Posts tagged "United States"


Image APSame sex couples are married in a group by the Oakland County Clerk in Pontiac, Michigan.  (AP)

The federal government will recognize the 300-odd same-sex marriages performed over the weekend in Michigan after a federal judge struck down the state’s gay marriage ban. That’s despite Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder’s announcement this week that his state will not recognize those marriages, citing a stay on the court decision issued last Saturday. 

The federal government’s decision was announced on Friday morning by Attorney General Eric Holder, who noted that federal recognition means those couples “will be eligible for all relevant federal benefits on the same terms as other same-sex marriages.” He added: 

“Last June’s decision by the Supreme Court in United States v. Windsor was a victory for equal protection under the law and a historic step toward equality for all American families.  The Department of Justice continues to work with its federal partners to implement this decision across the government.  And we will remain steadfast in our commitment to realizing our country’s founding ideals of equality, opportunity, and justice for all.”

Holder’s decision consistent with the government’s stance towards 1,300 married same-sex couples in Utah, who face a similar limbo of federal, but not state, recognition of their marriages while a court battle over a state ban continues. Utah Gov. Gary Herbert announced in January that his administration considers those marriages “on hold” until the issue is resolved. Similarly, Snyder’s statement announcing the state’s position acknowledges that the couples who married on Saturday “had a legal marriage.” But with the restoration of the state ban, he argued, Michigan was not obligated to recognize those marriages. 

Utah and Michigan bucked an earlier trend among states with contested same-sex marriages. Both California and New Mexico (states that now permanently recognize gay marriage) have recognized marriages performed during temporary windows where same-sex marriage was legal. In California, for instance, the state recognized the 18,000 same-sex couples who married after a state court legalized same sex marriage, but before voters passed Proposition 8. 

Source: Abby Ohlheiser for The Wire


The NRA spends its days defending deadly weapons, but it only needed a single tweet to kill a top Obama official.

If you’ve been following the news cycle, you probably saw Rand Paul and the gun lobby pitch a fit over the nomination of Vivek Murthy, the Harvard- and Yale-educated physician Obama picked to serve as the nation’s top doctor. Murthy’s biggest crime, beyond some concerns that he would “propagandize” on behalf of the Affordable Care Act, was simply that he described gun violence as a public-health issue. Once. In a tweet. In 2012. For the uninitiated, Murthy’s offending statement is this: “Tired of politicians playing politics w/ guns, putting lives at risk b/c they’re scared of NRA. Guns are a health care issue.”

Since then he has earned the undying ire of the NRA, which went public in its opposition to Murthy, threatening to “score”—track how lawmakers vote—any vote taken against him. Such measures might make sense if the surgeon general were in a position to regulate guns, but the post is a largely ceremonial seat used to highlight pressing health concerns.

Murthy’s claim is not particularly novel, even among Republicans holding the exact same position. “I doubt there’s been a surgeon general dating back to the days of Lyndon Johnson that would pass the NRA litmus test,” Jim Kessler with the centrist Democratic group Third Way told The Daily Beast.

Until now, they never had to.

C. Everett Koop, President Reagan’s surgeon general, made precisely Murthy’s point. Writing in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 1992, he called gun violence “a public-health emergency" and proposed that owning and operating a firearm carry with it the same restrictions as owning and operating a car. Koop did eventually alienate himself from conservatives, but his stance on gun violence wasn’t the reason; it was primarily his aggressive advocacy on AIDs. That conservatives didn’t flare up over his position on gun voilence shows how things have changed.

Such rhetoric hasn’t merely been the province of surgeons general. Announcing an initiative to fight gun violence at the Pennsylvania Convention Center in 2001, President Bush noted three out of four murder victims in Philadelphia were shot to death with handguns, adding that the figure rises to nine out of 10 among youth. “In America today, a teenager is more likely to die from a gunshot than from all natural causes of death combined,” he told the gathered audience. The NRA heartily endorsed him in 2004.

Louis W. Sullivan, President George H.W. Bush’s Health and Human Services secretary, spoke even more directly to the point, calling gun-related violence “a public-health problem in addition to being a criminal-justice problem.” He was particularly concerned about gun violence’s impact in the black community, where violence was cited as the primary cause of death for males ages 15-25, with 80 percent of the cases involving handguns. Sullivan wasn’t some freakish outlier: He was confirmed 98-1, with Republican Sens. Dan Coats, Thad Cochran, Chuck Grassley, John McCain, Mitch McConnell, and Richard Shelby voting “yes.”

The gun lobby’s current offensive smacks of a time in the 1990s when NRA-backed politicians went after researchers for publishing firearm data. They also attacked the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for funding the research, and won. Now it appears they’ve moved from information suppression to rhetoric policing.

The larger irony is that when Murthy states gun violence is a health issue, he is merely stating the obvious. Whatever your notions about guns being symbolic of liberty, freedom, and America, when a bullet enters the human body, the situation falls very quickly and squarely into the arena of public health. The CDC reminds us firearms were among the leading mechanisms of injury in the U.S. in 2010, along with motor-vehicle and fall-related injuries. In 2009, they were the cause of 31,347 deaths; the number of deaths attributed to car accidents was 36,216.

h/t: Tara Culp-Ressler at Think Progress Health

Expect marriage equality to be fully legal in the USA by Summer 2015 or 2016. 

H/T: Erik Eckholm at The New York Times

H/T: Yahoo! News, via AFP editor-at-large Ben Shapiro asserted that “[t]his is not a country that discriminates against homosexuals,” despite the persistence of marriage equality bans, anti-LGBT employment discrimination, and hate crimes.

In a February 10 interview with Fusion TV’s Jorge Ramos, Shapiro weighed in on National Football League prospect Michael Sam’s recent announcement that he’s gay. Even as the rabid opponent of marriage equalityanti-discrimination protections, and efforts to end anti-LGBT bullying asserted he was “happy” for Sam, Shapiro reprised an argument he made in a column depicting Sam as the useful pawn of a liberal media intent on proving America is homophobic. When Ramos pressed Shapiro on whether gays encounter discrimination in the U.S., Shapiro was unwilling to acknowledge anything more than “a vastly minute amount.”


Alas, Shapiro’s employer prefers to cheer on - rather than call out - purveyors of anti-LGBT hate and discrimination. Shapiro has joined Breitbart colleague Austin Ruse in promoting Matthew Shepard Trutherism; while Shapiro appeared uninterested in the facts surrounding Shepard’s murder, he saw the publication of a shoddily reported book claiming it wasn’t a hate crime as a convenient means of undermining the LGBT movement’s “broader agenda.” Meanwhile, Breitbart has applauded Russia’s draconian crackdown on LGBT people, praising President Vladimir Putin for supporting “traditional values” and calling far-right organizations that support the country’s anti-gay “propaganda” law "human rights groups." 

From the 02.10.2014 edition of Fusion’s America With Jorge Ramos:



TEHRAN — Iran’s interim nuclear deal with the world’s major powers is scheduled to begin on January 20, officials with Iran and the European Union said Sunday.

"Capitals have confirmed the result of the talks in Geneva … the Geneva deal will be implemented from January 20," Marzieh Afkham, a spokeswoman for the Iranian Foreign Ministry told reporters in Tehran, the semi-official Mehr news agency said.

The EU’s foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton also confirmed the news in a statement on Sunday. 

Ashton represents the six nations — the United States, Russia, China, France, Britain and Germany — in diplomatic contacts with Iran related to the nuclear standoff. 


A great example of why you don’t have any idea what is happening in the world around you. I don’t generally blog this stuff but, you Should know Time Magazine is not the only media to do this.

And people say the U.S. doesn’t have media censorship.

(via politicalsexkitten)

Calling the delegation “nursery school stuff,” Beck declared that Putin “eats people like you for breakfast” and asserted that the entire nation of Russia is “mocking you and laughing at us.”

Instead, Beck suggested that Obama should show up unannounced at the opening ceremony and enter flanked by two gay athletes, because that would send a message!

But, on the bright side, Beck said that Obama’s feckless weakness is making Americans ready for a strong, decisive leader like Ronald Regan again … one who just might happen to be named Ted Cruz.


Ted Cruz may be Ronald Reagan,” Beck said. "He may be our Ronald Reagan because that guy does not take prisoners. That guy is a thousand times smarter than 99% of the politicians I have ever met - and many of them combined. Really smart. Plays for keeps. Knows what’s true. Is clean, is ethical.  I mean, that guy might be Ronald Reagan."

From the 12.18.2013 edition of TheBlaze Radio Networks’ Glenn Beck Radio Program:

Ted Cruz would be the worst president this country’s ever (worse than Dumbya AND Reagan combined) had if he gets elected to the White House. 

h/t: RWW


h/t: Travis Waldron at Think Progress Sports

Great to see Barack Obama make Putin cry.

As the movement for public and private divestment from apartheid South Africa grew throughout the United States in the 1980s, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) aggressively mobilized against South African divestment, stymying state and federal efforts to sanction, isolate, and divest from the Pretorian regime, according to documents newly uncovered by People For the American Way and the Center For Media and Democracy.

ALEC used state and federal policy papers, monthly newsletters, “fact-finding” missions, panel discussions led by lobbyists on the payroll of the South African apartheid regime, and other means to pursue an anti-divestment agenda, one that relied solely on “corporate beneficence” to pressure the country to reform. This effort, in turn, was funded by corporations that were heavily invested in South Africa and had the most to lose from divestment.

In 1984, ALEC described itself as the “nation’s oldest and largest individual membership organization of state legislators and Members of Congress, with over 2,000 members.” ALEC’s reach and access to policymakers was then, just as it is now, formidable.

ALEC used this access to lobby state legislators and even key members of the Reagan administration to stand against divestment, playing a key role in delaying meaningful U.S. action to pressure the apartheid regime.

The Serious Threat of Social Investing

In 1984, ALEC held a “Celebrity Golf Tournament” at its annual meeting in San Diego. The tournament’s champion, a financial services company representative, won a silver tea set donated by the Zale Corporation, a diamond retailer with operations in South Africa. For hitting the longest drive, state senator John Donley of Colorado received a go-cart replica of an Indianapolis 500 race car donated by Texaco, Inc., an oil company with operations in South Africa. ALEC’s annual fundraising report that year featured aphoto of a state representative from Missouri standing alongside then-ALEC executive director Kathleen Teague as they admired these prizes. “ALEC,” the report noted, “serves as a liaison between lawmakers and the business community.”

Protecting corporate interests was (as it still is) ALEC’s raison d’etre, and corporate interests were severely threatened by the South African divestment movement. Large American corporations including Exxon, the Dow Chemical Company, IBM, and Pfizer Inc. held substantial, high-yielding assets in South Africa. All of these were members of the American Legislative Exchange Council.

By 1985, the United States was South Africa’s largest trading partner and the source of one-third of the country’s international credit. American corporations controlled roughly 50 percent of South Africa’s oil industry; 75 percent of its computer industry; and 23 percent of its auto industry. U.S. investors held approximately $8 billion in shares in South African mining industries. The divestment movement directly threatened the bottom lines of many major ALEC corporations.

Yet, as ALEC made clear in its literature at the time, the divestment movement indirectly threatened much more than just profits made from South Africa. The possibility of “social investing” taking off in the United States threatened profit margins of corporations across the world. “The underlying problem is the strategy itself,” ALEC posited in a 1983 policy paper. “Although South Africa is the initial target it is not likely to be the last… If successful on the South African issue, these activists can be expected to broaden their disinvestment strategy. And, it will be increasingly difficult to contain because a precedent for it will have been established by state law.”

With so much on the line, ALEC and ALEC corporations knew they had to act swiftly to squash divestment efforts.

ALEC and the Reagan White House

In 1983, ALEC distributed a “legislative update” to its members and coalition partners titled, “The States and South Africa: A Study of the Disinvestment Issue.” The 16-page memorandum was published on ALEC letterhead and edited by J. Daniel Bray, the director of ALEC’s research department – a department that, according to ALEC fundraising literature from 1982, “strive[d] to facilitate the exchange of information and greater cooperation between the private sector and state government.”

ALEC distributed the memorandum to key members of the Reagan administration, with astounding results. In an article published in ALEC’s monthly newsletter in January 1984, the organization boasted of the impact the memorandum had on administration policy, writing “Since the publication of … ‘The States and South Africa: A Study of the Disinvestment Issue,’ several prominent leaders and groups, including the U.S. Department of State, the Department of Agriculture, the United States Trade Representative, and the Secretary of Commerce have gone on record against divestiture.”

ALEC had good reason to assume that it had directly influenced Reagan administration policy on divestment: Both U.S. Trade Representative William E. Brock and U.S. Secretary of Commerce Malcolm Baldridge wrote personal letters to ALEC’s executive director, Kathleen Teague, to assure her of their opposition to divestment.  Baldridge’s letter directly referenced ALEC’s white paper:

We urge American firms doing business there to improve their obligation to social responsibility. Without mandating that they must do so, we will continue to encourage U.S. companies to voluntarily adhere to the Sullivan principles, which are committed to equal pay in employment practices, non-segregation of work facilities, and the training and promotion of blacks. Your Legislation Update does an excellent job of highlighting the accomplishments of U.S. firms in promoting real social change in South Africa. I hope that State and local legislators carefully consider these accomplishments.[emphasis added]

ALEC’s ties to the Reagan administration ran deep. Every year for the first six years of his presidency, Reagan addressed ALEC’s annual “Washington Briefing,” which brought state legislators to Washington to discuss White House initiatives and “solicit their active support back home.” In the words of one White House official, the process helped identify “a cadre of effective spokesmen for the president’s policies.”

ALEC demanded reciprocation for such access to state lawmakers. A 1986 White House memo discussed ALEC’s request that the Reagan administration hold “some sort of ‘event’ for the top players in each state” working against South African divestment because “ALEC believes some sort of ‘reward’ or recognition would be useful” in keeping up morale for anti-divestment efforts.

Yet even the Reagan administration, which staunchly opposed divestment throughout the ‘80s, was viewed by many in ALEC to have “sold out” when Reagan issued a toothless executive order in 1985 prohibiting certain trade with South Africa.

ALEC and the States

As a state-based organization, ALEC was also tremendously effective at pushing anti-divestment policies at the state legislative level. In the previously mentioned 1986 White House memo, an administration official confirmed that “ALEC is providing most of the intellectual firepower to those state legislators fighting disinvestment petitions.”

One way ALEC provided this “firepower” was by hosting training sessions for ALEC lawmakers led by industry insiders. At its 1983 annual meeting in Philadelphia, ALEC offered a “legislative working session” led by a Mobil Oil Corporation lobbyist and the director of a South African business association whom a South African business magazine later named “the most effective foreign lobbyist in Washington.”

In 1986, ALEC held an “issue workshop” at its annual meeting in Denver titled, “The South African Divestment Movement: 1986 and Beyond.” The workshop was led by International Public Affairs Consultants Inc., a lobbying firm that was on the payroll of the South African government at an annual rate of $390,000.

When divestment legislation was pending in a statehouse, ALEC would disseminate talking points to its members in that state. A front-page article in ALEC’s May 1984 newsletter demonstrated how effective the organization could be at blocking divestment legislation.

“Illinois political observers are convinced,” the article stated, “that the pin that punctured the balloon was the disinvestment economic impact analysis of the Illinois pension fund portfolios prepared by the American Legislative Exchange Council and distributed to House members in the late afternoon on the day before the expected vote.” According to ALEC board member and Illinois House Minority Leader Penny Pullen, because of the ALEC memo, “[the bill’s] central nervous system is dead.” The article went on to explain how ALEC members used similar tactics to thwart divestment bills in Rhode Island and Nebraska.


ALEC’s playbook for opposing South African divestment in the 1980s provides something of a guide for its efforts today to unravel social, economic, and ecological progress.  Notably, as activists mobilize to divest endowment funds from fossil fuel companies and transition to a green economy, ALEC is doing everything in its power to stop these efforts from taking off.

In issue areas from worker’s rights to prison privatization to corporate tax breaks, we can expect that ALEC will continue to use skewed polling and cherry-picked spokespeople to push the agenda of its corporate funders to state and federal lawmakers.

h/t: Calvin Sloan at RWW

Today 50 years ago, President John F. Kennedy died tragically via assassination. It was one of America’s saddest days in its history.Lee Harvey Oswald was the man who ended JFK’s life, and later that week died via gunshot wounds. 

Today 50 years ago, President John F. Kennedy died tragically via assassination. It was one of America’s saddest days in its history.

Lee Harvey Oswald was the man who ended JFK’s life, and later that week died via gunshot wounds. 

h/t: Huffington Post

ALERT: Illinois Governor Pat Quinn has signed the Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act (SB10) into law, making Illinois the sweet 16th state to pass marriage equality.
The law will take effect on June 1st, 2014 (or sooner).