mykeystrokes.com

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

“State-Sponsored Discrimination”: Florida House Passes Religious Exemption To Block Gay Adoptions

The Florida House on Thursday approved $690 million in tax cuts and a bill allowing residents fleeing hurricanes to carry guns without a permit, but the bill attracting the most controversy allows private adoption agencies to reject gay couples if they have a religious or moral objection.

The vote for that measure (HB 7111) was 75-38, with most Democrats opposing the bill, calling it state-sponsored discrimination.

Representative David Richardson (D-Miami Beach), likened the measure to the struggle for civil rights for African-Americans in the 1960s, citing the sit-ins at the lunch counters of Greensboro, N.C., in 1960.

“If you’re open to the public, you’re open to the public,” said Richardson, the first openly gay member of the Legislature. “If the lunch counter’s open, it’s open for everyone.”

Republicans, however, countered that forcing religious adoption agencies to either go against their consciences or shut down would ultimately lead to less opportunities for children in need of foster parents. Also, gay couples can go to another of Florida’s 82 adoption agencies if they are refused, they argued.

Representative Scott Plakon (R-Longwood), suggested lawsuits were already being lined up to restrain religious adoption agencies from refusing gay couples.

“You may disagree with their beliefs, you may even think that they’re crazy, but they are their sincerely held beliefs,” said Representative Scott Plakon (R-Longwood).

Social conservative groups put pressure on Republican legislators after the House voted last month to strike down Florida’s ban on gay adoption. An appeals court struck down the provision in 2010 and the Florida Department of Children and Families doesn’t enforce the ban, but the statute has remained on Florida’s books.

The bill still needs to pass the Senate.

Most Democrats also objected to SB 290, which would allow residents under mandatory evacuation orders to carry firearms without a concealed weapons permit up to 48 hours after the order is given.

Representative Ed Narain (D-Tampa), said the bill would bring unintended consequences, especially for black males, similar to the “stand your ground” law.

“It’s the potential combination of these two (laws) that could mix and create a deadly scenario that none of us want to imagine or even consider,” Narain said.

But Republicans in favor of the bill said it was needed to protect property during hectic evacuation periods, especially firearms that aren’t protected through permits or licenses.

“What some people in this chamber don’t understand…is that you can’t get a permit or a license for a rifle or a shotgun,” said Representative Neil Combee (R-Polk City).

The bill passed 86-26 and now heads to Governor Rick Scott’s desk.

A bill garnering more bipartisan support was HB 7141, which cuts $690 million in taxes, mostly from cable, satellite, and phone bills. The cut to the communication services tax will save TV and phone users $470 million, with the average cable user spending $100 a month saving about $43 over 12 months. The cut is a top priority for Scott.

Although some Democrats bemoaned parts of the bill cutting sales taxes on gun club memberships and providing a sales tax holiday for some firearms and ammunition on July Fourth, the bill passed 112-3.

The Senate has advanced individual tax cut bills but because of the uncertainty surrounding the Medicaid budget that the chamber is waiting to pass its preferred tax-cutting measures.

 

By: Gray Rohrer, Orlando Sentinel (TNS); The National Memo, April 10, 2015

April 11, 2015 Posted by | Discrimination, Florida Legislature, Open Carry Laws | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Conservative GOP Governors Are Accepting Obamacare”: Wagging A Finger With One Hand, Holding Out The Other Hand For The Money

Many GOP governors who loudly condemned Obamacare are secretly signing up for the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid Expansion. And they aren’t just Republicans in Democrat states. A growing number are from Southern conservative states, like Alabama and Tennessee.

Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam announced his state would oppose Obamacare, saying that he would rather have any money sent to his state go to private insurance, according to Bill Barrow with the Associated Press. But after getting reelected, Haslam announced that he had struck a deal that would allow that Medicaid expansion, according to Dave Boucher with The Tennessean.

Ditto Alabama Governor Robert Bentley, who once claimed that “the anything but Affordable Care Act has done nothing to gain our trust,” according to Tom Baxter with Saporta Report. But there was Bentley, after getting easily reelected, claiming “he could support the expansion in the form of a block grant, with a lot of strings attached,” Baxter writes.

In other red states, Republicans are doing the same, wagging a finger at Obamacare with one hand and holding out the other hand for the money. Kansas Governor Sam Brownback condemned GOP Governors for taking the Medicaid expansion money, as noted on his own website. But then, buffeted by a deficit from ill-advised tax cuts, Brownback took the money, calling it something else, in order to balance the budget, according to Salon.

It is unlikely that Representative Mike Pence cast many votes in favor of Obamacare while in Congress. But as Indiana Governor, he’s signed on to the Medicaid expansion, according to Dana Milbank from the Washington Post.

Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer joined her name to the lawsuits challenging the constitutionality of Obamacare. But then, she signed up for the dollars from Washington, DC after dodging a primary challenge, as reported by CBS.

Florida Governor Rick Scott, another Republican, had few kind words for Obama or the ACA. But once it was clear that he wouldn’t face a primary challenger, Scott took the money, according to the Miami Herald, hoping to boost his reelection chances. He was able to hold onto the Governor’s Mansion in Tallahassee as a result.

And it was Ohio Governor John Kasich who called for repealing Obamacare, well, at least most of it. Now he’s saying it is here to stay, as noted by CNN, and other Republicans better get used to it being around.

Michael Hiltzik with the Los Angeles Times is reporting that even Texas is considering the Medicaid expansion, modeled after Utah’s acceptance of the ACA plan.

There are a few reasons for this. While the House of Representatives and Senate can pass repeal after repeal votes, governors have to balance budgets. Also, many of these governors talk the conservative talk to beat back or forestall Tea Party primary challengers. Given that only a dwindling number of these are succeeding, there’s no need to kowtow to this group after reelection. They can use some creative accounting to accept the money, or call it something else so it will have a lower profile (Alabama could call it Bamacare, for example).

Of course, this is bound to infuriate the most conservative members of the Republican Party, but only if they are paying attention. Besides, this is still the party of Jeb Bush, who was linked to a firm that benefited from Obamacare, as reported by The Daily Mail. It’s also the party of Mitt Romney, whose Romneycare had many similarities to Obamacare, according to health expert Brad Burd.

 

By: John A. Tures, Professor of Political Science at LaGrange College in LaGrange, Ga; The Blog, The Huffington Post, December 31, 2014

January 2, 2015 Posted by | Affordable Care Act, Obamacare, Republican Governors | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Bragging About Their Ignorance”: “I’m Not A Scientist” Is A Dangerous Cop-Out

The evidence for global climate change is overwhelming. Ninety-seven percent of climate scientists, along with the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and more than 30 professional scientific research societies, agree that climate change is happening because of human actions and that it will be an increasingly serious problem if we don’t stop it. It is reasonable for politicians to debate the best way to solve this problem, but whether it is a problem should not be up for discussion anymore. However, in response to questions about climate change, political candidates, including high-profile politicians such as Senate Minority (for now) Leader Mitch McConnell, Florida Gov. Rick Scott, and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio are frequently saying: “I’m not a scientist.”

When politicians say “I’m not a scientist,” it is an exasperating evasion. It’s a cowardly way to avoid answering basic and important policy questions. This response raises lots of other important questions about their decision-making processes. Do they have opinions on how to best maintain our nation’s highways, bridges, and tunnels—or do they not because they’re not civil engineers? Do they refuse to talk about agriculture policy on the grounds that they’re not farmers? How do they think we should be addressing the threat of ISIS? They wouldn’t know, of course; they’re not military generals.

No one would ever say these things, because they’re ridiculous. Being a policymaker in a country as large and complex as the United States requires making decisions on a variety of important subjects outside of your primary area of expertise. Voters wouldn’t tolerate this “I’m not a scientist” excuse if applied to any other discipline, yet politicians appear to be using this line successfully to distance themselves from experts crucial for solving many of our country’s most important problems.

American populist rhetoric has always had a dark side of anti-intellectualism, the belief that the common sense of the average man on the street is equal to or greater than the expert knowledge of people who spend years studying a particular question, and that has been on full display in recent years. Who can understand what those weird, other-worldly scientists are talking about, anyway? Somebody needs to “stand up to the experts.” Despite what any politician says, the overwhelming evidence supports the scientific consensus that climate change is happening because of human activity and that we should take action to stop it because it will be a significant threat—a position the U.S. military agrees with.

I actually am a scientist (a marine biologist), but you don’t need to be an expert on anything to pay attention when 97 percent of people who are experts in that subject agree that something is a problem and that we should do something about it. You don’t need to be a fully trained expert in the sciences to make decisions that involve science (which is good, because less than 4 percent of the representatives in Congress have any kind of scientific training, even broadly defined).

“ ‘I’m not a scientist’ is a cheap cop-out that is becoming all too common, not just on climate change but on issues like fracking and evolution, too. Politicians of both major political parties are trotting out the ‘I’m not a scientist’ remark to avoid stating where they stand on policy,” says Michael Halpern, the manager of strategy and innovation for the Union of Concerned Scientists.

The chair of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee, Lamar Smith (R-Texas), is also not a scientist, but that’s not stopping him from attacking National Science Foundation–funded scientific research. Smith has been publicly mocking grants to study topics that he doesn’t personally see the value in studying, proposing laws that would change peer review at the NSF to value studies with purported economic benefits, and attacking NSF officials in congressional hearings. Smith seems to be trying to look tough on government spending, and appealing to anti-intellectualism is an easy strategy. However, the total budget of the NSF is less than a quarter of 1 percent of the federal budget, and only the top 5 percent of proposals are funded. All research proposals submitted to NSF go through a rigorous system of peer review with experts in the field anonymously evaluating the strengths and weaknesses of each, often with suggestions for how to improve the research in the future. Peer review is a critical part of free scientific inquiry, and the fact that an anti-intellectual politician doesn’t personally see the value in a particular study should be irrelevant to whether that study is funded.

The ranking Democrat on the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee says she is baffled by Smith’s public attacks on the peer review process. Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson has correctly pointed out that there is no evidence whatsoever of waste or fraud associated with the NSF grants that Smith is investigating, that Smith seems to be targeting NSF-funded projects that he thinks sound silly based on his limited understanding of their purposes, and that such unprecedented attacks from a high-ranking government official can have a chilling effect on the free scientific inquiry that has helped make the United States an economic powerhouse.

You don’t need to be a scientist to recognize that climate change is a problem, but you do need to be a scientist to appropriately participate in peer review. Politicians who get this backward, as well as those who disrupt the process of scientific research or willfully ignore the conclusions of that research, should be voted out of power.

 

By: David Shiffman, Ph.D. Student at The Abess Center for Ecosystem Science and Policy at the University of Miami; Slate, October 22, 2014

October 27, 2014 Posted by | Climate Change, Politics, Science | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“In Service Of Ideological Gain”: Chris Christie Just Exposed His Entire Party’s Deceitful Voter Suppression Plan

Every now and again a Republican state party operative or elected official will drop the ruse and admit that the purpose of state-level voter restrictions isn’t to curtail voter impersonation fraud or to cut election costs, but to keep the wrong kinds of people from voting.

Usually the admission is purely cynical, as when Pennsylvania’s House Majority Leader Mike Turzai said, “Voter ID … is gonna allow Governor Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania.” (It didn’t.) Other times it’s suffused with racism—the forefather of vote suppression—as when Don Yelton, then a Republican precinct chairman from North Carolina, appeared on “The Daily Show” last year to announce that “the law is going to kick the Democrats in the butt… If it hurts a bunch of lazy blacks that want the government to give them everything, so be it.”

Governors, senators and national operatives are better at keeping a lid on this kind of candor. But as evidence that voter fraud is a right-wing superstition mounts, alongside evidence that the GOP’s remedies measurably suppress the vote, savvier arguments for voting restrictions are reducing toward either naked appeals like Turzai’s and Yelton’s or toward a kind of post-modernist denial of objective reality in service of ideological gain.

“Would you rather have Rick Scott in Florida overseeing the voting mechanism, or Charlie Crist?” New Jersey Governor Chris Christie asked this week at a Chamber of Commerce event in Washington. “Would you rather have Scott Walker in Wisconsin overseeing the voting mechanism, or would you rather have Mary Burke? Who would you rather have in Ohio, John Kasich or Ed FitzGerald?”

Christie went on, “The fact is it doesn’t matter if you don’t really care what happens in these states, you’re going to care about who is running the state in November of 2016, what kind of political apparatus they’ve set up and what kind of governmental apparatus they’ve set up to ensure a full and fair election in 2016.”

By no coincidence, Republicans in each of those states have already imposed disenfranchising restrictions, which makes it clear that Christie sees these kinds of laws as an existential necessity, the key to Republican self-perpetuation. In Christie’s mind, American election outcomes are a direct function of partisan control of states. Republicans, who “oversee the voting mechanisms,” need to win so that they can continue to “oversee the voting mechanisms.” If they don’t win now, they’ll lose control of the voting mechanisms ahead of an election in which fundamentals will favor the Democrats, and be doomed.

