun violence,” Daniel Webster, director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research and the study’s lead author, said in a news release. “There is strong evidence to support the idea that the repeal of Missouri’s handgun purchaser licensing law contributed to dozens of additional murders in Missouri each year since the law was changed.”

For context, note that there was no comparable increase at the national level – in other words, it’s not like Missouri saw a spike because everyone nationwide was seeing a spike – and more to the point, the eight states that border Missouri also did not experience a similar increase.

That said, the states surrounding Missouri were affected.

From Chokshi’s report:

Police in border states that kept such laws reported a big spike in guns bought in Missouri that had been diverted to criminals. In 2009, Missouri exported 136 guns to neighboring Illinois and 78 to neighboring Kansas, according to data collected by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and compiled by Mayors Against Illegal Guns.

When Senate Republicans killed a bipartisan background-check proposal last year, considered in the wake of the Sandy Hook massacre, one of the more common refrains from opponents of reform was that background checks just don’t make a lot of difference. Even if proponents are well intentioned, the process itself is a feel-good measure with little real-world implications.

The data out of Missouri appears to point in a very different direction.


By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, February 18, 2014

February 19, 2014 Posted by | Gun Control, Gun Violence | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

%d bloggers like this: