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“A GOP Takeover? Not So Fast”: There’s Room For Democrats To Make Up Ground In The Battle For Senate Control

You’ve seen the ads and heard the robocalls. Yes, it’s election season, and everyone wants to know who will win. In the U.S. House of Representatives, the Republicans will likely hold onto their majority as there simply aren’t enough competitive House races to allow Democrats to gain enough seats. The real battle this election year is for control of the U.S. Senate. Democrats currently control the chamber with only a slim majority, making them vulnerable to defeat. Election watchers everywhere are already offering up predictions, but it’s still far too early to know which party will be victorious in November.

At this point in time, Republicans appear to have an edge in the Senate races and, indeed, many political observers are starting to forecast a Republican Senate majority in 2015. This week, Fox News released several polls showing Republican candidates are ahead in five key Senate races. There are some good reasons for the GOP advantage. Democrats have more Senate seats to defend than Republicans. Additionally, the president’s approval ratings are low, which is always a disadvantage to his party’s candidates. The fall season has also been full of potential government missteps regarding the threat of Ebola, controversy over the handling of the danger posed by the Islamic State group and scandal in the Secret Service. All of these have the potential to work against Democratic Senate contenders, but it’s too soon to count them out.

As the Washington Post points out this week, the GOP path to a Senate takeover is far from clear. Recent developments in key states such as South Dakota and Georgia have given Democrats reason to hope. Additionally, the Post points out, some Republican candidates have not performed as well as expected, taking some potential gains out of play. In the Fox News poll, none of the candidates are polling at over fifty percent, which means none of the candidates are close to a decisive victory and that the races are, in the words of the news organization, “still far from settled.” There’s room for Democratic candidates to make up ground

Election Day is still four weeks away, and in an election year that is an eternity. Anything could happen over the course of the next month to completely change the election-year landscape. Further, it doesn’t appear that voters have completely made up their minds yet. Although national trends seem to be favoring one party, as Democratic pollster Mark Mellman told the Washington Post, “Senate races are not just about national trends. The candidates and the local circumstances do matter.” There is also the possibility that, due to election laws, results in some states may be delayed for weeks or even months. If the control of the Senate comes down to one or two seats, these delays could create significant uncertainty. Who will win the race for control of the Senate? It’s still up for grabs.

 

By: Cary Gibson, Thomas Jefferson Street Blog, U. S. News and World Report, October 10, 2014

October 13, 2014 Posted by | Midterm Elections, Senate | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“None Dare Call It Impeachment”: We Will Look Back On This Moment In Washington As The Week That Irony Died

Let’s talk about something cheerful. How about impeachment?

Hey, it’s been a depressing month for news. If you want to look on the bright side, you’ve got to work with what you’ve got.

The possibility of actual impeachment is not something that keeps Barack Obama up at night. Modern history suggests there’s nothing Congress could do that the American public would hate more. Yet impeachment talk has been bounding around the Republican right for ages. The South Dakota Republican Party passed a resolution calling for impeachment at their annual convention this year. (We all know the famous saying: “As South Dakota goes, so goes North Dakota.”) Sarah Palin brings up impeachment virtually every day. Some members of Congress use it to energize the crazy base.

For instance, Representative Ted Yoho of Florida once posted a list of arguments for impeachment on his campaign website. I am mentioning this in part because it’s always fun to write “Ted Yoho.” Also because I don’t think I’ve ever had an opportunity to note that during his previous election season, Ted Yoho told a church group that he wished the right to vote was limited to property owners.

Last week, the Democrats started picking up the impeachment banner in the form of pretending to take the Republican threats seriously. White House senior adviser Dan Pfeiffer said it would be “foolish to discount the possibility.” Democratic fund-raisers sent out warnings of impending impeachment danger to their own base and were tickled by the enthusiastic response.

Now, Republican leaders are desperately trying to change the subject. The House speaker, John Boehner, called impeachment talk “a scam started by Democrats at the White House.” Karl Rove claimed Obama was trying to create a “constitutional crisis where none exists.”

“Do you think anyone in Washington in the G.O.P. is serious about impeachment?” demanded the radio host Glenn Beck. “Do you think one person? Have you spoken to one person? No one. So who wants it? The president does.” Actually, as Kendall Breitman pointed out in Politico, Beck had called for impeachment his very own self about a year earlier.

Meanwhile, in the House of Representatives, the majority party was busy showing the nation its serious side by voting to sue President Obama for violating the Constitution. Look, everybody has their own way of demonstrating that they’re sticking to the business at hand. Republicans are upset about the president’s attempt to deal with problems by executive order when Congress fails to address them with legislation. Obama’s record when it comes to executive orders is actually rather paltry compared with some of his Republican predecessors. Nevertheless, the Republicans have many, many complaints, all of which involve mention of the founding fathers.

You could not help but suspect that if Speaker Boehner had it to do all over again, he’d never have brought this idea up. Democrats cheerfully urged a really, really long debate on the subject, but the Republican-dominated Rules Committee decided that the whole thing should be dispatched with as quickly as possible. So fast, in fact, that it gave the lawsuit against the president the same debate time as a bill on deregulating pesticides.