There’s a blinkered and an unblinkered way to interpret such a view. The former—a more generous interpretation—is that Christie believes, against all evidence, that when Republicans lose control of the voting apparatus, fraud becomes rampant and cheaters swing elections to Democrats. The latter, to quote the Washington Monthly’s Ed Kilgore, is that Christie is “treating the right to vote as discretionary, depending on [his] party’s needs, which makes voter suppression just another day at the office”—that he believes Republicans must cheat to win now, so that they can live to cheat another day.

Neither of these readings flatters Christie. If the extent of voter fraud were an open question, Christie could make a real, but contestable case that GOP-backed voting restrictions yield election outcomes that more closely resemble the will of the voting public. But this is not an open question. What we know about voter fraud, and the right’s insistence on fighting it by limiting the franchise, makes its anti-fraud agenda a mirror image of its rejection of climate science. Republicans oppose the regulatory remedies to climate change, so they question its existence. They support the regulatory remedies to voter fraud, so they insist it exists.

In that way, voter fraud is the dark matter of Republican politics. Except that unlike dark matter, whose existence can be inferred from the way it tugs at the outer stars of our galaxy, the only way to infer that voter fraud swings elections to Democrats is to stipulate that Democratic victories are intrinsically aberrant.

This, again, is the charitable view. The simpler view is that Christie et al understand that voting restrictions suppress the Democratic vote, and see that as a feature rather than a bug. Either way, it suggests that conservatives will cling to the voter fraud myth, in the same way they cling to the myth that upper-bracket income tax cuts pay for themselves; or that they will posit the exact same voter suppression tactics as the solution to other problems, real or imagined.

Earlier this week, Vox’s Matthew Yglesias reprised his argument for building a movement to create a constitutional right to vote. The argument has three prongs. A Voting Rights Amendment would serve as a valuable organizing tool, until adopted; if adopted, it would flip the burden on Republicans, to demonstrate that their efforts to restrict voting don’t violate the Constitution; and it would be hard to defeat along the way, because the substantive and moral arguments for a Voting Rights Amendment are incontestable. Pair it with a national Election Day holiday, and Republicans would have a much harder time sculpting the electorate. The alternative is that Democrats will continue to expend tremendous energy and capital to beat back tactics Republicans are unlikely to abandon on their own.

 

By: Brian Beutler, The New Republic, October 22, 2014

October 25, 2014 Posted by | Chris Christie, Democracy, Voter Suppression | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Suppressing Votes Just Another Day At The Office”: Republicans Are Treating The Right To Vote As Discretionary

When I said yesterday that the right to vote was increasingly being treated as a partisan political game, I had no way to know that a very prominent Republican politician would supply an instant illustration, per a report from the Bergen Record:

Governor Christie pushed further into the contentious debate over voting rights than ever before, saying Tuesday that Republicans need to win gubernatorial races this year so that they’re the ones controlling “voting mechanisms” going into the next presidential election….

“Would you rather have Rick Scott in Florida overseeing the voting mechanism, or Charlie Crist? Would you rather have Scott Walker in Wisconsin overseeing the voting mechanism, or would you rather have Mary Burke? Who would you rather have in Ohio, John Kasich or Ed FitzGerald?” he asked.

Brother Benen commented archly:

I’m not sure which is worse: the prospect of Christie making these remarks without thinking them through or Christie making these remarks because he’s already thought this through.

In theory, in a functioning democracy, control over “voting mechanisms” shouldn’t dictate election outcomes. Citizens consider the candidates, they cast their ballots, the ballots are counted, and the winner takes office. It’s supposed to be non-partisan – indeed, the oversight of the elections process must be professional and detached from politics in order to maintain the integrity of the system itself.

So what exactly is Chris Christie suggesting here?….

[P]olitical scientist Norm Ornstein paraphrased Christie’s comments this way: “How can we cheat on vote counts if we don’t control the governorships?”

Yep, Republicans are treating the right to vote as discretionary, depending on their party’s needs, which makes voter suppression just another day at the office.

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Political Animal, The Washington Monthly, October 22, 2014

October 24, 2014 Posted by | Democracy, Republicans, Voter Suppression | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

%d bloggers like this: