Two activist groups on Friday will deliver petitions with more than 100,000 signatures calling on NFL commissioner Roger Goodell to better “address the NFL’s domestic violence problem” in the wake of criticism over the league’s punishment of Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice.
CREDO Action and UltraViolet, two advocacy networks, organized petition drives last Friday after Goodell handed Rice a two-game suspension for his arrest on domestic violence charges. Rice allegedly punched his then-fiancee at an Atlantic City casino in February and was caught on security video dragging her out of a hotel elevator while she was unconscious. Echoing widespread sentiment of the suspension, the two groups called the punishment “woefully inadequate” and “meager” in a release that said they had collectively received more 116,863 signatures on their separate petitions.
“The NFL has a serious domestic abuse problem that it has failed miserably at addressing,” Shaunna Thomas, the co-founder of UltraViolet, said in the release. “Their reaction to the Ray Rice case is nothing short of shameful. Yet, is also sadly predictable as the league has made very clear that it is fine looking the other way when it comes to cases of domestic abuse. It is far past time the NFL clean up it’s act and learn to respect women.”
CREDO’s petition called on the NFL to provide better standards for domestic violence and sexual assault punishments, noting that the league regularly issues harsher punishments for recreational and performance-enhancing drug use (under its collectively-bargained drug policy) than it does for violence against women. UltraViolet’s petition tells the NFL to change its policies “so that violent offenders like Ray Rice receive suspensions that reflect the severity of the crime.”
“We simply cannot tolerate conduct that endangers others. This is particularly true with respect to domestic violence and other forms of violence against women,” Goodell wrote in a letter to Rice informing him of the suspension. The commissioner, who is attending Hall of Fame ceremonies in Canton, Ohio this weekend, has not spoken publicly about the Rice suspension despite the widespread criticism of it.
Adolpho Birch, the league’s executive vice president for labor policy and government affairs, struggled to justify the short suspension in an interview with ESPN last week, saying: “We believe the discipline we issued is appropriate. It is multiple games and hundreds of thousands of dollars. I think it’s fair to say that doesn’t reflect that you condone the behavior.”
Rice held a press conference at the Ravens training camp facility Thursday to publicly apologize. “I take full responsibility for my actions,” Rice said. “What happened that night is something that I’m going to pay for the rest of my life.”
In the five months since Uganda adopted the law, which imposes a sentence of up to life in prison for homosexuality and criminalizes advocating LGBT rights, LGBT Ugandans have lived under the constant threat of arrest or mob violence. The court’s decision paves the way for organizations to again begin operating openly and to allow LGBT people to resume normal lives. But that change will come slowly — homosexuality remains a crime in Uganda under a provision of the penal code on the books before the Anti-Homosexuality Act was passed last December, and there is a chance of a surge in anti-LGBT violence in reaction to today’s ruling.
The decision could also significantly ease international pressure on President Yoweri Museveni, who has been under pressure from the United States, the World Bank, and other important donors to get rid of the law or at least substantially weaken it through enforcement.
Ugandan journalist Andrew Mwenda tweeted from the packed courtroom:
The courtroom became something of a circus during the three-hour recess the judges called before issuing the ruling, according to people in the room. Anti-LGBT activist Pastor Martin Ssempa prayed loudly and got into arguments with multiple petitioners. Security eventually approached Ssempa to request he sit down.
The court struck down the law on procedural grounds, saying it was invalid because there was no quorum in Parliament when the legislation was passed on Dec. 20. (A quorum is the requirement that at least one-third of members are present when a vote is held.) The court was ruling on a petition brought by a group of 10 human rights activists, legal scholars, and opposition politicians. The court did not rule on the underlying question of whether anti-LGBT laws violate basic human rights, and so the pre-existing sodomy code, which was imposed when Uganda was a British colony, remains in place. Two men are currently awaiting trial under this provision.
Since the vote last year, there has been a 20-fold increase in incidents of anti-LGBT harassment, including blackmail, eviction, and torture, according to a study by Sexual Minorities Uganda. The country’s largest human rights organization, the Refugee Law Project, has also had many of its activities shut down by the government, which alleges it was involved in “promoting homosexuality.”
With the court’s nullification of the law, “we become legal again,” said Sexual Minorities Uganda Director Frank Mugisha, one of the petitioners. But this ruling won’t make life better for LGBT people right away, he said. “Society won’t give in,” though there is “an open space and a [chance for] dialogue with the government” now that the law is gone.
Mugisha and other LGBT activists said before the ruling they were braced for a surge in violence. The law’s supporters, like Ssempa and the leadership of the Inter-Religious Council of Uganda, had been whipping up their supporters during the two days of hearings before the ruling, and LGBT activists expected a backlash if they won.
“Many people are going to retaliate and attack community members,” said Kasha Jacqueline of the organization Freedom and Roam Uganda, another of the petitioners. “People are going to retaliate — not just the members of Parliament and anti-gay groups and religious leaders, but in the community as well.”
By dismissing the law on procedural grounds, the Constitutional Court sidestepped ruling on the question of whether LGBT rights are protected by fundamental rights protected by the Ugandan constitution. It also does nothing to stop Parliament from passing the law again with a quorum present.
Ssempa told BuzzFeed outside the courtroom that he suspected the court had been corrupted, and would demand an appeal of the ruling to the Supreme Court and an investigation by Parliament into the independence of the judiciary.
“This decision is a legal travesty. It is an insult to all family-culture-loving people in Uganda,” Ssempa said. “Is there possibility that the president traveling to Washington next week could be the reason why this case was hurried at lightning speed? … We just wonder if indeed our country is independent, and we want to ask the parliament to investigate the independence of the judiciary.”
Listen to Martin Ssempa’s full remarks on the ruling.
In a press conference Friday afternoon, the bill’s sponsor, MP David Bahati, expressed confidence that the attorney general will appeal the ruling.
“Our competent legal team will continue to petition the Supreme Court and I believe we will win,” Bahati said. “The court case ruling is no victory at all, the morals of the people of Uganda will prevail.”
Bahati also could try to get another vote on the bill in Parliament with a quorum present. But the law’s opponents think the chances he’ll succeed are slim. Re-passing the law would require starting the legislative process from the beginning, including committee hearings and receiving certification of its financial impact from the finance ministry. If the government of President Yoweri Museveni does not want the bill to pass again, the finance ministry could silently kill the bill simply by withholding certification.
“Someone will try,” said Nicholas Opiyo, one of the attorneys who argued against the law before the Constitutional Court. “I don’t think it will come back immediately. It will take some time. But the dynamics here change quite rapidly and it might not come back at all.”
The speed with which the court moved to reach a ruling had many speculating that it was acting on orders from Museveni to dispose of the legislation. The court wasn’t scheduled to take up the challenge to the law until September, but then abruptly announced last week that it would begin hearings this Wednesday. It began hearing arguments despite the objections of the representative of the attorney general, Patricia Mutesi, who may still appeal the order to proceed to the Supreme Court. But if political pressure had been put on the court to strike down the law, the same pressure could likely be used to get the attorney general’s office to quietly drop its efforts to uphold the law.
This is the third important ruling from the Ugandan judiciary in support of LGBT rights, and it could reverberate throughout the region, where several other countries are considering similar laws. It shows that courts are willing to support LGBT rights even in east African countries where politicians have concluded being anti-LGBT is good politics. It also comes shortly after a Kenyan court ordered government officials to allow a trans rights group to officially register their organization. Other LGBT rights cases are pending in Kenya, as well as in Malawi and Botswana.
The law’s defeat could quickly unlock important funding streams for the Ugandan government, which relies heavily on foreign aid. The health ministry had made a concession to the World Bank in June in an attempt to get access to a $90 million health care loan that had been on hold since Museveni signed the Anti-Homosexuality Act in February, releasing guidelines that attempted to ensure LGBT patients would not be endangered by access to health services.
It is not immediately clear how Friday’s ruling will affect U.S. sanctions announced in June, which include denying entry to Ugandan officials who have been involved in human rights abuses. Some human rights advocates were already critical that the U.S. immediately undermined that decision by inviting Museveni to participate in an African Leaders Summit being hosted by the Obama administration in D.C. next week.
LGBT activists now turn their work to the much harder job of rolling back the colonial-era sodomy law and trying to undo the anti-LGBT sentiment stirred up over the four years that the bill has been under consideration. That will not fade quickly.
But, said Kasha Jacqueline, “It’s a big step forward if the law is scrapped, because many people are taking the law into their own hands.”
“If the law is gone, it’s easier, then the police are obliged to protect,” said Frank Mugisha. But, he said, “the struggle is still long.”
Listen to Justice Steven Kavuma give the order striking down the Anti-Homosexuality Act:
Less than two months after his stunning primary upset and just hours after stepping down as House majority leader, Rep. Eric Cantor said Thursday that he will resign his seat in the House of Representatives effective Aug. 18.
Bill Weir is not impressed with Fox News site’s weather story
CNN anchor Bill Weir didn’t mince words in his assessment of a Fox Nation post.
“Climate Doesn’t Cooperate With Al Gore Group’s Visit to Denver EPA Hearings,” read the headline of a post on Fox News’ opinion and aggregation site. The story, from the Washington Times, noted that while Gore’s group has linked global warming to hot temperatures, Denver was 58 degrees and rainy on the day of the hearings.
To which Weir replied on Twitter: “Weather is not climate, you willfully ignorant fucksticks.”
WASHINGTON — The Senate passed a compromise bill allowing veterans to seek private care and adding $17 billion to the Department of Veterans Affairs to hire doctors to address long wait lists. The final vote in favor was 91-3.
The bill, which was rushed through before the August recess so it could be sent to President Obama, would require VA to make up $5 billion by taking it from other programs.
The House passed the compromise bill earlier this week.
Veterans enrolled in emergency care as of Aug. 1 who face long wait times, or live more than 40 miles from a VA facility could seek private care. It also gives VA $1.3 billion to open 27 new outpatient clinics, allows the VA secretary to fire top officials, allows veterans to qualify for in-state status for tuition at public colleges, and provides care for veterans who were sexually assaulted during their service.
It also cuts funding for VA employee bonuses by $40 million less than last year.
"The veterans of this country are entitled to quality and timely health care," Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., said in a statement. "This legislation will take us a long way toward making good on that promise."
Republican Leader Mitch McConnell said in a statement, “When veterans are denied care, it’s a priority deserving of bipartisan attention, and this legislation will help ensure the VA lives up to the promises that we made to our veterans. We owe them no less.”
The three senators who voted against the bill were Tom Coburn, R-Okla., Bob Corker, R-Tenn., and Jeff Sessions, R-Ala.
Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg says the nation’s highest court will definitely take a same-sex marriage case, and she suggests when the country will know the future of marriage equality.
Ruth Bader Ginsburg says the Supreme Court will not “duck” same-sex marriage. The 81-year old Associate Justice (all Supreme Court Justices are technically Associate Justices, except for the Chief Justice) told the AP today that she expects the Court to take a case and decide it no later than June of 2016, or possibly earlier. She did not specify which case, although it’s assumed it will be one (or several, possibly) of the many dozen making their way through the nation’s court system now.
The AP reports that Ginsburg “said attitudes have changed swiftly in favor of the right of same-sex couples to marry.”
In August of last year, Ginsburg became the first sitting Supreme Court justice to officiate at a same-sex wedding. She married Michael M. Kaiser and John Roberts (no relation to the Chief Justice) in Washington, D.C.
“I think it will be one more statement that people who love each other and want to live together should be able to enjoy the blessings and the strife in the marriage relationship,” Ginsburg told the Washington Post at the time.
In October of last year, retired Justice Sandra Day O’Connor also officiated at a same-sex wedding. She married a couple together for 36 years, Jeffrey Trammell and Stuart Serkin.
Jean Podrasky, an LGBT activist, the cousin of Chief Justice John Roberts, and an occasional contributor to The New Civil Rights Movement, last year on these pages wrote of Ginsburg’s siding with the majority to “toss out” the Prop 8 case on standing, allowing the lower court’s ruling to stand.
"I truly believe that Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg knew exactly what she was doing by siding with throwing the case out on standing," Podrasky wrote. ”I think her idea was for us to slowly win over public approval before making same-sex marriage legal nationwide, to allow us to win state by state through the legislative process or the ballot box, and later to have the Supreme Court rule on this again in a couple of years.”
Those “couple of years” seem to be coming up quickly.
If Justice Ginsburg’s words are true, expect a major marriage equality case to be decided at SCOTUS no later than June 2016.
An anti-Abortion group in Minnesota has been campaigning against a new Planned Parenthood in Richfield, Minn., even though the clinic doesn’t actually perform abortions, Cosmopolitan reported.
The clinic opened at the end of June, and since then Pro-Life Action Ministries (PLAM) has been vigorously objecting to it. The group has started a petition, held meetings and are now distributing flyers around town.
They protested the grand opening and have kept a constant presence outside of the clinic to offer “sidewalk counseling,” according to Cosmo. PLAM activists blasted the city’s Chamber of Commerce for “advocating for abortion” by putting together a ribbon cutting for the building in which no abortions are performed.
Brian Gibson, executive director of Pro-Life Action Ministries, told Cosmo that the group only take issue with the clinic’s role in providing abortions. The group argues that certain forms of birth control “can cause early abortions” and that emergency contraception drugs “function most often as abortion-inducing drugs.”
The new Planned Parenthood opened up after the Centro de Salud clinic in South Minneapolis closed, potentially leaving a gap in services for the Hispanic community.
The group claims they have gotten a largely positive response to their efforts to protest the clinic and refer individuals to a Catholic crisis pregnancy center.
"Several people have requested information on what they can do to aid the effort," Gibson told Cosmo. "Some have expressed gratitude for undertaking this effort. Virtually no negative responses have come from identifiable members of the Hispanic community."
But according to the clinic’s director of operations, Kristen Bucko, the protests have not kept people from seeking care at the Planned Parenthood.
"We’re really fortunate that our patients feel very confident walking into our building. It also helps that we had security there the first few days when there were more people outside," she told Cosmo.
She said that the constant protests have even led to donations.
This won’t surprise anyone who’s been following Obamacare’s latest legal battle, but the case just got one step closer to the US Supreme Court. Again. The most recent legal challenge centers on…
This won’t surprise anyone who’s been following Obamacare’s latest legal battle, but the case just got one step closer to the US Supreme Court. Again.