The Republicans focused on — yes! — the founding fathers. It was, said Representative Candice Miller of Michigan, a battle against “tyranny, Mr. Speaker. Tyranny.” She is the leader of the Committee on House Administration, the only woman to lead a House committee under the current leadership. We will not dwell on the fact that Miller’s committee is basically in charge of housekeeping.

Meanwhile, the Democrats kept bringing up the I-word. “I sincerely believe that you are trying to set the stage for a despicable impeachment proceeding,” said Representative G.K. Butterfield of North Carolina. Representative Pete Sessions of Texas, the House Rules chairman, denied that suing the president was a step on the slippery slope to impeachment. He did that by defending the impeachment of President Clinton, which was, of course, so exceedingly successful that Clinton now is the most popular individual in the nation except perhaps for Boo the World’s Cutest Dog and the hamster that eats tiny burritos.

Rather than suing the president for everything he’s ever done, the Republicans tried to improve their legal prospects by picking a particular executive order. They settled on the one postponing enforcement of part of Obamacare that requires businesses to provide health coverage for their employees. “Are you willing to let any president choose what laws to execute and what laws to change?” demanded Boehner.

“Not a single one of them voted for the Affordable Care Act,” said Louise Slaughter, the top Democrat on the House Rules Committee. “They spent $ 79 million holding votes to kill it. And now they’re going to sue him for not implementing it fast enough.”

We will look back on this moment in Washington as The Week That Irony Died.

 

By: Gail Collins, Op-Ed Columnist, The New York Times, July 30, 2014

July 31, 2014 Posted by | House Republicans, Impeachment, John Boehner | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Death Of A Dream”: Celebrating South Dakota’s 125th Birthday — Or Not

South Dakota, like North Dakota, was named after a people; the Dakota or Sioux as they were misnamed by the French, missionaries and the settlers.

Before it became a state it was known as Dakota Territory, clearly identifying it as a land belonging to the Dakota. It became a state on November 2, 1889. One year and 57 days after statehood one of the worst massacres of innocent Indian men, women and children took place on December 29, 1890 at Wounded Knee, clearly within the boundaries of the new state.

Nearly 300 innocent victims died that December day many of them torn apart by the new Hotchkiss machine guns, the first time these deadly guns were used against human beings. When the young Nicholas Black Elk saw this carnage he later said, “And I can see that something else died there in the bloody mud and was buried in the blizzard: A people’s dream died there. It was a beautiful dream.”

This year on November 2, South Dakota will be celebrating its 125th Anniversary as a State. For nearly all of those 125 years the Dakota, Lakota, Nakota people who make up the largest minority in the state were excluded from participation in the state legislative body and were denied the basic freedoms accorded to every white citizen of the state.

They did not become citizens of the state until 1924 when the United States made them citizens of the United States. First understand that the state was named after a people; but Dakota is not only a people, it is a dialect. That is why those people erroneously noted as Sioux called themselves Dakota, Lakota and Nakota. Simply put all of the so-called Sioux spoke the same language with a slightly different dialect. Where the Dakota used a “D” the Lakota used an “L” and the Nakota used an “N.” For example the word for friend in Dakota is koda, and in Lakota it is kola and in Nakota it is kona.

Of course it is much more complicated than that. When one delves more deeply into it they will find that there were actually four dialects: The Santee, Yankton, Teton and Assiniboine and each of these dialects has slight differences, but not sufficient enough for all of the Dakota to understand each other.

According to a dictionary by the great Lakota educator Albert White Hat. Sr., Sicangu Lakota, the name Sioux came about in the 17th century by French trappers and missionaries when they adopted the last syllable of the Ojibwe term “nadowessioux” (literally “snake lesser”). Since the Ojibwe called their major enemy, the Iroquois, “nadowewok” (snake) “Sioux” was the last part of an Ojibwe word that meant in itself only “minor” or “lessor.” The tribes were further divided into the Oceti Sakowin or People of the Seven Council Fires.”

Most of what I write here are simple things the white citizens of South Dakota ignored or failed to learn and continued to shoot and murder the “Sioux” people because there was no law to stop them. The life of an Indian to them was no more important than that of a coyote. And we should never forget that the United States once placed a bounty on a “redskin,” much as they did on a beaver skin or pelt. And there are those out there who still wonder why most Native Americans hate the word “redskin.”

If you were a Lakota, Dakota or Nakota, how would you feel about celebrating the 125th Anniversary of Statehood for South Dakota knowing that you had been excluded, discriminated against, murdered and had most of your land stolen from you by the State of South Dakota?

I’ll leave it up to the Oceti Sakowin to decide that.

 

By: Tim Giago, Founder, Native American Journalists Association; The Huffington Post Blog, July 3, 2014

July 6, 2014 Posted by | Discrimination, Native Americans, Racism | , , , , | Leave a comment

“Unlicensed Doctors”: Politicians Swinging Stethoscopes

Let’s take a look at sex and state legislatures.

Never a good combo. Lawmakers venture into murky waters when they attempt to deal with the mysteries of human reproduction. The results are generally short of scientific. Once, when I was covering the Connecticut House of Representatives, a bill introduced at the behest of professional musicians, “An Act Concerning Rhythm Machines,” was referred to the Public Health Committee under the assumption that it was about birth control.

That was a long time ago, but a definite high note. Normally when these matters come up in a state capitol, the result is not chuckles.

New Hampshire, for instance, seems to have developed a thing for linking sex and malignant disease. This week, the State House passed a bill that required that women who want to terminate a pregnancy be informed that abortions were linked to “an increased risk of breast cancer.”

As Terie Norelli, the minority leader, put it, the Legislature is attempting to make it a felony for a doctor “to not give a patient inaccurate information.”

And there’s more. One of the sponsors, Representative Jeanine Notter, recently asked a colleague whether he would be interested, “as a man,” to know that there was a study “that links the pill to prostate cancer.”

This was at a hearing on a bill to give employers a religious exemption from covering contraception in health care plans. The article Notter appeared to be referring to simply found that nations with high use of birth control pills among women also tended to have high rates of prostate cancer among men. Nobody claimed that this meant there was scientific evidence of a connection. You could also possibly discover that nations with the lowest per capita number of ferrets have a higher rate of prostate cancer.

Bringing the prostate into the fight was definitely a new wrinkle. But it’s getting very popular to try to legislate an abortion-breast cancer link. I suspect this is at least in part because politicians in some states are being forced to stretch to find new ways to torture women who want to end an unwanted pregnancy. It’s sort of like gun control — once your state already has guaranteed the right to wear concealed weapons into bars and churches, you’re going to have to start getting really creative to reaffirm a commitment to the Second Amendment.

Last year, South Dakota — which has a grand total of one abortion provider — instituted a 72-hour waiting period, plus a requirement that the woman undergo a lecture at one of the state’s anti-abortion pregnancy counseling centers.

This law is tied up by litigation. While they’re waiting, the legislators have improved upon their work, requiring the doctor to ask his patient — who may have already traveled for hours, waited for three days and gone through the counseling center harangue — questions including what her religious background is and how she thinks her family might react to the decision to end the pregnancy.

“South Dakota has taken the I.R.S. audit model and applied it to women’s reproduction,” said Ted Miller of Naral Pro-Choice America.

But about this cancer business.

“Now we’re seeing why legislatures getting into the practice of medicine is dangerous,” said Barbara Bollier, a Republican state representative in Kansas, where a bill requiring doctors to warn abortion patients about the breast cancer connection is pending.

Bollier is a retired anesthesiologist, who also formerly taught bioethics. If you wanted to have a résumé guaranteed to drive you crazy in the Kansas State Legislature, she’s got it.

We had a very interesting discussion over the phone about good science — what makes a reliable study, and how an early suggestion of a possible connection between abortions and breast cancer was overtaken by larger, better studies that showed no evidence of a link whatsoever. All of this has been shared with the Kansas Legislature, to no effect whatsoever.

Bollier has her finger on the moral to all this. When faced with a choice between scientific evidence and their personal and political preferences, legislators are not going to go with the statistics. I have warm memories of the committee of the Texas House of Representatives that last year rejected a bill to require that public school sex education classes be “medically accurate.”

Let’s refrain from discussing how the people who are preparing to legislate medical science are often the very same ones who scream about government overreach when health experts propose taxing sugary beverages.

Just try to envision yourself in a doctor’s office for a consult. Then imagine you’re joined by a state legislator. How many of you think the situation has been improved? Can I see a show of hands?

Thought so.

By: Gail Collins, Op-Ed Columnist, The New York Times, March 16, 2012

March 18, 2012 Posted by | State Legislatures, Women's Health | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Nebraska Revives “Justifiable Homicide” Bill To Protect Fetuses

Remember that bill in South Dakota a year ago that would have redefined “justifiable homicide” in a way that could have made killing abortion providers legally defensible? South Dakota had the good sense to shelve it, but then Nebraska brought it back. Now it appears the Cornhusker State is at it again.

RH Reality Check flagged the revival of the bill, which was debated in the Nebaska Senate judiciary committee this week:

Senator Mark Christensen introduced the legislation. He stated in committee that the bill would “make it clear that an individual may use force to protect an unborn child under the same circumstances that an individual may use force to protect any third person as currently provided under the law.”

The piece also quotes from the statement of state Sen. Brenda Council, a member of the committee. She noted that in the 2009 incident in which an anti-abortion extremist killed Kansas doctor George Tiller, the assassin attempted to use exactly this type of “justifiable homicide” argument:

Under your amendment, a person who believes that someone who was assisting a woman to obtain an abortion is threatening the life of the unborn child and would use that as a self-defense argument   I am certainly aware of the case where that argument was made by an individual who shot and killed a doctor who was known to provide abortion services. And his self-defense argument was: I was protecting the unborn child, and I have a right if I believe that unborn child’s life is being threatened.

 

By: Kate Sheppard, Mother Jones, March 1, 2012

March 2, 2012 Posted by | Abortion, Women's Health | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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