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“Rubio’s Blast From The Past”: More Like A Paean To The Gilded Age Than A Plan For The Future

Marco Rubio, 43, kicked off his campaign yesterday by telling voters that he is the future and Hillary Clinton is the past. He is young, she is old. He is 21st century, she is 20th century.

But there is one very basic and glaring flaw with his argument: His views fit well into the 1800s, while Clinton’s views are modern and look very much like the America of today and tomorrow. Age isn’t everything, Marco.

Let’s try equal pay for equal work. Rubio is against the Lilly Ledbetter Act, while Clinton co-sponsored it. He voted twice against the Paycheck Fairness Act. Clinton is a strong supporter and became the lead sponsor when Tom Daschle left the Senate.

How about equal rights for the LGBT community and support for gay marriage? Rubio is solidly against gay marriage and supported not only the recent Indiana law on “religious freedom,” but even the Arizona version in 2013. He is consistently out of step. Clinton, of course, supports gay marriage and equal rights.

On the minimum wage, Rubio is not only opposed to it being raised but has said, “I don’t think the minimum wage law works.” Clinton favors raising the minimum wage.

On tax policy, Rubio has consistently supported the late 19th century, Gilded Age tax policy that benefited the wealthy at the expense of the middle class. Once again, his answer is to cut taxes for the wealthiest of Americans. According to the Washington Post, “If he wins his party’s nomination, though, Rubio will have to defend a tax plan that, while said to address the challenges of the middle class, includes a huge break that all-but bypasses the middle and greatly boosts the rich. It was a tax plan that was even too large for Romney himself to run on.” Rubio would eliminate all taxes on dividends and capital gains. That sounds like it was written by the robber barons of old to me. Clinton, of course, believes that kind of tax policy is the way of the past, not the wave of the future.

On one of the most critical issues of our time, climate change, Rubio again has his head in the sand, along with most of the other Republican candidates for president. Last May, he told ABC News that “I do not believe that human activity is causing these dramatic changes to our climate the way these scientists are portraying it. And I do not believe that laws that they propose we pass will do anything about it. Except it will destroy our economy.” Clinton, as we all know, supports efforts to combat climate change, such as the president’s Clean Power Plan.

So, who really has a vision for the future – on equal rights, on equal pay, on tax policy, on the environment – on where this country should be headed? And who does not learn the lessons of history, but seems condemned to repeat them, as if he were back in the 1800s?

If Rubio truly believes his views are appealing, maybe his slogan should actually be “Back to the Future.”

 

By: Peter Fenn, U. S. News and World Report, April 14, 2015

April 15, 2015 Posted by | GOP Presidential Candidates, Hillary Clinton, Marco Rubio | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Let’s Not Worry About Civil Rights In This Country”: Tom Cotton; Opponents Of Anti-Gay Law Need ‘Perspective’

I’m starting to long for the good old days, just weeks ago, when nobody had to think about Senator Tom Cotton, Republican of Arkansas.

Mr. Cotton, you will remember, was the primary author of the constitutionally outrageous and substantively mindless letter from Republican senators telling the leaders of Iran that they shouldn’t negotiate on nuclear weapons with President Obama. Now, he is adding his voice to those who are telling gay Americans that they shouldn’t get too pushy about their civil rights.

Mr. Cotton was asked by Wolf Blitzer on CNN yesterday about a law passed by legislators in his home state that is clearly intended to permit businesses and individuals to discriminate against people on the basis of their sexual orientation.

“In Arkansas,” he began, “we believe in religious freedom.” Mr. Blitzer, to his credit, pointed out that “everybody believes in religious freedom.”

Mr. Cotton countered with the irrelevant fact that President Clinton signed a federal law on which the current assault on gay rights is based. (The comically named Religious Freedom Restoration Act). That’s true. He also signed the Defense of Marriage Act, an outrageous infringement on the constitutional rights of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender Americans. And he signed the bill that turned military policy against gays and lesbians serving openly in the armed forces into the moronic law known as “don’t ask, don’t tell.”

So Mr. Clinton was lousy on this civil rights issue. What’s Mr. Cotton’s point?

“It’s important that we have a sense of perspective about our priorities,” he said. “In Iran they hang you for the crime of being gay.”

So, let’s not worry about civil rights in this country, which Mr. Cotton and other lawmakers can actually protect, but rather in Iran. Why Iran?

I’m so glad you asked — because Mr. Cotton wanted to turn the conversation to his current propaganda campaign about Iran. “We should focus on the most important priorities facing our country, right now,” he said, adding that the prospect of a “nuclear-armed Iran” is one such priority.

So why is Mr. Cotton trying so hard to scuttle the talks in Switzerland that could actually lead to limits on Iran’s nuclear programs?

 

By: Andrew Rosenthal, Taking Note, The Editorial Page, Editor’s Blog, The New York Times, April 2, 2015

April 6, 2015 Posted by | Civil Rights, Iran, Tom Cotton | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“The Anarchy Of ‘Religious Liberty'”: We Reserve The Right To Refuse Service To Anyone Not Like Us

It’s a good thing Americans have no serious problems, because the time and energy we expend fighting over symbolic issues could become a problem. Sure, symbols can be important. The swastika is a symbol, also the U.S. flag. But this week’s farcical casus belli involves a couple of spectacularly ill-conceived “religious freedom” statutes in Indiana and Arkansas.

As originally written, these laws would give every private business in both states — every butcher, baker, and wedding cake maker — powers and privileges equivalent to the Pope of Rome. But is that what their authors actually intended? Moreover, even if the laws stand, which looks unlikely at this writing, would anything important really change in actual practice?

As a longtime Arkansas resident, I very much doubt it. Political posturing aside, person to person, are people here really so self-righteous and mean-spirited as to treat their LGBT neighbors like lepers? Or, more to the point, like blacks in the bad old days before the civil rights revolution of the 1960s? Would we revert to open discrimination in broad daylight?

No, no, and no. Those days are gone forever. Nobody really wants them back. What’s happened here is that the Chicken Little right has worked itself into yet another existential panic over the U.S. Supreme Court’s expected ruling legalizing gay marriage, badly overplayed its hand, and set itself up for yet another humiliating defeat.

Anyway, here’s what I meant about the Pope of Rome. A while back, I got myself into hot water with old friends by failing to express indignation about a Catholic girls’ school in Little Rock firing a lesbian teacher who announced her marriage to her longtime companion.

My view was simple: as a lifelong Catholic, the teacher knew the Church’s position, and she ought to have known what would happen. It’s an authoritarian institution, the Holy Roman Catholic and Apostolic Church. By all accounts a terrific teacher — she landed another job immediately — the newlywed had somehow persuaded herself that as her homosexuality had long been an open secret, openly defying Church doctrine wouldn’t be a problem.

Wrong.

Now, you’d think the Catholic Church’s own appalling failures would have rendered it mute on questions of sexual morality for, oh, a century or so. But that’s not how they see it. When and if the doctrine changes, it won’t start in the Mount Saint Mary’s Academy faculty lounge. Damn shame, but there it is.

Was I being smug because I’ve never faced such difficult choices? Could be. But here’s the thing: No American has to be a Roman Catholic; it’s strictly voluntary.

But the United States isn’t supposed to be an authoritarian country. And that’s precisely what’s so potentially insidious about both the Indiana and Arkansas statutes as written, and why they cannot be permitted to stand. Under the guise of “religious liberty” they would give zealous individuals and private businesses near-dictatorial powers with no legal recourse.

Under Arkansas HB1228, aka the “Conscience Protection Act,” it’s every person his own religious dogma — “person” being broadly defined as any “association, partnership, corporation, church, religious institution, estate, trust, foundation, or other legal entity.”

Dogma would trump civil rights at every turn. What it could mean in practice is that if your landlord’s God objected to your being gay, he could evict you. Should your employer’s religious scruples cause him to object to your marrying another woman, he could fire you.

And there wouldn’t be a thing you could do about it.

Advertised as preventing “government” from forcing conscience-stricken wedding photographers to document Bob and Bill’s nuptials, the Arkansas law would also make it nearly impossible for private citizens to file lawsuits against “persons” professing religious motives.

“Persons,” remember, including corporations, estates and trusts. You could end up losing your job because some dead person’s will stipulated “no faggots.” Or no Muslims, Catholics, or redheads, I suppose.

But what such laws really threaten isn’t so much tyranny, University of Arkansas-Little Rock law professor John DiPippa points out, as anarchy. “With HB 1228,” he writes “county clerks could seek exemptions from issuing marriage licenses for same-sex couples, or for interracial couples, or divorced couples. Teachers could refuse to teach the required curriculum.”

All this because certain literal-minded religionists can’t get it through their heads that marriage can be two things: both a legal contract between consenting adults, and a religious ceremony. If your church chooses not to sanction certain kinds of marriages, nobody says it must. But as a legal matter, other people’s intimate arrangements are really none of your business.

Why is that so hard to understand?

So no, these laws are not going to stand as written. Hardly anybody wants to go back to the 1950s. When Apple, the NCAA, Angie’s List, Walmart, and Charles Barkley are all lined up on the same side of a political controversy, that side is going to win.

 

By: Gene Lyons, The National Memo, April 1, 2015

April 2, 2015 Posted by | Arkansas, Indiana, Religious Liberty | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Notably Absent From This Debate”: Why Won’t Rand Paul And Chris Christie Take A Position On Indiana’s “Religious Freedom” Law?

Nearly a week since Indiana Governor Mike Pence signed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), igniting a nationwide debate about whether the controversial law invites discrimination based on sexual orientation, most potential Republican presidential candidates have taken the opportunity to bolster their conservative credentials.

“Governor Pence has done the right thing,” said former Florida Governor Jeb Bush on Monday.

“I want to commend Governor Mike Pence for his support of religious freedom, especially in the face of fierce opposition,” Texas Senator Ted Cruz said in a written statement. “Governor Pence is holding the line to protect religious liberty in the Hoosier State. Indiana is giving voice to millions of courageous conservatives across this country who are deeply concerned about the ongoing attacks upon our personal liberties. I’m proud to stand with Mike, and I urge Americans to do the same.”

Ben Carson, former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, Florida Senator Marco Rubio, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum, former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina, and former Texas Governor Rick Perry all expressed their support for Pence and Indiana’s RFRA law. (Meanwhile, Democrats Hillary Clinton and Martin O’Malley have come out against it.)

But two likely 2016 candidates have been notably absent from this debate: New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and Kentucky Senator Rand Paul. What do they think about the law, and why have they been so quiet on the issue?

Samantha Smith, the communications director for Christie’s Leadership Matters for America PAC, did not return a request for comment on Wednesday morning. (I’ll update this if I hear back.) Christie’s past statements offer little light on where he will fall on the issue, but he has been shifting to the right on social issues in advance of the Republican primary. On Tuesday, he announced his support for a 20-week abortion ban. Given Christie’s shaky position within the party, and the fact that the rest of the field supports Indiana’s law, it would be very surprising if he joined with liberals in opposing it.

As for Paul, Sergio Gor, the communications director of RandPAC, wrote in an email, “The Senator is out of pocket with family this week and has not weighed in at this time.”

It makes sense that Paul is unplugging with his family this week: He’s expected to announce his presidential bid on April 7, the beginning of a long, grueling journey—and a victory would mean that these are his last moments of real privacy for a very long time. Could anyone blame him if he wanted to spend a few quiet days with his family? I couldn’t.

But it also seems a bit convenient that Paul is entirely unreachable while the controversy swirls. If his campaign launch is just six days away, surely Paul and his staff are in close communication. How long does it take to send a tweet or tell your staff to craft a statement?

It will be interesting to see how Paul reacts to the law—as he’ll be forced to do, probably no later than April 7—in light of his libertarian credentials. If he stuck true to them, not only would he support the law but also support the right of Indiana’s businesses to discriminate against LGBT people, something that the rest of the Republican field opposes. (They just disagree with liberals about whether Indiana’s law would allow discrimination.)

But if recent history is any guide, don’t expect Paul to stick true to his libertarian roots. Almost whenever he has faced a choice between traditional libertarian positions and mainstream Republican positions, he has chosen the latter in hope of winning the GOP nomination. Just recently, for instance, he called for more defense spending after saying for years that the military was bloated and needed further cuts.

In fact, Paul has already reversed himself on whether private businesses should be allowed to exclude people from their establishments for any reason. “I think it’s a bad business decision to exclude anybody from your restaurant,” he told the Louisville Courier-Journal in 2010. “But, at the same time, I do believe in private ownership.” He continued, “In a free society, we will tolerate boorish people, who have abhorrent behavior, but if we’re civilized people, we publicly criticize that, and don’t belong to those groups, or don’t associate with those people.” Just a few years later, as that position became controversial, Paul (dishonestly) said that he never held the libertarian position to begin with.

So while it is taking a while for Paul to give his position, it isn’t hard to deduce where he’ll eventually fall. Maybe he’s just waiting until the spotlight on Indiana dies down a bit, so that his libertarian supporters are less aware when he adopts the party line. But if that’s his plan, it’s not very presidential.

 

By: Danny Vinik, The New Republic, April 1, 2015

April 2, 2015 Posted by | Chris Christie, GOP Presidential Candidates, Rand Paul | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Faith Ought Not Pine For The Old Days”: Thankfully, Faith Of Force And Exclusion Is Not The Only Faith There Is

“Yesterday, all my troubles seemed so far away.” — The Beatles

“Yesterday’s gone, yesterday’s gone.” — Fleetwood Mac

On Sunday, people all over the world will commemorate the morning an itinerant rabbi, falsely convicted and cruelly executed, stood up and walked out of his own tomb. It is the foundation act for the world’s largest faith, a touchstone of hope for over 2 billion people.

But that faith has, in turn, been a source of ongoing friction between those adherents who feel it compels them to redeem tomorrow and those who feel it obligates them to restore yesterday. Last week, the latter made headlines — again.

In Arizona, a state senator suggested a law making church mandatory as a way of arresting what she sees as America’s moral decline. When controversy erupted, Sylvia Allen said she couldn’t understand what the fuss was about.

In Indiana, meantime, the governor signed a law protecting businesses from anything that might infringe upon their “free exercise of religion.” In other words, it protects their right to discriminate against gay people. When controversy erupted, Governor Mike Pence claimed this interpretation of the “Religious Freedom Restoration Act” misreads its intent.

The senator’s ignorance and the governor’s disingenuousness offer stark illustration of what too often these days masquerades as faith.

Allen, like the Taliban before her, seems to believe faith is something you can coerce. Unfortunately for her, that’s expressly forbidden in the first words of the First Amendment to the Constitution that her oath of office requires her to support. She might want to read it sometime.

As to Pence, his claim that the law is being misread is undercut by the fact that it is being celebrated by anti-gay lobbyists. He has contended the RFRA is as innocuous as similar laws passed by other states and the federal government, a claim sharply disputed by law professor Garrett Epps, writing online for The Atlantic, who notes there is language unique to Indiana’s law that seems designed to let businesses refuse service to gay people.

But the most damning witness against Pence has been Pence himself. Five times last Sunday, ABC’s George Stephanopoulos asked him a simple yes or no question: Does the law permit discrimination against gay people? Five times, he refused to answer. By Tuesday, Pence was promising to “fix” the miserable thing. Stay tuned to see what that will mean.

Taken together, Allen and Pence exemplify a “faith” that has become all too common, a U-turn faith that seeks to return America to a mythic yesterday. Pence’s law would effectively allow businesses to give gay people the kind of mistreatment that was common 40 years ago, while Allen explicitly says she wants to go back to the way things were when she was a child. For the record: Allen turns 68 this week, according to Wikipedia.

And so it goes with this faith of force and exclusion. Thank God it’s not the only faith there is. Indeed, in the same week Allen and Pence were making fools of themselves, a pastor in Miami was pushing for socially conscious redevelopment of a blighted inner-city community, a church in Los Angeles was hosting a panel on police-involved shootings, and a preacher near Washington was recruiting men to mow lawns, clean up trash-strewn lots and mentor troubled boys.

This is the faith of sacrifice and service. Unlike the faith of force and exclusion, it gets no headlines, generates no heat. It just is.

But one is thankful it is. One is glad for its example and reminder.

This week, Christians mark the long ago dawn when the Son rose. But if that faith means anything, it means the ability and imperative to face what is without fear. So faith ought not pine for the old days.

After all, dawn is the breaking of the new.

 

By: Leonard Pitts, Jr., Columnist for The Miami Herald; The National Memo, April 1, 2015

April 2, 2015 Posted by | Faith, Mike Pence, Religious Freedom | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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