The most recent legal challenge centers on the subsidies available to people newly insured on state insurance exchanges. The plaintiffs argue that, based on the plain text of the law, Congress only authorized subsidies for state-established exchanges and that subsidies shouldn’t be available in the 36 states with federal exchanges. The federal government vehemently disagrees.
The plaintiffs in King v. Burwell, the case that was decided by the Fourth Circuit earlier this month, have asked the Supreme Court to hear their case, CNBC reports. The Fourth Circuit ruling went in favor of the government; the unanimous opinion said that subsidies should be available to residents of all states, based on their best reading of the law.
It’s not clear whether the high court will take up the case. Four justices have to agree to hear it, and they may wish to wait until Halbig, a related case, has fully played out.
Unlike King, the government lost in Halbig. There, the three-person panel of DC Circuit judges held that subsidies are illegal in the 36 states where the federal government runs health insurance exchanges. But the government plans to ask the entire DC Circuit — eleven judges in total — to review the decision “en banc”. Because the full DC Circuit skews liberal, observers expect that the Halbig decision will be reversed during en banc review. That probably won’t happen until early fall.
The King plaintiffs decided to skip an en banc petition.
By skipping an en banc petition, the King plaintiffs hope to get the Supreme Court to hear their case this term.
The justices may wish to wait until Halbig’s en banc review has been resolved before taking up one of the subsidy challenges. If they wait, that could push the timeline on a Supreme Court hearing back by a full year.
Alternatively, the Supreme Court could decide not to hear any of these challenges.
The Court will decide sometime this fall whether or not to hear King. If they do decide to hear the case, oral arguments would happen this winter and a final ruling would be expected sometime next spring.
The petition to the Supreme Court can be read here. For our complete coverage of these lawsuits, click here.
Minuteman Project leader Jim Gilchrist appeared today on VCY America’s “Crosstalk,” where a caller chimed in to suggest that the child migrants who have fled to the southern U.S. border should be put into a gas chamber.
“We need to put them in a prison camp or a building and not give them any help, just lock them up with arms behind them, or otherwise we are going to put them in a building and gas them to death like they did in Germany, we can’t put up with this,” the caller said.
After host Vic Eliason chided the caller for her remarks, Gilchrist said he sympathized with her “angst” and “anger” at the “mob of illegal aliens.” He thanked the caller and commended her for sharing her beliefs, claiming that her call to kill the immigrants was simply a metaphor.
“I understand that lady’s angst and her resignation that we are no longer a nations of laws,” Gilchrist said. “She sees we are no longer a nation of laws.”
He continued: “Maybe the conduct du jour now is fight lawlessness with lawlessness, and if we are going to have a Congress and a president and a mob of illegal aliens who are going to snub their nose at the law, why can’t this lady feel the same way? I sense that is where her anger is coming from. She has no intention of putting anyone in prison, I think that was a metaphor. I commend her for coming forward with her feelings because I know what she is talking about. Thank you, ma’am.”
You might remember swaggering, misogynist evangedouche/human Affliction tee Mark Driscoll from being terrible on Glenn Beck, being terrible on Fox and Friends, or being terrible any time he does anything ever, which is all the time. But he’s really ramped up the action in the last month or so! It seems like dude can’t open his praise-hole lately without face-planting in a big pile of PR doodoo.
You might remember swaggering, misogynist evangedouche/human Affliction tee Mark Driscoll from being terrible on Glenn Beck, being terrible on Fox and Friends, or being terrible any time he does anything ever, which is all the time. But he’s really ramped up the action in the last month or so! It seems like dude can’t open his praise-hole lately without face-planting in a big pile of PR doodoo.
"It’s like Romney at the party talking about the '47 percent,'" says protest organizer Jim Henderson (referring to the video capturing the presidential candidate dismissing 47 percent of Americans as idiotic freeloaders who will vote for Obama). "It’s just one of those moments when he served it up for us to hit it out of the park."
And the VERY latest: Former Mars Hill members have dug up some old posts—written pseudonymously by Driscoll—in which he declares that “we live in a pussified nation” and, by contrast, ”hell looks like a good placebecause at least a man is in charge, has a bit of order and let’s men spit and scratch as needed.”
HELL LOOKS LIKE A GOOD PLACE BECAUSE AT LEAST A MAN IS IN CHARGE.
Hahahahahahaha, crash and burn, dong-face. Thanks for confirming what we already knew about you: Faith is just a cover. Oppressing women and gay people is your real religion. You and your hate and your profit margins are your real God.
Here’s just a taste of what Mark Driscoll, “hipster pastor,” says when he thinks nobody’s looking:
We live in a completely pussified nation.
We could get every man, real man as opposed to pussified James Dobson knock-off crying Promise Keeping homoerotic worship loving mama’s boy sensitive emasculated neutered exact male replica evangellyfish, and have a conference in a phone booth. It all began with Adam, the first of the pussified nation, who kept his mouth shut and watched everything fall headlong down the slippery slide of hell/feminism when he shut his mouth and listened tohis wife who thought Satan was a good theologian when he should have lead her and exercised his delegated authority as king of the planet. As a result, he was cursed for listening to his wife and every man since has been his pussified sit quietly by and watch a nation of men be raised by bitter penis envying burned feministed single mothers who make sure that Johnny grows up to be a very nice woman who sits down to pee.
So, Johnny hits youth group one day to hear from his pussified youth pastor that he should perfect his virginity and dating skills. So Johnny tries to be a loving and patient man who looks for a nice woman like mom who will whip him into shape and beat him into submission so that he can one day join a men’s accountability group and learn how to keep his urges under control, which just causes him to be earn a B.A. in masturbation, M.A. in porno, andPhD in knuckleheadology as Johnny is now so terrified of women and his own penis that he sits in his room alone each night on the internet hoping to get some (with the occasional "falling into sin" with a woman as they inevitabaly cross "boundaries" of intimacy) because he’s so afraid of women and has no idea how to take one, or love one, or serve one, or take one to bed and make the Song of Songs sing again.
One day Johnny finally gives in to the pressure of his pre-humpers singles ministry and gets stuck with some gal left on the shelf long after her expiration date that is just like dear old mom who wants him to shut up like Adam, take his beating, and join a church men’s group that is really a woman’s group in disguise complete with cookies and crying andantidepressants to cope with the insanity.
Poor Johnny is by now so completely whacked that he’s afraid of having kids and hold off his taking on any more responsibility as long as he can because Johnny is a boy trapped in a man’s body walking around in a world of other boys all trying to keep their pee pee behind their zipper and do just like their momma told them and be good women.
And so the culture and families and churches sprint to hell because the men aren’t doing their job and the feminists continue their rant that it’s all our fault and we should just let them be pastors and heads of homes and run the show. And the more we do, the more hell looks like a good place because at least a man is in charge, has a bit of order and let’s men spit and scratch as needed. And all their whining and fighting is nothing more than furtherevidence that we are still kings and unless we do our job everyone and everything is getting screwed except Johnny (metaphorically speaking of course).
I know many of the women will disagree, and they like Eve should not speak on this matter. And, many men will also disagree, which is further proof of the pussified epidemic having now become air born and universal.
Reminder: Over ten thousand people attend services at this man’s churches. Hundreds of thousands of people watch his online sermon. Almost half a million people follow him on Twitter. If you live in the Seattle area, it’s pretty much a given that someone you know has left your social circle for Mars Hill’s promise of “cool Christianity”—which encourages members to distance themselves from non-believing friends and family.
This is what they left you for. This is Mars Hill.
Godly men imitate Christ—who praised the gentle and the peacemakers, who stood up for the exploited and abused, who showed compassion for the downtrodden, who valued women, and who loved his enemies to the point of death.
If this Facebook status were Pastor Mark Driscoll’s first offense, it might not warrant a strong response.But Mark has developed a pattern of immaturity and unkindness that has remained largely unchecked by his church. In evangelical circles, he’s like the kid from high school who makes crude jokes at every opportunity, uses the words “gay” and “queer” to describe the things he most detests, encourages his friends to subject the unpopular kids to ridicule, and belittles the guys who aren’t “macho” or “manly” enough to be in his club.
As blogger Tyler Clark put it, “When you put out a call on Facebook for people verbally attack ‘effeminate anatomically male’ men, I find myself back in high school—shoved against a locker, with the bullies calling me a faggot.”
What we have on our hands is a bully.
And this bully is teaching the young men at his church and under his influence that bullying is an acceptable expression of “biblical manhood.”
This has to stop. As followers of Jesus, we are obligated to stick up for the least of these, especially when they are being publicly bullied in the name of Christ.
We are also obligated to use the proper channels to do so. Many have asked that Mark apologize, but he has refused. Many have written blog posts expressing their concern, but he remains defiant. It’s time to take some more practical steps:
Today I emailed Mars Hill Church to request that the elders take whatever measures necessary to stop Mark’s bullying once and for all. No more empty apologies. This behavior must change.
If you wish to do the same, here’s how:
Write: Mars Hill Church 1411 NW 50th Seattle, WA 98107
If you know Mark personally or attend his church, approach him as a friend and request that he get the counseling he needs to deal with this destructive pattern. Bullying is as harmful to the bully as it is to the victim.
And to turn this bad situation into something good, consider joining the “I’m Sorry Campaign" to apologize for the ways that we as Christians have harmed the LGBT community.
MADISON, Wis. (AP) — The Wisconsin Supreme Court on Thursday upheld the 2011 law that effectively ended collective bargaining for most public workers, sparked massive protests and led to Republican Gov. Scott Walker’s recall election and rise to national prominence.
The 5-2 ruling upholds the signature policy achievement of Walker in its entirety and is a major victory for the potential 2016 GOP presidential candidate, who is seeking re-election this year.
The ruling also marks the end of the three-year legal fight over the union rights law, which prohibits public worker unions for collectively bargaining for anything beyond base wage increases based on inflation. A federal appeals court twice upheld the law as constitutional.
"No matter the limitations or ‘burdens’ a legislative enactment places on the collective bargaining process, collective bargaining remains a creation of legislative grace and not constitutional obligation," Justice Michael Gableman wrote for the majority.
The high court ruled in a lawsuit filed by the Madison teachers union and a union representing Milwaukee public workers. They had argued that the law, which came to be known as Act 10, violated workers’ constitutional rights to free assembly and equal protection.
Walker’s spokeswoman said the governor would be issuing a statement later Thursday morning.
Walker introduced the proposal shortly after taking office in 2011, a move that was met with fierce resistance from teachers, other public workers and their supporters who flooded the Capitol for weeks in an effort to block the bill’s passage. Democratic state senators fled the state for two weeks in a failed attempt to block the bill’s passage.
The law bars automatic withdrawals from members’ paychecks and requires annual elections to see if members want their unions to go on representing them. It also requires public employees to contribute more toward their health insurance and pension costs, moves that Walker said helped local governments and schools save enough money to deal with other cuts done to balance a state budget shortfall.
Walker’s opponent for re-election, Democrat Mary Burke, supports the higher pension and health insurance contributions. But while she supports restoring collective bargaining, Burke has not promised to work for the repeal of Act 10 if elected.
Walker was forced to stand for recall in 2012, a move largely motivated out of anger over the union law. He won, becoming the first governor in U.S. history to defeat a recall.
The union law has been challenged on several fronts since it was introduced, but it’s withstood them all.
The state Supreme Court decided to take the case it ruled on Thursday after a Dane County judge sided with the unions and ruled in September 2012 that major portions of the law were unconstitutional.
Gableman, who wrote the opinion, is part of the conservative majority of the state Supreme Court. Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson and Justice Ann Walsh Bradley, the court’s two most liberal members, dissented. They argued the law unconstitutionally infringes on protected rights.
Scott Walker’s cronies have ruined Wisconsin once again. It’s time to get rid of him at the ballot box in November!
When the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that businesses get to decide whether their female employees should have access to contraception, five conservative men disagreed with three women and Justice Stephen G. Breyer. This gender split could have been incidental, since the three women on the court were appointed by Democratic presidents. But it also signifies a deeper misunderstanding about the experience of women, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg told Yahoo News’ Katie Couric in an interview this week.
“Do you believe that the five male justices truly understood the ramifications of their decision?” Couric asked Ginsburg this week. “I would have to say no,” Ginsburg replied. “But the justices continue to think and change so I am ever hopeful that if the court has a blind spot today, its eyes will be open tomorrow.”
“Contraceptive protection is something every woman must have access to, to control her own destiny,” Ginsburg told Couric. The decision allowing an employer to refuse to cover those contraceptives “meant that women would have of that for themselves.”
She analogized the “blind spot” the justices had in this case to that in the 2007 ruling against plaintiff Lilly Ledbetter, a woman whose fair pay lawsuit was rejected by the court. She has framed on her wall the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, passed by Congress two years later to correct the Supreme Court ruling in which she dissented. It was the first piece of legislation signed by President Barack Obama.
Ginsburg said the passage of the law is one of her proudest achievements, because in her dissent to that case, “I said the ball is now in Congress’ court to correct the error into which the court has fallen. And Congress did it in record time.”
Lawmakers have already proposed the “Not My Bosses’ Business Act” since the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision in June. But Republicans in the Senate blocked the bill from moving forward.
In her interview with Couric, Ginsburg praised the U.S. tradition of dissents, noting that “many of those dissents are now unquestionably the law of the land,” pointing to Justice John M. Harlan’s dissent to the separate but equal ruling in Plessy v. Ferguson.
In her 35-page dissent in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, Ginsburg lambasted the majority for asserting that employers have religious rights that trump those of employees.
“I certainly respect the belief of the Hobby Lobby owners,” Ginsburg told Couric. “On the other hand, they have no constitutional right to foist that belief on the hundreds and hundreds of women who work for them who don’t share that belief. I had never seen the free exercise of religion clause interpreted in such a way.”
She explained how the law is supposed to work with an analogy she used in her dissent: A person has freedom to move his or her arms until it “hits the other fellow’s nose.” “It’s the same way with speech. Same way with religion. You can exercise your right freely until the point where it is affecting other people who don’t share your views.”
On the male justices’ future evolution, Ginsburg said she believes that “daughters can change the perception of their fathers.” She also believes that progress wins out over the course of history. Asked about the landmark Citizens United ruling that struck down limits on corporate political spending, Ginsburg said she believes her dissent in that case will also one day be the law of the land.
“That is my expectation,” she said. “I may not be around to see it but it will happen.”
Above the framed copy of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act in her chambers, Ginsburg has a photograph of the signing of the act, given to her by President Obama with a personal message. “Happy birthday,” he wrote, “and thanks for helping to create a more equal and just society.”
Santorum said the movie will be released in September. His EchoLight Cinemas is trying to create an alternative to Hollywood distribution channels by building a network of thousands of tech-equipped churches who will sell tickets for “One Generation Away” and other movies. He says the long-term strategy is to bring more people into churches and put the church back at the center of the culture.
"One Generation Away" is described as a documentary, but it’s really a preaching-to-the-choir call to arms for conservative Christians and pastors to get more involved in culture war battles while they still have the freedom to do so. Among the film’s producers are Donald and Tim Wildmon from the American Family Association, which Santorum said is packaging a shorter version of the movie into more of an activist tool.
The title comes from Ronald Reagan – specifically from a speech to the Phoenix Chamber of Commerce in 1961, a time in which Reagan was working with conservatives to rally opposition to Medicare – “socialized medicine”:
Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it on to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children what it was once like in the United States where men were free.
The thrust of “One Generation Away” is that religious freedom in the United States is disappearing fast, and if the church doesn’t fight for it now, it will soon be gone forever. Before running the film on Monday, Santorum quoted Cardinal Francis George, who said during the debate about insurance coverage of contraception, “I expect to die in my bed. I expect my successor to die in prison. I expect his successor to be a martyr.” That’s just the kind of hyperbolic “religious persecution” rhetoric we have come to expect from Religious Right leaders and their allies in the Catholic hierarchy.
At one point toward the end of the movie, it seems as if the filmmakers might be striking a more reasonable tone, with a couple of speakers saying that Christians should stand up for the rights of people of different faiths — even though the AFA’s chief spokesman opposesFirst Amendmentprotections for non-Christians— and others actually acknowledging that it is problematic for American Christians to be complaining of “religious persecution” over policy disputes when Christians and others are facing horrific, deadly persecution in many other parts of the world.
But that caution is quickly abandoned as the movie makes a direct comparison of the status of the Christian church in America with the church in Germany as the Nazis came to power. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a pastor who tried to mobilize German Christians to resist Nazi tyranny and was executed by the regime, is held up as the model that American Christians need to be willing to follow.
Eric Metaxas, a Bonhoeffer biographer who became a Religious Right folk hero when he questioned President Obama’s faith at a National Prayer Breakfast attended by the president, warned that if the church doesn’t link arms to fight, all will be lost. “The good news,” he said, “is that the American church is slightly more attuned to the rumbling heard in the distance than the German church was in the 30s. The bad news is, only slightly, right?”
The movie cuts to Mike Huckabee saying that Bonhoeffer could have saved his life if he had been willing to soften his faith, but that instead he resisted and rebuked the Nazi regime. And then we’re back to Metaxas to complete the Nazi analogy:
“The parallel today is simply that. You have a government, a state, which is getting larger and larger and more and more powerful, and is beginning to push against the church. There’s a window of opportunity where we can fight. If we don’t wake up and fight before then, we won’t be able to fight. That’s just what happened in Germany. And that’s the urgency we have in America now. And people that’s incendiary, or I’m being hyperbolic. I’m sorry, I wish, I wish, I wish I were. I’m not.”
Filmmakers said at the screening that they had conducted 75 interviews for the movie, and it sure feels like it. It includes names that will be well-known to RWW readers, like Mike Huckabee, Tony Perkins, Harry Jackson, Tim Wildmon, Alveda King, Robert George, Russell Moore of the Southern Baptist Convention, Eric Teetsel of the Manhattan Declaration, and Ryan Anderson and Jennifer Marshall of the Heritage Foundation.
Also appearing are Rep. Doug Collins; Rick Perry backer Robert Jeffress; Matthew Franck of the Witherspoon Institute, which sponsored the infamous and discredited Regnerus “family structures” study; Stephen McDowell of the dominionist Providence Foundation; Gregory Thornbury of Kings College; lawyers from the Alliance Defense Fund, the Beckett Fund, the Freedom of Conscience Defense Fund; and a number of pastors.
The film also includes interviews with some opponents of the Religious Right, including Barry Lynn of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, Princeton’s Peter Singer, and Dan Barker of the Freedom From Religion Foundation. Santorum told the audience at Heritage that he wishes he had even more of his opponents included in the film because “they scare the hell out of me” and would help motivate the right-wing base.
In order to keep the movie from being one brutally long succession of talking heads, the filmmakers resort to a tactic of constantly shifting scenes, a couple of seconds at a time, in a way that feels like they got a volume discount on stock images of Americana: boats on the water, kids playing softball, families walking together. There are also odd random fillers, like close-ups of the pattern on a couch in the room in which a speaker is sitting. The endless, repetitive succession of images actually makes the film feel even longer than it actually is. (Zack Ford at ThinkProgress had a similar reaction to this technique.)
The meat of the film, or the “red meat,” mixes the personal stories of people being victimized by intolerant secularists and/or gay activists with miniature David Bartonesque lectures on the Christian roots of America’s founding; the fact that the phrase “separation of church and state” never appears in the U.S. Constitution; the notion that the American government is trying to replace “freedom of religion” with “freedom of worship” and require any expression of faith to take place behind church walls; and the disgracefulness of making any analogies between the civil rights movement and the LGBT equality movement. The 1947 Supreme Court decision in which Jefferson’s “separation of church and state” phrase was invoked by the Court and “changed everything” is portrayed as nothing more than a reflection of Justice Hugo Black’s hatred of Catholics.
Featured “persecution” stories include:
a long advertisement for Hobby Lobby and its owners, the Green family, which recently won its legal battle against the contraception mandate;
a baker and florist who ran afoul of their state’s anti-discrimination laws when they refused to provide services for a same-sex couple getting married;
cheerleaders at a public high school in Texas who were challenged by the Freedom From Religion Foundation for creating football game banners featuring Christian scriptural quotes;
Catholic Charities being “forced” to give up adoption services rather than place children with same-sex couples;
an ACLU challenge to a large cross at the Mt. Soledad war memorial; and
the supposed frontal attack on the religious freedom of military chaplains as a result of allowing LGBT members of the armed forces to serve openly. On this issue, Tony Perkins declares, “The military is being used as a vanguard of radical social policy. And in order for that policy to permeate and to take root, you’ve got to take out the religious opposition.”
In spite of the parade of horrors, the movie tries to end on an upbeat note, saying that the early Christian church expanded while it was being suppressed, and that it will only take “one spark of revival” to change the nation. A familiar theme at Religious Right conferences is that blame for America’s decline rests with churches that don’t speak up and pastors who don’t preach or lead aggressively enough. One Generation Away ends on this point, telling Christian pastors it is their responsibility to wake up and challenge their congregants to live their faith “uncompromisingly.”
During the Q&A after the screening, Santorum said the fact that Hobby Lobby was a 5-4 decision demonstrated the importance of the 2016 election. “Part of me almost wishes we’d lost,” says Santorum, because that would have made the threat clearer to conservative activists. “We are one judge away,” he said, adding that “if we get a Democratic president, our five, or four-and-a-half, justices are not going to hold out forever.”
“I just worry,” he said to the young people in the audience, “that the longer we delay, and America sleeps, and your generation is indoctrinated the way it is, the harder it will be to come back.”
July 30, 2014 RUSH: I, El Rushbo, Have Not Called for Obama’s Impeachment
June 24, 2014 RUSH: I mean, this guy needs to be impeached.
July 30, 2014 RUSH: I have never come out for impeachment
June 24, 2014 RUSH: I mean, this guy needs to be impeached. We impeached Nixon for less than this kind of stuff! Nixon only dreamed about doing what this guy’s done!
July 30, 2014 RUSH: I have never made a call for impeachment.
June 24, 2014 RUSH: I mean, this guy needs to be impeached. We impeached Nixon for less than this kind of stuff! Nixon only dreamed about doing what this guy’s done! Nixon only dreamed about doing what Lois Lerner has done. Nixon only dreamed of using the IRS to damage his political opponents. He never did it, but they wanted to convict him of a thought crime nevertheless.
House Republicans officially gave Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) their seal of approval on Wednesday to sue President Barack Obama, marking the first time in U.S. history that a chamber of Congress has endorsed a lawsuit against a president. The House adopted the resolution by a vote of 225-201. Five Republicans and all Democrats voted against the measure.
House Republicans officially gave Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) their seal of approval on Wednesday to sue President Barack Obama, marking the first time in U.S. history that a chamber of Congress has endorsed a lawsuit against a president.
The House adopted the resolution by a vote of 225-201. Five Republicans and all Democrats voted against the measure.
The resolution authorizes Boehner to challenge Obama in court for exceeding his authority by unilaterally delaying deadlines under Obamacare. Although he has said he’ll target the one-year delay of the health care reform law’s employer mandate penalties, the text of the GOP resolution gives the Speaker room to legally challenge implementation tweaks to other provisions of the law.
"This isn’t about Republicans and Democrats. It’s about defending the Constitution that we swore an oath to uphold," Boehner said. "Are you willing to let any president choose what laws to execute and what laws to change? Are you willing to let anyone tear apart what our founders have built?"
The move comes as Boehner feels elevated pressure to wage new battles against Obama from confrontation-hungry conservatives. It’s a politically awkward one for his party given that Republicans despise the employer mandate, and have voted to eliminate and delay it. Republican aides say they chose the issue for legal reasons as they think it gives them the best chance of victory in court.
"Republicans want to sue the president for not enforcing a law they want to repeal," said House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD). "It is wrong. It is a waste of time. It is a waste of money. It is a distraction from the important issues so important to our people. This lawsuit is nothing more than a partisan bill to rally the Republican base."
Democrats are aggressively fundraising off the planned lawsuit, portraying it as a precursor to impeachment. They’ve boasted about raising millions of dollars from donors recently over the two issues. Boehner has repeatedly insisted he has no plans to impeach Obama, describing it as a Democratic “scam.” The White House responds that House Republicans were discussing the issue long before Democrats mentioned it, and that GOP leaders also vowed they wouldn’t shut down the government before that happened last fall.
Boehner faces an uphill battle in court. The first big question is whether he can achieve “standing” which requires proving a material injury to the House. Legal experts say that’s a very difficult task because no lawsuit emanating from members of Congress against the president has ever achieved standing in court. The next question, if the courts grant standing, is whether the lawsuit has merit to succeed. Republicans may have better luck on this question, experts say, as Obama’s unilateral decision to delay a statutory deadline is arguably problematic from a legal standpoint.
Progressives and some conservative legal minds warn that if the lawsuit succeeds, it would declare open season for the executive and legislative branches to sue each other over any legal disagreement and empower judges to resolve such disputes.
In a rare bipartisan vote, the House approved a bipartisan compromise responding to the scandal at the Department of Veterans Affairs. The bill now heads to the Senate, which could pass it this week.
The House on Wednesday signed off on a $17 billion bipartisan measure responding to the scandal at the Department of Veterans Affairs over patient deaths and long wait times at VA medical facilities.
The overwhelming, 420-5 vote sends the bill to the Senate, which could pass it by the end of the week before lawmakers leave for their annual August recess. Five Republicans opposed the measure.
A rare compromise struck by House Republicans and Senate Democrats, the bill would allow the VA to add more doctors and facilities to reduce the backlog of veterans who served in the nation’s long wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. It would also cut money for executive bonuses, as well as make it easier both for veterans to seek care at non-VA facilities and for under-performing top officials to be fired or demoted.
WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama is expected to issue an executive order on Thursday seeking enhanced workplace conditions and rights for federal contract workers, three separate sources have told The Huffington Post.
One of those sources told The Huffington Post that “progressive workers’ rights groups are getting asked for workers who would be impacted by the executive order to be there [at the White House] tomorrow.”
The exact details of the order remain unknown. The White House has not responded to repeated and numerous requests for comment. But sources outside the administration expect it to require contractors to disclose labor law violations. The order is also expected to encourage executive agencies to consider labor law violations when ordering federal contracts.
A preview of the president’s likely intentions may have been given on Tuesday in a post by the Obama-allied Center for American Progress. That post encouraged the president to sign an executive order that would “ensure that only companies that comply with federal workplace laws are able to receive federal contracts.”
The issuing of an executive order by the president on Thursday would indicate that this administration feels unbowed by a lawsuit brought forth by congressional Republicans challenging the extent of the executive actions he has taken.
Over the past year and a half there have been nine protests by low-wage federal contract workers over the conditions at their workplaces. In June 2013, workers at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center filed a complaint with the Labor Department alleging labor violations.
The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, meanwhile, released a report late last year documenting some of the poor conditions of workers for federal contractors. The report noted that 18 federal contractors “were recipients of one of the largest 100 penalties issued by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) of the Department of Labor between 2007 and 2012.”
The president has already signed one related executive order, setting a minimum wage of $10.10 per hour for workers under federal contracts. Workers have been encouraged by the order, but also have pushed the administration to take additional action that would, among other things, enhance their collective bargaining rights, protect them from wage theft and enhance workplace protections.
In addition, the Congressional Progressive Caucus has urged the president to sign an executive order along these lines. In a letter sent last week, the caucus chairs called for a Good Jobs Executive Order that touched on three tenets: guaranteeing labor and employment law protections; adopting a “fair compensation preference” (in which contractors would be favored if they provided a living wage and full benefits package); and respecting workers’ rights to negotiate.
“The President is leading by example, establishing the principle that if you are breaking the law, you don’t get to do business with the Federal government,” said Joseph Geevarghese, deputy director of Change to Win, a sponsor of the Good Jobs Nation campaign of low wage federal contract workers. “Just like the $10.10 executive order had a ripple effect across the economy, we hope that this bold step by the President sends a clear signal to the private sector that you need to do right by your workers.”
Last month, Daily Kos and other net neutrality activist organizations wrote to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, asking him to sign on to the efforts of more than a dozen members of his Senate caucus and House Minority Leader Pelosi and dozens of House Democrats to demand that the Federal Communications Commission reclassify broadband and implement strong Net Neutrality rules and to treat the internet as the public utility that it is—like water, telephones, and electricity. We focused on Reid because he’s been quiet on the issue thus far, because we need a united Democratic front in pressuring the FCC to do the right thing to protect the internet, and because Reid is the second most powerful elected policymaker in the country.
Reid has responded, and while he didn’t take a position on reclassification, he stressed that he “will lead the fight to protect any Open Internet rules populated by the FCC against the inevitable Republican attack against such rules,” and that he would work to “ensure that priority arrangements that harm consumers are prohibited.” Should the FCC decide to reclassify internet service as a public utility, Reid will back the Commission up, and will fight Republican efforts to undermine that rule.
That greatly undermines FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler’s argument that the easiest route for the FCC to regulate the internet politically would be under Section 706 of the Federal Communications Act. That’s despite the fact, as we pointed out in our letter to Reid, that “legal scholars and even the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals—as it struck down the FCC’s 2010 Open Internet Order in January—have made it clear that Section 706 does not provide the FCC with the ability to ban unreasonable discrimination, access fees, paid prioritization, exclusive deals, or discriminatory exemptions to bandwidth caps—all of which were banned or effectively banned in the FCC’s 2010 order.” There’s ample political support for the FCC to reclassify—and it’s been expressed directly to the FCC by many members of Congress, and now is implicitly supported by Majority Leader Reid. As the National Journal reports, this letter from Reid could “give the FCC political cover to enact tougher rules,” and “reassure FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler that he has the political support he needs to ignore the Republican outcry and enact strong net-neutrality regulations.”
That’s if, when Wheeler talks about political support, he’s really talking about elected leadership and not the well-heeled telecom lobbyists fighting against strong rules.
You can read Sen. Reid’s response to our letter in full below the fold.
Dear Mr. Moulitsas Zuniga:
In our recent letter, you asked me to publicly support strong net neutrality regulations. Let me be clear: I support net neutrality. You further asked that I tell the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to reclassify Internet service providers as common carriers under Title II of the Communications Act of 1934. Let me assure you that I will lead the fight to protect any Open Internet rules populated by the FCC against the inevitable Republican attack against such rules.
Since 2006, I have strongly and publicly supported net neutrality. I believe that the Internet is one of the great equalizers of our time. Especially in a time when dark money threatens to take over our political system, the Internet offers a forum for people to make a difference with ideas, not dollars. And I favor rules that will keep the Internet open and allow ideas and innovation to thrive. This is why in 2011 I led the Senate’s effort to defeat a Republican resolution that would have overturned the FCC’s Open Internet Order.
The Commission is now considering how to promulgate meaningful net neutrality rules in the wake of the D.C. Circuit Court’s opinion in Verizon v. Federal Communciations Commission. I am watching closely as the Commission drafts these rules. And I will work to ensure that these rules give consumers access to the lawful content they want when they want it, without interference and ensure that priority arrangements that harm consumers are prohibited.
I look forward to working with you to keep the Internet open, innovative, and free.
“Texas and the United States is [sic] being invaded and we’re in danger,” Gohmert said, before alleging that most of the unaccompanied minors are lying when they tell border patrol agents that they are escaping gang violence in Central America and have been coached to make such claims. Gohmert said minors end up telling officers that “we were told to say that we were fleeing gang violence.”
The congressmen went on to say that “the penetration of criminals and terrorists across our southern border” represents a threat to the U.S. comparable to the threat of a nuclear strike from Iran against Israel.
He likened the immigrant “invasion” to D-Day, warning that undocumented immigrants were responsible for over six hundred thousand crimes in Texas over the past five years, including thousands of homicides and sexual assaults.
Gohmert called President Obama’s immigration policy the real “war on women” because it allowed immigrants to cross the border to rape women.
During the Tuesday night broadcast of The Rachel Maddow Show, host Rachel Maddow ended the show by discussing Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant and his recent comments regarding his state’s high uninsured rate. A recent survey revealed that Mississippi is the only state to have seen its uninsured rate increase since the full implementation of the Affordable Care Act. Overall, the country has seen a significant decrease in the number of uninsured people. However, Mississippi’s uninsured rate has climbed to 21.46%. Only Texas currently has a higher uninsured rate than Mississippi.
When presented with these results, Bryant decided that President Barack Obama and the ACA were to blame.
“If statistics show that the ill-conceived and so-called Affordable Care Act is resulting in higher rates of uninsured people in Mississippi, I’d say that’s yet another example of a broken promise from Barack Obama.”
Maddow highlighted Bryant’s refusal to work with any of the provisions of the ACA that would have helped bring health coverage to more Mississippians. The governor refused to assist in creating a state exchange even though his own state’s health commissioner, a Republican, had a well-designed exchange ready to be put in place. Due to Bryant’s intransigence, the HHS and other federal agencies were unable to work with the state exchange, and only two health insurance companies were willing to be placed on it. The governor also refused to expand Medicaid, which would have provided coverage to over 300,000 residents of his state. Instead, Bryant said that people have free coverage — the emergency room.
Rachel decided to use a visual metaphor to illustrate the effects of Bryant’s obstruction when it comes to Obamacare. The host brought out a model of a Lamborghini. The remote control car worked perfectly and she was able to drive it around the studio. After driving it around, she bashed it several times with a hammer. After causing severe damage to the car, she tried to drive it around again. Of course, it went nowhere. In mock outrage, Maddow kicked the car, called it a piece of junk and said nobody should get this car because it doesn’t work.
In a short four-minute segment, Rachel Maddow destroyed Bryant’s declaration that the ACA is to blame for Mississippi’s high uninsured rate. The fact remains that red state Republican governors like Bryant and Texas’ Rick Perry have done everything in their power to ensure that the health care law is a failure in their state. However, when presented with the aftereffects of their obstruction, they turn tail and blame Obama or Democrats for the negative impact of their actions. Republicans take a jackhammer to Obamacare in their states and then call it a piece of junk when it doesn’t work as promised.
Gun Owners of America head Larry Pratt has been insistent that Republicans mustopposeimmigration reform in order to save gun rights, which he claims are threatened by immigrants.
In an interview with extremist talk show host Stan Solomon that was posted online last week, Pratt alleged that immigration reform would destroy the GOP and therefore the country: “That means kiss our Second Amendment goodbye, it means, really, kiss our republic goodbye, because if you give the Democrats a lock on all of the levels of government, the country goes communist.”
“It’s just the end because they know no limit to the big government that they support,” he said. “It will be extremely dangerous, and gun owners will be early on in the sights of those Democrats that might be voted for by the newly minted voters. So the idea of amnesty is a really bad idea.”
Pratt and Solomon also agreed that Speaker John Boehner and the rest of the GOP leadership have effectively “switched sides” and joined the Democratic Party.
From the 06.24.2014 edition of CPNLive’s Talk To Solomon:
A Houston LGBT Rights group has just published the names and addresses of everyone who signed the petition demanding HERO, the city’s new anti-discrimination law, be put up for a vote in November.
Almost from the moment that the Houston City Council passed HERO- the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance - last May 28, opponents dedicated to repealing it have been collecting signatures to get a referendum on the November ballot.
The ordinance “prohibits discrimination on the basis of protected characteristics in city employment, city services, city contracting services, housing, public accommodations and private employment.” Included in those protected characteristics are members of LGBT community, and chief among the opposition’s complaints is that the law allows transexuals to use whatever bathroom he or she identifies with. You can see that fear literally writ large across the top of their petition above.
The group, who call themselves the No Unequal Rights Coalition, filed their petition, (photo above left) with 50,000 signatures, more than twice the number needed, July 5. The City Secretary declared 30,000 of them had been verified as Houston voters.
The very next day, Houston’s mayor, Annise Parker, (right) announced the formation of a coalition of legal and advocacy groups that would fight the referendum and educate voters should the issue make it onto the ballot.
"This was not a narrowly-focused, special-interest ordinance. This is something that the business and civic community of Houston was firmly behind, and we fully expect if there is a campaign that it will be a spirited campaign, but we’ll have the same outcome in November as we had around the council table."
Mayor Parker was more than a little courageous during the passage of HERO, ignoring personal insults to herself and her wife and recall threats should the measure pass, but it is unclear whether the HEROpetition group which has decided to challenge No Unequal Rights’ petition is part of the mayor’s coalition or is acting on their own.
HEROpetition.com is dedicated to shining a light on the public petition process through the open records process in order to allow people to know those who are actively seeking to deprive Houstonians of equal rights.
We are also here to serve the public good by allowing the public to participate in an independent review of the petition to identify fraud or other improper activity that may not otherwise be identified by the limited verification process underway be the City Secretary.
HEROpetition is in the process of publishing all the signatures collected by No Unequal Rights with the hope of disqualifying enough of them to keep HERO off the ballot. They claim to have evidence of fraud both in the collection of signatures and in the signatures themselves:
"There is documented evidence of deliberate voter fraud that may actually put petition signers at risk of criminal prosecution, including video of a petition gatherer telling people they could register to vote and immediately sign the petition - a direct violation of Texas Election Law."
Mayor Parker seemed to echo that suspicion in a recent statement:
"Houston does not discriminate, Houston will not discriminate and Houston will not be fooled by misinformation, hyperbole - I would use the word "lies" but I’m going to back off from that - and people who are just simply unwilling to read the ordinance for themselves."
HEROpetition is asking Houston citizens to look at it the petition for any evidence of fraud, and gives contact information and instructions on what to do if you find a suspicious entry. No Unequal Rights is predictably outraged.
In his weekend address, President Obama denounced “tax inversions,” i.e. a loophole that allows U.S. corporations to avoid taxes by moving overseas. “They’re basically renouncing their citizenship and declaring that they’re based somewhere else, just to avoid paying their fair share,” Obama said.
Fox Business’ Stuart Varney joined the Curvy Couch Crew and right away scoffed at President Obama’s stance as little more than an election-year ploy to make himself look good by painting corporations as unpatriotic. Any loyal Fox viewer’s blood probably started boiling already. Even if those corporations are behaving - well, unpatriotically.
But just in case, Varney and company went the extra mile to make you think that if Obama wasn’t such a terrible president, those poor companies wouldn’t have to take their all-time-high profits out of the country to avoid taxes.
VARNEY: Now, the president wants to put a fence around America, stop anybody leaving, that’s what he wants to do. Instead of encouraging them to stay.
Co-host Steve Doocy just happened to have at hand a graphic showing where businesses are “not putting their money” due to high corporate rates. The country just below the U.S., ranked third, was Japan. Yet moments later, as he read a list of countries that have left the U.S., he announced with indignation that Jim Beam has gone to Japan. A quick Google search indicates the company was bought out by Suntory of Japan, not that the company fled to avoid taxes.
Right-wing media selectively edited comments made by Hillary Clinton to falsely accuse her of endorsing Hamas’ extremist tactics. But Clinton made clear that Israel has a right to defend itself and credited its measures to decrease civilian casualties.
In an interview with Fusion TV’s Jorge Ramos, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton renewed her support for a cease-fire to end the current Israeli/Hamas conflict.
Right-wing media outlets co-opted Clinton’s interview to dishonestly claim that Clinton was justifying Hamas’ tactics and endorsing the extremist group.
On July 29, the Washington Free Beacon distorted Clinton’s comments, portraying them as justification of Hamas’ tactics in an article headlined “Hillary: Hamas Uses Human Shields Because ‘Gaza is Pretty Small.’”
On Fox News’ The Five, co-host Andrea Tantaros accused Clinton of “trying to make an excuse for Hamas” and defending Hamas “for hiding rockets in places like schools.”
But the full context of the interview shows that Clinton credited Israel’s attempts to prevent civilian casualties by sending warnings before airstrikes and said that “obviously Israel has a right to self-defense.” Clinton noted that “any kind of conflict” has civilian casualties, but Gaza’s small size and Hamas’ tactics make them more acute (emphasis added):
CLINTON: I’m not a military planner, but Hamas puts its missiles — its rockets in civilian areas. Part of it is that Gaza’s pretty small and it’s very densely populated. They put their command and control of Hamas military leaders in those civilian areas. Israel, I know, has sent warnings and tried to get people to move, but in any kind of conflict there are going to be civilian casualties, and we need to try to get to a cease-fire as soon as possible.
The general counsel of the National Labor Relations Board ruled on Tuesday that McDonald’s is jointly responsible for workers at its franchisees’ restaurants, a decision that if upheld would disrupt longtime practices in the fast-food industry and ease the way for unionizing nationwide.
Richard F. Griffin Jr., the labor board’s general counsel, said that of the 181 unfair labor practice complaints filed against McDonald’s and its franchisees over the last 20 months, he found that 43 had merit on such grounds as illegally firing or threatening workers for pro-union activities.
In those cases, Mr. Griffin said he would include McDonald’s as a joint employer, a classification that could hold the fast-food company responsible for actions taken at thousands of its restaurants. Roughly 90 percent of the chain’s restaurants in the United States are franchise operations.
McDonald’s said it would contest the decision, warning that the ruling would affect not only the fast-food industry but businesses like dry cleaners and car dealerships.
The N.L.R.B. ruling is wrong, according to a statement by Heather Smedstad, a senior vice president for McDonald’s, because the company does not determine or co-determine decisions on hiring, wages or other employment matters. “McDonald’s also believes that this decision changes the rules for thousands of small business, and goes against decades of established law,” Ms. Smedstad said.
Throughout the debate to increase the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour, alongside the efforts by fast-food workers and labor advocates to pressure McDonald’s and other restaurant chains to adopt a $15 wage floor, the companies have often said that they don’t set employee wages, franchise owners do. That defense would be weakened considerably by the workers’ push to have them declared joint employers.
In a statement, Angelo Amador, vice president of labor and work force policy for the National Restaurant Association, called the ruling another example of the Obama administration’s anti-small-business agenda. The ruling, he said, “overturns 30 years of established law regarding the franchise model in the United States, erodes the proven franchisor/franchisee relationship, and jeopardizes the success of 90 percent of America’s restaurants who are independent operators or franchisees.”
If upheld, the general counsel’s move would give the fast-food workers and the main labor group backing them, the Service Employees International Union, more leverage in their effort to unionize McDonald’s restaurants and to increase hourly wages. The average fast-food wage is about $8.90 an hour.
Mr. Griffin said in a letter that of the 181 cases filed against McDonald’s and its franchisees since November 2012 – the month the first one-day strike was conducted against McDonald’s and other fast-food restaurants — he dismissed 74. Of the 107 other cases, he said he was still investigating 64, while his office found 43 had merit.
The Associated Press first reported the ruling on Tuesday. Ms. Smedstad told The A.P. that the labor board had notified the company of the ruling on Tuesday.
David French, senior vice president with the National Retail Federation, called the decision “outrageous.” “It is just further evidence that the N.L.R.B. has lost all credibility as a government agency established to protect workers and is now just a government agency that serves as an adjunct for organized labor, which has fought for this decision for a number of years as a means to more easily unionize entire companies and industries,” he said.
The fast-food workers movement has argued that McDonald’s should be considered a joint employer because it owns many of the franchisees’ restaurant buildings and requires franchises to follow strict rules on food, cleanliness and hiring. McDonald’s has even warned some franchisees that they were paying their workers too much.
The cases were brought on behalf of workers who assert, among other things, that they were wrongfully fired, threatened or suspended because of their campaign for a $15 a wage and to unionize McDonald’s.
“McDonald’s can try to hide behind its franchisees, but today’s determination by the N.L.R.B. shows there’s no two ways about it: The Golden Arches is an employer, plain and simple,” said Micah Wissinger, a lawyer in New York who filed some of the cases against McDonald’s. “The reality is that McDonald’s requires franchisees to adhere to such regimented rules and regulations that there’s no doubt who’s really in charge.”
The next stages for the cases could involve Mr. Griffin’s trying to seek a settlement. But the cases more likely will be argued before an administrative law judge.
This is a major victory for workers, and a sad day for lobbyists such as the National Restaurant Association.
On Tuesday, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals struck down a law that would have closed down Mississippi’s only abortion clinic, invalidating a 2012 measure requiring abortion doctors to obtain admitting privileges at local hospitals. The state’s only two abortion providers fly in from out of state to serve patients and were repeatedly denied partnerships with local hospitals.
The three-judge panel ruled that since the U.S. Supreme Court established a constitutional right to abortion, “Mississippi may not shift its obligation for established constitutional rights of its citizens to another state,” the Associated Press reports.
“Pre-viability, a woman has the constitutional right to end her pregnancy by abortion. H.B. 1390 effectively extinguishes that right within Mississippi’s borders,” judges E. Grady Jolly of Mississippi and Stephan A. Higginson of Louisiana wrote in the 2-1 ruling. Jolly was appointed by President Ronald Reagan, while Higginson was appointed by President Barack Obama.
The Jackson Women’s Health Organization clinic has operated for nearly two decades and has become the state’s sole abortion provider. Back in 1981, Mississippi had as many as 14 different facilities that offered abortion services.
More than half the states have enacted laws that limit women’s access to abortion services by requiring clinics to undergo unnecessary and expensive renovations, including widening hallways, building closets, and installing water fountains. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists opposes these so-called Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers, or TRAP laws. Still, TRAP laws have already closed more than 50 abortion clinics over the past several years.
Today’s verdict is a victory for the people of Mississippi and for the supporters of reproductive choice.
Most Americans believe that children arriving from Central America should be treated as refugees—not illegal immigrants—and offered shelter while authorities determine if they are allowed to stay or are to be deported, according to a poll released Tuesday by the Public Religion Research Institute, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization.
While 69 percent of those surveyed believe the children should be allowed to stay in the United States if authorities determine that it is unsafe for them to return to their home countries, 27 percent said the children should be deported to their home countries. Forty-two percent of Americans believe that immigrants are a burden on the country because they take jobs, housing and health care belonging to them, up from 35 percent in the week ending July 6, according to the survey.
“They are in tension but not inconsistent with one another,” said Robert P. Jones, chief executive officer of the institute, explaining that, while Americans believe the right thing to do is to treat children fleeing violence as refugees, an increasing number of them also harbor concerns that doing so will be a burden to the country.
Since October 1, 2013, more than 57,000 unaccompanied minors have been detained crossing the border, fleeing widespread violence and buoyed by rumors of an amnesty. Warehouses and military bases were quickly transformed into immigration shelters, which struggled to cope with the surge. President Barack Obama referred to these events as an urgent humanitarian situation and enlisted the Federal Emergency Management Agency to coordinate the government response.
Earlier this month, Obama asked Congress for $3.7 billion in emergency funds. With a deeply divided Congress, it is unclear if the funds will be released. President Obama said he would take executive action on immigration legislation in June if Congress hadn’t acted. On Friday, Obama met with the presidents of Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador, where the majority of children hail from, to discuss the crisis and hear the Central American leaders’ demands.
Nearly half of Americans have heard a lot about the Central American children arriving in the U.S., according to the poll. Of those surveyed, 43 percent said the situation is a serious problem but not a crisis, while 36 percent said the influx of Central American minors is a crisis.
Of those surveyed, 71 percent said children from Central America awaiting for their cases to be processed should be released to the care of relatives or churches.
More than half of Republicans polled said these children should be treated as refugees, though 42 percent said the children should be treated as illegal immigrants. Again, a majority of Republicans favored offering support to unaccompanied children while their cases were reviewed, but 39 percent said these children should be deported immediately.
Majorities in major religious groups, including white evangelical Protestants and Catholics, said the government should provide unaccompanied minors shelter and support while their cases were processed.
“It’s unusual to find in the country today an issue where…both Republicans and Democrats [are] on the same side of an issue, and all major religious groups [are] on the same side of the issue, and this is one of them,” said Jones.
The poll, which had a margin of error plus or minus three percentage points, included bilingual telephone interviews with 1,026 adults between July 23 and July 27. Jones said the institute, which focuses research on the role of religious values in public life, would continue conducting immigration-related surveys regularly through the end of the year.
Nearly two years into President Obama’s second term, a do-nothing Republican Congress is focusing on its next project: the 2014 midterm elections. But that effort might be complicated by increasing pressure from the party’s base to turn Congress’ energy to impeaching President Obama. The impeachment call, which has existed on the right-wing fringe since the start of Obama’s presidency, has picked up steam in recent weeks as it has been endorsed by right-wing media figures, activists and elected officials.
This has put Republican congressional leaders in a tricky spot as they attempt to placate their base without alienating moderate voters. When House Majority Whip Steve Scalise appeared on Fox News Sunday this week, he continually dodged the question. Ted Cruz similarly batted away a question about impeachment, calling it politically unfeasible. Right-wing leaders including Pat Buchanan and Tom DeLay have urged caution in the impeachment campaign, although DeLay said he would personally “love to impeach him.” Likewise, Karl Rove has warned that when it comes to impeachment, “the politics of it are all wrong.”
But it might be too late for Republicans to backtrack on a steady buildup of rhetoric questioning the president’s legitimacy, love of country, and authority to govern, which has led to increasing calls for impeachment from right-wing lawmakers, activists and media personalities… although nobody can quite agree on what the impeachment should be for.
In a radio interview last week, Rep. Michele Bachmann said that she believed the president has “committed impeachable offenses” but that first “the American people have to agree with and be behind and call for the president’s impeachment.”
This month, Rep. Lou Barletta of Pennsylvania said that there are “probably” the votes in the House to impeach the president for “absolutely ignoring the Constitution, and ignoring the laws, and ignoring the checks and balances.”
They say that “informed consent” laws violate their beliefs about scientific accuracy and bodily autonomy.
The Supreme Court’s recent Hobby Lobby decision, which allowed some for-profit companies to claim a religious exemption to Obamacare’s contraception mandate, has sparked a heated debate over the definition of religious liberty and its role in modern society. At this point, even a Satantic cult has decided to weigh in.
The Satanic Temple — a faith community that describes itself as facilitating “the communication and mobilization of politically aware Satanists, secularists, and advocates for individual liberty” — has launched a new campaign seeking a religious exemption to certain anti-abortion laws that attempt to dissuade women from ending a pregnancy. The group says they have deeply held beliefs about bodily autonomy and scientific accuracy, and those beliefs are violated by state-level “informed consent” laws that rely on misleading information about abortion risks.
Now that the Supreme Court has ruled in favor of Hobby Lobby, the Satanists point out, it strengthens their own quest to opt out of laws related to women’s health care that go against their religious liberty. “Because of the respect the Court has given to religious beliefs, and the fact that our our beliefs are based on best available knowledge, we expect that our belief in the illegitimacy of state mandated ‘informational’ material is enough to exempt us, and those who hold our beliefs, from having to receive them,” a spokesperson for the organization said in a statement.
The Satanic Temple, sometimes referred to as “the nicest Satanic cult in the world,” falls somewhere between satire, performance art, and activism. The group says its central mission is to “encourage benevolence and empathy among all people, reject tyrannical authority, advocate practical common sense and justice, and be directed by the human conscience to undertake noble pursuits guided by the individual will.” It has a set of seven tenets that closely track with humanism. Typically, wherever issues of church and state are overlapping, the Satanic Temple isn’t far behind.
Members of the Satanic Temple first made national headlines when they rallied in support of Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) for approving a bill that allows prayer in public schools, saying they’re glad the new policy will allow children to pray to Satan. Since then, they’ve also held “a formal ceremony celebrating same-sex unions” on the grave of the mother of the leader of the Westboro Baptist Church, declaring that she has posthumously become a lesbian, and commissioned a seven-foot-tall Satanic statue near a monument to the Ten Commandments at the Oklahoma State Capitol.
And now, the Satanic Temple is turning its attention to “campaigns to assert our religious protection for women with health needs that are being complicated by unreasonable laws,” focusing on the abortion-related legislation that goes against science.
State-level abortion restrictions that aren’t actually based in medicine have swept the nation. “Informed consent” laws, which typically require women to receive biased counseling before being allowed to proceed with an abortion procedure, are now in place in 35 states. Many of those laws require doctors to tell their patients misleading information about abortion’s potential link to mental health issues and breast cancer. Some of them put words directly in doctors’ mouths, forcing them to refer to the fetus as an “whole, separate, unique, living human being.”
Members of the Temple of Satan are encouraging all women who share their belief in medical accuracy to seek their own exemption from these laws, even if they don’t personally identify as Satanists. They’ve drawn up a sample letter to help women talk to their doctors about the issue, as well as created “Right to Accurate Medical Information” t-shirts for purchase.
Satanists aren’t the only activists fighting back against the junk science used to justify anti-abortion laws. The secular humanist group Center for Inquiry recently launched a “Keep Health Care Safe and Secular” campaign to encourage more Americans to fight back against laws limiting women’s access to health services. Similarly, NARAL Pro-Choice America sometimes uses the slogan “Politicians Make Crappy Doctors.”
Over the past twelve years, we’ve seen tens of thousands of tornado warnings across the United States. Almost every major city east of the Rocky Mountains has seen a tornado warning at some point since 2002, and the resulting maps are pretty cool looking.
Over the past twelve years, we’ve seen tens of thousands of tornado warnings across the United States. Almost every major city east of the Rocky Mountains has seen a tornado warning at some point since 2002, and the resulting maps are pretty cool looking.
The National Weather Service began issuing “storm based warnings” in 2007, which limited the scope of tornado, severe thunderstorm, and flash flood warnings to the immediate areas that were impacted by the warning. Before 2007, warnings were issued on a county basis, even if only a small part of the county was affected by severe weather.
These maps show all 38,728 tornado warnings issued between January 1, 2002 and around midnight on July 23, 2014. Over that twelve-and-a-half year span of time, there were three states that saw every square inch of land go under a tornado warning at least once: Mississippi, Alabama, and Tennessee. Arkansas and Indiana came very close to complete coverage, but there was one extremely small area (about a few square miles each) that didn’t go under a warning in each state.
Be sure to expand the maps using the link on the top-left of each image, as compression distorts the details.
Northeastern United States:
Southeastern United States:
Mississippi, Alabama, and Tennessee with 100% Coverage:
While guest-hosting yesterday’s edition of the Family Research Council radio show “Washington Watch,” Rep. Louie Gohmert fielded a call from a Sandy Hook truther who asked the Texas congressman to watch and pray over a video, Sofia Smallstorm’s “Sandy Hook Hoax: Ultimate Case Closed Debunked.”
Gohmert was quite receptive to the caller’s suggestion: “I will sure do that, Sandy, I’m always learning new things and appreciate the input. Thanks for that thought and I will check out Sofia Smallstorm’s video and find out what it is that is so compelling.”
In the videos, notorious anti-abortion activist Lila Rose poses as a 15-year-old girl and tells the counselor that her boyfriend wants to try out some of the sadomasochistic scenarios described in the popular novel, “Fifty Shades of Gray.”
The counselor, whose face is obscured in the video, advises the “teen” to read the book with her boyfriend, do some Internet research, and discuss which practices they feel comfortable trying – and which they do not.
She also explains the concept of “safe words,” which submissive partners may use to unambiguously communicate they wish to stop sexual activity, and urges the undercover activist to choose another word besides “stop.”
“Usually, a lot of people will say ‘stop’ even though it feels good, so that’s usually not something that is used,” the counselor says in the video.
Live Action posted the edited videos — which appear to leave out questions posed by the undercover activist about various sexual practices, including urinating and defecating on partners, to the unwitting counselor – and claimed Planned Parenthood workers were teaching teens about “torture sex.”
The anti-abortion activists apparently targeted the Denver clinic, which has been sued after performing an abortion for a 13-year-old brought to the facility by her stepfather – who was later convicted of raping the girl.
“Here’s an abortion corporation, which gets 45 percent of its budget from the taxpayers, telling 15- and 16-year-olds not only to have sex, but also to choke each other in the process,” said Rose, Live Action’s president. “Police should be busting down its door.”
Although Colorado Attorney General John Suthers has agreed to investigate the activists’ claims about the videos, he lacks jurisdiction to prosecute any potential wrongdoing.
The activists direct fellow abortion foes to contact the Arapahoe County prosecutor.
“Parents of every political persuasion can come together and condemn an institutional ethos where sexual abuse of teens is portrayed as consensual sexual activity – where tax-funded counselors can recommend internet pornography and sex shops, and advise children on how to hide these things from their parents,” Rose said.
Rose founded Live Action at 15 and developed an association with fellow conservative activist and videographer James O’Keefe III while she was a student at UCLA.
Rose and O’Keefe have argued that, essentially, the ends justify the means in their heavily edited video “exposés” that purportedly show illegal or unethical practices by Planned Parenthood employees.
“It’s a pretty complicated ethical issue,” O’Keefe said. “But we believe there is a genocide and nobody cares, and you can use these tactics and it’s justified.”
“Who has the right to take what God’s given a state?” asked commissioner-elect Chip Beeker.
The paper notes that the “press conference was held in the offices of the Alabama Coal Association.”
Two members of the Alabama Public Service Commission, a member-elect and an Alabama representative to the Republican National Committee said proposed EPA regulations that aim to reduce power plant carbon emissions by 30 percent represent “an assault on our way of life” and are a purposeful attempt by the Obama administration to kill coal-related jobs.
"We will not stand for what they are doing to our way of life in Alabama," said PSC President Twinkle Andress Cavanaugh. "We will take our fight to the EPA."
At their news conference today Cavanaugh and PSC commissioner-elect Chip Beeker invoked the name of God in stating their opposition to the EPA proposal. Beeker, a Republican who is running unopposed for a PSC seat, said coal was created in Alabama by God, and the federal government should not enact policy that runs counter to God’s plan.
"Who has the right to take what God’s given a state?" he said.
Cavanaugh called on the people of the state to ask for God’s intervention.
"I hope all the citizens of Alabama will be in prayer that the right thing will be done," she said.
Also speaking in opposition to the EPA plan were PSC Commissioner Jeremy Oden and Paul Reynolds, an Alabama representative to the Republican National Committee.
WASHINGTON (AP) — Even as they grapple with an immigration crisis at the border, White House officials are making plans to act before November’s mid-term elections to grant work permits to potentially millions of immigrants who are in this country illegally, allowing them to stay in the United States without threat of deportation, according to advocates and lawmakers in touch with the administration.
Such a large-scale move on immigration could scramble election-year politics and lead some conservative Republicans to push for impeachment proceedings against President Barack Obama, a prospect White House officials have openly discussed.
Yet there’s little sign that the urgent humanitarian situation in South Texas, where unaccompanied minors have been showing up by the tens of thousands from Central America, has impeded Obama from making plans to address some portion of the 11.5 million immigrants now in this country illegally. Obama announced late last month that congressional efforts to remake the nation’s dysfunctional immigration system were dead and he would proceed on his own authority to fix the system where he could.
Since then he’s asked Congress for $3.7 billion to deal with the crisis of unaccompanied youths, a request that’s gone unmet even as the House and the Senate scramble to see if they can vote on some solution to the crisis this week before adjourning for their annual August recess.
Meanwhile, White House officials led by Domestic Policy Council Director Cecilia Munoz and White House Counsel Neil Eggleston, along with Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, have been working to chart a plan on executive actions Obama could take, hosting frequent meetings with interest groups and listening to recommendations from immigration advocates, law enforcement officials, religious leaders, Hispanic lawmakers and others.
Advocates and lawmakers who were in separate meetings Friday said that administration officials are weighing a range of options including reforms to the deportation system and ways to grant relief from deportation to targeted populations in the country, likely by expanding Obama’s two-year-old directive that granted work permits to certain immigrants brought here illegally as youths. That program, called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, has been extended to more than 500,000 immigrants so far.
Advocates would like to see deferred action made available to anyone who would have been eligible for eventual citizenship under a comprehensive immigration bill the Senate passed last year, which would be around 9 million people. But Obama told them in a meeting a month ago to “right-size” expectations, even as he pledged to be aggressive in steps he does take.
That’s led advocates to focus on other populations Obama might address, including parents or legal guardians of U.S. citizen children (around 3.8 million people as of 2009, according to an analysis by Pew Research’s Hispanic Trends Project) and parents or legal guardians of DACA recipients (perhaps 500,000 to 1 million people, according to the Fair Immigration Reform Movement).
"Our parents deserve to live without the fear of deportation," Maria Praeli, a 21-year-old from New Haven who came to the United States from Peru 16 years ago, said at a protest outside the White House on Monday. "It is time for the president to go big and to go bold."
Another focus could be the potentially hundreds of thousands of people who might be eligible for green cards today if current law didn’t require them to leave the country for 10 years before applying for one.
At the same time, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce says it is actively working to determine whether there are steps Obama could take by executive action that could help the business community.
For Obama, the political repercussions of broad executive action on immigration could be unpredictable, and extreme.
Republicans are warning he could provoke a constitutional crisis.
"It would be an affront to the people of this country which they will never forgive, it would be a permanent stain on your presidency," Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., said on the Senate floor Monday, while urging language to block such executive action be made part of any legislation to address the border crisis.
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., announced plans to use an oversight hearing on the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services agency Tuesday to raise questions about Obama’s plans, which he warned could “worsen the border crisis and encourage many more to come.”
On the other side, some Democrats have debated the best timing for Obama to take executive action, raising questions as to whether acting before the midterms could hurt vulnerable Senate Democrats in close races while boosting turnout among the GOP base.
But liberal advocates noted that Obama’s move on deferred action two years ago gave him a boost heading into his re-election and could help this year with Latino voters discouraged over the failure of immigration reform legislation and record-high deportations on Obama’s watch. Republicans would be in a position of deciding whether to come out in favor of deporting sympathetic groups, such as parents, and many liberals say impeachment talk would only shore up Democratic base voters.
"Most Democrats will be thrilled" if Obama acts boldly on immigration, said Frank Sharry, executive director of America’s Voice, a leading advocacy group. "And Republicans will keep lurching to the right and cementing their reputation as the anti-immigrant party."
Those zany Loudons are back in the gossip feed, with news to make parents pause.
Lyda Loudon, 18-year-old daughter of former Gumbo Flats (aka Chesterfield) poli-power couple John and Gina Loudon, is dating an older man. Much older.
Celebrity mags report that the young Loudon — who hosts an online radio show “Sarcasm Overdose” and is active in Tea Party Youth affairs — is keeping time with Steven Bauer, 57, best known for his role in “Scarface.” (He also recently played Don Eladio in “Breaking Bad.”)
This is not the first brush with celebrity for the Loudons, who moved away in 2011 and now live in San Diego. Last year, the Tea Party sweethearts — John was a state senator and Gina hosts a conservative talk show — were participants in the reality show “Wife Swap.”
At a convention of more than 1,300 fast food workers in Illinois this weekend, attendees voted to start including acts of civil disobedience, such as sit-down strikes and restaurant occupations, in their campaign for higher wages and the ability to form a union.
One of the organizers of the convention told the Associated Press that workers will be asked to do “whatever it takes.” One worker, Cherri Delisline, a single mother who has worked at McDonald’s for 10 years and makes $7.35 an hour, also told the AP that “we need to get more workers involved and shut these businesses down until they listen to us,” including occupying the restaurants.
The actions come at a time when job growth has been stronger in low-wage jobs like fast food but the pay is barely enough to live on. The average fast food employee who works full time, year round makes less than $19,000 before taxes. While executives in the industry claim that these jobs serve as entryways for teenagers to get into the job market, the largest share are held by people between the ages of 25 and 54, and more than a quarter have a child to support. The chances of moving up the ladder and making a career in fast food are much slimmer than in other industries.
Executives, on the other hand, are doing well. Fast food CEOs earn about 1,200 times what they pay their workers. The ratio wasn’t always so high, but the industry’s executive pay increased by more than 300 percent since 2000 while pay for workers has only gone up by 0.3 percent.
Beyond staging protests and strikes, fast food workers have taken legal action. Nine out of ten fast food workers report experiencing wage theft, being made to work off the clock or purchase uniforms with their wages, and workers filed seven class-action lawsuits against McDonalds in March alleging these kinds of actions.
Rush Limbaugh accused President Obama of refusing to rebuke the practice of female genital mutilation while speaking to a group of young African leaders, cherry-picking from his remarks to mischaracterize Obama’s very clear condemnation of the practice as a “barbaric” tradition that “needs to be eliminated.”
President Obama spoke on Monday at a town-hall-style meeting honoring the Washington Fellowship For Young African Leaders, urging guests to abandon oppressive traditions, such as female genital mutilation and polygamy, in favor of progress.
Cherry-picking from Obama’s remarks, Rush Limbaugh accused the president of refusing to condemn the practice of female genital mutilation on the July 28 edition of Premiere Radio Networks’ The Rush Limbaugh Show. Limbaugh claimed Obama only halfheartedly stated, “‘Female genital mutilation is not a tradition worth hanging onto,’” and implied Obama’s statement didn’t go far enough, claiming "he didn’t condemn female genital mutilation. That would have been telling Africans what to do, and he would never impose his views on them because we’re from the U.S. and who are we":
Limbaugh further suggested that rather than condemn the practice, Obama would advise Africans to simply contract out mutilation to the terror group Boko Haram.
In reality, President Obama actually called female genital mutilation a “barbaric” tradition that “needs to be eliminated”:
OBAMA: Now, I have to say there are some traditions that just have to be gotten rid of. And there’s no excuse for them. You know, female genital mutilation, I’m sorry, I don’t consider that a tradition worth hanging onto. I think that’s a tradition that is barbaric and should be eliminated. Violence towards women, I don’t care for that tradition. I’m not interested in it. It needs to be eliminated.
"[I]nertia and apprehension are not legitimate bases for denying same-sex couples due process and equal protection of the laws."
WASHINGTON — The 4th Circuit Court of Appeals held Monday that Virginia’s ban on same-sex couples’ marriages is unconstitutional.
On a 2-1 vote, the appeals court joined the wave of court decisions declaring such bans unconstitutional. The decision, by Judge Henry Floyd acknowledged both the debate over such laws and, in the court’s view, the clear constitutional impediment to laws banning same-sex couples from marrying.
“We recognize that same-sex marriage makes some people deeply uncomfortable,” he wrote. “However, inertia and apprehension are not legitimate bases for denying same-sex couples due process and equal protection of the laws.”
In considering the matter, Floyd, joined by Judge Roger Gregory, ruled, “The Virginia Marriage Laws … impede the right to marry by preventing same-sex couples from marrying and nullifying the legal import of their out-of-state marriages. Strict scrutiny therefore applies in this case.”
Judge Paul Niemeyer dissented from the decision, writing, “Because there is no fundamental right to same-sex marriage and there are rational reasons for not recognizing it, just as there are rational reasons for recognizing it, I conclude that we, in the Third Branch, must allow the States to enact legislation on the subject in accordance with their political processes.”
The vice president of a notorious right-wing legal organization has spent much of 2014 developing one of the most extreme anti-LGBT “news” sites on the internet. Now he’s using the site to hawk a treasure trove of right-wing merchandise and souvenirs.
Though BarbWire isn’t exclusively an anti-LGBT website – the site spares some vitriol for immigrants, Muslims, reproductive choice, and President Barack Obama – LGBT topics have dominated its content since its inception. BarbWire’s first post championed Duck Dynasty star Phil Robertson for his comments comparing gay people to murderers and equating homosexuality with bestiality.
You could purchase an “Obama’s Last Day Countdown Clock” for $12.95:
And nothing will stick it to liberals quite like Rise, Kill, & Eat, a paean to “edible wildlife” from “Genesis to Revelation” featuring a foreword by Ted Nugent:
Both BarbWire.com and Patriot Depot are part of Liberty Alliance, a network of conservative web sites and web stores.
BarbWire And Liberty Counsel
BarbWire’s anti-LGBT extremism closely mirrors the work Barber is known for at Liberty Counsel.
Led by Mathew Staver, Liberty Counsel is the legal arm of the Jerry Falwell-founded Liberty University. Billed as a nonprofit “litigation, education, and policy organization,” Liberty Counsel is notorious for championing even the most extreme anti-gay causes in the name of religious freedom. The organization defended Scott Lively against a federal human rights lawsuit stemming from his role in a 2009 bill that would have imposed the death penalty for homosexuality in Uganda. While Liberty Counsel fancies itself as a serious conservative legal organization, it also churns out bombastic statements denouncing LGBT-inclusive education as “sexual assault” on the nation’s children.
Despite his fondness for fringe causes, Staver’s connections in conservative media and politics have helped elevate Liberty Counsel to a prominent position on the Religious Right. A closeassociate of Fox News host and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, Staver is a repeatgueston Fox and has testified before Congress in support of “ex-gay” therapy. In recent weeks, Liberty Counsel garnered headlines for defending Florida’s same-sex marriage ban in court.
For years, conservative outlets like Fox have reliably offered Liberty Counsel favorable, accountability-free treatment, allowing figures like Staver to depict Liberty Counsel’s work as part of a noble effort to defend religious liberty and obscuring the group’s true extremism. Now, in order to disseminate that extremism unfiltered, the group’s vice president felt compelled to create his own “news” site – offering an ugly look at the animus that motivates his organization’s work.
ROME — On a hot Friday in late June, the walls of a 15th-century marble palace in a secluded corner of the Vatican were lit up with the face of Breitbart News Chairman Steve Bannon.
“We believe — strongly — that there is a global tea party movement,” declared Bannon, who took over the American conservative new media empire after the death of its founder, Andrew Breitbart, in 2012. Speaking via Skype to a conference on Catholic responses to poverty, he said, “You’re seeing a global reaction to centralized government, whether that government is in Beijing or that government is in Washington, D.C., or that government is in Brussels… On the social conservative side, we’re the voice of the anti-abortion movement, the voice of the traditional marriage movement.”
Events across the Atlantic do look familiar to American eyes: an uprising against long-established parties in Brussels amid economic stagnation. But these elements have been around a long time in European politics. What is new — and what feels so American — is represented by the group Bannon was addressing: Europe is getting its own version of the religious right.
“There is an unprecedented anger because the average citizen [sees] what is being done in their name without their consent,” said Benjamin Harnwell, who founded the group that organized the conference, called the Human Dignity Institute. Harnwell is a former aide to a longtime Eurosceptic member of the European Parliament, who founded the organization in 2008 to promote the “Christian voice” in European politics. It is one of many new groups that have sprouted on the continent in recent years with missions they describe as “promoting life,” “traditional family,” and “religious liberty” in response to the advance of laws to recognize same-sex marriage and abortion rights. Some are technically secular organizations, but their strength, their leaders concede, largely comes from churchgoers.
The analogy with the tea party isn’t perfect for these groups, and some bristle at the comparison because they aren’t uniformly conservative on other issues. Harnwell prefers “silent majority,” but said he draws inspiration from the tea party movement because they also see their battle in part as a fight with a political establishment that has long ignored them.
These groups are still learning to work together, but after years on the political margins in much of Europe, they have suddenly begun flexing political muscles that progressives — and maybe social conservatives themselves — never knew they had. They have made themselves a force to be reckoned with in Brussels by learning key lessons from American conservatives, such as how to organize online and use initiative drives. European progressives, who long thought debates over sexual rights had mostly been settled in their favor, were blindsided.
“A bomb with a long fuse has been lit,” said Sylvie Guillaume, a French MEP supportive of abortion rights and LGBT rights, who recently stepped down as vice chair of the largest center-left bloc in the European Union’s parliament. “We don’t know what’s going to happen.”
One month before Bannon addressed the Human Dignity Institute, elections for the European Parliament sent a shockwave through the political establishment in Brussels. Far-right parties calling for an end to the European Union doubled their numbers to hold around 20% of seats. Parties like France’s National Front and Britain’s UKIP won pluralities in their countries.
Some of these parties ran on explicitly anti-LGBT platforms, particularly in Eastern Europe. (Hungary’s ultranationalist Jobbik Party, for example, printed posters featuring a blond woman with a Hungarian flag standing opposite drag Eurovision champion Conchita Wurst with an EU flag, along with the caption: “You Choose!”) For the most part, though, issues dear to social conservatives were a side issue in elections driven heavily by economic frustration. Some on the far right even support LGBT rights, most notably Geert Wilders of the Dutch Party for Freedom, who has tried to recruit LGBT voters for his anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant platform.
Social conservatives made themselves a force months before the election. In December, the European Parliament took up a resolution known as the Estrela Report that called on member states to provide comprehensive sex education in schools, ensure access to safe abortions, and take other steps that its supporters consider basic to safeguarding sexual health and rights. The resolution would have had no practical impact — the EU’s own rules bar it from regulating such issues — and its supporters considered it consistent with previously adopted resolutions. The vote was expected to be perfectly routine.
Then, as if someone had thrown a switch, emails started pouring into MEPs’ offices calling for the resolution to be rejected weeks before the final vote on Dec. 10. After an acrimonious floor debate, the center-right bloc helped defeat the Estrela Report by a small margin in favor of a conservative alternative that essentially said the EU has no business talking about these issues. The result stunned progressives, who couldn’t recall another time that the parliament had rejected language supportive of reproductive rights.
In a sense, someone had indeed thrown a switch. A few months earlier, a new online petition platform called CitizenGo sent out its first action alert. CitizenGo was conceived of as a kind of MoveOn.org for conservatives. It was based in Spain, but it had aspirations to be a global platform and now has staff working in eight languages, with plans to add Chinese and Arabic. It has an organizer in the U.S., too, named Gregory Mertz, who works out of the Washington offices of the National Organization for Marriage — Mertz actually wrote some of CitizenGo’s Esterla Report petitions. In the weeks leading up to the Estrela vote, several petitions appeared on CitizenGo, garnering 40,000 signatures here, 50,000 there.
These kinds of campaigns are so common in the U.S. that they are little more than background noise. But they were new in Brussels, especially in the hands of conservatives. Grassroots mobilization on sexual rights hadn’t been common on either side, and progressive advocacy groups had won many important victories relying heavily on an elite lobbying strategy.
MEPs had no idea what hit them and many of them folded, said Neil Datta, of the European Parliamentary Forum for Population and Development, which promotes reproductive rights.
“If you have a big cannon, the first [time] you shoot it, everyone runs away scared,” Datta said.
CitizenGo’s founder, Ignacio Arsuaga, had spent more than a decade adapting online organizing techniques from U.S. to Spanish politics before launching the group. He had been drawn into internet advocacy while studying at Fordham Law School in New York in the late 1990s. He had been “amazed” by MoveOn.org, he said in a phone interview from Spain, and he began signing petitions by groups such as the Christian Coalition, Americans United for Life, and other organizations that were “defending the rights of religious people — specifically Catholics — to express our faith in the public sphere.”
“That’s real democracy — that’s what I lived in the U.S.,” Arsuaga said. “Spanish citizens aren’t used to participating. They’re used to voting to every four years, and that’s it.”
To change this, he created an organization called HazteOír (a name that means “make yourself heard”) in 2001. It ran some campaigns throughout the early 2000s, often under separately branded sites, but it was the group’s mobilization against a 2010 bill to liberalize abortion laws passed by Spain’s socialist government that made the group a beacon to conservatives around the world. It helped get hundreds of thousands of protesters on the streets of Madrid and kept up the drumbeat through the 2011 elections when the conservative party Partido Popular won control. Its efforts appear to have paid off. In December 2013, the cabinet approved legislation that opponents say would give Spain the most restrictive abortion laws of any democracy in the world, and it seems to be on track for final approval by the parliament this summer.
Arsuaga has steadily been working to build a broader movement. His group hosted the 2012 World Congress of Families in Madrid, a global summit of social conservative leaders organized by an institute in Rockford, Ill. It bussed supporters across the border to France in 2013 when a new organization, La Manif Pour Tous (Protest for All), organized large protests against a marriage equality law reminiscent of Spain’s anti-abortion protests.
The protests organized by these two groups were a turning point for conservatives throughout Europe, said Luca Volontè, a former Italian MP who now runs a social conservative foundation in Rome and sits on CitizenGo’s board. They showed that a progressive victory was not inevitable. And, in their aftermath, conservatives have won victories, especially in Eastern Europe — in recent months, Croatia and Slovakia both enacted marriage equality bans in their constitutions.
“So many people in Europe are standing up, because this ideology appears and [is] felt, really, as totalitarian,” Volontè said, referring to advances for marriage equality.
La Manif Pour Tous is now following the same path as HazteOír, continuing the fight against marriage equality in France even though it became law in May 2013 and reorganizing itself as a permanent, international organization. The group launched a “Europe for Family” campaign in the lead-up to the EU elections in May, and 230 French candidates signed its pledge opposing marriage equality, trans rights, and sex education.
Twenty-three signatories won won seats in those elections, 11 of them members of the far-right National Front.
Thibault Camus / AP
The suddenness with which social conservatives became a force in Brussels has many progressives speculating that they are the creations of American social conservatives seeking to “export the culture wars.”
“As far as I understand [social conservative groups] have quite some money in them [from] the U.S., similar to all those missionary and evangelical groups that do work in Uganda,” said Ulrike Lunacek, an Austrian Green Party MEP who is now vice president of the European Parliament. Lunacek, who co-chaired the Parliament’s Intergroup on LGBT Rights in the last session, authored a report on LGBT rights that groups like CitizenGo and La Manif Pour Tous tried unsuccessfully to defeat this winter.
A review of tax disclosures conducted by the progressive advocacy group People for the American Way found that several U.S. groups — many of which boomed in the 1990s — had recently invested in conservative drives across Europe: The American Center for Law and Justice, founded by Pat Robertson, sent $1.1 million to its European branch, the European Center for Law and Justice, in 2012, which is the most recent year for which tax disclosures are available. Another group founded by well-known American social conservatives called the Alliance Defending Freedom spent more than $750,000 on European programs that year. The Federalist Society, which promotes conservative legal philosophy, reported spending nearly $800,000 in “conferences and seminars” in Europe that year. Personhood USA, a small Colorado-based group that has tried to pass ballot measures that would give fetuses the legal status of “persons” — a strategy for rolling back abortion rights that is controversial even among pro-life activists — poured $400,000 into Europe in 2012, just after one of its ballot measures went down in flames in Mississippi. (Personhood USA President Keith Mason declined to answer questions from BuzzFeed about which organizations received the funds or what they were used for.)
But while there are links to the U.S., the movement is very much homegrown. Arsuaga said neither HazteOír nor CitizenGo get funding from U.S. groups — and they don’t need it. Arsuaga said 99% of HazteOír’s 1.9 million euro ($2.5 million) annual budget comes from donations from Spanish citizens. CitizenGo has been raising 30,000 to 40,000 euros (roughly $40,000 to $55,000) each month from the 1.2 million members it’s signed up worldwide since its October launch.
Today, American ties seem much more about a shared vision to build a global conservative movement rather than leaning on stronger and wealthier U.S. partners for support. Arsuaga, Volontè, and La Manif Pour Tous President Ludovine de La Rochère were all in Washington on June 19 to support the National Organization for Marriage’s March for Marriage. Their more important business, however, might have been in a closed-door summit the next day, where representatives of around 70 countries met to discuss creation of an International Organization for Marriage, according to Volontè and another participant. A follow-up meeting is planned for next year.
Flickr: Elvert Barnes / Creative Commons / Via flic.kr
Many LGBT rights supporters mocked the March for Marriage’s paltry turnout. So these Europeans appeared as if they were there to encourage a beleaguered movement, not the other way around — they now possess the vigor that has evaporated from the U.S. movement as opposition to marriage equality has collapsed.
European social conservatives contend that they may have a new energy and sophistication, but Europeans have never been pro-abortion rights or pro-marriage equality. Dissenters just weren’t given the floor, and they didn’t know how to fight back. “[We] didn’t know how to arrive here at the European [Union] level and make their voice heard in parliament,” said Sophia Kuby, director of a four-year-old organization based in Brussels, European Dignity Watch.
Polling data doesn’t appear to bear this out, at least in Western Europe. Support for marriage equality ranges between 52 and 79% in all seven Western European countries included in a June Ipsos poll. Less than a third of respondents from the two Eastern European countries included — Poland and Hungary — support same-sex marriage (and both countries have banned it in their constitutions), but more than 50% support some form of legal recognition for same-sex couples. Opinion seems to range more an abortion, which is available in most countries at least before 12 weeks, though waiting periods and other restrictions are not uncommon. An April Pew study found substantial pluralities in countries including France, Spain, and the Czech Republic say they believe abortion is “morally acceptable,” while there are even more lopsided pluralities saying abortion was “morally unacceptable” in places such as Poland and Greece.
But anti-abortion activists effectively used a new mechanism for direct democracy that the EU introduced in 2012 — called the European Citizens Initiative (ECI) — to make a show of popular support. One of the first ECIs ever launched, dubbed “One of Us,” was a proposal to cut off EU funding to any activity that destroys a human embryo, which in practical terms would mean ending support for stem cell research and foreign aid to family planning programs that perform abortions. If organizers could get at least 1 million signatures from seven countries, the EU’s executive body, the European Commission, would have had to hold a hearing on it.
The signature drive was led by Grégor Puppinck of the European Center for Law and Justice, but the continental campaign itself was funded entirely by Spanish and Italian foundations. It quickly sailed past the 1 million signature hurdle, collecting over 1.8 million signatures from more than 20 countries by the time the hearing was held on April 9. Despite this impressive show of popular support, there was little doubt that the commission would reject the proposal even as the witnesses for One of Us walked into the hearing room — Science Commissioner Máire Geoghegan-Quinn had said as much in a January press conference.
The commission summarily dismissed the proposal in a seven-page statement issued on May 28 — just three days after the European elections, which left some organizers feeling like the commission was deliberately trying to prevent it from affecting the vote.
But that doesn’t mean it was a defeat for opponents to abortion rights. Well before the process had come to an end, the One of Us campaign signalled on its website that it had bigger goals than just changing EU funding policy.
The drive “could be a starting point of a new Europe-wide mobilization of the pro-life movement,” the site said. “Every experience we collect here can be used for campaigns on other pro-life issues in further course. In that sense, it can be expected that the outcome may be very enduring.”
It also taught anti-abortion rights activists that they didn’t have to pull their punches.
“For too long a time in Europe, pro-life people did not really say clearly and directly what they believe because [they feared] it was too much” for most Europeans to accept, Puppinck said in an interview in his Strasbourg office. “We are more direct, more open, more clear, we don’t really try to negotiate on the truth…. This is why, for us, the most important [thing] is to be able to speak.”
And from a political standpoint, the rejection of the One of Us initiative may have been a blessing for social conservatives hoping to build a movement. The U.S. anti-abortion movement was built in response to the 1973 Supreme Court decision establishing abortion rights, a ruling that thrust abortion into the center of American politics for the last 40 years. And they can now frame it as a question, not just abortion.
That’s exactly how the Parliament’s largest bloc, the center-right European People’s Party, is already poised to embrace One of Us’ cause. The EPP chair, German MEP Manfred Weber, told BuzzFeed he was “disappointed” that the European Commission did not act “when there are so many people standing behind an initiative.”
“We have to bring people closer to the European process,” Weber said, adding that the EU must not go beyond its mandate. “Europe should not be the political body which is intervening … in this question of family rights, of abortion. Very crucial and very important.”
This battle now heads to the courts. On Friday, Puppinck filed a challenge before the EU’s judicial arm asking that it take away the European Commission’s veto power over initiatives. The suit “is not only about the right to life, but firstly about democracy,” Puppinck stated in a press release announcing the suit.
In this fight, Puppinck said, “You can really say it’s the opposition between the people and the elite.”
Palin is a Fox News contributor who has a rockyhistorywith her employer. Earlier this month she called for President Obama’s impeachment in an op-ed for Breitbart News. This came in apparent violation of her Fox contract, which reportedly “guarantees the cable-news leader exclusive rights to her work on television and on the Internet.” If that description of her contract is accurate, it’s unclear how the Sarah Palin Channel could be permitted under the terms of her agreement with Fox.
The Sarah Palin Channel is backed by TAPP, a company building “niche” digital channels and founded by former NBCU executive Jeff Gaspin and former CNN executive Jon Klein.
Palin’s “news channel” joins an already crowded universe of networks attempting to whittle away at Fox News’ Republican audience.
Glenn Beck launched TheBlaze after his messy 2011 exit from the Fox News Channel. Beck’s network is accessible through Internet subscriptions, and several television operators. The Blaze and Palin’s channel both offer subscription plans for roughly $10 a month or $100 a year.
In June conservative publisher Christopher Ruddy launched Newsmax TV online and on providers like DirecTV and the Dish Network. Bloomberg Businessweekwrote that Ruddy wants Newsmax TV to be “a kinder, gentler Fox” and that Ruddy “doesn’t need to beat Fox News, he just needs to shave off a little of its audience—particularly those conservatives who feel Fox has drifted too far to the right. ‘If we take 10 to 15 percent of the Fox audience,’ he says, ‘and they are making $1 billion a year, then we are going to be hugely profitable.’”
San Diego-based Herring Broadcasting and The Washington Timeslaunched One America News Network in July 2013. It caters to viewers “with self-described independent, conservative & libertarian values.” Charles Herring, president of Herring Broadcasting, “said his network also would provide a platform for a broader spectrum of voices on the right than Fox now offers.” One America has struggled to gain a foothold on cable networks, has a small social media presence (currently less than 4,000 Twitter followers), and lacks well-known conservative personalities.
RightNetwork, a network launched in 2010 by actor Kelsey Grammer and Philadelphia sports owner Ed Snider, failed in its mission to attract a Fox-like audience with programming featuring people like "Joe The Plumber." It went defunct in 2011.
Other internet video ventures include Pajamas Media’s Next Generation TV, a “multimedia platform” for millennials whose most visible personality is former Daily Caller reporter Michelle Fields. The site gained notoriety when BuzzFeed reported that former Rep. Allen West (also a Fox News contributor) left the site “after an altercation with a female staffer in which he allegedly called her a ‘Jewish American princess.’” Former Republican presidential candidates Ron Paul and Herman Cain (whose subscription model has “withered away”) also have their own video sites.
Despite hurdles, both sides promise deal that addresses short-term and long-term problems at VA.
After the massive scandal at the US Department of Veterans Affairs, Congress reportedly reached an agreement on how to the fix the nation’s publicly run health-care system for veterans — despite at times appearing like both sides of the debate would fail to set a deal.
Negotiations between Senate Democrats and House Republicans seemingly broke down on Thursday, July 24, as both sides held dueling press conferences accusing each other of bad faith.
The negotiations appeared to be on much better ground as of the weekend, with staffers from both sides resuming discussions. House VA Chair Jeff Miller (R-FL) and Senate VA Chair Bernie Sanders (I-VT) also agreed to fly back to Washington, DC, if it would push the negotiations forward.
THE NEGOTIATIONS APPEARED TO BE ON MUCH BETTER GROUND AS OF THE WEEKEND
On Sunday, congressional staffers confirmed they had reached a deal. Neither side disclosed details on what, exactly, the final compromise will look like. A joint press conference scheduled for Monday will presumably lay out the details of the plan.
"I can say that an agreement has been reached to deal with both the short-term and long-term needs of the VA," said Michael Briggs, a spokesperson for Sanders.
The debate centered around how Congress should fix a VA health-care system that simply doesn’t have enough doctors and staff for the number of patients it sees every year. The lack of capacity is one of the reasons schedulers and administrators in Phoenix and at other VA hospitals around the country manipulated records. The falsified reports made it look like VA hospitals were still hitting goals, which were linked to bonus payments, for seeing patients in a timely manner.
Before Congress reached a deal, they had to work through one remaining hurdle: funding.
The debate focused on money
Senator Bernie Sanders speaks at the VA conference committee. (Win McNamee / Getty Images News)
The Congressional Budget Office estimated that the bill passed by the Senate would cost $35 billion. The final cost will likely change in the final bill, but the high CBO estimate gives a rough idea of just how much money was being debated — and why a highly budget-conscious Congress had so much trouble reaching an agreement.
On Thursday, Miller released what he framed as a compromise between the original House and Senate proposals. The bill would, among other changes, fund a $10 billion, two-year pilot program that would let veterans get private care outside the VA system, allow the VA to hire more doctors, and establish more accountability measures.
But the bill didn’t include the full $17.6 billion in funding requested by the VA. The VA said the funds would help expand its infrastructure and hire new staff, including doctors, to get ahead of a surge of veterans coming home from wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
"IF THERE’S ONE THING WE’VE LEARNED OVER THE LAST FEW MONTHS, IT’S THAT WE CAN’T TRUST VA’S NUMBERS"
Sanders spokesperson Briggs said the senator doesn’t necessarily want the final compromise to include all of the VA’s requested funding, but he would like to see at least some of it in a compromise.
House Republicans, a staffer said, would prefer to see the additional funding requested by the VA dealt with in separate discussions about broader budget bills. Republicans haven’t decided whether the request is too much, but they would like more time to work through the issue in separate budget negotiations to see what justifies such a big increase in funds and how the money should be appropriated.
Miller put it more candidly in a recent statement: “I am committed to giving VA the resources it needs to provide our veterans with the care and benefits they have earned. But if there’s one thing we’ve learned over the last few months, it’s that we can’t trust VA’s numbers. That includes the $17.6 billion in additional funding Acting Secretary Sloan Gibson asked for today.”
No one expected to be completely happy with the final bill
A military veteran walks after having his prosthetic leg serviced at a VA hospital. (John Moore / Getty Images News)
Prior to reaching a deal, both sides said they would each need to ultimately give something up if they were to reach a deal in time for the August recess.
"We’re trying to reach a middle-ground that probably nobody will be completely happy with," Briggs said, "but it will do a lot of good for the VA and for veterans."
Some veterans advocates, meanwhile, don’t like the idea of putting veterans into private care. As they see it, veterans are multifaceted patients with all sorts of injuries, both mental and physical, that need a comprehensive, specialized approach that the VA is built to take on. The private system, on the other hand, is structured more for an everyday patient that might deal with fewer physical and mental health problems.
"I’m not sure that our members would benefit greatly from this legislation," Carl Blake of Paralyzed Veterans of America said. From Blake’s perspective, veterans with major disabilities, like those his organization represents, are never going to find the kind of care they need at a private hospital.
"I’M NOT SURE THAT OUR MEMBERS WOULD BENEFIT GREATLY FROM THIS LEGISLATION"
A major concern for veterans groups is that Congress will enact the two-year pilot program for private care, assume the VA’s problems have been fixed, and leave the system to deteriorate after the pilot program ends. That, veterans advocates argued, would leave the VA worse off than it is today, because the pilot program would expire at a time more veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan will be entering the system.
Joe Violante, national legislative director for Disabled American Veterans, said adding more funding to the system, as veterans advocates have recommended for years in independent budget proposals, is key to a successful bill that will leave the VA in better shape. He argued, “If they’re not going to ensure that there’s funding available for the VA to expand during these two years, … I’d rather see them do nothing at this point.”
Congressional staffers confirmed on Sunday that Congress will do something, although the details of the deal weren’t disclosed. As they see it, the final compromise might not satisfy everyone, but it could help alleviate a system that’s been clearly strained by too many patients, too few doctors, and misguided regulations for years.
Update: This article was updated to reflect the announcement of a deal on Sunday.
“a person’s a person no matter how small”—Dr. Seuss, a pro-choice advocate who publicly donated to Planned Parenthood and actively sued pro-life organizations for using this as a slogan. Stop using this to justify your bullshit pro-life ideals. Not even the original author of the phrase agrees with you. (via celestialfucker)
Less noticed was Brownback’s move to change the way judges are selected for the state court of appeals—an action that had the full backing of the leading anti-choice group in the state.
“We have a pro-life house and a pro-life senate and a pro-life governor,” Mary Kay Culp, the executive director of Kansans for Life, told RH Reality Check. But, she said, there’s a problem. “We pass pro-life legislation—and we get sued. The next frontier is the courts.”
Stung by the wave of state court cases consolidating marriage equality across the country, conservative groups in many states are now focusing on judicial elections to ensure the array of laws they’ve passed are upheld when challenged in state courts.
The result is that judicial selection—once a relatively obscure topic—has emerged as the focus of a new conservative strategy to reshape the way people become judges at the local level, according to experts who monitor judicial fairness.
“We’re seeing more interest in merit selection in a number of states, especially as high spending and political pressure become a bigger issue in contested judicial elections,” said Laurie Kinney, director of communications and public education at the national nonpartisan group Justice at Stake. “Special interest groups of many stripes have known for years now that judicial elections can provide an opening for political influence and spending that they believe will advance their agendas.”
While RH Reality Check did not find large donations from anti-choice groups to judges in the campaign finance records we examined, our reporting exposed a more profound strategy at work: an effort to cement conservative policy by changing the rules of the game.
Currently, 22 states have contested elections for judges, while 16 have some type of merit selection or governor-appointed system, according to Justice at Stake. Merit systems are intended to insulate the judicial selection process from political and special interest groups. The systems take different forms; a popular iteration establishes a non-partisan commission that accepts applications for judicial posts, and recommends three candidates to the state governor.
Recognizing the potential to influence judicial elections in the era of unlimited campaign contributions and “shadow money,” conservatives in multiple states have begun agitating to switch from merit-based appointment systems to open elections for judges. These groups are also active in opposing efforts to move toward merit-based systems.
Since the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United, which lifted caps on campaign contributions, spending in state court races has skyrocketed. Total spending in 2011-2012 high court state races reached $56.4 million, up from just $31.7 million in 2001, with special interest groups and political parties spending 43 percent of that total, according to a joint report published in October 2013 by the Brennan Center for Justice, Justice at Stake, and the National Institute on Money in State Politics.
The New York Times recently published a story about the heated judicial election in North Carolina, where national groups like the Republican State Leadership Committee poured money into the state supreme court race as part of an effort to put more conservative judges on the bench nationwide. And as Dahlia Lithwick noted in Slate, “knocking off a state Supreme Court justice is one of the cheapest political endeavors going.”
But instead of knocking off particular judges, anti-choice groups seem to be mobilizing to change the entire system of judicial selection. Once they’ve successfully implemented contested elections or gubernatorial appointment, they can then fund judges and governors who will push a conservative agenda.
That’s why Kansans for Life supported the state legislature in 2013 when they moved to swap the court of appeals merit selection committee for a system in which the governor selects judges, which the senate then confirms. The bill, which became effective July 1, 2013, allows Gov. Brownback to hand-select justices, without making the application pool, interview process, or selection criteria public. The only oversight is that the Republican-controlled senate must confirm the nominee.
Now, Kansans for Life has its eyes set on the state supreme court.
Unlike the lower state courts, where the process for selecting judges could be changed with a simple majority vote, Kansas’s state constitution specifies the way that judges are selected for its highest court. Changing that system requires a constitutional amendment.
The state senate passed such a constitutional amendment—which would eradicate the merit selection nominating commission for the Supreme Court—in January 2013, but there was no vote in the house. The legislative session is now over.
Ryan Wright, the executive director of Kansans for Fair Courts, is wary of the push by Kansans for Life to change the constitutionally mandated selection process.
“Take the actual issue of abortion out of it; anytime you have a special interest group that is championing and cheering the [judicial selection] process, I think that should give everybody pause. Wait a second—what have they been promised? What have they been told privately? And why are they so excited about this?”
In the past three years, state legislatures in 11 states, including Montana, Tennessee (where merit selection will be on the general ballot in November), and Arkansas have attempted to pass merit selection bills in response to growing concerns about the politicization of state judiciaries, RH Reality Check’s research shows.
But legislators in some states have found those initiatives opposed by anti-choice groups.
Early this June, Pennsylvania state Rep. Bryan Cutler (R-Peach Bottom) received an e-mail from the Pennsylvania Pro-Life Federation urging him to vote against HB 1848, a merit selection bill.
“This will be a scorecard vote for the Pennsylvania Pro-Life Federation, which represents more than 40 pro-life organizations and tens of thousands of members in Pennsylvania,” the email read. “A ‘yes’ vote will be considered a pro-abortion vote.”
As chief sponsor of the bill, Rep. Cutler was aware of the intense politics involved in selecting judges.
HB 1848 did not appear to be a “pro-abortion,” or even a particularly charged, bill. It proposed adding an amendment to the state constitution so that Pennsylvania’s statewide appellate judges would no longer be selected by partisan elections, but instead by a citizen nominating commission, gubernatorial appointment, and senate confirmation. Periodic retention elections—where voters simply vote “yes” or “no” to keep an incumbent—would ensure that extraordinarily unpopular judges couldn’t stay on the bench.
Rep. Cutler, who is also the chairman of the Pennsylvania House Pro-Life Caucus, was unswayed by the Pennsylvania Pro-Life Federation’s email.
“I respectfully disagree with some of the issues they raise,” he told RH Reality Check in an interview. Rep. Cutler introduced a bill to prohibit abortion coverage in health insurance exchanges, and he would like to see a law in Pennsylvania (similar to the Wendy Davis-filibustered HB 2 in Texas) requiring abortion practitioners to have admitting privileges in nearby hospitals. Even so, he doesn’t think “pro-life” groups should be able to choose Pennsylvania’s judges.
“I personally have concerns when judges have to go out and enter the political process in the way of traditional candidates. I’ve always thought that raised a lot of red flags, when they sit on cases at a later time,” he said. “From my perspective, this is not a pro-life or a pro-choice issue. It is really an issue around the integrity of the judiciary.”
Due in part to the Pennsylvania Pro-Life Federation’s email, the bill was never debated in the house. Because legislators are proposing a constitutional amendment, they will need to vote on the bill in two consecutive sessions before putting the question to the voters. Since the bill failed in this legislative session, it can’t appear on the general ballot until at least 2017.
In other states, merit selection of state judges appears to be a sleeper issue.
Minnesota hasn’t faced the same high-level spending on judicial elections that other states have, which means the push for reform has been less urgent. Still, the legislature came close last year to passing a bill that would present a merit selection constitutional amendment to voters in November.
The state’s main anti-choice group—Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life (MCCL)—says on its website that it opposes merit selection because it believes citizens should be able to vote for specific judges, and because retention elections are equally politicized as open elections.
The group declined to comment for this story, but Sarah Walker, president of Minnesota’s Coalition for Impartial Justice, attributes the bill’s failure to strong opposition from MCCL.
“There was some fear about this becoming a campaign issue,” Walker said.
For the most part, MCCL, like its anti-choice counterparts around the country, did not launch active opposition to the merit selection bill until it was time for a hearing, Walker said. Then they sent last-minute letters to legislators promising to “score the issue”—present it to voters as an anti-abortion vote in election season voting guides—just as the Pennsylvania Pro-Life Federation did.
“Regardless of what side of issues you are on, I think that everyone should be able to agree that we want our judiciary to be accountable to the rule of law and the Constitution,” said Walker. “We don’t want anyone making campaign promises.”